Monday, October 31, 2016

Herbs of a Poisoners Garden

Let us take a walk through the garden of an imaginary mystic.  A witch or other gardener of the dark and see what they have planted in their garden.

As we look in we first see Monkshood (aconite) so poisonous that it was used to poison arrows (in WWII, the Nazi’s put it on their bullets). Witches believed it could make them invisible if they tied the seeds to them wrapped in lizard skin. It also protected one from vampires and werewolves.

The Winter Rose (Black Hellebore) sits in the corner in full bloom. Thought to be a cure for insanity, it was believed it would also help one become invisible.

There in the back is a lush bunch of Witches Bells (Foxglove). They seem to be growing in each corner of the stone fence. Ahhh, for protection. I imagine if we looked in the cottage, we’d see black stone floors – dyed with the leaves of the Foxglove - to keep negativity out.

What self-respecting witch would be without Moonflower (Datura) with white flowers that bloom in the night and give off an intoxicating fragrance? Used as a hallucinogen, and to increase physic visions allowing communication with friendly spirits, the plant is poison to even handle.


Overgrowing anything in its way, the deadly nightshade knows it will always be the Devil’s favorite plant. Often nightshade was put in ‘flying’ ointments, but was also handy for helping one forget an old love. Some believe the more nightshade in a garden, the greater the protection from evil.

All alone in a corner are the Mandrakes smiling evilly at us – waiting for some poor fool to pull them out. They say the mandrake will scream when it is ripped from the ground, and any person or animal hearing the scream will immediately perish. Used for dark magic, this plant was sacred to Aphrodite and used as a powerful aphrodisiac. Too strong, some say. Its roots have the shape of a human and carrying even a tiny piece insures good health and much more.

It hides from man, you know, and it glows in the dark.

The following was taken from an old English Herbarium from 1000 AD:
Harvesting Mandrake:
  1. Before sunset -draw a circle around it with an iron tool lest it flee from you.
  2. While facing west, cut off the top of the plant.
  3. Being careful not to touch the plant, dig around it with an iron tool. 
  4. When you see its hands and feet, fasten them.  Take the other end of the rope and tie it around a hungry black dog’s neck.
  5. Throw meat in front of the black dog so he cannot reach it unless he pulls up the plant.
  6. Run fast lest you hear the screams and perish with the dog.

Difficult, yes, but Mandrake (a masculine plant of the fire element) was one of the best plants for hexing, and black dogs were come by easily.

Against the wall sits the Thunder and Lightening, believed to protect one from being struck by lightning. Thought to keep vermin and bugs out of the garden, it’s beautiful deeply lobed dark green with purple tinged leaves and odd looking red flowers call your attention to it.  But don’t get too close –all of its parts are poison. 

Who among us didn’t feel we were being poisoned when we were given the dreaded castor bean oil when we were kids?  But the old woman knows of far more uses for toxic protein contained in this tree… ricin. She will deny it all, of course, as others have, and claim it is for pest control only.

At the end of the poison garden sits a combination of similarly shaped flowers.  I believe I see fennel, and yes, that’s caraway beside it and one of my favorites, dill.  But what is that one among them.  It doesn’t look familiar but its flower is so similar in shape –somewhat like an umbrella, but this one has purple in its stem. 

Oh, of course, the poison hemlock sits ominously among its relatives.  The other seeds can be given for sleep or flavor, but one can only guess why one of the deadliest plants around is hidden in plain sight.  I don’t think I want to know.

We need to move away from this deadly brigade before we befall a more serious fate.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I liked it. Very informative one. Keep posting!


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