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Belladonna printAtropa belladonna
Belladonna, Deadly Nightshade

Belladonna is a traditional West European magick herb associated with Saturn, like its cousins hellebore, henbane, and mandrake. As one of the baneful herbs, it is used in works concerning death and death's opposite - healing. The name "Belladonna" is said to be derived from the fact that Italian women at one time made drops from the plant which caused their pupils to dilate and thus made them more desirable, but perhaps it is instead a reference to this plant's dedication to the Goddess (the Beautiful Lady) and historically it was used in rituals honoring a Roman goddess of war, Bellona. Even now, parts of this plant are helpful inclusions in fumes dedicated to making war. European witches used this plant in flying ointments, extracting its constituents into fat and rubbing it on the skin, so it had a place in every witch's garden. It is still traditionally associated with astral projection, but this plant is especially Saturnian in that it is said to create feelings of heaviness rather than lightness, being dragged down to the ground rather than flying. In traditional witchcraft, belladonna is typically sung to upon harvesting. Some even dance naked in front of the plant. This is in keeping with some cultures' use of belladonna for sex magick. Don't try this at home, kids--belladonna is, to my mind, the single most tricky of all the nightshades. I love it, and it is a beauty, but I would not think of ingesting it.

Belladonna berryBelladonna grows 2-5ft/60-150cm tall with coarse, large leaves and odd brownish purple flowers that appear to be veined. The flowers have a slight coldly sweet scent right up close. Its Latin name comes from the Greek fate Atropos, who was responsible for cutting the thread of each person's life when the time comes, a well chosen reference, since this plant can be fatal to humans and is poisonous to all carnivores. It is especially dangerous for children, who are particularly sensitive to its poisonousness and sometimes attracted to the shiny, handsome berries. Either don't plant this where children play, teach them that it is a poison, or just snip off the flowers as they wilt--the plant will then produce no berries. Always wear gloves when handling belladonna. This plant is highly unpredictable in its action on the human body, which adds to its dangerousness. to my mind, it has many Fae qualities, even though it is not normally identified with the Good Folk. Belladonna is also known as Dwale, Banewort, Devil's Cherries, Naughty Man's Cherries, Divale, Black Cherry, Devil's Herb, Great Morel, and Dwayberry. Best planted on a Saturday. Top


Belladonna in early spring of its second year
How to grow belladonna: Sow on Winter Solstice (see the Solstice Sowing page) or use the cold water soaking method: Soak seed for 2 weeks in cold water (an old vitamin bottle kept in the fridge works). Replace the water daily with fresh cold water--this is to imitate snowmelt.  When removed from the fridge and planted, 70% of the seeds should germinate in 2-4 weeks (the rest will germinate subsequently, even the following year). Transplant to partial shade in spring after all danger of frost is over (it can be grown indoors). Belladonna grows best in soil that has lime ("sweet" or calcareous soil), lots of organic matter (think woodlands), and it needs a well-drained but not dried up spot. The plant will get larger in partial shade; it will have more alkaloids in sun only because it will be more dried up there. Transplant to 18"/45cm apart. This is a perennial; the younger plants have larger leaves than older plants that have gone through a winter. The flowers are followed by the berries, which can be left to rot and then planted, or you can grow new plants from the green tips. Note: some little critters do eat the berries with no obvious ill effects, so if you want to save some, best pick them. To save the seeds, treat the fruits like tomatoes: smash up the berries (wear gloves!) and soak them. The seeds will fall to the bottom of the water; strain off the fruit parts and spread the seeds out on a plate to dry. If the winters are not too severe where you are, the plant will come back from its roots in the spring. The first year the plant will get about 3ft/.9m high, but it can grow to nearly 6ft/1.8m in its second year. Alkaloid content is highest when berries are forming and lowest when the plant is flowering; higher alkaloid content is induced by growing where summers are hot and/or on a southwest slope. Once the plant is established, it can be propagated by cuttings. Roots are harvested in the fall, usually in the first through third year; this plant does not live very long for a perennial. The dry weight of the roots is about 25% of the fresh weight, but the roots are pretty big and difficult to dry without them getting moldy first. The roots are the strongest part and even the smell can give you a headache, so be careful. Slugs are really fond of this plant and will eat the bark off the stems, killing it. This plant appreciates fertilizer. General growing info Top


Atropa belladonna
Deadly Nightshade
100 seeds $3.75


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Get a print of the belladonna painting

Uses in Witchcraft & Magic

Witch's Garden Plant
Baneful Work
Astral Herb
Honoring Bellona
Saturn Herb

Go to belladonna herb 

2004, 2014 Harold A. Roth; No reproduction of any part without permission.