Nepeta (Catmint)

Week 28 of the PBP.

[I]t seems to be a fact that plants transplanted are always destroyed by cats unless protected, but they never meddle with the plants raised from seed, being only attracted to it when it is in a withering state, or when the peculiar scent of the plant is excited by being bruised in gathering or transplanting. —Grieve 1931.

Ah, Catmint, the lure that will draw all the neighborhood felines to your garden! This hardy perennial has become a favorite with gardeners for its long blooming season, particularly where “deer resistant” plants are desirable.  This was another favorite “backyard potion plant” when I was little, and may have been more than a little bit responsible for the endless stream of outdoor cats through our property!

Yet another member of the mint family (I seem to have a lot of them in this series of posts), Nepeta cataria or catnip, catnep, catswort, fieldbalm,or catrup, as it is sometimes called, produces feeling of euphoria in cats who eat or inhale its scent. (One friend described her pet as being a “mean drunk” when he got into the catnip bottle!) Interestingly enough, it has the opposite effects on human physiology, being calming and even soporific. It can be brewed as a tea, but not with boiling water, and it should be kept covered so that the volatile oils don’t evaporate from the infusion.

Obviously, this is a wonderful herb to use if you’re honoring spirits or gods associated with cats. For a second post in a row, I agree with Cunningham’s associations of Water and Venus for Catnip, because of its calming qualities (2003, 75).  He also states that Catnip can create a psychic bond with one’s feline companion—although it may be just as likely that you’re getting chummy from being high together! Catnip can be an aide to influencing friendships and will attract good spirits to one’s home if grown in the garden (2003, 75).

Beyerl gives multiple uses for catmint, ranging from being “used as a tea to calm a person with troubles” (1984, 76) to a fertility charm (206) to a “Religious Herbe” for Bast and Sekhmet (206); in folk charms, catnip is useful as a purgitive for bad habits when burned with dragon’s blood as an incense, and for shapeshifting magic if your desired form is one of a cat (206); finally, Beyerl associates Catnip with both the Strength card of the Major Arcana (Leo’s card) and with all of the Nines in the Lesser Arcana (276–77).


Nettle hanging out in a Portugese castle.

Week 29 of the PBP.

The whole plant is downy, and also covered with stinging hairs. Each sting is a very sharp, polished spine, which is hollow and arises from a swollen base. In this base, which is composed of small cells, is contained the venom, an acrid fluid, the active principle of which is said to be bicarbonate of ammonia. When, in consequence of pressure, the sting pierces the skin, the venom is instantly expressed, causing the resultant irritation and inflammation.  —Grieve 1931

It’s an interesting bit of timing that this is the week of the nettle as one of my son’s playmates had her first encounter with one down in the conservation land on Tuesday. When I first got stung bicycling along a dirt road in the French countryside, the woman who was watching me grabbed a handful of road dust and rubbed it furiously over the sting. She said in very broken English that this removed the stingers and made the pain fade faster. I did the same for my son’s friend, now 25 years later, and it seemed to do the trick!

On the one hand, I felt terribly that she had been stung, on the other hand, I was excited to find them on our land as I hadn’t discovered a source for them yet. People complain about nettles, but frankly, I’d take a nettle sting over poison ivy any day—nettles may hurt a bit more in the short term, but they don’t leave you itching for weeks.

Nettles have a long history with humankind. Grieve details some of this:

The common name of the Nettle, or rather its Anglo-Saxon and also Dutch equivalent, Netel, is said to have been derived from Noedl (a needle), possibly from the sharp sting, or, as Dr. Prior suggests, in reference to the fact that it was this plant that supplied the thread used in former times by the Germanic and Scandinavian nations before the general introduction of flax, Net being the passive participle of ne, a verb common to most of the Indo-European languages in the sense of ‘spin’ and ‘sew’ (Latin nere, German na-hen, Sanskrit nah, bind). Nettle would seem, he considers, to have meant primarily that with which one sews.

Nettle is also one of the plants mentioned in the 9 Herbs Charm:

Nettle it is called, it attacks against poison,
it expels malignant things, casts out poison.
This is the herb that fought against the serpent,
this avails against poison, it avails against contagion,
it avails against the loathsome one who travels through the land.

Magically speaking, I associate nettle with Fire and Mars; Cunningham does as well, and cites it as being an herb of protection/curse removal, purification, and healing (2003, 183).  Nettle along with ginger, holly, mistletoe, pimpernel and wolfsbane can be used in the consecration of ritual knives (Beyerl 1984).  The Carr-Gomms view nettle as being an herb of transmutation, its irritating quality concealing its valuable gifts (2007, 84).

Practicing Together #12

Brewer Brook Overflows

Seed thought taken from Leaning into Mystery’s “Practicing Together” weekly series.

I noticed a Cheri Huber quote that is going to be very relevant to my life over the next few months: what you practice is what you have.

This week, I invite in compassion—for myself, for my family, for my community.

Ways this could happen: I’m going to start by being kind and gentle with myself, and let things flow from there.

What went well: It’s been a while since I posted more than pictures. Several things have gone very well, including a couple of sigil commissions, some pro bono sorcery work, and figuring out what I want to do next in my career. Small stuff, really. 😉

Updates: I’m having trouble finding joy, though I am finding strength and determination. Maybe this isn’t the right season for joy right now, but I’ll keep the door open in case it wants to visit.