Our newest Spagyric, an Alchymical Initiatic of Vervain,was inspired by my own Irish heritage and the deep reverence that many ancient European cultures held for this special plant.
My own history with Vervain goes back a few years to a personal tradition I practice every year on Samhain, the ancient harvest festival more commonly known as Hallowe’en. This time of year, as the harvest was brought in and livestock were slaughtered, was considered a time when the veils between the worlds were at their thinnest. As the vibrant life of Nature drew in, retreated, and disappeared, people living close to Nature saw an inner cycle of withdrawal from the vibrant outer world and into the cold, still world of winter.
During this time in the Celtic countries, as well as many other lands, the dead are thought to be especially close, and this season is the time to remember, honour, and connect with them. Those called the “Beloved Dead” are the main focus of these practices, and this class of spirit includes ancestors, relatives, friends, and anyone else who was loved and has passed.
Among its many other uses, Vervain was taken on Samhain to aid the living in contacting their Beloved Dead, and it was for this practice that I would use our Vervain Essence before bed each night around Samhain.
The first time I did this I thought that not much had come of the practice, since I did not have any dramatic ghostly encounters. But, reflecting on the several nights I had worked with the Vervain, I realized that I had the same dream each night: I was in my childhood home, surrounded by every pet I had ever had, all playing together happily and being just as loyal and loving as they had been in life.
When I realized this, I also realized that these were my Beloved Dead, and once that realization opened up, the dreams expanded to include people that had been dear to me and crossed over, as well. This has since become a very rewarding practice each year, and I feel it connects me to a strong thread of guidance, love, and context.
At the time I started this practice, we only had Vervain as a Spagyric Essence, extracted for its excellent healing properties– it is a bitter, calming herb used for fevers and infections of all kinds. The Essence carried Vervain’s intelligence, as all our Spagyrics do, but it was not the optimum Spagyric for working with this herb’s subtle qualities. So, we created a Spiritualized Essence level Initiatic of Vervain to magnify its sacred properties and link them to the Mercury level of communication and spirit.
In traditional sources, Vervain is listed under several planetary rulerships: Venus for its use as a love charm, the Moon for its use on altars to Diana, and Mercury for its use in divination and astral travel. In my experience, Mercury’s energy most spoke to Vervain’s gifts, bringing communication and travel across the void, much as Hermes himself does as psychopomp, and so Mercury’s was the cycle we used in creating this Initiatic.
Traveling between the worlds of the dead and the living is seen in other cultures who used Vervain: the Egyptians believed that the plant grew from the tears of Isis as she mourned for the dead Osiris, and in Christian mythology, Vervain was used to staunch the wounds of Christ. Both Osiris and Christ later rose again, traveling back across that divide much as our Beloved Dead can do at Samhain.
Vervain is also used to prevent unwanted “crossings”- stopping vampires, negative magick, and psychic attack. This balancing quality, supporting magick on the one hand, and protecting from it on the other, is a classic Mercurial gift.
Our Vervain Alchymical Initiatic is very bitter, showing digestive-clearing effects, and also a high alkaloid content. It has a clarifying energy, in some ways like other Mercury herbs such as Tulsi, but with a more downward and inward movement, as opposed to Tulsi’s opening lightness.
It also protects, but in subtle ways, less “smudge-like” than more purely clearing herbs. Looking back on my experiences with Vervain, I feel that the pets coming across first was a sort of protection, an opening of the flow that I was seeking, but starting in a gentle, non-threatening way. There is a great intelligence to the way this Spagyric acts, seeming to know exactly what the user is (and is not) ready for. I have not found it to be as startling or forceful as other herbs of divination or magick, yet its results are equally profound. In dreamwork, I found that the Vervain combines very well with our Clary Sage Magistery, another herb of divination.
We also find our Vervain Initiatic to be very integrating, traveling around the body and subtle channels as you might expect a Mercurial herb to do, but without creating fragmentation or lack of focus. It seems to be everywhere and in one spot, all at once, and its energy is easily shifted to a particular chakra or location, yet difficult to transmit outside of the body.
Also prominent in its effects were an interaction with sound, in similar ways to our Heimia, creating a buzzing in the ears and an increased sensitivity to hearing on all levels. Vervain has an even stronger effect on the voice and the feeling of resonance from speaking, and it seems that vocalizations of all sorts are the one way to easily project Vervain’s energy and intelligence out of the body.
This connects with the ancient idea of using Vervain to support magick, especially of the classic Western type, using spells, incantations, invocations and evocations, and other verbal techniques. We will be playing with this aspect of Vervain in an upcoming formula, but for now, try our Vervain Alchymical Initiatic and let us know what you think!