Magical Herbal Correspondences

Herbs have been used for thousands of years, both medicinally and ritually. Every herb has its own unique characteristics, and these properties are what makes the plant special. 

Apple Blossoms

Close-Up Of Apple Blossom Flowers
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For the ancients, the apple was considered a symbol of immortality. Interestingly, it's also seen as a food for the dead, which is why Samhain is sometimes referred to as the Feast of Apples. In Celtic myth, an apple branch bearing grown fruit, flowers, and unopened bud was a magical key to the land of the Underworld. It's also a symbol of the harvest, and is frequently found on altars during Mabon celebrations.

In the English ballad "Thomas the Rhymer," young Thomas is cautioned against eating the Fairy Queen's apples, because to eat the food of the dead would prevent him from ever returning to the land of the living. This story reminds us that apples, and their blossoms, are associated with the realm of the Fae.

The apple is often found as a component in love magic, and the blossoms may be added to incenses and brews. In traditional folklore, apples are used as part of love divination -- peel the apple in a continuous length, and when the first strip of peel falls off, it will form the initial of the person you are to marry. Cut an apple in half and count the seeds -- an even number means marriage is coming, an uneven number indicates that you'll remain single for a while.

Use the fruits of the apple tree in divination, or brew the flowers into a tea. Use the tea to wash your face and hair in, to bring love your way. In some Druid traditions, apple blossoms are pressed to release oils, and the oils are used in blends to bring health and prosperity. A seventeenth-century herbal recommends mixing apple blossom extract with a bit of rose water and some pig fat as a cure for rough, dry skin.

Pomona was a Roman goddess of orchards, and is associated with abundance and bounty. To bring fertility and abundance into your life, hang garlands of apple blossoms around your home - particularly over your bed if you're trying to conceive.

Other names: Silver Bough, Tree of Love, Fruit of the Gods
Gender: Feminine
Element: Water
Deity Connections: Venus, Aphrodite, Diana, Apollo, Zeus


Bamboo forest (Poaceae sp.) , close-up
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Bamboo is grown in many parts of the world, and because it is both quick to develop and extremely hardy, it has a variety of uses from the mundane to the magical.

The bamboo plant lives a long time, and will just continue growing until it is harvested. Because of this, some Pacific Island tribes regard it as a symbol of longevity and life, and include bamboo in some creation stories. In some parts of the Philippines, bamboo crosses are placed in the fields to bring hearty crops in at harvest time. In parts of India, bamboo symbolizes friendship.

In some Eastern religions, bamboo is the only acceptable material for certain ceremonial objects.

A number of Asian poets have written tributes to this hardy plant. In particular, some of Japan’s early female poets, like Cho Koran, have sung its praises.

Flowers wither, but a fresh green appears;
the change of seasons causes tears to stain my clothes.
I remember cherries and bamboo shoots prepared in a kitchen far away,
my sisters and family lack one member. 
- Cho Koran

Veils of light mist
envelop the curving inlet
weeping willows luxuriantly green
pomegranates blossom red.
With bamboo blinds rolled up
for a time I do nothing
sitting and facing the mountains --
the spring rain.
 -Cho Koran

In many Eastern martial arts, bamboo is used as a training tool. Weapons made of bamboo, such as sticks and swords, such as the Japanese shinai. It was also used to form spears and longbows. Because of this, some magical traditions associate bamboo with strength and the warrior’s path.

Bamboo is easy to grow - sometimes to the point of invasiveness - so many people today grow and harvest it for magical use.

Here are some magical uses for bamboo that you can try:

  • Plant bamboo in pots around your house, to bring long life and good health to those who live there.
  • In some Taoist rituals, bamboo is used as a wand in ceremonies calling upon water entities.
  • Hollow out a piece of bamboo, fill it with spell components and seal the ends with wax. Carry it with you, or place it in your home, as needed.
  • In the Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, author Scott Cunningham recommends using bamboo by carving your wish into a stalk, and then burying it in the ground someplace secluded. He also suggests using it to break hexes by crushing the dried wood into a powder and burning.
  • Use a long dried piece as a handle for a magical besom, and sweep bad energy out of your home.
  • In Japan, bamboo walls are believed to protect Shinto shrines from evil spirits. Plant a row of them in your yard, or in pots on your windowsills, to keep negative energies out.
  • Find ways to incorporate bamboo into magical tools, such as cups, wands, even planters for your herbs.


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Basil is known far and wide as a culinary herb, but it also contains some interesting magical properties. In Mediterranean countries, it is strewn on floors to purify a home. It also can bring luck to people moving into a new residence - a gift of a potted basil plant guarantees good fortune. Maud Grieve's Modern Herbal says that the name "basil" may come from the Greek basileus, a king, because 'the smell thereof is so excellent that it is fit for a king's house.' Basil plants are also said to attract scorpions, and in some cultures it was believed that smelling the plant would cause a scorpion to grow in the brain.

In some countries, however, basil is considered something that real men don't eat -- why? Because it's associated with teas that are used to provide relief from painful menstrual periods.

Magically, basil can be used in love magic and in love divination. Scott Cunningham says in his Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs that two basil leaves placed on a live coal will give you an indicator about the state of your relationship: if they burn to ash quickly, the marriage will be harmonious, but if they crackle and hiss, your marriage will be disruptive.

Basil can also be used to guarantee fidelity -- or detect the lack of it. If you suspect your lover has been stepping out, place a fresh basil leave on their hand. If it wilts right away, chances are good they've been spreading the love around. To keep your spouse or partner faithful, sprinkle powdered basil in the bed while they sleep -- especially around the heart -- and they will remain true to you.

Other Names: St. Joseph's Wort, Witches Herb, American Dittany
Gender: Masculine
Element: Fire
Deity Connection: Mars, Krishna, Vishnu, Ares

If you decide to plant some basil, don't worry -- it's very easy to grow. However, it's cold sensitive, so make sure you wait until after the last frost, and harvest all your plants before chilly weather returns.

Belladonna (Nightshade)

There is a German legend that nightshade belongs to the Devil himself, and that he goes about tending it all year long. Image © Bob Gibbons/Photodisc/Getty Images

Nightshade, also known as Belladonna, is a plant found in much of central Europe, and it has been cultivated in North America and England, although it’s becoming increasingly harder to find in the British Isles. The plant itself, sometimes called Deadly Nightshade, has a thick, fleshy root, dark green leaves, and shiny black berries that resemble cherries.

