I’m sure you’ve seen books that list plants or crystals correspond to certain things. But I’m finding more and more that people have no idea why they correspond or where these correspondences come from. The system of correspondences came from the Doctrine of Signature. The Doctrine of Signatures examines the shape, color, appearance, the number of leaves and petals on a plant to determine what it does for the body or how it interacts with its environment. A common clear example is Lungwort, which medicinally helps breathing problems and has leaves shaped like lungs.
The concept of correspondences are based on the Hermetic axiom of “As Within, So Without, As above, So below. ” We also see it in the writings of Lao Tzu. In the first century Common Era Dioscorides wrote De Materia Medica using this concept and applying it to plants, and about 100 years later the works of Galen embraced the notions presented in De Materia Medica, and Galen’s work has been one of the main historical influences on modern medicine and health. In the 1400’s Paracelsus expanded and enhanced the idea of correspondences when he and other alchemists and occultists saw that a plant’s properties based on the Doctrine of Signature were ruled by a specific planetary power (the areas and ailments of the body that the plant helped in the Doctrine of Signature). Therefore the nature imbued in the spirit of the plant was thought to have the signature or correspondence with that planetary power and could assist in magickal endeavors surrounding things that needed that planetary power as they were already plugged into it.
“Nature is particularly good at holding a pure light, a pure vibration. Humans are easily influenced by all of the planets and stars, and likewise everything else is too, but herbs, woods, stones, metals and animals have a very pure consciousness, a very pure aura, and are able to anchor specific vibrations from one or two different planets. We say that a majickal ingredient is “ruled” by a particular planet or sign.“
– Laurie Cabot
Laurie Cabot’s Book of Spells & Enchantments
As for the gender aspects used in older correspondence lists and charts, these ideas aren’t related to our modern understanding of gender and were later discarded for terms such as “hot” and “cold” which better portrayed what the terms were trying to convey without the older sexist connotations. For example, stimulating, aggressive, electric or positive it’s considered “hot” (formerly masculine). If a plant or herb was relaxing, passive magnetic, or negative it is considered “cold” (formerly feminine). Such things are used to determine the “gender” of a plant’s association. We even see this switch in the time of Cunningham, where one herbal book uses gender and then in the next one he uses “hot” and “cold” and discusses why he’s avoiding the gender terms from then on. Others use the terms “yin” and “yang”
Correspondences are also based on how plants interact with the body or their environment. For example Wormwood is good for dispelling parasites in the body, so they’re good at dispelling lesser beings outside of the body. Mugwort medicinally is calming and promotes sleep, which in turn are effects which encourages the pineal gland to produce melatonin and in turn promotes more psychic ability.
“Many of the magickal correspondences of plants used in a variety of folk traditions are not arbitrarily created, but correspond with the physical attributes of the plant. Nettles have stingers and are used in Mars warrior magick to protect, defend and to make people let go of you. Mugwort, when burned and inhaled, gives a pleasant mild euphoria and opens one up to intuition, so it is associated with psychic powers. Asafetida is used to banish harm, and when you burn it, it smells awful; everything wants to leave the area. Myrrh is a preservative used in ancient embalming. It is also used in protection magick, to preserve a home, area, or person from harm.Therefore, these medicinal properties, once known, can also indicate spiritual properties. Echinacea, along serving as an immune enhancement, is also used for snake bites. Shamanic practitioners can use it to remove the spiritual venom of unwanted entities, and people. Yarrow clots the blood and seals up wounds. The spirit of yarrow can do the same with wounds to the energy system and aura.”
– Christopher Penczak
The Plant Spirit Familiar
As for crystals and stones, I wasn’t sure how those correspondences were created, so I reached out to a crystal expert Nicholas Pearson and found out it’s very much like the Doctrine of Signatures. It’s also based on the chemistry of the stone and how the stone is formed when created. His response was:
“This is such a complex question– one that I’m exploring more in-depth in a not-so-top-secret project I’m working on right now. To begin with, much of our magickal lore about the correspondences and properties of crystals is owed to our spiritual antecedents. Stones have been held sacred since time immemorial, and they have been employed for jewelry and talismanic use for at least 10,000 years. The original shamanistic practitioners who employed crystals invariably learned from the consciousness of the stones themselves, much in the same way that indigenous cultures today still commune with plant spirits to discover their medicinal and magickal values. Over the millennia, they have accumulated a lot of beliefs about their properties. Though many of these are framed in each culture’s myth, folklore, and psyche, there are several other ways that we can glean information about the magickal correspondences of a crystal.
For starters, the Doctrine of Signatures looks for clues in the shape, texture, appearance, color, and other physical characteristics of gems (and plants, animals, etc.). Beyond that, we can find even more information about what a stone does and how it does it encoded in the chemical formula and the crystal system (its inner geometry). For example, stones such as dioptase, malachite, chrysocolla, and turquoise are widely revered for their calming effects on the emotions, and each is reputed to be an effective tool for love magick. If we examine their chemistry, we find that each contains copper, a metal that has long been connected to Venus, the planet of love and romance. Exploring these connections between mineral science and their spiritual applications is my favorite part of working with crystals today.”