Saturday, June 29, 2013


Form dancing between shadows and night,
balancing soul’s journey in the space between fire and light.
Delicate dark movement her torches illuminate.
Seeking- look now and wait-
Reaching striving to know her beauty and your fate;
only to see the veil pierced with precision, the point sharp and bright.
Just a drop to mark the decision made, Seen with the clarity of her torch lit sight.
Care to be taken when calling upon her dark power,
mind’s eye clearly seeking, wanting what is desired.
For once called there is no forward nor back,
only this moment, indelible in her darkfire
Your steps now commanded,

walking her threefold track…

Poem by Maponos 2013
Illustration: Hrefngast

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Prunus spinosa

Common name: Blackthorn
Family: Rosaceae (Rose family)
Scots Gaelic: Draighionn
Irish Gaelic: Draighean
Astrological Rulers: Saturn and Mars
Known as both the Mother of the Woods and the Cailleach of the Woods.

Type: Deciduous shrub-like tree; yellow leaves in autumn and fall off in winter.  Bare tree has a stark and twisted appearance.
Size: up to 13 ft in height.
Bark: ‘Rough and scaly; orange is the color of the wood just under the bark.  Sapwood is yellow.
Branches/Twigs: Dense, dark, thorny, branching and twisting all directions. The heartwood is brown.

Fruit: Small bluish-black; round globular berries in the summer; sloe juice yields red dye; ink-like.
Thorn: Long sharp thorns; injury from thorn can become septic. 2-4cm in length.
Flower: Delicate, white flowers; oval petals star shaped with red stamens; musky scent.

Location: Britain and Ireland, edge of thickets, woods and hedgerows; grows near Elder and Hawthorn.  
Deities: Irish Morrigan, the Scottish Cailleach, the Welsh Cerridwen; and all dark, chthonic, Underworld deities.

Folklore & Witchcraft
Blackthorn is depicted as a tree of ill omen. Called 'Straif' in the Ogham, the English word ‘strife’ comes from this Celtic word.  In Scotland, winter begins when the Cailleach (Winter's Hag) strikes the ground with her Blackthorn Stang.

Blackthorn is associated with the dark side of the witch and cunning-craft; it harbors hag energy, dealings on dark phase of the moon and referred to as ‘the increaser and keeper of dark secrets’.  Also associated with cursing, blasting and binding spells, death, war, thorn-pieced poppets.   The famous 'Blasting Rod' is a blackthorn branch with one hollowed out end in which thorns jut out with mal-intent. 

In Irish tales heroes were known to throw a twig of Blackthorn after them when they fled, the twig would take root barring them from capture.  At New Year, Blackthorn was burned in the New Year’s fire, the cold ashes spread to fertilize the fields.  Blackthorn was also added to wreaths of Mistletoe to instill good luck in the household for the coming year.  

Blackthorn is has properties of purification and the ability to clear away negative energy; it is written that it can be a protection against evil and used to create defensive boundaries as needed. Blackthorn has been used in Christian exorcisms.  

Chthonic rites involving the 'death vigil' uses blackthorn has it has the ability to part the veil aiding the passage of the soul to the afterlife.

The Famous Irish Cudgel
Called a bata, or shillelagh is the length of a common walking stick.  Used for defense and sparing the heavy knob formed at the top, originally formed by the root, was viewed as a weapon. The most famous and sought after were made by hand, buried in a dung heap, smeared with cooking grease and placed in the chimney to cure giving it a black shining appearance.

Many shillelaghs also have a strap attached to the top to fit around the holder's wrist.

Medicinal Qualities
Berries to help in the treatment of stomach troubles, and in the dealing of blood disorders.  Be warned they are bitter until after the first frost.

Also used in the preparation of sloe berry wine and flavoring alcohol beverages such as gin and vodka. Blackthorn leaves can be dried and mixed with tea leaves in what became known as Chinese tea which can be used as a paste to whiten teeth and remove tartar.

Sunday, June 23, 2013


The Golowan festival is one of the many old traditions in the UK.  A fantastic and highly energetic celebration in honor of the longest day of the year known as Midsummer. "Golowan" means "Feast of John" in the Cornish dialect and is celebrated on June 24th the Eve of St.John's day.  The best place to join in on this celebration is in Penzance Cornwall.

