Plant of the week: Mugwort - The Dreaming Crone
Mugwort - The Dreaming Crone
A plant so dear to my heart! I first realized the immense power of this healing 'weed' in my second weeked at the Gaia School of Healing. It was a rainy morning when I was diving up, admiring rainbows on a sticky road, quite peacefully in the fifth hour of my seven hour journey. Not long after passing Herkimer, NY, the home of my beloved Herkimer Quartz, I hydroplaned and totaled my car. Ahem... my mothers car, as she so graciously lended me her prius to save on gas on the trip. Anyways, a tow truck, taxi ride, and rental car later, I made it to school. I was OK, thank goddess, but oh boy was I sore!!! Like, just finished the Boston marathon sore! Looking back on it, I probably had a mild concussion as well, and was quite a space cadette the next day in class.
I had never heard of Mugwort, but I quickly recognized it as Sage, my teacher, walked us around the gardens, pointing out plants. I remembered it as it grew in the corners of my yard, near the pond I like to walk near, and in just about every random dirt patch that can be found in town. It was my classic definition of a overgrown weed. But still there was something nostalgic in its familiarity.
We were learning about "shifting herbs' that weekend, plants that help shift your brain waves from Beta (mental alertness) to Theta (meditation and dreaming) waves. But before talking about the plants, Sage instructed us to pick one, sit with it, and then harvest. I was immediately drawn to Mugwort. I found a quiet patch in the garden, and sat in front of the plant. There was something instantly loveable about Mugwort to me. Maybe it was her fuzzy stems that gave her a softness, or the silvery underbelly of her leaves that seemed to whisper of her magic, or the deep grey-ish green that almost reminded me of the way a grandmothers hair would fade to silver with age. I was captivated, without a sense of knowing why.
Anyways, after we all rejoined with our harvest, we sat to process our plants, cutting up the leaves into tiny tiny pieces to make medicine with. I didn't have scissors so I was ripping the Mugwort with my fingers, enjoying the pungent scent of her leaves, listening to Sage talk about plants. As I ripped and crushed leaves, my hands became sticky with resins and oils of Mugwort, and my mind slowly began to slip into a dreamy fog. Suddenly, it dawned on me, that I was no longer felt totally sober. It was like that feeling, after a long and deep yoga, meditation, or reiki session, when you emerge into world again and feel like your still in another world. I looked around to my sisters processing Mugwort next to me who seemed to have the same glossy look in their eye. Until someone finally said, "either i'm stoned, or this Mugwort is REALLY strong". After a few minutes of laughter, we were glad to realize the feeling was universal.
And Sage began to explain how the oils left on our hands from processing Mugwort, and the oils we were inhaling, we enough to receive the medicine of the plant, a thus shift us from Beta to Theta state. It was then that I realized, my body no longer ached from the accident, and my headache had gone away for the first time in 24 hours. I was amazed. I didn't event ingest the plant and it had that strong of an affect on my system!! It was then that I realized that power of plant medicine.
I continued to work with Mugwort deeply over the next months, and her Spirit was my go to for times when I needed support and guidance. She is also known as Cronewort, meaning elder plant, and her spirit exudes just that type of elder wisdom. I deeply love this plant as an aide in dreaming and meditation, a muscle relaxant, a sacred smudge, an aide in moon cycles and moon work, and a guide in connecting deeply to my spirit.
Read on to find an exert from my book "Urban Greens" all about Mugwort and how to work with the plant for ceremonial and spiritual healing.
More fun with Mugwort!!
I.D. Keys: Mugwort grows erect from a single purple tinged stem. It’s leaves are a deep greyish green color with deeply pinnate lobes and silver fuzz on the underside. The stem of Mugwort is also covered in tiny silver fuzz-like hairs. The plant can take on a bush-like appearance and tends to grow in branches. Mugwort is a perennial, blooming in late July to September. It’s tiny white flowers grow in panicles from the tip of the plant which can reach 3-6 foot in height.
Habitat: In urban areas Mugwort likes grows where soil has been disturbed, cracks sidewalks, ally ways, lawns, construction sites, parks, abandoned lots, your garden. Anywhere where there is not too much water and plenty of sunlight, especially in highly weeded areas.
