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Thread: The Nine Sacred Herbs of Woden

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    The Nine Sacred Herbs of Woden

    For many years I have had a very deep interest in herbs and plants, and their valuable uses in medicinal and shamanistic practices... and just in general. Over the next few weeks, in an effort to "spice" up our Plant section, I would like to introduce some threads pertaining to the field of herbology and, in particular, those which have a connection to our Germanic roots.

    This first piece focuses on the Nine Sacred Herbs of Woden. I have spent a great deal of time gathering information, pooling resources and trying to make the following as comprehensive and useful as possible. I hope atleast one or two of you can find it helpful, or atleast half as interesting as I do.

    (Please Note - The following posting is compiled of excerpts which I have archived in my own personal files from websites, books, herbals, etc., and have lost their source references, or never bothered to record them... my apologies. I will include a couple pertinent links at the bottom of this posting, those which I had thought to record for later reference.)

    The Anglo-Saxons believed that sickness was the result of poisons carried on the wind... Songs, salt, water, and herbs, as well as prayer, were trusted means of protection from these 'flying venoms'.

    The following is a list of the Nine Sacred Herbs that Woden gifted to the people, to combat the ailments and sickness' that plagued them. I've included with each sacred herb, their corresponding paragraphs taken from the 'Nine Herbs Charm' or 'Nine Wort Charm' from of the Lacnunga: (I will be posting more about this manuscript, which is a kind of Herbal with references to Anglo-Saxon traditions, charms, lore and plant information, in the near future, as I am currently searching for a complete translation and compiling what information I have already found... stay tuned.)

    The Nine Herbs Charm is an ancient Anglo-Saxon charm, which is used by the individual reciting it to heal a sick person by invoking the god Woden and his skills as a healer. Although containing slight Christian references, this charm contains much Anglo-Saxon Heathen lore.

    "These nine attack against nine venoms. A worm came creeping and tore asunder man. Then took Woden nine magick twigs and smote the serpant That he in nine pieces dispersed. Now these nine herbs have power, Against nine magick outcasts, Againts nine venoms,against nine flying things, Againdt the loathed things that over land rove."


    The Nine Sacred Herbs:

    I. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) -

    "Remember, Mugwort, what you made known, What you arranged at the Great proclamation. You were called Una, the oldest of herbs, you have power against three and against thirty, you have power against poison and against infection, you have power against the loathsome foe roving through the land."

    Names: Mugwort (from AS moughte-wort or "moth-plant"), felon weed, sailor's tobacco, Artemis herb, Muggons, Naughty Man, Old Man, Old Uncle Henry.

    Mugwort, the first plant mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Nine Herb Charm, was seen as a general cure all. Gathered on Midsummer Eve and placed in a grain bin, it was thought to keep mice away. Wreathes of mugwort defended against thunder and thieves. If made into a girdle, mugwort was thought to protect one from witches, ghosts, and general misfortune.

    For medicinal purposes, used as a leaf tea diuretic, it induces sweating, regulates erratic menstruation, brings on delayed periods, expels afterbirth, and helps with menopausal symptoms.

    A pillow stuffed with mugwort and slept upon will produce prophetic dreams. Mugwort is burned during scrying rituals, and a mugwort-and-honey infusion is drunk before divination. Mugwort is the herb that is most often burned as recels, the Old English word for incense; pronounced ray-kels. The act of burning it is referred to as recaning, which can be pronounced various ways, but the most graceful seems to be reek-en-ing. It also has a clearing effect on the mind.

    _____________________________________

    II. Plantain (Plantago major) -

    "And you, Waybroad (Plantain), mother of herbs, Open from the east, mighty inside. over you chariots creaked, over you queens rode, over you brides cried out, over you bulls snorted. You withstood all of them, you dashed against them. May you likewise withstand poison and infection and the loathsome foe roving through the land."

    Names: Waybread/Weybroed/Waybroad, cuckoo's bread, St. Patrick's Dock, snakeweed, snakebite, rat's tail, white man's footprint.

