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Plants and Planets

In the past botanists such as Nicholas Culpeper associated plants with the planets, fixed stars and zodiac signs. The attributions were based on an intense study of a plant’s features, which included treats such as a thorny or prickly appearance, the scent emitted by the flowers or the entire plant, the plant’s life cycle, colors, metals contained in a plant, medicinal and other uses and of course plenty of folklore. Today plants are classified scientifically based on their genome, but their planetary lore is preserved and continues to evolve in the books of authors such as Stephen Skinner, Paul Huson, Scott Cunningham, Harold Roth and so on.

I find it fun and inspiring to continue this tradition and to explore its own inner logic. Hence I am listing here examples of plants, that I am working with, many of which are also part of my seed boxes.

(planetary rulers ordered according to the Chaldean sequence, photos by myself)


Saturn
Aconite + Asafoetida + Belladonna + Bistort + Bittersweet Nightshade (also Mercury) + Black Nightshade + Bluebell + Comfrey + Columbine (also Venus) + Cypress + Dodder + Foxglove (also Venus) + Fumitory + Hellebore + Hemp + Henbane + Ivy + Lady’s slipper orchid + Mandrake (also Mercury) + Mullein + Poison Hemlock + Poplar + Scullcap + Solomon’s Seal + Spurge (also Mars) + Yew

Characteristics: borders, hexing & binding, banishing, addressing “elders”, death spells; poisonous plants, plants that thrive in shade or along borders or on poor ground, plants with unpleasant odors; plants that effect the excretory system, cooling plants, plants that effect the bones and aging processes, anticarcinogenic plants


Jupiter
Agrimony + Anise + Avens + Borage + Cinquefoil + Dandelion + Fig + Honeysuckle + Houseleek + Hyssop + Linden + Liverwort + Lungwort + Meadowsweet + Sage + Thyme + Valerian + Walnut + Wood Betony

Characteristics: generosity, religiousness, law and authority, purification; large plants, nutritious plants, plants that effect the liver, digestive system and blood vessels, appetizing plants


Mars
Asafoetida + Basil + Blackthorn + Bloodroot + Bryony + Broom + Cactus + Carrot + Chili Pepper + Coriander + Dragon tree + Garlic + Gentian + Gorse + Hawthorn + High John the Conqueror + Holly + Houndstongue + Leek + Maguey + Masterwort + Mustard + Nettle + Onion + Oregano + Pennyroyal + Pepper + Pine + Radish + Rue + Snapdragon + Spurge + Sweet Woodruff + Thistle + Thornapple + Toadflax + Tobacco + Wormwood + Yucca

Characteristics: protection, attack and revenge, domination, vigor, vitality; plants with thorns and prickly surfaces that may be irritating to the skin, herbs and roots with a strong spicy aroma, warming plants, plants that strengthen the immune system, plants that effect the muscles and tendons, plants that enhance sex drive and potency, blood-purifying plants


Sun
Angelica (also Venus) + Ash + Calamus + Carnation + Cedar + Celandine + Centaury + Cinnamon + Cowslip + Eyebright + Goldenseal + Heliotrope + Hibiscus + Hops + Juniper + Laurel + Lemon + Lovage + Marigold + Marshmallow (also Venus) + Mistletoe + Oak + Olibanum + Olive + Orange + Palm + Peony + Rosemary (also Mercury) + Rowan + Rue (also Mars) + Saffron + St. John’s Wort + Sunflower + Tagetes + Viper’s Bugloss + Yauthli

Characteristics: centering, wealth, general protection; plants effecting the heart and circulatory system, tonics, warming and calming plants, antidepressant plants, plants that effect the spine, plants that ease symptoms arising from photo-toxic reactions, skin protectants, plants that effect eye sight; flowers that resemble the sun in shape and color, plants with a citrus- or orange-like scent


Venus
Almond + Birch + Catnip + Cherry + Cornflower + Columbine (also Saturn) + Cowslip + Crocus + Elder + Feverfew + Foxglove (also Saturn) + Geranium + Goldenrod + Heather + Iris + Lady’s Mantle + Larkspur + Lemon Balm (also Moon) + Lilac + Marshmallow + Myrtle + Plantain + Pansy + Rose + Self-heal + Tansy + Vanilla + Vervain + Violet + Yarrow