Actions: Emmenagogue, Antibacterial, Antifungal, Bitter, Sedative, Nervine, Antispasmodic, Tonic, Stomachic, Anti-microbial, anti-asthmatic
Medicinal Uses: Mugwort is a great women’s reproductive tonic. Mugwort Aides in regulating menstruation cycles, easing menstrual pain, and easing premenstrual and menopausal symptoms. However, Mugwort is a tonic for the whole body. Mugwort strengthens the nervous system, digestive system, kidneys, lungs, and musculoskeletal systems. As a bitter aromatic, Mugwort stimulates digestion and aides the release of digestive fluids. Mugwort aids in digestive disorders such as colic, constipation, sluggish digestion, parasites and worms. Mugwort oil is used to treat muscle aches and pains. It is mildly sedative and calming and used to ease stress. Dried Mugwort is used as Moxa in Chinese medicine as an alternative to needles in stimulating acupuncture points. Its nature as a muscle relaxant helps to relieve muscle and joint pain.
Traditional Uses: Mugwort used to be used to flavor beer, hence the name “Mug” wort. Its mildly sedative & bittering effects added a relaxing quality to old time brews. Mugwort is also the main ingredient in the infamous drink Absinthe, known for its mildly hallucinogenic effects. Dried Mugwort stalks make good kindling while the dried plant added to a fire will help the fire stay smoldering for extended periods of time. Mugwort infusion makes an effective insect repellent. In traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine Mugwort was used to help correct fetal position before delivery.
Folk Lore: Dream Herb. Used to enhance and remember dreams. Used for having prophetic dreams. “In the Middle Ages, the plant was known as ‘Cingulum Sancti Johannis’, as John the Baptist wore a girdle of it in the wilderness for protection. It was believed to protect the traveler from fatigue, sunstroke, wild beasts and evil spirits generally. A crown made from Mugwort leaves was worn on St. John's Eve to protect oneself from evil possession. In Holland and Germany one of its names is St. John's Plant, because of the belief, that if gathered on St. John's Eve it gave protection against diseases and misfortunes. Mugwort is closely linked to the fairy realms. All Artemisia family plants (including Mugwort) are sacred to the Goddess Artemis who is known to give comfort to women during labor, though comfort sometimes comes in the form od death. Mugwort is also sacred to the goddess Hecate, who is the patron of herbalists and midwives. Mugwort is also known to be very linked to the moon, which is innately linked to the cycles of womanhood.
Magical Uses: Burn Mugwort for protection or divination. A pillow stuffed with Mugwort will increase lucid dreaming and prophetic dreams. One of the best herbs for protection (especially for travelers) to be placed in a sachet or medicine bag.
Note: Do not smoke/drink Mugwort when pregnant, it induces menstruation and can trigger a miscarriage.
Ruling Planet: Moon, considered feminine in nature
Spirit of Mugwort
Mugwort’s alternative name is “cronewort” referring to her Spirit as an elder woman or “crone”. I think of her presence as the ‘naughty grandma’, the one who you can’t believe just told that dirty joke at your family gathering… yup. Her spirit has a heir of whimsical delight & play sprinkled over her more well known role as a supreme wisdom keeper and guide through the dream world. She will comfort you in times of need, and light a fire under your behind if that’s what has to be done. Mugwort is not one to coddle, she’s spicy, just like her digestive stimulating flavor. But just like her fuzzy stems, she can be soft & supportive (think nervine) as well. She holds the wisdom to know what’s needed. Turn to her in when you are in need of deep wisdom and guidance, she will not steer you wrong. The answers you seek will likely visit you in dream time… I also think of Mugwort in times where inspiration is needed, when your stuck in the view that a present situation is an immovable problem. Mugwort will often sneak in her playful wisdom and help you see the situation in a new way. “Relax….” she whispers “try, dear child, to see the magic in it instead. Remember now, there’s no use in wrinkling your brow when you could turn up a smile. Now, let grandmother Mugwort show you how to have a little fun with this…. don’t worry now. I know what I’m doing. Strange solution you say? Ah pish posh! Strange is what we label it. Trust my dear. Just trust. Now, lets stir that pot a little and see what we can cook up!”
