By Phoenix of Elder Mountain – We have lots and lots of Blackberries bushes and hedges that grow all around Elder Mountain. We collect the fruit for eating, the leaves for an herbal tea winter remedy and the twigs for a folk smudge stick. I love blackberries in the mid to late summer and they are known to be a main source of summer nourishment for local bears. I thought I would research some Blackberry traditions and folklore so you can have access to use them in your Summer endeavors.
Edible and Medicinal, the blackberry has uses in both Native American lore and Western Europeans for centuries. It has a long history of healing female disorders and being used in spells for protection from ghosts and vampires. Used in syrups, teas and pies, blackberry leaves are cooling and the roots are astringent. Often used to treat sore throats, wounds and diarrhea. The leaves are often used to wash wounds and help stop them from excess bleeding or drank as a healing tea.
Blackberry and its botanical name Rubus fruticosus L. ex Dierb of the plant family Rosaceae has much folklore. In English folklore, passing under the archway formed by a bramble branch will cure (or prevent) afflictions including hernia, ruptures, pimples and boils. Celtic lore said that blackberries are a pagan fey fruit. According to some Christian lore, Christ’s crown of thorns was made of brambles, and thus the berries were turned from red to black.
Blackberries are considered protective against earthbound spirits, bad sorcerers, shadow witches and energy sucking vampire people. If planted near a home a vampire cannot enter. Blackberries have multiple meanings across religious, ethnic and mythological realms. They have been used in Christian art to symbolize spiritual neglect or ignorance. Mid-Mediterranean folklore claims that Christ’s Crown of Thorns were made of blackberry runners. A legend also exists where the blackberry was once beautiful, but was cursed by evil men when they would fall into the bush when forced out of heaven.
Some folklore associates the blackberry with bad omens because they can also symbolize sorrow. In an old proverb they signify haste. A man is so excited to pick the berries that he jumps into the bush and the thorns cause him to lose his eyesight. He regains it, however, upon jumping back out of the bush.
In Greek mythology, Belleraphon who killed the sacred Chimera, was thrown into brambles when he dared to ride the Pegasus in his heroism attitude and was blinded by the thorns and wandered outcast and alone thereafter. This is his punishment for trying to take the power of the gods. Therefore, the fruit also symbolizes arrogance.
Blackberry for Healing
Blackberries are a cooling herb. Fresh leaves, bruised can be applied to give some relief to burns, especially from steam or boiling water and is also useful for hemorrhoids, skin ulcers, and eczema. The tea from leaves can also be used as a mouth rinse is also good for sore throats. The fruit is especially good for the liver and kidneys, while the leaf acts on the stomach and intestines.
Medical uses include using the leaves in a cure for diarrhea; it could cure dropsy and is considered to have fantastic curative powers for coughs and colds. It is also used for a variety of skin complaints such as scalds, burns, boils, shingles and spots. The fruit should be eaten, either fresh, or in jam or wine, by those having trouble with stones or diarrhea.
A decoration of the root bark or an infusion of the leaves may also be used. For stones, simmer 1 tbsp of root per cup of water for 20 minutes. Add enough water to return it to one cup, and drink one cup per day, spaced out throughout the day in 1/4 cup intervals.
In the summer when the berries are ripe, make this syrup to help ease winter colds and flu- cover fresh berries with malt vinegar and let them stand for three days. Mash and strain. Add one pound of sugar for each pint of juice that results and bring it all to a boil. Allow it to boil for five minutes, then let cool and seal. Add a teaspoon of this syrup to a cup of water to help keep your feverish little ones hydrated. The root is used to make an astringent tea to ease diarrhea.
Blackberry leaves are used both as healing tinctures and in magical rites, they are ruled by the Venus and Scorpio and the element water. They are used for everything related to female fertility or female wellness, so using them with a healing chant, incantation or spell that invokes healing fires or the goddesses Brigid, Vesta, Sehkmet or Durga makes them more powerful.
Dip nine leaves in a natural water source and lay them on a burned or infected area. Say to each leaf as you lay them on the wound- “Three ladies came from the East, One with fire and two with frost, Out with fire, in with frost!” The berries themselves are feminine in nature and ruled by the element of earth.
Different parts of the blackberry plant have different correspondences. The thorny branches are ruled by Aries and Fire and are used for protection, so when making a smudge stick, this is the part you want to gather. Blackberry vines can be woven into protective wreaths, especially in combination with Rowan and Ivy and the thorns and leaves can also be added to medicine bags and other preparations for general household protection and prosperity.
In Dream Symbolism, blackberries represent loss, sorrow and remorse so if you dream of them, you are either working on some loss yourself or a friend or family member will soon experience sadness and sorrow. If you are pricked in your dream, know that an enemy was in your dream and its wise to take care of some of your boundary issues of your inner circle.
