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Inventory Summary for: Magic Plants

Plants are extremely important in love charms. We list some of them here going from positive to ambivalent and negative, and distinguishing under each category between cultivated and wild plants. Prickling plants, stumps and withered flowers are always negative. Esoteric and rhetorical plants will be discussed in detail below.

Cultivated positive:

fabnişi di grădinî (?): 1 (tech)
flowers: 1 (verse)
1 (tech)
Majorana hortensis (măgheran, marjoram): 1 (tech)
pepper (9 grains): 1 (tech)
pepper (9); corn (9): 1 (tech)
vines (green), peonies (dear): 1 (verse)
vineyards: 1 (verse)
wheat (earlet), flowers: 1 (verse)

Besides basil, wheat, apple tree and hyssop, other cultivated positive plants that are often mentioned in the charms for beauty and love are marjoram, peonies, sun flower, vine and pepper, among many others.

Basil:

[no qualifier]: 7 (verse)
2 (tech)
a cluster: 1 (verse)
1 (tech)
a cluster of basil: 1 (tech)
basil: 1 (tech)
basil (several stems): 1 (tech)
basil stems (9): 1 (tech)
branch of basil: 1 (tech)
cluster: 1 (verse)
1 (tech)
cluster of basil: 1 (tech)
2 (verse)
stems (3): 1 (tech)
three stems: 1 (tech)
a fist of basil: 1 (verse)
basil (a cluster of red): 1 (verse)
flowering: 1 (verse)
Lord Christ's basil: 1 (verse)
proudly floweriing basil, chosen among all flowers/weeds: 1 (verse)
stem of basil: 1 (verse)

Basil was thought not only to enhance one's attire (the way perfume usually does for people in the city), but also to protect people against evil magic and to bring good luck. Dipping a cluster of basil in "unstarted water" (or in the "water for love", see Substances) and magically cleaning oneself with it is to be connected with the religious ritual that is accomplished on Epiphany, when the priest and the cantor visit all their parishioners and sprinkle them as well as the insides of their houses with holy water using a cluster of basil as an aspergillum.

Basil appears in both magic formulas and magic techniques in the charms for beauty, honor and love that are usually performed at sunrise, with unstarted water.

Sour cherry tree:

[no qualifier]: 8 (tech)
blossoming sour cherry tree: 1 (verse)
cherry trees (blossoming): 1 (verse)
cherry-tree (blossoming): 1 (verse)
cherry-tree (from the mountain, blossoming): 1 (verse)
sour cherry of sour cherries: 1 (verse)

A blossoming cherry-tree (wild cherry- or sour cherry-tree) on the mountains can be seen from far away. It is thus a strong symbol of spring and beauty as well as of high visibility, often used in the charms for love and beauty.

A number of Romanian spring rituals involve using the bark and branches of wild cherry-trees.

Wheat:

[no qualifier]: 2 (tech)
seed wheat (chosen among plants: 1 (verse)

Wheat is "the most chosen" among cultivated plants and, as such, it models the unique beauty and prestige to be attained by the charmee. It is also a "holy" plant, strongly connected with archaic as well as religious rituals and beliefs.

Apple tree:

[no qualifier]: 2 (tech)
apple-trees and pear-trees: 1 (verse)

One encounters the blossoming apple tree only in charm formulas. When occurring in the conclusion of a love charm formula, it symbolizes the beauty to be attained by charming. At the beginning of a formula for undoing or turning fate or hate charms, the blossoming apple tree symbolizes the happy state that has been destroyed by negative magic and will have to be recreated.

Hyssop:

Hyssopus officinalis (isop, hyssop): 1 (tech)

Like basil, hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) is used as an aspergillum in religious purification rituals. With love charms, it tends to occur in the magic formulas, less so than basil.

Wild positive:

crocus (Crocus heuffelianus): 1 (tech)
flowers (in the garden): 1 (tech)
crocus (Crocus Heuffelianus, brândușă): 1 (verse)
flowers (on the hill): 1 (verse)
flowers, grasses: 1 (verse)
flowers, weeds: 1 (verse)
grasses, woods: 1 (verse)
Hesperis matronalis (micşunea, rocket): 1 (verse)

Wild positive plants most often symbolize the beauty to be acquired by charming. They include crocus, rocket, as well as unspecified fresh flowers, weeds and grasses and are both used in the procedures and mentioned in the magic formulas.

Cultivated ambivalent:

grasses: 1 (verse)

The most important among the cultivated ambivalent plants are pear trees and hemp. They appear in divinatory practices as well as in fate, binding and unbinding charm scenarios and can be both used in the procedures and evoked in the formulas.

