The Wortcunner, the Witch, and the Plant Spirits

The Wortcunner, the Witch, and the Plant Spirits February 25, 2020

It is rumored in folklore that the witches of days gone by where taught the wisdom of the wortcunner, herbal lore and ways taught by the magickal folk… the fae, elves, and spirits of the wood. The word wortcunner is defined by the word Wort meaning “root,” or herb,” and cunning (from the Middle English cunnen) meaning “to know.” A wortcunner is not simply a herbalist or one who uses herbs, but in it’s stead one who has been touched by the plant spirits, thus a gaining of hidden knowledge, and the ability to use that knowledge for magickal intent.

Deadly datura, the devils weed…

This to me makes perfect sense, as I have learned a thing or two from them as well in these woods. Bessie Dunlop, a sixteenth century Scottish witch has been said to state that she too had received her gifts of plant knowledge and abilities from these magickal creatures, and Joan of Arc was thought to have consorted with them as well.

Although I have worked with animal spirits for many moons, for myself working with plant spirits is in a completely different realm.

The pine grove and honeysuckle hedge.

I first encountered this type of spirit when I was foraging within my pine grove. I came upon a pine that was completely overran with oak moss. It looked more as if it belonged in the sea then in my pine grove. I found myself completely fascinated by it, and as I touched it I knew instantly there was more to this then what meets the eye. I heard nothing, but felt plenty. I felt what I would call a tingling, a vibration that began within my solar plexus, and rose up into my head. When this happened I saw a vision, a dead crow entangled within a pine tree. Sadness filled me, and I went looking for the bird and sure enough, I found the dead crow, his wings spanned out as if in a last attempt at flight.

Tears ran down my face as I released the bird, and I swore I heard a sigh of relief. The winds kicked up, as if to lift the crow off, and I sat there a spell just taking in what had happened. After that experience more where to follow. I was foraging the honeysuckle hedge in front of the grove and began to hear the faintest of bells. I would hear those bells then I wouldn’t, so I continued gathering the flowers for a delicious lilac and honeysuckle mead I intended to make. I began to notice the color of these flowers, the brilliant orange hue, the delicate texture of the petals, and how they resembled tiny little bells….

I stopped gathering the flowers and placed one of them in my mouth, and a sense of euphoria became me. Their presence is just as they are, it’s magickal and delicate, and as I continued to gather the flowers I continued to hear those faint little bells on and off, and felt at tremendous peace while I was there with that honeysuckle hedge that warm sunny morning. I’ll cherish that always…

My datura metel or the devils trumpet, a true plant spirit of mine.

Last summer I had my first go at growing datura, a magnificent plant that I seemed to connect with almost instantly. I was able to grow three different varieties from seed, and I quickly seemed to know how to make them happy. The scent of these plants is beyond description. I could smell some plants scent being stronger then others, or that I could sense different levels of vibration from them, from the difference of their scents. As the days went by I would devour reading the folklore of these amazing plants, and I would go out to tend to them and find my toad familiar sitting inside the flowers, toadstools growing in their dirt, and their beauty on moonlit nights was beyond enchanting.

I began working with the plants by creating a Datura flower essence and using it on the full moon nights that followed. Datura is of the Sisters of Wyrd she will show you things, and those things can be insightful or horrendous depending upon how you use her. That is why flower essences are the safest way to work with these poisonous plants of beauty. Through ingesting her essence on the full moon nights as I sat out in my poisonous garden I was once again shown visions, and those visions brought understandings and light to hauntings from long long ago…

Dark and Wild blessings, Raven )0(

About Raven Wood
Raven is a traditional witch of Celtic and Germanic roots, who lives and practices her craft in the woods of northern Wisconsin. She has contributed to UK horror author Sarah England’s books such as The Soprano, The Owlmen, Hidden Company, Monkspike and her newest Baba Lenka. Ravens first book is in the works. She is also the owner and alchemist at You can read more about the author here.
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  • Connie Quayle

    Wortcunner, I like that. Plant spirits talk with me, show me things, how to use them when I sit still long enough… songs of certain plants have come through that I sing with them, to them now, when working with medicines straining tinctures, drying plants etc… spend enough time with our green friends and you begin to learn their languages 🙂