Do you have roses in your garden? If you do it’s most likely because they look pretty and smell fantastic. And do you have any trees in your yard? Chances are they were put there for privacy and to make your yard look nicer. The same goes for those other flowers, shrubs, and bushes surrounding you. But back in the Middle Ages, when the fear of the undead was at an all time high, those common plants were often used for entirely different purposes.
Ash: A tree that was commonly used in Europe to make stakes for destroying vampires. According to the Roman writer Pliny the Elder, all evil things feared ashwood. Ygdrasil, the tree in which the world was founded (according to Norse mythology) was made of ash.
Aspen: Another tree that was used to create vampire-killing stakes. It was believed to be excellent for warding off evil because Christ’s cross was made of aspen.
Blackthorn: This shrub was thought to be powerful protection against vampires and vampiric attack. The Romanians were known to sew blackthorn into their clothing for safety.
Buckthorn: The common name given to trees or shrubs of the genus rhamnus, also known as Christ’s thorn. Branches of buckthorn were known to keep evil away and were hung throughout Europe from the gates of houses. I was used by ancient Greeks to keep the walking dead from entering their home, and thus was always associated with vampires.
Dogrose: A wild rose with thorns and white or pink flowers. Like most roses, it was used as a preventative to vampirism. The Wallachians placed its vines in the grave or coffin, its thorns clinging to the corpse’s clothing or shroud. Pinned like that the body was unable to rise as the undead.
Hawthorn: (If you are a long time reader then you may remember the post I did on hawthorn here) Hawthorn was one of the most popular choices for protection against vampires, or destruction of vampires.
Holly: This plant was used against evil; people would hang it at doors or windows for protection.
Juniper: Often used by Gypsies, it was believed that keeping a piece of juniper in a house protected the family from vampires. Additionally, if a vampire were to gain entry into the home, the presence of the wood kept it from doing any real harm.
Linden: A tree with fragrant cream and golden flowers. Linden is also used to create stakes for destroying vampires.
Mayflower: A popular flower in North America and Europe know by its hairy evergreen leaves. This was also used to ward off evil; it was fastened to the doors of houses.
Roses: It was once believed by many that the fragrance of a rose would ward off all evil, including not just vampires, but witches and werewolves as well. While the aroma repelled them, the petals were said to burn a vampire’s skin like acid. In Romania, placing wild rose on a corpse was believed to keep it from returning as a vampire.
Rowan: A small tree that was held in high esteem in parts of Europe for its powers against evil, including vampires, witches and other supernatural creatures. Rowan was used on the Isle of Man to make crosses, which were placed onto cattle sheds and byres for protection against vampiric attack or evil spells.
Wolfsbane: Once used in Germany against vampires, this plant was also fastened above doors for protection. While some used it against vampires, it was more commonly used against werewolves (you can read more about that here).