Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Datura - The Moon Lady

For informational purposes only – I do not recommend experimenting with, growing or using Datura unless you’re an experienced herbalist or horticulturalist. It is a toxic herb and not to be played around with.


Datura

Devil's Apple, Mad Apple, Stinkweed, Sorcerer's Herb,
Thorn Apple, Toloache, Witches' Thimble

One of my favourite banes by a mile is the Datura; it has a wicked reputation and its pods look like they are from another planet but even with all of this, I adore this plant so very much. So much so I’ll be experimenting with growing different types (especially the purple ones!). I’m looking forward to my inroads with the beautiful, dangerous moon lady. 

Datura, in all her guises, is a plant that people either love or fear. And one would be right to fear her if you do not know her, she has quite the reputation. Ingested or abused, Datura is toxic, fatal even – at the very least it will give you some incredibly mad hallucinations. There is a story of British soldiers during the 17th century in Virginia (USA) eating some (mistaking it for vegetable greens) and suffering the effects for over a week – when they came to, they recalled nothing of their experience but it was reported they were acting quite mad. She is not one to suffer fools lightly. The ability for madness comes from her chemical make up of scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine – these tropane alkaloids can cause all sorts of havoc in the system, least of all the ability to poison. This is why, in times past, a good understanding of Datura was needed in order to administer it safely and properly in a medicinal (and yes, ritual) capacity. A fair example would be the compound ‘Atropine’ derives its name from Atropos, one of the Moirai or Greek Fates; she is the one who severs the life thread, a perfect example of why Datura is not a herb to be messed with recreationally or without any knowledge of her.

You will notice I  refer to Datura as “she”, this is because Datura is a feminine herb, of the element of water and Saturnian in nature. She shares this with her cousins in the Solanaceae family – you may have heard of them – Ms Belladonna, Ms Henbane and Mr Mandrake – her cousins, as darkly delightful and deadly in nature as Ms Datura– interestingly enough in the Solanaceae family we also find potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and tobacco to name a few. 



There are many different varieties of Datura – my personal favourite is Datura inoxia (gorgeous white flowers) but I’m branching out and experiencing other Daturas – my current interest is in those with purple flowers. I’m growing purple Datura metel (var fastuosa) and Datura stramonium (var tatula). They are currently in a teeny hothouse, I’m hoping they’ll pop their heads out before long; I’ve always had relative ease growing Datura so fingers crossed my luck continues. I’m also going to be trying the considered Australian native version Datura leichhardtii. The seed pods of the Datura are wicked looking, spiky, prickly and can give you a rather nasty poke if you’re not careful. They house hundreds of seeds which go forth in a projectile fashion when the seed pod opens. This is how Datura can become an invasive weed, in fact my first round of Datura plants came from some I found growing wild along a stretch of highway up here while on my way to Adelaide one day, they’re not there anymore, I would assume that they were sprayed by the council of that area – it’s a shame really but not a surprise. Given I live in an agricultural district, anything not considered useful for livestock or cropping generally gets the toxic end of a spray bottle.


Datura is shamanic herb, having been used for countless centuries in religious rites, spirit travel, rights of passage and witchcraft – the Aztecs held it as sacred, and it is often thought of as a plant of the Gods. It’s not hard to see why; the plant is quite powerful, even in passing, you can’t help but notice her energy. It is sometimes quiet, but taking a moment and listening, you will hear her temptress whispers as she beckons you forth to touch, to smell, to hold. She will reel you in before she strikes, enamoured and caught in her snare; you barely notice that as she plays coy and innocence, she is weaving her dark web around you. 

Datura is used for hex breaking, sleep and protection but her Saturnian nature lends her to workings of a chthonic nature, underworld journeying, flying ointments and trance work. Datura is also considered a plant for oracular and prophetic purposes but also for healing – but unless you know how to use Datura for healing, I wouldn’t recommend trying. 

To grow this rather beautifully deadly plant, seeds need to be soaked in some warm water to soften the shells; she prefers heat so when planted out into your sowing medium, make sure there is plenty of warmth hitting the seed bed. I prefer to start mine in jiffy pellets in a little hothouse until they get to a size ready for planting. Datura has a relatively short germination, 5 – 15 days but it can be stubborn as well so patience is key. Datura grows to about 1 – 1.5 mtrs (sometimes slightly larger), with dark green foliage and the flowers grow to a trumpet shape. When the flowers have formed, they slowly unfold to present their gorgeous faces (I took some photos once of a flower evolving here), however they do begin to wither the next day rather quickly. The flower then turns into the wonderous seed pods the daturas get. The seeds, depending on the type of Datura, will be either black or variations on brown.


If you choose to walk the path of the Moon Lady, be wary, be careful and be cautious for she will ensnare you without a thought, pulling you gently to her side whilst dancing a beautiful song around you. She will hold you within her petals as you lean toward her, eager to scent her beauty. She will have you as her own then and you may find yourself ensorcelled unable to walk away. Then you will truly be owned by the spirit of Datura – the herb of the ancients.

3 comments:

  1. Thank you so much for your beautiful tale of Datura... I love her too...

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    1. She is a stunning plant, hopefully my purple ones take and I'll definitely be posting images of that.

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  2. I ran into one of these ladies the other day, during an evening walk. Your favorite color, too. I've been waiting until our Little Princess is a wee older before I resume growing some dangerous greenery. I love the Moon Lady, too, so I shall follow in your steps. ;-)

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