Thistle is a dear plant friend and ally full of medicine and magick. It’s a protective plant, teaching us how to be confident and how to stand up for ourselves with grace. It grew in my gardens last year, as the plants we need around us tend to do when we’re not too busy trying to control everything. There in its unassuming yet prickly stance, it offered me wisdom. The thorns are an obvious signature for protection, the uprightness of the stalk a sign of confidence. Despite its prickly outward signatures, thistle is often made into a balm to heal wounds. As any spiritual worker or healer knows how to harm and how to heal, so do the plants themselves contain this wisdom and ability.
Thistle is the national flower of Scotland. Legend states that Scottish warriors were alerted to an army of Norse invaders when one of them stepped barefoot on a thistle and cried out. The Scottish warriors were able to defeat the Norse because of their thistle ally. The Most Ancient and Noble Order of the Thistle, an order of chivalry in Scotland, has a thistle as their emblem with the phrase “No one attacks me with impunity.” This is a testament to the power of thistle both literally and energetically.
The Energy and Medicine of Thistle
Thistle has the reputation of warrior and carries strong yang energy. The roots grow deeply and vertically into the earth, providing a solid base for upward growth. The energy of this plant enhances our own yang qualities such as integrity and honesty. The seeds of thistle are like parachutes when released, and with the wind carrying them far, this a plant associated with freedom and limitlessness. The inevitable comedown of the seeds (as a parachute must come down) is a signature for the way thistle works within our bodies: it makes toxins come down and out of the body.
Despite all that thistle has to offer, it’s common practice to pull this plant from the garden and discard it. Although it’s no fun to step on with bare feet, it offers us many gifts both spiritual and practical. There are a variety of thistle species with which we can work. Holy Basil is a very bitter tonic. The leaves and flowering tops stimulate secretions in the stomach, gallbladder, and salivary glands to improve digestion. Milk Thistle, also known as “Our Lady’s Thistle” and “St. Mary’s Thistle” eases melancholy and protects the liver from damage from alcohol and other poisons. Milk Thistle is nontoxic, and you can eat it as a table green. It’s incredibly nutritive.
Thistle Lore and Magick
It is said that the white veins of Milk Thistle come from the milk of Mother Mary herself. The Goddess in whichever form she shows (whether Mary, Isis, Hekate, Inanna, Kwan Yin, and so on) does so with love, protection, and grace. This feminine correlation is interesting in conjunction with the more overt or yang correlations. Milk Thistle has a traditional medicinal use for increasing the flow of breast milk. Some of these protective qualities associated with yang energy fit well within the context of “mother bear” energy, and the balance of love with boundaries.
Thistle provides protection for all forms of travel, including astral travel. There is an ancient association between thistle and witches. According to Christopher Penczak in The Magickal Botanical Oracle, “witches flying through the air are said to be light as thistledown.” For hex-breaking, for protection magick, and in spells for courage, for healing, and to increase vitality, work with thistle. This plant is deeply connected with the energy of Mars.
To break a hex with thistle, stuff a poppet with the plant to remove the hex and bring vitality to the person for which the poppet was created. Allow thistle to grow in your gardens to bring protection to your property. Sew the seeds into a poppet for courage (literally sowing the seeds of courage). You can meditate with this plant to gain wisdom. Keep some thitstle in a sachet on you for astral and physical travel protection as well.
*Medicinal content is for informational purposes only.