Recent Nightshade Experiences

Monday I noticed that the large nightshade that is growing up through the daturas had ripe berries on it, so I decided to try one. I picked one that looked ripe and ate it. It was surprisingly delicate in taste. I had expected it to be very musky and strong, like a black currant, or to have a sort of tomato-leaf undertone. It was only slightly sweet and didn’t have any off flavor that I could detect. I could see why it had been used primarily for preserves, because fresh it did not have a lot to say for itself taste-wise. Later I was in the house and noticed my throat was scratchy. It concerned me some, but I thought it was because I was drying a bunch of spearmint, and the whole kitchen was full of warm spearminty air. You know how sometimes mint can be a bit penetrating and unfriendly. I figured it was from that. It went away in about a half hour. I was really tired that day and didn’t feel like working, but I didn’t think too much of that, since Mondays are often a difficult day for me–hard to shift gears back into the work week. Often I spin my wheels on Monday and just cut my losses and do something else, something more long-term than getting out orders, like work on basic site stuff. Instead, I took several naps. And I was very very grouchy. I thought it was because of the weather. We had a big front getting ready to come through. I get migraines triggered by big storm fronts, so I figured the weather was affecting my mood. But it did worry me some. My blood sugar was a bit higher than it has been, but nothing outstanding and nothing as high as it had been in the past, so I put that aside. Or tried to.

That night I had dreams about pirates–not in ships, but simple criminals and thugs on land who went about in organized groups attacking others. They invaded a village I was living in as a number of people–yes, I was multiple characters in that dream. I don’t remember much of it except that it was unpleasant. I slept poorly, I do remember that. Couldn’t seem to stay asleep.

Tuesday I decided to try another berry from the black nightshade.  I examined it before I ate it to be sure it was completely ripe. It was. It tasted pretty much the same as the one I had the previous day–maybe even more insipid.  A little later I again noticed a slightly scratchy throat, less than the previous day. The spearmint had finished drying earlier, so I knew it wasn’t that. But I had also been having a lot of allergic reactions to something in the air, mold, I guess. Sneezing, itchy eyes, etc. So I chalked it up to that. I was still grouchy, but I figured it was the allergies.

Then I read the Scullery Maid’s comments about black nightshade. And I started thinking maybe something was going on with this plant, something not so good. I began to wonder if maybe black nightshade acted like datura–abusive, IOW. Like it’s some kind of joke to fuck with people. And I thought, oh no. One plant like that is enough. I’m not going to deal with another. I don’t care what the possible rewards could be.

That afternoon my cats got into a bit of a tussle. Nothing unusual. A typical cat “You looking at me?” kind of thing. But my reaction wasn’t typical. I became enraged. I didn’t yell, just stomped into the living room, steaming, and they both ran and hid. Bolts of black energy must have been coming out of me. Seeing Crazyface’s tail sticking out from under the chair made me so furious that I knew I had to get out of there. I went into my workroom and slammed the door.

I sat at my desk and tried to figure out why I was so angry and just generally grouchy. I sometimes get pissed with the cats, but this was way beyond that. It bothered me a lot. They were just doing their usual screw-you thing. Nobody got hurt. Nothing got trashed. It involved the same two cats as always, and the other cats didn’t  even pay any attention to it. My old cat didn’t even raise his head to check it out. I thought my blood sugar must be way off, so I tested it. It was actually in the normal range: 112. So it wasn’t that. I couldn’t understand it, but it bothered me. A lot.

That night I was very restless. I felt very vigilant and unable to really fall asleep. I found myself listening for sounds (it felt silly because it reminded me of an HP Lovecraft story), yet I had not been thinking or doing anything before going to bed that would make me nervous or afraid. In fact, I had been reading a book about Victorian kitchen gardens. You can hardly get any more soothing than that. What the heck.

Wednesday I decided that I would not eat any more berries. I would just gather them and freeze them and cook them into jelly when I had enough. I felt somewhat disappointed, because I had thought this berry was safe to eat raw. Hadn’t Thayer said so in Nature’s Garden? And I finally found the black nightshade article I had been looking for that started me down the path to this plant in the first place a few years ago, and sure enough, people all over the world were eating these berries raw and even the leaves raw. Wtf.