Pear tree:

[no qualifier]: 1 (verse)
2 (tech)
Pyrus piraster (prăsad, wild pear-tree): 1 (tech)
blossoming: 1 (verse)

Like mandrake and wormwood, pear trees are ambivalent auxiliaries. They seem, however, to embody the fated spouse rather than a powerful ally in the course of the magic procedure.The charm-sayer goes to the tree, pricks it with a needle, recites a formula in which demons are summoned to torment and bring the fated spouse to the charmee and then burries bread and salt at its root and makes a number of genuflexions in view of a speedy marriage.

Hemp:

a thread of hemp: 1 (tech)
Cannabis sativa: 1 (tech)
hamp seeds: 1 (tech)

Hemp seeds tend to be used in divinatory practices, while hemp thread most often occurs in the magic procedures for binding or unbinding a man’s desire. In the last two cases, the use of hemp in the procedure is often associated with the invocation of wormwood in the formula.

Wild ambivalent:

Artemisia absinthium (pelin, wormwood): 1 (tech)
de noă capiti (?): 1 (tech)
Powerful wormwood, with even more power (artemisia absinthium): 1 (verse)

The most important among the wild ambivalent plants are mandrake and wormwood. They are usually “given” bread and salt in exchange for their services and used in nocturnal charms for fate or speedy marriage.

Mandrake:

[no qualifier]: 1 (tech)
wild radish (ridichioară): 1 (tech)
Atropa belladona (mătrăgună, banewort): 1 (verse)
wild radish (Beloved herb, great Lady): 1 (verse)

Romanian Doamnă Mare (Great Lady) is usually a respectful way of addressing Atropa belladona (mandrake, mandragora), which is also revered under such "masking" names as Cinstită, Doamna codrului, Împărăteasa buruienilor, împărăteasă etc. meaning "Honored (Honorable), Lady of the Forest, Empress of all Herbs" and "Empress" respectively.

The strong Lady Mandrake is instrumenting some of the most powerful charms for marriage practiced in Romania. Mircea Eliade has even stated that the Romanian mandrake collecting rituals, which involve paying the plant with bread, salt and silver coins that are buried at its roots, feasting with it on wine and roasted meat, dancing (often naked) around it while reciting appropriate charms, and finally transplanting it from the woods into a secret corner of the woman's flower garden, attest to the existence of female shamanism in this part of Europe.

Cultivated negative:

vines (stripped; i.e. chosen wives): 1 (verse)

It is the general state of the plant (withered, unhealthy, burnt) rather than its identity that makes it belong to this category. One of the typical examples is that of stripped vine that is unattractive to all. It symbolizes the charmee’s wish that all young women in her community be ignored while she is universally praised and acclaimed.

Garlic:

[no qualifier]: 1 (verse)
1 (tech)

Foul-smelling plants (especially garlic) are used to chase away rivals. The charms against hate and especially those against fate give those who cast an evil spell against the charmee a choice between running away or being made to stink of garlic.

Wild negative:

poplar top: 1 (tech)
bog-rosemaries (99), laurels (99), stump: 1 (verse)
flowers (witheerd), weeds, chopped stumps: 1 (verse)
poplar leaves (restless): 1 (verse)
willow (newly planted): 1 (verse)

Withered flowers, burnt stumps symbolize physical decay and death. They occur most typically in the formulas of countercharms aimed at undoing or turning fate or hate charms.

Prickling plants:

thorns: 1 (tech)

Nettle, thistle, thorn, garlic are symbols of hate in the charm-formulas. To "undo hate", the charm-sayer gradually "replaces" the garments of thistle, the shoes of nettle, the crown of thorns of the charmee's textual alter-ego with a dress of love, shoes of nightingale, a crown of gold etc.

Prickling plants:

[no qualifier]: 1 (verse)
1 (tech)
thorns, briars: 1 (tech)
a thorn-pit; a crown of thorns: 1 (verse)
fire and nettles: 1 (verse)

Nettle, thistle, thorn, garlic are symbols of hate in the charm-formulas. To "undo hate", the charm-sayer gradually "replaces" the garments of thistle, the shoes of nettle, the crown of thorns of the charmee's textual alter-ego with a dress of love, shoes of nightingale, a crown of gold etc.

Stump/Withered flower(s):

burnt stumps: 1 (verse)

In magic discourse, the stump (often burnt) is one of the strongest metaphors for physical decay. Like withered flowers, it is associated with death. Its occurrence in a charm is therefore an implicit sign of magic violence .

Esoteric:

Cereus flagelliformis\-F (\şărpi\, ?): 1 (tech)
Equisetum palustre (or Geranium phaeum (di dînsili, ?): 1 (tech)
onion, pepper: 1 (tech)
Lathraea squamaria, Aseprula odorata, Pteridium aquilinum (muma-pădurii, sweet woodruff, bracken): 1 (verse)

We call esoteric those plants bearing names that indicate their magic function (Love—to bring beauty and love; Little Sunday—to help, like Saint Sunday does; Undoer—to undo negative charms) while they give no hint as to their identity. These names are generally unknown to people other than the charm-sayers.

