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
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
Aconite - Aconitum napellus
© Mikell Y. Worley, Aconite, Watercolor, 5' x 7"
monkshood, mousebane, wolf's bane, woman's bane,
Wolf's bane is a member of the Ranunculus family, as is the seemingly innocent buttercup. But beware. All members of this family, over 500 varieties, are poisonous.
Aconite, from the Greek work akon, meaning dart or javelin, was used on the tips of arrows to kill wolves. Legend states that the arrows never missed their mark and death from the plant's poison was immediate. I can't help but wonder who gathered and prepared the arrows, as all parts of the plant are extremely poisonous even to the the touch.
Monkshood remind me of delphiniums - same family - and both are grown in gardens as ornamental flowers. You won't find them in mine. The story of the gardener is more than enough to deter me. The original headline was that he had merely brushed past the plant and the result was death, The reputation for the herb's toxicity is enough to convince me to keep my distance.
~ Erica Jong
wearing your small green cowl,
little friar, little murderer,
from your roots
to your deep purple flowers,
for a poisonous
A few leaves
in the salad,
a few seeds
in the soup,
a thick root
& it is all over.
Let the lover beware
who buys you
for love philters;
the dose is deceptive.
One pinch may lead to passion
but two will surely lead
Yet you twinkle
little blue bell
at the edge
of the garden,
wearing no warning
about your slim green neck.
Wolfbane, Friar’s cap,
Chariot of Venus--
how many may claim
to be poisonous
head to toe?
belongs to you.
Mycala's Occupational Therapy Department at Towson University moved into a new facility and apparently it is dark and dank, so she took in some of the collages I made a few years ago to brighten the space. There is a lot of enthusiasm and it has inspired me to return to collage. Thank you Mycala!
If you've been following my blog, you know I created over 200 watercolors of herbs for my Enhancing Your Life with Herbs course. They were to help people identify specific herbs - not for art for arts sake. I love herbs and they were fun to create, but I miss the whimsy and color of collage.
So these are some of the collages from my Reptiles and Amphibian series in Mycala's office, and they have inspired me move on to two news series. One will be jazz and the other an under water series.
Note: I average about 3,000 - 4,000 hits a day but when I wasn't posting at all, I got 18,000 hits. I think I've learned the secret of increasing my followers - don't post anything for weeks! Ha!
If you are interested in donating funds or products, the address of the Harrisburg site is listed below or you send her a message through Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/terri.colemanmartinez
A friend requested that I repost my manifesto.
If you've followed me for awhile, you've seen it before. I read my manifesto often and revisit to review and update it at least once a year. A new year, , birthdays and the beginning of autumn are ideal times. My manifesto is my guideline for living a value based life. It is like by-laws - one word can change everything, so even if changes are subtle, they can have a huge impact. I love by-laws, by the way! Undoubtedly that's why I've been asked to serve on so many boards over the years - no one else wants that task!
My reason for sharing this is to encourage you to write your own. Copying mine may be tempting, but the result will be weak and diluted. We all need to give thought to what works for us - not for someone else. This is simply a spring board to get you started.
One huge change for me this year has been finding my voice and stepping forward to own what I value. I'm recommitting to speaking up for young people. I've spent my life as an advocate for children, first as president of the Tri-County Alliance for Youth, president of our America's Promise for six years and winning Colin Powell's 100 Best twice - it ran in 3 year cycles. Our Gandhi King Peace Coalition trained non-violence for over a decade using the Gandhi - King steps to non-violence in after school programs, summer camps and conferences. I served on the United Way to oversee the committee that determined where funds would go for youth programming. We taught Dr. Peter Benson's 40 Assets for Youth through out the community, focusing on what we wanted - youth success. Most programs had revolved around deficits - drug and alcohol, bullying, teen pregnancy - and as with all things, what we focus our attention on increased. Our shift to assets took us quantum leaps in improving the lives of our young people.
"Thoughts become things." Mike Dooley
That is true in every aspect of our lives. I encourage you to consider what you want in your life, give it action and energy and make wonderful things happen! Understanding who we are and what we value comes first - internal work. And that must be followed by action.
And now for my manifesto.
1. Use my energy level as a barometer to gauge the value of my relationships. Nurture those who increase my energy, avoid those who drain it.
2. Enhance the quality of life by using creativity to enjoy projects and tasks and to have more fun! Actively and regularly schedule fun and adventure!
3. Take the time to stay in tune with my spiritual self - continue to journal (3 pages daily since 2003), meditate, time in nature, yoga, sketching, painting, gardening, gratitude lists, illustrated journaling, etc.
4. Respect my health as a precious gift. Use exercise and nutrition to be healthy - not to look good. Have a health-driven, not-ego driven, life style.