    Plantain leaves are cooling and pain-relieving when they have been crushed (fresh). You can use them to treat wounds and abrasions, to draw out infections, halt bleeding in minor wounds, and ease discomfort from burns, stings and even snake bites. Plantain was also believed to help bring down a fever.

    It's roots and leaves help urinary tract, kidneys, and bladder and heals gastrointestinal ulcers. It can be used in a ointment for hemorrhoids and used in an external wash for sores, boils, inflammations, and ringworm infestations. As a decoction, it was used for thrush in children. The seeds are edible and can be ground into flour, as their mucilage lowers cholesterol. Plantain is also a confirmed antimicrobial; stimulates healing processes.

    _______________________________________

    III. Watercress (Nasturtium officinale) -

    "'Stune' (watercress) is the name of this herb, it grew on a stone, it stands up against poison, it dashes against poison, it drives out the hostile one, it casts out poison."

    Names: scurvy grass, cress, stime, stune(?)

    Watercress is rich in Vitamin C and iron, an is an excellent tonic. The fresh plant is an appetite stimulant, and is also used for catarrh and bronchitis; cough syrup made from watercress and honey. It aids in eliminating retained fluid in the body, and the bruised leaves of the watercress are to be placed directly on the skin to combat freckles, pimples and other skin ailments. Watercress is an excellent diuretic with edible, mustard- flavored leaves, but large doses of the plant are purgative.

    ______________________________________

    IV. Atterloathe (no scientific name, as it has yet to be undoubtably identified) -

    "This is the herb that fought against the snake, it has power against poison, it has power against infection, it has power against the loathsome foe roving through the land. Put to flight now, Venom-loather ('Atterlothe'), the greater poisons, though you are the lesser, you the mightier, conquer the lesser poisons, until he is cured of both."

    Names: Because no one knows for sure just exactly this Venom-loather (or 'Atterloathe' as it is usually translated) really is, it is often substituded with Betony, a cure-all for maladies of the soul.

    I recently came upon an article that suggest a more correct and plausible answer for what this Atterloathe might be. Translated as venom-loather, in Old English the word was 'attorlade'. In the normal cause of the transition from Germanic to the hybrid langue known today as Modern English, 'Attor' became 'Adder', which is the name of the only poisonous snake in the British Isles.

    Adder's tongue has been occasionally floated as the missing, or unknown 4th herb, but apart from the name similarity, this herb has no affect on the venomous bite of the snakes.

    The Adder, however, also goes by another name: Viper. In England the two words are synonymous with one another. Now read the section on Atterloathe again:

    "This is the herb that fought against the snake, it has power against poison, it has power against infection, it has power against the loathsome foe roving through the land. Put to flight now, Venom-loather, the greater poisons, though you are the lesser, you the mightier, conquer the lesser poisons, until he is cured of both."

    There is only one herb currently known that still grows in England and is known by the name "Viper", which has all the same properties as the herb referred to above. This herb is: Viper's Burgloss (Echium Vulgare or Boraginaceae).

    For the time being, I am going to use this herb as the 4th herb in the Nine Herb Charm, as it is more possibly/logically correct than any substitution, such as the herb Betony.

    Viper's Burgloss can be used as a diuretic, an expectorant, it breaks fevers, soothes pain from inflammations, an also used to treat snakebites. The seeds were decocted and mixed in wine "to comfort the heart and drive away melancholy"; i.e. as an antidepressant. It also adds milk to the breasts of lactating women, can ease pain in the loins, back and kidneys, as well. The flowers of this plant can be added to salads, made into a cordial, or crystallized.

    Here is a reference to this herb from Culpeper's Complete Herbal:

    "It is a most gallant herb of the Sun; it is a pity it is not more in use than it is. It is an especial remedy against the biting of the Viper, and all other venomous beasts, or serpents; as also against poison, or poisonous herbs. Discorides and others say, That whosoever shall take of the herb or root before they be bitten, they shall not be hurt by the poison of any serpent."

    ________________________________________

    V. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) -

    "Remember, Chamomile, what you made known, what you accomplished at Alorford, that never a man should lose his life from infection after Chamomile was prepared for his food."

    Names: Baldersbrow, Maegthen, Maythen, Mayweed, Ground Apple, Heermanschen, Manzanilla, Chamaimylon, Whig Plant.

