Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Spanish moss which trails in otherworldly tendrils from trees, homes and pretty much anything it can establish itself on in sub-tropical climates is familiar to most people. It is often used for spooky effect in horror movies, particularly those that take place in the American South, and it is associated with antebellum plantations and their enormous oak trees. Spanish moss is also considered a magickal herb. How you might use it, though, depends on what your magickal predilections are.

According to Scott Cunningham, Wiccans use Spanish moss for protection. The herb is included in protection sachets and grown in the garden or even directly on the home to keep the property and inhabitants safe. Cunningham also mentions stuffing poppets for protection with Spanish moss.

In hoodoo, however, the usage of the herb is very different. It is mainly utilized for jinxing but also for drawing love. There are some root workers who use Spanish moss for money drawing, placing it in mojo bags to help attract wealth. Others use it specifically for jinxing and, as herbalist and hoodoo expert Catherine Yronwode notes, it can be an ingredient in the crossing mixture known as War Water.

Where all root workers agree on Spanish moss is its use as a perfect stuffing for doll babies and so called "voodoo dolls". These are often used for manipulative working such as making someone love you or causing them to move away, leave a job or become ill. The Spanish moss is usually mixed with other herbs in combinations of three, six or nine that will achieve the desired outcome, then stuffed into a handmade doll baby representing the person on whom the root worker is focusing their magick. It is the rare root worker - I personally know of none - who will stick pins in the doll Hollywood-style. We're generally a tad more subtle than that...

A note on Spanish moss: this plant tends to attract bugs and even parasites like ticks and chiggers. If you harvest it yourself, you will need to wash it thoroughly and preferably before you bring it into your living area. A bucket or tub with soapy water is a great place to soak the stuff. After a half an hour or so you can rinse it and let it air dry as you might any other herb in a warm area. My aunt used to have an old washer on her back porch that my uncle had jerry-rigged to the kitchen water supply. She would wash work clothes in it but she also used to put any Spanish moss she had gathered in an old pillow case and wash it in that  machine. Then she'd hang is up near the water heater with her other herbs and flowers. Most of us don't have the luxury of a second wash machine, but it's a thought if you do. Bonne chance ~

Header: Spanish moss in a garden in Louisiana via Wikipedia


Timmy! said...

That second (outdoor) washing machine would be especially tricky in Alaska, Pauline. Particulary at this time of year... Of course, we don't have any spanish moss here either.

Pauline said...

No; definitely not. You'd have to set it up in a wash room or heated garage/shed. No question.

Charles L. Wallace said...

Ah, Spanish Moss.... and chiggers!!

I attended the University of Florida, and back in the rather olden days, we had an annual tradition: about this time of year, every year, there was Freaker's Ball on the Plaza of the Americas (right near the two libraries - a very nice, expansive grassy area with assorted trees.)

One attended by wearing a costume and drinking (as well as being physically present. Mentally present was optional). Costumes could be somewhat rudimentary, as in the gal who took off all of her clothing and wrapped herself in Saran Wrap, or the fellow who appeared similarly sans clothing... he painted his genitalia with Mercurochrome, though, and that HAD to count for something.

Anyway, I digress. One of the better costumes was Moss Man. You guessed it - Spanish Moss. All over. Plus a gas mask with big buggy eyes, and a vacuum cleaner hose dangling as a snout. Classic!! You guessed it (Part II) - Moss Man did not smoke out or wash out the chiggers. For as long as he could stand it, Moss Man was one (seemingly authentic) itchy critter!! hahaha

Thank you for such a wonderful topic, Pauline (and thank you for the opportunity to share this tale).

Timmy! said...

Great story, Wally!

Charles L. Wallace said...

Why, thank you! As with many things, the telling pales against the actuality ;-)