Nightshade naturally contains an alkaloid (atropine) that can be toxic in even small doses. Interestingly, the root is the most poisonous of all the parts of the plant. There have been numerous reports throughout the years of children eating the tasty-looking berries and experiencing Belladonna poisoning, which can be fatal.

There is a German legend that the plant belongs to the Devil himself, and that he goes about tending it all year long - except for on Walpurgisnacht, when he is preparing for the witches’ sabbat. The plant also appears in Scottish history - it is said that MacBeth’s soldiers managed to poison an entire army of Danes by mixing Belladonna into liquor that was offered during a truce. Once the Danes fell into “a deep slumber,” they were murdered by Scottish troops.

Atropine can be extracted from the Nightshade plant, and is often used in a medical setting. It has been included in treatments of eye disease, and is a natural sedative and narcotic. From a magical perspective, it is believed that nightshade was used as one of the ingredients in “flying ointment” used by witches of the past. It is also associated with hallucinations and psychic exploration. Because of the dangerous properties of this plant, it is generally recommended that modern practitioners avoid its use.

Keep in mind that the plant Belladonna, although nicknamed Nightshade, should not be confused with other plants that are members of the nightshade family. Plants in the nightshade family produce some sort of toxin that prevents garden critters and insects from eating them, and are typically not harmful to humans. Tobacco, potatoes, green peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants are part of the nightshade family of plants, and should not be confused with Belladonna.


Buckeyes are associated with financial abundance and money magic. Image by larigan - Patricia Hamilton/Moment Open/Getty Images

The Buckeye, or aesculus glabra, is found in many Midwestern areas, including Ohio, which is nicknamed the Buckeye State. Although this hard-shelled nut is too toxic for human consumption, squirrels seem to find it a delicious early-fall treat. The nuts typically begin dropping around mid- to late August, and have usually fallen completely within about three to four weeks.

The Buckeye has been associated for years with money and prosperity, particularly when it comes to gambling. For success at the gaming tables, or to bring money your way, carry a Buckeye in your pocket. Rub it for luck right before you roll the dice. Author Scott Cunningham recommended wrapping one in a dollar bill and then carrying it in a sachet, in his Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs.

If you're able to gather Buckeyes, you can dry them for future use by placing them on a baking sheet in the oven on low heat (around 200 degrees) for about an hour. If you don't dry them out, they'll eventually mold, so be sure to dry them if you're planning on long-term storage.

No Buckeye trees near you? No worries! Make a batch of edible ones out of peanut butter and chocolate, with this Ohio staple recipe! Candy Buckeyes. As you mix the ingredients, focus your intent on abundance, so that you can share it with your friends and family.


When hung over your door, a bundle of catnip attracts good luck. When planted in your garden, it attracts kitties. Image by Education Images/UIG Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Catnip has quite an aroma to it, similar in scent to both Pennyroyal and Mint. Because of its powerful and unusual smell, catnip has a strange fascination for cats, who will gnaw it down to the nubs (and roll around on top of it) at any opportunity. According to Maud Grieve's A Modern Herbal, there is a saying about catnip:

If you set it, the cats will eat it,
If you sow it, the cats don't know it.

In addition to being a total treat for your furry friends, catnip has a lot of medical benefits too. It's a fairly mild herb, and in the Ozark mountains, there's a tradition of giving colicky babies a light catnip tea to calm them down. Interestingly, Michel Laguerre says in Afro-Caribbean Folk Medicine that there is a similar use in Haiti, where catnip is given to infants to purify the blood.

If you give your feline a bit of catnip, some people believe it will help strengthen the psychic bond between you, in addition to getting your cat as high as a kite. Although typically used in pet-related workings, catnip is also an herb of love, and can be included in sachets or incense. In some magical traditions, it is an acceptable substitute for workings involving members of the mint family.

Other Names: Catmint, Cat's Wort, Nepeta
Gender: Feminine
Element: Water
Deity Connection: Bast, Sekhmet


Image by Westend61/Getty Images

The two most commonly seen types of chamomile, or camomile, are the Roman and German varieties. While their characteristics vary slightly, they are similar in uses and magical properties. Chamomile's use has been documented as far back as the ancient Egyptian, but it was during the heyday of the English country garden that it really became popular. Country gardeners and wildcrafters alike knew the value of chamomile.

In Back to Eden, Jethro Kloss recommends everyone "gather a bagful of camomile blossoms, as they are good for many ailments." This all-purpose herb has been used to treat everything from loss of appetite to irregular periods to bronchitis and worms. In some countries, it is mixed into a poultice and applied to open wounds in order to prevent gangrene.

Chamomile is known as an herb of purification and protection, and can be used in incenses for sleep and meditation. Sprinkle it around your home to ward against psychic or magical attack. If you're a gambler, wash your hands in chamomile tea to ensure good luck at the gaming tables. In a number of folk magic traditions, particularly those of the American south, chamomile is known as a lucky flower -- make a garland to wear around your hair to attract a lover, or carry some in your pocket for general good fortune.

Other Names: Ground apple, Whig plant, Maythen, Roman Camomile
Gender: Masculine
Element: Water
Deity Connection: Cernunnos, Ra, Helios


Clover is often seen as a sign of good fortune. Image by PLASTICBOYSTUDIO/Moment/Getty Images

There are several different types of clovers, but the most commonly known ones are the red and white varieties. Typically, they have three leaves, but every once in a while there is a strain that produces four, or even five leaves instead.

Usually, when people use the word “shamrock,” they’re thinking of a three-leafed variety of white clover. Fun fact: the word shamrock comes from the Irish Gaelic seamrog, which means “small clover.” In Ireland, the three-leafed shamrock has become a national symbol, and represents the Holy Trinity of Catholicism.

In European folk medicine, clover has been used for centuries as a diuretic. Clover tea is often brewed up for patients who have issues with digestive organs – constipation, liver problems, and poor appetite have all been treated with clover. In some countries, the flowers are mashed up to produce a syrupy paste, which is then applied to skin disorders such as open sores or athlete’s foot. Typically, the flowers of the white clover plant have been used as a whole-system cleanser.

