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.
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.:)