I went herb gathering on this beautiful warm September morning, as the sun shone bright on the green meadows and trees. Nature is noticeably on the verge of the vegetation period and gives everything before autumn kicks in. Red rosehips and hawthorn berries are ripe, the Cornelian cherries are already bleting. The herbs are now full with aromatic oils and active substances. Hence the last weeks of summer are the best time for gathering herbs.
The tradition of gathering herb bundles and having them blessed by the goddess Frigg/Freya has been adopted into Christian faith. The Virgin Mary is prayed to for blessing the gathered herbs, which are called Kräuterbuschen in German.
The best places for gathering herbs are those that are untouched by humans and their pets; in other words, which are free from pesticides, street dust and pet excrements. If you live in an urban area, it may be diffcult to find such places, the least frequented not seldom being the graveyards. Hence, asking permission from the spiritus loci – in this case the dead and their guardian – is often the best and only option if you want to gather healthy plants. When paying the spirits, avoid leaving unnatural or decomposable offerings. It is much more important that you act respectful and do not disturb the place more than is necessary in order to gather what you need.
September Kräuterbuschen: hawthorn, mugwort, rosehips, yarrow, ribwort, nettle seeds, daisy
Whom to thank?!
When spiritual practice turns into tradition and tradition turns into dogma, gestures become hollow and the forms loose their essence. Hence there always comes a point, when its time to question one’s practice and reconnect to the source. This is when the mind should turn silent and silence and awe are the best means of thanking ‘the spirits’. Contemplation and reconnecting to forms is to follow.
When this point is reached in one’s spiritual practice, it may also be a good time to contemplate the nature of one’s guardian angel.
According to Wikipedia, a guardian angel is a type of angel that is assigned to protect and guide a particular person, group or nation. The belief is that guardian angels serve to protect whichever person God assigns them to. In some faiths, a single person has several guardian angels. In Christianity the guardian angels have their own theology. In modern times the concept of the Holy Guardian Angel, as developed in the order of the Golden Dawn, and which was based on Marther’s translation of the 15th century book The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage by German cabbalist Abraham of Worms, was complemented and popularized by Aleister Crowley. However, the guardian angel already played a major role in ancient Judaism and likewise existed patroni and tutalary beings throughout antiquity. According to the Hebrew bible, angels have been assigned to protect nations. E.g. the archangel Michael is the patron saint of Isreal, but he also became the patron of many Christianized countries.
The favorite deity worshipped by Germanic tribes was Donnar/Thor. His holy places were subsequently transformed into sites dedicated to St. Michael, who became the patron Saint of Germany. On a lower level, this is also reflected in the saint’s personification as Deutscher Michel. The name originates from Hebrew Mi kamocha elohim, which means something like “who is like you, god”. Michael hence embodies the effort to be like god. When the divine order was challenged by Lucifer (the light bearer) and Samyaza (master of weaponry), it was archangel Michael that lead the heavenly hosts and cast the rebelling angels out of heaven and into hell. Michael thus silenced the rebellion in heaven and re-established the heavenly order, while Lucifer (in some sources also Belial) continues to challenge this same order. Michael and Lucifer are arch-enemies, or less dramatically put, dual fighting principles. While Michael protects the divine light, Lucifer aims to bring it to the people. Without judging their respective positions and relevance, St. Michael hence serves as the patron of military and police in many countries and is often featured in heraldry. His feast day is 29 September. On this day begins the accademic new year and it is the time when articificial illumination starts. (Read more about this feast day in my next post.)
An interesting idea concerning the guardian angel appears in Rabbinic literature:
Rashi on Daniel 10:7 “Our Sages of blessed memory said that although a person does not see something of which he is terrified, his guardian angel, who is in heaven, does see it; therefore, he becomes terrified.“
In other words, it is due to the impulse of the guardian angel, who warns us, that we experience emotions such as fear and anxiety in the face of danger, which in turn are physical mechanisms that protect us from harm. In modern physiology this role would be taken by hormones and the influence of micro-organisms in- and outside of our body. Noteworthy, the guardian angel does not simply remove harm from the person but rather confronts and guides the person in dealing with it. So here we have a concept, in which the guardian angel is not simply a benevolent being but it induces fear/negative emotions in its assigned human.
