Exploring the Doctrine of Signatures 🌿

The Doctrine of Signatures is a concept that dates back over 500 years, credited to a Swiss physician named Paracelsus. According to Paracelsus, everything in nature that could be used to cure ailments would have a signature, something that would let humans know that it was beneficial. For example, if an herb was beneficial for the heart, it would be shaped like a heart in some manner. We will explore this more further in the post.

Over the course of history, this concept was expanded on by many different people. This includes Giambattista della Porta in his work Phytognomonica in 1588. Unfortunately, I can’t find a copy of this in English, but if anyone can read Latin it is available online for free by clicking here.

Another man named Jakob Böhme further spread the concept of the doctrine of signatures with his book The Signature of All Things. In his book, Jakob Böhme states that those who understand God’s intention of the creations can then utilize those creations to aid in healing and medicine.

ALL whatever is spoken, written, or taught of God, without the Knowledge of the Signature is dumb and void of Understanding; for it proceeds only from an historical Conjecture, from the Mouth of another, wherein the Spirit without Knowledge is dumb, but if the Spirit opens to him the Signature, then he under-stands the Speech of another; and further he understands how the Spirit has manifested and revealed itself (out of the Essence through the Principle) in the Sound with the Voice. For though I see one to speak, teach, preach, and write of God, and though I hear and read the same, yet this is not sufficient for me to understand him; but if his Sound and Spirit out of his Signature and Similitude enter into my own Similitude, and imprint his Similitude into mine, then I may understand him really and fundamentally, be it either spoken or written, if he has the Hammer that can strike my Bell.

The Signature of All Things

The Doctrine of Signatures in Action

Running with the idea that everything in nature has a signature that hints at its use, we can look at this woodcut from della Porta’s Phytognomonica. This woodcut shows the plant eyebright.


Image Source

At the bottom of the woodcut, you can see the drawing of a human eye. Giambattista correlates the open flower of eyebright with the image of a human eye. Thus, it was believed that eyebright was useful in curing ailments of the eye. This correlation is actually how eyebright got its name.

Another way to explore this is through the tomato plant and its correlation to the heart. Tomatoes are red and have multiple chambers. Some tomatoes have up to 10 different chambers! A heart is also red and has four chambers.

Under the concept of the doctrine of signatures, tomatoes would be useful for curing ailments related to the heart. If we look at the health properties of a tomato, we would see that tomatoes may lower your risk of heart disease and cholesterol. This could be because tomatoes contain lycopene, the antioxidant that gives tomatoes their red color.

The Doctrine of Signatures & Correspondences

So, with all of that said (in a very basic way), how can this apply to witchcraft? Well, it is simple! Many of us use or create correspondences based on symbology or medicinal uses of the plant. That, in essence, is the same as the doctrine of signatures!

I utilize this method when working with a new plant before connecting with it energetically. Take lavender, for example. We know lavender has been used for a really long time to help with burns, calming nerves, and relaxing the body. Therefore, I also use lavender in witchcraft to help diffuse “hot” situations, help promote sleep, and calm anxiety.


Lavender Magick Properties - Spells8

:purple_heart: :herb: :purple_heart: :herb: :purple_heart: :herb: :purple_heart: :herb: :purple_heart: :herb: :purple_heart: :herb: :purple_heart: :herb: :purple_heart:

Now that you know a bit about the doctrine of signatures, see if you can apply this concept to some of your favorite plants that you use in your practice! If you can’t think of one, maybe looking through the Green Witchcraft course can give you some inspiration!


The Green Witch: Herbal Witchcraft Course

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This is wonderful stuff @MeganB . I’ve heard of plant signature before and read a long time ago that if pharmaceutical companies invested in plant healthcare, the Amazon Rainforest has a plant healing remedy for almost every disease we know. Will look forward to your next posts on this.
Thankyou :heartpulse:

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Ooo… I really like this one & will have to have a good think on it! I have in recent years gone the more herbal or natural route with remedies & things. I know that herbs & plants are on my list of things to look more into also! :revolving_hearts:

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I love this! :blush: I’ve found that it’s actually true for a lot of plant names too- both the common name and it’s botanical/Latin name will give clues about the plant, it’s history, and how it can be used. A few of my favorites include:

  • Achillea millefolium (yarrow) was believed to have been used by Achilles to treat wounds on the battlefield → yarrow helps to close wounds and assists with blood flow.

  • “Skullcap” is named as such because the flowers look like a hat or helmet → it helps soothe the mind and is used as an aid for the nervous system

  • Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) comes from Greek and means “bee”/“honey” (perhaps one of our wonderful Greek members can clarify!), due to the importance of the plant for the bees. (Not so much a magickal note, but useful for beekeepers and those planting pollinator-friendly gardens! :potted_plant:)

I guess it’s looking at the point from the opposite angle (:upside_down_face:), but there are definitely important (and useful!) bonds to explore in a plant’s name and appearance! :grinning: :herb: :green_heart:

Coming back to the main point, it was really interesting to learn about Signatures- I didn’t know there was an official term for it! This was a wonderful read, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom @MeganB! :raised_hands: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

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I think you’re definitely on to something there :joy: herbs and plants of all kinds have many different properties in both magic and medicine! It would be wonderful to find natural remedies to certain things, or at least different things to help without seeing a doctor, first! (of course, I say this as someone who has some knowledge of medicinal plants and how they interact with medicine and human biology - always cross-reference your info!)

I have a few on my list that I need to research, too!

That’s exactly how I saw it! :clap: I didn’t know that about the plants you listed there, but it’s a good starting point for me with other plants and the doctrine of signatures. It makes me want to explore more common plants in witchcraft to see how the doctrine of signatures applies (or doesn’t!)

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I’m not Greek, but Melissa does mean bee. :smile:

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If there’s interest, I can give a translation of some of it a try. I studied Latin in school for a little bit which kind of helps, I guess?

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Hooray for more herbal studies! Green magick, let’s goooo!!! :joy: :green_heart:

You are a resident master of languages and your linguistic input is always welcome :handshake: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: (Thank you! :heart: :honeybee:)

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You can if you’d like! :sweat_smile: I know you already have a lot going on, and it isn’t something that is of extreme importance (to me, anyway).

haha yes! :clap: :green_heart: :herb: Not something I’m terribly good at, so I can always stand to get better.

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Lemon balm is a wonderful herb. There is also a bee balm {monarda {sp}] both are members of the mint family and monarda has a lovely flower :butterfly:

:goat:

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It has “bee” right in the name, so I can infer that it’s another plant much-loved by the bees! :bee: :smiling_face_with_three_hearts: Hooray for more bee-friendly plants! :potted_plant: :heart:

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