I went out to check the plant(s) for berries. The large black nightshade had some ripe ones. Oddly, I did not really want to touch the plant. This was weird, because I have been growing this plant for several years now and have had no such compunction. I have touched them and even yanked out some of them last year without any gloves on. I didn’t feel any more concerned then than I would about pulling up a tomato. But it didn’t feel good harvesting these berries. I took them inside and put them in the freezer.

Then I read Scullery Maid’s post about Nightshade. It really gave me pause.

Wednesday night I took out the tarot to see what it had to say about things, because it seemed like black nightshade was behaving like a grade-A jackass. And why? I could not see any reason for it. In the past, I might expect this kind of bullying from Datura, but not black nightshade. And Datura has been fine this year, pitching none of the terrifying visions it threw at me last year.

I did two small spreads. The first was a “What should I do?” spread. It showed my situation as the Queen of Swords (I wasn’t sure how to read this in this context) and gave me two choices. The choice it recommended against was the Three of Swords (Sorrow in my deck). A very Saturnian card that implied despairing, giving up. It recommended The Sun instead–optimism, striving to achieve goals, and said this would lead to The Wheel of Fortune. The Sun turning up was interesting to me in light of recent thoughts about solar vs chthonic work. I had noticed over the past few days something growing up in the datura area that looks like a sunflower (and a wild sunflower sprang up in the artemisia patch–I forgot how much I like those things). This makes me wonder if I am being counseled to turn away from the pretty much exclusively Saturnian work I have been doing and incorporate more Solar work.

I then asked “What’s up with black nightshade?” I thought of Lady Scylla, because the first card I turned up was Death, and she had remarked that the Thoth deck, which is what I use, seemed like it was always giving her Death or the Tower, etc. 🙂 It’s a card that isn’t that alien to me, because it is ruled by Scorpio, in which I have four planets. In this layout, Death signified the situation I was in, and the way I read it, it told me that something was coming to an end, a relationship was ending, there was something I had to give up.

The spread recommended that I strive for the Knight of Disks. This is a card of great fertility, attachment to the earth, and being responsible, professional and stable. To me, that said my love for gardening and attachment to the earth should be my guide in this matter and that I should not engage in risk-taking or recklessness. I noticed that the knight’s armor is black, a Saturnian color (so maintaining Saturnian work?), but he is looking at the (setting?) sun. Oh, and he’s a black knight(shade). The layout indicated that if I followed the guidance of that card, it would lead to the Queen of Wands. I’ve gotten that card before as a goal card, and it’s interesting to me that it’s very fiery (and thus fit with the Sun in the previous reading), yet it’s a controlled fire–turning passion into spirit might be one way to look at it. In the picture, the queen rests her hand on the head of a leopard. To me this represents the gentle, easy control of passion (and was perhaps a reference to my relationship with my cats). It certainly fit with the temper thing.

Outside of not eating anymore raw berries from this plant, I haven’t decided what to do, whether I am going to remove it from my garden or go ahead as planned or simply forcus on the named varieties that have been developed specifically for eating–the chichiquelite and the Wonderberry–and just gather the species berries for the sake of acquiring fresh seeds. I do think, though, that I am going to plant a bunch of sunflowers just to balance things out a bit.

I can’t think of any rational reason why the berries of the plant I harvested from should be any more potent than those of any other black nightshade. The plant isn’t stressed (stress can cause alkaloid levels to greatly increase). I don’t think it’s getting too much sun or too little water (which also increase alkaloid levels). It’s got plenty of fertility from the peas that were there before, so I haven’t given it any fertilizer; excessive fertilizer, esp. synthetic, which I don’t use, can sometimes cause buildups of dangerous nitrates in plant leaves, and those are toxic.  It is planted next to the patio, and I make a practice of not planting anything I will be consuming the leaves of there, because I am sure there is lead paint in the soil there. Lead and other heavy metals are taken up by various plants, but they are concentrated in leaves, not fruits, in terms of the nightshade family. Ditto with other toxins, like PCBs. So it can’t be that. I made sure the berries were ripe, so that’s not the issue. I can’t think of any rational reason why the berries off this particular plant should be problematic. Maybe it is just the genetic makeup of the seeds I planted. That’s the only rational explanation, but it flies in the face of everything Thayer says about eating this plant, since the berries were in no way bitter.

