Here are pictures of the poisonous monkshood, grown and dried by Matt Porter, who has previously let me blog with pictures of other plants in his collection including Mandrake and Henbane.
Monkshood, also known as aconite or wolfsbane, is another plant associated with witchcraft, and is one of the traditional ingredients of flying ointment along with those other two herbs. It is also said to grow around the entrance to the Greek Underworld, as it springs from saliva drooled by Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog owned by Hades, God of Death.
Aconite is also one of the plants most associated with Samhain. In The Sacred Herbs of Samhain, author and herbalist Ellen Evert Hopman wrote: "Aconite root is an herb of the Angel of Death that is burned at funerals and planted on graves." She adds that as well as being in flying ointment, wolfsbane was also an ingredient in salves used by shape-shifters to turn themselves into werewolves. Whether it was a bodily transformation, a psychic effect, an hallucination, or the result of physical sensations brought on simply by touching the herb, is a matter of debate and speculation.
Ellen offers the caution that aconite is very dangerous and can be fatal. Nevertheless, some highly experienced practitioners, like Matt, do tread the poison path to cultivate and use these dangerous herbs in their personal magickal workings. Matt wrote: "My personal attachment is towards Monkshood aka Aconitum. The monkshood plants are beautiful, but do command ultimate respect."
Notes: This post is for information purposes only, it is not advice. If you think you might have been poisoned seek urgent medical help. The pictures are copyright Matt Porter.
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