Characteristics: love and money spells, protection from martial spells, harmony, balancing; aphrodisiacs, plants effecting the kidneys and urinary system, astringent plants, plants that have effects on the genital tract, plants that aid wound healing and skin lesions, plants with large flowers and velvety leaves, plants with overwhelmingly sweet scents


Mercury
Bittersweet (also Saturn) + Caraway + Chervil + Clary Sage (also Moon) + Clover + Dill + Elecampane + Fennel + Fern + Lavender + Lemongrass + Lily of the Valley + Mandrake (also Saturn) + Marjoram + Mint + Parsley + Pimpernel + Summer Savory

Characteristics: knowledge, travel, communication, divination, psychopomps, trickery; plants effecting the nervous (nervine) and respiratory system, plants with feathery leaves, herbs with intense but short lasting scents, inconspicuous herbs, multicolored herbs, plants with umbels


Moon
Aloe + Cabbage + Chamomile + Clary Sage + Evening Primrose + Field Penny-Cress + Honesty (Lunaria) + Jasmine + Lemon Balm (also Venus) + Lettuce + Lily + Loosestrife + Mallow + Mugwort + Passion Flower + Poppy + Willow

Characteristics: dreams, clairvoyance; plants that are calming, relaxing and cooling, plants that aid sleep, narcotic and anodyne plants, plants that effect the hormone and lymphatic system, plants with a high water content, flowers with a mild sweet or camphorous scent, plants with flowers that open at night

(to be continued)

Useful links:
Planetary Days and Hours
Lunar Gardening Calendar
Correspondence Tables by Harold Roth

-> You know of a other useful websites or books related to the topic of plant astrology? Please add it in the comments below! ūüôā

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April 2017

I spent this month mainly with work on the next row of wooden seed boxes, adding new herbs to the set and reading up on them. The central theme this time were summer¬†herbs¬†(with the summer solstice in mind), which are sown in spring or early summer, such as poppies, cornflower, chamomile, evening primrose, yarrow, viper’s bugloss etc. Then I paid attention to Harold Roth’s book “The Witching Herbs” (signed copies available here), and included seeds for the magical herbs discussed there. Besides these I added some endangered plants such as the wonderful centaury and plants that are in decline, such as the field larkspur.¬†With¬†wood betony and motherwort¬†there are¬†some new old, forgotten about healing herbs¬†joining the series.

Another herb I was curious about (and I know that you are too), is the enchanter’s nightshade. It is quite inconspicuous in appearance, almost invisible between other herbs. It is not poisonous at all and in fact, much more beneficial than, what its name suggests. This makes for some very interesting treats for employing this herb in sympathetic magic…

Along with adding more new herbs I also updated the sowing tables and added info texts for each.¬†Further, my attention was¬†drawn to the Euphorbiaceae plant genus. Last year I had been pointed to the spurge as part of a Martial incense recipe. I started researching but could not pinpoint which type of spurge was meant. There are many plants in that genus, which is found in large diversity all around the globe. But which is the one most relevant in Western medieval / renaissance magic?¬†By chance and when searching for spurge seeds, I came across a seller on eBay who just mentioned randomly that the caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris), with its impressive size, poisonous milky sap¬†and auspicious shape, was the plant famously believed to break hexes and ward of witches from one‚Äôs home…. Well, here we go. It is now added to¬†the selection of poisonous herbs coming with¬†the boxes and I can’t wait to grow it myself.

What more? I finished and shipped the last of my ‚ÄúPoisoner‚Äôs‚ÄĚ seed boxes. I will now overthink the concept and design for this one.

I also spent a lot of time in the garden, harvesting masterwort root, thinning and weeding out, pricking out seedlings and sowing more…

My shortage of henbane last¬†winter led me to sow new henbane, which resulted eventually in hundreds of little plants of black, white and the rare Egyptian henbane! These have now been separated and planted in trays of 24 each + 1 mixed tray. The temperatures are still low¬†and even though it did not actually freeze again, it is too cold for the small plants (the¬†test tray doesn’t seem to like my outdoors experiment on the window sill). I am therefore keeping the trays with the white and the Egyptian henbane indoors, together with purple Indian datura and several moon vine plants. The tray with the black henbane seedlings stays in the unheated greenhouse.