One thing that occurred to me this morning was the question of the relationship between datura and black nightshade for me. The black nightshade seems to be trying to push the datura aside in the garden. Black nightshade has appeared all over the place, but datura has pretty much stuck to its patch. It is like a chess board where one side has gotten a piece all the way over to the other side of the board. It seems aggressive.

After writing this, I went out to look at the plants and realized that the plant I picked berries from, the volunteer in the datura patch, is in pretty much full sun. That WOULD increase the alkaloids. Normally, that spot would be partial shade because there would be stuff growing on the trellis. But right now the trellis is bare. I planted cukes there, but they are just coming up. And even so, this black nightshade chose to grow there. The ones I planted are all in shade. The sunniness of the spot also made me think immediately of The Sun card in the tarot reading I did. Hmm.

15 comments to Recent Nightshade Experiences

  • Felt compelled to read this a second time as if you were writing about one long dream. While I read it, it also occurred to me that the scenes you describe might, themselves, sound like tarot cards. “An herbalist stands in a datura patch where black nightshade has volunteered. The garden is in full sun. With spiritual and professional curiosity, he eats a nightshade berry.

    The entire entry is so rich and fascinating that I have to read it again but singled out with particular interest is your dream where you represent a “community” of several people. The datura community in your garden has similarly been invaded by black nightshade. You mentioned datura as being “on its path,” while you are concerned about the nightshade and the energy of various plants.

    I’m also interested in the cat community where the elder sleeps while the others fuss. Your “black” energy comes out as bolts in your description. Hmmm.

    One final thing. You mentioned moving your work from Saturn focus. Perhaps that should be to something like Mercury or other work with air. Your sword cards indicated air to me at the essence, beyond other meanings. The need to cut through and let air in so that fire (Queen of Wands) may have fuel to manifest.

    You know, datura has been found to absorb toxins from munitions. I wonder why the nightshade might grow in a datura patch and what poisons may be absorbed if it grew as a companion plant?

  • herba15

    That is a good point about it possibly absorbing something from growing so close to datura. They are about an inch or so away from each other. I’m sure their roots are all intertwined. Hmm.

    That’s a good point about the Air factor too, letting in Air so Fire can occur. Working with Mercury sounds like good advice to me. Whenever I give honor to Hermes, good things happen to me and I just feel better. I will pay more attention to him, maybe ask for his protection.

    My elder cat is getting farther and farther away from this world. He still loves being petted and enjoys his food, but he sleeps very deeply and I think he does not hear very well anymore. Either that or he is just mentally distanced often. He gets confused about which door is which now. He is in good health, just getting old. He was a very nervous fellow in his youth, so I guess it’s a good thing that he kind of ignores the rambunctiousness of Crazyface and Blackie now.

  • sean

    If the plant connected with you… perhaps you were picking up on how it is feeling? My initial reaction was, “Boy… that plant didn’t want to have its berries picked! Sure is pissed at you for doing it!” Have you asked it why?

    • herba15

      Actually, I can see why it would not want its berries picked if it is growing there. It wants to overtake that area like it overtook the shade area, where I originally planted it. It is solid nightshade there now, although much much smaller than this one because it’s in almost full shade. I also tilled that under once this spring and they still came up gangbusters. So actually that makes sense. If it came up in spades in the sunny patch, it could actually grow taller than the datura. The one that’s there is doing that right now. Hmm.

      It’s also a good idea for me to ask it directly. Thanks.

  • Marlon Hartshorn

    This is a very intuitive post. My gut feeling is, do not eat any more of the berries from this plant. It sounds like a sort of symbiotic relationship psychically with the plant & you and it almost wants something from you or wants to influence or change you and I don’t like the feeling I get from it. In fact, I think the plant is negatively charged on a psychic basis. I’d dig up the whole thing & throw it out, and burn some sage in the spot afterwards. It’s not exactly the species of plant itself, but this particular plant doesn’t like you. Just my 2 cents.

    • herba15

      I’m not sure about digging it up or even if it is me in particular it doesn’t like. The thing is that another black nightshade on the other side of the continent in different soil and a different climate is also behaving badly. So it could be that there is something less personal going on, but I don’t know.

  • herba15

    Maybe you are right about the banefuls being done with me right now. I have surprisingly not felt anything in particular from Datura Spirit this season. They just seem happy where they are. And I’ve been appreciating the flowers as flowers. In the last vision I had of Datura Spirit, it seemed to indicate that mandrake was in the future (the leaves formed a light fixture that was not yet lit up). Maybe I am supposed to concentrate on mandrake now.