Clover is edible, as well. Try adding some leaves, stems or flowers the next time you make a green salad! Some strains of clover have a lemony taste to their leaves. Red clover in particular is good for you – it’s known to be full of calcium, potassium, and other vital nutrients.

In many agricultural societies, heavy growth of clover was seen as a sign of fertile farmland – however, this may be because clover is a favorite snack of cows and sheep, which then leave droppings, creating healthy and strong soil.

Magically speaking, clover is typically seen as a symbol of fortune and good luck. In some Scandinavian countries, it is also used to ward off evil spirits and to help a seer develop their psychic abilities. Hang a bundle over your door to keep negative entities away, or plant it in your front yard, around the edge of your property.

Carry some dried clover in your wallet to bring financial gain your way, or keep it in your pocket when you’re at a gaming table. Because of its cleansing properties, you can dry some clover and burn it like you would sage or sweetgrass, as part of a smudging or purification ritual.


Frankincense has been used for thousands of years. Photo Credit: Danita Delimont/Gallo Images/Getty Images

Frankincense is one of the oldest documented magical resins – it’s been traded in northern Africa and parts of the Arab world for nearly five thousand years. This resin, harvested from the  family of trees, appears in the story of the birth of Jesus. The Bible tells of the three wise men, who arrived at the manger, and “opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)

Frankincense is mentioned several times in the Old Testament as well as in the Talmud. Jewish rabbis used consecrated frankincense in ritual, particularly in the ceremony of Ketoret, which was a sacred rite in the Temple of Jerusalem. The alternate name for frankincense is olibanum, from the Arabic al-lubān. Later introduced to Europe by Crusaders, frankincense became a staple element of many Christian ceremonies, particularly in the Catholic and Orthodox churches. 

Back in 2008, researchers completed a study on the impact of frankincense on depression and anxiety. Pharmacologists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem said evidence indicates that the aroma of frankincense might help regulate emotionssuch as anxiety and depression. Research shows that lab mice exposed to frankincense were more willing to spend time in open areas, where they typically feel more vulnerable. Scientists say this indicates a drop in levels of anxiety.

Also as part of the study, when the mice were swimming in a beaker that had no way out, they "paddled longer before giving up and floating," which scientists link to antidepressive compounds.

Researcher Arieh Moussaieff said that the use of frankincense, or at least, its genus Boswellia, is documented back as far as the Talmud, in which condemned prisoners were given frankincense in a cup of wine in order to "benumb the senses" prior to execution.

Ayurvedic practitioners have used frankincense for a long time as well. They call it by its Sanskrit name, dhoop, and incorporate it into general healing and purification ceremonies.

In modern magical traditions, frankincense is often used as a purifier – burn the resin to cleanse a sacred space, or use the essential oils* to anoint an area that needs to be purified. Because it is believed that the vibrational energies of frankincense are particularly powerful, many people mix frankincense with other herbs to give them a magical boost. Many people find that it makes a perfect incense to use duringmeditation, energy work, or chakra exercises such as opening the third eye.

In some belief systems, frankincense is associated with good fortune in business – carry a few bits of resin in your pocket when you go to a business meeting or interview.

*A cautionary note regarding the use of essential oils: frankincense oils can sometimes cause a reaction in people with sensitive skin and should only be used very sparingly, or diluted with a base oil before using.


White Comfrey
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Comfrey is a versatile herb that you can grow pretty easily in your garden or in a container, and then harvest and dry for ritual use. It will grow just about anywhere (although it seems partial to shady spots) and has been used in medicine for a long time. Comfrey has a rich folkloric history as well.

The use of comfrey leaves as a poultice for injuries and inflammation became popular during the Middle Ages.

It could even be applied to open wounds, such as ulcers and lacerations, after being pounded into a paste and heated up. Doctors have used an infusion of comfrey tea as a drink for their patients who suffered from pulmonary ailments, including whooping cough.

Herbalist Nicolas Culpeper offered the following description of the many uses of comfrey: “A syrup made thereof is very effectual in inward hurts, and the distilled water for the same purpose also, and for outward wounds or sores in the fleshy or sinewy parts of the body, and to abate the fits of agues and to allay the sharpness of humours. A decoction of the leaves is good for those purposes, but not so effectual as the roots which being outwardly applied cure fresh wounds or cuts immediately, being bruised and laid thereto; and is specially good for ruptures and broken bones…”

Comfrey has a number of purposes in folk magic. Associated with travelers - perhaps because of its use in treatment of injuries and broken bones - it is believed that keeping a bit of comfrey on your person will keep you safe on your journeys.

Likewise, tucking a few leaves in your luggage will prevent it from being lost or tampered with.

In some magical traditions, comfrey is associated with healing and cleansing - you can use it in magical associated with healing, bundle dried leaves for smudging, or even add it to a purifying bath before ritual. Comfrey is also connected with divination and prophecy, perhaps because it is associated with Hecate, a goddess of sorcery. You can add comfrey to a ritual fire for use with divination and scrying - if you don’t like the smell when it burns, balance it out with some sage, mugwort or rosemary.

Finally, you can use comfrey for restful sleep and relaxing dreams. Place some in a sachet and tuck it under your pillow at bedtime, or keep a pot of live comfrey on your nightstand so you can enjoy the scent as you go to sleep each night.*

*Safety tip: Comfrey can be toxic to cats, but because it’s so fragrant, they love to nibble on it. If you have pets, keep comfrey out of their reach.


Hyssop was sacred to the ancients, in part for its purification properties. Image by Steve Gorton/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

Hyssop is of Greek origin, and according to Dioscorides, was used in the temples to cleanse the sacred spaces. Jewish rabbis used it over two thousand years ago to clean the holy temples of Jerusalem. The Israelites too used hyssop for sprinkling, and in fact passages are noted in Jewish religious texts that explain which variety of hyssop Jews should use. Around the time that Christianity began, hyssop was used in the ritual cleansing of lepers. It appears in the Bible, when David said, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean."

In Renaissance-era Europe, hyssop was typically used as an air freshener in the same manner as we potpourri today. It was common to strew crushed hyssop leaves and flowers of around the house, particularly in sickrooms, to hide unpleasant smells - after all, daily bathing was hardly popular. Eventually, when bathing became more common, hyssop was still used in sickrooms because of its healing properties. Conveniently enough, it also killed body lice, which were rampant at the time.

