Aconitum vulparia (lycoctonum)
This is not monkshood but the real deal, wolfsbane, which is a different species from monkshood. This Saturn herb is a classic of garden witchcraft and sacred to Hekate. Wolfsbane is sometimes associated with Mars because of the helmet-like shape of its flowers, although Cornelius Agrippa said that the Mars association came from the fact that it poisons by reason of too much heat (which is a Mars characteristic). Wolfsbane apparently can be used to reverse shapeshifting spells and has a folk tradition of protecting homes against werewolves. There was also the belief that witches dipped flints in the juice of wolfsbane (a very dangerous endeavor in itself) and then threw them at an enemy; such flints were called elf-bolts. One scratch was enough to kill, and that is not folklore.
One of the baneful herbs, wolfsbane grows naturally in damp woods in the Alps, where it is a threatened species, and produces sulfur-yellow flowers between June and August. The higher the elevation, the more flowers this plant will get and the longer they will last. It got the name "Wolfsbane" because ancient Germans used it to poison wolves. Bumblebees like this plant because the flower's shape and color says "come on in!" to them. This aconite does not contain aconitine, like monkshood, but does have lycoctonine, which is just as poisonous. Do not get this plant on your skin; it can cause severe itching and dermatitis, and the sap can be absorbed in a cut. Always wear gloves when handling it. Ingesting even a tiny amount of this plant can be fatal, but it's great for keeping werewolves out of your yard and is a classic of the witch's garden. Also known as badgersbane. Cannot be sent to Australia. Top
Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:
© 2004, 2014 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction of any part without permission.
How to grow wolfsbane
of this perennial
are a challenge to germinate, which is why you
will never find this plant at garden centers or
most nurseries. Use the baggie method: Wet and wring out a paper towel (I like to use a weak solution of
water and liquid kelp to help germinaton). Sprinkle the seeds on half or a quarter of the paper
towel. Fold up the towel and gently press the layers together.
Put it into a baggie. The cheap,
thin baggies work best. You want a little oxygen to get through.
Don't seal it. Just fold it closed. Don't forget to label with the
name of the seed and the date you started them. Keep the baggie
at room temperature and no direct light for 4 weeks. Make sure the
paper towel stays
moist but not wet and watch it doesn't start to
mold in there. Then close the bag and put in the
freezer (preferably a deep freeze) for six weeks. Take out and sow in sterile planting
soil (I use Jiffy-7
pellets) and move to temps in the 40-50F/4-10C outside
(not in sun) for germination. Consider that
this plant naturally grows in high elevations and
try to imitate those conditions - cold, snow,
snowmelt. One method I have heard of using
for seeds that are triggered by snowmelt is to
soak the seeds for two weeks in cold water that is
changed daily for fresh cold water. This
imitates fresh snowmelt. You can
also try sowing outside in fall in a pot on the north
side of your house and letting
overwinter outdoors if you get decent snowcover
during winter or you can plant and mulch heavily. Or sow on Winter Solstice
directions on the Solstice Sowing page). This is a forest understory plant, so grow
in shade in rich soil. It cannot handle warm climates.
It's also a spring ephemeral, which means that it will flower
and then die back, only to reappear the following spring. The flowers stalks
are 3ft/.8m tall; they come up from a rosette
that grows quite large when the plant is happy.
very careful when handling the seeds if they are
wet; the poisonous alkaloid can be absorbed
through your skin, and the seeds are high in it
because it is a protective to the plant, so if the
seeds are wet, plant with latex gloves on or at
least immediately wash with soap and water
afterwards. Don't ever touch the sap of this
plant. Generally, wear gloves when handling it.