Healing/Opening of the 3rd Eye (Ajna) Chakra and Sacral (Swahadistana) Chakra. In the Sacra Chakra Mugwort assists in healing wounds associated with forced gender roles and societal shaming of menstruation. She is particularly helpful in bringing fourth suppressed sexual expression by helping us to find our authentic individual expression and playfulness around sexuality. For Women, she opens us up to accept our role in the sacredness of menstruation. For Males, she helps break down suppressed emotions from the patriarchy and allows them to tap into their feminine nature and sensual expression in a healthy balanced manner (and a touch of playful humor!)
1. Mugwort Healing Vessel
Find a patch of Mugwort. Sit in front of the plant. Spend a few moments observing the patch of Mugwort, getting a sense for the energy of the space you are in. Close your eyes and visualize a beam of light coming from your heart and landing on Mugwort, establishing an energy connection between you. Place your hands around the plant and visualize light coming from your heart, into your hands, and into the plant. Acknowledge, to yourself, Mugwort as a sentient being who is also having an experience of you, imagine yourself as Mugwort, and experience yourself from the plant’s perspective. Then mentally introduce yourself to the plant like you would introduce yourself to a new acquaintance. Explain why you have come (i.e. is it your intention to simply get to know the plant, do you intend to harvest Mugwort, are you seeking healing of a specific sort, or comfort or guidance?). Spend a few moments with Mugwort getting to know her energy and being open to receive any bits of wisdom or personality she may choose to share with you. Then, ask Mugwort if you may harvest her. If you feel the plant is saying ‘no’, respect that. And either continue to share energy and space with mugwort, or ask the plant to guide to another patch that is ready to be harvested, say thank you, goodbye, offer the plant a gift or smudge and move on to another patch of Mugwort. Once you get a yes, cut the stem of the plant just above the last set of healthy leaves. If there is enough Mugwort growing Harvest enough that you can make a circle large enough to sit or lay in, when the plant is laid out tail to tail. Never harvest so much from a population that you can tell where you have harvested, and always spread out your harvest to various parts of a patch. Remember, never take more than you need, always use all of what you take.
- Lay out what you have harvest to make a circle large enough to lay down or sit down in. If you did not harvest enough to do so, fill in the gaps with twigs, rocks, bark, or beautiful objects of nature around you.
- Burn sage, Cedar, Copal, Palo Santo, or cedar to clear the space (alternatively you may light a candle)
- Lay/sit in the circle and mentally or lout loud, call in the Spirit of Mugwort to join you in sacred healing space
- Place your hands on your sacral chakra (below the navel) or the third eye chakra (eyebrow center), or place one hand on each, or any other place you feel guided towards. Feel the healing energy flowing from your heart, down your arms, out your hands and into your body beneath your hands.
- Ask for Mugwort, the sacred crone and wisdom keeper, to make her Spirit known to your in a way you can recognize. To some this is a visualization, to others it may be a feeling or sensation or subtle knowing.
- Allow yourself to experience the presence of Mugwort and state your intention in this ceremony. Ex: I call on grandmother Mugwort to aid me in my practice of dreamwork and lucid dreaming. Or I call on grandmother Mugwort to help me heal my shame around menstruation and reclaim the sacredness of moontime.
- Visualize the ring of mugwort around you begin to light up and infuse with a beautiful healing golden light.
- See that light rising up from the circle to create a sphere of golden light, with you are the center. Feel yourself surrounded by light, cradle you, comforting you, as if you were inside a womb.
- Notice how it feels to be engulfed in the healing light of Mugwort
- Notice how it feels to be held within the safe and healthy boundaries created in this healing space. Take a moment to reflect on how you feel about the boundaries (or lack of boundaries) present in your life. Perhaps ask for Mugwort’s help in this process.
- Sit/lay in stillness, allow your body and mind to relax, and be open for whatever experiences show up, however subtle.
- When you feel ready to return, visualize the sphere of light retracting into a circle and dissolving into the Earth.
- Thank Mugwort, and say goodbye with a promise to visit again.
- Open your eyes, notice how you feel, and write down any experience you wish to remember.
- Gather you Mugwort and hang it to dry. It can be placed in a window, car, or carried in a medicine bag for protection and connecting to your intuition.