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Showy fleabaneErigeron speciosus
Showy Fleabane

I've always liked fleabanes for their magickal little flowers, so friendly and innocent-looking, yet so tough. I wanted to make sure I included this charming, useful plant in the Alchemy Works seed collection, but I wasn't sure which one of the many fleabanes to choose. I selected this one because it is a native to North America and because it has the largest flowers of all the fleabanes.

This magick herb is associated with Hephaistos, who was the son of Hera; he had no father, and some see him as Hera's masculine manifestation. This god of the forge was a gold- and silversmith talented enough to build beautiful android women made from gold to help him in his work. They were not mere robots but were outspoken and intelligent. A blow from his hammer freed Athena from the skull of Zeus (and he later made many of her weapons, as well as Aphrodite's girdle and Hermes' helmet). He made Zeus's thunderbolts, but Zeus still tossed Hephaistos out of Olympus when he and Hera stood up to Zeus. Top

Hephaistos giving Athena the armor he made for herThe Romans identified Hephaistos with Vulcan. Except for his association with thunderbolt manufacturing, he is fire of earth, and in particular, fire used for technology (as opposed to fire for the home, which is Hestia). Some see him as the first alchemist. Most assign the tarot card the Hermit to Hephaistos, but some see his card as the Devil, who is concerned with craft and who as Lucifer brought fire to the world (as Prometheus brought Hephaistos's fire to the world of Greek myth). The Devil cardAs the Devil is often shown with two humans chained to him, Hephaistos is the lord of binding, because he used binding a number of times - he bound Hera to her throne, he bound Prometheus to the rock, he bound his wife Aphrodite and Ares together when he found them in bed. Also, in much folk belief, the Devil is lame. Hephaistos became lame on account of being thrown from Olympus, and many Greek earth beings (the old pre-Olympians or immortals) were depicted as lame - the idea being that they were torn from the earth like an uprooted plant. Top

Erigeron speciosus plantNow for the fleabane connection: in myth, Hephaistos tried to sexually assault Athena, but she evaded him and his fiery semen fell to Mother Earth, engendering Erikhthonios, a serpent-man (who became the first king of Athens) - and fleabane. In grimoires and older magickal texts like the Greek magical papyri, references to "semen of Hephaistos" mean fleabane. Top

Because of fleabane's association with this fire god, it is often considered a Fire herb. Interestingly enough, in the old days, the Cherokee started friction fires with the dried stalk of a fleabane, which they called "firemaker." However, the Navajo used it for contraception and together with other herbs, for menstrual pain, and for those reasons and because of the flower's shape and color, some consider it a Moon herb. Like the Moon, the flowers change quickly, becoming darker, and they don't last. For that reason its botanical name means "soon an old man." As a Moon herb, it encourages chastity (which also fits with the Hephaistos myth). Some believe that sprinkling fleabane seeds between sheets can cause chastity - it would certain cause sleeplessness. Others recommend making it into an unguent for that purpose and align it with camphor, which is both Moon associated and which is used for chastity. Fleabane can play a role in exorcism and protection, being especially effective against vermin-like spirits. Top

Mundane Uses
Fleabane's common name reflects its use as a bug repellant. In fact, starlings line their nests with fleabane to keep mites away. People once mixed it with bedstraw to keep bugs out of their mattresses. It's toxic to molluscs and helps prevent fungus infections in strawberry plants. Because it repels insects, it can be used magically to ward off evil spirits. Despite its pesticidal qualities, butterflies love it. But don't plant fleabane where ruminants like cows and goats can get at it - it's toxic for them. I found a mention that this plant was used as a dye by native Americans but nothing more specific. This is the largest flowered of all the fleabanes and is a native of western North America. It is also known as showy daisy, showy fleabane, Oregon fleabane, and aspen daisy. Top

How to grow fleabane: Barely cover seeds to germinate at 55F/13C in 3 weeks. Transplant 12"/30cm apart. Up to twelve flowers appear on stalks 6-30in/15-76cm tall from March-October. This plant gives good cut flowers; harvest them frequently to get more flower production. Fleabane likes to grow in full sun/partial shade in areas like meadows, open woodlands, and grasslands. It's a good choice for rock gardens and can stand very cold weather (down to -40F/-40C) as well as seaside conditions (so you can also plant it along roads that are salted in winter). You can divide the rhizomes every 2-3 years to get more plants. It can get downy mildew, so water during the day so that the sun has plenty of time to dry the leaves. General growing info  Top

Erigeron speciosus
Showy fleabane
150 seeds $3.50

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Uses in Witchcraft & Magic:

Honoring Hephaistos & other gods of the forge, such as Vulcan
Elemental Magic (Fire)
Substitute for camphor
Fire/Moon Herb

2006, 2017  Harold A. Roth; No reproduction without permission