From the top down -
Atropa belladona (Poison)
Solanum dulcamara (Poison)
open their lids
for their lovers;
Maenads fall upon men
dripping with dreams;
& children die
from the sweetest
of inky fruits.
wine of the Bacchanals,
you are indeed the witch’s berry,
I look into your open eye & see
women in love with death,
dying with the widest
& brightest of eyes.
Have you no shame at all
The other herbs
pretend to be angelic,
but you freely play
the Devil’s part.
Dwaleberry, Sorcerer’s cherry,
your sweetness bursts
on the tongue,
the lungs relax,
& death comes
Jimsonweed - Dratura Strimonium
Today's herb is Jimsonweed, also called devil's trumpet, Hell's bells, thorn apple and moon flower, from the genus Datura. It belongs to the Solanacease (nightshade) family. Its toxic ingredients include tropane alkaloids, including atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine, and it is particularly dangerous because the amount needed for a high is nearly the same as the lethal over dose which greatly increases the chance of accidental fatal overdose.
There are times I simply must pause when I do herbal research. These are the kinds of things that have guided me to avoid deadly herbs for so long. I've been sharing information on haunting herbs for years and it has all been in fun, using only herbs found in the gardens of the white witches. But there can be a dark and serious side to herbal use. The lists of illness and most often death associated with this herb are readily available on the internet so I won't list them here.
That being said, I have been in awe of the gorgeous Jimsonweed for years and would not be anymore inclined to eat it than I would poison ivy. I can enjoy it at a distance and as with all the deadly herbs, I strongly advise you look but don't touch!
Bliss, M. (2001), Datura Plant Poisoning, Clinical Toxicology Review
~ Erica Jong
of the poisonous flowers--
even your smallest buds
are said to cause
madness, sleep & death,
but your spiny ″apples,″
prickly & stiff as porcupines,
are the real villains,
& were much beloved
by Kali’s worshipers,
(O kill, kill
in a goddess’ name!)
for arrow tips
& sacrificial victims’ hearts--
you were also used
in love philters!
The cynic laughs,
knowing that love
is the first poison--
that takes the soul,
& all the organs
(O kill, kill
in a goddess’ name!)
Venus, Kali, the Great Mother
the God of the Witches--
what does it matter?
Love potion or poison,
it is the same drink
that brings oblivion
in the end.
Love-will, Sorcerer’s herb,
you were used by brothel keepers
to seduce the innocent,
& witches brewed you
for their flying ointments.
The soldiers of Jamestown
made merry with your juice.
It was a new country
but the herbs were old.
The poisons link us
the poisons & the love philters.
Down through the Ages
we are joined by vines;
we wear garlands
of poisonous berries
Green as innocence,
green as love of death,
we bud, we flower, we fall--
& ancient herbs
out of our blind
Mandragora - Mandragora officinarum
© Mikell Y Worley, Mandrake, Watercolor and Pen and Ink, 5" x 7'
This year I'm featuring the Deadly Herbs of Halloween and Friday the 13th seems the ideal time to post. We'll begin with Mandrake, the root of Mandragora. Legend states that the plant sprung from the dripping blood and semen of men who were hanged at the gallows.
Mandrake, translated as the dragon resembling man, (Atropa mandragora, Mandragora officinale) is one of the most powerful of the Halloween Herbs. The root, said to resemble the form of a human body, can grow to a length of three or four feet. It is most often associated with males (Man-drake, Mandragan, Mandragor, Mannkin), but other names include a feminine reference (Ladykins and Womandrake). And there are other folk names including Brain Thief, Wild Lemon, and Raccoon Berry. Do you see why I love herbs?
Another name is Herb of Circe, as it is thought to be the herb used in the brew made by the sorceress Circe (Kirke) to turn Odysseus's trespassing men into swine. Wow!
If that weren't enough, there are additional benefits! It can protect your home and assure affluence and abundance. Silver coins placed next to this handy root will double in amount over night. Even those who aren't known for our mathematical expertise can see the benefit!
