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Magical Herb: Woad

This past winter was a wet one and I lost quite a few of my herbs. I decided this year to replace them with some that I haven't grown before.

Woad is a herb I am familiar with in magical workings, so it will be interesting to watch it grow and develop in my own garden.


(Isatis tinctoria)

Also referred to as dyer's woad, glastum, blueweed and Tein-ching.

This plant hails from ancient prehistoric times. It has a history of medicinal uses in Chinese medicine.

The plant can be used to create a blue dye, one suggestion is that it was used by Pictish warriors, they painted it onto their bodies before going into battle. Apparently not just for 'war paint' but woad contracts the blood vessels and therefore reduces bleeding should they be injured.

It has been used to dye cloth for centuries in many parts of the world, the ancient Egyptians apparently used it to dye cloth wrappings for mummies.

Native to Europe, Asia and the US, it can be found in the wild. If you grow it in your garden it can become invasive so keep a check on it. Produces yellow flowers in the summer that the insects love.

To create the dye the leaves are dried in the sun, ground into a paste and then left to ferment. Apparently the smell is not good, I suspect this had to do with urine being used to help the process. So bad in fact that in Tudor times it was an offence to dry woad anywhere near the palace. Bearing in mind their lack of personal hygiene during those times, the woad smell must have been terrible.

Magical properties: Protection, courage

Planet: Saturn

Element: Fire


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