Poison Path From Equinox to Harvest

Poison Path From Equinox to Harvest May 7, 2017

Preparing to plant-Vernal Equinox to Beltane

Belladonna arriving from a local supplier. Photo Coby Michael.
Belladonna arriving from a local supplier. Photo Coby Michael.

The Vernal Equinox brings, for me, a shift in focus.  For the dark half of the year my focus is turned inward; like a tree withdrawing its life force down into its roots for the winter.  This was a time for introspection and looking toward the Underworld and its spirits for wisdom.  During this time of the year when darkness comes quickly I do a lot of reading and writing for research articles.  I also work with the harvested bodies of the plants from the season prior; making tinctures and herbal blends for later use.  Winter is my time for Underworld journeys and Sabbatic flight by turning within we are able to go without our bodies.  The spring equinox is an awakening of the sleeping life force within us and within the Earth.  One can feel the energy creeping back up to the surface enlivening it.  This growing life force energy is what draws us back to the outdoors.  The atmosphere of a ritual performed in the dead of winter has a unique energy all its own.  A perfect time to reach into the ancestral depths for knowledge gained through spirit congress.  This is the time of the Witch Father and his retinue of spirit helpers as they fly through the night sky.

Outdoor ritual during the growing half of the year puts one in direct relation with the denizens of nature; elementals, faeries, and spirits of the land.  The rituals of spring include planting seeds and working the earth, just as much as leaving devotional offerings.  This is the time of the year when I can work directly with the plant spirits of classical witchcraft as well as the greater spirits of the woodlands.  The Witch Father is present as Rex Nemorensis, the woodland king.  Going out into the forest to commune with these entities is a major part of my practice.  The forest speaks to those who can hear it just like the trees speak to one another.  Simply walking through the forest can impart one with inner “knowing.”

I also collect wild plants from the local area, including Enchanter’s Nightshade and various local solanaceous plants.  Those that do not grow locally in the wild I will grow at home in my garden.  I do occasionally plant from seed and also will use the scatter method using seeds from the previous year.  Many rare and baneful plants are luckily sold at nearby nurseries, if you know where to look.  There is much to be gained from cultivating plants from seed, however over the years efficiency and consistency has become a priority.

Solanaceous plants belladonna and black nightshade. Photo Coby Michael.
Solanaceous plants belladonna and black nightshade. Photo Coby Michael.

Whether grown from seed, purchased as a seedling or encountered in the wild; spending a season with a living plant imparts priceless knowledge and insights through observing the plants interaction with its environment.  This kind of knowledge can only be experienced because it cannot be put into words.  The growing and nurturing of the classical witches’ plants is just as important to the Poison Path as harvesting them to use in magic or potion.  By working with these plant familiars in all stages of their life cycle, one discerns the true purpose of the Poison Path.  Just like all witchcraft, the poisoner seeks knowledge and power through understanding gained by spirit congress.  These botanical allies with their historical lore and physical attributes each contain a piece of the classical witchcraft puzzle.

During my growing season, devotional rituals consist of offerings to my plant allies and the spirits of the land where I am living or visiting.  I normally will leave an offering out under the largest/central tree as the spirit guardian of the area, otherwise I give offerings of smoke and libation.  Watering and cultivating a garden is an act of devotion-a sacred rite hearkening back to the story of Cain the first sorcerer who made an offering of his harvest.

Belladonna, Henbane and Wolfsbane root altar jar. Photo Coby Michael.
Belladonna, Henbane and Wolfsbane root altar jar. Photo Coby Michael.

Baneful Reliquaries

This year I am finally starting a project that I have been inspired to do for a few years now.  The project is called Baneful Reliquaries, which will consist of small wearable glass lockets containing dried plant material as an amulet.  I would also like to create slightly larger altar pieces to serve as spirit houses for plant familiars.  I will be working with various magical concepts such as lycanthropy and veneficium.  I am still in the beginning stages of production.  Of course, along with this little project I will be continuing my weekly articles on Patheos Pagan and maintaining Poisoner’s Apothecary.  I also have some small collaboration going with fellow practitioners that I look forward to sharing!  I will also be spending the summer months putting together my first Poison Path 101 class!  I am hoping to turn this into a presentation for ConVocation 2018.  So from now until the celebration of the First Harvest, I will be a busy witch.  This is all part of my plan to bring classical witchcraft resources and ethnobotanical folklore to a wider audience of magical practitioners, specifically those practicing modern traditional witchcraft.

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