Unholy Alliance: Taming The Devil’s Weed

Taming The Devil’s Weed

Securing an Unholy Alliance with Lady Datura

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”   – Abraham Lincoln

In 1968 Carlos Castaneda released The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge detailing his apprenticeship with a powerful shaman from Mexico named Don Juan.* His apprenticeship consisted of utilizing three powerful psychotropic plants to stimulate his abilities into shamanism: 1.) Peyote 2.) PsylicyIMG_0219be mushrooms and 3.) Datura inoxia. Taming the Devil’s Weed is taming Datura inoxia. The most frightening and dangerous of these channels was of course the Dark Spirit of Datura. She was the elite form of power, but very few could handle Her power. Not only was She powerful, but She was also unpredictable. When one is dealing with intense forms of power such as The Devil’s Weed, You need to be able to predict your calculations. One wrong turn and She would turn unpredictable. Leaving you in the depths of madness… insanity.

Not only does She like to be unpredictable in her effects on the mind but She likes to be unpredictable in her alkaloid content as well. As you may have heard, the tropane concentration in the death-laced Solanaceae can be various in every respect. From plant to plant. From leaf to leaf. From age to weather condition. She truly has the upper hand in the relationship. She seems to decide herself which rule She wants to play by.

You may have to ask: How could She be beneficial at all to one’s work if She is so unruly and dangerous. The answer to this questDatura seedsion I believe lies in your ability to sense what the spirit of the plant thinks of you. Because although we see her having her way and say in all matters, imagine how that could work out if the spirit was extremely fond of you? Now we see it in a much more favorable light. She will then go out of her way to see that you have your way. She will destroy anyone standing in your way. That is the reward of gaining the spirit as an ally, She will make you a power to be reckoned with. You will have immense power through her.

This seems to be one of the pitfalls of her apprenticeship. Keeping your power from corrupting and owning you. When people gain power they lose control of themselves. This leads to instability, decay, and eventual self-annihilation. Power is easily subversive when you become arrogant and proud so you better be well aware of your own well-being if you want to keep those privileges with your Lady friend…

The Devil’s weed had to be experienced in a specific order to gain her abilities:

“The Devil’s Weed has four heads: 1. The Root, 2. the stem and leaves, 3. the flowers, and  4. the seeds. Each one of them is different and whoever becomes her ally must learn about them in that order. The most important head is in the roots. The power of the Devil’s Weed is conquered through the roots. The stem and leaves are the head that cures maladies; properly used, this head is a gift to mankind. The third head is the flowers, and it is used to turn people crazy, or to make them obedient, or to kill them. The man whose ally is the weed never intakes the flowers, nor does he intake the stem and leaves, for that matter, except in cases of his own illness; but the roots and the seeds are always intaken, especially the seeds; they are the fourth head of the devil’s weed and the most powerful of the four.”

Datura inoxia
Datura inoxia

There is a staggering amount of complex and specific instructions to follow when procuring favor with the Devil’s Weed. There was said to be no room for error when working with it. It would be a nerve-wracking feat to undertake. The strange thing about Castaneda’s undertaking was that he made a careless mistake applying the paste to his forehead when he was instructed to apply it to his temples. There was also a ritual he had to do involving lizards for divination, and he made some errors there as well. Don Juan was in amazement that Castaneda had even made it back to tell of these mistakes. She usually always destroys her proteges when they take a wrong turn. And this plays directly into her unpredictability as well as her fondness for Castaneda. Its like I said before, when the spirit favors you she will bend the rules around what she wants to happen, revealing the power and control within the spirit’s domain. Taming the Devil’s Weed would be no easy task…

*The book by Castaneda has been under criticism by academics and scholars. I will say that there is probably both true standing knowledge and application concerning the Devil’s Weed in this book, there could possibly be fictional information as well. So while I am aware, I don’t generally use this as a definitive reference. I cover this as one avenue. So little has been written on the subject but these plants have been utilized for a very long time…

 

 

Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia)

Angel’s Trumpet

             Brugmansia – Angel’s Trumpet

Brugmansia, commonly called Angel’s Trumpet and sometimes referred to as the “tree datura”, is found only in Central and South America. They are characterized by their large pendulous, trumpet-like flowers that hang upside dowBrugmansia versicolor n. They radiate an exotic and majestic beauty. As a close kin of Datura, they are oftentimes confused with one another. They were at one time even classed as Datura. They are now classified on their own as Brugmansia.

So what’s the difference between a Brugmansia and Datura? The difference is that Brugmansia grows like a tree. Its flowers hang upside down whereas Datura’s flowers bloom upward and out as a shrub. The seedpods of Brugmansia are smooth without the prickly thorns that characterize almost all the Datura seedpods.

