Friday, October 29, 2010

Mildly Magikal and Somewhat Disappointing Bloody Dock

I mean really.

With name like Bloody Dock, I expected high magic of the Dumbledore level.

Perhaps re-animation powers that produces shuffling zombies?

Maybe the secret ingredient for incantations that allow the user to pass through the veil between the worlds?

Apparently my imagination is better than that of the ages, because even its name couldn't save Bloody Dock from being considered a weed (not the fun kind, just a stupid weed).

It is associated with healing, fertility and money (I should mention here that I personally have never noticed any connection between fertility and having money).

The seeds can be used as incense to draw money to the user, or to gain employment (on second thought perhaps this little weed is one of the great well-kept secrets), or, the leaves can be tied to the left arm to help with conception.

This particular little plant loves a wet environment, but will tolerate a dryer planting out in the garden. It thrives sitting directly in water, which is the reason I have it sitting in my fountains.

Just keep those leaves well away from my left arm.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wolfsbane.... Magickal *and* Poisonous

During this Samhain season, with its full harvest moon, you may run across the occasional werewolf.

If you should choose to run with the werewolves, read no further.

But if you have need of a antidote to lycanthropy, or a protective spell to guard against their nibbles, wolfsbane will suffice.

The ancient Roman physician Dioscorides referred to wolfsbane as lycotonum. Today it is also known as monkshood or aconite. It belongs to the buttercup family, and there are over 250 varieties. The flowers can be blue, purple, pink or white and it grows profusely across the northern hemisphere, particularily in Europe (probably in little remote east European villages, at night and in fog, right next to gypsy women that warn of werewolves...).

Aconite was (is?) known as "the quintessential plant of the occult". It was acknowledged to induce the lycanthropic condition (i.e. the wolfman transformation). Mixed with belladonna, a witch might even create a flying ointment.

At the same time, it was said to be the only antidote that reverses the condition, or outright kills a werewolf.

Fact: The seeds, leaves and roots contain aconitine, a deadly poison that slows the heart rate, decreases blood pressure and creates a numbing pain. It is extremely dangerous if ingested or even with skin contact if there are small cuts. (So don't do it.)

During the 1500-1600's Europe was gripped with a plague of werewolves. Humans accused of being werewolves were hunted down with arrows dipped in acontine, while traps baited with meat laced with the poison. If the acontine didn't kill them, burning at the stake usually did.

A brief recap:

Wolfsbane is beautiful, easy to grow, and really, really poisonous.

Wolfsbane kills werewolves.

But really, why would you want to? Seriously, what'd werewolves ever do to you? Leave 'em alone...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Magick Thyme

And the reason we have fairies in our garden is because I planted three different varieties of thyme...including elfin thyme (so you'd think we'd have elves instead of fairies, but, not so much). Rumor has it fairies love thyme. Recipes with thyme even claim to enable people to see fairies.

Will Shakespeare believed the thyme and fairy connection: "I know a bank where the wild thyme blows." (Said by Oberon, the king of the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream, referring to the bed of thyme where Titania (the fairy queen) sleeps.)

All thyme is magical as far as I'm concerned - the ancient Druids used it to ward off depression and erase negative energy. The Egyptians used it in mummification, and during the Middle Ages it was placed in coffins to ease the passage of the soul to the next world.

My own ancestors - the Scottish Highlanders -believed thyme gave them courage.

For your own fairy visions, or courage, thyme can be burned as incense or sprinkled in a bath.

Or you can just gargle with Listerine (the active ingredient is thyme-also known as thymol).

Best of all, especially during this Halloween season, thyme can be tucked into pillows where it will guard against nightmares.

Remember, you can go in the basement, let the weird guy in with the hockey mask (or fangs/cape, or chainsaw), go off to summer camp, and break open that Egyptian tomb, as long as you have a sprig of thyme. Ultimate protection, it is.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Lavender and Magick

I grow a lot of lavender, partly for the fragrance, and partly because it's such an unusual plant. Sometimes it appears dusty gray, turning bright green when a misty rain falls. Sometimes it looks almost dead, but after a heavy rain the plants pop back as if they've always been green and bushy.

And the flowers! Flowering lavender is one of the most incredible plants for a garden of any size - the depth of color against the bright green spires, flowers waving in a summer breeze, and the fragrance is overpowering but not cloying.

But what of magick? Lavender has been used for thousands of years for its calming sleep-inducing qualities. Those who practice magick use it for love spells and rituals (as well as for spells to attract money, proving that love and money can go hand in hand although not in my personal experience).

For the ghost hunters among us, try carrying a tiny sachet of lavender (it's known to attract spirits or....other entities).

A few drops of lavender essential oil can be sprayed on sheets or pillows before bed to induce a peaceful night's sleep. Put a few sprigs under running bath water for a relaxing bath, or add a few drops of essential oil directly to the water.

