The past months were spent crafting and filling another row of Teufelskunst seed boxes. This year’s regular series included again a variety of new and old witch herb classics, while the recent “Black Flowers” edition, which was finalized this week, holds again a little treasury of extravagant, black or near black flowering plants as well as some vegetables with black fruits. Below are a few impressions of the final boxes. All remaining black flowers boxes will be shipped on the 15th of July. Please watch your email inboxes (and spam folders) for shipping notifications.
Cleansing and blessing a dog skull with "Dog Days" incense, August 7th 2018
This week we had another “hottest day of the year”. Since June, most of Europe experiences a near ceaseless heat and drought period.
The hottest days of summer have been known for centuries as “dog days” (Hundstage), but this year they truly live up to their name.
The Greek called them kynádes hēmérai, Romans adopted it, calling them dies caniculares. Historically the period began with the heliacal rising of the dog star Sirius in the Northern Hemisphere, which Greek and Roman astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck, while to the Polynesians in the Southern Hemisphere the star marked winter and was an important reference for their navigation around the Pacific Ocean.
For my “Dog Days” incense I took inspiration from the paralyzing and deadly weather phenomenon.
The formula has been updated, with field eryngo (Eryngium campestre) being added to the baneful blend. In German language this type of thistle is also referred to as “Unruh” and “Elend” and the occurrence of clusters of broken off stems, similar to spiky tumbleweed carried forth by the wind, are named “Steppenhexen”. This stingy plant is almost impossible to touch or harvest without hurting yourself. Yet, and despite the heat and drought, it is frequented by dozens of bumblebees and other pollinators.
Beside obvious herbal references to the the dog/wolf totem, such as wolfsbane and mandrake, the incense contains also black and white henbane, which have been used in prophecy, baneful spells but also for rain magic. I burnt a good amount of it on this day, both to cleanse and bless a dog skull I found at the flea market, as well as to call for rain and cooling. It may have been simply good timing, but rain came the following morning.
I am often asked about side effects and dangers of burning venific incense blends – I can only speak for myself, I did not notice anything, apart from feeling more focused and empowered. I also sensed a relaxing effect on myself. A slight dizziness I attest to the burning sun and heat, not to the herbs.
Luckily, the worst heat seems to be over now and I look forward to enjoying the end of summer and working on art. In other news, new batches of “Qayin” and “Naamah” incense are now back in stock!
"Rain Spell" ritual with dog skull and "Dog Days" incense, August 7th 2018
Over three months in the making – the seed boxes for 2018 are finally here! All those, who had asked to be added to the reservation list, have been notified in e-mail earlier and pre-orders have now been processed. It is with joy, that I can say, the special “black flowers” edition sold out within a few days. There are still 3 of the regular seed boxes left. For ordering please go here.
Some impressions of the work progress on these latest seed boxes:
In follow to the wonderful feedback and many emails received after the last boxes had been sold, I spent the past weeks crafting and researching what would become the content of the next row of wooden seed boxes, these being numbers 31-36.
This time my focus was drawn towards magical herbs, which can be found on a blooming summer meadow and are traditionally used on the summer solstice. Many of these herbs are sown in April and May, hence the timing. Some annuals, such as poppies, you may be able to harvest already this summer, if sown now.
Besides this I wanted to include some new venific herbs, to accompany the well-known nightshades and popular poison plants. In my search my attention was drawn to the spurge, more precisely the caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris). Earlier I had been asked for spurge to use in a martial incense recipe and had trouble finding the right type. By chance I came across references pointing to the caper spurge with its poisonous milky sap, prominent size and auspicious shape. The plant seems to have been well known in Germany. It would be planted near one’s home as a protection against curses and it was used to break the spells of other witches. It was also thought to ward of moles and is hence also known as mole plant in English language.
Besides this I included the wild relative of the candle larkspur, named field or rocket larkspur (Consolida regalis), with its lovely deep blue flowers. The flowers are used in protection spells and the herb is planted to protect the home, similar to the closely related delphinium. The rocket larkspur is unfortunately in decline due to intensified agriculture. Another reason, to include it here.
