Tuesday 13 August 2019

Book Excerpt: Sacred Herbs of Samhain - Aconite

It's never to early for witches to start to think about Samhain, is it? Here's an excerpt from a wonderful new book by Ellen Evert Hopman, called Sacred Herbs of Samhain - Plants to Contact the Spirits of the Dead. This bit is about Aconite, also known as Monkshood or Wolfsbane - a poisonous herb with a very witchy reputation:

Any time you take steps to communicate with Otherworld entities, it is wise to first set up protection for yourself. Make sure you are well grounded as you begin, perhaps taking a few minutes to feel the Earth beneath your feet and the strength and support she gives you. Slow down and deepen your breathing, noticing your diaphragm and how it fills and empties like a sail in the wind.

When you are centered in your heart and ready for the work, open your eyes and reread the magical notes and preparation instructions for the herbs you have selected for protection. If you will be breathing in or ingesting an herb, please note the cautions associated with that plant and take them very seriously.

When you are sure you can safely interact with the herbs you have chosen, you can call upon the gods, goddesses, and angelic entities you work with. Ask them to surround you with their protection and guidance. Proceed with a mature and sober attitude and all will be well!

Aconite, Monkshood, Wolfsbane (Aconitum napellus)

Aconite root is an herb of the Angel of Death that is burned at funerals and planted on graves. It was once mixed with Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), Belladonna (Atropa belladonna), Water Hemlock (Cicuta virosa), and soot in flying ointments. (The soot was added so practitioners could see exactly how much they had applied.) These ointments would have been made by simmering the herbs in butter, suet, or lard. Once the ointment was applied, a practitioner could travel to the astral realms.

Aconite is probably most useful in helping practitioners contact werewolves. In fact, Wolfsbane was an ingredient in salves once used by shape-shifters to turn themselves into werewolves. In my opinion, these creatures are denizens of the astral plane and one needs to journey there to find them. (Similarly, the Sasquatch or “bigfoot” is also a creature of the astral plane and essentially a type of fairy. This is why many people see them, yet they can never be found.)

“In Europe such plants, including the nightshade datura stramonium linked to witches’ flying ointment, have also been indicated in cases of shape-shifting and lycanthropy. A detailed recipe for werewolf salve provided by Jean de Nynauld in De La Lycanthropie, Transformation, et Extase des Sorciers (Paris, 1615), and quoted at length by Weyer, included belladonna root, henbane, and aconite, also known as wolfsbane or monkshood.”*

Caution: Aconite and other herbs traditionally used in these formulas are dangerous and could be fatal if ingested or if too much is spread on the skin. Also, I have never yet found an actual traditional formula that provided the exact amounts of these herbs to use, so please don’t try this at home or you may be visiting the Otherworld in person sooner than you wish!

When worn, Aconite also offers protection from werewolves and vampires, and you can carry a bit of the root in a bag (so it doesn’t touch your skin) as protection when you travel alone on a dark night.

* Paul Melvin Wise, “Cotton Mather’s Wonders of the Invisible World: An Authoritative Edition” (dissertation, Georgia State University, 2005), from the ScholarWorks @ Georgia State University online archive (website).

The pictures show the book cover and Aconitum napellus (public domain image)

Ellen Evert Hopman is a herbalist and author. You  can visit her bookstore and blog at www.elleneverthopman.com You can also learn herbalism with Ellen at The Western Massachusetts School of Herbal Studies (October to April each year) POB 219, Amherst, MA 01004, USA; and study Druidism at The Tribe of the Oak www.tribeoftheoak.com

You can view Sacred Herbs of Samhain on Amazon. It is published Destiny Books.

No comments: