Monday, 23 July 2012

Wild Faery Herbs - hedgerow magic for July Part 11 ...... Meadowsweet ....

"The leaves and flowers of meadowsweet far excelle all other strowing herbs
for to decke up houses, to strawe in chambers, halls and banqueting houses in the summer time,
for the smell thereof makes the heart merry and is joyful to the senses."
                                                                                          John Gerard's Herbal 1597

Meadowsweet, growing in July abundance in the Charing Alder Meadows, Kent.

July -  this is the time to harvest your meadowsweet,
to use fresh or to dry for later in the year.

    How well Cecily Mary Barker's little poem below sums up the sweetest of wild herbs - have you ever taken in the scent of a damp field-edge full of those tall stems holding their soft creamy flowers? No wonder its evocative name was given so long ago - the scent drifts up as you brush through the stems, a gentle, sugary-almond bouquet.

Queen of the meadow where small streams are flowing,
What is your kingdom and whom do you rule?
"Mine are the places where wet grass is growing
Mine are the people of marshland and pool."


"Kingfisher-coutiers, swift-flashing, beautiful,
Dragon-flies, minnows are mine one and all;
Little frog-servants who wait round me, dutiful,
Hop on my errands and come when I call.


Gentle Queen Meadowsweet, served with such loyalty,
Have you no crown then, no jewels to wear?
"Nothing I need for a sign of my royalty,
Nothing at all but my own fluffy hair!"
Queen of the Meadow poem and illustration by Cicely Mary Barker,
from 'A Flower Fairy Alphabet' published by Black & Son 1930

     Meadowsweet, Queen of the Meadow, Bridewort (filipendula ulmaria) is strangely classified as a masculine herb.  Under the ruling planet of Jupiter, its element is Air. Used in medieval England as a 'strewing herb', it was placed amongst the rushes on floors and in bedding to keep them sweet. The herb keeps its perfume strongly even when dried, and huge bundles were gathered, used fresh and hung in drying barns for use later in the year.
Meadowsweet drying at home - it dries very quickly, within a week.

     Meadowsweet was known as a 'Bridal' herb, and is sacred to the Welsh Goddess Blodeuwedd (fair face of flowers). Apparently the herb was used in bridal crowns. As it's a herb of marshy land and damp places, it begins to shrivel and dry within a few minutes of being picked, so it seems difficult to believe that it would have been chosen as an ingredient in a flower crown or bouquet.
      If you're lucky, and the meadowsweet is in bloom at Midsummer, it has many uses for the festival day. It can  also be considered as a very fortunate omen if dried and used to burn in May Eve bale-fires. The herb was known to the Druids, and they're said to have used it in healing medicines for its pain-killing properties.

      Highly sort after for 'love charms', it can be freshly bound into a sweet smelling smudging stick or dried and burned as a herbal incense, so that the smoke may add to the strength of the spell being attempted. (Take care what you wish for in the 'love-charm' department- it may not be as good a thing in reality as it seems in the dreaming!)

A meadowsweet smuge-stick drying last week, and below, some newly crushed herb ready for incense.

     You can learn how to make a good smudge stick, and read more about the arts of
Magical Smoke here at Muddypond's Ecoenchantments website

If you love megalithic tombs and stone circles (as all irrefutable faeries do), you might like  Diary Blog about The Rollright Stones on my website Ecoenchantments


Hearthwife said...

So informative, as always. Thank you!

I cannot seem to get an RSS feed for the Diary Blog, so happy that you mention when there is a new post...I wouldn't like to miss one! :)

Muddypond Green said...

Thanks for still being interested Kadeeae :-) Hope you are in a place where you too can harvest some enchanted wild herbs :-)