A threatened herb with strong healing attributes is the lovely centaury (Centaurium erythraea). It has been attributed a plethora of benific properties and is rare to find in the wild these days. I am thus happy to have found a supplier of seeds for this rare healing herb. Another old and perhaps forgotten about healing herb of antiquity, which is now experiencing a renaissance is the wood betony (Stachys officinalis). Likewise the motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) was a popular healing herb in medieval times until interest in the plant declined. It makes for a nice background plant with other purple and pink flowering herbs and interesting addition to the ‘witch’s garden’.
In selecting the herbs I also paid attention to the 13 plants described in Harold Roth’s book “The Witching Herbs” (signed copies available here) and thus included seeds for each.
Altogether there are now seeds for over 50 different sorcerous benific and venific herbs contained in one box. The box itself is pyrographed stained and varnished by hand. The sigil on the box is the “Sigillum Major” or “Greater Sowing Seal”. It includes references to the work with plants, crossroad symbolism etc. and is also used as the official logo for Teufelskunst. The sigil inside the box is called “Sigillum Minor” or “Lesser Sowing Seal” and is an abbreviated form of the former, traceable in one stroke of a line. Each box is numbered on the bottom.
Printed sowing instructions in tabular form are included with each box. For detailed information on each herb please visit my plant blog.
Update: The boxes are sold. You can still e-mail me for the complete list of seeds contained in this series at email@example.com. I will work on 4 more boxes this spring to round up the number before the summer solstice. Than that’s it for a while.
The latest seed boxes have been sold and shipped. I received much more inquiries than expected and will get back to each individually. Please bare with me if this takes a few more days. I have also started preparations for the next boxes, these being #31-36. It will take a couple of weeks to complete these. My plan is to have them ready in time for mid-spring – for sowing all those herbs that like it warm. The other seeds that come with the box can be sown in autumn or given the artificial cold treatment in the fridge.
About the boxes: they contain seeds from at least 44 different venific and benific ‘witch’ herbs. The boxes are pyrographed with the “Sigillum Major” or “Greater Sowing Seal”, which you also see as the official logo of Teufelskunst. The boxes are then stained and varnished. Following this, hundreds of little paper bags are labeled and filled with the seeds, which I partly gather by myself and partly purchase from other places. I usually spend at least 40 hours on four of these boxes. It is a tedious but also rewarding process, which gives me the chance to connect deeper with the herbs and it also empties the mind and brings new inspiration. I also learn how the seed for each herb looks and what it requires to break its dormancy. It is my hope that the content of these boxes will bring joy to others and aid them in their own studies.
The boxes contain seeds from at least 44 different venific and benific ‘witch’ herbs. The boxes are pyrographed with the “sigilum major” or “greater sowing seal”, stained and varnished. Then hundreds of little paper bags are labeled and filled with the seeds, which I partly gather by myself and partly purchase from other places. I usually spend at least 40 hours on four of these boxes. It is a tedious but also rewarding process, which gives me the chance to connect deeper with the herbs and it also empties the mind and brings new inspiration. It is my hope that the content of these boxes will bring joy to others and aid them in their own studies.
Update: the boxes are sold. Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to reserve one in the future!
I have shared this with a few customers, so I make it available here as well. This is a short research into the plants that compose my incense blend for contemplative work with the qlipha Thagirion.
Aspects that tie in here are the sun of the underworld and afterlife, the sun’s burning and eruptive aspects, fire of inspiration etc. Here are also references to the ecstasy of the lotophagi. What may need further investigation is the concept of the sin eater, which is addressed in the title illustration, but not discussed in this text.
