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The Secret Names of Magical Herbs and Plants

Updated on May 12, 2020
Elderberry Arts profile image

Claire has worked with crystals and many other aspects of paganism for over 12 years. She has also studied reiki up to master level.

Herbs can be a powerful tool in magic.
Herbs can be a powerful tool in magic. | Source

All manner of plants, including herbs, flowers and so-called weeds have been used in magic and healing for thousands of years. Plant materials can be used in almost any type of magic and each plant has its own set of correspondences that help in choosing which to use and when. In particular herb magic works closely with the beneficial and magical properties of plants but these can also be incorporated into other forms of magic: for example, candle magic or in creating jar spells and magical sachets. Kitchen witches often work with herbs and other plants bringing their magical properties into the meals they create or in brewing healing teas, balms and other remedies. As well as in magic plants can be used to enhance rituals or in creating a desired environment or energy. For example, they can be used in creating incense with a specific goal in mind – perhaps to promote concentration for a student or a calming aroma for use during meditation or to encourage restful sleep. Additionally, many plants are believed to greatly benefit us when they are grown in or around our homes. A common example of this is the planting of red geraniums and rosemary in the front and back garden of your home. This is because both plants possess protective qualities and are thought to aid in creating a protective shield around your home. There are a variety of houseplants that can filter the air in our homes, removing potentially dangerous chemicals and their energy helps in creating a soothing and peaceful environment to live in.

The ancient Greeks and Romans used herbs for many purposes including as medicines, cosmetics and talismans. A text found in China dating from around 2800 B.C details the names and uses of over 360 different plants in use at the time. Many of these plants are still used today, commonly in cooking or herbal remedies and teas. Plant and flower extracts or herbs often feature in shampoos, bath products and beauty products bringing their ancient beneficial properties into our modern daily lives with ease. Although we live many thousands of years after the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans and in a very different society, the healing and magical properties of plants remain unchanged and we can still enjoy the benefits of these if we take the time to learn their secrets.

The Witches' Secret Code

In past times many people did not understand or were afraid of witches and magic. Misunderstandings and misrepresentation led to much persecution of those who were believed to be witches. In these times people did not have to be caught practising magic or any form of witchcraft to be accused and often simply having knowledge of natural healing or the properties of herbs was enough to be labelled as a dangerous threat. Witches and natural healers lived in fear of persecution, witch trials and death due to others not understanding their ways and the instance of some that witchcraft was evil, dangerous and even working with the devil. Understandably it became necessary for witches to conceal their practices and beliefs to protect themselves and their families. One theory of these protective measures is that witches developed a code to refer to the ingredients used in their spells and potions. This also helped to ensure that others could not steal their spells, correspondences lists and other magical ideas and use them for less positive purposes and intents.

Today, some of these code names, such as eye of newt and bat’s wings may be familiar to many from fairy tales and films. Generally, films, stories and video games interpret these items literally and the characters are portrayed as having large jars of various body parts and strange substances and the story may show them searching for rare or mystical ingredients. In truth, these are only codenames for simple plants and herbs and witches then, or indeed today did not spend their time gathering animal’s eyes, blood or wings to use in their craft. On the contrary, many witches believe strongly in helping to protect nature and our planet so the idea of harming animals would be unacceptable to many.