Dried stalks or flowers can both be burnt to cleanse the air (especially good idea for the dead of winter, if you've thought ahead and dried some of your summer crop).

A relaxing lavender tea can be made from dried or fresh flowers (said to promote a peaceful feeling, good health and longevity).

If nothing else, the perfume from the flowers is intoxicating, the plants are drought resistent and lavender makes the bees deliriously happy (and slightly drunk).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rosemary is magick too ...

Most of rosemary's special magick comes from its ability to cleanse and purify. Burn it to clean both the air and the negative energy from your home. Wash your hand in rosemary water before applying healing salves or lotions. Add rosemary to your bathwater to refresh your skin.

In ancient classical times rosemary was known to grow on Mount Olympus as the flower of the gods. Its powers of protection can extend to food (add it to bread, tomatoes, butter or drink rosemary tea), and health (I always add rosemary essential oil to shampoo, conditioner and lotions).

It certainly doesn't hurt that rosemary is incredibly easy to grow, drought tolerant, and is a wonderful fragrant addition to your garden.

Probably one of my most favorite of all the herbs, and that alone makes it magickal.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Yep, oregano is magick too

Oregano is the patron saint of sheer happiness. Burn it for tranquility, good luck, health or protection. It's sortof the love and peace herb. Probably could have used it back in the day.

Oregano also comes in handy for dealing with that hurt that comes from letting go of someone you love. I'll have to remember that.

Now the question is almost "what plant ISN'T magical?"

Monday, October 11, 2010

Magick Basil

The garden magick continues. Seems almost every plant out there (probably including the weeds) has some power attributed to it.

I love basil, and I plant a lot of it. So I guess my garden is full of some potent magic, particularily since basil appears to be one of the strongest harbringers of wealth and love.Hmm. Mine may need more fertilizer.

Oddly enough, basil is also associated with Erzulie, who, besides being the patron saint of New Orleans, is also the name of three Voodun goddess' representing love, art and sex. One of the three Erzulie, Dantor, is a fierce protector of women, offering protection and possibilites beyond imagination. She is also considered a protector of men who love, honor and respect women. I'm enchanted that my favorite herb is associated with my favorite city, and far be it from me to disrespect the voodun loas.

Legend says placing basil leaves in the four corners of a room guarantees protection for the occupants. Carrying basil in your pocket gives luck in gambling. Basil oil used in room diffusers promotes tranquility. And finally, basil leaves laid on your computer will keep it working.

So I have mint leaves tucked in my cabinets for the mice, and basil leaves strewn across my computer.

And I have no mice in my kitchen and my computer works just fine, thank you very much.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Magick Comfrey

Comfrey has been my new favorite herb for the last couple years. Initially I found the leaves would make a rich, low-cost fertilizer simply being left in a pail of water for several days. It got even better when I found out the huge leaves can be picked off and just laid around the base of plants (especially onions), and while decomposing, give off all sorts of rich nutrients.

Then I made comfrey salve, since the roots and leaves contain allantoin, a natural chemical that encourages cell reproduction and makes for some fast healing wounds.

I even discovered that at one time it was believed that a comfrey bath would repair the hymen, thereby creating born-again virgins. This has to be a useless endeavor if there ever was one.

NOW....I find comfrey has it's own magickal attributes as well.

Historically comfrey leaves were burned to help with concentration and divination, as well as to help the practitioner let go of unhealthy relationships or as an additional boost to love spells (very versatile characteristics there: letting go and bringing forth all at the same time).

Comfrey was (and is still) used in protective spells for travelers, and for guarding against theft.

And finally (of interest to a particular friend of mine who frequents casinos), there is an obscure mention of wrapping money in comfrey leaves for several days before gambling, as it will keep the money flowing in, versus out.

I'll settle for decent fertilizer and compost, but it's nice to know I have options.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Magick Sage

Since this is Halloween month, it seems only natural to mention that many of the everyday herbs in my garden historically have had magick powers attributed to them.

The ancient Druids believed sage could be used to raise the dead (see here for more on zombies). Not likely I'd want to do that anytime soon, results being uncontrollable and all.

The Druids also believed that a healthy crop of sage indicated a home where the wife ruled the household. Evidently husbands would prune the plants back just to show they weren't henpecked. My husband knows better.

Sage is credited with granting wisdom, psychic awareness, long life and wealth. But, by far, its most potent aspect is wisdom and learning ("sage advice").

At our house, sage is dried and burnt to clear the air, while a sage rinse keeps my hair healthy.

Sage is easy to grow. Just make sure your husband doesn't use the weed whacker on it. Plays havoc with the psychic energy.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Renaissance of Peppers

The last of the summer's peppers, looking for all the world like a painting by an old world master displaying the play between light and shadow, the synchronicity of curve and line, and the deep vivid rich colors.

And me smiling like Mona Lisa, 'cause they taste so good.

**The indoor-winter-growing-of-tomatos-project is about to begin, updates shortly.