Keywords: cleansing, renewal, leaving behind the shadow of death, ecstasy, fire of inspiration, arts, collective efforts, destruction/ change of ego-patterns
Scent: deep, warm, sweet
1. Blue Egyptian Water Lily (Nymphaea caerulea) has been used ritually for millennia. The lotus is a symbol of divinity and beauty. In Egypt it rose and faded with the sun and was sacred to the sun gods. An entire cosmogony (rule by the ogdoad) was based on the lotus. The flower features prominently in religious art all over the world and bears associations both with creation myths as well as the afterlife. Both the blue and white water lily contain alkaloids, which act euphoric, narcotic and anti-spasmodic. Extracts of water lily have been used as a substitute for opium during WWI. The lotophagi in Homer’s account of the Odyssey may have consumed this plant. It is said to induce a state of bliss and indolence. In Egyptian art it is depicted in connection with dancing or in key rites such as the rite of passage into the afterlife. Whereas the white lotus would appear on the drinking vessels of the living the blue lotus was reserved for sacred ceremonial ritual vessels. Because of its links to the sun of the underworld, sleep and intoxication I found the blue lotus useful in ritual work with the qlipha Thagirion.
2. Calamus root (Acorus Calamus), or sweet flag as it is often called, is associated with the sun and the male. The root oil is aromatic and part of perfumes, liquors and also cola. The root extract has stimulant, warming (sun) and aphrodisiacal properties. It is a traditional ingredient in ketoret temple incense and may aid in establishing contact with one’s guardian ‘angel’. Calamus can act as a mood elevator and cause mild hallucinations. So here we have another plant that grows in or close to water. The name calamus comes from Greek κάλαμος (kálamos), meaning “reed”, “straw” or “pipe”. The shaft has been used for making writing instruments as well as pipes. Calamari are named after the plant. The Latin name acorus in turn may be derived from Greek άχόρου (áchórou) and κόρη (kóri), referring to the pupil of the eye. The root extract was apparently also a remedy for eye diseases, which cause a ‘darkening of the pupil’. The bittersweet and slightly nauseating scent of calamus root has grown on me. When adding it to any herbal blend I feel it gives it a boost (strengthening) and also adds protective qualities. In addition I found it potent in dream work. I also added it to self-made herbal liquors and it left me with a bit of a headache. Use with care.
3. Wild dagga (Leonotis leonurus) is also known by the name lion’s tail. It was brought to my attention by a good friend. The orange flowers and its name are of course evocative of the sun. The herb is endemic to the Southern Africans and used in traditional African medicine. Its energizing effects have been compared to energy drinks, whilst others say it acts similar to Cannabis when smoked. It is said to induce euphoria and mild hallucinations. In smoking recipes it is combined with water lily to enhance these effects. The species Leonorus nepetifolia is said to act significantly stronger than its relative. Leonorus is used in traditional medicine to cure fevers, snake bites, scorpion stings and other inflammations. So this sunny herb counteracts many physical ailments that deal with too much heat – Mars influences, but also the effects of venturing too close to the sun (burns). Leonotis means “lion’s ear” and is a reference to the shape of the flower crown. I found it a nice signature reference to Sorath, the black lion prince of Thagirion.
4. Hibiscus (Hibiscus spcc.) is another plant associated with the sun. But the red hibiscus flower is also sacred to the Hindu goddess Kali, who is sometimes depicted merging with the flower in form. Hibiscus tea is rich in Vitamine C and minerals, strengthens the immune system and is as such used as a mild medicine during the winter time. It is also pleasant to drink cold during hot summer days. Hibiscus lowers blood pressure. Interestingly, extracts from the flowers of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis have shown to function as an anti-solar agent by absorbing ultraviolet radiation. So here is another ‘sun’ herb that counteracts characteristics of its planetary influence. Hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia, also called Bunga Raya, “grand flower”, representing life and courage. In China it is also called zhū jǐn, “vermilion hibiscus” and is identified with wealth and fame. Otherwise it stands also for the attractiveness of a young female virgin. In South-Korea hibiscus symbolizes immortality. In the Victorian language of flowers Hibiscus translates as “delicate beauty”. The hibiscus flower tea that is sold in Europe is mostly composed of the calyxes from the species Hibiscus sabdariffa, also known as Roselle and the tea is called Karkadeh. I keep searching for the red Chinese hibiscus, though I feel in shape and essence the flowers of H. sabdariffa are also suitable. I find particularly interesting the association with Kali, as an embodiment of adversarial beauty, black, fierce and destructive, destroyer of illusions, demanding bloody sacrifice, yet also bestowing boons to the faithful – favoring the beautiful hisbiscus flower amongst her offerings.
