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.
Spanish moss 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, 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 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 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.
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.
Spanish moss, also called Old Man’s Beard and Pele’s Hair, 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.
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.
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:
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