Nettles: Cross the Threshold and Call Yourself Forth

In the wet, early springs of the pacific northwest, baby nettles poke their heads up through last year’s composting leaves—welcoming the crisp spring light and bringing with them the new season’s offerings.

Nettles (Urtica dioica) are easy to find living in loose, damp hillsides and wet, shady lowlands that are filled with maples, cottonwoods, and alders. My favorite patches live under big leaf maples, in damp soil fertilized by deep leaf litter from the previous year. This soil provides the rich nutrients these special plants need to grow.

Welcome Nettle into Your Daily Rituals

Colloquially, nettle is usually known for its sting. But this mighty little plant is traditionally used as a spring tonic to wake up your body after a long winter. You can provide your hair with this same mineral-rich plant food with:

  • Mae Botanicals Awaken Hair Rinse and Awaken Hair Oil—a limited-edition, nettle-infused offering to nourish your hair this spring

*May 2023 the Awaken Hair Care Line is not longer available - shop the current product line here.

Crossing the Line Between Death, Void, and Rebirth

Nettle is also a wonderful companion for magic and rituals. I think about using nettle when thresholds are to be crossed, specifically when traversing the threshold from Earth into Air. Earth is a place of winter, death, resource, and boundaries. It offers us the opportunity to move from what was into the void—a place of connection with source where anything is possible; where all things do and do not exist, simultaneously.

When we move from winter into spring, we cross the threshold from Earth into Air—a space of creation, inspiration, and rebirth. Nettles stand with us in this transition, helping us choose what we are going to pull through the void and into being.

Nettles ask you to carefully consider what you are choosing to awaken this spring. What can you grow this year? What can you create? What will you pull from the void of unbeing into being, here and now? Nettle is your companion as you deliberate over these choices, determine what is and isn’t serving you, and move into the new season.

Boundaries and Learning Not Everything Is for You 

Nettles speak in clear terms when it comes to boundaries and consent, and they can teach us to do the same. Their little stinging silica spikes filled with lots of interesting compounds (formic acid, leukotrienes, neutrophil chemotactic activity, and histamine) tell you exactly where they are and when you’ve gotten a little too close.

These little friends can help us strengthen our own communication around consent while making it clear that not everything is for us. This is a practice you can bring into your relationships with other humans and into your relationships with plants as you harvest. Before you take from a plant, ask for permission first. And if you’re always hearing “yes,” are you actually listening?

You can count on nettles to tell you what you need to know. They are firm in their knowing of self, understand where they end and begin, and can fill their being fully with their own energy. To embody this energy, you can say an affirmation to yourself—say it often and as though you already know it to be true:

I know where I begin and end, I claim my space, I pull myself from void into being.

Spellcrafting and Wildcrafting with Nettles

Use nettles in your spellcrafting to call on nurturing and connection or when working with boundaries, consent, and protection.

But before spellcrafting, you must harvest or buy your nettle friends. If you choose to wildcraft, please make sure you are harvesting in right-relationship with the plants and the land. I like to use the rule that you should be in relationship with a patch of nettles and the land and place for a minimum of 1 year before you even consider harvesting.

Consider reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer, and look at the guidelines offered there as well. It’s also important to consider if you have a deep enough relationship with the land and place before taking from it.

A Spell for Awakening

Nettles assist us in awakening the new and welcoming creative things into our lives. Use this spell as you awaken a new phase in life, a new idea, a new project, or anything else new.

Ingredients for your spell:

  • Awaken Hair Oil
  • Awaken Hair Rinse (or make your own nettle macerations!)
  • Shampoo Bar or a shampoo of your choice
  • Candle
  • Piece of paper 
  • Writing utensil

The process:

Gather your ingredients. Sit at your altar or in a safe, quiet spot and contemplate what newness you are wanting to awaken. Cast a circle of protection and/or call on your helping spirits and benevolent and well-healed ancestors for assistance. As you contemplate your new thing, ask for nettle to come and join, ask them if they have anything to add. Call on the spirits that tend the thresholds, call on Air and spring and, if you want, call the void.

As you feel ready and settled, write your intentions for this newness onto your paper. With the lighted candle, ask nettle to assist as you massage this intention into your scalp and hair with the nettle hair oil. With the candle still burning, spend anywhere from 30 minutes up to 12 hours holding this intention and allowing the oil to soak and condition your hair and scalp. If you’re sleeping in the oil overnight, wear a head covering that is appropriate to your culture. You can also dress your candle in the Awaken Hair Oil, too.

Burn your paper and add the ash and some of the hair oil to dress your candle. Or you can massage the ash into your hair. Then, get into the shower. While continuing to hold your intention and allowing your helping spirits to assist, wash your hair with your shampoo bar or shampoo. Make sure to get your whole scalp and length of the hair. Then ask nettle to finish this spell with you, and rinse your hair and scalp with the Awaken Hair Rinse.

After your final rinse, you can open your circle and allow your intention to move into the world with ease, knowing that this awakening is only the beginning. Remember to give thanks and gratitude to your helping spirits, ancestors, and to nettle!

Nettles in the garden