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smallage seedsApium graveolens
Smallage

The Renaissance magician known as Agrippa wrote in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy that smallage was useful in suffumigations (incense) for either gathering or dispersing spirits. He called coriander, henbane, poison hemlock, and smallage as "spirit herbs" because when they were burned together, they brought spirits together. Note, though, that he also recommends burning this herb for the opposite effect. He writes that burning a fume of sagapenum (in the same plant family as asafoetida and galbanum), poison hemlock juice (yikes!), henbane, mullein, red sandalwood, and black(-seeded) poppy causes spirits and visions (apparently false) appear, and that adding smallage causes them to disappear. Either way, Agrippa associates smallage with spirits. Top

Smallage leafSome recipes for flying ointments include smallage mixed together in oil or fat with monkshood, belladonna, poison hemlock, and cinquefoil. What was it about this herb that made people connect it with the others? According to one modern source, the ancient Romans connected this herb with death and used it in funeral wreaths, and it was found woven into funerary wreaths in Egyptian tombs as well. It could be that it is this connection--as it came into European popular culture--that caused it to be grouped with herbs like poison hemlock in a flying ointment. Later writers consider that smallage is poisonous when grown wild and a good medicinal herb when cultivated (although I could not find info that it was ever poisonous at all). The seeds are calming and sedating, which might be very helpful for sabbatic wanderings (and which explains why some contemporary sources recommend it for dream pillows). There is also the fact that at least one early modern herbalist considered the ingestion of smallage to cause epilepsy ("the falling sickness").  This plant is sacred to the Greek river god Selinos, who was featured on Greek coins together with a smallage leaf. I have not found any further information about this deity. Top

In terms of the system of humors, smallage is hot and dry, which makes it a Fire herb. The root is thought to be aphrodisiac. I did run across the advice of a cooking book from 1879 that recommended that the leaves of this herb be thoroughly boiled before eating, because although it is good for the digestion, it is also sexually stimulating and so "not for everybody." It is certainly much more intense than regular celery leaves. It's good for flavoring soups, stews, and savory pies, but don't try to eat the stalks like regular celery; they are very fibrous. Some gout sufferers like to use smallage to keep down uric acid levels in the blood; it contains various anti-inflammatories. Smallage is also known as marsh parsley, leaf celery, and wild celery. Top

How to Grow Smallage
Usually this plant is started outside soon after the last spring frosts, but you can also start it inside at room temperature. Barely cover the seeds to germinate in 1-2 weeks. If you've got a spot that gets a lot of water or doesn't drain well, try smallage there. It likes full sun and gets 18"/45cm tall. It's usually grown as an annual (lasts only one year), but it is a biennial in warmer areas (down to 5F/-15C). Harvest leaves before it flowers in cut-and-come-again fashion, or harvest all at once by cutting back the plant 3/4 of the way down. Most biennials make seeds in their second year. General growing info Top  

Apium graveolens
Smallage
100 seeds $3.00


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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Necromancy
Banishing
Sabbatic Work
Underworld Associations
Honoring Selinos
Fire Herb

2008, 2017 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction or distribution without permission.