Juniper, Mountain Yew (Juniperus communis)
“Western Europeans planted juniper trees by their houses to ward off witches. The Scottish burned it to ward off the evil eye. And the Tibetans added it to incense to exorcise demons.”
“Juniper is another tree whose branches were sometimes hung above the doors and windows on auspicious days or burned in the fire. Juniper burning, which formed part of the New Year rituals in some parts of the country, seemed to have a dual purpose. Not only was it supposed to ward off witches and evil spirits but, at a more practical level, it cleansed the house of pests and diseases. The branches were dried beside the fire the night before, and when all the windows and doors were shut, fires were lit in each room until the whole house was full of their acrid smoke. When the coughing and sputtering inhabitants could stand it no longer, the windows were opened, and the process was repeated in the stables.”
- William Milliken, Flora Celtica: Plants and People in Scotland
In Scotland, after the house is cleaned top to bottom, Juniper is burned in the hearth and carried to every room of the house on New Year’s Eve, as a type of ritual purification by smoke. Juniper can be burned before the entrance to the house or barn at any time, to ward off ill luck and disease. Burn it as incense to bring peace to the home.
For the strongest magical effect, pull the plant out by the roots and tie the branches into four bundles, held between five fingers as you sing a charm.
Juniper is the herb that gives Gin its distinctive flavor. Make your own home-made Juniper flavored Gin:
Select the ones you like or use all of these
1 (750ml) bottle of Vodka (please buy Vodka in a glass bottle – putting alcohol into plastic can cause it to leach out dangerous chemicals)
2 Tbsp. dried organic or wildcrafted Juniper berries (steep these in the Vodka for a day before you add the other ingredients, if you want a stronger Juniper flavor)
3/4 tsp. organic Coriander seed or ground Coriander
1/4 tsp. ground organic Allspice
1/4 tsp. organic Fennel seed
3 green organic Cardamom pods
3 organic Black Peppercorns
1 fresh organic Bay leaf
1 sprig fresh organic Rosemary
1 piece fresh organic Lemon peel (please scrape off the bitter white pith)
1 sprig fresh organic (not sprayed) Lavender (or 1 tsp. dried organic Lavender flowers)
Clean a glass bottle with hot, soapy water and rinse well.
Add all the solids to the bottle.
Pour in the Vodka.
Shake and then infuse overnight. The berries and seeds will rise to the top, just make sure they’re covered with Vodka. Allow the herbs to steep for a day or two, shaking the bottle at least once a day.
Strain and bottle: Strain it once to catch all the solids, then run it through a coffee filter or a cheese cloth a few times to improve the clarity.
A quicker and simpler version is to use 1 Liter of Vodka, half the peel of one organic Lemon (scrape off the inner white pith) and ¼ cup Juniper berries with maybe a sprig of Lavender or Rosemary. Try experimenting and adjust the spices to your liking, and consider the magical properties of the herbs you choose.
This brew would make a lovely drink for the ritual cup, especially during the warmer summer months. Float a fresh edible flower on top when you serve it.
Note: This book excerpt is for information purposes only, it is not medical advice.