The  'Obby 'Oss  (Cornish for Hobby Horse) is the center figure of these festivals seen here with a horse-skull head, wearing a cloak.  The 'Teazer', also known locally as The Bucca - a Cornish Pagan deity with aspects of light and dark, helps preside over Golowan with her.  Together they dance and twirl creating quite the giddy and scary atmosphere as they travel the streets after dark.  The Obby 'Oss bows, rocks and snaps her jaws and stamps her feet at the festival's attendants. She represents the seasonal energies of death & rebirth and is a beautiful sight bouncing along with flowers adoring her mane.  

The Teaser, her companion, travels in the form of Bucca Gwidder (the white god) at Midsummer and Bucca Dhu (the black god) at Midwinter. (More on this deity at another time) keeping the Obby 'Oss's attention by guiding her energies.

The festival's roots are most assuredly pagan in origin.  One exhilarating tradition of Golowan is jumping over the fire which, it is said, will protect one from harm the following year.  Here the bonfire is ignited and when it burns to a safe intensity is raked into a shape easily traversed.

Bonfires are lit all over the countryside celebrating the two extremes of the sun.  At Midsummer after warming oneself at the fire you can follow a path leading down to the sea where after 'the jump' one can immerse themselves in the frothy waves.

Happy Solstice!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

To House the Hag

       To house the Hag, you must doe this;

Commix with Meale a little Pisse
Of him bewitcht: then forthwith make
A little Wafer or a Cake;
And this rawly bak't will bring
The old Hag in. No surer thing. 

Source: Herrick, Robert, 1591-1674: (1915): 


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Datura stramonium

Family: N.O. Solanaceae
Parts Used: Leaves, seeds.  Habitat: Throughout the world, except the colder Arctic regions.

Common Names: Thorn Apple, Devil's Apple, Jamestown-weed, Jimson-weed, Stinkweed, Devil's Trumpet, Apple of Peru.
Synonyms: Stramonium, Datura.

Planet: Saturn and Venus
Deity: Hekate

Datura is, like Henbane, Belladonna and Mandrake a member of the order Solanceae.  The genus is Datura, of which there are fifteen species.  The greatest numbers are found in Central America where nearly all the species are used in their communities as medicine.

Description: Large approx. 3 feet tall on average, coarse herb, annual, propagated by its ample amount of seed, freely branching, bushy.

Root: long, thick, whitish, many fibers.

Stem: stout, erect, leafy, smooth, a pale yellow-green, forked branching.

Leaves: large, angular, 4 to 6 inches long, pronounced veins, dark and grayish-green, smooth.

Flowers: Generally throughout the summer, fragrant trumpet-shaped, white, creamy or violet, 2.5 and 3.5 inches.  Seed capsules thorny, when ripe the vessel opens at the top in four sections, inside are numerous rough, dark-brown seeds. Flowers are sweet-scented and can cause a drowsiness or stupor if inhaled too long. Leaf Aroma: Strong, rank narcotic odor arises from the leaves when bruised.  

Caution: Like belladonna, henbane and mandrake, they all contain dangerous tropane alkaloids--atropine, hyoscyamine, and scopolamine. The plant is strongly narcotic, even more dangerous than Belladonna. The whole plant is considered poisonous although some argues that the leaves are not; seeds contain the most alkaloid properties and best used medicinally with care and knowledge only.

Toxic Reactions: Dimness of sight, pupil dilation, delirium, can cause manic behavior.  Death from recreational use reported and common, it is thought to act more powerfully on the brain than Belladonna and to produce greater delirium. The remedies to be administered in case of poisoning by Stramonium are the same as those described for Henbane and Belladonna poisoning.

Trance Use: For centuries, Datura stramonium has been considered a "mystical sacrament" gifting the user with powerful visions which can last up to 72 hours. Through the use of the seeds Native cultures have used it to "commune with deities through visions".

