The Quintessential Witches herb... If you can get hold of it that is :)
Folknames: Banewort, Deadly nightshade, Devils Cherries, Witches Berry
Scott Cunningham- Cunninghams Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs pg 53
Deities: Hecate, Bellona, Circe
Ritual uses: The priests of Bellona, according to ancient tradition, drank an infusion of Belladonna prior to worshipping Her and invoking Her aid. Bellona is a roman Goddess of War
Magical uses: Today belladonna is little used in herb magic due to its high toxicity- All parts of the plant are extremely poisonous and there are still reports of death resulting from accidental ingestion of deadly nightshade. In the past it was used to encourage astral projection and produce visions, but safer alternatives are available today and belladonna is best avoided.”
Despite Cunningham’s warnings does it surprise anyone that I still want to get hold of this gorgeous plant? :) Unfortunately most places won’t ship to South Africa because of theft but a girl can only dream...
Circe was known one of Hekate’s priestesses, and in some cases she is described as her daughter. Unfortunately the origins of many of the so called lesser gods has been lost to us non-Grecians and I struggle to find much on her. Circe is famous for her role in the myth of Odysseus, turning him and his entourage into pigs after they had gorged themselves on a feast.
Circe often being described as trained by Hekate in one way or another, was trained in the poison arts by Hekate. (If I am mistaken please help me along, because as I mentioned before my literature on Hekate and Circe especially is incredibly limited)
Belladonna along with other poisonous herbs like opium poppy, wolfsbane and poison hemlock have said to have been used by witches as a flying ointment. The sheer toxicity of the ingredients is laughable for it to have ever been used by us mere mortals but the thought of these dangerous herbs makes my pulse race- oops my dark side is showing :D
Belladonna contains a number of toxins which cause hallucinations, delirium and death. As a hallucinogen it is still sometimes used by the brave and/or stupid.
The herb has a long history of use as medicine, cosmetic and most importantly poison.
The name Atropa comes from one of the Greek fates Atropos. The name belladonna means “beautiful woman” and of course it is indeed a seductively beautiful plant, but that seduction is as dangerous as that of a femme fatale. The plant was often used to dilate pupils in women and as a facial cosmetic.
The fruits of the plant are shiny black berries. These are especially attractive to children, and is often lethal.
The belladonna is part of the nightshade family (Solanaceae), it’s cousins include potato, eggplant/brinjal/aubergine, tobacco, tomato, mandrake, jimson weed/datura and chilli peppers. For those of us who yearn for belladonna but cannot get hold of it, we should do well in cultivating her often tasty cousins.
I have black nightshade which is not a true nightshade but it is close enough in a substitute.
All parts of the plant contain tropane alkaloids. The ingestion of a single leaf in an adult can be fatal and the root is thought to be the most toxic part. The plant is poisonous to many domestic animals.
Belladonna is used in medicinal tinctures, decoctions and powders with controlled toxicity levels, used for gastrointestinal disorders. Some of the toxins are used for many other medicinal purposes but the plant should never be used in its natural state for any medicinal purposes.
...All nightshades carry a level of toxicity, for instance greenish potatoes. Depending on the type of ritual I substitute it with tobacco, datura, mandrake and black nightshade.
Black nightshade is a more easily available plant which has dull black/purple berries. The ripe berries are often eaten and made into jam although eaten raw they can be quite toxic.
Deadly nightshade and its substitutes can be used in rituals involving the dead, as well as to honour and call upon Hekate and Circe. I included black nightshade in an incense mix used to help with communication with spirits of the dead.
I do not advocate the cultivation of poisonous herbs, I however do have a deep fascination with them. If anyone does get hold of the herb, be careful, keep away from pets and children and handle with care.