Hung up in the home, hyssop can rid a house of negativity. Add it into a sachet or water to infuse or sprinkle on people in need of purification. It's also good for use in magical self-defense -- carry some in your pocket, or spread it around the perimeter of your property to add a layer of magical protection.

Other Names: Yssop
Gender: Masculine
Element: Fire
Deity Connection: Any deity invoked for protection or purification

There are several different types of hyssop, but most of the have their origins in the Middle East and Europe, and so will grow in many different types of soil. It's actually a pretty easy plant to grow, and perfect for those who have less than a green thumb. Plant hyssop in pots outside your doorways, and keep negative energy from coming into the house.


A bunch of lavender
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The use of Lavender has been documented for thousands of years. Pliny the Elder says that its blossom, called Asarum, sold for a hundred Roman denarii. The Greeks called it Nardus, after a city in Syria on the banks of the Euphrates. It was used by the ancients in perfuming bathwater, and for strewing on the floors of temples and houses. It was cultivated in England for the first time around 1560, and is mentioned in the writings of William Shakespeare.

Medicinally, lavender has many uses. Noted herbalist Nicolas Culpeper recommends "a decoction made with the flowers of Lavender, Horehound, Fennel and Asparagus root, and a little Cinnamon" to help with epilepsy and other disorders of the brain. Tincture of lavender has been officially recognized as a treatment in the British Pharmacopceia for two centuries. Judith Benn Hurley writes in The Good Herb that during the sixteenth century, English herbalists used lavender tucked into a cap as a cure for headaches, and advocated the use of its oils as a method of keeping wounds clean and avoiding infection.

Magically speaking, lavender is often associated with love spells, as well as for workings to bring calmness and peace. To bring love your way, carry lavender flowers in a sachet on your person, or hang stalks of it in your home. To get a good night's sleep, with calming dreams, stuff a pillow with sprigs of lavender. It can also be used in a purifying bath or smudging ritual.

Other Names: Nardus, Elf-leaf
Gender: Masculine
Element: Air
Planetary Connection: Mercury


American mandrake, or mayapple, can be found growing on many forest floors. Image by S.J. Krasemann/Photolibrary/Getty Images

American Mandrake, also known as hog apple and duck’s foot, is one of those plants with a long and colorful herbal history in the Americas. Historically, it’s been used as a medicine in treatments for disorders relating to the liver and bowels, as well as a cathartic. It’s important to note that there are two different types of mandrake; American and European mandrake are two similar but botanically unrelated plants.

The rootstock is typically the part of the plant which is used in medicine, and it can be fatal if taken in excessive dosages. Pregnant women should never ingest mandrake, as it can lead to potential birth defects in their unborn child. Its narcotic properties made it a readily available poison for many ancient societies. According to John Lust in The Herb BookNative American tribes sometimes used mandrake root to commit suicide.

European mandrake is native to the Mediterranean region, and Pliny the Elder tells us its root was used by ancient surgeons as an anesthetic, and as a booster for fertility. Today, it is sometimes found in alternative medicines as a remedy for asthma and coughs. Like the American mandrake, the root can be poisonous. By the sixteenth century, mandrake had made its way to English medicinal gardens.

When it comes to folklore, mandrake gets pretty interesting. A number of medieval herbals, such as the Herbarium of Apuleius cite the use of mandrake root as a cure for demonic possession. It’s also recommended as a preventative against witchcraft. Certainly, this idea may be due in part to the notion that a few hundred years ago, illness was sometimes seen as evidence of demonic influence – use the mandrake, get rid of the demon, the illness goes away.

Mandrake became a popular ingredient in magic because the roots tend to bear a resemblance to the human figure – an early example of poppet magic in action. Maud Grieve states in A Modern Herbal that mandrake roots were often used to represent either a male figure with a beard, or a female with a head of bushy, wild hair.

She goes on to say that the plant was rumored to grow under a hangman’s gallows, and “it was believed to be death to dig up the root, which was said to utter a shriek and terrible groans on being dug up, which none might hear and live.” Fans of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books will recognize mandrake as the shrieking plants in Madame Sprout’s greenhouses.

Use mandrake in your home to ward off negative energy. Consider planting it around the perimeter of your property as a barrier, or place some under your doorstep for protection and fertility. Some hoodoo traditions recommend wrapping a whole mandrake root in a dollar bill and carrying it in your pocket for financial fortune.


Silver Green Foliage of Mugwort (Artemesia)
Ron Evans / Getty Images

Mugwort is an herb that is found fairly regularly in many modern Pagan magical practices. From its use as an incense, for smudging, or in spellwork, mugwort is a highly versatile - and easy to grow - herb.

Part of the artemisia family, mugwort was used in Anglo-Saxon Britain to cure people who had fallen victim to “elf shot,” which appears to be a catch-all term used to apply to people who had become sick, their illness being blamed upon the invisible arrows of the Fae.

Bald’s Leechbook, an herbal from around the ninth century, refers to the use of mugwort to cast out demonic possession. The author also recommends heating a large stone in the fireplace, then sprinkling it with mugwort, and adding water to create a steam for the patient to inhale.

In some magical traditions, mugwort is associated with divination and dreaming. If someone has overactive dreams, they can be balanced out with a ritual bath made from mugwort and indulged in prior to bedtime. To bring about prophecy and divinatory success, make an incense of mugwort to burn at your workspace, or use it in smudge sticks around the area in which you are performing divination rituals.

Mugwort is often associated with the female reproductive system, perhaps because of its associations with the moon, and can be used to bring on delayed menstruation.

NOTE: It is recommended that pregnant women do not take mugwort internally, because it can lead to potential miscarriage.

Native American tribes used mugwort leaves to rub on one’s body as protection from ghosts.

The leaves could also be worn as a necklace.

Other magical uses:

  • Use mugwort baths or incense in rituals focusing on treating depression.
  • Make a set of smudge sticks using dried mugwort, to use in ritual settings bringing about prophecy or divinatory needs.
  • Place mugwort under your pillow to prevent astral attacks, or to ward off psychic attacksfrom those who would do you harm.
  • Plant mugwort in your garden to attract the Fae.
  • Burn mugwort as part of an incense blend celebrating Litha.
  • Make protection oil for your home and property with mugwort.
  • Create a magic broom or besom with mugwort woven into it, and use it to sweep negative energies from your home.


