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Lucky Leaves

To: alt.folklore.herbs,alt.lucky.w,alt.religion.orisha
From: catherine yronwode 
Subject: Re: "Lucky Leaves"
Date: Sun, 15 Feb 1998 13:45:52 -0800

Tsu Dho Nimh wrote:
> catherine yronwode  wrote:
> Denise Oliver wrote: 
> > > I have recently had to purchase "lucky leaves" (rhododendron) for
> > > use on the table during a misa, and also for a cleansing ritual in
> > > my home.  I'm wondering when this particular plant got the the
> > > appellation "lucky" and when its use got incorporated into
> > > espiritismo/santeria practices.
>    Many evergreen plants are considered "lucky".

Good point -- and so are many "everlasting" flowers, like "Paarly
Everlasting" (i don't know the taxonomic name offhand, but it's common
all over the U.S.A.), which appears in some wedding charms to make a
marriage happy forever. 

>    That plant group [Rhododdenron] is not native to Africa - it 
> probably was substituted for the original species because of its 
> looks.  The date of its use would depend on when African slaves were 
> brought to an area that had the plant.  They typically grow in the
> mountains ... may have been used as early as the 1500s if the
> plant exists in Cuba and the areas of Spanish settlement.
> > Magnolia: These leaves -- always whole, not cut and sifted --
> > are used in hoodoo to promote conjugal felicity.
>    Another non-African species.  The largest of the leaves is
> found on a Georgia native, Magnolia grandiflora.  Use of it
> could easily date to the mid to late 1600s.

Not surprisingly, the folks who told me about this charm are from
Georgia. Out here in California, Magnolia grandiflora is ultra-common as
a decorative yard tree and has been since the 19th century. I am fairly
confident that there was an evergreen African tree with similarly large
leaves used in a similar way and that the transfer of meaning was made
to the magnolia during slavery times.   

As for periwinkle, which i mentiuoned earlier, unless there is an
African species, i suspect that its introduction to hoodoo for use in
marital fidelity and peaceful home charms came through the reprints of
pamphlets by German-Americans who translated various spurious Albertus
Magnus collections of herb-magic. Such material had widespread currency
in the African-American community from the 1920s onward. For more on
this, see my web page on the history of hoodoo at
and a more detailed page on John George Hohman's "Pow Wows" book at

I have an Oxford University Press reprint of an English spurious
Albertus Magnus collection of the 1600s, in which it is said that to
ensure marital happines, dried and crushed periwinkle leaves should be
sprinkled in the spouse's food. 

I presume the plant is not toxic...any comments? 

By the way, to bring this all home, just this week i filled an order for
periwinkle leaves and magnolia leaves. I grow them myself, so i just
went out into the rain, gathered a batch, and put them in the
dehydrator. Obviously the use of these two evergreen herbs in hoodoo
herb magic continues... 

catherine yronwode

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