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By Witchipedia, Herbs

Mullein: Folklore, Spiritual and Magical Uses

Updated on:

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Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)

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Reviewed by: Tina Caro

Mullein is a biennial herb (Verbascum thapsus) with large (up to a foot long) rosettes of thick, woolly, grey-green leaves the first year. The long, leafy flower stalk appears the second year with a spike of yellow five-petaled flowers at the top in late July or August. Leaves are alternate, woolly and much longer than they are wide.

They can be 4-12 inches long and 1-5 inches wide. They are larger at the bottom of the plant, and become smaller near the top. Seeds appear in the fall and are pitted, rough and grooved. They can stay dormant for many years and still germinate.

Mullein is a native of Europe and Asia and is a naturalized import in the United States. It is common throughout parts of the Midwest and the Eastern United States. It can be found in any open area, along roadsides, ditches, waste areas, etc.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Mullein, a versatile herb with a rich history, has been used for centuries in various cultures for its medicinal and magical properties.

This plant, native to Europe and Asia, now thrives in many parts of North America, making it readily available to harvest.

Harvesting and preserving the leaves and flowers correctly is crucial for maintaining their therapeutic qualities, often employed in traditional household remedies.

Beyond its medicinal uses, Mullein holds spiritual significance in various belief systems, with practitioners incorporating it into rituals and spells.

History and Folklore

Mullein was first introduced into the United States in the 1700s when it was used to poison fish in Virginia.

Some sources say that this was the plant that Odysseus/Ulysses took to protect himself from Circe’s bewitchment, which she apparently brought about using enchanter’s nightshade.

Folklore/LegendDescription
Wards off Evil SpiritsMullein has been believed to have protective properties, capable of warding off evil spirits.
Divine ConnectionIn some traditions, Mullein is associated with the divine and believed to aid in spiritual connection.
Fairy AssociationsAccording to folklore, Mullein attracts fairies and can be used to communicate with the fairy realm.
Ancient Torch UsageThe dried stems of Mullein were historically used as torches, possibly due to their tall, sturdy nature.
Fortune TellingMullein leaves were sometimes used in fortune-telling rituals, where their patterns were interpreted to reveal future events.
Table 1: Mullein Folklore and Legends

Common names

Common Mullein, Great Mullein, White Mullein, Woolly Mullein, Torches, Mullein Dock, Our Lady’s Flannel, Velvet Dock, Blanket Herb, Velvet Plant, Woolen Rag, Woolen, Rag Paper, Candlewick Plant, Wild Ice Leaf, Clown’s Lungwort, Bullocks Lungwort, Aaron’s Rod, Jupiter’s Staff, Jacob’s Staff, Peter’s Staff, Shepherd’s Staff, Shepherd’s Clubs, Beggar’s Stalk, Golden Rod, Adam’s Flannel, Beggar’s Blanket, Clot, Cuddy’s Lungs, Duffle, Feltwort, Fluffweed, Hare’s Beard, Old Man’s Flannel, Hag’s Taper, Hedge Taper, Candelaria, Quaker Rouge, Graveyard Dirt

Verbascum sinuatum flowers and buds.

Spiritual and Magical Use

Mullein is ruled by Mercury (according to Agrippa) or Saturn (according to Culpepper) and is associated with the element of fire. It is feminine in nature and associated with the God Jupiter. It may or may not be one of the herbs mentioned in the nine herbs charm- opinions differ on this.

Wearing it can give you courage during tough times. It’s also thought to attract love when carried. Placing it under your pillow can protect you from bad dreams. In places like India, it’s used to guard against evil spirits and spells.

It can even banish demons and negativity. Its leaves, when powdered, can be used in rituals. Mixing it with salt and lead makes a strong protective charm for your home.

Carrying it can shield you from harm. Overall, Mullein offers protection and strength to those who believe in its magic.