This month’s harvest:

  • Lamarck’s Aconite (Aconitum lamarckii), thinning out, Tuesday (11th)
  • Masterwort root (Peucedanum ostruthium), thinning out, Tuesday (11th) and Thursday (27th)
  • Herb Gerard (Aegopodium podagraria), weeding out, Saturday¬†(22nd)
  • Myrtle (Myrtus communis), pruning, Sunday (23rd)
  • Horse tail (Equisetum arvense), weeding out, Friday (28th)

Besides, l am now a lady with a barrow full of fragrant lily of the valley!¬†ūüĆĪūüĆĪūüĆĪ¬†(Thanks to an unexpected gift from our neighbors, who are restructuring their garden.) I now have to prepare a spot for them to grow. Else, that barrow has now met its final destiny…

Herbs I plan to sow this and the following weekends:

  • blue hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis ‘Caeruelus’)
  • caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris)*
  • centaury (Centaurium erythreae)
  • clary sage (Salvia sclarea var. turkestanica)
  • enchanter’s nightshade (Circaea lutetiana)
  • evening primrose (Oenothera odorata ‘Sulfurea’)
  • honeywort (Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’)
  • lion’s tail (Leonotis leonurus)
  • poison hemlock (Conium maculatum)
  • snapdragons (Antirrhinum majus ‘Night and Day’)
  • st. john’s wort (Hypericum perforatum ‘Tauberthal’)
  • thyme (Thymus vulgaris ‘Frnech Summer’)
  • wood betony (Stachys officinalis) *

So long, I wish my followers a Blessed Walpurgis!

Candlemas, Februalia

 February 1 2016
Snowdrops are the first messengers of spring

The¬†1st¬†and¬†2nd of February respectively are associated with¬†Imbolc, the Gaelic festival marking the beginning of spring, and Candlemas, the day, when¬†all the Church’s¬†candles for the year were¬†blessed.

This time marks the midpoint of winter between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It signals the return of the light of the sun and the days getting longer again.

Romans celebrated the Candelarum festival in honor of Persephone, who was kidnapped by Hades, and searched by her mother Demeter, bearing a torch. The return of Persephone from the underworld, signaled the return of the light and the end of the winter season. Romans lit candles and torches to drive out evil.

February, from Latin februum, meaning “purgation”, “purging”

The Roman¬†Februalia was a festival of¬†purification and purging, which later merged with the Lupercalia. The Latin term febris, meaning “fever”, might be related. (see)

In Jewish tradition the mother of a boy¬†was considered impure for the 40 days following its birth (and for 60 days following¬†¬†the birth of a girl) and was not allowed to enter the temple. At the end of this period the mother¬†underwent a¬†purification¬†ritual. This custom¬†was incorporated into the Christian Catholic festival of Candlemas,¬†also known as the “presentation of Christ in the Temple in Jerusalem” and the “purification of the blessed virgin Mary”.

Hellborus orientalis

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.

There is still time until the vernal equinox and the winter may still be long and cold, especially if this day is clear and sunny. A rainy and
cloudy Candlemas on the other hand means the worst of winter is over. The animals, such as bears and bumble bees, come out of hibernation for the first time. Snowdrops begin to flower, Christmas roses are in full bloom and the winter seeds begin to grow.

Now start sowing indoors those seeds that require warmth and light. The seed trays are kept on the window bench until April or until the last frosts are over. Then the young plants will be ready to be planted outdoors.

Traditional offerings: beeswax candles, Chandeleurs = pancakes (also kown as crêpes)

Animals: bear

Places: wells

Plants: snowdrops, early flowering plants

Deities: Brigid, Persephone, Father Martin (Romanian)

Rituals: cleansing and purification rituals, divination

Superstitions: If someone brings snowdrops into the house on Candlemas day it symbolizes a parting or death. Any decoration left from Christmas, such as holly twigs, should be taken down completely by Candlemas, else there would be a death among the community before the year was out.