An example for a guardian angel in Rabbinic literature is Lailah, from Hebrew Laylāh, meaning: “night”, associated with the night, as well as conception and pregnancy. Lailah serves as a guardian angel throughout a person’s life and at death, leads the soul into the afterlife (see). Lailah presents a drop of semen to god, who then decides its fate, however, not its character. Hence the decision for good or bad is left to the person’s free will, only the outward conditions are preset.
If one was to seek polar opposites, then Lilith, as a night demon and waster of semen, would be the counterpart to Lailah. Yet in truth, they are rather two sides of the same coin. In ancient Germanic faith, both roles would be taken by Hulda/Frau Holle/Percht, who guards the souls of the unborn children, as well as receives the souls of the dead and both occurs as a benevolent goddess to the diligent as well as as a terrifying monster to the indolent.
Conclusion: it can be exciting and fascinating to explore and look for forms and names for one’s personal guardian angel. There are guardian angels for the nations and systems we belong to (or rebel against), common or mutual guardian angels residing over our time on earth and beyond, as well as individual guardian angels, which may have special names and embodiments and characters. They may be simply there for us, when needed, or challenge us. Their mutual core is though, that they are assigned and not chosen. However their nature maybe transformable and they can be addressed, similar to how we can employ a natal chart and extract the best from it.
Around the 1st of August, the first harvest of the year is celebrated, and it is the best time for gathering fragrant and medicinal herbs since now they are rich in aromatic oils! It is also the time when the bilwis – originally benevolent priests guarding the fields, later envisioned as corn demons with sickles on their feet – cut the first corn. Common festivals held during this time are Lughnasadh or Lammas, which celebrate the ripening of the corn and the baking of the bread from the first harvest. Traditionally, this first bread is offered to the spirits, and likewise, corn dolls are crafted and offered. Altars are decorated in flaming red, orange, and golden yellow colors. Most emblematic of this time are the sunflower, the lion and the cornucopia. But all the herbs and fruits that are ripe during this time of the year can be used to decorate the home and honor the spirits.
It is a time for celebrating Lugh, the Celtic god of craftsmanship and weaponry. Lughnasadh is translated as the ‘killing of Lugh’ in old Irish language, which is an allegory for the end of summer. Wolf Dieter Storl identifies the Celtic Lugh as a god of fire, who imbues medicinal herbs with power and associates him with the Germanic Loki (Lodur), the trickster and fire god. On the same first day of August, the torch bearing bringer of light, Lucifer was banished from heaven. It is hence believed that persons born on the 1st of August would become a witch and a ghost-seer.
My personal incense for celebrating the fire of August:
black, golden and / or white copal
coriander seed (ground)
nutmeg (a pinch)
palo santo or sandalwood
red carnation or red rose flower petals
Aside from the witches’ Wheel of the Year festivals, there are other feasts taking place in August. Romans celebrated the Nemoralia, a festival sacred to DianaNemorensis. Interestingly, the Romans would pay tribute to Diana by honoring the dogs of the hunt and polishing the spears, meaning no hunting or fighting would take place during this time. Instead, the dogs were cared for and adorned, and slaves, warriors, and hunters were granted a time of rest and nurture. Torches were carried to the grove of Diana in Nemi, which offered a refuge for slaves during the hottest time of the year. At the center of her grove stood an oak tree, which was guarded by a priest titled rex nemorensis, who himself was an escaped slave. This priest had to defend the tree and his own life against other slaves, until the next slave would take his place by killing him and breaking a branch from the tree. This unusual ritual seems to have pre-Roman roots.