UseDescription
Spiritual CleansingMullein leaves or flowers can be used in spiritual cleansing rituals to purify and clear energies.
Dream Work and DivinationMullein is believed to enhance dream work and aid in divination practices, promoting intuitive insight.
Protection and WardingThe leaves or dried flowers of Mullein can be used in protective spells and rituals to ward off negative energies or spirits.
Herbal SmokingDried Mullein leaves can be used as a base for herbal smoking blends, offering a gentle, soothing smoke.
Ritual OfferingsMullein flowers are sometimes used as offerings in rituals and ceremonies to honor deities or spirits.
Table 2: Spiritual and Magical Uses of Mullein

If you are making your own candles for ritual, consider using Mullein stalks for the wicks. Or the whole stalk may be burnt as a candle of itself. In Indian lore, mullein is considered a sure safeguard against evil spirits and magic.

Some suggest using powdered mullein in spells that call for graveyard dirt.

Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus), flowering plant, cultivated in Wrocław University Botanical Garden, Wrocław, Poland.

Magical Correspondences of Mullein

CorrespondenceDescription
ElementMullein is associated with the element of Fire, representing transformation, passion, and energy.
Planetary AssociationMullein is associated with the planet Saturn, known for its influences on protection and spirituality.
Magical PropertiesMullein is believed to possess properties of protection, purification, courage, and divination.
Associated DeitiesDeities associated with Mullein include Hecate, the goddess of witchcraft, magic, and crossroads.
Lunar ConnectionMullein is sometimes connected with the Moon and its lunar energies, especially during the Full Moon.

Cultivation

Mullein can grow just about everywhere that it can get full sunlight and, as such, can be a troublesome weed. It reseeds profusely and the seeds can remain dormant and viable in the soil for many years. It prefers dry, sandy soils, but it’s not picky.

It requires at least 6 inches of precipitation per year and a growing season of at least 140 days. Seeds are more likely to germinate on or near the surface in loose soil.

Take care to cut the flower stalk after you’ve collected as many seeds as you need or your mullein could go crazy and take over! This is considered an invasive species.

Mullein may be bothered by weevils and slugs.

Harvesting and Preservation

Mullein is easy to cultivate and is considered a weed, so most people won’t mind if you collect it from the wild.

Be sure to get permission from landowners before collecting and never collect any plant from a state, national park, or wildlife preserve without express permission.

Mullein has a relatively shallow taproot, so it’s easy just to pull up the whole plant.

The whole plant can be hung upside down to dry over a paper bag to catch seeds that may fall out.

CAUTION: The small hairs, which cover every inch of a Mullein plant, are very irritating to the skin and mucous membranes. Be careful when harvesting, and always filter liquids very well with Mullein to remove small hairs before ingesting them.

Household Use

Mullein is attractive to many types of insects and can be used to attract butterflies, honey bees and other visitors to your garden.

The flowers can be boiled to yield a bright yellow dye that can be useful for dying cloth or hair. Adding sulfuric acid (lower the Ph) will produce a green dye. Adding alkali (raise the Ph) to that will produce a brown dye.

An extract of the leaves can be used to prevent the growth of mosquito larvae.

The dried leaves and stem make excellent tinder and can be used for lamp wicks.

Medical Use

Mullein is a great expectorant, soothing coughs and congestion, and loosening phlegm. It also has very mild sedative properties. As such, it is the perfect tea for colds.

Be sure, however, to strain the tea through a cloth bag before serving to remove the tiny hairs that will cause even more suffering through mouth and throat irritation.

Mullein tea with a bit of milk is also useful in the treatment of diarrhea.

A sweetened infusion of the flowers, carefully strained can also be used to treat colic.

Mullein can also be smoked to relieve chronic cough and asthma. Get a cigarette machine so that you can stuff it into filtered cigarettes rather than rolling it so that the tiny irritating hairs can be filtered out.

Poultices of mullein leaves can be used for hemorrhoids.

Infusing bruised mullein leaves in olive oil yields a useful treatment for frostbite and burns. The warmed oil can also be dropped into the ear to treat ear infections as well. This oil will have anti-bacterial properties.

Tincture of mullein is useful for migraines and chronic inner-ear disorders. Take 8 to 10 drops of tincture several times a day with cold water.

Additional Notes

The little fuzzy hairs which cover every inch of a mullein plant are very irritating to the skin and mucous membranes. Use care when collecting, and always strain liquids with mullein in them very well to remove the little hairs before ingesting. Never smoke mullein without a filter! (Not that we are advocating smoking anything).

About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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