Clary Sage Dreamwork

Thanks to a comment by Sara, I decided to dig out the clary sage tincture I made last year and do some experimenting with it. I tinctured the flowering tops in 95% alcohol. It was quite green for a month or so after I made it, but gradually it turned amber. Clary sage is known as a euphoric, the only one I am aware of that is native to the northern hemisphere, and it is also a classic in dreamwork. In herbal medicine, it does not have much use but is supposed to have a sedating effect. Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine says not to use it if you have tumors of the uterus because it can act like estrogen in the system. Otherwise, this is pretty much a non-toxic herb, and yet from what I can see, almost no one uses it in magic–or out. There is no listing for it, for instance, that I could find on erowid. It is traditionally linked to dreamwork, though, in magic and I have been reading Wilby’s new book The Visions of Isobel Gowdie, and there she talks about the possibility of mutual dreaming as a fundamental of the Sabbat (basing her position in turn on Ginzburg’s Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witches’ Sabbath). This has intrigued me greatly. So what better tool to explore those possibilities than clary sage?

Before I went to bed, I took a tablespoon of the tincture in a four ounce glass of water. It tasted a little soapy and left a bit of a tingle on my tongue. I asked clary sage to teach me, and I lit some incense to Hermes and asked him to guide me.  Went to bed.

I had three dreams. All were clear and none were feverishly overrun with images, which has been the case when I have worked with mugwort. The first was distinguished by a brilliant emerald green color which appeared intermittently. The third I remember nothing of except the scrap of music which played repeatedly. This happens to me often in dreams. It was the second dream that has been startling.

In part of the second dream, I found myself sitting in a sort of chapel. There were others there, more towards the front. It appeared to be some kind of study class led by an older woman, rather bony and ill-tempered. She scowled at me because she recognized that I did not belong there, so to avoid her wrath and get my bearings, I pretended to be studying also and looked down at the books on my lap. They were two Bibles, both open and resting on top of the other. These were not like Bibles I had seen before. The one on top was open to the Book of Daniel, which I must confess I have never read. All I know about it is the stories, mostly from either kid’s pictures of Daniel in the lion’s den (see the print I remember from childhood) or from movies such as Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible, which as I recall protrays the Fiery Furnace episode (which I never knew was from Daniel until today). I likewise did not know that this book is a favorite of some Christians, who enjoy interpreting it as predictive of the future, parsing out which metal of the statue in the dream represents which historical kingdom, and of course using stuff in it to validate Jesus as God. It is not very important in Judaism, stuck in the biblical hinterlands between Esther and Ezra.

In the dream, I could see the words clearly on the page, which was in English. I focused on the lower right-hand corner of the page, which was where the second chapter began. At the head of each chapter, this Bible gave a series of words that were used as verbs in the Hebrew text (which was not presented). The words were transliterated from Hebrew letters into Roman letters in caps. One word I remember was something like “MATOUION.” I didn’t recognize this word as Hebrew, but I thought at least they are acknowledging this is a Hebrew text. What was striking about this dream was that I could see the words clearly and that many of them were in English. Usually in my dreams, if text is involved, it is in another language, especially Russian (which I know, but it is always some word I don’t recognize!), or if it is in English, it is all jumbled with letters of different sizes and colors. So this was odd for its clarity, although I did not remember anything it said in English when I work up.

Ishtar Gate, constructed in Nebuchadnezzar's day

This morning I decided to look at the Book of Daniel, second chapter. Here’s the first line of that chapter: “In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream; his spirit was agitated, yet he was overcome by sleep.” The king (ruler of Babylon) orders his “wise men”–magicians, exorcists, sorcerers, and Chaldeans–to prove their talents by telling him what his dream was and then to interpret it for him, but none of them can do it, and they even say that no one can do that except the gods. The king decides he’ll just execute them all as frauds. Among them are three wise men in training, Judeans who were captured and kept in the king’s palace to be educated and form part of his service during the Babylonian Captivity. One of them, Daniel, is able not only to tell the king what the dream was but to interpret it for him. It is a dream of the future, one about the destruction of various kingdoms. These are represented by a statue made of different metals (which reminded me very much of alchemy). The king spares all the wise men, of course.

A couple of interesting things about this text. One, Daniel asks for help from God to learn the dream and what it means, but he uses an odd phrase:  ELH ShMYA [Elah Shmayah], which translated in the JPS Tanakh as “God of Heaven.” I don’t think I have seen this particular phrase used for God in the Bible before, although maybe I was just not paying attention. I know of various names for God in the Hebrew Bible: El, El Shaddai, YHVH, El Elion, Eieh, and Elohim, but not this phrase. I will have to look into it further. [Turns out it’s Aramaic and only occurs in three books – Ezra, Daniel, and Jeremiah]

I also noticed that in the first chapter, Daniel and his friends are to be fed on the king’s food and wine, but he asks that they instead be given legumes and water for their food and drink that they not “defile” themselves. This is interesting for me, since I have been giving much thought lately to diet.

