Or better said, postcards with new “Flower Devils” can now be ordered from the web shop! The new cards feature freshly captured motifs from summer 2018 as well as some of my earliest photographs in this series, including the auspicious “Henbane Devil” on black henbane flower, which initiated and from which the series got its name.
In German folklore, witches and even the devil himself were believed to take on the shape of bumblebees. A bumblebee-wax candle was lit in church, if a witch was burnt at the stake. Evil people were cursed with having to return as a bumblebee after death. The sub-earthen drone sound of a bumblebee signaled the presence of the dead. Instead of consecrated wavers, bumblebees were allegedly served at black masses. Bumblebees were also superstitiously feared as carriers of sickness and ritually buried to drive out plague. On the other hand, a dead bumblebee worn in the pocket, was believed to ensure the purse would always be filled with money. And he, who managed to secretly steal the bumblebee’s honey, was destined to find a huge treasure. Hence bumblebees were both viewed as good and bad omens.
The other new cards are:
“Belladonna Devil” et al – large earth bumblebee entering a deadly nightshade flower, common carder bees on comfrey and viper’s bugloss flowers, wasps mating on our white lavender, bee inside crocus flower after a long winter
Impressions from recent trip to Crete – symbol laden honey bee among the ruins of the Minoan palace in Malia, a small wasp nest on prickly pear, protected sea daffodil flower with Mediterranean sea in the background
Last but not least, cards with unfolding flower of the “Black Devil” datura, blue Aconite and green Henbane “Dragon” and – upon request – myself among the green “devils” in our garden.
In my part of the world the past new moon occured close to the midnight hour and when the moon was just entering into the sign of Scorpio. In addition friends and followers in Eastern Asia and most of North America could simultaneously witness a beautiful partial solar eclipse. An astrologically and magically interesting time, some would already hold their Samhain celebrations on this night, closing another circle, saying farewell to the old and inaugurating a new year. It is the beginning of a liminal time, when the veil between the world of the living and the other side thinnens. It is believed the souls of the deceased – both beloved or malign, familiar or nameless – come to visit and contact the living, in dream or even physically. Temperatures are dropping, you see your breath in the cold air. The trees are yet aflame in autumn colors but will soon turn barren. Winter is just around the corner.
I felt it sooner this year than usual, perhaps owed to the early arrival of summer, autumn and winter are coming earlier as well. And it feels like its going to be a cold one. I experienced some dark days and nights, where I turned inside and contemplated, what has been done and what can and will be done. I got inspired and wrote these lines:
I feel the change of season
this autumn fire
the nights getting longer
the impending darkness
this cold breath down my neck.
But I am aflame and
burning with passsion
to a degree that it
almost consumes me.
Memories and dreams
the future and the past
they are merging
in a round-dance of autumn leaves
in the yellow light of street lamps
or in the dim grayness of
one drizzly September day.
I am day dreaming
and the world around me becomes
like the surface of a pond
into which I dip my finger
and suddenly the whole picture
starts to ripple and disperse
and the voices of people talking to me are muted
and I hear something else.
The veil is thinning.
I am dreaming of reconciliation.
I hear from a lot of people this year has been their worst by far. Some say they felt a strong negative Saturn influence in their life. Things being stolen or lost, relationships breaking apart, unexpected changes for the worse and in some instances also suicide attempts. There was a lot happening around me and for all I know there is little in life to rely on. Believes and faith, relationships and worldly values are questioned and challenged. And the idea that from loss and pain still something good or even better arises, may infact not always hold true. Yet the quality of conversations improves, deepens. Superficialties don’t suffice any longer. And I still feel lucky. I do have my self, my work, and spirits and friends to turn to. Even if they may be struggeling themsselves; as long as there is a shared will to continue and work towards better times – not sit and wait – there is reason for hope.
What really helps me during times, when there is apparently nothing positive at all, is the feedback I receive from you, my customers and followers. It does indeed mean a great deal to me. It is one reason why I’m doing what I’m doing and why I continue this project. Feedback such as this:
Having received one of your plant sigil card sets, I wanted to thank you for your work and express my gratitude in having received one. It is a beautifully crafted work, with an obvious spine of honesty, experience and exploration. A profound expression of the green, from the veils of the divine. – JR/O.