Another tradition holds that anyone who hears funeral bells tolling on Candlemas will soon hear of the death of a close friend or relative; each toll of the bell represents a day that will pass before the unfortunate news is learned.

Sailors would not set sail on Candlemas Day, believing that any voyage begun then will end in disaster.

Winter Sun
Return of the Sun

Btw. we had a very rainy and cloudy 1st day of February¬†and tomorrow looks no different… ūüėČ

Sources:

Candlemas + Februalia + British Culture + Folklore Calendar + BBC religions + Father Martin +

Helleborus orientalis purchased from http://www.plantacasa.de/

Garden diary, photos of seedlings and more

two new site sections

Documenting¬†the garden all year round,¬†the new¬†garden diary. Photos, experiences and observations pertaining to the garden as an ecosystem throughout the¬†seasons, the influence of weather, soil, sun, interactions of¬†pollinators, birds¬†and¬†other animals, the work that needs to be done and whatever does not fit into the other categories. I hope to complete a full year circle with this diary, starting now, during the winter rest…

January 24 2016

January 24, 2016: half of yesterday’s snow is already¬†gone. Temps rose from -8 ¬įC to + 8 ¬įC over the weekend. The birds took advantage, searching for worms in the moist grass. According to my father, even bumblebees¬†could be seen flying around.

Upon request, providing now photos and documentation of seedlings and young plants, as an aid for recognizing and distinguishing self-sown plants from other plants and weeds. Along with this, I also provide information and experiences pertaining to the germination of seeds and seed dormancy. Making the start are young rue plants, sown in 2015 and a mandrake germling, which popped today:

These rue plants were sown in 2015 and hardly developed in my unheated greenhouse. I took them indoors before the frost, first having them by the window in the basement and now on the window bench in my room. At last they are growing. Warmth and enough sun light are the essential thing with rue plants.

Mandrake seedling, 2016

Living proof: sometimes seeds need to fall dry before they will germinate. I had not watered this tray for a while and let it nearly dry out. Then started watering again. That’s apparently what was required to break the slumber (dormancy) of this little Mandragora officinarum seed, which germinated yesterday. It was sown in the summer of 2015 and spent several months in the soil, where exposed to warmth and cold.

Colchicum

Colchicum autumnale
Colchicum¬†autumnale ‘Giant’

true plant arsenic?

An incredibly interesting and very poisonous plant is Cholchicum autumnale in the family Cholchicaceae and order Liliales. It is better known as autumn crocus and meadow saffron. The flowers appear in autumn, whereas the foliage follows months later in spring the following year. You may find yourself wondering what those long lily like leaves void of any inflorescence are doing in your garden, only to find yourself wondering again, right at the beginning of fall, where all of a sudden these beautiful purple to pale pink, crocus-like flowers come from. The flowers belong to those leaves you had spotted months earlier and had probably long forgotten about. Another name for this wondrous plant is hence naked lady, because the flowers appear all barren. But there is more to this.

The ovaries of the autumn crocus are located deep in the ground. Due to this the flowers possess extremely long styles, often 10 cm or longer. What looks like a stem are in fact the tepals joined into a long tube and enclosing the prolonged, pale white styles. Each flower possesses three such styles, which remain free and unattached all the way to the ground. The flowers attract pollinators such as bees and flies. They are hermaphroditic and self-fertile.

The capsular fruit emerges in late spring together with the foliage. The ripe capsule is brown and swollen. It contains the small black-brown seeds, which possess white elaiosomes,¬†literally “oil bodies”. These oil bodies attract ants, which then carry the seeds away and thus help the plant spread. (Other plants possessing such elaiosomes are e.g. Chelidonium maius, Helleborus and Sanguinaria canadensis.) Besides this the¬†seeds are also spread by wind.

During the winter time all vital parts of the plant remain underground. (Such plants are called geophytes.) The old corm dies whilst a new one emerges. At the same time a lateral offspring develops into a second corm. The corms are brown and scaly, measuring 2,5 to 5 cm in diameter and up to 7 cm in length.

