A while back around 2017 or so, there was a recurring trend online with many articles and memes about certain cultural foods having gross leaves in it. While we are in a larger and more well connected world, some people still are not 100% aware of certain culture herbs and spices used in cooking around the world. In this case, they were referencing the Bay Leaves found in food. Bay Leaves play quite a fun part in cooking by imparting a subtle flavor of herbal and floral taste, though when eaten, it can taste quite bitter. Often used to flavor sauces and stews, little did people know that the use of Bay Leaves have quite a history in magic.
When it comes to Bay Leaves, primarily we are referring to the Bay Laurel or Laurus Nobilis. This herb is pretty easy to find in your local markets in the spice aisle, but bear in mind that some will use the term Bay to refer to a couple of different plants. Most commonly the term could mean the California Bay, Indian Bay, or Mexican Bay. These are definitely possible to substitute for it if for whatever reason they are more viable as they are from the same family, but chances are you’ll be more likely to run into Bay Laurel in your stores.
Bay Laurel’s use is quite common especially amongst those from the Mediterranean as it is indigenous to those areas. In classical mythology, this herb was a symbol of Apollo. Like many stories of Greek Gods, Apollo was trying woo a particular person, in this story it was a priestess named Daphne, to which she rebuffed his advances. Depending on the story, some say she petitioned her patron goddess, Gaia, to save her by taking her from Apollo and leaving a Bay Laurel tree in her place. Other retellings say she turned into a Bay Laurel tree. At this point, Apollo then began to make a wreath of Bay Laurel to wear on his crown.
Thanks to many depictions of Olympic Games and other competitions that survive to this day, we see the use of Bay Laurel as a symbol of victory and given to winners of competitions. This is how Bay Laurel got its symbolism in magic as an ingredient for success and victory workings. Some rituals call for people to brew Bay Laurel and to pour this over the head of people wishing for success and victory.
Bay Laurel is also an ingredient for protection and purification. You can mix it with a purification incense and burn it to cleanse a space. Some will brew Bay Laurel into a tea and wash their homes with it to help cleanse it of negative energy and some sprinkle bits of these leaves on the floor and sweep it out of the space to represent cleansing. You can also use Bay Leaves to asperge blessed water to consecrate a place. Carrying Bay Leaves in a pocket or in your shoe was also used to protect themselves.
Bay Laurel was also used in recipes for clarity and intuition. A common incense blend involved Bay Laurel with Frankincense to be burned as a blend to help psychic work and meditation. Placing Bay Laurel leaves under your pillow was also thought to help enhance dreams of a prophetic nature.
However you use Bay, we hope it doesn’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, unless you ate it whole from a stew or sauce. Hopefully its versatility in the culinary arts will also inspire to use it in your magical arts.