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Lavender: Solace and Majestic

Author: Solstice Moon

Copyright © 2001 by Echoed Voices. All rights reserved.
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Lavender, the Herb of Air,
My friend when I am in despair.
I ask Earth's blessing to bestow,
As I tend and watch you grow.

Strong roots and dainty stems,
Bring joy to life when pleasure dims.
Wee green bud with purple top,
All your uses never stop.

From morning's dew to afternoon,
From ray of stars and midnight's moon.
Mother Earth watch over thee,
As I my will, So Mote it Be.
- M.L. Benton Copyright © 2001

Lavendar
Lavendula officinale
L. vera
L. delphinensis
L. fragrans

Gender: Masculine
Astrological: Virgo
Planet: Mercury
Element: Air
Goddess: Iduna, Flora
Power: Love, Protection, Sleep, Chastity, Longevity, Purification,
Happiness, Peace, Clarity
Tarot: The Hermit

Zones: 3-9
Height: 2-3 feet
Sun: Full Sun


Lavender has scented purple, white, or blue flowers in summer and attractive fragrant, silvery foliage all year. Technically, this plant
is a sub-shrub because of its semiwoody base, which means it wont die back in winter. The cutivar 'Munstead' has lavendar flowers and a nice compact form.

Lavender is perfect for the front of a bed or border, for the cutting garden, for the herb garden, for containers or for edging a pathway. Lavender looks wonderful massed for a formal look or used as an accent plant to soften edges around a garden bed.

Give Lavender an average to dry soil, not too rich. No need to cut plants back in the fall. Plants in Zone 5 will need winter protection. After the ground freezes, place evergreen boughs loosely over the plants. Look for emerging leaves in the early spring, then cut them back to tidy up the plants.

Lavender is of fairly easy culture in almost any friable, garden soil. It grows best on light soil - sand or gravel - in a dry, open and sunny position. Loam over chalk also suits it. It requires good drainage and freedom from damp in winter.

The plant flourishes best on a warm, welldrained loam with a slope to the south or south-west. A loam that is too rich is detrimental to the oil yield, as excessive nourishment tends to the growth of leaf. Protection against summer gales by a copse on the southwest is also of considerable value, as these gales may do great damage to the crop by causing the tall flower-spikes to break away at their junction with the stem. Lavender also is liable to injury by frost and low-lying situations and those prone to become weatherbound in winter are to be avoided.

History: Dr. Fernie, in Herbal Simples, says:
By the Greeks the name Nardus is given to Lavender, from Naarda, a city of Syria near the Euphrates, and many persons call the plant "Nard." St. Mark mentions this as Spikenard, a thing of great value.... In Pliny's time, blossoms of the Nardus sold for a hundred Roman denarii (or L.3 2s. 6d.) the pound. This Lavender or Nardus was called Asarum by the Romans, because it was not used in garlands or chaplets. It was formerly believed that the asp, a dangerous kind of viper, made Lavender its habitual place of abode, so that the plant had to be approached with great caution.' L. SPICA and L. FRAGRANS often form hybrids, known as 'Bastard Lavender,' which grow in the mountain districts of France and Spain. Great care is necessary to avoid admixture in the still during distillation of Lavender, as Spike and the hybrids both injure the quality of the essential oil of true Lavender.
'White Lavender,' which is sometimes found in the Alps at extreme altitudes, is considered to be a form of L. delphinensis, the white flowers being a case of albinism. Attempts to propagate this form in this country rarely meet with much success.


Parkinson has much to say about Lavender:

Of Sage and of Lavender, both the purple and the rare white (there is a kinde hereof that beareth white flowers and somewhat broader leaves, but it is very rare and seene but in few places with us, because it is more tender and will not so well endure our cold Winters).' Lavender,' he says, 'is almost wholly spent with us, for to perfume linnen, apparell, gloves and leather and the dryed flowers to comfort and dry up the moisture of a cold braine.
'This is usually put among other hot herbs, either into bathes, ointment or other things that are used for cold causes. The seed also is much used for worms.'

Lavender is of 'especiall good use for all griefes and paines of the head and brain,' it is now almost solely grown for the extraction of its essential oil, which is largely employed in perfumery.

Of French Lavender he says:
The whole plant is somewhat sweete, but nothing so much as Lavender. It groweth in the Islands Staechades which are over against Marselles and in Arabia also: we keep it with great care in our Gardens. It flowreth the next yeare after it is sowne, in the end of May, which is a moneth before any Lavender.' Lavender was one of the old street cries, and white lavender is said to have grown in the garden of Queen Henrietta Maria.
Lore:

Among the lore is the belief that lavender is associated with snakes. In the second volume of Grieve's A Modern Herbal we find this reference:

Dr. Fernie, in Herbal Simples: "By the Greeks the name Nardius is given to Lavender, from Naarda, a city of Syria near the Europhrates, and many persons call the plant as 'Nard.' Saint Mark mentions this as Spikenard, a thing of great value....It was formerly believed that the asp, a dangerous kind of viper, made Lavender its habitual place of abode, so that the plant had to be approached with great caution."We know that lavender has been an herb treated both with respect and as a sacred herbe since ancient times. Customs date to pre-Christian times in which lavender is brought into Midsummer rites. It is one of the many herbs said to have been selected by the three legendary King Solomon, son of David who lived some three thousand years ago, to aspurge his temple.
Lavender was very popular in the Middle Ages. The lore at this time is impressive, even if inconsistent. Used by some to promote lust and romance, others believed it kept them from the temptations of the flesh.