Use oregano in kitchen magic and for protection of the hearth and home. Image by Patti Wigington 2010

Oregano is best known for its culinary uses, so it's become a favorite with kitchen gardeners. However, like all herbs, it has magical properties as well, so why not take advantage of these in your workings? Incorporate oregano into your cooking and your magic at the same time, for a bit of kitchen witchery.

The word "oregano" actually refers to a genus of plant that includes a number of different varieties. The word originates in Greece, where oros and ganos combine to mean "mountain happiness." Rural Greeks crowned newlywed couples with boughs of oregano to wish them joy in their marriage. They later learned that the plant has a lot of medicinal use - oregano poultices were applied to insect bites and aching joints.

In some traditions of magic, particularly those originating in Italy and the Mediterranean areas, oregano is used for protection. Practitioners of some forms of Stregheria brew an oregano tea and then use it to wash down the outer walls of homes, forming a protective barrier against negative energy.

Plant oregano in front of your home to ward against negative magic, or tuck a few pieces over your door for protection. Keep a few pots on your kitchen counter or in your bedroom to ensure happiness for all those who live in your home.

Osage Orange (Hedge Apple)

Use hedge apples, or Osage oranges, to create a magical border around your personal space. Photo Credit: Patti Wigington 2013

The Osage orange, also known as a hedge apples (and in some areas, “monkey balls”), is a tree that grows in North America, and gets its name from the Osage Native American tribes who used its hard wood to craft bows for hunting. The “orange” itself is not a true orange (or an apple, for that matter) but a large, sticky fruit that is completely inedible to anyone but the local squirrel population. When the balls - usually about four to five inches in diameter - drop to the ground, it can create a huge mess, so generally it is recommended that if you plant an Osage orange, unless you want the fruits, you should plant the fruitless male trees.

That said, plenty of these grow in the wild, and they’ve become fairly popular in urban planning as a way of creating tree canopies and green space in areas that suffer from air pollution or poor soil quality. It’s not uncommon to walk through a city park and find Osage oranges dropping to the ground.

So, what can you do with a fruit that’s not really a fruit, and can’t be eaten except by forest rodents? Well, it’s got a few possibilities, although it’s not a particularly useful plant for most people.

The sap of the Osage orange can be used to create a yellow dye, which comes in handy if you like to dye your own fabrics.

Osage orange is a natural exterminator - placing them near your doorways or behind furniture will keep spiders and other crawling invaders out of your home. A fresh hedge apple will keep for about two to three months, but once it’s lost its greenish color, throw it away.

Early settlers planted Osage orange trees and formed them into hedges - this was the original barbed wire fencing, because the thorns of the male plants kept livestock from wandering past the borders of the farm or field.

On a magical level, let’s take a look at the above - if the Osage orange contains a chemical that keeps unwanted critters out, and has been used as a barrier in the past by early American settlers, how can we translate that into a magical use?

Why not collect hedge apples from a local tree, and place them strategically around your property? As you do, focus on keeping unwanted guests - both animal and human - out of your life. You can also place them in bowls and baskets around the house - this will not only act as a spider and insect repellent, but you can assign your hedge apples the task of repelling anyone who might cause you harm or nuisance.

Plant Osage orange seedlings in a line around the perimeter of your yard. As they begin to grow, bend and shape them into a hedge. Create not only a physical but a metaphysical barrier, so that the things you want to keep in stay in, and the things you don’t want, will stay outside.

If you happen to find a fallen branch of the Osage orange, consider crafting it into a wand or staff. The wood of this tree is extremely hardy and strong, and was used by Native Americans to craft hunting bows. Any wand or staff made from it is bound to last you a good long time, and can be used in spells associated with endurance, strength and longevity.


Patchouli is found in many different incense blends, and both the leaves, stems, and essential oils may be used. Image by Patti Wigington 2014

Patchouli is a popular herb found in many modern Pagan rituals. Its exotic scent brings to mind far-off, magical places, and it’s often used in incense blends, potpourri, and ritual workings. As a member of the mint family, the most commonly used portions of the plant are the dried leaves and the essential oils, but some practitioners use the stems as well. When grown, the bush will reach about three feet tall, and it’s covered in pretty purplish-white flowers. Patchouli oil is very strong, and has a deep, musky scent. It is associated with the element of earth.

Associated with love, wealth, and sexual power, patchouli can be used in a variety of magical workings. To make someone feel an attraction to you, wear patchouli oil – the scent is well-known as an aphrodisiac. If you don’t wish to wear the oil on your skin – and it’s a very strong oil, so you should always dilute it before applying it to the skin – then use the leaves instead. Place patchouli leaves in a sachet, and carry it in your pocket or wear around your neck.

In some traditions of hoodoo and folk magic, a dollar sign is inscribed on a piece of paper using patchouli oil. The paper is then carried in your wallet, and this should draw money your way.

There are some traditions of modern magic in which patchouli is valued for its repelling power. Anoint your doors or windows with either patchouli oil, or the scattered leaves, and use it to keep negative influences at bay or for magical self-defense.

Use the essential oil in blends that bring about love, protection, or other associated properties.

Patchouli is also great to use in incense blends. Combine the dried leaves with other herbs, and use it with a charcoal disc in your incense burner.


Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
Valter Jacinto / Getty Images

Pennyroyal is well known as a magical herb. In some traditions it's associated with money, while in others Pennyroyal is connected to strength and protection. In Hoodoo and some forms of American folk magic, Pennyroyal is carried to ward off the "evil eye." Cat Yronwoode of says that it can be used to break a hex or curse.

Associated with the planet Mars, Pennyroyal was used by sailors in the Elizabethan era to ward off seasickness. It's also believed to effective in warding off fleas and mosquitoes.

Sir James George Frazer wrote in The Golden Bough that in Morocco, Pennyroyal and other aromatic herbs were burned in large quantities at midsummer. He says that people leap across the smoke, "driving it towards the orchards and crops," as a method of protecting the year's harvest from damage. The smoke contains a "magical quality which removes misfortune from men, animals, fruit trees, and crops."