 

IMG_1332
Brugmansia versicolor

There is a broad variety of Angel’s Trumpet that I am currently aware of. There could be some less known varieties out there that I haven’t seen yet. To my knowledge, there is Brugmansia arborea, Brugmansia aurea, Brugmansia insignis, Brugmansia sanguinea, Brugmansia suaveolons, Brugmansia versicolor, and Brugmansia vulcanicola. Then come some of the hybrids like Brugmansia x candida, Brugmansia x flava, and so many more. Let me just say there are hundreds more! This is because Brugmansia growers worldwide are making somewhat of a sport out of it.

In South America, shamans have utilized Brugmansia for thousands of years in their practice and rituals. Used for things like prophecy, contact with the Gods or the dead. And like its European counterpart, for astral-flight. The plant is highly concentrated with the tropane alkaloids atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine. Being around the equator, this plants can get extremely concentrated and potent with alkaloids. There are reports that just sleeping under the tree or smelling the flower up close can have effects on you. Although it seems a little far-fetched to me, who knows the power of some of those growing in a hot, humid jungle setting. They could be dripping with alkaloids, but that is beyond my scope.

In the Southern United States, there have been waves of hospitalizations from the irresponsible use of Angel’s Trumpet. People hear that the plant is a hallucinogen and think of it along the lines of a potential enlightening psychedelic experience. But come to find out, the plant is not psychedelic. it is a deliriant. It causes madness and loss of control. With hallucinations that are not colorful but threatening and extremely vivid. Which makes these plants unpredictable. Not to mention the alkaloid content can vary, as with all tropane containing plants. The majority of reports I’ve read people are extremely careless. They basically guess at dosage without having any reference dosage to guess at. So its no wonder why people have horrible reactions. Also compounding the fact that the tropanes are not a recreational kind of drug by any stretch of the imagination. The type of trip is not compatible with the reality we are trying to function in. The framework just doesn’t fit.

Quite recently, there was a Vice documentary about scopolamine called the Devil’s Breath. In it they went to investigate the criminal use of scopolamine. It was extracted from the “borrachero tree”. In which case they were talking about Brugmansia arborea. There is a high number of cases in Latin America from using scopolamine as a chemical weapon. They use it to drug people into a stupor and child-like state. Afterwards robbing or even raping them. Their claim that it removes your free-will is questionable, but not outside the realm of possibility. These are powerful substances capable of extraordinary effects on the mind and body.

I love growing Angel’s Trumpet. They are exotic and unique, much like Datura but on a larger scale. Her majestic flowers give her an aura of mystery and power. Being around her when blooming is quite an experience. Not only is her beauty profound, but the fragrance she releases from them fills the air with such a heavenly scent. I had my Brugmansia versicolor, Kadyn, in my room the first time she bloomed and it was magnificent. It made my room smell so amazing! She is truly a display of intensity and power!

 

 

 

Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger)

Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger)

Hyoscyamus niger, Henbane, also called Black Henbane and Stinking Nightshade, is an herbaceous annual from Europe. it was used as a primary ingredient in the witches’ flying ointment. Henbane has a long history of shamanic and magical use around Europe and Eurasia. It was already a tool in shamanism and witchcraft during the paleolithic period.

Since ancient times, Henbane has been known as a “hexing herb“. Along with Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna) and Mandrake (Mandragora officianarum). It was used by witches and shamans to bring associations with death. In maBlack Henbaneny cases used to poison and inebriate. In ritual its fumigation was used in order to speak to the dead.  Because Henbane has associations with death and the underworld it is a plant of Saturn.

It is most likely that the name Henbane was due to the root word hen- or henne. This can translate to death or murder. Some associate it with the chicken or hen being poisoned by it. I tend to think the former. We cannot say with certainty which is the true or correct origin.

As a weed of the witches, Hyoscyamus niger shares a kinship with Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna). As well as Mandrake (Mandragora officianarum). It is said that Hyoscyamus was the softer side of Lady Nightshade‘s spirit. In Simon Buxton’s The Shamanic Way of the Bee, He is told by his teacher of thiIMG_0308s dualism:

“Despite usually being found next to each other in text books, henbane and deadly nightshade have very different spirits. Indeed, they are like different places. Henbane is viscid and downy to the fingers, it is the exquisite, clammy emanation of the wasteland and the Sun. It calls you from its exceedingly dark purple center and its pale, clouded, amber-yellow petals, delicately veined with purple brown. Deadly nightshade, on the other hand, is the emanation of evil in dark corners.”

