Archive for Moon

Midsummer Nights’ Dreaming

Posted in Musings, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on June 23, 2015 by manxwytch


Henbane, named lus ny meisht in Manx, has been variously ascribed to Jupiter; Gerard claiming that the plant was called Jupiter’s Beame by Pythagoras; or to Saturn, as postulated, (and in his own opinion proved), by Culpepper, based on where it grows.
But my experience of this plant’s genius, along with what we know of modern neurochemistry, make me  inclined to consider this plant and its spirit to be quintessentially Lunar.

Aside from her traditional associations with goddesses of Witchcraft and of the Moon, henbane’s power and chemistry work almost entirely upon the nervous system. I tend to associate psychoactive plants with the domains of either Sun or Moon, depending on their actions. If one considers the vault of the skull to reflect a microcosm of the vault of the sky, then the luminaries of Sun and Moon are the primary lights affecting this part of the anatomy. They are also widely held to be the right and left eyes of God, allowing direct access to the Divine and the personal, individual Spirit. Pharmacologically, the alkaloids of the nightshade family are anticholinergic, binding to muscarinic and to a lesser degree, nicarinic receptors – physically affecting the fluids and autonomic functions of the body, and evoking sleep, dream, terror and stupefaction in the mind. Hyoscyamine and scopolamine, the main alkaloids found in henbane, affect the smooth muscle tissues of the body: those rhythmic undulations that occur beneath the level of conscious control. Henbane also pulls the fluids of the body inward, drying the peripheral mucosa, condensing and retaining the fluids in the hollow organs. This control of the bodily waters is held in common with the power of the Moon, as are the unconscious, the soporific, the primal, the terrifying and the oneiric.

Henbane’s morphology also suggests to me her Lunar energies: leaves that are fat, succulent and fragile, bearing long silver hairs that glisten in the dark and damp; flowers that are round and pallid with purple-brown irregular spotting coalescing in the throat of the blossom. The flowers bear five petals and later produce an abundance of tiny round seeds contained within a capsule which is sealed until ripe by a tiny circular lid. Once germinated, Hyoscyamus niger grows with astounding rapidity provided there is sufficient moisture. A strong, narcotic smell is released at the slightest touch of any part of the plant, evoking her anodyne properties, sleep and dream.

Henbane has traditionally been used to relieve pain in cases where opiates are ineffective or undesirable. She has also been used to calm the mind and induce sleep in cases of insomnia. Overdose of the plant dilates the pupils, causes dimness of sight, delirium, profound sleep that may be prolonged for days, and death. All in accordance with the most extreme effects of the Moon. Her dual faces, causing stimulation at lower doses and sedation at higher ones, also align her with the bright and dark faces of the Lunar Orb.

Flos et folia

Flos et folia

Several of these effects may also be aligned with Saturn, but in my experience, Saturnine energies have more to do with decay, degeneration and permanent loss of mental and physical faculties than with the transient, seemingly alien narcotic undermining of the waking consciousness that typifies henbane intoxication.
Saturnine plants also tend to be slow growing, physically expressing the slow, plodding pace of their planetary ruler.

Historically, the magicks of this plant are those relating to thanatotic workings, to love and to theriomophism, also suggesting that she belongs within the Lunar Mansion.

Of all the seeds I planted this year, henbane has been the most generous, amenable and prolific in her growth. She and her sister, belladonna, have overshadowed all the other veneficii in my garden. I regard this as in indication that I have work to do, and much to learn from these plants this year. Combining this with the wild plants I have found in my wayfaring, and happening upon formulae that call for these specific plants together, I am directed in my research and explorations at this time through this specific region of the plant world.

Buhner has a useful section addressing henbane and recipes using it in his, Sacred Herbal Healing Beers, and Schulke has worthwhile research and experience to add in his, Veneficium. I sincerely hope he will share his Hypnotikon with an appropriate, educated and eager audience one day.