Uses: Modern usage includes lavender's being burned in birthing rooms, the scent of its smoke filling the room, keeping it pure, and welcoming the new life intot he world. Established customs indicate lavender may have the properties of a Fertility Herb. It has been woven into small wreaths to crown newly married couples, and its often used in Handfasting rituals today. There are other ways it can be brought into a ritual of union: it can be part of the leixer in the ritual cup shared by the newly joined couple, adding permanence to their vows; the blossoms can be added to the bridal bouquet; ritual bathing prior to the nuptials might make use of lavender soap; a wise cook might grind the flowers into a fine powder to be mixed into the cake's batter. It is suspected that lavender's use in Handfastings and marriages comes from a belief that it promotoed fertility in women.

Lavender was thrown into fires on Saint John's day. Today lavender is often included in Midsummer incense, but it can be used at any time of year. Lavender is known for its ability to increase one's clarity when viewing the world and to assist the evolution of one's spirit through life. This well-known herb is used magickally to assist bringing any work into manifestation. The herb has been associated with the god Saturn, which enhances the potential for permanence of its magickal workings.

Despite lavender's mercurial nature, it is believed capable of invoking deities such as Hecate and Saturn. And yet this powerful herb is known to bring calmness and serenity to one's inner self. It is used in a remedial fashion to alleviate stress and may be used magickally for the same purpose. If working with ritual or magick to promote healing from a depression, lavender is a superior choice.

As mentioned in the lore, there is some association with snakes. Whether this is an aspect of lavender's ability to increase one's wisdom (the snake has been associated with knowledge since early biblical times) or of folklore (Snakes may find comfort resting beneath the bush), this information may be of value to many practitioners. There are a significant number of deities associated with snakes and lavender might be used in a ritual to any of them. Lavender would also serve as a patron herb for those who work with or keep snakes.

Lavender is sometimes used to increase one's ability to manifest money or attract desired possessions; however, if the motive for the magickal working is desire rather than genuine need, the magick could work in reverse.

Associated with the hermit card, lavender is also used inthe blessing of one's home. A bunch of lavender bound together is well used in the aspurging of one's home, temple or ritual circle.

Carrying Lavender is used as a charm for protection. Making a cup of lavender tea can calm your nerves. Using Lavender in your bath water can relax your muscles. Spritsing your sheets before bedtime can induce sleep. Put a few drops of lavender oil in with a bottle of witch hazel to purify your home. Gather one bunch of lavender for the magickal circle when performing rituals. Rub Lavender oil behind your ear lobes for good luck. Keep lavender in the car for protection.

Lavender Water can easily be prepared at home. Into a quart bottle are put 1 OZ. essential oil of Lavender, one drop of Musk and 1 1/2 pint spirits of wine. These three ingredients are well mixed together by shaking. The mixture is left to settle, shaken again in a few days, then poured into little perfume bottles fitted with air-tight stoppers. This is another recipe from an old family book:

Put into a bottle half a pint of spirit of wine and two drachms of oil of lavender. Mix it with rose-water, five ounces, orange-flower water, two ounces, also two drachms of musk and six ounces of distilled water.' This is stated to be 'a pleasant and efficacious cordial and very useful in languor and weakness of the nerves, lowness of spirits, faintings, etc.'
Another recipe is to mix 2 oz. of refined essence of Lavender with 3/4 pint of good brandy. This Lavender Water is so strong that it must be diluted with water before it is used.

Lavender Vinegar. A refreshing toilet preparation is made by mixing 6 parts of Rosewater, 1 part of spirits of Lavender and 2 parts of Orleans vinegar.

It can also be prepared from freshly gathered flower-tops. These are dried, placed in a stoppered bottle and steeped for a week in Orleans vinegar. Every day the bottle must be shaken, and at the end of the week the liquid is drained off and filtered through white blotting paper.

Another delicious and aromatic toilet vinegar is made as follows: Dry a good quantity of rose leaves, lavender flowers and jasmine flowers. Weigh them, and to every 4 oz. of rose leaves allow 1 OZ. each of lavender and jasmine. Mix them well together, pour over them 2 pints of white vinegar, and shake well, then add 1/2 pint of rose-water and shake again. Stand aside for ten days, then strain and bottle.

No matter how you look at it there are so many uses for this wonderful herb, that you will never run out of uses for it. Whether it's magickal, medicinal, culinary, cosmetics or dressing up the home. As so often Basil is referred to as the "King of Herbs" I believe Lavender is the "Queen of Herbs."


Bibliography



M.L. Bentons Book of Blessings



Cunninghams Encyclopedia of Magickal Herbs



Bud, Blossom, & Leaf, by Dorothy Morrison



Mrs Grieves Modern Herbal... first and second volumes



Herbal Simples, by Dr. Fernie


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