The magical properties of Dittany
Every place has its own special herbs. That is why witches from around the world used the herbs that were available to them instantly. Many of the herbs have similar properties and powers. This means that different herbs could be used for the same incantation or cure. If a witch couldn’t find a specific herb she was always looking for its substitute. However, some of them were highly popular and very specific to what the witch was trying to achieve. One of them is Dittany.
Dittany of Crete is a very powerful herb that has been used since Minoan times. It took its name from the mountain range Dicte. Crete is also known as Erodas or Stomachoxorto. Its different names correspond to its innumerable values. It was used to cure stomach cramps, the cold and to alleviate pain in the digestive tract. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, refers to its invaluable properties as well. The name Erodas refers to its reputation as a love spell herb.
Once upon a time
According to a legend, Deus offered the herb with all its powers as gratitude to the island in which he grew up and was protected from his father Cronus’s range.
Another myth refers to its therapeutic properties. Aeneas, after the Trojan War, went to Rome, where he got shot by an arrow and was in a fatal condition. The healers couldn’t pull the arrow out of his wound. Then his mother Aphrodite brought from Crete the powerful herb and she applied an ointment made from dittany onto his wound. The arrow immediately fell off by itself and Aeneas was healed.
Another goddess who dittany is connected with is Artemis. Her infallible and deadly shots could only be cured by herself using dittany on the wounds. In many cases, Artemis was depicted to wear a dittany crown on her head.
It is believed that dittany is the herb that wounded animals seek out, and grazing is one of the reasons why its numbers have significantly declined.
Eileithyia was the goddess of childbirth and midwifery. Dittany is also connected with this deity as it alleviates the birth pains and helps with delivery. For that reason, Hippocrates named it “ocytocion” (ωκυτόκιον) which means the “labour helper”.
Because dittany is growing in rugged places like ravines and steep cliffs, brave men would look for it there as a gesture of love and passion. From these legends, dittany gets its other name Erodas, which refers to the God of love, Eros.
I am real
Dittany grows originally only on the Cretan mountains. It is a small, scented plant. It is as high as 40cm/15inches. It has wide, thick and fluffy leaves. The violet colour of its small flowers dyes the rocks that surround the plant. As a beverage, it has a strong, bitter flavour. Dittany is a medicine that mother nature has provided us with. However extensive foraging had decreased its numbers. Although, nowadays there are dittany cultivations in other countries in the world like France and Algeria which makes it more accessible.
In modern medicine dittany is considered an anticonvulsant, it prevents the pathogenic action of germs, helps with diabetic disorders and prevents circulation and cardiac problems. As a balm, it can be used as hemostatic and antiseptic.
I put a spell on you
The eastern witches knew all that, so dittany was never missing from their shelves. As an aphrodisiac, it would often be used as an ingredient in love spell recipes. Also, in the old days, many witches used to operate as midwives. They used dittany to help with labor and made dittany beverages for women with period problems.
By observing the kri- kri, the Cretan goats, the old healers realised that the animals used it as a cure to their wounds. The wounded by a hunter’s shot animal was seeking the plant onto the steep cliffs. When found it chewed the herb and then licked its wounds with it.
The old witches had the power to call on the departed souls. Especially the souls of soldiers who had died by a shot. It was believed that the soldiers who had died on the field were carrying their wounds with them to the Underworld. In that case, the old witches used dittany incense to communicate with them. The smell of dittany could attract and soften the pain of a departed soul and come to their help and advice.