B is for Blackberry (Pagan Blog Project 2013)

In the Willamette Valley you can hardly step out your door without encountering blackberries . . . and you often notice them because some part of your clothing–or, more painfully, your flesh–is snagged on a sharp, curving thorn.

Do I Have Your Attention?
Do I Have Your Attention?

Blackberry doesn’t mess around when she wants to talk to you.

The State of Oregon considers the Himalayan Blackberry an invasive plant; and even I have to admit if we stopped with the mowing and chopping the entire state would probably be buried in blackberries within a few months. Blackberry–especially the Himalayan variety–grows so fast in the summer you can almost see it move, and it’s pretty much impossible to kill. There are, of course, tame varieties that you can plant without fear of eaten alive by your garden. The properties of those varieties will have similar energy to the invasive varieties, and of course they will have delicious fruit. But I have a deep and abiding love for the wild variety.

Invasive plants can teach us all a thing or two about resilience–and one of the ways blackberry can be used in magic and energy work is to help us have strength and courage in challenging circumstances.

Invasive plants often take hold in disturbed habitats–they cover damaged ground, heal the soil, and provide food where there might otherwise be none. Blackberry and other similar invasives seem like excellent components in healing magic, especially for people who have been so wounded emotionally and spiritually that they feel raw and exposed, and/or empty and barren.

Winter Blackberry Leaves
Winter Blackberry Leaves

Scott Cunningham, in his Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, says that Blackberry is sacred to Brigid–who is a significant figure for me, but that’s another blog post. I’ve given a lot of thought to whether or not this association is appropriate, and it seems right to me.

Have you ever been scratched by blackberries? Those scratches burn like fire. But the berries and flowers are cool and soothing and I think of them as intensely watery, especially the fruit. The leaves are the most interesting: they often have sharp little spines on the underside, running along the center vein, so they have that scrape and burn quality about them. But blackberry leaves are traditionally used to treat burns and scalds. Cunningham attributes Blackberry to water, but for me she’ll always belong to both fire and water. This is one reason I feel an association with Brigid is fitting, Brigid being a goddess of both the forge and the holy well.

In keeping with this dual energy, I think of blackberry as simultaneously fierce and tender.

She offers food and medicine to humans, and for small creatures she also offers shelter and safety. A tangle of blackberry brambles will house a surprising number and variety of birds, reptiles and rodents. But she doesn’t just give it all away for free. If you approach without respect, attention, presence of mind, she’ll let you know she doesn’t appreciate your attitude young lady. She is firm in her demand for respect and good boundaries, and ferocious in her protection of disturbed or barren ground. Sure, you might take her down with a big lawn mower, but she’ll still get a few good bites in before she falls: and she’ll be back good as new faster than you can say “bleeding blackberry scratches.”

Because of these characteristics, I associate blackberry with protection. She can be used in protection spells, or in creating protection charms. She can also become a valuable guide for anyone who has a giving, caring nature but has a problem setting healthy boundaries–in this case, one might spend time meditating with the plant and/or ingesting the edible parts regularly over time, or walking in places where blackberry grows wild. I love the idea of making something sweet with blackberry–a cordial perhaps–and allowing a few thorns to steep in the preparation for a while to add a tiny spark of ferocity to the brew.

Resilience, healing boundaries, protection . . . that’s a lot of magic for an unassuming plant. But I’m a fan of everyday sorts of magic, and I like the company of so-called common things. There’s a lot of unexplored potential in the things we take for granted.


6 thoughts on “B is for Blackberry (Pagan Blog Project 2013)

  1. One time I was walking through a tunnel created by towering blackberry bushes (awesome), and my brother stepped on a big, low-lying blackberry branch which just happened to be over my foot. The inch-long thorns went right into the top of my foot. Ouch.

    But I’ve always had an affinity for blackberry bushes. There was a huge bush outside the police station near our old home, and last summer I went outside while waiting to file a police report and picked a bunch of berries, much to my daughters’ embarrassment. They thought I was going to get arrested for stealing! In my new house, we have two baby blackberry plants that gave us a few berries last season. I’m hoping to see real growth next year. But until then, there are some good patches across the street near the irrigation ditch that don’t appear to be anyone’s personal property. They’re my favorite berries. I’m looking forward to picking buckets of fresh ones, instead of storebought.

  2. My son’s Eagle Project was all about blackberries (and concrete)! I have pictures of the original field of blackberries towering over six foot tall men.

  3. I love this post. I have been trying for a few years to figure out how to make a wreath from blackberry brambles. I haven’t figured out how to do it without getting too injured yet, but I’m not done thinking about it.

  4. We love this post too! Not just informative but the personal meaning of blackberry to you comes shining through as well. We particularly liked the connection to protection in both the material and esoteric senses. yes, it’s easy to recall our annoyance when clothing becomes entangled or we are scratched but that is exactly the purpose. As you say, it protects, defends, bars entry and on the other hand provides a refuge, a safe haven. Definitely symbolism to work with in a magickal sense.

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