Datura

In America it is called the ‘Devil’s Apple,’ from its dangerous qualities and the remarkable effects that follow its administration. When the first settlers arrived in Virginia, some ate the leaves of this plant and experienced such strange and unpleasant effects that the colonists (so we are told) gave it this name by which it is still known in the United States. It is also known very commonly there by the name of ‘Jamestown (or Jimson) Weed,’ derived probably from its having been first observed in the neighbourhood of that old settlement in Virginia. (Grieve 1931)

This is actually Datura metel, but the wiki picture was prettier.

This is probably the most awkward plant for me to discuss in this series, for the simple reason that I have no direct experience with it. I am not a big fan of entheogens and prefer meditation, drumming and art to reach altered states. Quite simply put, I do not walk the Poison Path, though I respect greatly those who do.

Yet here I am making a post about datura. And the reason for this is very simple. She gave me a dream.

One of the advantages of keeping a journal (electronic or otherwise) is that you can go back and find out when things happened. This particular dream took place in November of 2011, but it made quite an impact as I can still recall it vividly to this day. What I had seen was Datura stramonium, common called thornapple. It was entwined with work I was doing with the Spider mysteries at the time, and shook me to my core, to the point that I became obsessed with the plant for nearly a week.

I researched everything I could find about this purple-blooming beauty. First and foremost, she is deadly. To quote Grieve:

The whole plant is poisonous, but the seeds are the most active; neither drying nor boiling destroys the poisonous properties. The usual consequences of the poison when taken in sufficient quantity are dimness of sight, dilation of the pupil, giddiness and delirium, sometimes amounting to mania, but its action varies greatly on different persons. Many fatal instances of its dangerous effects are recorded: it is thought to act more powerfully on the brain than Belladonna and to produce greater delirium.

Aside from being extremely toxic,* she is associated with Water and Saturn, and by extension with breaking spells and curing insomnia if placed in the shoes at night (Cunningham 2003, 100).

Before we go any further, let the following be said: I have a family. I have a husband, a son, and a cat, as well as a household and the family business to run. I know where my obligations lie, and to say my plate is full is something of an understatement. Even toying with the notion of embracing a powerful entheogen put me off balance. So I did what any good druid does when the way is not clear: I divined some possible outcomes.

Regarding taking datura into my physical body, I received a resounding, “NO,” or at least a warning that doing so would result in an upheaval of family life, destruction of the mind, and becoming lost in illusions. In other words, not a path I wished to walk. However, when it came to working with the spirit of Datura, the signs were quite different. She could help me overcome my ambivalence towards my own power, though it would be difficult work. Creativity and growth would result.

And that was, in fact, what happened. The dream came to me during the Samhain season, the beginning of the Celtic year, and I began working with the Thornapple spirit though trance and meditation shortly thereafter. 2012 was a year of boundary-pushing for me, and I truly feel Datura helped me get out of my own way to let Awen flow. This summer, I would like to find a place where I can cultivate her, but this is tricky as we have quite a few toddlers (including my own) in the neighborhood, and I am responsible to their safety before my own desire to grow exotic poisonous plants. So, I’ll just have to wait and see what this year brings for the thornapple in my life.

Next week, everybody’s favorite anti-sniffle herb, Echinacea.

*Honestly, I would not recommend anyone work with datura physically unless you are a) single, with no family members dependent upon you be they children or aging parents, and b) deadly, deadly, serious about it, and are fully aware that you may kill yourself in the process. Even then, I would never begin study of the Poison Path without a mentor who will sit there with you as you struggle with seeking, preparing, and courting your allies. I’m not saying this to make it oh-so spooky and mysteriously enticing (though it doubtless some will take it that way). This plant can kill you. Full stop. If you’re still Hel-bent on working with her, find an herbalist local to you who can guide you through the process, and don’t go about it half-assed.