Thank you and all who write me messages, comment, like and fave! Thanks to over 2000 followers on facebook and 500 on tumblr, thanks to my watchers on deviantArt and elsewhere! Thanks to the loud and silent supporters and the imps and gnomes and wizzards doing ‘magic’ in the background and spreading the word! You know who you are.
And though it is true that this is often a lonely path we do take inspiration from another, consciously or unconsciously. I like to think that the same spirits contact us individually and sometimes they whisper the same and other times different things into our ears. Tuesday I thought about harvesting Belladonna under the waning moon. But the night was cold and rainy and there was no sharp shining crescent sickle to be seen that would have called for harvest. Thursday I read of Harold Roth‘s plan to harvest Belladonna under the new moon. I first thought no, lets leave them for another month or wait for next year’s Walpurgis. But then I gave it a second thought, went outside short before midnight and the conditions were just right.
The midnight hour was the hour of Venus and the dark moon had just entered Scorpio. A fitting constellation for working with the poisonous (scorpio) green (venus), and the darker aspects of the goddess (black moon), of whom the Belladonna is evocative. The Deadly Nightshade also has connections to the Germanic myths of the Wild Hunt, especially the Valkyries, daughters of heaven and earth (Wotan and Erda), who accompany the souls of the warriors that died in battle, to their final destination in Valhalla, which is reflected in the German name “Walkerbeere”. The Wild Hunt is said to begin with Samhain and culminates during the Winter Solstice and following nights. My first abstract vision of the plant’s essence shows her infront of a dark stormy sky with flashes of lightning and blood is raining from black clouds.
I took two roots, grown in pots, and both about 3 years old. The plants have flowered ready and the lasts berries are also ripe. In fact the stems are already slowly dying back and new green sprouts come from the root base. So it was indeed good timing. Especially since the following nights were even colder and the green parts don’t survive freezing. It makes sense that the time around Samhain is traditionally the time for the last harvest, which is then put up in the home for drying.
I also encountered a surprise when digging up the second plant as it had grown a long tap-root. It wouldn’t take an end and I actually could not unearth it wholly. I had to dig much deeper to get to the end of the part still stuck in the ground and it turned out that entire thing was indeed over 40 cm long!
I removed the soil manually, then cleaned them in rainwater and put them on the harvest altar, together with previously harvested roots. I lit beeswax candles and offered libation. I noticed a spicy smell and, though I used gloves, felt actually a bit benumbed from the fumes. I learned that the alkaloids concentrate in the root during autumn and winter. It may well be possible these two roots have a higher potency. They are now drying slowly and I plan to later make fetishes with them that tie together visullay the mentioned astrological and magical aspects. Below are a few pictures to show you their raw beauty:
In September I had already gathered leaves and sprigs, which I put between newspaper pages for drying. What do you read in there? It’s been a Belladonna year for sure!
Yet there are plenty of other herbs (and for that matter also seeds!) and so I find myself again running around the house and garden, collecting, sorting and processing all sorts of green harvest. It will still be a giant task to take photos of everything and make it available for ordering. I am also working on a larger herbal commissions, which includes labeling and filling custom bottles for a client.
At least I am ready now with rearranging our front garden (more about this later) and next is the raised bed. So lots to do this week until the official Samhain date. And I still have a very special interview in the making, as well as news concerning my contributions to the third Pillars Periodical Journal! But all in good time. 🙂
So long, after so much deadly nightshade here is now another plant, which embodies the month of October: the Chinese Aconite (Aconitum carmichaelii), or Herbst-Eisenhut, as it is called in German, is the last of the aconites to flower and brightens up the October month with its lush blue-violett inflorescences. It’s poisonous as hell too and another name for aconite was in fact Scorpio. The aconite, as the ‘king of poisons’ is in different ways to be seen as a counterpart to the belladonna or ‘queen of poisons’, who’s atropine is the physiological antidote in aconite poisoning. Now I certainly wouldn’t recommend doing the test. However I do like to grow them besides each other, for higher inspiration and guidance. In fact, I do have quite a few aconite and belladonna seedlings to plant out yet… Yep, lots do! 🙂
Summer is coming to an end and yet I did not even share half of the photos I’ve taken during the past three months. So I sat down with a glass of red wine and made this summary of summer garden impressions for you. Click through the gallery to find a commentary on each motif and feel free to comment!
