Spanish Moss Uses and Magical Properties

Spanish Moss Magic Properties, Lore and Witchy Uses

Here in the Southern U.S., our old trees are draped in a hanging spiderweb-like plant called Spanish moss. It’s this intriguing plant that creates a unique Gothic, deep south landscape in many Southern movies and shows. Spanish moss has interesting origins and has been used in American folk magic for centuries. Here we explore Spanish moss magic properties, witchy uses, and its lore.

What is Spanish Moss?

Spanish moss, Tillandsia usneoides, actually isn’t a moss at all. It’s a flowering plant in the bromeliad family found in tropical and subtropical regions of the U.S., Central and South America, Polynesia, and the Caribbean. Despite folks saying Spanish moss is a parasite, it’s not. It doesn’t feed off the trees. It sucks in moisture from the air and nutrients from the environment itself (this is called epiphytic NOT parasitic). Spanish moss requires a warm, humid climate in which to thrive.

More on Spanish Moss’ Nature

Spanish moss is commonly found hanging from the limbs of Southern live oaks and bald cypress trees. It typically doesn’t kill the tree it lives on, but may grow so large it prevents the tree from acquiring necessary sunlight. In this way, it can be a destructive plant as it will eventually cause the tree to die from lack of sun.

Certain wildlife live in Spanish moss including rat snakes, jumping spiders, and three different kinds of bats. And, since we need bats and snakes for ecological purposes, Spanish moss serves as a necessary part of our environment. One misconception is that chiggers live in this plant, but when studies were done, no chiggers were found.

Spanish Moss Legends: The Princess’ Hair and Old Man’s Beard

In Florida, there’s an old Native legend about how Spanish moss began. There was a Native Princess who fell in love with a Spanish soldier. Her father, the chief, forbade her to see her true love. The story is tragic – the Princess hangs herself by a tree when she realizes her father had her true love killed. Her hair stayed in the tree and continued to grow, becoming what we call Spanish moss. Another variation of this legend tells the tale of an old man who’s long beard is caught in the trees and becomes Spanish moss.

It is well known for covering the oaks and other trees in Savannah, GA, adding to the city’s haunted ambiance. In fact, the cemeteries including Bonaventure just wouldn’t be the same or have the same eerie effect on visitors if it wasn’t for the Spanish moss hanging from nearly every tree.

“Bonaventure today, after nearly two centuries, is more beautiful than ever for the oaks have grown until they overlap, forming cloistered aisles resembling a great outdoor Cathedral veiled with curtains of Tillandsia (Spanish moss) gently swaying in the breeze, creating an atmosphere of natural mourning.”

– Eva J. Barrington, The Savannah Morning News, 1950 (Quote from ForestCityoftheSouth.com)

In Polynesia and in the South, it’s also known as Old Man’s Beard or Grandfather’s Beard. An antidote that refers to an old man getting his beard caught in the trees. And in Hawaii it’s called Pele’s hair.

Spanish Moss Uses: Mundane and Medicinal

Spanish moss not only has magical uses, it’s had many practical uses over the years. From being stuffed into car cushions to being part of a cheap air conditioning system in the South, Spanish moss uses are multi-layered. The Natives would use the inner fiber to make blankets and clothing. But what about Spanish moss medicine? According to Green Dean from Eat the Weeds, Spanish moss was brewed by Natives to treat rheumatism, fever, and to ease childbirth contractions. The green buds on the plant are edible, but not the plant itself.

A fairly recent and innovative means of using this amazing plant utilizes its moisture-retaining abilities to cool buildings in the Southwestern U.S. A “pad” is made of Spanish moss, then hung over windows and entrances to buildings, then water is sprayed over the mossy pad. A fan then blows against the Spanish moss blanket, subsequently sending cool air into the hot, dry building.

Spanish Moss Magical Uses

  • To draw love
  • Revenge
  • Poppet magic
  • War Water
  • Communication (as it is linked to Air element)
  • Inspiration
  • Hair Growth spells
  • Cooling off hot situations
  • Death, Mourning, and Funerary Practices
  • Nobility

Spanish mos, in addition to its mundane and medicinal uses, has many magical uses and properties. In Hoodoo, Spanish moss is used in love AND revenge workings. Most often it’s stuffed in doll babies (poppets) with other herbs and ingredients to either draw love or exact revenge. It’s also put in bottles of War water (a nasty potion used to take down one’s enemy). Therefore, Spanish moss magic properties include love, healing, and revenge/justice in the Hoodoo tradition.

In modern witchcraft tradition, Spanish moss magic properties include more obvious intentions like hair growth, because of its appearance, and “cooling off” hot situations.

Spanish moss uses include stuffing for dollbabies, war water and more.
Spanish moss hanging from live oaks in a cemetery.

Native American Spanish Moss Magic

According to the Natives, Spanish moss was sometimes worn by mourners, typically women. And it was worn by women of higher nobility in certain tribes. Spanish moss is linked to the element Air as its seeds are spread in the wind. Because of Spanish moss’s legendary association with the death of the Native princess and woven into mourners’ clothing, it is also linked to death and funerary rites. Spanish moss magic properties via Native legend include fertility, regeneration, growth, love and strength. The Spanish moss plant may take up properties of the oak and cypress trees they grow on, as well.

How to Work with Spanish Moss in Your Magick

First, I don’t recommend collecting your Spanish moss yourself unless you plan to wash it with strong soaps or chemicals or bleach it. Chiggers and other small pests inhabit Spanish moss, particularly when it’s on the ground. You can purchase Spanish moss from craft stores (typically in the floral department) OR in dollar stores in the craft section. This way it’s been washed and treated prior to you’re handling. Spanish moss can be used in:

  • Stuffed into doll-babies for healing and to attract love
  • Use to make War water and in domination spells
  • Use as hair for dollbabies
  • Stuffed into herbal pillows
  • Put in witches bottles and spell jars
  • On Southern wreaths and in floral arrangements
  • Attached to ceremonial clothing or death shrouds
  • On the altar as a representation of the South/tropics/swamps
  • In communication and travel spells because of its link to Air
Spanish Moss Uses, Legends, Medicine and Magic Properties

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