Skip to Content

The Enchanting Lore of Foxgloves

Fairy Connections and Cultural Names

Foxgloves are truly fascinating flowers, steeped in centuries of captivating folklore. With their distinctive bell-shaped blooms, these plants have long been associated with the magical world of fairies.

The very name “foxglove” dates back to the Anglo-Saxons, who referred to them as “fox’s gloves.” Some believe the name actually comes from “folk’s gloves,” suggesting the flowers were worn as mittens by mischievous fairy folk. This connection makes sense when you consider where foxgloves thrive – nestled in the hidden hollows and dells of dense woodlands, the favored haunts of fairies.

Foxgloves are the common name for the Digitalis genus, used in ancient times as a drug, and still used today in some heart medicines. Digitalin, a cardiac glycoside that can be extracted from the plant, can help steady rapid heartbeats and arrhythmias in small doses. However, the constituents of this beautiful flower were also used as a poison in old times, since these same cardiac glycosides are highly toxic

The Enchanting Lore of Foxgloves 1

Folklore of Fairies and Foxes

Foxglove was originally ‘Folks’ Glove’, from the Good Folk or the Elves who love it a great deal. The mottled spots on the blossoms were said to mark where the elves had placed their fingers. When the name shifted to Foxglove, the story sprang up that the Elves had given the plant to the fox that he might wear the flowers on his feet, and thus steal about more quietly to rob chicken coops and the like

From “The Northern Shamanic Herbal” by Raven Kaldera

But the folklore surrounding foxgloves isn’t all positive. Some tales claim these flowers were actually created by naughty fairies for a more sinister purpose – to muffle the steps of hunting foxes as they prowled chicken coops. The flower’s distinctive speckled patterns were said to be fingerprints left by elves, warning of the plant’s toxicity.

Across different cultures, foxgloves have accumulated a variety of evocative names, each with its own symbolic meaning. In Norway, they’re known as “revbielde,” or “foxbell,” inspiring the use of small silver or gold bells as charms. In Ireland, they were called “fairy thimbles,” leading to the incorporation of thimbles into foxglove magic. And in Wales, they were the “goblin’s gloves,” prompting the use of miniature red gloves in rituals.

Many centuries ago, women in Wales made black dye from the Foxglove plant and painted crossed lines on their floors to prevent evil from entering their homes. You can protect your own home and garden simply by growing Foxglove on your property. If you have an open heart, you can use Foxglove to make friends with fairies, but if your intent is impure, the fairies will know, and they make formidable enemies

The Enchanting Lore of Foxgloves 2

Respecting the Fairy Realm

One important piece of foxglove folklore is the belief that picking the flowers would offend the fairy folk. The proper protocol was to leave an offering, like a lock of hair or a shiny trinket, as a show of respect. Failure to do so was thought to invite the wrath of the offended sprites.

Foxgloves and Honey Bees

Foxgloves aren’t just beloved by fairies, though – they’re also a favorite of honey bees. These industrious pollinators are responsible for the flower’s widespread propagation, as they flit from bloom to bloom, transferring pollen. Foxgloves are said to be at their most vibrant when the bees are most active, during the height of summer. So incorporating the honey bee as a charm can be a powerful addition to any foxglove magic.

In Ireland… the foxglove… is either as an all-purpose salve or as a cough cure that it seems to have featured almost exclusively. In the first of those roles it has been applied to skin complaints… wounds… lumps and swellings… sprains… burns… old ulcers… and festering stone-bruises… In the second role, as a tea, the plant has outdone Britain, with records from twice as many counties

From “Medicinal Plants in Folk Tradition” by David E. Allen & Gabrielle Hatfield:

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) is both beautiful and highly toxic. All parts of the plant contain dangerous cardiac glycosides, leading to serious symptoms like nausea, heart rate changes, and potentially fatal cardiac issues if ingested or improperly handled. Historical uses in folklore and medicine didn’t account for its toxicity, as our understanding of plant toxicology was limited then.

It’s critical to never ingest foxglove or handle it without gloves due to the risk of poisoning and skin irritation. The plant should only be admired from a distance, and any use should be under professional guidance only. In case of suspected foxglove poisoning, immediate medical attention is necessary. Always prioritize safety and respect the potent nature of this plant.

Exploring the Magical Lore of Foxgloves

  1. Communing with the Fae: A magical charm involving foxglove can facilitate an encounter with the fairy folk. The practice involves:
  • Bruising foxglove petals
  • Anointing one’s eyelids
  • Making offerings to the faeries in a wild place
  • Maintaining a connection through songs before potentially seeing the faeries upon opening one’s eyes

Other Magical Associations of Foxglove

  1. Protective Properties and Fairy Friendships: Foxglove has protective properties against evil and can foster relationships with fairies. Historically, it was used in Wales by women who created a black dye from the plant for protective markings. The plant’s dual nature in relation to fairies is emphasized, where it can act as a friend or foe based on one’s intentions, and it has significant medicinal use for heart conditions.
  2. Fairies and the Heliotropic Nature of Foxglove: Foxglove is associated with fairies, with its name possibly originating from “folks’ glove,” a term related to fairies. The plant’s heliotropic nature and historical connection to fairy lore, where it was believed to move towards fairy beings, are also highlighted.
  3. Ritual for Communion with Plant Spirits: A ritual involving foxglove can be used to open the heart to nature. This involves creating a tiny sip of water out of a foxglove bloom and reciting a chant for communion with the living green and the heart of nature, emphasizing a deep, non-verbal connection with plant spirits.
  4. Traditional Medicinal Uses of Foxglove: Foxglove has been traditionally used in folk medicine across Britain and Ireland, including in poultices, as a heart and nervous system influencer, and as a disinfectant wash. Historical applications of foxglove for various ailments and its role in intoxication and pest control have also been documented.
The Enchanting Lore of Foxgloves 3

Dive into the world of botanical magic with these engaging reads: explore how herbs can empower your manifestation efforts, discover house plants that offer spiritual protection, and uncover the best magical plants for your indoor spaces. Start your journey by clicking through to these fascinating blog posts: Herbs for Manifestation, House Plants for Spiritual Protection, and Magickal Plants for Indoors.