Necromancy: Summoning Spirits
many plants have historically been associated with the dead
and the spirit world; often these were grave goods
(offerings buried with the dead, see bottom of this page),
or plants traditionally grown in cemeteries.
plant traditionally associated with raising the dead is
the yew, but there are many other plants which are associated
with the dead for the purpose of summoning the spirits,
most often to entice the spirit into answering questions
about the future. The magical incense burned by witches
to attract spirits and help the materialize is known as
plants were used in suffumigations, including anise, dried
carnation flowers, amaranth flowers, and gardenia petals,
dittany of Crete, frankincense, heather, pipsissewa, sweetgrass,
and wormwood. Dittany, in particular, was considered an
excellent base; spirits would appear in the center of the
smoke. Balm of gillead was also burned as a material basis
for spirits. Asafoetida destroys the spirit manifestations
when throw into the fire (although I've also found information
that it pulls in negative spirits).
is very commonly combined with other herbs for conjuring
spirits. Wormwood, mixed with sandalwood, should be burned
while in a graveyard. This will cause the spirits of the
dead there to rise and speak. Crushed willow bark with sandalwood
should be burned outdoors during the waning moon for conjuring.
Sandalwood and frankincense is burned during seances. Lavender
is also mixed with sandalwood for spirit summoning.
incense for summoning recalcitrant spirits consists of three
parts wormwood and one part Solomon's Seal. This is good
for human dead who are not in very helpful moods. An incense
for summoning spirits which were in a depressed state when
they died consists of three parts wormwood and one part
vervain. This is also good for people who are not aware
they are dead. This will not only call them, but will also
lighten their mood. The ancient Greeks believed that wormwood
should be burned on a fire of privet in order to summon
the dead, since a fire of privet was thought to open the
doors of the Underworld.
recipe from a seventeenth century manuscript, 'Secret
of Secrets', gives the following recipe for calling
Hermes saith there
is nothing like unto spermaceti to Raise spirits suddenly,
being compounded of spermaceti, lignum aloes and pepperwort
and Muske saffron Red storage mixed with the bloud of
a Lapwing this being fumigated. And if it be fumigated
About Toombes or graves of the dead it causes spirits
and ghosts of the dead to gather together as it is sayd.
spirit offerings used, especially if seeking blessings from
the spirits, include lilac, mint, and purple heather, specifically.
Pipsissewa is blended with rose petals and violets to draw
beneficial spirits. Catnip, if grown near the house or hung
over the door will attract good spirits and good luck. Althea
is considered a 'spirit puller': you place it on the altar
to bring in good spirits during a ceremony.
Seal was used as an offering to elementals when pleading
for their aid. Bladderwrack was used specifically to summon
water spirits. Broom (the plant, not the household implement)
was used to call forth the spirits of the air. From a mountaintop,
you would throw the broom up in the air to raise the winds
and to call the air spirits. When the winds needed to be
calmed, you would burn the broom and bury the ashes.
some thistle, then remove it from heat and lie or sit beside
it as the steam rises. Listen carefully, and you should
be able to get the spirits to answer your questions. Tea
made from dandelion root and placed beside the bed while
still steaming will also call them.
Chinese called spirits using bamboo flutes-they would carve
the name of the spirit into a bamboo flute. A flute carved
from elder, played at midnight far from human habitation,
will also summon them. A German legend says that a sprig
of mistletoe carried into an old house will allow you to
see the ghosts that live there, and that you can also force
the ghosts to answer your questions. In ancient Greece,
visitors to the Oracle of the Dead on the bank of the river
Acheron were given lupin seeds to eat before the spirits
of the dead were invoked.
Gardening: Theme Gardens
Growing your Grave Goods
the modern aphorism, 'You can't take it with you', most
cultures around the world did a great deal to make the transition
into the Afterworld comfortable for the being in question,
which meant including objects in the grave which would travel
with the person. These objects were often of a person nature,
and would include stones, artifacts, minerals, shells, vessels,
amulets, food, and drugs. The Neanderthals of Shanidar put
flowers in graves 60,000 years ago.
help you with the selection of plant material that you would
like included in your gravesite with you, here are plants
that have traditionally been included in graves from cultures
all around the world. Many of these plants have interesting
properties, which makes them valuable while you're still
Beans of some sort were part of belief systems just about
everywhere in the world. They were considered guardians
of life energy and food of the gods. Many beans have 'magical
effects', and as such, had cults surrounding them, such
as the mezcal bean. Other beans were used as death charms,
such as jequirity, which was ground and then brushed across
the threshold of a house. The person entering barefoot would
then die. Bean fetish objects were often included in graves.
This was used by the Egyptians for magical cosmetics and
perfumes, incense, and to embalm mummies. It was also venerated
by the Romans and the ancient Mesopotamians. In his Herbal,
Dioscorides called cedar "the life of death".
The Aztecs associated colorines with sacrificial death.
They carved figures of their gods from the wood, and used
the beans as an aphrodisiac and for producing dreams.
One of the oldest magical plants known to man, ephedra was
used in the Iranian Haoma cult, Tantric moon rituals, orgiastic
Saturnalia, and N.A. Indian vision quests. Consequently,
the leaves of this plant were often included in the funerary
This type of holly grows in Ecuador, and has been found
in graves there dating from 500 BC. The leaves were found
in medicine bags, along with snuff pipes. This plant is
supposed to give strength and auspicious dreams, and is
used as an emetic and enema.
is one of oldest cultivated plants. It was originally grown
in China, and has been used by almost every culture in Asia,
Africa, and Europe. It's medicinal and inebriant uses are
Lotus. The lotus flower is a symbol of perfection,
immortality, and enlightenment. The roots and seeds were
used as amulets.
The Maya say that maize has the greatest life energy of
any plant. Dried kernels are used as oracles and worn as
amulets. Maize supposedly has the power to dispel demons.
Maté. Maté Yerba shrub leaves were found in pre-Columbian
graves in the Andes. The leaves were placed in gourds lined
with silver, so the dead could make maté tea and remain
awake on their journey to the afterlife.
This was one of the plants, along with henbane, thornapple,
and tobacco, which later became associated with witches.
However, poppy capsules have been found in archaeological
sites in Switzerland which belong to the Lake Dwellers,
and are 4000 years old.
Poppy. Aztecs thought that 'all poisonous plants are
eaten in the underworld, and all who go there eat prickly
poppy'. This is a medicinal plant with many uses.
Pedro Cactus. A Peruvian plant, also found in pre-Columbian
graves, which was used for traveling to unseen worlds.
Originally a New World plant, it was adopted into magical
ceremonies all over the world. Mayan temples and pyramids
are decorated with images of the plant and their gods smoking
tobacco. It was an important inclusion in pre-Columbian
Now used mainly as a hedge, sprigs of boxwood were found
in three early Roman coffins (probably a local custom).
Much later, the English used boxwood at funerals. The custom
was to leave sprays of it next to the door so that people
could take a spray and throw in into the grave at the appropriate
The coffin juniper, Juniperus recurva var. coxii, has a
resinous wood that is used for Buddhist incense and for,
obviously, making coffins. The Greeks burned juniper berries
at funerals to repel demons.
information on above mentioned plants,
trees & herbs, see also my Chapter
on this subject, or go to:
Olde Gothick Herbal (a really great site!), For more like
this, see Gothic Gardening 'Potpourri'
More Gardens (The Garden of Ill Omens, Gardening for Bats
and Much More):
Gardening, Theme Garden