- Ruler: Sun
- Magickal form: Incense, fresh sprigs, berries, essential oil
- Basic Powers: Protection, Love, Healing, Cleansing
- Cautions: Do not drink the tea if you are pregnant, wish to become pregnant, or if you have kidney disease.
In the past, Juniper was regarded as a magick shrub to use against devils, evil spirits, and wild animals. It is mentioned in the Bible as a symbol of protection. Its aromatic scent made it a popular strewing herb, and shoots were burned to disinfect the air in a room.
Brew the berries into a tea and drink it to increase sexual stamina. Crush dried berries to release their scent and add to love potions to attract a man. String the matured berries for an attractive charm designed to attract lovers.
Juniper berries can be used in love spells, particularly to enhance male interest and potency. Steep in wine and drink a few sips daily to increase male virility. Steep in vinegar and add it to your bath to make yourself more attractive to men or apply it directly to the genitals (diluted with water) to increase male interest in them. Or add it to a bath you’re sharing. Juniper berries and their essential oils make for a nice “masculine” scent for men’s cosmetics (aftershave, beard oil, etc.). Use with due caution.
Hang a sprig of fresh Juniper in the home to drive away evil. A sprig of Juniper will protect the wearer from accidents. Sometimes used in anti-theft sachets, as it guards against thieves. Grow Juniper at your doorstep for protection. Gin (which is made from Juniper) can be sprinkled across a threshold to guard against theft.
Juniper is a thief catcher. If you bend a young Juniper branch down to the ground and hold it where you place it with two weights, one a big stone, the other the skull of a murderer, and say, “Juniper, I bend and squeeze you till the thief (name him) returns what he has taken to its place,” the culprit will feel an unaccountable impulse to return the property.’
Brush down the body with a bundle of sprigs to remove illness and place drops of oil in a bowl of water to promote healing in a sick room. Burn Juniper for purification and good health. One of the earliest incenses used by Witches was made from a combination of the leaves and the dried crushed berries.
Though burning Juniper wood gives off only minimal visible smoke, this smoke is highly aromatic, and in ancient times it was used for the ritual purification of temples. The smoke was said to aid clairvoyance, and continued to be burned for purification and to stimulate contact with the Otherworld at the autumn Samhain fire festival at the beginning of the Celtic year.
In central Europe Juniper smoke played a part in the spring-time cleansing and casting out of witchcraft. Juniper was also burned during outbreaks of the Plague, and in Scotland the disease could be dispelled by fumigating the house with Juniper smoke while its occupants were inside, after which the house was aired and the occupants revived with whisky!
Juniper was burned to goddesses and gods in ancient Sumer and Babylon, and was widely used in Egyptian incense formulas. It was sacred to Inanna and her later counterpart Ishtar. Many centuries later in Europe, branches of Juniper were smoldered and carried around fields and farms to release protective energies and guard livestock and crops.
It is a common ritual incense ingredient in Tibet and was much used by various Native American groups.
It is said that a Juniper shrub or tree is a particularly effective and magical hiding place. Perhaps Juniper can be added to hiding and invisibility charms as well.
Juniper essential oil is currently used in traditional aromatherapy to detoxify the body, as a parasite destroyer and antiseptic. This seems in keeping with the “magickal” use of purifying homes and fields mentioned above, for protective rituals are designed to ward off negativity as well as to purge such energies from a person or place.
Inhale Juniper essential oil while visualizing its energies guarding you from negativity and danger. Or, for an internal purification, smell Juniper and visualize.
You can also make Juniper a part of health-maintaining rituals. Regularly smell the scent while seeing yourself eating correctly, exercising, and thinking positively.
Because it is a variety of Juniper, and the magickal uses are quite similar, Eastern Red Cedar can be used as a substitute, and vice versa. More about Red Cedar can be found here.
A Healing Ritual
There was a folk medicine custom in some parts of the South West of England of burning the wood and needles close to a sick person. This practice is closely allied to the above New Year customs and presumably recognizes that the vaporized oil released into the air had some beneficial purifying effect to dispel infection.
Like many plants, there was a definite ritual which had to be followed when pulling or collecting Juniper so that the power and essence of the plant was not lost. In the case of Juniper, it had to be pulled up by the roots, the branches made into four bundles and held between the five fingers while intoning the appropriate incantation. Unfortunately the version which has been passed down to us has been heavily Christianised:
“I will pull the bounteous yew,
Through the five bent ribs of Christ,
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost
Against drowning, danger and confusion.”
Juniper Mythology and Lore
Juniper was a symbol of the Canaanites’ fertility goddess Ashera or Astarte in Syria. In the Bible’s Old Testament, a Juniper with an angelic presence sheltered the prophet Elijah from Queen Jezebel’s pursuit. Similarly a later apocryphal biblical tale tells of how the infant Jesus and his parents were hidden from King Herod’s soldiers by a Juniper during their flight into Egypt.
Juniper plants are associated with protection in many different Native American tribes. The Interior Salish and Northwest Coast tribes used Juniper to banish evil spirits and protect themselves from witchcraft.
Among the southwestern Pueblos, junipers were believed to counteract ‘ghost sickness,’ a malady which afflicted bereaved relatives or people who handle the bodies of the dead.