    I’ve been hankering for Sun plants. I planted a great swath of them out front–dyer’s coreopsis, which I love and haven’t grown for many years:

    I grew tons of it when I first began seriously gardening and was growing a lot of dye plants. I also grew a lot of native wild sunflowers when I lived out in Horseheads, but nothing since. And here this one pops up behind the wormwoods, like, remember us? I was also thinking about them because I have read that the seeds are edible, just like with the domesticated sunflower, but they are very small. Birds love them.

    I think I will get a bunch of them and put them right next to the datura patch. I’m not sure they would grow in it. It would be very cheerful.

  • oh my..between you and sara, so much to read!

    p.s.sun plants..i like that..:)

  • Using the Rider Waite, and a simple four-card spread I came up with the 5 of swords(R), Queen of swords (R), 7 of wands and The Star.

    What I see is imagery involving a single opponent against numerous foes. No matter what associations anyone else gives them, for me swords are fire. This is about “black fire” burning out, the dark passionate stuff, and the coming of something far more airy. Seven of wands shows someone aloft, with an open posture, but again – defending himself against many foes.

    The star shows that a balance needs to be struck. One needs to tend to the deep as much as to the surface.

    • There are several people that all remind me of each-other. I wouldn’t dare say they’re all one person, but that they all share common traits, personalities, or inclinations. I don’t see why the gods would be an exception to this rule.

      I could see that deity being one of those who share the same traits, or inclinations. The Black Face of The Crossroads.

      • herba15

        I think so too, about both that a deity can come through to us in different personalities and that to some extent, Papa Legba = Hekate = Unmatta Bhairava = the Dark Spirit of the Crossroads. Not that there are no cultural differences but that they are expressions of some spirit that is not directly apprehensible to us and so it comes through in various ways in order for our limited understanding/perception to make sense of it.

        That makes me feel good. I haven’t dreamed of the Dark Spirit for a long time. I thought he was gone. I also feel really good about the Unmatta plants.

  • Thanks for having this discussion about similarities and commonalities, Harry and Scylla. My logic, while there are definitely shared traits between a great many of these beings, is that perspective and frame of reference colors our experience and then interpretation. That’s how I keep from puttering down a path of pantheistic monism, in any event.

    Papa Legba certainly likes his tobacco. There’s a unique energy where I have some wee plants growing. A Santo Domingo and a couple Mt. Pima, if memory serves. The dood takes care of those, since he’s called to the crossroads, too. I am germinating another five, different type. I’d really like to do what you’ve done and have them along the walkway, but we’ll see. I think they’d get along fine with the sunflowers that are going out there this week. It’s not just Papa Legba who likes the tobacco, but his whole retinue of spirits, and spirits in general, btw. Goes a way towards explaining the use of tobacco smoke in conjuring.

    Those unmattas sound lovely!

  • I’ve been having quite the year with nightshades as well. Last year I planted black nightshade in only two containers (I have a container garden), and this year they popped up in almost every container even though I had harvested all the berries and they couldn’t have been spread by animals. This has happened to me when I used to have a couple plots in a community garden as well. Black nightshade popped up everywhere in my plots, but there had been none there when I received them and there was none in the neighbouring plots.

    After talking to other witchy gardeners who’ve had similar things happen I’ve come to the conclusion that nightshades recognize witches and follow them – sometimes demanding to be worked with. There is a strong tie between the witch and the solanaceae. Perhaps black nightshade wants recognition and offerings from you? I give my nightshades offerings of tobacco smoke and incenses and they have been quite prolific ever since. If you do decide to give up on black nightshade, there’s always bittersweet (climbing) nightshade. I find it’s friendlier mainly due to its medicinal properties, and it’s also more prolific (especially when grown from cuttings), but you may already know that!

    A very curious experience overall…

  • I can definitely see that personality within Black Nightshade – maybe because it’s so obviously a weed and not as tough or prolific as the others – maybe it gets a little envious.

    That is odd about the spiders… I have all my solanaceae together in my garden and the spiders think of them as a feasting ground as they draw in so many bugs and the henbane makes them pass out for easy feeding. This morning I found baby black widows all over my daturas…

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