Reportedly used as a ‘visionary herb’ by the Delphic priestesses, who would chew on the leaves to enhance their clairvoyant abilities (after years of training and not to be tried at home) Bay Laurel is in itself a magical Herb, with just a few culinary and medicinal uses, Bay is a wonderful ritual herb with many magical associations and uses.
To Grow; Bays come in a range of sizes and can be easily shaped. I have a huge Bay Tree in my back garden at around 3 metres high and a small Bay in my front garden at around half a metre. They are relatively easily shaped and are popular in topiary. As an evergreen, they flower in Spring with small white buds and they like a sunny spot in well drained soil, they are hardier when planted in the ground, and although do well over winter try to put them somewhere out of direct wind. Bays are easy to grow and look after and if you give them a light pruning in spring, they will also look after you, or Apollo will at any rate.
To Eat; A single Bay Leaf is often added to stocks, stews and tomato dishes to add a savoury flavour, just remember to take it our before eating. Popular in beef dishes for the taste and flavour of its volatile scented oil.
For Medicine; Bay produces a volatile oil that can induce strong reactions from the body so internal use is not recommended. However you can use a weak concoction to ease stomach problems combined with ginger – I have never tried this as I find herbs such as Chamomile and Ginger on its own work very well. This is also the same for bay berries, both of which could increase blood pressure and cause sickness – never consume the berries. However Bay Oil can be used on bruises, or for sore muscles if the skin is not broken.
For Magic; Bay is a wonderfully magical herb and is one I would not do without in my garden. Sacred to the God Apollo, Bay can be used for purification, protection and divination. In Greek mythology Apollo fell in love with the nymph Daphne, however she preferred roaming woodlands to any proposed lover and spurned him, so he chased her through the woods forcing her to beg her Father Peneus to help her, at which point he changed her into a Bay Laurel. As he could no longer possess her human form, Apollo proclaimed that he would protect and tend the tree for all eternity and let no harm come to it, and from that day forth Bay Laurel leaves do not decay. I always have bay leaves drying ready to use in the kitchen. Favoured by the Greeks and Romans, Bay is said to attract love, and would be used by the priestesses at Delphi to enhance their visions. You may also be familiar with the wreaths of Bay around victorious athletes heads. I primarily like Bay to be planted in both my front and back garden as a herb of protection and it is wonderful when a small amount is thrown into a fire as the oil acts much like pine oil and will burn spectacularly giving off the most wonderful aroma. You can write wishes on the leaves before you burn them. You can also try sleeping with Bay Leaves under your pillow to attract prophetic dreams.To use to attract love, offer the leaves to the fire whilst being clear of your intent. Bay ‘Wish Boxes’ can also be given to friends/family – which are decorated and hold 3 leaves inside – they can then make a wish during the waxing moon. I would also personally burn the leaves – but I am particularly drawn to fire in rituals and understand if people find burying or sending into water just as effective. Take a few leaves of Bay out with you in your purse to deter unwanted male attention. Bay is also excellent for expelling negative energy, place leaves in the corners of your room to protect the inhabitants, or place a few leaves in a jar or glass half filled with Sea Salt, this will also help to purify the space.