Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wortcunning: Lady's Mantle {Alchemilla vulgaris}

Photo from Jina Lee
Our Lady's Mantle ! When I musing stray
In leafy June along the mossy sward,
No flower that blooms more fixes my regard
Than thy green leaf, though simple its array;
For thou to me art as some minstrel's lay,
Depicting manners of the olden time,
When on Inch Cailliach's isle the convent chime
Summoned to Vespers at the close of day.
Tis pleasant 'mid the never-ending strife
Of this too busy, mammon-loving age,
When Nature's gentler charms so few engage,
To muse at leisure on the quiet life
Of earlier days, when every humble flower
Was known to all, and cherished as a dower.

~To Our Lady's Mantle from Sonnets and Miscellaneous Poems By James Inglis, 1853

Other Names: Common Lady's Mantle, Lion's Foot, Copan an Druichd, Bear's Foot, Falluing Mhuire,  Nine Hooks, Frauenmantle, Pied-de-lion.

Description: Lady's mantle is a lovely perennial that is a member of the rosaceae family. It can be found growing in the wild in England, Scotland, Canada, Greenland, and in much of Northern Europe and Asia.

It could be described as a demure plant, but as Ms Grieve said 'the rich form of its foliage and the beautiful shape of its clustering blossoms make it worthy of notice'.
From Wikimedia Commons
It is a low growing plant that doesn't grow to much more than 14 inches in height, and it has pretty yellowish-green flowers free of petals. It's prize feature is the wonderfully 'scalloped' leaves, which is said to resemble the Virgin Mary's cloak, from which it gets its name.

Warnings: As with all herbs, one should make sure to be thoroughly informed before ingesting them, and is best to do so under the guidance of a qualified healer.

Lady's mantle has reportedly been linked with liver damage in some cases, and many herbalists warn to women notify their health practitioner if they are pregnant or breastfeeding before ingesting the herb.

Cultivating: The natural habitat of lady's mantle is quite vast from meadows, sunny woodlands, by streams and other moist areas, as well as mountainous regions. It is a plant that does well in cooler climates and is generally thought to be suitable for hardiness zones 3 to 7.

Growing it from seed can be sometimes difficult, so it might be easier just to by seedlings or plants from a nursery. If you are going to grow it from seed, just keep in mind that it is quite slow to germinate.

Plant in the spring once there is no more chance of frost, in a spot that is anywhere from full sun to partial shade. It will do well in just about any type of soil, just make sure it is well-drained.

Mulching is a good idea, but lady's mantle is apparently quite drought-resistant. Also keep in mind that if it is doing well, it will drop plenty of seeds and spread, so you can always dead head the flowers if you want to have some control over this.

Some other plants that looks beautiful growing with lady's mantle are poppy, iris, fleabane, phlox, lily, and catmint.

Medicinal/Remedial Properties and Lore: Astringent, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, sedative, styptic, tonic, vulnerary.

Lady's mantle has a long history of use for healing an assortment of ailments: from wounds and bruises, to vomiting and other stomach problems, as well as women's complaints.

One of the most interesting recommendations I found was from good old Culpeper who said, 'such women that have large breasts, causing them to grow less and hard, being both drank and outwordly applied'.

He also suggested its use for women who wished to conceive by drinking a tea, and claimed that it was great for wounds 'green, not suffering any corruption to remain behind, and cures all old sores, though fistulois and hollow'.

Onto Brother Aloysius, who recommended it for heavy bleeding, ulcerated lungs, dysentery, consumption, and ulcers. Like Culpeper, he also mentions in its helpfulness in the boob department, but this time for 'swollen' breasts.

Susun Weed proposes a tincture of fresh root as 'an excellent blood coagulant' and advocates its use for all types of 'female problems' {Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year}.

I can attest the helpfulness of lady's mantle when it comes to PMS and periods; I like making a tea with it paired with lemon balm {also great for these issues} because it does taste a little bitter and lemon balm has a more pleasant taste.

Photo from Aconcagua
Magical Properties and Lore:
The Latin name Alchemilla roughly translates 'small magical one', and was a plant of Alchemists who collected the dew found on the leaves for their workings.

In the book Folk-Lore of Women by Thomas Firminger Thiselton-Dyer (1906) it is said that lady's mantle 'was once in great repute with ladies; for, according to Hoffman, it had the power of restoring feminine beauty, however faded, to its early freshness'. Some women would collect dew found on the leaves on Bealtaine morning for this purpose.

Associated with the Virgin Mary, as the leaves are said to resemble her mantle, I also remember hearing a story when I was younger that the leaves were used as cloaks by the Good Folk.

Because of its use in women's health and healing, I have come to associate lady's mantle with the Goddesses Brigid {there is speculation by some folks that it is a herb historically tied to her} and Airmid.

According to some lady's mantle is connected to the planet and Goddess Venus, as well as other fertility, and Earth Goddesses. In some Swedish {and other Northern European traditions} it is placed under a woman's pillow if she wishes to dream of her future children; if worn in her hair during sex she would certainly become with child.

It was thought to ward off storms in Eastern Europe by burning it in a fire and letting the smoke go to the sky, or by hanging in windows and doors a farm would be kept safe from Nature's wrath.

In Polish-American Folklore by Deborah Anders Silverman she says that small wreaths of various types of herbs including lady's mantle are hung in homes to ward off evil spirits.

This is a herb that I like to use in tealeaf readings when the topic is one of love involving women {romantic, family, or platonic} and fertility of all types. I also think it is a splendid herb for love workings and for decorating on Bealtaine and Midsummer.

Other Uses:
The young leaves of lady's mantle are edible and can be served up raw or cooked, and the roots are also edible cooked.

It can also be used in beauty treatments! Below are some links to a few nifty recipes for you to try:

Hand lotion, facial steam, and bath vinegar

Hand mask




Anonymous said...

very informative! i use it to stop bleeding in cuts and scrapes.

Anonymous said...

It is good to see that there are people who still do some research. Your blog is a real pleasure for the folklorist.

May She bless you...


nefaeria said...

Anon: That is a use I have not tried it for. Thanks for the input :)

Pyke: Thanks :) I suppose it is difficult to sift through misinformation, but if you scour the blogs on our reading list, you will find many who take the time to research things!

Anonymous said...

Hi! Can you tell me where can I find these tea in Cork?
I ve just moved here. Many thanks!