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Oregon Grape History, Folklore, Myth and Magic

Oregon Grape History, Folklore, Myth And Magic

Oregon Grape’s history as a medicinal plant in North America, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, is clear and undisputed. Oregon grape was used by many First Nation Tribes and later by European colonists for a wide variety of healing purposes.

Folklore and myth regarding this plant, however, is far less clear. Introduced to Europe by colonists and explorers returning home, Oregon grape was considered another barberry by Europeans. Thus called, Oregon Grape and barberry became less clearly distinguished in European folklore and Oregon Grape was attributed many of barberry’s magical qualities. For a thorough examination of Oregon Grape’s history in world mythology, it would be wise to study references to European barberry as well.

Folk wisdom clearly attributed to Oregon Grape includes her use as a protector. It was said that three branches of Oregon Grape placed on one’s threshold would keep enemies at bay.

Today, Oregon Grape works her influence over groups, providing protection and positive energy flow. Oregon grape is an excellent protection talisman. I have used it successfully as a ward against negative energy many times. A few years back, I met with a group of people who had a history of destructive choices. I brought a sprig of Oregon Grape flower to the meeting and played absently with it during the discussion. The group thought nothing of seeing their herbal friend with a tiny flower and for the first time in years, the meeting went smoothly.

Oregon Grape Magic

Oregon Grape grows amidst powerfully protective companions; poison oak, native blackberry, poison ivy. She understands the power of uniting with like forces to protect. To trespass into Oregon Grape’s territory unthinking is to encounter a myriad of pains for your trouble. Once one has incurred the wounds, though, Oregon Grape offers the medicine of healing. Oregon Grape’s protective magics are complex.

Oregon Grape flowers are sweet-scented and alluring, her fruit highly sour. Ingested, she cools a fever and drives away bacteria, offering balance to a compromised system. Like so many protectors, she is full of seeming contradictions. She teaches us that warriors can, and in fact must be, balanced, filled with the passion to fight and the Love to heal. She offers us a beautiful example of how to do this.

If Oregon Grape has come into your life, it may be time to evaluate the forces working there. Are you asked to suppress some aspect of your nature or to create imbalance by exhibiting an excess of one aspect of yourself to the detriment of others? Faced with an opportunity to forge ahead, are  you willing to risk the scrapes and flesh wounds necessary to gain the wisdom you desire? Is the project at hand flowing comfortably, or are dramas of various sizes impeding your progress? Oregon Grape offers you deep lessons, if only you’ll tread carefully and pay attention with all your being.

Oregon Grape’s element is considered Feminine and is ruled by Earth. Her element is earth.

Candace Hunter

Candace Hunter is a self-taught herbalist and artist who never, ever practices on guinea pigs in part because her family and friends are generally up to the job. She is co-author of The Practical Herbalist's Herbal Folio series and author of Herbalism for the Zombie Apocalypse. She edits The Practical Herbalist website and Practical Herbalist Press publications. She has also recently entered into the field of podcasting with reckless abandon. Listen to her on Real Herbalism Radio today, see her work at, or find her on Facebook at Candace Hunter Creations.

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