It’s been a while since I last blogged about the garden. So I will dedicate this entry entirely to the Green and all news concerning herbs and plants… and wow, they have been prospering! Do you still remember this? Well see how things are looking this summer… actually the Foxgloves have flowered ready by now and the same goes for the Poison Hemlock and Northern Wolfsbane. And whilst Henbane and Belladonna will soon also have flowered ready and their fruits are ripening, the Blue Monkshood is in full bloom now! Everything seems to be a couple of weeks ahead this year. Remember what I said about the mild winter? Well, in addition we are now having one really unusual hot summer!
So but one at a time. There is another herb currently flowering and bringing me much joy. And this herb shall introduce the stroll through the venific garden. The herb I am talking about is the White Henbane (Hyoscyamus albus). Sometimes it is also referred to as Yellow Henbane. This herb is a lovely relative of the Black Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger). It can be distinguished from the type species by some distinctive features: the flower petals are a brighter sulphur yellow and less veined. The stamina are coming more out of the bell-shaped flower chalices and are a pale yellow instead of black. I love how they jut out of the flower’s dark purple center… it’s somewhat quaint! The foliage is hairy as on Black Henbane, but differently shaped and silvery. The first sets of leaves are more round though still crenate whilst the distal or upper leaves are rather lanceolate and not serrated. For comparison I am posting photos of both. Besides this I find the flowers to stand a bit more loosely on the stem than on black Henbane but this may actually change, the taller the plant grows. Now I had success for the first time growing this herb from seed. It may in fact be owed to that super-summer I mentioned earlier. The White Henbane is native to the Mediterraneans and likes hot and dry climates. I actually think to have seen it growing wild by the sea when visiting Malta! Hence I guess last year was simply too rainy and cold for the plantlets. This year I could sow earlier and the temperatures have been relatively warm and stable. Anyway, I have not worked with the plant further than growing it. I imagine thought it will make a fine addition to white powders and incense for divination and necromancy – possibly also for restoring lost memories. And it makes me think of summer, sun and the sea! All this in mind I am starting to wonder whether this is not the actual herba apollinaris, which was part of divinatory incense offered up to the oracle at Delphi…
So, but here are the photos of the black henbane… the white henbane literally pales in comparison! You see the flowers are also slightly larger and of course the purple veins spread all across the yellow petals! The stamina are colored inverse to that of its relative and do not protrude as much. The foliage is pilose too but has a more juicy green and the leaves are deeply serrated. On the second photo you see it better. There you also get an idea how huge the black henbane grows! I am particularly fascinated with the way the pods and supporting foliage are lining up. It reminds of the vertebrae of a human backbone or the spine of a serpent or dragon… it’s utterly evocative of primal forces such as Leviathan or Jörmundgandr or the Hydra. E.g. the henbane on the photo is having five heads by now… And remember the story about Python slain by Apollo? Its body fell into a crevice in the ground and from the decomposing corpse intoxicating vapors rose up. Above that mythical place the oracle of Delphi was built and the priestess (Pythia), inhaling the fumes, became possessed by Apollo to foretell the future. It all leads again to that oracle… perhaps it’s time to offer some Delphian oracle incense? But least we forget, Henbane was also part of Pillars Golden Eitr incense!
–>*Hint* Pillars 1.III is being worked on heavily and I am contributing once again and this time actually with a written piece! My article will also indirectly deal with a subject rooted in the Green Kingdom… more about this soon! <–
Anyhow, back to the garden. I still have plenty to share, both on poisonous and benific herbs… But for tonight I must call it quits.