I get this discernment from her as well. Deadly Nightshade  has a much darker display. In both appearance and in alkaloids. When I read of intoxication from both plants, I always find belladonna outdoing her sibling in its bite. That is not to say that Henbane couldn’t bring the same harm, but much less does it happen through Henbane than her less forgiving sister Atropa belladonna. Belladonna use by inexperienced thrill seekers is usually accompanied by strong hallucinations and delirious rambling. Many times it will culminate in a trip to the ER with full blown delirium.

I have heard of Henbane being used as an added ingredient to beer and wine. The addition was said to give the brew a powerful potency. It added a real kick to the brew. The beer was called Pilsenkraut. In certain initiation rites from ancient times neophytes were given a drink mixed with Henbane. After which they communed with the lands of the dead and traversed through the underworld. Perhaps this made them more open to receiving the proper guidance and experience.

Henbane gives me the impression of a much brighter side of Lady Nightshade’s spirit. She is much more gentle and easy to work with. More so than her darker, infamous sister, Atropa belladonna. She has no less been an important harbinger of the powerful underworld in which she works. The overtone of working with her seems to be as follows: “Work lightly, don’t overdue it or you will be sorry!”

Datura (Jimsonweed – The Devil’s Weed)

Datura (jimsonweed – The Devil’s Weed)

Datura stramonium The Devil's Weed
Datura stramonium (Jimsonweed)

Datura is truly the Devil’s Weed. An herbaceous annual plant that is found in southern United States, Mexico, Central and South America, as well as India, Africa, and parts of Europe. Its nativity is rather unclear but they have certainly found a home on many continents and survive in somewhat warmer temperatures and can survive well even in dry areas. They are many times referred to as jimsonweed, the devil’s weed, toloache, thorn-apple, devil’s trumpets, hell’s bells, among others.

Datura comes in many species around the world. There is Datura stramonium, Datura metel, Datura inoxia “Toloache”, Datura ceratocaula “torna loco”, Datura discolor, Datura wrightii, Datura ferox, Datura leichhardtii, and Datura quercifolia. Most of the Datura are pronounced by their spiny seedpods which ripen to split open to scatter its seeds on the ground.

Although I have seen one other variation of Datura  with smooth seedpods, Datura ceratocaula, or “torna loco” is a semi-aquatic or water Datura that grows in shallow swamps in southern Mexico smooth and is well known for its smooth seedpods. It is said that Datura ceratocaula is one of the most potent forms of Datura giving it the highest concentration of alkaloids and I have read this on more than one occasion. They are also thinking, because of its smooth seedpods, that it could be the link between Datura and Brugmansia, which is the larger cousin commonly known as Angel’s Trumpet.

This brings me to my next order of business. The Brugmansia and the Datura are very similar in appearance and as a matter of fact the Brugmansia was at one point classified as Datura. But Brugmansia is in fact a separate genus. So how can you tell them apart?

seedpod of Datura Stramonium The Devil's Weed
seedpod of Datura Stramonium

Here is the difference: Brugmansia is a tree and Datura is a shrub or bush. Datura flowers grow outwards and upwards. Brugmansia, on the other hand, will always hang upside down . The seedpods of Brugmansia will always be smooth, and grow in a variety of different shapes depending on the species. Datura, with the exception of Datura ceratocaula and Datura stramonium var. inermis, all other species of Datura have spiky or somewhat prickly thorns that cover the pod. The seedpods slightly resemble the shape of an apple and for this reason it is also called the Thorn-apple.

Datura has a long history of interaction with man and goes back thousands of years. In its relationship to man it has been used by shamans as a tool to opening the spirit world and indeed the reports of those who ingested Datura were not quite ready for the trip. Like Atropa belladonna and the other tropane containing plants, The poisoning brings the user to a very different and often difficult reality. It could very well be the key to the other realms. But along with this tremendous power, it brings one to madness and delirium. In Carlos Castaneda’s The Teachings of Don Juan, Don tells Carlos that taming the devil’s weed (Datura inoxia) is extremely difficult. That there is an order to it and without that order there is only chaos and insanity ad infinitum.