The German name Herbstzeitlose¬†translates as “autumn time-less”; however, the name actually expresses a slightly different meaning, since “lose” derives from an old German word for divining or foretelling, hence “messenger of autumn” would be more correct. (And it’s quite a beautiful name¬†too.)¬†Other German folk names include Nacket Huren (“naked whore”), Herbstvergessene (“autumn forgotten”), Zeitlose (“timeless”), Herbstlilie (“autumn lily”), Wintersafran (“winter saffron”), Michelsblume (“Michael’s flower”),¬†Winterhauch (“winter breath”), Leichenblume (“corpse flower”) and Teufelsbrot (“devil’s bread”).

Fading flowers of Colchicum autumnale. Wild Colchicums are said to contain more poison than cultivated forms.
Fading flowers of Colchicum autumnale. Wild Colchicums are said to contain more poison than cultivated forms.

History and legend

Dioscorides first mentioned a plant by the name Colchicum variegatum. The specific name autumnale refers to the time of flowering. The genus name Colchicum is derived from Colchis, the landscape on¬†the Black Sea, most famously known for the witch Medea, who is told to have poisoned her enemies with the plant, but also restored youth with its help. In Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica, Medea rubs a salve on Jason’s limbs, which may have contained Colchicum.¬†It is said this plant¬†grew from the blood that tormented Prometheus spilled over the land, when the eagle picked his liver. However, the very same story is also often related to the Mandrake. Either way, meadow saffron¬†has been used¬†medicinally for at least 3500 years. It is still¬†a¬†treatment for rheumatism and gout.

Due to its high toxicity it has also a long history of abuse in murder as well as suicide. The roots maintain their colchicine content for months and could be shipped around the globe as a raw medicine.

Magical attributions

The root or bulb was tied as an amulet around the neck during the times of the black death. The witch Medea allegedly used Colchicum in poison murder but also to restore youth.

Attributions: protection, death spells, healing, ruled by Saturn (or Pluto), Hecate herb, autumn messenger

Toxicity

Colchicum has been¬†mistaken for bear’s garlic (Allium ursinum) by foragers. The corms, leaves and seeds contain the poisonous alkaloid colchicine, which is a mitotic poison¬†(it interferes with the reduction division of the chromosomes during meiosis). It acts similar to¬†arsenic, with no known antidote. Long latency period and lack of antidote¬†make diagnosis and appropriate treatment difficult.

In suspected case of poisoning call emergency immediately (in Germany contact your nearest poison control center = Giftnotruf).

Symptoms of poisoning occur within 2-6 hours and consist of: burning sensation in the mouth and throat, vomiting, spasms, diarrhea (containing blood), circulatory insufficiency, lowered body temperature and blood pressure. After 1-2 days death sets in through respiratory paralysis. The patient stays conscious until the end.

Medicinal uses

Colchicine is a useful drug with a narrow therapeutic index. It is used for treating gout and familial Mediterranean fever. A synthetic compound similar to Colchicine is used in the development of a medicament for the treatment of some types of cancer.

Other uses

Colchicine’s mitose interrupting properties are made use of in plant breeding to achieve larger plants and fruits: it stops¬†plant cells from dividing. As a result haploid cells become¬†polyploid and larger then usual.

A garden variant of Colchicum with huge flowers
A garden variant of Colchicum with huge flowers

In the garden

The autumn crocus is native to Southern Europe and Asia. It grows on moist meadows and pastures. In the garden it likes a spot in full sun or half shade. The soil should be fertile, well-drained and hold moisture. Plant the corms in late summer or autumn, ca. 8-10 cm deep. The foliage requires space, hence plant about 20 cm apart. Autumn crocus spreads readily through its corms, to a lesser extent also through seed. The plant is hardy and takes care of itself and basically needs no care. After some years they will form dense clusters. Dig out the corms in midsummer (when the foliage has died back), separate and replant directly. This way new plants can be obtained easily. Make sure to wear gloves when handling.

Related plants

Flame lily (Gloriosa rothschildiana), Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum)

Sources, references, further reading

Wikipedia + Botanikus + Giftpflanzen + Gods and Goddesses in the Garden, by¬†Peter Bernhardt + A note on Medea’s Plant and the Mandrake +