    Chamomile can be used as a (delicious ) tea for the upset stomach or as a sedative, and is good at reducing swelling and itching such as that cause by poison ivy when used as an oil or in a poultice. Chamomile is also an antifungal, antimicrobial, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory. It can relieve windburn, heartburn and colic. Inhalation of steam is good for phlegm and hay fever, although some people can get an allergic reaction from the plant.

    ______________________________________

    VI. Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) -

    "This is the herb that is called 'Wergulu'. A seal sent it across the sea-right, a vexation to poison, a help to others. it stands against pain, it dashes against poison, it has power against three and against thirty, against the hand of a fiend and against mighty devices, against the spell of mean creatures."

    Names: Nessel, Noedl (needle), Ortiga ancha,

    Nettle has high Vitamin C and iron content; eaten as a spring tonic. It is used to promote circullation in frostbitten skin, and was brought to the British Isles by the Roman Legions, who would rub their arms with the leaves to keep their blood flowing in the cold, damp weather. Nettle juice is used to treat skin conditions; it is an antidote to the sting of the needles. It is given as a tonic for anemia and diabetes, and it's tea is drunk for urinary problems and hemorrhoids. Nursing mothers can take it to keep their milk flowing. Nettle tea is also used for arthritis and rheumatism, as it clears uric acid from the system. Compresses or poultices of nettle are used on sore joints, and it's powdered leaves are inhaled for nosebleeds.

    The (whole) Nettle plant yields a greenish-yellow dye, and can be retted and prepared like flax; this is called "Nessel-Garn" in Germany, which is also made into rope and paper. The astringent young leaves are used in facial steams, bath mixtures, and hair preparations. The silica in nettles helps falling hair and it can even be cooked and eaten as a pot herb, like mustard greens or spinach.

    ________________________________________

    VII. Crab Apple (Pyrus Malus) -

    "There the Apple accomplished it against poison that she [the loathsome serpent] would never dwell in the house."

    Names: Crab, Sour Apple

    Crab Apple is used for cleansing of the system, especially in the morning, and as a diuretic for urinary tract problems. It is an Antiseptic, a tonic, and a rich source of various vitamins, trace elements, amino acids and flavonoids. Malic acid is the principal acid of the fruit, hence its Latin name and it is useful in the management of immuno-mediated diseases. It reduces skin inflammation, helps in removing dead skin fragments (exfoliation), and contains an antifungal constituent.

    Crab Apple is alos used for its pectin, to set jams and jellies, to flavor mead, and make melomel.

    ________________________________________ _

    VIII & IX. Chevril (Anthriscus cerefolium), and Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) -

    "Chervil and Fennell, two very mighty one. They were created by the wise Lord, holy in heaven as He hung; He set and sent them to the seven worlds, to the wretched and the fortunate, as a help to all."

    Chevril can be used in an infusion for flatulence, coughs, to aid digestion, and stimulate perspiration. It's roots have antiseptic action and were used to cure the bites of mad dogs and snakes. Steeped in wine, Chevril roots were a remedy for consumption. It can be eaten as a general tonic, and it's leaves, when bruised, can be applied as a poulitice directly on wounds.

    Fennel soothes digestion, especially flatulence, constipation, and indigestion. It promotes milk production in lactating woman and animals by boiling it's seeds or leaves in barley water and then drunk by nursing mothers to increase their milk and its quality for the infant. In an infusion, fennel is used for gum disease, loose teeth, laryngitis, and sore throats. It can be chewed to relieve hunger pangs, and it has a mild stimulant effect. Also, it has recently been found to reduce the toxic effects of alcohol on the system. Fennel seed, bruised and boiled in water, and then added to syrup and soda water will relieve gas in infants.

    ________________________________________ __

    Here is the complete charm of The Nine Sacred Herbs, and it's 'directions'. (modern English translation, from Old English texts):

    The Nine Sacred Herbs Charm -

    "A worm came creeping, he tore asunder a man.
    Then took Woden nine magic twigs
    and he smote the serpent that he flew into nine bits.

