Here’s a super quick overview of the herb. If I had just a little more time on my hands I would have loved to have looked further into its use in antiquity and the like.
Bay (Laurus nobilis) is one of my favourite herbs. It not only adds a little kick to a thick beef stew (my speciality), but has several interesting spiritual uses.
It is a masculine herb, ruled by the sun, the element of fire and the star sign Leo.
It is, of course; sacred to the god Apollon. The famous myth concerning how this came to be involves the nymph Daphne, whom Apollon loved and thus pursued. To escape him she transformed into a laurel tree and it has been sacred to him ever since. I do not honour Apollon regularly but I have been told by those who do that a handful of Bay leaves makes a good daily devotional offering.
It is one of the best herbs for use in purification and protection, and this is mostly where it comes into my own practice. On days where I feel that my home or my shrines need purification (for example on the last day of the lunar month, Hekate’s Deipnon) I brew up an infusion of Bay and sprinkle it around my home. I also use it to wipe down the objects on my shrines, and place a small amount in a diffuser.
A more preferable thing to do (I live with Asthmatics) would be to burn a handful of leaves and use the smoke to purify yourself and your space. You could also use a sprig of bay to sprinkle holy water.
A bay tree planted on ones property will apparently protect both from malevolent witchcraft and also lighting. Bay can grow in cooler climates like here in the UK, but it is best to keep it in a pot so it can over-winter indoors.
The berries can apparently help to procure abortion, and an oil made from bay is useful in alleviating bruises when applied externally.
The leaves, bark and berries all have mild narcotic properties, and some sources assert that the Pythias at Delphi used to chew the leaves as one of the methods to induce prophecy.
CULPEPER, N., Culpeper’s complete herbal. ISBN: 0-572-00203-3
CUNNINGHAM, S., Cunningham’s Encyclopaedia of Magical Herbs. ISBN: 0875421229