Posted in Musings, Projects with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 5, 2013 by manxwytch

hyoscyamus nigerI’ve always had a strong connection to plants, particularly unusual plants – living fossils, carnivorous plants, armed and venomous plants, plants that walk or move, magickal and medicinal plants – in short, plants that have power. As a child I grew plants in my parents’ garden. In fact, I turned the entire property into garden, banishing the tedious, ordinary and useless grass and colourful annuals in favour of sacred plants. I worked my first alraun as an early teen – an heroic first year Verbascum specimen that I spent a day conversing with, digging around, loosening the sandy soil of the cliff on which it stood and teasing it away from each and every root to take up the plant entirely intact.  My parents seemed oblivious to what I was filling their yard with – dwale, jimson weed, and henbane mixed in with their petunias and tulips. So long as there was something pretty and recognizable, I got away with a startling amount of weirdness. I also grew the bright cousins of the venificii, lunar, solar and venusian plants alongside my beloved saturnian and martial specimens.

Atropa belladonna
Up until a decade ago, I always had gardens full of plants. As an adult I became semi-nomadic, moving great distances following my career, and I stopped cultivating plants. But I roved and foraged and related to wild plants wherever I travelled. I had completed academic training as an herbalist, and had begun to widen my practice beyond myself and those closest to me before embarking on my travels, and continued to practice as I went.
This past summer I committed to renew my relations with witchcraft and fairie associated plants, regardless of my location. Perhaps a little like a veneficic Johnny Appleseed, I will leave Daturas and Belladonnas in my wake as I move from place to place. But the first challenge I set myself was the cultivation of that Ultimate Diva, the one plant spirit I have never been able to coax into my life, even when I tried religiously and repeatedly in my youth; the Mandrake.

This was back in the dark times before the internet, when seed catalogues were printed on paper and virtually none of them offered mandrakes of any variety. When I found one that did, I ordered an embarrassing quantity of seed and tried every trick I had ever seen to get them to grow. For years I kept this seed company in business, or at least could have, considering the amount they charged per seed, and for years I waited in vain for any sign of life from the mandrake seed they sent to me.
This summer I had the good fortune of finding more than one online source for Mandragora seed, as well as groups of folk online who successfully grew this Holy of Holies from seed. In the end, I ordered from Harold Roth at Alchemy Works in the U.S.A., packets of white and autumn mandrake seeds, twenty seeds of each, and followed his instructions for their preparation and planting. I eagerly awaited their germination according to the timetable Harold provided…
And waited…
And waited…
Months went by. The peat pellets I planted the seeds in mouldered, so I broke them up and mixed them into the top layer of soil in a couple of large plastic pots. Still I watered them, and kept looking for signs of life. I was just about ready to admit defeat and, like the fox after the grapes, decide that mandrakes weren’t that big a deal anyway, when for a completely unrelated magical working I collected water from a Holy Well. I figured I had nothing to lose by throwing some of my holy water on those barren pots of stubbornly ungerminating and ungrateful and probably not even worthwhile mandrake seeds.
And the bloody things sprouted that night.

Mandragora officinalis
The few that sprouted, I have cared for like newborn babes, and they have waxed strong and large in my care. I swell with pride at the sight of them under my plant lights each morning, and my success with them has regenerated my enthusiasm. There was some marital strife, however, when I brought the little darlings into the house. It seems that Mandragora is aligned with Beelzebub, and they brought the flies and their Lord in with them in the form of swarms of tiny little fungus gnats. I bound them with incantations and fly paper, and their numbers gradually dwindled as millions of tiny bodies were sacrificed on the sticky strips.

I have since bought Atropa, Hyoscyamus, and more Mandragora from Harold (his incense and resins are also of the highest quality, I’ve bought and used them with great success too), and look forward to planting them in my garden this spring to surround myself with a proper witches garden once again.

I have come to think of plants as totemic, as I have ever had stronger connections with green things than with the more typical, winged and furred spirits of the contemporary neoshamanic world. I find this particularly appropriate on the Isle of Mann, where there are few ‘wild’ animals left, and the sacred land animals tend to be domesticated ones.
But more of them in another post.

Hag Stone Necklace

Posted in Art, Folklore, Projects with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2012 by manxwytch

I’ve collected Hag Stones for many years and have always wanted to make a necklace.  However, not just a necklace with a single stone, but a  magical necklace that would mark some kind of passage of time and vision.  Waiting for the right Holed Stones has taken years of collecting and though I’ve had plenty of stones for many years, none were the right feel and fit until now.

