Notes on Herbal Yule traditions from Pagan Christmas: The Plants, Spirits, and Rituals at the Origins of Yuletide by Christian Rätsch  and Claudia Müller-Ebeling

Plants associated with Odin (according to Pagan Christmas):

Heliotropum europaeum (Wodan’s herb)

Monkshood (Aconitum napellus) – also known as Odin’s hat or storm hat

Fly Agaric mushroom (Amanita muscara) – also known as “raven’s bread”)

Yew (I believe that this is the “needle-ash” referred to as Yggdrasil in Voluspa)

Mistletoe in Scandinavia mistletoe sprigs were used as “wishing rods” and were thought to open treasure boxes.  A protective barrier against witches and sorcerers and a key to vitality and good luck, but also a vehicle for witches’ flight, especially when found growing in birch trees.  Called “witches’ broom” in the vernacular.

Ivy (through connection with the wild man/Green Man, and as a “snake spirit” plant and an intoxicating herb)

Juniper – one of its folk names is wodansgerte.  Protective and has been used as a “life rod” (one of a number of plants traditionally used for ritual beating of women and virgins to encourage fertility).   The berries, also known as weiheichen (holy berries) have been used as a substitute for frankincense in the North.  Heals rheumatism, asthma, pain in the chest or side, sleepiness, depression, and lunacy.  An ingredient in beer, schnapps, and gin.  Used in protective amulets.

Nine herbs (according to Ratsch and Muller-Ebelling)-
mugwort (“oldest of all herbs”)
plaintain (“mother of herbs”)
stone root (“drives away evil”) – stinkweed or pennycress)
wormwood (“venom-loather”)
wergulu (maybe chicory)

(phrases in quotations above are from the Anglo-Saxon herb charm, 11th c.) 

Rye (used for brewing a special Christmas beer, Wodelbeers (Wodan)

Poppy – cultivated in southern and northern Germanic regions from very ancient times, fields of poppy were  called “Odin’s ground” (Odainsackr) and seen as sacred healing sites where Odin performed haling wonders.  Poppy juice was believed to ward off demons; poppy seeds are a traditional food of witches and the dead.  Also associated with fertility and prophecy as well as prosperity.  Poppy seeds must be sown on Christmas Eve, three days before that, or on a Wednesday.

Mugwort – also called felon herb, naughty man, old man, and old Uncle Harry (Harr).  Also used as a “life rod.” Promotes fertility and the transition of souls from the other worlds to earth and vice versa.  Was used both as a childbirth aid and in graves, and burned on bonfires for the dead.  A boundary plant that grows by roadsides.  Protection, love and sex magick.  Traditionally used to season the St. Martin’s Day goose to call Wodan’s attention to the sacrifice and induce Him to hear and fulfill the wishes of those making it. (St. Martin’s Day is November 11th, on the evening of which St. Martin can be seen, in Germany, riding a white horse through the sky.  Farmers finish their year’s work on this day and make an offering to St. Martin—clearly Wodan—of cheese, wool, bread, or flax, also leaving hay or oats in front of their house for his horse.)

Clover (trifolium) – through its associations with sorcery, astral travel and flight, shamanic initiation, and the world wanderer 

Plantain – used in witches’ incense as well as smudging incense to ward against witches. Had to be dug up with a tool other than iron.  Wards off worms, fevers, and evil spirits; protects against love charms; wins lawsuits.

Smudging nights (nights for purifying the house and grounds with burning herbs): St. Thomas’ Day (astronomical solstice), Christmas, New Year’s Day, epiphany (January 6th).  January 5th is the Day of Befana (the Italian Christmas witch) 

Reindeer – through their association with fly agaric mushrooms (they eat them to get high) and Siberian shamanism, may be connected with Odin.

Apples – known as a symbol of immortality from Germanic myth (through the authors attribute this to “the love goddess Freia”)

Holy, ivy, mistletoe and green winter palms are holy to Frau Holle and Wodan

Plants sacred to Frau Holle (equated with Freyja by the authors): creeping myrtle, periwinkle, musk yarrow, elder, false mandrake or victory onion, black horehound, wintergreen, everlasting, holly, mistletoe, flax, hemp, red rose hips

Holly – both protects against and attracts dangerous powers.  A plant of evergreen life.  Witches were believed to need the red berries to brew thunderstorms.

Nordic incense for the smudging nights: equal parts of juniper berries, mugwort, fir resin, and yew needles

Yule smoke: equal parts of juniper, pine resin, and cedar

Pagan Christmas incense: equal parts of juniper needles, mugwort, ground pine resin, and wild rosemary

Incense for the smudging nights: ground amber, fir resin, dried fir needles, juniper tops, dried fly agaric mushrooms, hemp blossoms, laurel leaves, mugwort

Nine herbs incense: elecampane, hemp agrimony, mugwort, southernwood, wormwood, lady’s bedstraw, bittersweet, tansy.  Juniper berries and frankincense may also be added.

Herbs called “lady’s bedstraw (sacred to Freyja) in the vernacular include woodruff, lamb’s ears or betony, wild thyme, and St. John’s wort.

Flax and hemp – aphrodisiacs sacred to Frau Holle and Freyja

Gingerbread – called pffefferkuchen in German although there is no pepper in it.  Name is related to the custom of “peppering” a young girl with a “life rod” for fertility; the family gave a little spiced cake as a thanks offering for this.  “Pepper” was a synonym for a number of spices in German.

The author seems to be obsessed with fly agaric, even to the point of speculating that Santa Claus (with his red and white suit) may be an anthropomorphized version of the mushroom.

January 6th – the holy night of Befana, Frau Holle, and Berchta.  On this night in Germany, people wear frightening masks and run screaming through the streets to drive away the infertile spirits of winter.

Witches’ smoke: frankincense, asafetida, valerian, black cumin seed.  Asafetida helps to cleanse and drive out impurities.  Frankincense is consciousness-altering and can act as an aphrodisiac (or the exact opposite, depending on a person’s background and sense-memories connected with the fragrance).