wisdom, inspiration & illumination
Purification, protection & prosperity
the sun, Leo, fire & masculinity
Bay leaf is familiar to many of us magical folk. Something that we already had on hand when we first began dabbling. And for many, it is an unremarkable kitchen staple and an easily found ingredient for the occult when practicing on the down low.
The bay laurel has been used since antiquity. It is one of the world’s oldest cultivated trees and a symbol of divine wisdom, inspiration, illumination, and metamorphosis.
Bay leaves are burned for prosperity, to produce visions, to heal, for protection, and to purify a space of bad energy. Bay is ruled by the sun, Leo, fire, and masculine energy.
Bay laurels are said to be intimately linked with their caregivers. When you plant and care for the tree you propagate good vibes. There’s something very special about growing your own plants for magical use; having your own energy worked into the plants makes them very potent.
However, bay trees do not grow well in many places. Native to the Mediterranean, it does not like cold weather, but it can be kept as a container plant. It must be placed in a sunny window! And it is recommended that it be brought outside to enjoy the full summer sun for it to thrive.
In the wild, left unpruned, it can grow quite tall — up to 60 feet! Keeping it in a container will severely limit the plant’s size, but the plant can still use pruning. In fact, some bay trees are pruned into topiaries and their trunks can be trained into braids.
It is important when choosing a tree to find a variety that is not ornamental as there are ornamental varieties of bay! Some trees labelled simply as ‘bay’ are potentially poisonous. Always look for the latin name Laurus nobilis.
Use pruned leaves or ones that fall off naturally. They can be picked year round! They are easily dried in the oven at a low setting (170 F) for about an hour and can be stored in an airtight container for up to a year.
When using bay, you are primarily using the leaves — and they have many uses. Bay leaves places under your pillow can bring on prophetic dreams. They are good for smudging and can be used in baths to relieve stress. Wreaths or crowns can be worn for protection or healing or as symbols of success. Or keep a couple leaves in your wallet or change jar to take advantage of bay’s money-drawing aspects.
A common use is to write directly on leaves and burn them for binding and banishing, to break curses, for imbuing wisdom, and for releasing wishes into the universe. They can also be wrapped alone or with other herbs into smudge sticks.
It is said that one can throw a handful on a fire and watch the crackling fire for visions of the future — try it during a fire festival like Beltane or Midsummer.
In the kitchen, bay is used in a variety of dishes from fish to tomato sauces. I use bay leaves most often in a protective, healing soup stock. Here’s a recipe for a simple, nutritional stock. You will need half a bunch of celery, 1 onion, 4-5 carrots, a chicken or turkey carcass, 4 cloves of garlic, two bay leaves and other pantry herbs such as rosemary and thyme.
Chop celery, carrots and onion into large pieces. Add to a large soup pot with chicken/turkey carcass and whole nettles. Flavor to taste with herbs, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for 2 hours. Strain out solid matter and freeze for later use.