I’m recently vision impaired so tying a knot alone can be a real challenge for me.  Stringing a thread onto a wee beading needle is a lesson in patience for even those with 20×20 vision.  My ability to create now takes an incredible amount of time, but I’m still an artist and craftsperson and I won’t let that part of me go as it helps to feed my soul.

As I said, I wanted to make a Hag Stone necklace for many years and I’ve wanted it to mark a point in my life.  This is the first piece I’ve made since the loss of my vision and a great challenge for me.  It truly marks a pivitol point of my life, a rite of passage in my way of being and seeing in the world.

Thirteen holy Hag Stones, one for each of the full moons.  I will begin the consecrations of each stone on the full moon closest to the new year, in the dark half, Samhain.  So each full moon will be marked and the necklace will be fully charged in a full year’s cycle.

Twelve round pieces of Amber stone to mark the solar cycles of time and light.  The passage of the Twelve Houses of the Sun.  Amber is a stone symbolic of life, light and energy.  Amber, like Quartz, can hold an electric charge and be seen to glow as if from an internal light.  It also smells heavenly when warmed, heated or drilled.  It has been used in ancient medicines for many years and is said to hold healing properties, bearing the lamp of the sun.  Many priestesses wear Amber and Jet necklaces to symbolize the eternal cycles of life and death.

Rather than use Jet, I decided to go right to the source and I’ve used carved bone as the third bead.  There are Forty Bone Beads.  Bone is our mortality.  The stone of our bodies.  Our inner strength and our support.  It’s what holds up this bag of skin, sinew and cell.  It is white to remind us of the Light where we originated.

The circle of Hags, Amber and Bone is held together with silk thread and copper wire.  Copper for the Green Venusian Current, and Silk for its opulence and  strength.  Fine materials for a precious piece that I hope I will one day hand down to a Priestess of my lineage.

During the year’s cycle, I will make a pouch or box to hold the necklace.  Right now, I don’t know how it will look.  The dream hasn’t manifested and neither have the materials, but I’m sure that Providence will bring the right tools at the right time.  She always does.

The centrepiece stone was chosen because of the natural Runes, yods and crescents carved by Fortuna’s hands. It was also the latest of the Holy Stones to come in to my possession, being found just a few months ago.

March Moons and the Vernal Equinox

Posted in Folklore, Storytelling with tags , , on March 19, 2012 by manxwytch

The vernal equinox is when day and night are in perfect balance because the maiden Earth has turned her centre, toward the Sun.  This is the beginning of spring and is celebrated as a time not only of balance but of renewal and the rebirth of light, blossoms, green leaves, sweet scents and warm days to come.  Light conquers darkness as the days grow long.

It was an old belief that the March Moon had particular importance in the Isle of Mann.  It was told to me that the Moon Herself is Queen of Ellan Vannin as one of Mann’s earlier names was Mona’s Isle, the Isle of the Moon in Old English.  Mona is a feminine noun in Manx Gaelic and used as a girls name.  It was first recorded as Mona by Julias Caesar in 54 CE.  We don’t know if he was informed of the name or if he decided to name the Isle himself.

Either way, the moon and the sea have always been good company.

Ta eayst jesarn ‘sy Vayrnt dy-liooar ayns shiaght bleeantyn.

“A Saturday’s moon in March is enough in seven years.”

(Folklore of the Isle of Mann.  A.W.Moore, 1891)

The Mary-el Tarot

Posted in Art with tags , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2012 by manxwytch

By Marie White
Schiffer Publishing Ltd.
ISBN: 9780764340611

I remember when I first saw an image of the Mary-el tarot cards; I was searching for an image of The Moon.  That particular evening I was blithely surfing along the web for something that would capture the essence of a feeling that I had associated with the iconic image.  At the same time I was completely, head bangingly bored of the usual twin pillars, dogs, woman’s profile, crayfish, road, drops of rain and blood of the Waite/Marceille variety.  Then, I saw the Mary-el Moon image and I was struck with that kind of joy found similarly when someone has a butterfly land to rest on their person.  A moment of awe and grace fluttered to my consciousness, having been touched by a transformative beauty.  To me, the image transcended stereotypes of tarot iconography and yet completely remained pure to the essence of the nature of the card.  My respect for Marie White’s artistry was deepened as I discovered that The Sun card was like a brother to the The Moon in imagery*.  One reflective of the other.

