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Ritual Tools: Sacred Work with Mugwort

by Selena Fox

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is a versatile sacred herb. It can be used for spiritual cleansing, protection, healing, and consecration, and it can aid dream work, trance, and intuitive development. Associated with the Full Moon and with the Summer Solstice since ancient times, Mugwort also is suitable for rituals year round. It can be used as a ritual tool in many ways. Here are some of them:

Garland Crowns & Wreaths: A garland crown, or ritual head wreath, can be easily fashioned from one or more freshly cut Mugwort stalks. Select a young, supple stalk at least 2 feet in length. Begin forming the circle of the crown by gently bending the stalk at its midpoint and then interweaving it upon itself. About halfway through the interweaving process, try your crown on and then adjust it so that it fits comfortably on your head. When you are done, trim off any excess leafless stalk. If you prefer to have lots of foliage on your crown, make the initial circlet a bit bigger, and then weave several more additional stalks around it, one at a time. Start each new stalk at a different point along the circle in order to distribute foliage equally around the perimeter. For the freshest look, make your crown within an hour of starting a ritual. Ritual wreaths for decorating doors, shrines, deity images, and altars can be made in a similar fashion, and can be any size. Dried wreaths, hung on or above doorways, are wonderful house blessing charms.

Smudge Sticks: Make a smudge stick from thoroughly dried sprigs of Mugwort leaves. Cut dried stalks with leaves still on them into fairly equal lengths. Twelve to eighteen inches is a convenient size for smudge sticks for most ritual work. Use five to nine stalks per smudge stick bundle. Prior to bundling, remove leaves from the lower two inches of each stalk for use as the handle. Then, form the smudge stick by wrapping the stalks in the bundle together with cotton string, dental floss, thin jute twine, or some other thin, burnable cord of natural fiber. Bind the stalks securely together, but not so tightly that burning will be impaired. Tie the cord around the bundle at the top of the handle area, and then spiral it around the bundle, from the base to the top, and then, crisscrossing, back to the base again. Tie off the cord upon returning to the base, and cut off any surplus cord. Store completed Mugwort smudge sticks in a dry, dark place until needed. To use, light the tip of the smudge stick and let it burn for several moments. Then gently blow out the flame so that only glowing embers and smoke remain. Wave the burning smudge stick back and forth to move the smoke around to consecrate the ritual place and participants. If you wish to use only part of the smudge stick, extinguish its glowing end in a small bucket of moist sand when you are done.

Offerings: Fresh or dried leaves, flowers, and sprigs of Mugwort can be used as an offering in personal and group rituals. Leave Mugwort offerings at a shrine, place on the ground, or cast into a sacred fire.

Wands: Use dried, sturdy, mature stalks that are at least 1/4 inch thick. Carefully trim off any dried side branches and leaves. Then, cut the wand to the desired length. A traditional size for a personal wand is the distance between your elbow and the tip of your middle finger of your dominant hand. Although not as durable as those fashioned of hardwood, Mugwort wands are easy to make and use, and are excellent for work with the Fey and in communing with Ancestors. Because they are light weight, they are good first wands for children. An asperging wand can be made from a fresh sprig of Mugwort. Clip just prior to use. Remove a few leaves on the bottom of the sprig to form the handle, but keep the rest of the leaves on. Dip the Mugwort asperging wand into a chalice or bowl of ritual water, and then flick water droplets onto the place, ritual objects, or participants for consecration.

Sacred Fire Kindling: Dried Mugwort stalks can be burned in combination with Oak and other sacred woods in ceremonial fires. Broken into one to two foot lengths, Mugwort stalks can serve as excellent kindling material in building balefires and sun wheels. Mugwort stalks also can be added once a fire is burning to add aroma and to brighten the flames. Dried Mugwort leaves and flowers also are good additives to sacred fires.

Dream Pillows: For a large sized dream pillow, take a cotton pillow case liner, stuff it with dried Mugwort leaves to the desired thickness, and then securely shut the end. Another type of dream pillow is a Mugwort sachet. Cut two pieces of cloth of equal size. Most Mugwort dream sachets are square or rectangular since they are easiest to make, but they can be any shape and size. Place the right sides of the fabric pieces together and stitch a half-inch seam nearly completely around the edges. Turn the sachet bag inside out, fill it with Mugwort leaves, and then hand sew the opening shut. Place this sachet under your regular pillow or inside its pillowcase. Connect with your Mugwort sachet or pillow just after getting into bed. Touch it and smell its fragrance as you do an affirmation to bless sleep, guide dreaming, and aid dream recall and interpretation upon awaking.

Potions & Washes: Select a focus and then keep it in mind throughout your Mugwort potion preparation process. As you begin, ask the Spirit of Mugwort to guide and aid your work. Bring a quart of good quality water to a boil in an enamelware cauldron or glass cooking pot. Turn off the heat after the water comes to a boil. Add either a handful of dried Mugwort leaves or three handfuls of fresh leaves and flowers. Stir the Mugwort around in the water with a wooden spoon as you chant your intention, such as "Bring Healing to Me" or "Cleansing" or "Power of Protection." The form of your chant is up to you. It can be an incantation that you have learned from others or one you have written or adapted. Build energy as you chant and stir. Then peak the energy, stop stirring, and direct the energy raised into the potion through the stirring spoon and your hands. Cover the potion with a lid. Let the solution steep at least thirteen minutes. Strain through a mesh screen. Use immediately, or, for later use, pour into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and store it in a refrigerator for up to three days. Depending on the focus of the potion, you may drink it or add it to your ritual bath water. A Mugwort potion can also be used as cleansing wash for sacred objects, such as crystals and magic mirrors. For use in scrying, place some Mugwort potion in a dark colored ritual bow and meditatively gaze into it in subdued light. In addition, Mugwort also can be used as a sacred flavoring in ritual brews and foods.

Amulets: At the culmination of a home blessing rite, hang a fresh Mugwort sprig above the main door into your home for protection and good fortune. Hang a Mugwort sprig or wreath above your bed to bless sleep and dreaming. Fill an amulet bag with Mugwort, energize it, and wear it around your neck for healing, spiritual growth, and intuition. Put a pouch of Mugwort in the glove compartment of your vehicle or hang a Mugwort amulet bag from your rear view mirror to bless your travels. In addition, Mugwort can be combined with other ingredients in making amulets and charms for a variety of purposes.

Sacred Space: Grow Mugwort in a ritual garden. Create a year round ceremonial circle with a Mugwort hedge. Grow Mugwort next to your home to bless and protect it. Meditate and commune with living Mugwort for relaxation, healing, and inspiration.

Further Reading:

"Magic of Mugwort" by Selena Fox, CIRCLE Magazine, Summer 1987, page 19.

"Mugwort Circle" by Selena Fox, CIRCLE Magazine, Summer 2001, pages 46-47.