Harvesting the Verba for Midsummer

What’s more pagan than getting out into nature and playing with plants? Now’s the time, and if you have any knowledge or training in herbalism it’s a great time to wildcraft in appropriate places. Not only that, but it’s an ancient tradition practiced all over continental Europe, which has a climate a lot like the Midwest and East Coast of the US. No matter where you are you can spend some time learning to ID a few new flowers and herbs. It’s a great practice to be in the habit of, even if you don’t have the knowledge or the plants to harvest just making friends with a plant can be a powerful practice.

A watercolor and ink image of herbs and the sun for midsummer.

Learning the common and latin names of a plant, the history and uses, how it fits into it’s biome, what plants and animals are friends of that particular plant and what it’s spiritual gifts is a great way to greet a plant spirit. As you may have noticed, the name of my blog is Dandelionlady and that because many moons ago the first plant spirit I truly made deep friends with was dandelion. It was a great gift she gave me, and has only deepened with time.

This is the time of year to be harvesting a lot of plants including yarrow, mugwort, elderflower, rue, comfrey, lavender, plantain, and St. john’s wort. The last is actually named specifically because it blossoms at the same time that midsummer occurs. Often European midsummer festivals were recast as festivals for St. John so that all the merriment and harvesting could continue to occur under the auspices of a Christian saint.

Watercolor painting of a hawk with a sun background and a border of midsummer symbolism
Midsummer by Melissa Hill

If you are going to do more than just visually appreciate the Green Kin, make sure you’re educated about wildcrafting in your area.

Here’s some tips to think about when deciding what is best:

  1. Make sure you know what plants are protected in your area and don’t disturb them! It is more important that lady slipper flower and trillium exist than you get to that patch of elderflower.
  2. Make sure you can properly ID the plant you are harvesting.
  3. Learn if there are any look alikes, particularly poisonous ones and if there’s a high risk of confusing them, it’s probably best not to harvest.
  4. Learn about the life cycle of the plant and how best to propagate it. If it needs help do so while you harvest or come back to do so.
  5. Only harvest a small portion of any stand of plants. If there’s not enough to leave a large amount left, at least ¾ of the stand, don’t take any there.
  6. Make sure you’re harvesting where it’s legal.
  7. Don’t harvest too close to roads or factories or where there might be lead in the soil.
  8. Do give offerings and thanks when harvesting a plant. Cornmeal or powdered eggshell are both good options.

I used the word Verba in the title of this post on purpose. It’s a Lithuanian word that specifically references all the herbs and green things. I love the sacredness of the green spirits. Often as modern pagans we think about being aligned with animal spirits, but the plant spirits are powerful allies as well.   There is a story of the fire flower, a fern that blooms only once per year, in only one place. If you are lucky enough to find the fern that blooms it will confer great magic upon you. I hope you hunt the flower fern this year, and may your Midsummer be bright!

If you appreciate my work think about donating to my Patreon account. If you join soon, you can get a print of my new Midsummer painting shown above! Thanks!

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