Those of you who have been following one of my previous blogs for a while (or who read Hex magazine) will already know about this, but last spring (our first spring here in Eugene) I decide to create a Nine Herbs garden in a corner of our backyard. For first time readers, the idea for a Nine Herbs garden came to me from the Nine Herbs Galdor (a “galdor” being a spoken charm), one of the spells included in the 10th century manuscript Lacnunga (“remedies”), a collection of Anglo-Saxon medical texts and prayers recorded in Old English. The Nine Herbs Galdor is of special interest to me because it mentions Woden (aka Odin) in the following section:
A snake came crawling, it bit a man.
Then Woden took nine glory-twigs,
Smote the serpent so that it flew into nine parts.
There apple brought this pass against poison,
That she nevermore would enter her house.
There are many possible interpretations of this fragment, but the one I favor equates the “nine glory twigs” with the nine Anglo-Saxon herbs subsequently mentioned in the charm. Not everyone agrees on the modern English translations of the Anglo-Saxon herbal names given, but for my own purposes (going according to my own research, herbal knowledge, and UPG—or unverified personal gnosis) the nine herbs are as follows:
1) Chamomile (regarded as an herb that represents Asgard, home of the Northern gods, by many in the Northern Tradition)
2) Crab-apple (the apple being a common symbol of the underworld as well as eternal life in several European traditions)
3) Fennel (a common ingredient in Northern European baking)
4) Plantain (a skin-healing herb with very phallic flowers)
5) Stinging Nettle (which can cause a painful sting that is reminiscent of the rune Algiz, and also ironically an effective folk treatment for rheumatism and arthritis)
6) Mugwort (an herb known as an aid to divination and prophetic dreaming, and one of the primary herbs associated with Odin, in my personal experience as well as that of many others). My Etsy store will soon be offering smudge sticks made from mugwort grown in this very garden, so stay tuned for that!
7) Wormwood (the herb used to make the infamous drink absinthe; contains the hallucinogenic thujone)
8) Sweet cicely (one of the herbs commonly used to flavor the Scandinavian liquor called Aquavit, which in the experience of many Odinists is one of His favorite drinks)
9) Corn salad (the winter lettuce known as “rampion” in the fairy tale Rapunzel; its theft from the witches garden by the heroine’s mother is the reason for her imprisonment in the tower)
At any rate, since herbalism is a recurring theme both in my store and artistic inspirations and in my spiritual life, I thought I’d share a few photos of the garden as it is now with my current readers.
This is a view of the entire garden, which is basically divided into two sections. We’ve placed an Ohm Gnome underneath the crab-apple tree (at left), which may be partly responsible for the gnomish spirit we feel has taken up residence here recently. The gnome statue is beneath the crab-apple tree and bronze fennel, both of which are in their second year. (Fennel grows as high as a small tree here.) Currently, Odin Himself is represented by the winking green man mask hanging from the pear tree (at right).
A close-up (unfortunately not a very clear one) of the gnome statue.
A closer look at the winking green man. Beneath him in the garden are nettle, forests of mugwort and wormwood, and the remains of the German chamomile. (So far, I don’t seem able to keep all nine herbs alive and present at any given time. I keep trying, though!)