Enchanter's Nightshade (Circaea lutetiana) Info Circe, "the
dread goddess who walks with mortals," gives her name to this native
of the northern hemisphere. Circe was the sun's daughter and the ocean's granddaughter; this fire/water combination illustrates her complex
nature. In 800 BCE, the Greek poet Homer described how Circe welcomed lost
sailors to her island, drugged them, turned them into pigs, and ate them.
She was compared to a cat and is often pictured surrounded by charmed lions,
tigers, or panthers. She rules what the cat usually represents--the
domestic--and provides abundance, but also like the cat, she is associated
with the dark aspects of the spiritual. Her extensive
knowledge of herbs helped her not only in the practice of magick but in
healing emotional hurts
and purifying the spirit. She had great knowledge of the Underworld and
advised Odysseus how to navigate there. She used a wand as a controlling
device and is the first Western cultural image of a woman with supernatural
powers who flies on a stick and uses a cauldron in magick; both are depicted
here in the ancient vase painting of Circe about to give someone an urge
to squeal and root around. She was skilled in sex magick, through which she deepened
her relationships with others. Top
The small flowers (only 1/6"/4 mm in
diameter) and woodland culture of enchanter's nightshade make this a Saturn
plant, which fits with Circe's knowledge of the Underworld. Clearly this
plant has a long connection to enchantment, hexing, binding, and transformation.
It offers especially interesting possibilities as a shapeshifting herb. Some consider
that its reputation for hexing comes from the plant's seed pods, which attach
themselves to fur or clothing much as a curse attaches itself to a person.
Many of the common names for this associate it with magick: Sorceror of
Paris [the person, not the city], Witch's Grass, Great Witch Herb, Wood
Magic Herb, Paris Nightshade, Herb of St. Etienne, Southern Broadleaf Nightshade.
Unlike most Saturn herbs, it does not appear to be especially toxic, only
containing a lot of tannin, an astringent, so it is a safe addition to any
magick garden. Top
A perennial plant of open woodlands, enchanter's nightshade is not really a member
of the nightshade family and gets
that name only because its leaves are similar in shape to those of nightshades.
This member of the evening primrose family likes to grow
next to ditches and small streams and prefers rich soil with dappled shade.
The small flowers are among the only ones in the plant kingdom with two
petals, although they look like four. They appear June-August on
stalks 28 in/70 cm in height and are white fading to pink. Once established,
this plant increases through stolons creeping underground. Enchanter's nightshade
is threatened or endangered in some states, so plant some! Top
How to grow enchanter's nightshade: Barely
cover to germinate in 3-4 weeks at 68F/20C. If germination does not occur, freeze
for 2-4 weeks. Transplant to rich, moist soil and dappled shade. Or sow on Winter Solstice (see the Solstice Sowing
page). Give this perennial winter protection in the
far north or where cold winters bring little snow. It increases by creeping
stolons, so plant it where you don't mind it expanding or else contain it. This
perennial plant does not like intense sun or heat and won't grow in the Deep South (goes
about as far as North Carolina) or the Southwest. General growing