The candles have been lit, the incense has been burnt; my work now vibrates in the rooms of gallery Circle 1 until December 23rd. What started as a vague idea of creating artwork for a list of magical plants, has years later finally taken shape. Now was the point when everything fell into place naturally. It was preceded by searching and researching, trial and error, sowing, growing, loss and gain in the very basic and earth-bound occupation as a gardener and harvester. The first hand study of the actual plants laid the foundation, my rediscovered love for ink became the tool for manifesting my visions.
The installation is hence titled “Harvest” and consists of an earthen altar with dried plants and harvest related offerings: self baked bread, honey from the neighborhood and self-made beeswax candles. The souls and spirits that were contained in the once alive, now dead corpora of the plants, find a new house in the form of fetishistic ink drawings: the “Sigilla Magica” series.
With these new forms I also found an own language, which aims to both entertain and communicate memes to the viewer. 12 ink drawings reference 11 magical plants as well as the ‘queen bee’ – “Regina Bombina” – governing the vital interaction between plants and pollinators. In addition, 2 anthropomorphic drawings depict the Aconite and Mandragora in half-human form, as the armed and poison-dart struck “Wolf Shaman” and beheaded and re-headed “Regina Amandrakina” with her freakish offspring. Lastly, 2 botanical studies of the roots of the Aconite and Mandragora are meant to act as a bridge between abstraction and realism and honor the individual and fascinating shape of each in detail.
For the past weeks (and with interruption due to sickness), I have been working meticulously on the set-up for ritually blessing this year’s harvest. Of course it is not possible to pile up all the herbs and seeds gathered over the year. So instead I created a new, dynamic working sigil, which can be adopted and rearranged for different needs. In my own ritual the sigil is constructed from different plant parts and seeds, each corresponding with one of the four elements and esoteric symbolism. I.e. the sickles are made out of fennel stalks and vervain herb. For the stang in the center was used a thorn-apple stalk with pods and thornapple leaf and seed for the triangle symbolizing the spirit housed within the green. Of course you could use other herbs, real sickles, or simply trace the lines in the soil.
My offerings given to the spirits included self-gathered pine tree resin, Samhain protection incense, four beeswax candles, water and rum. The operation can be performed in silent contemplation or you call upon specific crossroad spirits and deities of your tradition. When done, all parts of the sigil can be gathered and employed to different sorcerous ends. Important is, if the ritual is dedicated to a certain spirit or deity you should stick with it.
Now I mentioned this was a dynamic sigil. As you can see in the above picture, the ritual aimed at blessing objects (in this case my seed boxes), which are placed inside the blades of the four sickles. A different ritual setting would consist of placing links to the four elements inside the sickles, e.g. offerings corresponding to each or your main altar tools. The point is, that you can construct and arrange the set-up in different ways suiting your needs. Now here are a few suggestions how to go about it:
Recently someone pointed out that the placement of the four elements inside my sigil was “wrong”. He was reasoning from the viewpoint of Western Mystery Tradition / Tarot. Well, as you can see there are different versions that all can be worked with. It is entirely up to you if you want to employ a tradition-specific succession and which you chose. Important is, if you do, that you contemplate and know why you chose one option over another.
Btw. I am looking forward to use the earth-bound altar again. It was altogether a very powerful experience employing sorcerous herbs and soil in this way.
PS: Please remember, I will process any new orders by the 2nd week of November. Until then I am preparing for my stall and exhibition at the Samhain Celebration on November 4th in Gotha (Germany).
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! 🙂