Datura stramonium
Datura stramonium

That is usually the description of those who enter her realm without a plan or the right intention. Many adolescent teens looking for a cheap high or psychedelic trip come across Datura having no background knowledge of the powerful type of drug that are the tropane alkaloids. In a handful of cases across the united states, deaths have resulted from dancing with the deadly Datura. In so many instances, when I read a report on a datura experience it always culminates in a trip to the ER due to the delirium that accompanies a Datura trip. The user can also start to experience things like kidney failure and various other life-threatening conditions. Some people are left with a permanent psychosis, problems in cognitive function, and vision impairment. Datura doesn’t play games she is the REAL DEAL and those who come around looking for a ride get much more than they bargained for…

Like Atropa belladonna, Datura has been utilized by shamans and witches for the purpose of astral-flight and accessing other dimensions and realms. It is a powerful tool and has also been included as an ingredient in the flying ointment, the salve is rubbed on the skin or genitals and when absorbed gives one the power of flight (astral travel).

For quite a long time Datura has also been employed medicinally  in bone setting, rheumatism, ulcers, asthma, and treating a variety of aches and pains. The alkaloids atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine have been used in the pharmaceutical industry for such things as motion sickness, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and other intestinal disorders.

Datura metel
Datura metel

On the other hand, Datura has in many cases been used to poison and kill. When made into a powder by extracting the alkaloids, scopolamine, atropine, and hyoscyamine they have potential for all the dirty tricks one can think of. In India, prostitutes were known to make an extract with Datura metel known as “knock-out drops” and when in the heat of passion the drops would put the client down for the count, and rob them blind.

Datura is another favorite of mine. Her allure is magnetic and mysterious. She is the temptress, calling you in by the sweet fragrance of her blooms, but what awaits inside is power beyond words and only certain minds have the qualifications to work with the devil’s weed. I love growing her she has brought me some wonderful blooms and I was left with hundreds of seeds. My favorite bloom is of the Indian Datura metel, with her double blooming blend of purple and white, absolutely gorgeous to see. To sum it all up, Enjoy her blooms, enjoy her sweet fragrance, but be warned, If you approach Lady Datura without respect, she will bring you to Hell and have your soul!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)

Deadly Nightshade

                       Atropa belladonna

my Deadly Nightshade blooming
A flower of Deadly Nightshade blooming

Deadly Nightshade is an herbaceous perennial from western and southern Europe. It can also be found in parts of North Africa and Asia. It has since been cultivated in North America and India for commercial production. Since time immemorial Deadly Nightshade has been associated with witchcraft and evil. Even Hildegard Von Bingen said about it:

“the Deadly Nightshade has coldness in it, and yet holds disgust and paralysis in this coldness, and in the earth, and at the place where it grows, the devilish prompting has a certain part and a role in its arts. And it is dangerous for man to eat and to drink, for it destroys his spirit, as if he were dead.” (Physica)

mydriasis - The Poison Path
Mydriasis from atropine

Atropa belladonna in its name has two parts. Firstly, Atropa, is named after Atropos, one of the three Greek Fates. She cut the cord of life. Secondly, Belladonna is the Italian term for “beautiful lady”. From early times, It is said that in Italy women would put a few drops of juice from the berries into their eyes to dilate their pupils. this they believed made them look more attractive. The dilation occurs because the plant contains atropine, a powerful mydriatic

Atropa belladonna blooms beautiful purple, bell-shaped, veined flowers. After fertilization, they produce beautiful black berries that are particularly attractive to children. In many instances the berries have been mistaken for blueberries and other edible fruits. The result, in some instances, was death. But those who survived went through many days and nights of complete delirium accompanied by intense hallucinations.

Deadly Nightshade berry
The black berries of Deadly Nightshade sometimes referred to as ‘Devil’s Cherries’

The delirium, hallucination, and sometimes death, is due to the toxic effects of the tropane alkaloids. These are the compounds scopolamine, atropine, and hyoscyamine. The plant is mostly hyoscyamine, and when dried converts to atropine. Atropine is still present in the live plant but in lower concentration, along with scopolamine. These compounds are known as anticholinergics. Anticholinergics block acetylcholine in the brain. Acetylcholine is responsible for a variety of important functions in the body like muscle movement, coordination, breathing, among other important functions. When acetylcholine is blocked it leaves cognitive dysfunction, intense delirium with vivid hallucinations. Hallucinations that can sometimes be a complete change of scenery. Many report being with people that aren’t really there. Another common but strange and unusual effect is the smoking of phantom cigarettes. Some report amnesia from much of the experience. Most report blurry vision for 3-4 days and even up to several weeks after the trip wears off. Many who ingest belladonna report a dark, sinister and traumatic experience through the trip:

There was lightning all around me, the sky was ripped apart and clouds sweeping by quickly, they were tinged with red. All around me (its 8.00 pm) the normally deserted park is filled with people; horrible gray shadows with back holes for eyes, there are thousands of them. The trees are dripping with blood and the ground is littered with body parts. These people are laughing at me, but I can only hear them in my head, they scream at me, horrible things about the universe coming to an end. I remember grabbing my head and screaming.”**

deadly nightshade - poisonpath.com
The beautiful bloom of Atropa belladonna

Her bite is not always as bitter when used in smaller amounts. She has been used in medicine for centuries for a variety of ailments. It has been taken as a narcotic for pain. It is used today to treat stomach ulcers under the name Donnatol. Belladonna was also an ingredient for the treatment of asthma in a medication called Asthmador. In the early times of Sumer and Babylon it was used to dispel evil spirits and demons of the mind. This would be known today as mental illness. Homeopathy uses belladonna in a spectrum of ways ranging from cold, flu, toothache, and upset stomach. Using atropine to dilate the pupil is practiced widely today by ophthalmologists in eye examination. Atropine is also used as an antidote to counteract the lethal effects of nerve gas from chemical warfare.

In early times to present, Deadly Nightshade has been one of the important ingredients of the witches’ flying ointment. The main ingredients of the flying ointment were Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna), Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), Mandrake (Mandragora officianarum), and Datura (Datura stramonium). Some recipe’s contained the highly poisonous plants Monkshood (Aconitum napellus), Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), and Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum). These would  be ground up and cooked in animal fat. Some sources say a child’s fat was used. But there is little evidence and was probably invented by the Catholic Church during the Inquisition. So once cooked together, the resulting mix would be a paste or salve that could be applied to the skin. And more so applied to the genitals, as the alkaloids absorb quickly into the mucus membrane.

This was said to give them the power of astral flight. Through this astral realm they could align with each other for a magical purpose or ritual. The power of flight was also accompanied by the witches’ broomstick. It is said the broomstick was used to stir and mix the ingredients when making the ointment. Afterwords, they would use the broomstick to apply it to their genitals for astral flight. This is where the Halloween imagery of a witch on the broomstick came about. An interesting but very little known piece of history on a much celebrated tradition and holiday.

Flight of the Witch
Flight of the Witch

Atropa belladonna, like all the tropane containing plants, is a plant of Saturn. Saturn was the God of time, the reaper. The time for harvest had associations with death and darkness. Most of the poisonous plants fall under Saturn for this reason. They bring fatal attraction in their toxic beauty. Personally, I do all my work with saturnine plants on Saturday. If you were not aware, Saturday is the day of Saturn. I start cold stratification on Saturday. Plant them on Saturday. Anything that has to be done with them is done on this day. Many times I will plant them on Saturdays in the hour of Mercury to give them the power of industry and growth. Mercury is the God of industry and prosperity. This plants them on their associated day in the name of prosperity, or growth.

The Spirit of Deadly Nightshade is a dark feminine energy. Some say she is mean. Others have found her with a sense of humor. I come to know her as a Lady to be respected as she can be quite bitter to those who underestimate her. But she is also extremely giving to those who show her the proper respect. I am getting to know her but very gradually. I have her right in my room. I have 3 plants growing quite large, and a bunch of babies in here as well. I plan to get them outside when the warm weather comes. She could easily tolerate the weather here since she goes through cold, snowy winters in her native habitat. I guess the real reason I wait is that I just like having her around I guess!

there is also a Yellow Deadly Nightshade, Atropa belladonna var. lutea. These have brilliant yellow flowers and yellow berries. It is said that witches prized this variety for it’s potency. I haven’t seen much information on the concentration of the yellow variety’s alkaloids, but such may be the case. I have some of the Yellow Deadly Nightshade in the fridge as we speak and will be planting them this coming Saturday. Along with these two, there are a variety of relatives of belladonna that I will be growing in the coming months. There is Atropa komarovii (Turkmenistan belladonna). I have some of these in the fridge ready to plant with my others. There is Atropa acuminata (Indian belladonna), Atropa caucasica (Caucasica belladonna), Atropa baetica (Iberian belladonna), among others. I plan to get them all at some point but I will stick to what I have for now…

belladonna berry forming
belladonna berry forming

Deadly Nightshade is among my favorites of all poisonous plants. She is majestic and dark. some confuse these as negative qualities. I have never felt her as threatening, so to speak. But she has tremendous power and one can learn a lot from her if you take it slow and get to know her gradually. I get the feeling she has to trust you before you can start to work with her. Many times I will learn from her in my dreams. That was the medium she originally called to me from. I would have dreams where I was in fields of Deadly Nightshade and the berries were so attractive and they would be dripping with dark purple juice and calling me. This was before I was able to even grow her. You can read about this in my post, A Call From the Dark Goddess…

 

*taken from ‘Screaming Voices’ report of a belladonna user’s trip entry