I did not find anything like the word “MATOUION” in this section. I thought it was Greek, but apparently it was the Latin name of a town in Scotland north of the Antonine Wall. I wonder if this was anywhere near Nairn, which is the area where Isobel Gowdie lived. Weird. I am not sure if the word has significance. I think I was only meant to look at The Book of Daniel, which, it turns out, centers on dream visions and prophecy.

As you can imagine, I will be working with clary sage further.:)

12 comments to Clary Sage Dreamwork

  • I am totally ignorant when it comes to herbs and tinctures. You have piqued my interest with this post, however. Are herbal tinctures regarded to work that quickly? It is my understanding that herbal concoctions generally require some time to affect the body/mind.

    • herba15

      It depends on what you are using them for and what their action is supposed to be. I have read that “adaptogens” do take a while to work, but plenty of other herbs work right away. I take spearmint tea for stomach upset, and it works in 20 minutes.

  • I am so bowled over at the clarity of this experience. No thujone-related dithering after effects, no mugwort hangover.

    Something that S. divinorum is known for, and I would gather that S. sclarea shares some traits, this might even be someone common to sages in general, is it has a way of reinforcing one’s ‘I’-ness. One’s sense of selfness. It is the ‘I’ that one reaches in meditation at the end of some processes and sessions, but not at all in an egoistic fashion.

    My feeling is that it is because S. sclarea is not a woowoo plant where one can expect to see purple frogs cavorting with glowing synapses that it has been left out of the literature. At least divinorum causes physical symptoms, ya know? So the psychonauts at erowid have ignored it.

    It was never a beer ingredient, for starters, before the advent of hops. Yet we see these thujone-containing plants like various artemesias used in that capacity.

    Sages are temperate climate plants. Is there any way to trace clary back to Greece or the Fertile Crescent in general?

    • herba15

      I sure never expected anything like this. I thought at most I would get some happy moments, since it’s supposed to be a euphoric. I think you are right that because this is not a psychedelic sledge-hammer, it is ignored. I decided to give this a few days between uses. Some herbs lose their punch when used regularly, and I don’t want to waste this. I’m going to have to check about its origins.

  • RO

    The Book of Daniel is also supposed to contain the secrets of the end of the World, but they were sealed for a time when they would be needed. Trying to find the key to unlocking the Book of Daniel has been a favorite past time of armageddonists for years. Most think it’s a gematria encoding, but the use of Aramaic in Daniel (one of the only books in the Old Testament that has that language in it, because it’s the only part written by a heathen) makes using standard techniques impossible.

    Maybe you’ve been given the keys to the puzzle with the MATOUION and the Hebrew Verbs.

  • I’ve never heard of clary sage being ingested for dreamwork so thanks for sharing! I’ve smoked mugwort and not gotten a headache, but I haven’t tried ingesting it before.

    “[…]he asks that they instead be given legumes and water for their food and drink that they not “defile” themselves”

    This is very interesting to me as well. Friends of mine who are natural mediums and seers have been directed to maintain a restricted diet – no meat, no alcohol, no caffeine, no refined sugar, etc. It definitely seems to have increased their abilities. The local Coast Salish tribes also held a belief that one needed to be be purified before approaching and communing with spirits and deity so they would fast and purge beforehand. This makes me wonder if eating a “pure” diet only has to be temporary for certain workings…

    • herba15

      I made a jelly from mugwort a couple years ago and ingested that and it was pretty powerful. I still have jars of it. I used an herb wine jelly recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Preserving. It doesn’t taste like much, but it sure works–too well, in my case. I had tons of dreams but could not sleep well for days afterwards and felt like I had a hangover or something. I got nothing like that body load from clary sage. I hope you will try it and post what you think.

      The thing about the legumes is surprising to me, because it is specifically counter to other practices, like the ancient Greeks, who in some schools anyhow did not ingest legumes. There’s the whole “souls of the dead” thing with fava beans, for instance. But that it’s legumes instead of meat makes a lot of sense to me.

      To add to the various cultures using purification before ritual, from what I have read of Jewish magic and mysticism, a lot of magical practices were preceded by dietary restrictions (usually of meat and alcohol) as well as restrictions of sex; ritual bathing was also part of the preparations.

  • My local botanica failed me for the first time when looking for this. The owner just blinked a few times before saying “Wow, I don’t think anyone’s asked me for that in 10 years” (while we were standing next to a table with at least 6 other varieties of sage one it, lol!).

    I recently used mugwort for the first time, on the same say I started some new yogic practices and working with new spirits, and it about killed me. I had plenty of dreams, none of which were particularly vivid or significant, but I woke up convinced my roommates had given me the flu; definite hangover feeling, except 24 hours later all but a slight nausea were gone. I’ll be blogging about this soon.

    Looking forward to sourcing some clary soon, for sure!

  • Frater EH'e

    Hey Harry, the new site is coming along nicely. Listen, when you make your tinctures do you use the planetary days and hours? As an alchemist, is there any benefit to using alcohol distilled from wine instead of store bought Everclear? Aside from the legal stuff of course – lol…

    All the best;

    Frater EH’e

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