Diana is identified with the Greek Artemis and also bears references to the Greek Hecate.
My suggestion for a Nemoralia incense:
sandarac or pine resin
Similar to the motive of Lugh as a god of fire, weaponry and craftmanship, the Romans celebrated one of their oldest deities, the fire god Vulcan, around the 23rd of August. Vulcan was worshipped and appeased during the August heat as to be protected from (wild) fires and especially to protect the granaries from fire. During the Vulcanalia, bonfires were lit and grain offerings were thrown into the flames. After the Great Fire of Rome, the worship of Vulcan only increased, and the offerings now also included red bulls. Noteworthy, Pliny the Younger documented the outbreak of the Vesuvius in Pompei only one day following the Vulcanalia festival.
Shortly before the middle of August is also the time of the Perseid meteor shower, during which the trinity of heaven, earth, and the underworld was celebrated in antiquity. Another ancient goddess revered during this time was Hecate, who governed these three realms. The herbs that are especially sacred to her include monkshood, henbane, wormwood, asphodel, mandrake, pomegranate and the saffron crocus.
Incense for Hecate:
myrrh (soaked in red vine and honey)
orris or mandrake root
In August, we also honor the mother goddesses per se.
On the 15th of August, Christians celebrate the Assumption of Mary. Along with it, various herb blessing traditions once sacred to Freya have been adopted and converted into the Maria-Kräuterweihe. Herbs that are traditionally part of the Mariä Kräuterbuschen:
mullein (at the center)
St. John’s wort
The blessed herbs were then given into the food of sick animals, hung in the home and barn, or thrown into the fire for protection from thunder and lightning. The time spanning from the 15th of August to the 8th of September (Nativity of Mary) is also known as Frauen-Dreißiger. The entire time is considered auspicious for the gathering of medicinal herbs.
Likewise, the Germanic Holle/Holda/Dame Hulda, in her role as the ancient mother goddess of neolithic origin, can be honored and asked for maternal blessings during the August full moon. Especially sacred to Holda is the Elder tree, which is now full of ripe fruits.
In Argentina, Paraguay and Southern Brazil the 15th of August (or alternatively the 13th of August) is dedicated to a folk saint, which is not accepted by the Catholic church: devotees of San la Muerte praise the Saint of Death with offerings of flowers, candles, liquor, tobaccco, money, food offerings such as pork and sweets and coffee. My favorite incense for San la Muerte is similar to the August fire blend Iisted above.
Finally, in Japan, the festival of the Dead, called Obon, is celebrated around the middle of August. A key symbol for this liminal time is the cherry blossom, also known as sakura. According to Japanese folklore, the souls of fallen kamikaze fighters (revered heroes) are symbolized by falling sakura petals.
My personal ‘Sakura’ blend for contacting the dead in dream:
silver colored frankincense
Conclusion: the feasts of August both venerate the light and fire of life, the culmination of summer, the bountyful harvest, the vegetation and mother goddesses, as well as the sickle, death himself and the dead. Do you know more feasts of August? Please write in the comments!
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.
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! 🙂
Find updated the Herbs & Seeds section with info on Sowing & Growing and lists of herbal and wooden ingredients relevant to our path. Under Art is added a new section Featured Artists. Next the focus is all on the Statues and Fetishes (what we actually specialize in). We will now be offline for the coming 2 weeks. New commission work and orders will be accepted again from 15 January 2012 on.
The Vision Tree, 2009-2011, by X.A.
Fine Art, Photo- and Canvas Prints available on request
Akelarrenlezea, 2011, by Akherra Phasmatanás
The setting of “Akelarrenlezea” shows the Cave of Zugarramurdi located in País Basque, where the infamous “akelarres” were widely celebrated – available for saleSOLD
Some of the seeds and herb harvest from this year: Columbine, Aconite, Hellebore, Henbane, Belladonna, Black Nightshade, Thorn Apple, Wormwood and Marshallow. An incomplete list and offers will be posted soon.