Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

The humble plantain, that plant with the big leaves and dark-brown-husked, banana-like fruit, is quite popular in a number of magickal disciplines.  Some of which, perhaps, are simply less well known than others.

It probably goes without saying that plantain is used in Santeria and Voudon.  Both Cuban and Haitian cuisines use the fruit, so making use of all parts of the plant in magickal and spiritual workings is no at all surprising.  Plantains are also utilized in Wicca, American hoodoo and another less well known American magickal system called Pow-Wow. 

All three disciplines agree that plantain can be used to ward off snakes; carrying plantain root as a pocket piece is the most common recommendation.  Some root workers place dried plantain leaves in a blue flannel bag in their car to prevent it being stolen.  Plantain leaves used as decoration in the home are also said to deter thieves.

Wiccans use the leaves to ease headaches.  Scott Cunningham recommends tying them to the afflicted person’s head with red yarn.  He also mentions placing them beneath the feet to relieve weariness.

Similar uses for plantain can be found in the Pennsylvania Dutch faith healing system known as Pow-Wow.  In her comprehensive 1995 book on the subject, American Folk Magick, Silver RavenWolf notes that the leaves can be used to “… rid oneself of headaches or weariness…”  She also recommends placing a poultice of crushed plantain on the skin for ten minutes to alleviate the pain and swelling of bee stings.

Since, as hoodoo expert Catherine Yronwode notes at her Lucky Mojo Curio Co. website, Pow-Wow practice has greatly influenced hoodoo, it is not surprising to see similar uses for this and many other herbs in both disciplines.  If you would like to know more about Pow-Wow, I cannot recommend Ms. RavenWolf’s book enough.  It is available directly from Llewellyn Publications and at Amazon.  Bonne chance ~

Header:  A postcard from Pennsylvania Dutch country; Berks County Pennsylvania


Timmy! said...

Interesting, Pauline. Being from Pennsylvania originally I wish I could say that I already knew about Pow-Wow, but about the closest I could say I came to anything like it (in name only) would be when we participated in the "Indian Guides" when I was a kid... ;-)

The Pennsylvania Dutch Hex Barn picture is certainly a familiar sight from my childhood, though.

Pauline said...

According to Ms. RavenWolf, Pow-Wow came over from Germany with the pre-Revolution settlers and later took on a Native American sounding name as the Europeans learned about native plants from indigenous people. So, whether you know it or not, you may have had some Pow-Wow artists in your family :)

Cheston Heskett said...

You know, it is still possible to get the original "Pow-Wows, or, the Long Lost Friend" by Hohman. I am not a fan of, nor would I ever recommend, the new-age re-imaginings of traditional texts, especially when they are readily available. Pow-wow is simply Gemanic folk magic in as much as Hoodoo is American folk magic. In Iceland it is called "trolldom" and the practitioners "trollkarls" while the Anglo-Saxon (English) variation was originally known as "wicce" (pronounced WEE-ch) from whence the word "wicca" is derived. It means, literally, "witch" not "wise women" or "old ways" and it is due to this kind of misinformation I cannot in good conscience recommend writings like those of "Ravenwolf"