Berries also represent sweet fruit and the positive sides of any type of berries is that internal nourishment is needed for your emotional body by ingesting more sweetness, peace and purity into your life as a practice.
Blackberry Smudge Sticks or The Witch’s Whisk
Blackberry Folklore includes the witch’s whisk is a traditional piece of West Country England folklore and witchery and other countries around the world that use indigenous practices. These are bundles of blackberry twigs, traditionally bound on one end, and lit to be used as a cleansing smoke to eradicate shadows. The process of making one is rather simple:
First start in Autumn and cut your blackberry “canes” (with your pruning sheers in smaller sizes) then put them in a pile to over-winter them. By next summer they will be ready (as most of the thorns fall off) and you can cut them to size and tie off with your string, rope, hemp or twine.
Or you can make them your self and find a local blackberry bush or path or neighbors and ask if you can harvests a handful of twigs. When you are binding herbs or canes, bind things with a special chant or a spell so the object, talisman, sage or amulet has the direction of power of what its intention is, when you make it. As you bind the twigs, the open end will be lit aflame and blown out, producing a wood-smoke that clears out a space or a person’s toxic environment, dream environments or negative influences.
The witches in the West Country and folk healesr and shamans of other places were said to light them and weave around and about to make an area ready for witch work that was more pure and clear. The blackberry in England and old American, has a lot of folklore, each pointing to a common piece of wisdom:
“Blackberry is the bane of all evils, from misfortune to illness and used to release people and animals from illnesses, misfortunes, and dark sorcery or dark witchery.” Even witches must protect themselves from the misuses that more shadow witches do. Since many people use Sage to smoke and smudge, next time try to find some Blackberry twigs. There are tales that those who are evil, greedy, unconscious are thrown out of Heaven and into a blackberry bush.
FYI We at Elder Mountain make seasonal red & golden raspberry sage sticks for smudging and blackberry smudge sticks for tougher issues. They are $7.50 (us dollars) for one or $13.00 for two, plus adding shipping. If you are interested in purchasing, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blackberries are traditionally baked into pies to celebrate first Autumn or Harvest festivals. They represent abundant harvests and can be used in magical cooking for healing and prosperity. Blackberries and apple makes a fantastic filling for pies. Also makes a lovely tea.
Blackberry Pie Recipe by Sephanie Jaworski
Blackberry Crumble Recipe by Laura Vitale
Harvesting & Storage
Roots can be dug in the spring and fall. After the berries have been harvested in the second year is the best time to do this. They should be dried quickly, in an oven or under a hot sun. Blackberry plant parts for use in protective magic should be gathered during the waning moon or after the full moon but especially good during the third quarter or balsamic moon phase.
Leaves for teas and tinctures should be picked around the Summer Solstice before the full berry picking starts. Each year varies, we had last years crop ripen around July 4th but this year with lots of rain they started their ripened stage at the Summer Solstice. So just watch and pick the leaves before they are done. You can also pick the leaves and dry them after but they carry more medicine in them before the berries are ripe.
The Irish say that the berries are not to be eaten after Samhain or Halloween near October 31st, because the Púca spits on them and they become inedible. The Púca is an Irish spirit (one of the fairy folk). So its good to harvest the berries as soon as they ripen (they turn black). Overripe berries should be discarded and under-ripe berries should not be eaten. Berries can be used fresh or dried, or preserved in a jelly, jam, wine or any number of tasty treats. Leaves should be harvested before or during flowering and laid to dry in the usual manner.
From a gardener’s point of view, blackberries contain a high concentration of bitter tasting tannins which over time accumulate in the fruit. As autumn arrives the weather becomes wetter meaning the fruit will contain more fungus spores. This will not improve the taste either. The rule is in Folklore is: “Don’t pick blackberries after October 11 (others say Sept 29th) as the Devil gets in them” is the old true wives tale because after October the resting bugs may take up a home in the old blackberries… “Well it’s an old English tale, really. The saying is that the Devil was kicked out of heaven on October 11th and he landed on a blackberry bush.
** To purchase our “Blackberry Leaves” & “Blackberry Smudge Sticks”…
These are hand harvested which goes from the Summer Solstice until Mid September for Harvest. Please contact Elder Mountain Dreaming for pricing and shipping at Eldermountaindreaming@gmail.com
General: We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner or a seasoned shaman who is pure (no hallucinogen plant type of person), before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications. For educational purposes only. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases but to educate you to work with certified Herbalists or Shamans or learn so one day you may be able to work with nature in a positive but disciplined way.
Berries as symbols and in folklore by Courtney Alexander, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Ithaca, NY, 14853; Witches Whisks by Ofwoodandbone of tumblr; http://www.witchipedia.com/herb:blackberry; http://www.joyofbaking.com/Blackberry by Sephanie Jaworski of Joyofbaking.com; Laura Vitale http://www.LauraintheKitchen.com; http://www.whiterabbitinstituteofhealing.com/herbs/blackberry