Burdock has a magickal reputation that belies its humble, earthy appearance. Native to Europe and parts of Asia, Burdock has been an ingredient in medicinal and brewing recipes since at least medieval times. (It was used as a bittering agent in beer before the widespread adoption of hops.)
Eventually, this persistent Old World herb spread to North America where it was foraged as a folk medicine and occasional food source. American conjurers and rootworkers adopted Burdock into their magickal pantries and elevated its status as a Witch’s herb. Bat Root and Beggar’s Buttons—referring to the bright round flowers—are folkloric names for the same plant.
Burdock is a member of the thistle family. It can be identified in the wild by its extremely large, flat leaves and purple flowers with burrs. (These burrs, with their small hooks that snag the fur of wild animals, inspired the invention of hook-and-loop tape, better known as Velcro.) Burdock has a large, edible taproot that is earthy and slightly bitter (think lotus root, turnip, or wild carrot). In the UK, Burdock and Dandelion is a popular old-timey soda flavor that tastes similar to American root beer.
Magickal properties of burdock
Burdock is employed mainly for cleansing and protective magick. Like many witchy herbs, its magickal functions appear to be connected to its history as a medicinal plant. Burdock is a natural diuretic reputed to cleanse the urine and purify the blood—hence, its use in formulas to “flush out” negativity.
A persistent, robust plant, Burdock gained reknown among European witches as an effective ingredient in warding spells. With its deep roots, it is unfazed by adversity. A Burdock charm, buried or hung at a south door, was said to have the ability to protect homes and stables from evil influences. It is also added to protective charms and amulets to be carried when traveling. In American folklore, Burdock is a root often used in counter-magick--to prevent other workers from putting “roots” (i.e. curses) on the bearer.
Another aspect of Burdock is as an herb of health and sexual potency. Its, long phallic taproot may have something to do with the latter—although Burdock extract has indeed been shown to increase sexual behavior in rats.) It’s not unusual to see Burdock mentioned in charms for prosperity, vitality, and virility.
Correspondences of Burdock
Burdock is an herb of Earth. It’s low-growing habit, edible root, and use as a medicinal tonic place it firmly in the realm of Earth magick. Burdock is also attributed to the North, the traditional dwelling-place of the Earth element in the western esoteric tradition. Burdock’s scientific name, Arctium lappa, means roughly “bear grabber” and shares the same root as the English word Arctic. A secondary elemental correspondence is water, as Burdock is both a diuretic and a ditch-dwelling plant.
Despite its links to male performance, most sources attribute Burdock to the planet Venus. Venus is the ruler of many beneficial healing herbs, and Burdock’s large, lush green leaves and beautiful purple flowers are certainly Venusian in appearance. In the East, Burdock is also considered a feminine plant and used as a dietary supplement to restore yin energy to the body.
Spells and formulas with burdock
Write wishes on Burdock leaves and burn them to make them come true.
Steep Burdock in water (with Rosemary, Hyssop, and/or Lemon Balm) to make a cleansing floor wash.
Infuse Burdock root in oil to make an ointment to relieve impotence and enhance male sexual performance.
Incorporate Burdock root into spells for warding, hex-breaking, and good fortune.
Some poisonings have been reported from foraged Burdock root that is contaminated with root of Belladonna. The toxic effects do not appear to be caused by the Burdock itself. Take care when buying or using wild-harvested Burdock and be sure that the plant has been properly identified. (Ours is organically cultivated.)
Burdock is generally regarded as safe. However, certain people should not take Burdock root internally without medical supervision: Pregnant women, people with allergies to Asteraceae family plants, and people who are already taking medication/supplements to increase urine flow or to lower blood sugar.
Scent profile: Earthy, Bitter
Correspondences: Earth/Water, Venus
Occult properties of herbs are provided for historical interest only, and no outcome is guaranteed. Nothing on this website should be taken as medical or legal advice. Please use herbs responsibly.
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