It was from then on, that I was enamoured of the Mary-El Tarot.

Time and life continued.  My encounter was easily 7 or more years ago.  After a while, I honestly forgot about it.  I carried on with my own work and art and life story when recently, a friend mentioned that the Mary-El Tarot was about to be published.  The name rang a bell, but I couldn’t pin it down so I did what we all do… I found her on the web and was reawakened to her tarot splendour after so many years. Very excited to see her complete deck, I pre-ordered one of her first decks for my collection.

Holding the long rectangular box itself was a delight.  Schiffer Publishing Ltd. has certainly proved that it cares about an exquisite presentation for such a monumental work of art.  And this is a work of art.  Marie White’s magnum opus.  Her spiritual journey through the Tree of Life.  The tarot archetypes, captured in the manner by which a soul can be captured… in art.

White’s images have taken over 15 long years to develop and process and the results are staggering.  The originals are 7” x 11. 5” and  executed in oils in a style called grisaille, which is where an under-painting is done in contrasting tones of black, greys and white.  Then one or more tones are added as a wash, and finally colours are applied in many thin and translucent layers.  This style adds to build the impression of depth in her work.

White’s own journey through the process of creating the deck is detailed in her personal blog which has been followed by countless tarot fans and friends over the years.  It is great reading for anyone interested in the process of art, the mind of the artist/mystic, and in the power of the Muse herself.

Accompanying the deck is White’s poetic book ‘Landscapes of the Abyss’.  It provides the reader with insight into White’s tremendous, experiential and historical knowledge of the cards.  She joins the ranks of many tarot historians who draw attention to the link between the tarot trumps and the medieval Dance Macabre, the Dance of Death who is the great equalizer of both beggar and king.  As well, she highlights the work of Etillia, the French master cartomancer and magician who first proposed the association of the cards to Egyptian mysteries and universal cosmologies.  She gives her impression of the categorization of the deck and then leads the reader to her “Perfect Ambiguity”, where she praises the synthesis of Three Pillars of Tarot (Waite/Marceilles/Crowley) for her inspiration and clearly states that the images are able to be understood in a multitude of dimensions.  This diversity of spiritual wisdom is reflective in the various artistic influences found in the Mary-el’s symbolic pictography; all of which are completly compatable within the deck and don’t appear to be in conflict from other images.  A clearly Japanese style, integrates well with a North American indigenous style and then a European faery tale…  It’s all within the psyche of the Mary-el deck and more.

14 Temperance

White’s deck heralds a new dawn in tarot art.  She has risen above the interjected rule that tarot art must contain an image of the numbered suit (wands, swords, cups, disks).  She has gone beyond this to touch the essence that the card itself conveys thereby giving the viewer another perspective into her insight of the “Perfect Ambiguity” and symmetry.  Like the name Mary-el, it is a conjunction of both the mortal and divine.  A walk through her deck is a microcosmic spiritual dance of the cosmos, where we are all the Fools in the comedy and tragedy of life.

For some people, the absence of Suits in the Minor Arcana may seem a struggle however; White has written a comprehensive guide to each card’s meaning, symbolism and interpretation therefore giving anyone, even the most insecure reader, an opportunity for understanding and reflection.  Beyond this, White concludes with what has always been the best advice for any tarot interpretation.

“There is no knowledge that can be found outside yourself that is better than what is inside yourself.  You have access to it all (as does every person) alone; you are enough.”

As far as I am concerned, Marie White joins the ranks of the historical visionary feminine artists who have profoundly influenced tarot deck art such as Pamela Coleman Smith and Lady Freida Harris.   I realize this is mighty praise and I feel that it is well deserved.  White’s process was not that of a graphic artist but as she says, an alchemist and her transformation of lead into gold can be found in walking the Landscape of the Abyss.

For those who are interested in discovering more of her tarot art, it can be found on her website at

Marie White is also offering signed prints of her originals and signed copies of her deck from her website

*Note:  All images are copyright Marie White and were used on this review with her kind permission.

This review was written by the artist Jane Estelle Trombley of the Arto Tarot deck and JETArts.