Articles/Essays From Pagans
September 11th. 2016 ...
Rethinking Heaven: What Happens When We Die?
How Did I Get Here? (My Pagan Journey)
What is Happening in My Psychic Reading?
Wild Mountain Woman: Landscape Goddess
August 12th. 2016 ...
When Reality Rattles your Idea of the Perfect Witch
Hungarian Belief in Fairies
Designing a Pagan Last Will and Testament
July 13th. 2016 ...
What Every Pagan Should Know About Curses
Magic With A Flick of my Finger
An Open Mind and Heart
Finding and Caring for Your Frame Drum
June 13th. 2016 ...
Pollyanna Propaganda: The Distressing Trend of Victim-Blaming in Spirituality
Living a Magickal Life with Fibromyalgia
My Father, My First God
Life is Awesome... and the Flu
May 15th. 2016 ...
Faery Guided Journey
How to Bond with the Elements through Magick
Magical Household Cleaning
Working with the Elements
April 2nd. 2016 ...
An Alternative Conception of Divine Reciprocity
Becoming Wiccan: What I Never Expected
The Fear of Witchcraft
Rebirth By Fire: A Love Letter to Mama Maui and Lady Pele
Blowing Bubbles with the Goddess
Magic in Sentences
The Evolution of Thought Forms
March 28th. 2016 ...
Revisiting The Spiral
Lateral Transcendence: Toward Greater Compassion
Spring Has Sprung!
January 22nd. 2016 ...
Coming Out of the Broom Closet
Energy and Karma
Community and Perception
December 20th. 2015 ...
Introduction to Tarot For the Novice
Magia y Wicca
October 24th. 2015 ...
Facing Your Demons: The Shadow Self
The Dream Eater--A Practical Use of Summoning Talismans
Native American Spirituality Myopia
A Dream Message
Feeling the Pulse of Autumn
October 16th. 2015 ...
Sacred Lands, Sacred Hearts
September 30th. 2015 ...
September 16th. 2015 ...
Nature Worship: or Seeing the Trees for the Ents
Vegan or Vegetarian? The Ethical Debate
August 6th. 2015 ...
Lost - A Pagan Parent's Tale
July 9th. 2015 ...
Love Spells: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
The Magic of Weather
June 7th. 2015 ...
A Pagan Altar
A Minority of a Minority of a Minority
The Consort: Silent Partner or Hidden in Plain Sight?
Why I Bother With Ritual: Poetry and Eikonic Atheism
May 6th. 2015 ...
Gods, Myth, and Ritual in Naturalistic Paganism
I Claim Cronehood
13 Keys: The Crown of Kether
March 29th. 2015 ...
A Thread in the Tapestry of Witchcraft
March 28th. 2015 ...
On Wiccan Magick, Theurgy, Thaumaturgy and Setting Expectations
March 1st. 2015 ...
Choosing to Write a Shadow Book
Historiolae: The Spell Within the Story
February 1st. 2015 ...
Seeker Advice From a Coven Leader
The Three Centers of Paganism
Magick is No Illusion
The Ancient Use of God/Goddess Surnames
The Gods of My Heart
January 1st. 2015 ...
The Six Most Valuable Lessons I've Learned on My Path as a Witch
Manipulation of the Concept of Witchcraft
Publicly Other: Witchcraft in the Suburbs
Pagans All Around Us
Broomstick to the Emerald City
October 20th. 2014 ...
Thoughts on Conjuring Spirits
A Microcosmic View of Ma'at
October 5th. 2014 ...
The History of the Sacred Circle
Abandoning Expectations and Remembering Your Roots
September 28th. 2014 ...
Seeking Pagan Lands for Pagan Burials
Creating a Healing Temple
September 20th. 2014 ...
GOD AND ME (A Pagan's Personal Reply to the New Atheists)
September 7th. 2014 ...
August 31st. 2014 ...
Coven vs. Solitary
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Debunking The Non-Ferrous Metal Myth
Article ID: 14054
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 2,216
Times Read: 4,306
RSS Views: 14,698
Author: Sarah Anne Lawless
Posted: September 5th. 2010
Times Viewed: 4,306
We’ve all heard of urban legends, old wives' tales, and 'fakelore', but we’re too intelligent and have too much access to credible reference materials today to fall for them — don’t we? Unfortunately not. Old wives' tales and fake proverbs abound today in the modern Pagan community thanks to the old culprit of word-of-mouth, as well as forums, and few individuals bothering to check facts or origins. Unexplained rules and fakelore are passed from Pagan to Pagan such as the following well-known proverb, and we’ve all heard it: “You can’t use any tool with iron in it to harvest plants. The blade has to be stone, bone, gold, silver or bronze – anything but iron and steel.” We’ve all heard people spouting this proverb, but where did it come from and what is the reasoning behind it?
This modern myth originates from two separate, possibly second or third hand, accounts from Pliny the Elder (a Roman author and army commander) of Gallic Druids harvesting plants. The first account is about club moss, which, according to folklore, must be harvested with your hands only, with no tools, along with other ritual prescriptions shown in the quote below. As it is moss, this is no great feat to accomplish. The custom could still be found continued in a similar manner by rural folk in Cornwall and other localities until the late 19th century. However, this ritual prescription applies only to club moss and not all plants in general.
