Sunday, July 23, 2017

Mugwort in Traditional Deitsch Use

Robert L. Schreiwer
Mugwort Harvesting and Smudge Stick Making Workshop

Oak Haven Farm, Cedarbrook, NJ
July 23, 2017

Mugwort is known as Aldi Fraa (Old Lady) in Deitsch (Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania Dutch), and it is strongly associated with the goddess Holle. 

It is the premiere herb used in Braucherei, Hexerei, and Urglaawe for smudging (pdc: die Rauchreiniching), ritual washing, journeying, and the healing of many ailments and conditions. It is the most common herb used in Braucherei house blessings. It is also commonly used to bundle other herbs together for ritual use.

Fresh Mugwort smudge stick
Susan Hess, our (Michelle Jones' and Robert L. Schreiwer's) herbalism instructor and mentor, captured the importance of Mugwort to the Deitsch in one simple statement: “Think of how important white sage is to most Native Americans; that is how Mugwort is to the Deitsch.”

Disclaimer: This information is for educational and discussion purposes only. Nothing in these posts is intended to constitute, or should be considered, medical advice or to serve as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider. Feverfew may thin the blood, so people on blood thinners should be careful with its use. Also, as the herb is used in inducing menstruation, pregnant women should avoid using this herb. As always, your health is your responsibility. Consult with a doctor before using any herbal remedy or preventative.

Footbaths of Mugwort are used among Hexerei midwives to increase the likelihood of pregnancy. Its uses in Braucherei include weak teas to increase appetite, ease digestion, to increase the absorption of nutrients from food, and to encourage menstruation. Poultices are used to prevent backache or dull aches in other parts of the body. Please note that Mugwort is contraindicated for pregnancy and its use should be avoided by women who are pregnant or who are seeking to become pregnant.

Deitsch author William Woys Weaver (218) describes Mugwort as “one of the key herbs in Pennsylvania German folk medicine,” stating that it is “an herb devoted to the reprieve of womankind, but, since the early Middle Ages, it was also used in cookery, especially with game.” Goose, which is also associated strongly with Holle, is also traditionally seasoned with Mugwort. 

Christopher Sauer, who was a Deitsch herbalist and who also wrote the first book of botanic healing in the US, described (Weaver 218) various traditional uses for the herb, including the feeding of dry or fresh leaves combined with salt to ease the cough of cattle. 

Sauer continues to cite uses, such as using the juice of Mugwort to aid people who have been injured by bullets. He also describes the use of the herb in footbaths, but he focuses more on post-natal conditions, such as healing from wounds incurred during birth. 

Interestingly, Sauer (Weaver 41) also provides a recipe for breaking injuries caused by witchcraft:

"It has been discovered through everyday use that angelica provides a particularly good remedy for injuries brought about by witchcraft. When a person is a victim of such unnatural afflictions, the following potion has proved especially effective. Take half a handful each of the leaves of angelica, devil's bit, the topmost sprigs of Saint-John's-wort, periwinkle, Venus's goldilocks, and mugwort. These herbs should be chopped fine and put into a large pewter flask with two quarts of fresh springwater and a quart of white wine. Bring this to a boil in a kettle of hot water. Once the infusion has boiled up, let it cool. When cold, open the flask, but not before, lest the properties of the herbs disperse into the air. Strain this through a cloth and administer it warm to the victim, six loths per dose, morning and evening."

Note: A Loth or Lood is an old Deitsch measurement equal to approximately 16 grams.

Devil's Bit (en): pdc: die Schpellekisseblumm, der Deiwelbiss, tax: Scabiosa succisa

St. John's Wort: pdc: es Hexegraut, es Geesgraut, es Hannesgraut, tax: Hypericum perforatum

Periwinkle: pdc: die Sinnebledder, tax: Vinca minor

Venus's Goldilocks: pdc: es Goldlockichmoos, tax: Polytrichum juniperum

Mugwort: pdc: Aldi Fraa, tax: Artemisia vulgaris

For as commonly used as Mugwort is among the Deitsch, it is not listed in the Nine Sacred Herbs of Braucherei and Hexerei. The reason that is usually cited for this omission is that Mugwort is frequently a stand-in for the physically unrelated (but very much so spiritually related) Elder. Because there is a Verbot (taboo, ban) in place regarding the burning of Elder (except for the flowers), Mugwort is the herb that is burned in its stead. 

The spirit of Mugwort is what one might expect from an old Braucherin or Hex: approachable and eager to help those in need but not intolerant of nonsense, disorder, or deceit. Mugwort is an ally to those who are deserving of its time and effort. The spirit of the plant seeks to establish order within chaos, which is said to be one reason it grows so avidly in disturbed soil.

Mugwort is appropriate at any and all Urglaawe rites and rituals, Braucherei or Hexerei workings, etc. 

This is one of our most powerful herbs. Enjoy making your smudge sticks and learning how to use them. Then prepare for a possible wild ride in your sleep!


Weaver, William Woys. "Sauer's Herbal Cures: America's First Book of Botanic Healing." New York: Routledge, 2001.

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