Poisonous Herb Runes Guide
Belladonna (Atropa belladonna, deadly nightshade) is derived from the Italian phrase bella donna (beautiful lady) and is named for the women who used it by dropperfuls to dilate their pupils for a more attractive appearance. Some have even personified belladonna into an enchanting woman that would lure men to their deaths. Its shiny black berries and foliage are highly toxic and thus have a longstanding history in tales of poison, but the plant has also found a place in medicine. Although belladonna has many medicinal usages and is often used in homeopathic treatments for pain relief and digestive issues, it has historically been the main ingredient in Witches’ Flying Ointment - a hallucinogenic salve crafted to assist a witch in lucid dreaming, astral travel, or flying on her broomstick.
Magical Uses: hexes & curses, beauty spells & potions, love & attraction spells, astral travel
Planetary Ruler: Saturn
Datura (devil’s trumpets, hell’s bells, moonflowers) has a history in India as a poison used for murder and suicide. Its potent and variable toxicity can result in extreme delirium with unpleasant effects as well as death, but as with any of the witches’ weeds, knowledge and experience are vital to harnessing the plant’s power. Several Native American and African tribes as well as Hindu Shaiva use datura in spiritual work to produce visions or speak to deities. Datura is widely used in ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for asthma as well as a surgical analgesic in other cultures. It is also another common component of traditional Witches’ Flying Ointment. Experienced folk herbalists may use it as a poultice for wounds and abrasions.
Magical Uses: astral travel, divination, spirit and deity communication, rite of passage or initiation, enchantment
Planetary Ruler: Moon
Foxglove (Digitalis) has an important place in medicine as well as folklore. Extracts from the purpurea species have historically been used to abate the symptoms of heart conditions and in fact, have been written about in a piece of literature that is now considered to be the birth of modern therapeutics. Its use in the cardiac field has continued to this day. For folk herbalists, foxglove has a long history of use in controlling seizures and treating heart conditions, however its toxicity often overwhelms its benefits when compared with other treatments. It is speculated (and highly debated) that Van Gogh’s ‘Yellow Period’ was influenced by the color delusions caused by digitalis treatment for his seizures.
Magical Uses: attraction of faeries, bees, and hummingbirds
Planetary Ruler: Venus
Hemlock (Conium maculatum, poison hemlock) has a famous history as a poison and is most associated with the execution of Socrates. It is known by experienced herbalists that the benefits of hemlock can be safely harnessed once dried, although the toxicity is still present in trace amounts. While all parts of the plant are toxic to humans and animals in small amounts, the root is the most potent. Medicinally, hemlock is an antispasmodic and has been used as an antidote to strychnine poisoning and in diseases such as tetanus and rabies where muscle spasms need to be reduced. Hemlock was also a traditional component of Witches’ Flying Ointment. Although it mainly works on the physical nervous system, it can cause a type of vertigo (conium is derived from the Greek word meaning to spin or whirl).
Magical Uses: astral travel, purification of ritual or sacred tools, spells to reduce sexual desires or cause paralysis, protection & grounding
Planetary Ruler: Saturn
Mandrake, in the genus Mandragora, is a plant that dates back to at least the writing of the Old Testament and has long since held a place in Witchcraft and medicine alike. Topically, mandrake salve is used as an analgesic for muscle and joint pain. Internally, it has a wide range of medicinal uses, but is historically known for its anesthetic properties. Mandrake has quite a bit of folklore attached to it, no doubt because of the root’s resemblance to a human figure and its hallucinogenic effects. It’s said that if you dig up a mandrake root, its scream alone will kill all those near it. Prepared and used properly, a dried mandrake root brings prosperity, fertility, creativity, psychic powers, and love. It is even said to protect your home from demons.
Magical Uses: happiness, abundance, protection from demons, poppet for sympathetic magic, fertility & attraction spells, divination
Planetary Ruler: Mercury
Wolfsbane (aconitum, wolf’s bane) has been used in history and literature to poison both men and wolves. An antidote for werewolf-ism and shape-shifting, wolfsbane can also be dried and placed strategically around the home and farm to protect livestock from predators. Lore says that witches have also dipped flints in wolfsbane juice to create poison arrows for their enemies. Wolfsbane is highly toxic, able to absorb through the skin, and can cause death within just 6 hours. However, planted and contained safely, wolfsbane is an excellent protective ally for any witch’s garden and home.
Magical Uses: protection from werewolves and shape-shifting, sympathetic magic for poisoning enemies, protection of livestock
Planetary Ruler: Saturn, Mars
Element: Fire, Spirit
Wormwood (Artemisia absinthum) is an ornamental plant that contains thujone, the same psychoactive compound present in Mugwort. In high doses, thujone can cause kidney failure and convulsions. Wormwood is the main ingredient in traditional absinthe, however, it has also been touted as a parasite (worm) and cancer cell killer and is known to stimulate appetite, thus making it particularly helpful in the treatment for anorexia as well as some digestive disorders.
Magical Uses: astral projection, divination, visions, spell returns or vengeance spells, spirit summoning, protection
Planetary Ruler: Mars
Element: Fire, Air