For some protection magic, make a sachet stuffed with Pennyroyal and tuck it in your purse.

In a few traditions, Pennyroyal is associated with money magic. If you own a business, place a sprig over the door to draw in customers and prosperity. Try making a bar of Money Soap to wash your hands with, or use Pennyroyal to brew up some Prosperity Oil.

Note: Pennyroyal can be toxic to pregnant women, and should not be used in any form if you are pregnant. As with all herbs, please check with your physician before ingesting or using them.


mint, peppermint (mentha x piperita), foliage
David Q. Cavagnaro / Getty Images

Peppermint is a prolific plant, often spreading beyond its intended borders. In Pliny's writings, he mentions that the Greeks and Romans decorated their feasting tables with sprigs of peppermint, and in fact flavored many of their foods with it. Dioscorides, the Greek physician, notes that it had medicinal properties, when its oil was extracted and used to treat spasms and disorders of the digestive system. Peppermint may have been cultivated by the ancient Egyptians as well. It appears in the Icelandic Pharmacopoeias around 1240 C.E., and eventually was accepted for use in western Europe around the mid-1700s.

During the Middle Ages, monks -- who were known for their herbal wisdom -- used peppermint leaves to polish their teeth. Around the same time, cheesemakers figured out that mint leaves sprinkled around cheese piles would keep the rats out of the storeroom.

Peppermint is a natural stimulant, and in Back to Eden, Jethro Kloss says it should be in every garden. He says Peppermint is "an excellent remedy for chills, colic, fevers, dysentery, cholera heart trouble, palpitation of the heart, influenza, la grippe and hysteria." It also works nicely as a toning astringent, and peppermint applied to the skin provides a nice refreshing feeling (try a peppermint foot bath at the end of a long day at work!).

Peppermint, like other members of the mint family, is found often in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. Use it to season lamb, curry, couscous, or your favorite vegetables.

Magically speaking, peppermint is often used in healing and purification workings. It can be burned or rubbed against objects to clear them of negative energies, or consumed as an elixir or tea to bring about healing. Pliny also noted that peppermint "excites the emotion of love"; add it to love workings to bring passion your way.

Other Names: Lammint, Brandy mint
Gender: Masculine
Element: Fire
Planetary Connection: Mercury

You can make a tasty peppermint tea in the same way people make sun tea: Gather up about two cups of fresh peppermint leaves, and place them in a gallon of water. Allow the tea to steep outside in the sun until fully blended. Add a bit of stevia to sweeten it for drinking, or use the mint tea as a refreshing cleanser in the bath.


Sprigs of purslane
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Purslane is one of those quirky plants that appears everywhere, from sidewalks to gardens to out in the woods. It's fairly easy to spot, with its thick red stems and flat, paddle-shaped leaves.

Associated with protection, and even occasionally with sleep, Purslane has been used as both food and medicine since the time of the ancient Egyptians. Herbalist Nicholas Culpeper recommended it as a treatment for everything from gonorrhea to vomiting to gunpowder burns. It has been used in many parts of the world as an anti-bacterial agent, as well as to remove fever and other infectious symptoms.

In A Modern Herbal, Maud Grieve says Purslane was an anti-magic herb, and could be strewn around a bed for protection. It's also known as a way to protect against nightmares and psychic attack during sleep. In parts of Africa, Purslane is used for purification during and after ritual ceremonies. Interestingly, there's a Yoruba folktale in which all of the plants in the forest refused to pay off their gambling debts -- except for Purslane, which paid the money it owed. Hence, it is now associated in some cases with recovering owed money.

Carry Purslane in your pocket to protect yourself from magical attacks, or to keep yourself safe from physical harm -- in the Middle Ages, soldiers sometimes tucked a sprig of Purslane into their armor to keep themselves safe during military action. Plant Purslane around your home -- particularly near your front door -- to instill protective properties to those who live within. Strew it around your bed for restful sleep, free of nightmares.


Rosemary is associated with remembrance. Judith Haeusler/Cultura/Getty Images

Rosemary was well known to ancient practitioners. It was an herb known for strengthening the memory and helping the brain. Eventually, it also became associated with the fidelity of lovers, and was presented to wedding guests as a gift. In 1607, Roger Hacket said, "Speaking of the powers of rosemary, it overtoppeth all the flowers in the garden, boasting man's rule. It helpeth the brain, strengtheneth the memorie, and is very medicinable for the head. Another property of the rosemary is, it affects the heart."

Rosemary was often cultivated in kitchen gardens, and was said to represent the dominance of the lady of the house. One would assume that more than one "master" sabotaged his wife's garden to assert his own authority! This woody plant was also known to provide delicious flavoring for game and poultry. Later, it was used in wine and cordials, and even as a Christmas decoration.

Roman priests used rosemary as incense in religious ceremonies, and many cultures considered it a herb to use as protection from evil spirits and witches. In England, it was burned in the homes of those who had died from illness, and placed on coffins before the grave was filled with dirt.

For magical use, burn rosemary to rid a home of negative energy, or as an incense while you meditate. Hang bundles on your front door to keep harmful people, like burglars, from entering. Stuff a healing poppet with dried rosemary to take advantage of its medicinal properties, or mix with juniper berries and burn in a sickroom to promote healthy recovery. In spellwork, rosemary can be used as a substitute for other herbs such as frankincense.
Other Names: Compass weed, Polar plant
Gender: Masculine
Element: Fire
Planetary Connection: The sun


Image by zenaphoto/E+/Getty Images

Sage has long been burned to purify and cleanse a space. The ancients burned dried sprigs of sage in temples and during religious rituals. The Greeks and Romans wrote that the smoke imparted wisdom and mental acuity. In the tenth century, Arab physicians said that sage brought about immortality, or at the very least, a long and healthy life. In England, seventeenth-century servants of the royal family scattered a blend of sage and lavender on the floors at court to help disguise the aroma of day to day life.

