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Enchanter's NightshadeEnchanter'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

Magick. 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

Circaea leavesCulture. 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

Circaea flower
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 info  Top

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