Examples of Plant Folk Names

(click column header to sort results)
Agaric - death angel
Henbane - devil’s eye
Agrimony - church steeples
Holly leaf - bat’s wings
Alyssum - madwort
Honeysuckle - goat’s Leaf
Amaranth - red cock’s comb
Horehound - bull’s blood
Aster - eyes
Houseleek - from the foot
Asafoetida - devil’s dung
Hydrangea - seven barks
Basil - witches herb
Knotweed - sparrow’s tongue
Bay laurel - blue jay
Lady’s mantle - bear’s foot
Belladonna - devil’s cherries
Lavender - elf leaf
Betony - lamb’s ear
Moss - bat’s wool
Bladderwack - Sea spirit
Mugwort - old man
Briony - Snake grape
Mullein - graveyard dust
Buckthorn - bone of an ibis
Mustard - semen of Heracles
Burdock - beggar’s buttons
Pansy - bird’s eye
Calmus - sweet flag
Parsley -devil’s oatmeal
Carrot - bird’s nest
Pennyroyal - organ tea
Cedar - kronos blood
Pine Cones - teeth
Chamomile -blood of hestia
Plantain - adder’s tongue
Chickweed - tongue grass
Poppy - blind eyes
Cinquefoil - five fingers
Purslane - blood of Ares
Clover - semen of Ares
Ragwort - fairies horses
Coltsfoot - coltsfoot
Rosemary – dew of the sea
Comfrey - ear of an ass
Rowan - Thor’s helper
Common Plantain - Englishman’s foot
Rue - weasel
Couch Grass - dog
Sage - toad
Cowslip - fairy’s cup
Shepherd’s Purse - shepherd’s heart
Dandelion - lion’s tooth
Snapdragon - dog’s mouth
Dandelion Leaves - swine’s snout
St. John’s wort - goat’s ears
Dill - semen of Hermes
Tansy - buttons
Dill seed - hair of a hamadryas baboon
Toadflax - dragon bushes
Elder Sap - blood
Valerian - capon’s tail
Fenugreek - bird’s foot
Walnut - heart
Fern - skin of man
White Hellebore - semen of Helios
Foxglove - bloody fingers
Wolfs bane - wolf’s hat
Geranium - dove’s foot
Woodruff - master of the woods
Golden Seal - Indian dye
Wormwood – old woman
Great Mullein - hares beard
Yarrow - devil’s nettle
Plant folk names can be recorded in your grimoire.
Plant folk names can be recorded in your grimoire. | Source

As knowledge and understanding of witchcraft grows many witches are fortunate to now be able to practice their beliefs openly without persecution. Sadly, even now this is not true for all witches and many must keep the truth concealed, even from their own family in many cases. This situation is often referred to as being in the broom closet and codes such as secret plant names, the witches’ alphabet and runes can be useful methods of keeping their information and records hidden.

Even if you do not have to hide your practice of witchcraft or magic you may still wish to record your spell work and other information in a coded form. You may also like to include these secret names in your grimoire or book of shadows pages relating to the plants. Another option would be to keep a list of plant folk names as you discover them. This can be useful for your research and knowledge but of course, if you do this it means that any coded information within the book can be easily translated by others. One solution to this would be to keep information revealing the secret names separately from your main books or to keep it in your phone or computer instead of in a physical copy.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Claire


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    • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lincolnshire, UK

      Thank you. It is always good to hear from like-minded people:) Have a great day.

    • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lincolnshire, UK

      Thank you. Happy to help.

    • profile image

      Arnay Rumens 

      3 years ago

      Claire it was great to read someone who is informed for a change.. I have always known the truth and various names..

      I agree on point regarding persecution of witches, typical though. Great piece of writing and thank you )o( :)

    • cherrycrime26 profile image

      January Moon 

      3 years ago from NY, Now Living in Atlanta Ga

      Wonderful Hub, I've been practicing a while now and never knew the secret names, thank you!

    • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, UK

      Yes, definitely a relief! Thank you. Hope you have a good day.

    • poetryman6969 profile image


      5 years ago

      I am so relieved to find that we do not have to remove Newt Gingrich's eyes to do magic!

      You just got voted up for divulging the most unique information I suspect I will hear all day.

    • Elderberry Arts profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, UK

      Thank you, glad you enjoyed reading. I totally agree, those who persecute others are often more of a threat themselves but people cannot see it. I am hoping to grow more of my own herbs this year so that I can be around, work with and preserve them for later use.

    • Karine Gordineer profile image

      Karine Gordineer 

      5 years ago from Upstate New York

      Very interesting Hub Claire. I also work with plants primarily medicinally but also magically. Often people don't realize how the two really go together. Some herbalists feel that to truly be an herbalist you need to also know and understand the energetics or "magic" of a plant and I agree. Coming from differing lineages, Native American, Ukrainian, Celtic I see this on different levels. Love working with magical herbalism and teaching! So glad you mentioned about the persecution of true. Ironically those that would fear and kill them are certainly more violent themselves. Again, thank you for a great hub. Enjoyed your writing style as well.


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