Medicinally, Dioscorides says a decoction made from sage leaves and branches helps with urination and hair regrowth. He adds that it can help prevent ulcers and sores from festering, as well. In the essential herbal Back to Eden, Jethro Kloss tells us that sage is "one of the best remedies for stomach troubles, dyspepsia, gas in the stomach and bowels... will expel worms in adults and children. Will stop bleeding of wounds, very cleansing to old ulcers and sores... Also in liver and kidney troubles." He also recommends it in treatment of sexual disorders -- either excessive sexual desire or a decreased libido. In other words, sage is pretty much the go-to herb for a number of ailments.

In magic, carry sage leaves in your wallet or purse to promote financial gain. Burn leaves to increase wisdom or gain guidance from your spirit guide (be warned - burning sage does smell similar to marijuana, so keep that in mind if you think the neighbors might be inquisitive). Make a wish and write it on a sage leaf, and then hide it beneath your pillow -- if you dream about your wish over the next three nights, your wish will come true.

In addition to its medicinal and magical uses, sage makes a great addition to your kitchen pantry. Use it to season fish or chicken dishes, or toss fresh leaves into a green salad.

Other Names: Garden sage
Gender: Masculine
Element: Air
Planetary Connection: Jupiter

Use sage to make Smudge Sticks, or to purify a sacred space before ritual.


Powdered and whole sandalwood
Dinodia Photos / Getty Images

Although not truly an herb, but a wood, sandalwood is an item found often in modern Pagan rituals. In fact, “sandalwood” is an entire class of wood, found in trees that are part of the flowering Santalum family. These aromatic and dense plants are packed full of essential oils, which are often extracted for use in a variety of religious rituals,aromatherapy, and even in medicine.

One particular species, the Indian sandalwood, which grows primarily in Nepal and southern India, is an endangered plant.

However, people still harvest the trees for the essential oils, and a single kilogram of true sandalwood oil can sell for up to $2,000. That’s a pretty steep price - but don’t worry, most of the sandalwood essential oil sold in the United States and Europe today actually comes from the Australian sandalwood. This is a non-endangered species, and although it has a lighter concentration than the other varieties of sandalwood, it’s still very fragrant and is popular with many aromatherapists.

While it is is typically the flowers that are harvested and used, many different parts of the sandalwood plant are used for a variety of purposes. For instance, the essential oil is often used in holistic medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties, and some researchers are even testings its impact on cancer and other diseases. The wood can be ground down into a fine powder, and used for beauty treatments - add a bit of rose oil or camphor, and apply it to your skin for cleansing.

Sandalwood has a number of magical applications, and they tend to vary depending on which religious group you’re looking at.

In many traditions of modern Paganism, it is associated with healing and purification. In Hindu rites, sandalwood paste is often used to consecrate ritual tools before ceremonies. Buddhists believe that sandalwood is one of the sacred scents of the lotus, and can be used to keep one connected to the material world while the brain wanders off during meditation. In chakra work, sandalwood is associated with the seventh, or root, chakra at the base of the spine. Burning the incense can help with issues related to self-identity, security and stability, and trust.

In a few Neopagan traditions, the actual wood of the sandalwood is burned as incense - sometimes mixed with other woods or resins, such as myrrh or frankincense. A few forms of folk magic associate it with both business and protection magic. You can also use pieces of the wood in spellwork - write your intent on a chip or stick of sandalwood, and then place it in a brazier to burn. As your sandalwood burns, your intent, or wish, will be carried up to the heavens on the drifting smoke.  


Use thyme in healing or for restfulness. Image by Alasdair Thomson/E+/Getty Images

Thyme was called thymos by the Greeks, which meant "fumigate" or "smoke". They associated thyme with valor in battle, and the restoration of physical power. Roman soldiers were known to bathe in a decoction of thyme before going into combat, to boost strength and courage. The Sumerians used it as an antiseptic, and in Egypt, thyme was one of the herbs which was used in the mummification process. Herbalist Nicolas Culpepper recommends using thyme as a treatment for whooping cough.

In The Good Herb, Judith Benn Hurley says that the oil found in thyme, called thymol, has "antiseptic and antibacterial properties." She also points out that thyme is popular with aromatherapists because of its ability to heal respiratory ailments and coughs.

Thyme can be used in healing rituals, or to bring about restful sleep. Women who wear thyme on their person are irresistible to men, and carrying sprigs in your pocket aids in developing your psychic abilities. You can create a magical broom using thyme, to banish negativity, or burn some in a bowl to help boost your courage before confrontations.

In some cultures, thyme is associated with the land of the fae -- supposedly the wee folk like to hide in the plant's leafy branches.

Other Names: Common thyme, garden thyme
Gender: Feminine
Element: Water
Planetary Connection: Venus

Tobacco Leaf

Tobacco has a number of magical and mundane uses. Image by View Stock/Getty Images

Despite its bad reputation as being detrimental to your health, tobacco leaf does have a few positive qualities. Externally, tobacco leaf can be used as an antiseptic. It was once used in enema form to eliminate muscle spasms, but later fell out of favor. In A Modern Herbal, Maud Grieve recommends a wet tobacco leaf be applied to piles (hemorrhoids), or rolled into a suppository for a strangulated hernia. For understandable reasons, this was not a popular treatment.

Tobacco was introduced into England in the late 1500s by Sir Walter Raleigh, with the outrageous suggestion that people smoke it in pipes. This idea was lambasted by pretty much everyone, from the King to the Pope, all of whom said it was an awful plan. However, that didn't stop Raleigh from making a small fortune with tobacco, because Englishmen were willing to buy it. By the seventeen hundreds, it was a staple ingredient in every British pharmacist's dispensary.

Because of the nature of human migration patterns, tobacco use became prevalent in the mountain regions of the eastern United States, and is found in a number of traditional folk remedies. Tobacco leaves were often applied to stop bleeding, and in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, tobacco is well-known as relief for the pain of jellyfish stings.

In South America, the Indian tribes use tobacco smoke to allow them communicate with spirits. It can also be used to appease river gods when going on a trip by boat or canoe. In modern magic, tobacco is sometimes used as an offering to deity, or burned as a purifying incense. In many magical traditions, tobacco is an acceptable substitute for other herbs.

Use tobacco in place of incense for rituals that involve communication with the spirit world, or bundle it up in a sachet and carry it while on a trip for a safe journey. Sprinkle dried tobacco leaf outside your doorways and windows to keep negative energies out of the house.