Mandrake can be used to attract love if you hang the root on the headboard of your bed. Keep in mind, this is a three to four foot long hairy root that looks something like a person. I'm just wondering how I'd react if I woke up in the middle of the night and . . . .oh, never mind. Once true love is guaranteed it will ensure fertility and the scent ensures a peaceful night's sleep - at least until the baby arrives!
But there is a problem. Mandrake roots are rare and expensive, and, well they should be, considering the challenges involved with obtaining one. To ensure that the magic is intact, there are certain procedures that must be followed. You don't just go out with a shovel to your nearest mandrake patch and start digging.The root must be obtained on a moonless night, ideally yanked out just at the stroke of midnight.
There is another problem. The mandrake does not want to be removed from the ground. It shrieks in protest. The shrill screams seem to have a derogatory effect on all that hear them and drive them to insanity. So as you can imagine, people aren't lining up to be harvesters of the mandrake root.
There is a solution but Zippy, my Puggle, and I don't like it. "The safest way to secure a mandrake was to tie a dog to the plant on a moonless night. Plugging one's ears with beeswax and blowing a horn to drown out the shrieks, the dog was whipped at the stroke of midnight and the jumping animal pulled the screeching root from the ground and died."
Died. A dog, at least one or we know they wouldn't have given this example, died so that someone could tie a hairy root to their bedpost.
One more thing to keep in mind when considering the use of mandrake is that is is poisonous. It is a member of the Solanaceae family and the berries and roots contain anticholinergic alkaloids such as hyoscyamine and scopolamine.
There is good news though! If you're looking for a substitute for your spell this Halloween, you can use the root of an ash, which might be even more difficult to dig up than the Mandrake. It is a tree, after all. The root of betony or may apples have also proved to be worthy alternatives. For an even more easily obtainable solution, apples are said to work just as well.
In addition to it's many attributes, Mandrake inspired poetry from the hauntingly talented Erica Jong. Enjoy. I'm on my way to tie an apple to my bedpost.
Lehner, Ernst and Johanna (1960), Folklore and Symbolism of Flowers, Plants and Trees, Tudor Publishing Company
Stories from my grandmother
~ Erica Jong
little man dancing
with your great tap root,
small song-&-dance man
cloven-hoofed as the Devil--
no wonder you make such noise!
putting out fine root hairs…
Pythagoras & Theophrastus
sang your praises--
blessed you as aphrodisiac
blasted your resemblance
Like man you are tricky, devious,
like man you curse & bless.
Like man you are a poisoner
& a love-bringer;
like man you take
what you can.
bringer of fruitfulness & potency,
lamp in the darkness,
killer of starving dogs,
shrieker, gallowsman, dragon-doll--
you were once thought beneficent
in Biblical times,
but gradually the Devil claimed you.
You grew at the foot
of the gallows,
lapping up dead men’s sperm,
giving birth only to death.
& yet we all give birth
to only death,
& your other attributes--
O bringer of treasure, sensuality, love,
success in battle--
also lead to death.
So dance little Mandrake
in your doubleness.
Rejoice at the gallows’ foot.
You are indeed a dress rehearsal for man,
& we shall join you underground
© Erica Jong, Witches (1981)
Jong, Erica, (1997) Witches, Abradale Press
I took some herbal treats and thought you might like to try them so recipes are included.
Lavender Mint Cucumbers
3 cucumbers, peeled, cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and slice. Arrange on a deep dish plate or bowl.
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoon safflower oil
1 Tablespoons honey or sugar
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon fresh lavender blossoms
Whisk well and pour over cucumbers.
Garnish with springs of fresh lavender and mint.
Green Beans Vinaigrette
2 pounds fresh green beans with ends snapped off and strings removed.
Steam until tender - about 5 minutes - and immediately plunge into a bowl filled with ice water to stop the cooking,
Place beans in a bowl or deep dish plate.
