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Fact or Fiction: Herbal Safeguards Against Lightning

by Kirsten Hudson

Tags: Lightning, Mythology, Susan Wittig Albert, Thunder, Houseleek, Mistletoe, Hazel, Holly, Hawthorn,


This morning I woke up to the sound of thunder. The pounding rain and flashes of lightning didn’t scare me. Instead, I wanted to snuggle farther under the covers and spend the day in bed.

However, not everyone feels safe from lightning. (Including my new puppy! Poor thing.) Throughout history certain plants were used to protect the home from lightning. In her weekly herbal newsletter, All About Thyme, Susan Wittig Albert lists five plants believed to ward off lightning. Do they actually work? I’ll let you decide.

Photo By nebraskasc/Courtesy Flickr

• Houseleeks (Sempervivum tectorum)

In Roman and Norse mythology, houseleeks were sacred to the gods associated with lightning. People planted houseleeks on roofs as a way to protect their homes from lightning and fire. Charlemagne, a medieval king, decreed that houseleeks must be planted on all structures of his empire. Because of its history, houseleeks can still be seen growing on roofs in England and Europe.

• Mistletoe (Viscum album)

This plant is known for a lot more than its association with Christmas and kissing. Mistletoe was once believed to have been planted in trees from bolts of lightning. People hung mistletoe over their doors and windows as means to protect their homes from lightning.

• Holly (Ilex sp.) and hazel (Corylus avellana)

In Norse mythology, holly and hazel were believed to protect people from Thor the Tunderer. People used to plant holly trees away from their home in order to divert lightning away.

• Hawthorn (Crataegus oxyacantha)

In Christian tradition, hawthorn was said to be used in Christ's crown of thorns. People in Normandy used hawthorn to protect their homes from lightning. Since they believed lightning was the work of the devil they also believed the devil's work could not strike this sacred tree.

Do you use herbs to protect against your fears? Leave me a comment and tell me all about your herbal superstitions.