In Witchcraft: Datura is the classic "witches' weed" traveling in 'bad company' with the other outcasts witches strive to grow in their gardens.  But how we've grown to love and admire their dark beauty is what we do.  Well known as an essential ingredient of love potions and witches' brews it is equally an ingredient in throwing hexes, breaking curses and according to some, as flying ointments.

Datura, lady with a shadowy past, whose allure rises from her fragrance, calls to us with an ancient siren's patience.  Time on her side, fertile, not cyclical, she waits.  Her embrace, heady, thick and silent, with a kiss that leaves one languishing. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Hyoscyamus niger

Family: N.O. Solanaceae

Common Name:  Henbane, Hog's-bean, Jupiter's-bean, Stinking Nightshade, Black Henbane.

Synonyms:  Symphonica, Cassilata, Cassilago, Deus Caballinus, (Anglo-Saxon) Henbell,

(French) Jusquiame.

Parts Used: Fresh leaves, flowering tops and branches, seeds.

Habitat: Central and Southern Europe, Western Asia, India and Siberia; considered a weed in America and Brazil.

Growing:  Biennial.  Thick, fleshy, brittle taproot;  well-drained soil; called "Black Henbane" as the flowers have heavy purple veining.

Possible Name Origin:  Henne of henbane means 'death' and originates from a German god by that name.

Planet: Saturn (considered by early astrologers to be associated with Jupiter)

Deity: Hekate


In Scotland henbane is known as an 'herb of the dead.'  In ancient times it honored gravesites.  Henbane and barley residue was detected in drinking horns dating back to the Neolithic period and found in an enclosure thought to be used as a mortuary.  Once used as a flavoring ingredient in ale, henbane can be toxic.

In ancient Greek mythology, it is written 'that the dead wear henbane crowns as the wreath of forgetfulness' to aid them in their grief.  Oracles mention its use to divine the future. Could henbane have been an herb burnt and inhaled at the Oracle of Delphi?

In Witchcraft

Henbane is also known as 'the plant of witches' and was used specifically for blighting crops and poisoning livestock.  Accounts of extensive crop failure were blamed on witches when in fact poor soil condition is a favorite of weeds and henbane in particular. But consider this, wouldn't blight affect all the inhabitants of a village including the supposed witch?  Cunning cuts both ways in the days when property could be seized for offenses such as witchcraft.  Where widows dwell there was money to be made.  Blame had its benefits.

As a Flying Ointment

Henbane is best known as a 'Witches Herb' and one of the ingredients in the infamous Flying Ointment due to its psychotropic action. By rubbing the handle of the broom with the ointment and mounting it the ingredients found their way against and easily into sensitive mucus membranes causing erotic fantasies of flight.  An account, obtained from an individual who experienced such hallucinations recalled the sensation, 'as if the soul separates from the body and flies through the skies' which would account for the belief that one was shape shifted and flew above the earth. 

In Ritual Use

Agrippa, of Middle Ages fame, created incense using henbane as a main ingredient which he designed specifically for raising spirits from the dead.  Practitioners of necromantic rites were particularly interested in order to acquire secrets of the occult known, of course, only to the recently departed.  Under a dark moon in deserted graveyards censers fumed while the recitation of specific incantations cut the still air creating trance-like states.  Messages from the other side were quickly transcribed in gimoires illuminated in candlelight by a shaky hand at a safe distance until the specter was released back to it's inky grave. 

Due to henbane's Saturian nature, many spells both beneficial and deviant, were performed in desolate places and charms were routinely left in ditches where henbane grew under the light of a full moon.  Saturn is understood to govern limitations, darker aspects, authority figures, disciplinary action, boundary issues, striving and responsibilities needing attention.  Known as a hard task-master, its influence in spells or in one's chart can be a friend or an opponent one that you will not win against easily.

Medicinal Use

According to Grieve, henbane has similar effects to belladonna which contains the alkaloid hyoscyamine. Sedative effects are reported surrounding the central nervous system; symptoms of dry mouth and nervousness leading to delirium with a coma crescendo and possibly death have been reported.

However, there are accounts as to Henbane's effective treatment surrounding the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease with direct reference to tremor and rigidity in the condition's early stages; this appears to be due to its depressive and analgesic effects which cause a kind of drowsiness.