5. Continue to spend time in, and learn lessons from, nature.
6. Embrace and actively commit to my education and learning - knowledge, skills and attitude. Create a cycle of learning and teaching, giving courses to help others.
7. Dharma - use my talents and passions in all aspects of my life's work, through paid and volunteer positions.
8. Keep clutter to a minimum. Give away one item for every new one that comes into the house. Our external environment reflects our internal reality. Beauty and simplicity create peace and serenity.
9. Incorporate systems to simplify everyday tasks. Use terminology that will shift my attitude - house blessing instead of house work, consider the blessings to others for their services when paying bills, give to groups I believe in. Incorporate segment intending to improve focus and separate projects and tasks.
10. If it isn't good for my soul, I won't buy it, eat it, watch it, read it, spend time with it, wear it . . .
Now it's your turn. What are your values, expectations, guidelines, systems? Have fun with creating your own manifesto! It's worth the time. And keep it posted so you can review it often. i used to have mine on the refrigerator and reviewed it daily. Think I'll get back to that.
Manifestos are a work in progress so you can always revisit, improve and update for what is best in your current situation. Have fun!
We lived in a town surrounded by mountains and I had never heard anyone express concern about their placement. The story made an impression, but it didn't make a lot of sense from my eight year old perspective.
I was still thinking about it when I got home and did what I always did when something didn't make sense. I asked my father. He was brilliant. He taught calculus at an engineering school, read Chaucer and Shakespeare for personal enjoyment, and did crossword puzzles in ink. He started college at 15, had 3 majors and 2 minors, and completed one of his master's degrees in French. He was one of the few adults who never talked down to me because I was a child. He made me feel he respected my opinion as much as one of his student's or another adult's.
He had an extensive vocabulary yet communicated clearly. He wasn't interested in impressing others. He was interested in learning and education.. "if you can't explain something simply, you don't understand it."
My father could have been very judgmental about education and degrees, but he was concerned with learning for the joy of it. He literally lit up when given the opportunity to help others,process information. He had been a Methodist Sunday school teacher for nearly two decades, so he was well prepared for this conversation.
He explained that the mustard seed represented a spiritual point of view and the mountain represented a problem or challenge. "The mustard seed story illustrates if we have faith, we can solve our problems. It is also about taking the responsibility to believe in ourselves enough to confront our concerns."
"But," he continued, "we don't necessarily have to solve a problem. Sometimes we can move a mountain by changing our perspective. If we have faith, and stop reacting and trying to fix things, we might find that what we perceived as a mountain is a blessing in disguise. We often make things harder than they have to be by trying to control everything."
My dad used an example that made the lesson clear. I had recently been concerned that a friend was mad at me because she had been avoiding me for a couple of days. She had been planning a surprise party for me. I had been angry and hurt and began avoiding her. Later, I felt terrible.
Faith comes from inside .We don't need to prove to anyone we have it if we do. It extends beyond the faith we have in ourselves. It is about giving others, and life's circumstances,, the benefit of the doubt, and not making judgements or assumptions.
I wrote this years ago, when my brother and I joined the Pine Street Presbyterian church in Harrisburg, PA. Recently, there are events causing me to question our county's direction. Revisiting this helped shift my perspective and give me peace of mind. I hope it will do the same for you.
When I first walked into the museum I was captivated by the whimsy and humor. My guard was down. Had I heard this story at a holocaust museum or concentration camp in Germany I'd have been braced for horror. But I was at my most receptive - my heart was open and unsuspecting.
I glanced at the tapestries before noticing an accompanying video, and sat down in child like wonder, expecting only delight. The video began. "This was not what I came to see," I silently protested, but stayed, mesmerized and paralyzed, enthralled, captivated, stunned.
Esther weaves her mesmerizing story with a needle and thread, creating tapestries to depict her memories of the holocaust. Time and again she referenced the gifts of nature in her journey. She and her sister were hidden and sheltered from the Nazis by nature. A kind gentleman provided them with a garden plot to grow food for their survival. One tapestry depicts a Nazi soldier being attacked by bees when he began interrogating her. A cherry tree, laden with fruit, depicts 'money growing on trees' in America.
I'm still processing my lessons from Esther. My perceptions and understanding have been heightened and altered. She relived the nightmares and miracles, creating an unforgettable story of horror, survival, and gratitude, one stitch at a time.
We were asked not to take photographs inside the museum, but you can read more about her journey here - Art and Remembrance.
Mycala and I are considering collaborating on a "Mom 'n Me" cookbook. I made the crust - she made the blueberry pie filling. It looks like jewels so I had to add it to my 'Today's Treasure'. I'll report back after I try it!
"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."
Do The Write Thing
Fashion And Fabrics
Lessons From Nature
Pay It Forward
Take The Rose Instead
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!