Taraxacum officinale. For such a common herb, either passed by completely or deluged with Round-Up by perfectionist lawn manicurists, the ubiquitous dandelion is a weed of many layers (though related neither to onions nor ogres). If there is one flower which personifies childhood, it would be this sunny, seed-spreading weed. In fact, the first “spells” most of us learn come to us through playtime rituals around the dandelion: divination of time by blowing away the seeds, sympathetic magic through decapitation of the yellow flowers in place of hated classmates or teachers. Thus it’s little surprise that some associate her with Hecate (Cunningham 2003, 99), who is among other things an initiatrix into the ways of magic.
Most magical writers link the dandelion with Jupiter (Cunningham 2003, 99), partly because of the medicinal quality of its juice (Beyerl 1984, 94), and partly, I would guess, because of the prolific number of seeds each plant creates. Using the seeds to represent proliferation of ideas, and the spreading of success and possibilities seems well within the realm of Jupiter. And the connection with the element of Air is rather obvious to say the least—if you’re not sure, watch a field of dandelions on a windy day and see what happens!
However, there are certainly association to be made with the Sun as well. As Beyerl notes, dandelion flowers close up when the skies darken (1984, 94). And it’s a no-brainer as to which celestial object that bright yellow flower reminds us. Hopman observes that the flowers are ritually gathered in Brittany at Midsummer, and asserts a possible connection with Belenos (1995, 49), a bright Gaulish god associated with Apollo by the Romans. The Sun aspects of the dandelion focus on magic of increase, communication and healing.
Meanwhile, I believe that this plant also has Lunar qualities, especially during its downy seed-bearing stage. They can be used in weather magic to predict rain on a still day, and in dream interpretations to warn of difficult change ahead (Beyerl 184, 94). A dandelion tea promotes psychic abilities (Hopman 1995, 49); the same tea placed beside the bed will help draw spirits to you (Cunningham 2003, 99); in dream interpretations dandelions appear to warn of difficult change ahead (Beyerl 184, 94). For some more active spells, on the full moon, blow a dandelion’s wishes to the wind to come true (Hopman 1995, 49); or use the puffs to tell the length of a life, or send message to loved one (Cunningham 2003, 99).
To return to the practical (and tasty!) side of things, dandelions are absolutely packed with nutrients: iron, copper, calcium vitamins A and E, chloride, magnesium, silica, and potassium (Beyerl 184, 94). Gather them young to avoid bitterness. And though reviled by many gardeners as noxious weeds, dandelions can in fact be a useful companion plant, helping shallow-rooted plants by bringing nutrients up from the soil with their deep taproots.
So when you begin to see these spiky leaves poking through the soil in the spring, grab your basket and celebrate with a feast of dandelion greens. Not only will you be harvesting a wonderfully nutritious food-source, but you will literally be taking the magic of this plant into yourself, balancing Growth, Cleansing, and Intuition with every forkfull.
Next week: Datura.