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinager
2 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh finely chopped herbs - I used parsley and rosemary.
Pour over beans and marinate for at least an hour.
Garnish with nasturtiums if you have them.
The wreath is layered with 5 to 6 inch bunches of herbs, and each one is attached with u shaped floral pins.
There were two very distinct color differences in the herb so I worked that into the design in layers around the wreath. You could also mix them in the small bunches if you prefer.
I began with a ring of the green leaves around the center of the straw base.
This shows the completion of the layer of green, with the addition of the more golden bunches being added towards the center of the wreath.
Living in Maryland has it's advantages. Last year I had rosemary available all year long. The plant is an evergreen and it flourished, even though it was a little worse for wear by midwinter. The reason I cut it was to clear the path my daughter is beginning to call a jungle so it would be easier to get through for our evening walks with Zippy! I'll dry some and share with friends.
Rosemary can be hung to dry in a cool dark place, similar to what I described for Sweet Annie. Smaller bunches can be dried in an oven if you can remember not to turn your oven on for a couple of days! Place springs of rosemary on baking sheets covered with parchment paper, set to warm or simply use the pilot light if you have a gas oven, and in a day or two the sprigs should be ready to cool and store.
If you'll go to my welcome page and type in Rosemary in the search bar, you'll find a few more uses for Rosemary! As always, my treasures are hidden so it's up to you to search!
Herbs are delightful in so many ways - fragrance, flavor, visually. When we add symbolism, and they are gifts from a friend, it lifts them to an even higher level.
My friend Janet is moving and she is sharing special gifts with friends as she downsizes. She took my class on Enhancing Your Life with Herbs and she knows how I love them, so she offered me a set of herbal pots. In addition, she brought a bag filled with colorful beads, two copies of Flow magazine, a favorite, and a book on Ancient Herbs for the J. Paul Getty Museum.
This morning I transplanted oregano, rosemary and basil from my garden to the pots. The herbs seem to know they've gotten a reprieve from winter's cold and are happily looking out the dining room window at their less fortunate friends, still in the garden. If only I had a greenhouse and could bring them all indoors.
Thank you Janet! These delightful gifts are not only today's treasures, but will be loved and enjoyed for a long time to come.
Folk Names: Elf Leaf, Nard, Nardus, Spike
Zodiac: Virgo, Gemini
Meaning: Love, Devotion, Luck
Lavender has been used to cure acne, anxiety, burns, colds, depression, headaches, hypertension, and insomnia.
Attracts love and romance, protects, brings luck, happiness, peace and restful sleep. And if that isn’t enough, it ensures a long life for those who regularly seek out its aroma.
- Make a tea and sweeten with honey for a restful night’s sleep.
- Place lavender under your pillow to make a wish before going to sleep.
- Make a sleep pillow with lavender, catnip, chamomile, mint, rosemary and rose petals.
- Rub lavender on your fore head to relive a headache.
- Rub fresh flowers on your arms and legs to repel mosquitos.
- Rub fresh flowers on your pet to discourage fleas and ticks.
- Make lavender wands, lavender hearts, or tie flowers together to make sachets for your lingerie drawers or to scent and preserve heirloom garments or wedding gowns. The fragrance repels moths, silverfish and other insects.
- Add a Tablespoon of fresh lavender flowers and a sprinkling of cinnamon to vanilla ice cream or your favorite sugar cookie recipe.
- Make a lavender syrup. Simmer 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 Tablespoons lavender flowers for 15 minutes. Pour over fresh berries or use to flavor ice tea.
- Add 1 Tablespoon flowers to your favorite oil and vinegar salad dressing.
- Make a sugar scrub to use after gardening. Mix together 1 cup white sugar, ½ cup oil, 10-15 drops lavender essential oil, 2 Tbsp dried lavender buds.
- Freshen your carpet by sprinkling lavender flowers on your rugs, wait for a couple of hours and then vacuum.
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Lessons From Nature
Pay It Forward
Take The Rose Instead