The garden beginning of last week and one day later: winter has finally arrived and the plants can now rest underneath a protecting blanket of snow. The long autumn had a positive aspect though: after a rainy summer and cool autumn I could still bed out young plants that had caught up slowly together with some late acquisitions. This concerned herbs such as Aconite, Belladonna, Henbane and Poison Hemlock as well as Lovage, Hyssop and Wormwood. In the background are planted plain white and purple spotted Foxgloves, which had been sown last year. These are now asleep underneath the white shroud that Hulda has laid upon the earth, awaiting resurrection in spring. Mandrakes kept in pots have been moved inside to the basement, together with a few daturas, angel’s trumpets and other plants that don’t withstand freezing.
Likewise Teufelskunst seems to have gone dormant. However those watching this space may have noticed silent changes, corrections and additions that have been and continue being done pertaining to the site’s structure as well as content, with new and corrected info texts being uploaded to the Garden library as well as new items being added to our Herbal Supply – for example resins and powders in labeled glass bottles. I am constantly working on expanding and increasing the quality of the service, inspired and spured by recent customer requests as well as interaction with other experienced herb and seed dealers.
A few things on my list to look into in 2014 are for example new Aconite species, namely the beautiful Climbing Monkshood (Aconitum hemsleyanum) with dark claret flowers and the Yellow Monkshood or Healing Wolfsbane (Aconitum anthora). Further I was able to track down rare seeds of the allegedly most poisonous Monkshood, the Indian Aconite or Bish (Aconitum ferox), which I hope to be able to grow from seed this year. Besides this I seek to expand my knowledge about different Datura species, adding the Long Spined or Fierce Thorn-Apple (Datura ferox) to the garden. What else? I did not have any success yet at growing Henbane Bell (Scopolia carniolica) from seed, so I will give it another try with new seeds from a different source. Finally I have also been offered rare seeds of the Indian Belladonna (Atropa acuminata). For those interested I will post about my sowing and growing progress here.
Of course there are also orders to take care of and it is a pleasure and rewarding to receive this type of positive feedback and see the group of new and returning customers grow. Being an artist/hand-crafting things on the one hand and being a seller/taking care of business on the other is certainly not always an easy combination, especially when inspiration kicks in. Having to hold it back in favor of handling and shipping orders (duty) however does also insure that I am not chasing after any quick idea and forces me to be selective of what I actually manifest. In this regard I am also extremely excited about and thankful for the collaborations that arose last year, first of all with Occvlta, who have already begun creating a new collection of unique Reliquary Pendants with Teufelskunst herbs. (Seeing the new pendants yesterday was a real treat!) Click on the picture to the left to learn more.
Besides this yet another jewellery collaboration is coming to frution with a metal worker from Finland, currently casting the first batch of metal pendants with our Sigilum Major – or Greater Sowing Seal, which is simultaneously also the seal of a certain herb. (If you are familiar with our plant inspired sigilla magicae you may recognize it.) For those interested in the process comes here a photo of the casting procedure… and here are now the final prototypes:
As you can see there is also another pendant being done. More about this, photos and details concerning prizing to be announced soon. Pre-orders are already accepted at firstname.lastname@example.org
What more? The past weeks were also filled with new experiences and inspiration transmitted by nature’s silent witnesses, the trees and vine (see documentation). From harvesting Poison Ivy and Mistletoe to communicating with Birch, Alder and other giants, which lastly ought to lead to new creations – amongst others in the form of new altar discs. This year starts with birch and black alder, of which I have a few raw wood slices to work with and that shall result in ten new pentacles to be offered here soon. For reference, these have been inspired by a recent customer request and they are different in that they are pyrographed into raw untreated wood that still has tree bark on. Details and pictures to follow. Besides this I am also working on new regular pentacles.
Lastly I have been approached for different commissions, such as tattoo designs and illustrations. I have also been contemplating the direction into which Teufelskunst is going and aim altogether for a stronger combination of supply, collaborative efforts and original art. Whatever news this year will have – you will read about them first here.
So long, thank you so much for your love, support and patience.