About a thousand years or so ago, some clever soul sat down and wrote, in Old English and Latin, a collection of folk medicine, charms, and prayers. Later named the Lacnunga by a nineteenth-century editor, this text included what has come to be known as the Nine Herbs Charm.
In addition to referencing Woden himself, the Nine Herbs Charm lists – wait for it – nine different medicinal herbs, which translate into the modern mugwort, betony (although some scholars say it’s cockspur), nettle, plantain, thyme, fennel, crabapple, lamb’s cress (or watercress), and chamomile (mayweed).
Ben Slade over at Heorot has a great translation of the text, so I won’t rehash it here, but suffice it to say that this was considered some pretty powerful healing magic. Essentially, a practitioner would sing a chant calling out the names of these nine herbs and their various attributes, and then crush them into a powder. This powder could then be used in a salve which was applied directly to the patient in an effort to heal or stave off infection and illness.
So… how do we, as 2017 practitioners, translate an early Anglo-Saxon charm into healing magic? Here’s what I’ve come up with, and it seems to work pretty effectively. I’ve used this healing salve on my skin for a number of purposes – and it also works well as a massage oil, if you’ve got someone who likes you enough to give you a rubdown.
Equal parts of dried:
- Plantain leaves
1 Cup coconut oil
1 – 2 oz shaved beeswax
Use your mortar and pestle to blend all nine herbs together into a fine powder. Combine the powdered herbs with the oil, and place them in the top pot of a double boiler (if you don’t know how that works, here are the basics). After the water in the bottom pot has come to a boil, reduce it to a simmer, and let the herbs infuse into the coconut oil for about an hour.
Place your cheesecloth over a bowl, and CAREFULLY pour the herb-infused oil into it, so you can strain out the herbal residue. Then place the beeswax in a pan, over a VERY low heat, and slowly pour the oil from the bowl on top of the wax. Once it’s all melted together and smelling amazing, pour it into a mason jar and refrigerate it for about half an hour just to firm it up. Now you’ve got a magical healing salve that you can use for any number of purposes!
Note: the amount of beeswax you use will determine how creamy or firm your salve is. I like mine easily spreadable with a couple of fingertips, so I use slightly less beeswax. If you want your salve harder, use more.