Now we have three different flowers, all powerful and representative of the sun, and we have also looked at inherent adverse or inverse aspects of that planetary influence. In color we range from blue to green to orange to a deep red. To complete the visible spectrum we are yet missing a yellow herb. One that immediately comes to mind is the sunflower, perhaps the boldest representative amongst all ‘sun’ herbs. (Could have started with this one, right?)
5. The indigenous peoples of America viewed the sunflower (Helianthus annuus) as a symbol of their solar deities, which represented life and sustenance. Early Spanish explorers imported the sunflower to Europe. Consequently sunflower became one of the most important agricultural commodities. Sunflower, particularly seed, is rich in nutrients and has a wide range of medicinal properties. It is also a flower chosen by some spiritual movements as a motto and symbol for ‘turning to the light of truth’, based on the sunflower’s alleged heliotropism. True is, the flower buds and leaves turn indeed towards the light and then usually point towards the noon sun, and act thus as a compass. But the stem of a mature flower freezes and remains in its position, usually pointing East. The size of a sunflower does btw. depend directly on the amount of light it receives, meaning the sunnier the bigger.
The second misconception refers to the “flower” of the sunflower, which is actually a “flower head” or pseudanthium of numerous small individual five-petaled flowers, so-called “florets”. The florets can be of varying color, from yellow to green to a dark brown. Ever fascinating is the spiral arrangement of the florets. Each floret is oriented toward the next by approximately the golden angle, 137.5°, producing a pattern of interconnecting spirals, where the number of left spirals and the number of right spirals are successive Fibonacci numbers. Typically, there are 34 spirals in one direction and 55 in the other; however, in a very large sunflower head there could be 89 in one direction and 144 in the other. This pattern produces the most efficient packing of seeds mathematically possible within the flower head. Natural growth patterns are an aspect I have also come to relate with this qlipha and may have subconsciously inspired the title graphic, which builds upon my old sun symbol, employed here in a repetitive pattern to form a more complex structure.
The way, in which the sunflower florets are packed close together does remind me of honeycombs, as if the flower was a mirror to the structures built by bees. Also how bees live in a swarm collective and function together as a single organism, is similar to how the flower head of the sunflower is comprised of myriads of little, neatly organized florets. The florets are surrounded by so-called “ray flowers”, which resemble petals. They help attract pollinators such as bees. We see how the single flowers are organized, each serving its purpose. The individual or the small piece is part of a higher order or collective, which achieves more than the individual alone.
A not so friendly feature are the sunflower’s allelopathic properties: sunflowers emit substances that hinder other plants from growing in their proximity. The sunflower has means to defend itself. This feature would translate also spiritually as a way of self-defense. But more along the line: I grow and prosper here, you may not. Or: for the sun to shine on me, others have to remain in my shadow. This is of course putting it a bit drastic. The sunflower’s biochemical self-defense mechanism reaches only so far, just enough to ensure it can grow and unfold. In my view, this pierces deeply though into that Thagirion complex, where we are confronted with the excesses of ego-worship. It is essentially about balancing ego extremes and finding a way, away from the superficial compensation of inferiority complexes to profound and long lasting changes.
