On Thursday, I was the guest on the always-funny, ever-insightful Caroline Casey’s Visionary Activist Radio Show (archived recording at that link).
Caroline is an astrologer, but not in any of the ordinary senses of that word. Caroline has a modern take on this ancient Art, which is also connected to the original Hermetic understanding of the intelligences of the heavens as beings which support or hinder our work, depending on our approach to them. Like us, she looks to the planetary archetypes above as ways of understanding the events and currents of our world below. Instead of plants, her tools are the signs, alignments, aspects, and relationships that each planet has with the others as they dance across the sky.
In this episode, and in Monday night’s Trickster Training Course call, which I will also be joining, the theme was the current lineup of planets in Pisces. Six (!) planets and Chiron are in this watery sign right now, and, as Caroline says, we don’t want to fetishize any moment as being The Most Important Time, we can look at celestial patterns and think about how best to align our actions with the cosmos. In our cavort investigating this alignment, we touched on a few themes.
First, we started by invoking the moment here and now, through our Somalixir Here and Now. If scattered mental energies as seen in ADD and other attention disorders are the problem, and drugs like Adderall are the toxic mimic of medicine for that problem, what can we invoke to truly heal this imbalance?
Many herbs have a collecting and gathering effect, and most also carry an astringent taste. Astringency is the effect of shrinking tissues, in the mouth if we’re taking a Spagyric, and it also creates a dry and solidified effect. Like Coyote eating alum in a roadrunner cartoon, when we take an astringent herb, our mouth puckers and all our attention is drawn to that sensation. We immediately become one pointed in our attention, which is the opposite of scattered.
The central ingredient in our Here & Now Somalixir is Betel nut, a plant used throughout Southeast Asia as a social sacrament and light recreational relaxant/stimulant. Like tobacco and alcohol, Betel has a dual effect depending on dose, and the right amount can both relax tension and allow the free flow of thoughts, while stimulating their creativity and sharpness. Along with Yerba Mate for alertness, and our Earth Magistery to keep things grounded, the total effect is one of maintaining the quickness of thought that many ADD thinkers value, but in a contained way that can be guided to useful purpose.
Playing around with more ideas about taste, we discussed bitter, and how this taste is missing from the modern standard diet. As Caroline pointed out, many of the things we now think of as recreational indulgences once had great medicinal value, and were consumed in tonic amounts on a regular basis. Wine, beer, and cordials all have medicinal value if made well, and the very bitter herb Wormwood is the source of Absinthe, perhaps the most storied cordial of all.
In Russian folk medicine, Wormwood shows the bitter truth of a situation, what is hard to look at, but necessary. Oscar Wilde alluded to this when he said:
After the first glass of absinthe, you see things as you wish they were. After the second, you see them as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.
We can see the duality of bitter herbs and the bitter experiences they invoke when we look at Myrrh, a very bitter resin used in magick and healing. Like Frankincense, Copal, and Amber, Myrrh is created by the tree in response to an injury, as a protective glue to close a wound.
With Gold and Frankincense, Myrrh was given at the birth of Yeshua; together they represent the three treasures of earthly riches, the connection to the divine, and learning from one’s most difficult experiences. Myrrh appears again at the crucifixion, and is borne by the women who visit the tomb after the resurrection, in particular, Mary Magdalene.
These last two appearances of Myrrh, the death and absence from the tomb, were bitter indeed, and if we get stuck in that kind of moment, we find only martyrdom and pain. Mary Magdalene was a healer, though, often tending to the physical and spiritual needs of those around her with the aromatic plants, and she is the only one with the faith that Yeshua lives again. Through her knowledge, she is able to transform her pain, and like the wounded tree, something beautiful is created out of the suffering. Lessons given by painful experiences are etched at a depth of being that easier experiences don’t reach, they are what the Gnostic Valentinus called Gnosis Kardias, the Gnosis of the heart.
In other histories and parts of the world, we see bitter herbs used as cleansing tonics, both internally and externally. Wormwood, mentioned already is one of these, along with its Artemisia relatives Mugwort and the Sagebrushes. Wherever these plants grow, they are burned to move stagnant energy, and they are also valuable herbal tonics to clear out the thick energy and toxins from the long winter, and leave our systems refreshed and open for the new energy of Spring. In fact, some of our best clearing Spagyrics are on sale right now so that you can get your energy moving!
Once the stagnant, negative energy is moved out, positive and useful energy can be brought in through sweet, inviting herbs and smells, and the natural vital force of Spring’s rebirth.
We’ll complete our radio frolic wrapup with another article covering those sweet herbs, along with some of the ways we work with the fresh, green life of the season that’s springing right now. Stay tuned!