Nettle - Nurturer
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The Boy and the Nettle.
A boy playing in the fields was stung by a nettle. He ran home to his mother, telling her that he had touched that nasty weed and it had stung him. “It was just your touching it, my boy,” said the mother, “that caused it to sting you; the next time you meddle with a nettle, grasp it tightly and it will do you no hurt.”Do boldly what you do at all. ~ Aesop: Ancient Greek story teller 620–564 B.C.
Urtica dioica, Stinging Nettle, Common Nettle, Gerrais, Isirgan, Kazink, Ortiga, Grande Ortie, Ortie, Urtiga, Chichicaste, and Brennessel
Nettle is a common botanical, native to Africa and western Asia. It has since become naturalized across the globe and can be found wild in many parts of the world. It grows in temperate climates, preferring shady regions with moist soil. Stinging hairs cover the live plant, helping to protect it from predation. When touched, the hairs cause stinging welts due to the content of formic acid. While the stings can be painful, they don’t last long and rarely cause serious harm.
After being picked, the acid deteriorates quickly and the stinging hairs begin losing potency within minutes. The harvested leaves are a favorite source of medicine and have also been used for centuries for food and fabric. The rejuvenating powers of nettle are well steeped in the folklore and traditions of various cultures. In one fairytale, The Wild Swans, the heroine is tasked with weaving shirts of nettle leaf in order to cure her eleven brothers who have been turned into swans by their evil stepmother.
Nettle has long been recognized for its bounty of nutrition as well as its sting. Folk medicine and lore worldwide attributes the powers of protection and fertility to this incredible plant. Wisdom handed down from ancient times includes advice on using nettle to protect one’s self from lightning, to enhance fertility, bestow courage on those who carry it as well as how to avoid being stung by nettle. In Kawaiisu tribal practice as in Celtic lore, nettle serves as a threshold guardian. Nettle fibers have been found in burial cloths from the Bronze age, also closely linking this plant with the threshold between life and death, and giving credence to the various folklore bits that describe Nettle as growing from or near the dead.
Nettle magic is the magic of Mothering. With her bounty of nutrition, she offers us the building blocks we need to be healthy, strong individuals. The flavor of nettle tea has been described as akin to milk or mother’s milk; nettle in your life reminds you to take the time to nourish yourself at the most basic levels.
Nettle’s sting, however, reminds us to value our gifts just as we must honor and protect the work of mothering if we are to remain healthy. Nettle protects herself and her space with a mild sting that can last for days. In this, she asks us to recognize and honor the worth of what she gives; if you’re willing to hazard the sting to gain her treasure, you’re more likely to value what you have taken. When nettle has come into your life, especially around a project you’re nurturing, take time to ensure you and those who might benefit from your work recognize and value your contribution.
Nettle magic is transformation through nurturing and self-worth, like that of a healthy, loving mother. Soggy, wet ground is her favorite rooting place; she’s an expert at turning hard, clay soils into fertile ground. Her ability to undo the effects of an excess of water in the soil speaks to her affinity with water and with conditions of stress, especially of an emotional nature. Just as nettle can turn a situation that appears hard and unloving into one of fertility, so can we. She reminds us of our power to shift our thoughts and deeds into a place of nurturing, encouraging personal and environmental growth, as a mother might shift hers to provide the best possible conditions for her children’s growth. Nettle can bring out the mother in all of us, and our world will be the better for it.
In astrology, Nettle is considered a masculine plant and is governed by Mars. Nettle’s element is Fire. In Ayurvedic medicine, nettle energy is recognized as bitter, salty, cool and dry.
USES AND PREPARATIONS
Commonly the dried leaf and/or dried root is used as a tea, tincture or powdered and encapsulated. A fresh plant tincture may be made as well. Additionally, the young tender shoots of the fresh plant may be eaten or made into juice. Nettle is often used in Magical Rituals.