“On the third day of the [new] moon, when the thin crescent is seen for the first time, show it the knife with which the moss for the charm is to be cut, and repeat: ‘ As Christ healed the issue of blood, so I bid thee begone. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost’ (Do thou cut what thou cuttest for good!) . At sun-down, having carefully washed the hands, the club-moss is to be cut kneeling. It is to be carefully wrapped in a white cloth, and subsequently boiled in water taken from the spring nearest its place of growth.” (Courtney, p.151)
The second source of the non-ferrous metal myth is Pliny’s famous account of Gallic Druids ritually harvesting mistletoe. Mistletoe was held to be one of the most sacred plants by the Druids and especially rare and potent when found growing on an Oak tree. During the sixth day of the new moon, and at other magical times, the white-robed Druids would sacrifice two bulls and then climb the tree and cut the mistletoe with a “golden” sickle and then wrap the cuttings in a white cloth not letting them touch the ground.
“Having made all due preparation for the sacrifice and a banquet beneath the trees, they [the Druids] bring thither two white bulls, the horns of which are bound then for the first time. Clad in a white robe the priest ascends the tree, and cuts the mistletoe with a golden sickle, which is received by others in a white cloak.” (Pliny, p.436)
Now, this sickle used wasn’t actually made of gold, as gold is a poor metal for weaponry and tools as it is too soft to hold a sharp edge. The sickle was “golden” in colour because it was made of bronze, which is a combination of copper and tin. A bronze sickle wasn’t used because bronze was somehow more sacred than iron or that iron “tainted” plants or magic, but because the Celts and other tribes of Northern Europe and the British Isles were late coming into metalworking compared to other cultures who had advance to the iron age ahead of them. At the time of Pliny’s account the Gallic Druids used bronze because it was their common metal for tools and weapons at the time. The only magic iron protects against and nullifies is that of the fairies who were believed to be the spirits of the dead, but they aren’t plants.
Iron (and steel) implements such as garden shears, scythes, and knives are not taboo for harvesting plants. They do not take away the power of a plant, its magic, or lessen its healing properties. Gold is too soft to hold a sharp edge. Silver is too expensive, damages too easily, and is also too soft to hold a sharp edge. Bronze is a very difficult metal to find today and too expensive to use for a task so dirty and practical. Unless one happens to be a gifted flintknapper, a modern Witch or Pagan will use what is most practical and available just as our ancestors would have. For this Witch, it’s a good pair of garden shears for harvesting plants for medicine and a practical very sharp steel ritual blade with a deer antler handle for harvesting plants for magic. Blades are practical and made for cutting and the metal they are made with should reflect that. There is no need whatsoever to spend $300 on a silver bolline just to be in keeping with this old wives' tale.
The only general method of magical plant harvesting where one should not use metal is when harvesting a plant whole for magic to retain its powers as a living spirit. To do this, one must dig it up whole without breaking any leaves or roots and either use it right away or dry it whole. This is the method for creating an alraun (a root carved in human form) and other such charms. One can still use a metal knife or shovel to do the digging, however, just not touch the plant with it in order to keep it alive and intact. The most practical tool to use for this purpose is just a simple digging stick, which predates the Stone Age. Hardwoods are best to make a digging stick out of, as your stick may have to deal with hard earth, clay, and rocks. Oak, Yew, Hawthorn, Blackthorn, and Holly are all appropriate to make a digging stick with.
Happy harvesting now that you don’t need to worry about using your old garden shears.
1.Bostock, John and Riley, H.T. The Natural History of Pliny. Volume 3. Henry G. Bohn, London: 1856.
2.Courtney, M.A. Cornish Feasts and Folk-lore. Beare and Son, Penzance: 1890.
3.MacLoed NicMhacha, Sharynne. Queen of the Night: Rediscovering the Celtic Moon Goddess. Weiser Books, Boston: 2005.
Copyright: Copyright 2010, Sarah Lawless. All rights reserved. Article may only be distributed or reposted with the permission of the author with full credit given.
Sarah Anne Lawless
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
Author's Profile: To learn more about Sarah Anne Lawless - Click HERE
Other Articles: Sarah Anne Lawless has posted 3 additional articles- View them?
Other Listings: To view ALL of my listings: Click HERE
Email Sarah Anne Lawless... (No, I have NOT opted to receive Pagan Invites! Please do NOT send me anonymous invites to groups, sales and events.)
Web Site Content (including: text - graphics - html - look & feel)
Copyright 1997-2016 The Witches' Voice Inc. All rights reserved
Note: Authors & Artists retain the copyright for their work(s) on this website.
Unauthorized reproduction without prior permission is a violation of copyright laws.
Website structure, evolution and php coding by Fritz Jung on a Macintosh G5.
Any and all personal political opinions expressed in the public listing sections (including, but not restricted to, personals, events, groups, shops, Wrenâ€™s Nest, etc.) are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinion of The Witchesâ€™ Voice, Inc. TWV is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization.
Sponsorship: Visit the Witches' Voice Sponsor Page for info on how you
can help support this Community Resource. Donations ARE Tax Deductible.
The Witches' Voice carries a 501(c)(3) certificate and a Federal Tax ID.
Mail Us: The Witches' Voice Inc., P.O. Box 341018, Tampa, Florida 33694-1018 U.S.A.
of The World
NOTE: The essay on this page contains the writings and opinions of the listed author(s) and is not necessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
The Witches' Voice does not verify or attest to the historical accuracy contained in the content of this essay.
All WitchVox essays contain a valid email address, feel free to send your comments, thoughts or concerns directly to the listed author(s).