Plains Indian tribes, such as the Dakota, Cheyenne, and Pawnee, often hung Juniper boughs on their tepees or burned them in the camp fire to keep their homes safe from storms.
And in many tribes people, especially hunters, would carry a spring of Juniper as a protective charm or rub Juniper branches on their bodies before embarking on a dangerous journey to protect themselves from grizzly bears, monsters, or general bad luck.
Juniper is one of the herbs frequently included in medicine bundles and amulets. Juniper berries were also eaten by people in some Southwestern and Southern California tribes, and Juniper leaves were frequently used as medicinal herbs.
Folk tradition records a divinatory significance to the appearance of Juniper in dreams, for:
- It is unlucky to dream of the tree itself, especially if the person is sick.
- To dream of gathering the berries, if it be in winter, denotes prosperity.
- To dream of the actual berries signifies that the dreamer will shortly arrive at great honors and become an important person.
- To the married it foretells the birth of a male child.
The largest body of folklore concerning Juniper comes from Iceland where it was traditionally believed that Juniper and rowan could not grow together because each creates so much heat that one or other of the trees would be burn up. For the same reason it was considered not a good idea to bring sprigs of both woods into the house together unless you particularly wanted your house to burn down.
Another Icelandic belief has it that if you are building a boat, you must either use both Juniper and rowan wood or use neither of them in the boat, otherwise it will sink.
In Wales it was said that anyone who cut down a Juniper tree would be dead within a year, while in Newfoundland it was believed that wolves and bears are repelled by Juniper wood and for this reason people who kept stock would ensure that Juniper wood was used in building enclosures or stockades in which livestock would be kept.
Also in Newfoundland it is believed that you will always find water under a Juniper tree, though this seems to contradict the natural history of Juniper which, as mentioned above, generally grows best on limestone or chalk soils which are usually well-drained.
The Story entitled Red Riding Hood in the book The Hero of Esthonia tells of a mother laying down Juniper branches and making the sign of the cross over them to protect her sleeping children from devils. In the story The Compassionate Shoemaker in the same book, the devil is defeated by being struck by a staff of Juniper.
In the Argonautica, Medea uses a freshly cut spray of Juniper to sprinkle her sleeping potion into the eyes of the serpent guarding the Golden Fleece.
- Meaning and history of the name Juniper:
From the Latin, juniperus which means “youth producing” or “evergreen.” During the Renaissance era, Junipers were used symbolically in art to represent chastity. Juniper has historically been used as both a boys and girls name, in fact Saint Juniper and Thornton Wilder’s character Brother Juniper are both male.
The Juniper Tree – A Story
“The Juniper Tree” is a German fairy tale collected by the Brothers Grimm. The text in the Grimm collection is in Low German and was originally written down by the painter Philipp Otto Runge. The complete story as originally written can be found over at Widdershins.
Here is a synopsis:
A wealthy and pious couple pray every day for God to grant them a child. One winter, under the Juniper tree in the courtyard, the wife peels an apple. She cuts her finger and drops of blood fall onto the snow. This leads her to wish for a child to be as white as snow and as red as blood. Six months later, the wife becomes gravely ill from eating Juniper berries and asks her husband to bury her beneath the Juniper tree if she dies.
A month later, she gives birth to a baby boy as white as snow and as red as blood. She dies of happiness. Keeping his promise, the husband buries her beneath the Juniper tree. He eventually marries again and he and his new wife have a daughter named Marlinchen (in some versions Marlene, Marjory or Ann Marie).
The new wife loves Marlinchen but despises her stepson. She abuses him every day, claiming that she wishes Marlinchen to inherit her father’s wealth instead of her stepson. One afternoon after school, the stepmother plans to lure her stepson into an empty room containing a chest of apples. Marlinchen sees the chest and asks for an apple, which the stepmother gracefully offers. However, when the boy enters the room and reaches down the chest for an apple, the stepmother slams the lid onto his neck, decapitating him.
The stepmother binds his head with the rest of his body with a bandage and props his body onto a chair outside, with an apple on his lap. Marlinchen, unaware of the situation, asks her stepbrother for an apple. Hearing no response, she is forced by her mother to box him in the ear, causing his head to roll onto the ground.
Marlinchen profusely cries throughout the day whilst the stepmother dismembers the stepson’s body and cooks him into a “blood-soup” for dinner. She later deceives her husband by telling him that his son stayed at the mother’s great uncle’s house. The husband unwittingly eats the “blood-soup” during dinner and proclaims it to be delicious. Marlinchen gathers the bones from the dinner and buries them beneath the Juniper tree with a handkerchief.
Suddenly, a mist emerges from the Juniper tree and a beautiful bird flies out. The bird visits the local townspeople and sings about its brutal murder at the hands of its stepmother. Captivated by its lullaby, a goldsmith, a shoemaker and a miller offer the bird a gold chain, a pair of red shoes and a millstone in return for the bird singing its song again. The bird returns home to give the gold chain to the husband while giving Marlinchen the red shoes.
Meanwhile, the stepmother complains about the “raging fires within her arteries”, revealed to be the real cause of her anger and hatred towards her stepson. She goes outside for relief but the bird drops the millstone onto her head, killing her instantly. Surrounded by smoke and flames, the son, revealed to be the bird, emerges and reunites with his family. They celebrate and head inside for lunch, and live happily ever after.
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