Dental problems were treated with henbane as a painkiller during the Middle Ages and achieved by heating the seeds over coals and then deeply inhaled; it was said to bring the patient needed relief.

The ancient Egyptians smoked Hyoscyamus muticus known as Egyptian Henbane which contains higher concentrations of alkaloids and therefore produces even more powerful effects then our European variety.

Some Old Quotes

Henbane is the noxious herb referred to by Shakespeare in Hamlet:
'Sleeping within mine orchard,

My custom always of the afternoon

Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole,

With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,

And in the porches of mine ear did pour

The leprous distillment.'

Speaking of Henbane, *Gerard says:
'The leaves, the seeds and the juice, when taken internally cause an unquiet sleep, like unto the sleep of drunkenness, which continueth long and is deadly to the patient. To wash the feet in a decoction of Henbane, as also the often smelling of the flowers causeth sleep.'

*Culpepper says:
'I wonder how astrologers could take on them to make this an herb of Jupiter: and yet Mizaldus, a man of penetrating brain, was of that opinion as well as the rest: the herb is indeed under the dominion of Saturn and I prove it by this argument: All the herbs which delight most to grow in saturnine places are saturnine herbs. Both Henbane delights most to grow in saturnine places, and whole cart loads of it may be found near the places where they empty the common Jakes, and scarce a ditch to be found without it growing by it. Ergo, it is a herb of Saturn. The leaves of Henbane do cool all hot inflammations in the eyes.... It also assuages the pain of the gout, the sciatica, and other pains in the joints which arise from a hot cause. And applied with vinegar to the forehead and temples, helps the headache and want of sleep in hot fevers.... The oil of the seed is helpful for deafness, noise and worms in the ears, being dropped therein; the juice of the herb or root doth the same. The decoction of the herb or seed, or both, kills lice in man or beast. The fume of the dried herb stalks and seeds, burned, quickly heals swellings, chilblains or kibes in the hands or feet, by holding them in the fume thereof. The remedy to help those that have taken Henbane is to drink goat's milk, honeyed water, or pine kernels, with sweet wine; or, in the absence of these, Fennel seed, Nettle seed, the seed of Cresses, Mustard or Radish; as also Onions or Garlic taken in wine, do all help to free them from danger and restore them to their due temper again. Take notice, that this herb must never be taken inwardly; outwardly, an oil, ointment, or plaister of it is most admirable for the gout . . . to stop the toothache, applied to the aching side....'

Henbane is still considered poisonous and therefore ingestion is dangerous unless under the direct supervision of a trained herbalist or physician.  It will also cause dermatitis if left on the skin any length of time. Wear gloves when handling this herb and do not touch your eyes or mouth without washing them first.  Do not grind the herb to a fine powder or burn as an incense unless in a 'well ventilated' area.

Oil of henbane can blister the skin, do not include it as an ingredient to oils or salves.
I personally have had the same dermatitis reaction when my wrist was exposed to the juice of common mugwort while pruning back a large stand in my garden. I experienced pain and then a temporary scarring effect which lasted for several weeks.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I am devoted to 'the Lady' and have been from a very early age and my attention is unwavering.  Although her form has changed as I have changed, the Lady as I see her in relation to traditional witchcraft has no man-inspired name or agreed upon garb. She does not fit into any given pantheon nor does she emerge from some convenient mold of tribe or continent.

She birthed me, sustains me through the elements and will receive my remains when I die.  I ask no more of her than this.  She is the nimbleness of my hands as they work her arte and the strength I draw on when I sit at the bedside of an ill or dying person.  She is the raw understanding of the reality of life that I receive through her tutelage as a witch and as a confidant to the Unseen Company.

Underneath all of the images that make the unknowable easier to comprehend is the inescapable current of life, death and rebirth.  She has taught me this through my life's experience.  I drink from the stream that is nature's grail and my nourishment.  I have come to admire her rhythm  for what she is, has always been and will continue to be long after my walk upon the landscape of her robe has ceased in its present form.  

Although both male and female in the procreation of life I sense this form of the goddess as formless motherhood; a mother who feeds, sustains, guides and receives; a mother with teeth.