The Shamanic Herbal: Odhinn's Herbs


(Fraxinus spp.)

Names: Ask, Nion
Household Uses: Ash is a good hardwood, used for carving sturdy items. American Black Ash is traditionally split for basketmaking.
Traditional Magical Uses: Ash is often associated with water, and an equal-armed cross of ash wood is protection against drowning at sea. The ash tree is strongly protective, and supposedly repels snakes. Ash staves ward off evils, and ash wands are used for healing. The leaves are scattered to protect an area.
Shamanic Magical Uses: Ash is the tree most strongly associated with Yggdrasil, the World Tree. While I would not say that Yggdrasil is an ash tree per se, the ash seems to resonate well with its nature. A piece of ash wood, especially one carved with the rune Gar, can be used to contact Yggdrasil itself....but be warned, Yggdrasil is large and old and lives at a slower pace than you. It may be weeks before it gets around to responding, and it does not respond in words. Ash wood can be used to find your way to the boundary of any world that is closest to Yggdrasil. As Ash is also the name of the first man - Ask - it can be used in workings to honor the ancestors. It is also special to Odhinn, as he hung on the Tree, and when used in conjunction with his name (or on an ash staff) it should be used with the rune Ansuz/Aesc.


[Elm](Ulmus spp.)

Names: Ulm, Embla, Elven
Medicinal Uses: While the European elm is not used medicinally, the bark of its American cousin Slippery Elm is used to reduce mucus and phlegm.
Household Uses: Elm trees are good firewood, but very hard to split.
Traditional Magical Uses: Elm is supposedly beloved of the Alfar, and has been carried for charms to see them, as well as love spells.
Shamanic Magical Uses: Like Ash, Elm is associated with the first woman - Embla - and can be used in workings to honor the ancestors. It can be used as an anchor for pathwalking to Alfheim, because of its association with the Alfar. It is special to Odhinn, and also to Hoenir and the elemental giant Logi.


[Horehound](Marrubium vulgare)

Names: Marubie, Bulls' Blood, Eye of the Star, Haran, Har Hune, Llwyd Y Cun, Marob, Seed of Horus, Soldier's Tea
Medicinal Uses: The classic cough herb, it is usually put into cough drops or syrup.
Household Uses: Infuse in fresh milk and set in a dish as a fly killer.
Traditional Magical Uses: Healing potions, and strengthening the mental powers and memory.
Shamanic Magical Uses: This plant is beloved of Odhinn; supposedly when its leaves are mixed with those of the ash tree, they emit healing vibrations together and can be burned to heal people or left as potpourri in a sickroom. Horehound links us to the power of Huginn and Muninn, Odhinn's ravens who symbolize Thought and Memory. Carry it or breathe its smoke or drink it in tea to invoke their aid to strengthen your mind. (Despite its name, it has nothing to do with hounds; the name comes from the Old English har hune, meaning downy plant.)


[parsley](Petroselinum crispum)

Names: Devil's Oatmeal, Percely, Persil, Petersilie
Medicinal Uses: All parts of the plant aid in reducing free radicals, and lower histamine levels.
Household Uses: Chop into salads or cook into any savory dish. Parsley is incredibly versatile.
Traditional Magical Uses: Talking to the Dead, and protection from them. It was said that the reason parsley takes so long to sprout is that it must go to Hel and back seven times first.
Shamanic Magical Uses: This herb is special to Odhinn in his role as leader of dead souls; he is sometimes shown riding on a Wild Hunt with his Valhalla dead, and supposedly if they come upon you, you can divert them by offering them parsley. Wearing it may allow them to miss you entirely. If you want to speak to the Volva of the Mound, the old spirit that spoke to Odhinn, offer her parsley. Don't, however, try to convince her that you are Odhinn. You can also use parsley as an asperger to banish ghosts.


(Sorbus acuparia)

Names: Delight of the Eye, Quickbane, Ran Tree, Mountain Ash, Royne-Tree, Roden-Quicken, Sorb-Apple, Thor's Helper, Whitty, Wicken-Tree, Wiggin, Wiggy, Witchen, Wiky, Wild Ash
Medicinal Uses: Berries are high in Vitamin C and are eaten as a tonic. (Throw away the seeds, as they contain hydrocyanic acid.) The bark and leaves are used as a gargle for thrush.
Traditional Magical Uses: Wands of the wood increase psychic powers and are used for divining. The tree is protective, and the classic anti-demon spell consists of rowan berries tied with red thread. A rowan staff keeps nighttime predators at bay, and is good for travelers in general.
Shamanic Magical Uses: Rowan seems to have a predilection for the rune Raido, and can be used not only for travel, but in a talisman for Raido's "higher" purpose, which is finding one's own path in life. While it is also associated with Thor, it is also well-liked by Odhinn, as it is symbolic of the time of his life when he went wandering in the world for nine years to gain wisdom. A rowan staff or rowan amulet is a good companion for one who wishes to go that road, giving up everything in their life and starting out on the journey of discovery, which may be a hard ordeal. Odhinn ended up, among other things, trading an eye to Mimir for the two birds Huginn and Muninn, and hanging sacrificed on the World Tree to gain the knowledge of the runes. Rowan can be a helper in the human version of those hard times, keeping one's will focused on one's path even when it is painful.


(Isatis tinctoria)

Names: Isatan, Blueweed
Medicinal Uses: Woad is mildly toxic when taken internally (although not hallucinogenic, as some have claimed). On the surface of the skin, however, it is reasonably safe, and the leaves are used as a poultice to stop bleeding and heal wounds, which may have been part of the reason why warriors in some cultures smeared it on their bodies before going into battle.
Household Uses: Classic blue dyeplant of the northern peoples.
Traditional Magical Uses: Smeared on the body as a charm for courage.
Shamanic Magical Uses: Sacred to Odhinn and his warriors, Woad was used by the fighting men of many cultures for their pre-battle ritual body paint. It can be used again in this way, on body or cloth, for any sort of battle where courage is needed, not just one where blood is shed.