(These will be used for dyeing some of the wool for the handfasting cord I'm weaving this year. The leaves produce a lovely buttery golden color, and I love that they come from my parents' home. I'll gather some from Kevin's parents' house too before I actually color the yarn.)
Most of what you read about regarding witchcraft and herbalism is from Europe. That is where the history comes from, you know. It's fascinating and lovely, BUT if your emphasis is on traditional craft using the materials available to you and you live in a totally different climate than the authors of those books, it's not as useful a repository of knowledge as you might like to find. It takes years and loads of patience to communicate with the various species to learn their uses. I'm very much aware of what a neophyte I am in my herbal knowledge. Plus, you sit down to communicate with a plant and it's not very talkative - is it the species or that particular plant?
The main issue is that even if you find what seems like an analogous plant, the energy and usage doesn't necessarily work. I'd like to make a wand, but none of the traditional woods grow in my area, so I want to find a good substitute. For example, the blackthorn tree and the mesquite tree are both kinda mean and have huge thorns, but instead of being protective, the mesquite is one of the hardest, meanest, death-dealing motherfuckers out there. They'll leech the land dry, killing everything else. Their seed pods are needle sharp on the ends and so hard that cows have to eat them and poop them out for the seeds to get exposed and have a chance to germinate. That's four stomachs of breaking down, people. Obviously, I can't just go out and substitute the energies of mesquite for blackthorn if I wanted to make a wand or staff out of it. The seed pods are cool, though, and they ask to be picked up and used, though I'm not sure what for. Sharp enough to draw blood, tenacious, beautiful, and they sound like a rattlesnake when you shake them. I think they sound perfect for difficult situations.
It's not like we don't have plenty of useful plants around here. There's a metric fuckton of Texas out there containing beachfront on the Gulf, pine forests, deserts, mountains, prairies, and several different kinds of rich farmland. There's lots to pick from when wild harvesting, providing you enjoy time in the car. Luckily for me, I have a hobby that involves a fair bit of traveling around the state during the year, and I try to pay attention when a plant calls out to me. If I don't know what it is and what it's for, I make some notes, look it up, and try to figure out its magical applications. Sometimes that's easy - like with the huge crop of thistles last spring brought, or with the mistletoe infestations the oaks have out west in the hill country. Studying Hoodoo has been an enormous help since its herbal tradition is largely based on plants in the American South. Hoodoo Herb and Root Magic by catherine yronwode is indispensable since it's a great compendium and lists other common names for the plants. I'm trying to learn more about Mexican herbalism, but I haven't found a book that focuses on the magic applications yet.
These are buckeyes from the prolific bush in my parents' yard. I'm really excited to have them. They're super useful in Hoodoo for luck in practical matters of money, gambling, and work matters of getting jobs and drawing in customers. In the non-touristy shops in New Orleans, I've seen tiny mojo hands using a buckeye nut dressed with the right oils and herbs, wrapped in a little square of proper fabric to bring luck to everyday things - a visit to the casino, found money, brighten your day, ward off the blues. They're also associated with male virility and helping with headaches, arthritis, and rheumatism. You just carry the nut or the mojo hand in your right front pocket. The male virility application amuses me because you dress the nut with the oil from the sides of your nose. Magic is weird sometimes...