Now on to a herb that is actually more considered a Saturn herb, but which also has some interesting indirect links to the sun. The herb experienced a revival during the hippy era and was consumed together with blue water lily and wild dagga:
6. The wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa) sports golden-yellow flowers and spinose green foliage. It goes also by the names bitter lettuce and opium lettuce. Ingesting the plant is said to bring about psychotropic, calming and anodyne effects similar to opium and it is sometimes combined with Nymphea caerulea for that purpose. In herbal medicine it is mainly used as a mild painkiller and for treating nervousness. Whilst heroine and other opiates may initially cause nausea and vomiting, wild lettuce is said to not have such side effects. Either the dried herb or latex extracted from the stem are smoked or added to tea or soaked in alcohol. The dried latex (a milky white sap) is also called Lactucarium and has also been consumed directly. Beside lactucine, the plant is also said to contain the tropane alkaloid hyoscyamine, which is found in most nightshades, such as henbane (Hyoscyamus niger).
The plant is a wild forebear of the garden lettuce, which is widely used in salads. Hildegard von Bingen noted about the herb:
“The lettuces, which can be eaten, are very cold, and when eaten without spice they make the brain of man empty with their useless juice. …But the wild lettuces have almost the same nature. For anyone who would eat lettuces, which are useless and are called weeds, either raw or cooked, would become mad, that is insane, and he will become empty in the core”
Obviously a rather negative review of the herb and its qualities, however the mind altering and emptying attributes fit for the work with this qlipha. In the 16th century, Gerard said of wild lettuce:
“it procures sleep, assuages paine, moves the courses in women, and is drunke against the stingings of scorpions and bitings of spiders. The seed taken in drinke, like as the garden lettuce, hindreth generation of seed and venereous imaginations.”
In other words it kills (or at least decreases) sexual drive. Victorians feared the herb would induce childlessness.
Ironically wild lettuce was sacred to the Egyptian god Min, a fertility deity, god of male sexual potency, crops and also of magical plants. Min was believed to ensure the annual flow of the river Nile and fertility of the land people of Egypt. His depictions are ithyphallic, showing the deity with a large erect penis and lettuce beside him. He was also envisioned to lay on a bed made entirely of lettuce. Wild lettuce was considered an aphrodisiac in ancient Egypt. The milky latex exuded from the stems may have been thought of as resembling semen and the plant’s vertical growth was considered phallic. Oddly, depictions of Min show him as missing one arm and strangely two-dimensional. When still human Min was put in charge to guard and care for the women left behind when the other men went to war, possibly facing defeat and death. But they returned successful. Only to find all their women pregnant. Enraged, they cut Min in two halves. Min was also a god of the desert, lightning and sandstorms. Again we are confronted with ambiguous properties, aphrodisiac and anaphrodisiac at the same time, evocative of male potency, abundance, fertility and prosperity, but also opposite visions of castration, childlessness, destruction and sacrifice (ego death). In ancient Greek manuscripts the plant is btw. referred to as ‘Titan’s Blood’, relating it to the giant gods that battled the Olympians, which links the herb with the adversary of gods and men alike.
Adding wild lettuce means breaking with typical sun herb patterns and euphemistic sun attributes and instead shifting focus further towards other aspects. Wild lettuce also enhances the mind altering qualities of some of the herbs contained herein.
7./8. As for the resins to round up this blend I used storax-soaked charcoal, which adds a sweet warm scent, and Olibanum from Aden, which has a fresh, citrus-like aroma and is overall stimulant. Keeping it simple here.
The above herbs and flowers come from different cultures and regions. When burnt, all of these ingredients will turn black and be reduced to ashes whilst releasing their essence. The ashes may be collected and used in further rituals, e.g. for protection and cleansing.
Update: The first batch is sold out. The second batch will be available February 17th, 2017.
This blend is overall solar, but more the kind that burns hot and makes you feel dizzy and drowsy, as when staring at the sun for too long… It contains herbs with psycho-active properties such as blue egyptian waterlily, calamus root, wild dagga and wild lettuce.
Characteristics: herbs and flowers that represent the sun in shape and color, display the spectrum of visible light and bring out both the fire and light aspect, but at same time are cooling and possess the power of opening the mind and showing gates to other dimensions
Keywords: cleansing, renewal, leaving behind the shadow of death, fire of inspiration