Junipers are coniferous trees and shrubs related to cypress; varieties are found all over the northern hemisphere of our earth. They do not have fruit or flowers, just seeds. Depending on the species, the seeds they produce take 1–3 years to develop. The solid coat of the seed keeps water from getting in and protects the embryo when dispersed, resulting in a long dormancy that is usually broken by physically damaging the seed coat. Dispersal can occur from being swallowed whole by birds and animals; the resistance of the seed coat enables it to be pass through the digestive system without being destroyed.
Juniper wood is flexible, which has made the wood a traditional choice for the construction of hunting bows among some of the Native American cultures. Some Indigenous peoples of the Americas use juniper in traditional medicine; for instance, the Navajo, who use it to treat diabetes, also consuming juniper ash as a source of calcium.
Juniper is traditionally used in Ireland and Scotland for saining, where the smoke of burning juniper, accompanied by traditional prayers, rites and chanting, is used to cleanse, bless, and protect the household and its inhabitants.
In the Himalayas indigenous people present juniper leaves to their deities as a folk tradition. It is also used as a folk remedy for pains and aches, as well as epilepsy and asthma.
Juniper was mentioned in Egyptian papyri, as its wood, needles and berries were used in incense and medicine. It has also been found in sarcophagi, being held in the hand of the mummy, perhaps to be used as an exchange for entering the Underworld.
Juniper berries are a spice used in a wide variety of culinary dishes, probably best known for the flavouring in gin, there is also a juniper-based spirit, which is made by fermenting juniper berries and water to create a wine that is then distilled. This is often sold as a juniper brandy in eastern Europe. Juniper berry sauce is often a popular accompaniment for quail, pheasant, veal, rabbit, venison, and other game dishes. A tea can be made from the young twigs.
DO NOT INGEST JUNIPER IF YOU ARE PREGNANT, BREASTFEEDING OR HAVE KIDNEY DISEASE.
Magical correspondences –
Ruling Planets - Sun, Jupiter, Moon
Element - Fire
Use for - protection, love, healing, cleansing, exorcism, justice, recovering stolen items, anti-theft, purification, clarity, psychic powers.
The berries can be used in incense blends, poppets, mojo bags, spell jars.
Plant juniper in your garden for protection.
Sources and further reading –
A Kitchen Witch’s World of Magical Plants & Herbs by Rachel Patterson
The Secret Craft of the Wise – Magical Herbalism by Scott Cunningham