Peony roots, dried and carved into beads known in
Appalachia and the Ozarks as “piney beads” are strung on red thread and made into necklaces. These are worn by children to guard them against the mischief of the fey. This tradition of keeping children safe from fairies, and later minor imps of Satan, may have come from Celtic tradition where children were believed to occasionally be stolen by fairies and replaced with an otherworldly double. Since many of the people who settled in the mountains were of Scottish, Irish or Scots-Irish heritage, this would certainly follow.
Scott Cunningham recommends keeping a potted peony in the home to keep evil spirits at bay and turn the evil eye away. He also advises that peonies planted in the garden will not only ward off evil but keep destructive storms at bay. Wiccans use peony root in potions for exorcism and say carrying it as a pocket piece will dispel madness. Cunningham also says that whole peony root can be used as a substitute for mandrake.
In hoodoo, peony root is added to mojo bags for luck. One recipe calls for carrying a peony root, a Solomon Seal root and three Job’s tears in a red flannel bag. This should be dressed and fed with Florida Water for general luck, Success Oil for financial success or John the Conqueror Oil for personal power.
If someone you care for is ill, write their full name on a piece of brown paper and wrap it around a single peony root, a small cross (not a crucifix) and a lock of the afflicted person’s hair. Place this in a blue mojo bag and dress it with holy water, Blessing Oil or Protection Oil. Give the completed mojo to your loved one to carry close to their skin.
Peonies are generally not available from herbalists but can be easily found where ever plants and garden supplies are sold. Peonies grow in USDA zones 2 through 9; the coldest temperature this plant will tolerate is 55 degrees below zero but if you live in a cold climate, like I do, you’ll need to grow herbaceous peonies rather than peony trees. Bonne chance ~
Header: Girl Arranging Peonies by F. Bazille c 1870