Parts used: Leaf (dried)
Latin name: Laurus Nobilis
Season: Summer (Late Summer)
Significance: Apollo, Artemis, Dolphins, Delphi and Laurel.
Medicinal uses: Rheumatism, bile flow, releasing toxins, lung health
A crown of bay good fortune brings
to poets, cooks, scholars, kings.
–Carolyn Dille & Susan Belsinger
I am currently in the process of growing culinary herbs and cultivating plants for my witch’s garden. I am hoping to start making tea blends to sell on my online apothecary (but more on that later). My research in plant medicine, teas, and tonics lead me deeper and deeper into into plant lore. Today, I would like to share the myth, lore, and legend that surround one of the most revered herbs that is likely sitting in a dusty jar in the back of your cabinet yearning to regaled again…soon.
If you have not yet guessed, I’m speaking of the Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis). In Greece, Bay is called Daphne after the beautiful nymph, Daphne. As the Myth goes, Daphne was transformed into a bay tree to escape the romantic pursuit of Apollo. The God, heartbroken, made a crown out of bay leaves and branches and wore it to honor her.
It was thought that burning bay leaves could induce a trance-like state. The psychic priestesses at the Oracle of Delphi chewed laurel leaves for inspiration and burned the leaves as incense to induce states of reverie. It is believed that large doses of Bay Laurel can produce an intoxicating effect.
In both ancient Greek and Cretin culture, there is a connection between fortune telling, bay laurel and dolphins. Romans dedicated this herb to Fides, goddess of honor and fidelity. In another myth, Hermes is said to have invented fire by striking a pomegranate against a Bay Laurel tree.
In ancient Rome, fragrance was particularly important as a psychological tool as well as a preventive medicine. Roman soldiers perfumed their weapons, shields and armor in scent of bay. Upon victory in battle, the winners were awarded with leafy crowns of myrtle or crowns made of wildflowers and grasses where the battle took place. During the triumphal marches back in Rome, generals wore crowns of laurel, which symbolized their victory in both image and fragrance. To the Romans, laurel was the smell of victory.
Bay has been used in magic, ritual, and cookery for thousands of years. Culpeper, in his herbal, wrote that Bay was known for its ‘mystical’ properties, and noted that Bay Laurel is a “tree of the sun, under the celestial sign Leo, and resisteth witchcraft very potently” – also noting that…neither Witch nor Devil, Thunder nor Lightning will hurt a Man in the place where a Bay-Tree is”.
Complex and aromatic, bay is primarily used as a culinary herb but the lore surrounding this Laurel is just as delectable!⠀⠀⠀
Keep bay in your witch’s cupboard and use for protection, healing, cleansing, clairvoyance, awareness and evoking dreams. In addition, bay is a fantastic herb for kitchen witchery; bay Laurel is enticingly aromatic and does make a beautiful scent for cooking and can be used in a variety of dishes (savory or sweet). If you’re wondering exactly what it smells like, break off a leaf and crush it in your hands, inhale the aroma of citrus, balsam and spice. With its slightly sweet, but cooling and camphor-like scent, it is an herb that is best used dried.