    Remember, Mugwort, what you made known,
    What you arranged at the Great proclamation.
    You were called Una, the oldest of herbs,
    you have power against three and against thirty,
    you have power against poison and against infection,
    you have power against the loathsome foe roving through the land.

    And you, Plantain, mother of herbs,
    Open from the east, mighty inside.
    over you chariots creaked, over you queens rode,
    over you brides cried out, over you bulls snorted.
    You withstood all of them, you dashed against them.
    May you likewise withstand poison and infection
    and the loathsome foe roving through the land.

    'Stune' is the name of this herb, it grew on a stone,
    it stands up against poison, it dashes against poison,
    it drives out the hostile one, it casts out poison.

    This is the herb that fought against the snake,
    it has power against poison, it has power against infection,
    it has power against the loathsome foe roving through the land.
    Put to flight now, Venom-loather, the greater poisons,
    though you are the lesser, you the mightier,
    conquer the lesser poisons, until he is cured of both.

    Remember, Chamomile, what you made known,
    what you accomplished at Alorford,
    that never a man should lose his life from infection
    after Chamomile was prepared for his food.

    This is the herb that is called 'Wergulu'.
    A seal sent it across the sea-right,
    a vexation to poison, a help to others.
    it stands against pain, it dashes against poison,
    it has power against three and against thirty,
    against the hand of a fiend and against mighty devices,
    against the spell of mean creatures.

    There the Apple accomplished it against poison
    that she [the loathsome serpent] would never dwell in the house.

    Chervil and Fennell, two very mighty one.
    They were created by the wise one;
    He set and sent them to the nine worlds,
    to the wretched and the fortunate, as a help to all.

    These nine have power against nine poisons.
    A worm came crawling, it killed nothing.
    For Woden took nine glory-twigs,
    he smote the the adder that it flew apart into nine parts.

    Now there nine herbs have power
    against nine evil spirits, against nine poisons
    and against nine infections:

    Against the red poison, against the foul poison.
    against the yellow poison, against the green poison,
    against the black poison, against the blue poison,
    against the brown poison, against the crimson poison.
    Against worm-blister, against water-blister,
    against thorn-blister, against thistle-blister,
    against ice-blister, against poison-blister.
    Against harmfulness of the air, against harmfulness of the ground,
    against harmfulness of the sea.

    If any poison comes flying from the east,
    or any from the north, [or any from the south,]
    or any from the west among the people.
    Woden stood over diseases of every kind.
    I alone know a running stream,
    and the nine adders beware of it.
    May all the weeds spring up from their roots,
    the seas slip apart, all salt water,
    when I blow this poison from you."

    "Mugwort, plantain open form the east, lamb's cress, venom-loather, camomile, nettle, crab-apple, chevil and fennel, old soap; pound the herbs to a powder, mix them with the soap and the juice oaf the apple. Then prepare a paste of water and of ashes, take fennel, boil it with the paste and wash it with a beaten egg when you apply the salve, both before and after.

    Sing this charm three times on each of the herbs before you (he) prepare them, and likewise on the apple. And sing the same charm into the mouth of the man and into both his ears, and on the wound, before you (he) apply the salve."

    _______________________________________

    So, that is that.


    Some sources:

    http://www.heorot.dk/woden-9herbs.html

    http://www.englishheathenism.homeste...odenglish.html

    http://www.pagannews.com/cgi-bin/articles1.pl?60

    http://www.angelfire.com/ns/wiccalis...nineherbs.html
    "Nature! We are surrounded and embraced by her:
    powerless to separate ourselves from her, and powerless to penetrate beyond her.

    Without asking, or warning, she snatches us up into her circling dance, and whirls us on until we are tired, and drop from her arms." - Goethe

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    Wow! Nice work in compiling that. I found it to be very interesting and informative.
    Should the subduing talisman, the Cross, break, then will come roaring forth the wild madness of the old champions, that insane Berserker rage, of which the northern poets sing. That talisman is brittle, and the day will come when it will pitifully break. The old stone gods will rise from the long-forgotten ruin and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes; and Thor, leaping to life with his giant hammer, will crush the Gothic cathedrals!

    ---Heinrich Heine

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