The Bay Laurel tree is a popular choice in gardens in the UK. They can grow pretty big when left to it and make lovely topiary. Known widely as a pot herb there are actually more magical uses than modern medicinal ones.
Previously Bay was used for just about everything. These days you might see the oil used for rheumatism and has a warming effect but other than smelling amaaaaaaazing and being damn tasty people don’t seem to rave about it as much as you’d think.
Two points before we get stuck in: Firstly, the ‘Bay’ in bay rum refers to Jamaican Bay Berry a different plant.
Secondly, the other popular Laurel plant is actually toxic and not edible please be 100% sure you can positively identify anything you burn or consume. Standing near burning Laurel releases cyanide and will make you feel dizzy and sick.
I absolutely love Greek mythology always have and the history of Bay Laurel goes all the way back to ancient Greece.
Apollo, son of Zues, having slayed the python and taken over the serpent’s realm and oracle; was getting cocky. He slagged off the god Eros (aka cupid). Claiming Eros was of lesser importance as he dealt in matters of love and not war.
For revenge, Eros struck Apollo with a golden arrow and the Naiad Daphne with a lead arrow (see where this is going?)
Now, Daphne, in emulation of the Goddess Artemis (Apollo’s twin sister) had sworn virginity; and due to Eros’ arrow was able to resist Apollo where others had failed (I think she preferred women, more on that in a minute). This story is often used to represent the battle between lust and chastity (by Christians).
So our dear Daphne, being chased down by the lusty God, about to be raped, calls out for help and is transformed into the first Bay Laurel. In some stories by her father the river god Peneus, in others by Gaia herself. Either way Daphne’s virginity is preserved.
Apollo, distraught at the loss of Daphne, vows Bay Laurels to be sacred to him and turned her leaves evergreen.
From this story come many others but for the purpose of this piece I’ll only share a couple. So (stay with me now);
The python’s kingdom was the home of an oracle once known as the earth’s navel: Centre of the universe. Upon its demise, the rotting python corpse forms a crack in the earth which gives off fumes. Apollo took over this area and renamed it Delphi.
The oracle of Delphi, also know as Pythia, was a high priestess, sworn to virginity who resided at this crack. She inhaled the fumes and spoke prophesies (apparently from Apollo) to those who requested them. It is said that pythia came to give her prophecies holding a bay leaf in her teeth.
Back to our girl Daphne, there is another side to this story: Her claims of virginity were more to do with rejecting gender roles and men. She did not want to become a mother and wife to some man, God or not. The commitment to Artemis was a commitment to the woods, the hunt and animals (I feel ya babe) there is evidence to suggest that Artemis was a goddess of lesbians (hurrah!)
Daphne, before all this drama, resided over her own Oracle. A pool belonging to Gaia, which lived in a grove like a beautiful park, a public space. A sexy public space (or sinful depending on who’s telling the story), known for pleasure and those seeking ‘carnal desire’. Perhaps another nod to daphne’s sexual preference.
In order to recieve messages from this oracle, one needs to dip a leaf or a branch of bay into the pool. I assume this is after poor Daphne suffered her transformation. Anyway that’s Daphne and Apollo. Like I said this leads to many other links such as:
- Apollo wore a crown of bay leaves as a symbol of victory. He also gave them out to victors of his pythian games.
- Apollo, is the god of music, art and poetry. The term ‘poet laureate’ also refers to victory in this area. Holding their status above others.
- Daphnomancy is a form of divination in which one burns Bay Leaves: If the leaves crackle and burn bright the outcome is positive, if they sputter and die the outcome is not good, if flames shoot up the outcome is very good.
- In ancient Rome a bay tree was planted in a grove by each emperor as they ascended. In 68ad the Grove perished due to disease and Nero fell.
There are many uses for Bay leaves. When burnt they are insecticide. They do contain some minerals and vitamins but there hasn’t been a lot of research into the benefits. The magical uses however are extensive:
- Bay leaves dispel negative energy. Placing one in the corner of each room is said to protect the energy.
- Burning as incense or in a smudge stick; Bay offers protection and calming but also victory, success, abundance and increased psychic gifts.
- I’ve mentioned daphnomancy above one way of implementing it is by writing what you wish for or wish to release on the bay leaf or saying it aloud before burning. I use this often in my moon rituals.
- Bay leafs can be used to send and recieve messages from spirits simply focus your intention, look into a flame and say your message out loud before burning.
- Bay leaves as offerings to the Goddess are always greatly received. Place them on your alter with wishes/requests or as tokens of gratitude.
- As a talisman (carried with you) , bay offers advanced psychic gifts, protects from negative energy, increases abundance and luck.
- For love spells using bay leaves instead of paper enhances potency.
- Carry 3 Bay leaves in your wallet to attract finacial wealth, remember to burn and give thanks regularly and start afresh.
- In folk magic, as you add bay leaves to a dish speak one blessing for each leaf and bless all who eat it e.g wealth, luck, happiness communication. Multiples of 3 are traditional.
- Place 3 Bay leaves under your pillow to increase prophetic dreams.
- Sew them secretly into clothing to protect the wearer.
Basically, you can use bay leaves to enhance many magicks involving protection, victory and inspiration (inspiration in love, art, music, work it’s a broad term). They represent the Sun and Leo in honour of Apollo and Also victory and prophecy in honour of Daphne. I find them to be one of the most intuitive forms of spellwork. If you haven’t experimented with them I highly recommend you do and remember to give thanks appropriately.
Peace out witches ✌️
Love Kate xxx