The yarrow grows in abundance all over Europe and most of the temperate and sub-Artic parts of the globe. It is generally denigrated and despised by gardeners, who call it a weed, and work diligently to eradicate it from their lawns and flowerbeds. It is, however, a plant which possesses both magical and medicinal potency. It is attractive, both in leaf and flower, and is worth a place in any garden. Indeed, the sort with deep pink flowers has been given fancy names and sold by nurserymen as a choice item – it differs not a particle from the ‘weed’ except from the colour of its flowers, which is a natural variation.
It is probable that yarrow is one of the many plants associated by our ancestors with Balder. It was collected on the Eve of Midsummer, Balder’s feast, and was associated by the early Christians with the St. John personification which they used to refer to this radiant God. In our mythology Balder was plagued with frightening prophet dreams and it is in this area of dreams and divinatory powers that yarrow has its potency.
The yarrow has long been used in divination in many parts of the world. It provides the casting sticks for the Chinese I-Ching oracle. In our own magical tradition it is particularly used in techniques for the production of prophetic dreams, on various levels, from the young girl who wants to find her own true love, to the sophisticated magician seeking tidings of future events of importance to his art. One such simple technique is to pick one flower of a variety which is white, red, yellow, blue, purple and pink, and a sprig each of rue, rosemary and yarrow – the yarrow being the most important. Tie them together and sprinkle them with three drops of sweet oil and bind them to your head before retiring. As you fall asleep concentrate on having a prophetic dream. Another method of divination using yarrow was recorded three centuries ago in East Anglia: twirl a leaf in one of your nostrils and say – ‘Yarrowy, yarroway, bear a white blow, if my love leave me, my now will bleed now.’ A nosebleed induced in this way was also said by old herbalists to be a cure for headaches. This may be true, but yarrow has other well-established medicinal uses.
As a tea (a handful of crushed leaves to a pint of water) it is an excellent anti-depressant and is also good for the treatment of ‘flu and colds and other similar virus infections. Four or five cups of this tea a day is an effective remedy for haemorrhoidal bleeding. It is used externally to treat sores and wounds – the fresh crushed leaves as a poultice or a decoction applied as a lotion.
A few sprigs of yarrow chopped into a salad will add a piquant taste and provide its health-giving qualities in an appetising form.