Little Sunday:

Lysimachia nummularia (duminicuţă,creeping Jenny): 1 (tech)

Duminecuță, duminecea and duminiță (all literally meaning "little Sunday") corerspond in Romanian folk terminology to Lysimachia nummularia (creeping Jenny). They seem to be magically alluding to Saint Sunday, one of the strongest and most benevolent supernatural auxiliaries in love charming.

Love/dragoste:

Sedum fabaria (dragoste, ???): 1 (tech)
2 (verse)
dragostili (Sedum fabaria): 1 (verse)
Sedum fabaria (dragoste): 1 (verse)
Sedum fabaria (or Botrychium lunaria, Sedum maximum) (dragoste, ?): 1 (verse)

Ethnobotanists speak of a plant regionally called dragoste, "love," and corresponding either to Botrychium lunaria (also called in Romanian limba cucului, "cuckoo's tongue," or iarba dragostei, "love's herb"), or to Portulaca oleracea, Sedum fabaria, and Sedum maximum (orpine, livelong) which might well be the referents of the "loves " gathered and put into water while charming for love.

Undoer:

Salvia aethiopis (disfăcătoari|, ?): 1 (verse)
1 (tech)

Desfăcătoare (undoer) is the popular name of Salvia aethiopis, which is characteristically used in charms against hate (for undoing a hate spell). Other current names for it are desfatnic (possibly associated with sfat, "counsel, advice"), iarba lui Sfântul Ioan, "Saint John's herb,", șerlai, muscătai, and tutunaș (the last meaning "tobacco plant + diminutive").

Rhetorical:

hazel-tree, maple-tree, alden-tree: 1 (tech)
alun (hazel), fag (beech), sânger, salcâm (acacia), margarit: 1 (verse)
hazel tree/ madman, maple tree/ calusar, thistle/ hawk: 1 (verse)
hazel tree/good man; mapple tree/ stallion; dogwood tree/ angel; elder tree/ not stay in place; bean/ tell him; pea/ bird; chickpea/ blind man; thistle/ hawk: 1 (verse)
hazel wood (madman); elder wood (fire); maple wood (stallion): 1 (verse)
hazel-tree/ madman; maple-tree/ stallion; alden-tree/ dog: 1 (verse)
hazel/madman, beechwood/love, doogwood/angel, restharrow/loving, lilly-of-the-valley/dressed up: 1 (verse)
wheat; "vâzdoagă"; "rusuț de munte": 1 (verse)

A number of plant-names appear in the charm formulas because they rhyme with terms that specify desirable qualities in the future spouse. Thus, we have arțar, "maple-tree" rhyming with armăsar, "stallion"; alun, "hazel-tree" rhyming with bun, "good"; sânger, rhyming with înger, "angel" etc.

Other:

Centaurea banatica (drăgani, ?): 1 (tech)
Cirsium boujarti (or C. decussatum, C. furiens, C. palustre, C. vulgare) (crăpusnic|, ?): 1 (tech)
corn ("cocean"): 1 (tech)
Crataegus monogyna (mărăcine, briar): 1 (tech)
Gratiola officinalis, Ajuga laxmanni (avrămeasă, cristineasă, hedge/water hyssop): 1 (tech)
hazel-tree twig: 1 (tech)
Hesperis matronalis (micşunea, rocket): 1 (tech)
Juglans regia (nucă, walnut): 1 (tech)
Levisticum officinale (leuştean, lovage): 1 (tech)
onion: 2 (tech)
Phragmites communis (stuh, reed): 1 (tech)
plum-tree: 1 (tech)
Salix rubra, S. alba, S. caprea, S. fragilis, S. pentandraetc (răchită, common willow, white w., goat w., bay w.etc.): 1 (tech)
Sedum rosea (rujă, roseroot): 1 (tech)
Tagetes erecta (T. patul) (crai, African marigold, French marigold): 1 (tech)
two twinned trees that have been uprooted and separated by a storm: 1 (tech)
Valeriana dioica, V. officinalis (odolean, valerian, allheal): 1 (tech)
young "hetani": 1 (tech)
a beautiful flower: 1 (verse)
a beuutiful blossoming tree: 1 (verse)
cotoarele trestiilor: 1 (verse)
dei noă capiti (?): 1 (verse)
Doronicum austriacum, Sedum acre, S. rosea, Carlina acaulis (iarba ciutei, leopard's abne, roseroot): 1 (verse)
Dracaena draco (sînge-de-nouă fraţi, resin): 1 (verse)
Equisetum palustre (or Geranium phaeum (didînsili, ?): 1 (verse)
flower(s): 1 (verse)
garoafa: 1 (verse)
roses: 1 (verse)
wormwood wine: 1 (verse)

    

None:

[no qualifier]: 1 (tech)
1 (verse)

    

Peony:

peonies: 1 (verse)