Witches Have Worts (not Warts)

Like me, you probably grew up hearing that witches and warts went together like professional wrestlers and spandex. As you may have also noticed, those nasty skin bumps caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) do not solely affect the magical of us. It’s unfortunate that mythical connection between witches and warts is strong in common culture yet the connection of witches and worts is weak.

What’s a Wort?

Think plants. St. John’s Wort, or St. Joan’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is likely the first greenblood that comes to mind. Often toted as a great herb for depression, it also helps with inflammation and a slew of other associated conditions. Witches have been partnering with worts since time immemorial to heal themselves and their fellow humans.  Worts are any plant, lichen or fungus used for healing. The old Germanic version, wyrt, morphed into today’s wort and also relates to “root”. Back in the day, the line between food and medicine was much more blurred and the roots gathered found themselves in everyday teas, brews and stews. Brewers are familiar with worts as the base of their beer, a sweet grainy soup broth which serves as the growth medium for yeasts to transform sugar into alcohol. Check out Stephen Beuhner’s Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers for more on this topic.

The A-Z of Worts

I love the functionality of the English language. Though witches themselves were persecuted and their traditional knowledge was mostly discarded, they managed to preserve herbal wisdom in their plant, fungi and lichen names – sometimes for appearance, sometimes for function. Take a look for yourself at this exhaustive list from Wikipedia:

Witches have SO MANY WORTS. So next time you’re feeling a wart coming on,  grab some mugwort and St. Joan’s Wort and treat that condition!