It’s so easy to find lists online referencing the magical properties of herbs including genders, planets, and elements. However, I wanted to know WHY and the historical origins regarding who assigned these plant and herb magical properties.
I’m aware that this may be a bit of a controversial conversation so I referenced all of my sources below each section. If you have any questions or believe there are corrections to be made please comment below. I truly hope you find this knowledge helpful to your spiritual practice!
These magical properties of herbs focus on folklore and magical uses rather than medicinal purposes. This is a beginner’s guide to incorporating botanical and herb magic into your spiritual practices and improving your knowledge. Hopefully, this information will inspire and empower you to add more herbal intentions and spirituality into your daily life.
Always speak to your physician or health care provider to avoid any side effects, interactions, or to discuss your specific health care needs.
Please note that I make every effort to ensure this information is correct and accurate through my own experiences and referencing sources throughout and at the bottom of this article.
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Table of Contents
Why Do The Magical Properties of Herbs Have Spiritual Ruling Planet Correspondences?
The assigning of planets to specific herbs originates with Nicholas Culpeper, an English herbalist born in 1616.
At the time, most apothecaries (a blend of a general practitioner, pharmacist, and chemist) referenced the text Pharmacopoeia Londinensis to perform medical treatments.
Unfortunately, it was written in Latin, and most people were not fluent. This gave medical practitioners an advantage since folks had to pay a hefty price to receive medical help.
Nicholas Culpeper attended Cambridge and was fluent in Latin. Not only did he translate the Pharmacopoeia text, but he also cited many errors, and then sold it at a very cheap and affordable price. As you can imagine, apothecaries were not pleased.
He combined his scientific studies with astrology, grouping plants and herbs based on assorted traits and linked those to certain Roman gods or goddesses. He then used this as a guide to formulate a treatment.
Nicholas Culpeper wrote The English Physitian (yes that’s the correct spelling), which later became known as “Culpeper’s Complete Herbal” and is still available for purchase today (this version is modernized with illustrations added).
Below is an excerpt in which he explains how to cure diseases by identifying their proper planet. Then he suggests using herbs from an opposite planet or herbs synonymous with that planet to heal the ailment.
And herein let me premise a word or two. The Herbs, Plants, [etc]. are now in the book appropriated to their proper planets.
Therefore, First, Consider what planet causeth the disease; that thou mayest find it in my aforesaid Judgment of Diseases.
Secondly, Consider what part of the body is afflicted by the disease, and whether it lies in the flesh, or blood, or bones, or ventricles.
Thirdly, Consider by what planet the afflicted part of the body is governed: that my Judgment of Diseases will inform you also.
Fourthly, You may oppose diseases by Herbs of the planet, opposite to the planet that causes them: as diseases of Jupiter by herbs of Mercury, and the contrary; diseases of the Luminaries by the herbs of Saturn, and the contrary; diseases of Mars by herbs of Venus, and the contrary.
Fifthly, There is a way to cure diseases sometimes by Sympathy, and so every planet cures his own disease; as the Sun and Moon by their Herbs cure the Eyes, Saturn the Spleen, Jupiter the liver, Mars the Gall and diseases of choler, and Venus diseases in the instruments of Generation.Culpeper’s Complete Herbal
I want to note that Culpeper does not mention Neptune, Uranus, or Pluto because they had not yet been officially discovered.
Sources Used For Planet Correspondences
Culpeper’s English Physitian; and complete herbal, by Nicholas Culpeper
Further Suggested Reading
Why do the Magical Properties of Herbs have Feminine and Masculine Gender Correspondences?
In this section, I’ll be speaking about spiritual gender correspondences. If you’re interested in a more scientific explanation check out this article by Britannica.com for more details.
While researching the gender classification origins of herbs and botanicals, Scott Cunningham’s book “Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs” is being used as the main source for many blogs, publications, and books.
Mr. Cunningham is specifically a Wiccan author, so if you follow Wicca, this should not be a problem for you. However, if you do not follow that particular spiritual path, you may find it frustrating to use it as a main source of information.
It’s important to note that many of the publications Scott Cunningham sources for his book plainly reference Voodoo, Hawaiian, Middle Eastern, Shaman, Native American, Mexican, and Egyptian practices. It also references texts which use the derogatory word for Romani people.
He also states he sourced material from Aleister Crowley and implies Mr. Crowley probably stole a large amount of his work from Samuel Mathers (a founder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) without citing him.
To Scott Cunningham’s credit, he does state he believes this is an old way of categorizing herbs, and he tried to avoid sexist meanings by avoiding the words male and female.
I strongly believe that gendering a plant’s spiritual intentions is an outdated practice that is not needed to work with the plant’s magical properties. It’s more beneficial to consider the plant’s uses and how you personally connect to them versus any preconceived idea of a plant’s spiritual “gender.”
If you’re interested in Scott Cunningham’s reasoning for assigning gender classifications, he states –
Masculine herbs are those which are possessed of strong, fiery vibrations.
These are the herbs which are actually used for protection, purification, hex-breaking, exorcism, lust, to maintain sexual potency, health, strength, courage, and so on, as well as any that strengthen the mind; feminine herbs are plants in which are quieter, subtler, softer in their effects.
Thus they are used to attract love, increase beauty, recapture youth, aid in healing and developing psychic powers, increase fertility, draw wealth, promote happiness and peace, aid sleep and spirituality, and cause visions.Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs
If you’d like to know more about the magical properties of Lavender check out this post for history, folklore, and many more magical purposes!
Please make sure to research any plant to avoid consuming or ingesting any toxic or poisonous herbs or plants.
Why Do The Magical Properties of Herbs Have Spiritual Element Associations?
The historical origins of element associations assigned to plants and herbs came to fruition due to multiple philosophers’ work over the course of many years.
It all begins with the Greek philosopher Empedocles (495 BCE–430 BCE) who identified the four elements Air, Earth, Water, and Fire.
Hippocrates (460 BCE–370 BCE) built upon Empedocles’s work and created the theory of the Four Humors. This theory was later expanded on and popularized by the Greek philosopher Aristotle and the Roman physician, Claudius Galen.
This theory stated that the body held four different humors – blood, phlegm, choler (yellow bile), and melancholy (black bile). Each humor was ruled by different elements, seasons, organs, planets, etc.
Claudius Galen believed that you needed to keep your humors in balance or it would affect your emotions, physical health, and even determine if you were a good person.
Ailments and afflictions were believed to be due to your four humors being out of balance. Humor balance could be properly restored by consuming or using the appropriate herb, which correlated with the corresponding element.
Here is a breakdown of each humor and its correspondences according to the United States National Library of Medicine.
- Humor: Black Bile
- Element: Earth
- Season: Winter
- Age: Old Age
- Qualities: Cold & Dry
- Organ: Spleen
- Planet: Saturn
- Humor: Phlegm
- Element: Water
- Season: Autumn
- Age: Maturity
- Qualities: Cold & Moist
- Organ: Brain
- Planet: Moon
- Humor: Yellow Bile
- Element: Fire
- Season: Summer
- Age: Childhood
- Qualities: Hot & Dry
- Organ: Gall Bladder
- Planet: Mars
- Humor: Blood
- Element: Air
- Season: Spring
- Age: Adolescence
- Qualities: Hot & Moist
- Organ: Heart
- Planet: Jupiter
Sources Used For Element Associations
Further Suggested Reading
Shakespeare and the Four Humours by The Wellcome Collection (a free museum and library connecting science, medicine, life, and art)
I hope you found this post on the origins of the magical properties of herbs helpful, lots of love to you, and remember as always…