Beltane is the Spring festival when summer traditionally begins. It represents the comming together of the masculine and feminine principles to create new life. Suddenly, after the long haul of winter, Spring bursts out in glorious green.
Herbs also represent the masculine and the feminine energies of nature.
These two represent the fiery, stimulating, masculine energy (Jack by the Hedge) and the soft, expulsive, relaxing feminine quality (Jill go by the Hedge). Jill by the Hedge has an aromatic, bitter taste. It was used by the Saxons to clarify their beer (before hops were introduced), hence the name Alehoof. it is a popular remedy for cough and headache due to tension. it was sold in the streets of London as a blood purifier. It is used externally for bruising and abscesses. An infusion was made for inflamed eyes (especially as it flowers at the beginning of the hay fever season). Culpeper, who calls it Alehoff gives it to Venus and says it will cure diseases of Venus by sympathy and Mars by antipathy (see Traditional Western herbal medicine for more details on treatment.) He continues, ‘it is quick, sharp and bitter in taste, and is therefore hot and dry…in a short time it easeth all gripping pains, windy and choleric pains in the stomach, spleen or belly, it helps the yellow jaundice by opening the stopping of the liver and gall, and melancholy by opening the stoppings of the spleen.’ He also recommends it for mouth ulcers, and sore gums. He suggests a mixture of it mixed with daisy and celandine for red and irritated eyes (hay fever again).
Jack by the Hedge is ruled by Mercury and is hot and dry in the fourth degree. It burns off phlegm and helps digestion and the expulsion of phlegmatic humours. It is a mild expectorant and has an antiseptic and bitter, stimulating action. It is one of the oldest herbs, it has been found in graves dating back to 4100BCE in the Baltic. As it is warming and spicy it makes an excellent pesto and can be used in salads and sauces. It is good for hard to shift lung conditions were there is copious phlegm. It boost the immune system so is a good restorative after prolonged illness. Jack by the Hedge is used in male initiation rites and vision quests shown by the Green Man, Hern the Hunter and any playful, wild masculine archetype. Especially useful in adolescence for connecting with the divine masculine.
These two herbs together make a healthful brew at this time of year and can be used in the merrymaking of May time.
The Green Man is that wild, masculine Spirit of the Woods, who is nature, sometimes called Herne the Hunter and Pan. Gerald Gardner called by some the modern father of Wicca.
He was known by the name of Scire and was initiated into a coven in 1939 in the New Forest, Hampshire, England which he claimed was a survival of a pre-Christian cult, (interestingly, Sybil Leek another famous witch claimed the same-but her covens were with the gypsies).Others said he was simply re-working material written by Margaret Murray who wrote The Witch Cult in Western Europe in 1921, claiming there was an uninterrupted link to pre-Christian pagan worship. It was Gardner, who used the term Wicca, which has become widespread. I must say, I was surprised by his chart, I expected more earth. He has Mars in Virgo which may account for the nature worshiping (and perhaps also being sky clad) and Neptune and Mercury in Taurus, which I guess is nature (Taurus) magic (Neptune). His radical Moon in Aquarius trine his Saturn and possibly the Sun in Gemini explains his influential writings, he wrote Witchcraft Today in 1954 which became a classic and was credited with beginning the Wiccan traditions in the USA and Australia. He initiated Doreen Valiente who became his High Priestess. Gardner also corresponded with Robert Graves, author of The White Goddess whose book also concerns the pre-Christian goddess tradition. Whether it was true he was initiated into an ancient line of witches or he revived a dead or perhaps non-existent tradition, he had a profound effect on modern Paganism, especially the feminist revival in the 1970s by women seeking a non-patriarchal spiritual practice which was nature based. Including my own.