Gender: Masculine
Element: Fire
Planetary Connection: Mars

Although in theory you could plant and grow your own tobacco, it's a fairly lengthy process, and tobacco plants take up a lot of space. If you opt to simply purchase tobacco for magical use, it's best to have a tin of it that you use *only* for magical reasons. Try not to smoke the same tobacco you're using in ritual, unless you find yourself in a pinch and have no other options.


Valerian has a variety of uses magically - it can be used for anything from love magic to protection. Image by dirkr/E+/Getty Images

Valerian was named for the physician Valerius, one of the first to use the plant medicinally. Around the eleventh century, Anglo-Saxon leeches recommend its use in battling menstrual cramps. It was called Amantilla during the middle ages, and there is a recipe which recommends the use of a tea made from "the juice of Amantilla id est Valeriana," to bring about peace between warring factions. Chaucer refers to the plant as Setwall.

Traditionally, valerian was used more often for medicine than magic, but there are still some uses for it in spellwork.

Valerian may smell raunchy, but it's also known as a plant of love and protection. Hang it in your home to protect against natural disasters, such as lightning strikes or fire. If you're a woman, pin a sprig to your shirt to attract men your way. Quarrels can be resolved in a home by placing valerian leaves around the perimeter of the house.

If you are fighting with a family member, try putting a sprig of valerian in each corner of your home. Putting it over each door will prevent strife and discontent from entering -- but be warned - some people find that the smell of valerian reminds them of cat urine.

Other Names: All-heal, Heliotrope, St. George's herb, Amantilla, Setwall
Gender: Feminine
Element: Water
Deity Connection: Aphrodite, Venus
Planetary Connection: Venus

If you're a gardener, valerian tends to attract earthworms, which are great for your soil. This has to do with the levels of phosphorus produced by the plant's roots, so if you need wormy dirt, plant some valerian.


There are over 200 species of flower in the violet family. Image by Anette Jager/Getty Images

According to Maud Grieve’s Modern Herbal, there are over two hundred species of flower in the violet family. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation when it comes to magical workings. We’ll just take a look at violets in general, without going into details about specific members of the family.

In Roman myth, the first violet sprung from the spilled blood of the god Attis, who killed himself for Cybele, the mother goddess. In other legends, Jupiter changed his lover, Io, into a heifer to protect him from the jealous rages of Juno – and violets sprouted up in the field so Io would have something to eat. It is believed that the word violet is actually a diminutive of Viola, which is the Latinized variant of Io.

Despite its legends connecting it to rather violet and jealous gods, today the violet is associated with tranquility and peace. The leaf offers protection from evil, and can be sewn into a pillow or sachet for a new baby. Carry the petals with you to bring about luck and enhance nighttime magic.

These pretty purple flowers are everywhere in the spring and early summer, so it’s a perfect opportunity to do a bit of flower magic. Dry the flowers in the sun, and use them in an incense blend to bring about sweet dreams and restful sleep. You may even want to sew them into a pillow like our Dream Pillow.

Take a square of plain muslin or cotton, and place a bundle of freshly picked violets in it. Tie the square shut and hang it over the faucet in your bathtub. Run hot water, and allow the steam to spread the deliciously sweet scent of violets. Use this as a relaxing, cleansing bath prior to doing rituals or spellwork.

The violet is also associated with dedication and loyalty. If you want your lover to be constant and true, offer a bundle of violets as a gift – or plant a patch in front of the person’s home!

In addition to being magical, violets are one of the many edible plants you may find in the wild or in your garden. Violets can be candied – it’s time consuming, but the end result is lovely – or brewed into a water, a vinegar, or even a tea.

Grieve says that one seventeenth century cookbook describes the use of violets to make a sweet syrup:

”Take a quantity of Blew Violets, clip off the whites and pound them well in a stone morter; then take as much fair running water as will sufficiently moysten them and mix with the Violets; strain them all; and to every halfe pint of the liquor put one pound of the best loafe sugar; set it on the fire, putting the sugar in as it melts, still stirring it; let it boyle but once or twice att the most; then take it from the fire, and keep it to your use. This is a daynty sirrup of Violets.”


Achillea filipendulina var. gold plate (Yarrow)
Chris Burrows / Getty Images

Yarrow was often called Woundwort or Knight's Milfoil, thanks to its use in treatment of battle injuries. Scotland's Highlanders use it to make a healing ointment, and in the Orkney Islands, yarrow is used to make a tea that "dispels melancholia." Maud Grieve tells us in A Modern Herbal that the Romans referred to it as herba militaris, the soldier's herb. French workmen in the Middle Ages knew that yarrow worked well on injuries to fingers and hands - in fact, in some areas it was known as "the herb of carpenters."

In addition to its uses in soft-tissue injuries, yarrow is well known as a combatant against fever. A number of Native American tribes used it in teas that were given to the sick, to bring body temperatures down. In India, a tea called gandana is given to the ill to induce sweating, thus lowering the fever.

Yarrow can be used in magical workings related to healing, love, and courage. Wear it on your person to boost your self-esteem and courage, or carry a bunch of dried yarrow in your hand to stop fear. A sprig hanging over the marriage bed guarantees at least seven years of passion and love. Taking a ritual bath with yarrow can help increase your psychic abilities. It can also be used to exorcise negative energies from a place or person.

If you're working on a healing ritual for someone who is ill, consider burning dried yarrow as incense, or place a sachet of yarrow under the person's pillow to bring about restful sleep.

Other Names: Achillea, Lady's Mantle, Woundwort
Gender: Feminine
Element: Water
Planetary Connection: Venus

Yarrow has a fairly bitter taste, but you can use both the leaves and flowers in cooking. The leaves themselves, which are flat and paddle-shaped, can be chopped up, seasoned with some lemon juice and salt and pepper, and served either in a salad or with a light summer seafood dish. If you'd rather not eat it, try putting some yarrow flowers in a bowl and adding boiling water to it -- then put your face over it and let the yarrow steam open your pores.

Note: pregnant women should not take yarrow internally, and it should not be used for undiagnosed bleeding.

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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "Magical Herbal Correspondences." Learn Religions, Sep. 20, 2021, Wigington, Patti. (2021, September 20). Magical Herbal Correspondences. Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "Magical Herbal Correspondences." Learn Religions. (accessed March 26, 2023).