Dyeing for Color: Fennel as an Easy Herbal Dye

Fenneloncorridaleirondry

This weekend, I spun two large skeins of wool, corridale, in fact. It’s the second in my current series of herbally dyed yarns. This one is steeping in a right big pot of fennel dye even as I write.

Fennel Flower image thanks to Pixabay!

Fennel Flower image thanks to Pixabay!

Fennel produces a lovely set of yellows and greens, depending on the mordants and modifiers you use or don’t use. I’m aiming for a deep forest green with an alum mordant and an iron modifier afterward. The beauty of this one is, I have plenty of fresh fennel in my garden with which I can work.

Fennel is a protective herb who flourishes with minimal attention. My garden is absolutely the perfect environment, truth be told. Fennel grows out front along the path leading to my gate, filtering out some of the jagged energies of the road and parkway while marking the boundry between my space and public space with his airy yellow flowers and tall, ferny attitude. I planted him once many years ago. Since then, he’s popped up time and again. Neither pulling nor hard trimming nor even a bout of fire has deterred fennel from his haunt. I suppose that’s a blessing. The best warriors are tenatious and strong, willing to stick it out no matter what. That’s fennel to a tee.

Muhkwas, spice digestive

Homemade Mukhwas: Fennel, coriander, cardamon, hemp hearts, ginger

As a tea, fennel is a good digestive. He helps soothe the digestive tract and ease the damp, stuck conditions that contribute to excess intestinal gas as well as that bloated feeling you get from Irritable Bowel Syndrome and similar damp or stagnant digestive conditions. Fennel was and still is often included in formulas for colicky babies as well as for increasing the flow of breastmilk for their mothers in part because if his ability to move the digestive humors along. He’s also been used to help take the edge off an appetite, thereby helping one to eat less and ultimately lose weight. Thus fennel holds a well-deserved place in history’s health and beauty arsenal. That’s why you’ll find him in weight-losss teas, toothpastes and mouth washes, and even in traditional after-dinner apperitif’s and digestives like the Indian Mukhwas spice mix you find at Indian restaurants by the cash reegister. Fennel’s fire helps you move from the meal to your next activity quickly so your digestion won’t stagnate.

In part, fennel’s skill with damp, cold, stagnant digestive conditions are probably due to his fiery nature. Fennel’s herbal affinity is with the element of fire. Magically speaking, fennel is the one to call on when you need to get things moving, partiularly when your intention is to clear blocks that prevent you from seeing what you need to see or understanding at an intellectual level what needs to be understood. Protectively, Fennel’s fire has been used in company with other mid-summer herbs like Saint John’s Wort to banish and deter spiritual attack such as the evil eye. In modern times, that translates to strengthening your abililty to hold your boundaries against thieves, including those who aim to steal your ideas or turn your words against you as well as the burglaring kind.

Fiery herbs, like ginger, chili pepper, and fennel, are potent actors. They protect, purify, and energize. We’ve all heard the expression Fire in the Belly. Fiery herbs can really stoke that action-packed, moving and shaking kind of energy toward either creation or destruction. It’s all in how you use them.

First shades of yellow after steeping for an hour: Fennel on Wool.

First shades of yellow after steeping for an hour: Fennel on Wool.

Today, I’m using that fire to create. Already, I can see the pale yellow seeping into the white fiber. My corridale fleece was especially white to begin with, the kind that’ll really show off any dye I soak it in. The yellow is paler and brighter than the early shades I got from my first in this series, the Carrot dye bath. Like with the previous batch, I plan to let this pot of dye stand on the back patio for several days steeping to intensify the color.

This time around, I plan to add a bit of iron powder for the last half hour of soaking or so to darken the color. That ought to strengthen the protective power of the fennel energies I’ve infused into this batch of yarn. Iron is, afterall, one of the metals used in weaponry, particularly humanities’s early weapons. In each of our ancient cultures, the Iron Age has marked the first steps we humans made into advanced weaponry. Those weapons strengthened our ability to both protect and provide for ourselves and our communities, kind of like learning to tend sheep and use their wool helped us to better care for ourselves and our families. As this is my own early exploration into a whole new technology and methodology for caring for my family, I reckon that connection makes a lot of sense, magically speaking. With luck, Fennel will agree and offfer up a beautiful, dark, intesne shade of green for my efforts.

Some Fennel Magic ideas you can try:

  • Make Muhkwas at home
  • Try your hand at Fennel Dye
  • Make Purification Incense (Fennel, Birch, Frankincense, Thyme)
  • Hang mid-summer protection herbs or garlands over your doors (St. John’s Wort, Fennel, Buckthorn, Elder)
  • Take Tea or a steam to ease excess mucus respirtory troubles (fennel, thyme, elderflowers)

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