any kind of drug is really a shortcut to an altered state of awareness
or a mystical experience, I still feel inclined to investigate the
vegetable drugs that witches traditionally used to help them achieve
these states of consciousness. I feel that these plants were used
in their own way to achieve a specific result at certain times.
I discovered that what I had always thought was Wild Carrot growing
in our garden was actually Hemlock. This came as a pleasant surprise
to me, as it is extremely prolific and I had previously been wondering
where I could possible get it. And here, lo and behold; I@#146;ve
got it everywhere!
Carrot which is used for urinary disorders, a source of vitamin
A, B1, B2 and C, sugars and pectin, and also used as a diuretic,
carminative and digestive aid, is so similar to Hemlock, that correct
plant identification is essential if one wants to eat it and live
to tell the tale.
is not really too hard to tell them apart. They both have feathery
foliage, white flowers which are arranged in dense umbrels and a
long spindly taproot. However, the Wild Carrot is a shorter, squatter
plant and its leaves are distinctly hairy as opposed to Hemlock,
which has smooth, ribbged stems which also have spots and blotches
of crimson on them. These are quite apparent, especially near the
base of the stem. The fruits differ too. Hemlock fruit is ribbed
and smooth, whilst Carrot fruit is surrounded by little spiny hooks.
Hemlock also has a smell similar to the kind of smell of pet mice
@#150; sort of foetid and mousey, whereas Wild Carrot has a distinctive
Latin name is Conium Maculatum and there is also a Water Hemlock
which is called Cicuta Virosa, but this is far more dangerous than
Conium Maculatum because of a poisonous element called cicutoxine
which has a painful spasm-producing effect.
(plain) is also poisonous but much less so than its watery sister.
It is probable that Socrates drank Hemlock juice mixed with laudanum
and wine when he died in 399 B.C. Diogenes Laertius, a writer of
around the third century A.D. states explicitly that Socrates@#146;
cup contained Hemlock juice.
to Pliny, this combination which killed Socrates was the usual means
by which the Greeks did away with criminals condemned to death.
Only the absolutely worst prisoners were forced to drink aconite
which produced a much more painful death.
has also been used as a medicinal herb; it was used by surgeons
to give a local anaesthetic to patients previous to amputations
and was also widely renowned for its ability to cure @#145;ignis
sacer@#146;, St Anthony@#146;s Fire, the result of ergot poisoning,
which was one of the worst scourges of the middle ages.
was a pre-Christian custom to let Hemlock grow outside the front
and back door of any home so that it might absorb any poison that
may have been floating about and keep the family of the house healthy.
spread of the Hemlock plant has been attributed to the gypsies;
it is said that it was they who carried the trade in Hemlock seeds
in the market places outside the towns and as they were renowned
chicken thieves, they may have used hemlock to help them, because,
if one steeps corn or any other grain in a mixture of wine and hemlock
juice and then feeds it to the chickens it makes them lose their
strength and become intoxicated; therefore very easy to pick up,
and still all right to eat.
appears to have been cultivated in every hospital or monastery garden,
as a medicinal herb and for another very interesting reason @#150;
to subdue the lusts of the flesh in monks and nuns. Discordes states
that Hemlock plasters weaken the sexual parts and, when monastery
and convent life was at the height of the self-denial and self-mutilation
fad, it is quite believable that they would use the plant in this
also writes that Hemlock pounded in a mortar and applied to the
testicles, "doth help wanton dreamers and seed shedders".
According to Pliny, when used on women@#146;s breasts, Hemlock dries
up the milk and also prevents virgin@#146;s breasts from becoming
thousand years later, Simon Paulli in "Flora Danica" says
"girls breasts that are rubbed with the juices of this herb
do not grow thereafter but remain properly small and do not change
the size they are". I do not encourage rubbing the juice on
one@#146;s own breasts or sexual parts if you do not want to damage
them. Also I know some flying ointment directions for use that say
to apply it there because it is easily absorbed into the blood.
has often been the case where witches were acccused of depriving
a man of his "secret member". This could have been the
masculine fear of impotence behind the accusation, but it also could
have had its basis in truth. One could easily make a man unconscious
with wine and then smear his testicles with Hemlock juice if one
felt so inclined and I don@#146;t doubt that this might have happened
on some occasions.
Greek antiquity, Hemlocks were dedicated to Hecate. Both normal
and water hemlocks were used as ingredients in flying ointments.
It is the poison coniine that produces the flying effect. My own
experiments have proved that small does of Hemlock juice rubbed
into the wrists and hands have produced a sensation of falling or
dropping and it works extremely quickly, about one or two minutes
after it is applied.
parsley, Aetusa cynapicum, contains coniine in less concentrated
form and this would be safer to take internally, whereas only minute
(mico) doses of hemlock can be taken (and the amount of coniine
in each plant varies, increasing the risk of accidental poisoning).
It is much better and safer to use it on the outside of the body,
rather than the inside, to avoid poisoning.
is a very cosmopolitan herb and grows in most places around the
world that are not too hot and dry. It probably came to Australia
as a seed in imported soil, on someone@#146;s shoe or in an animal@#146;s
coat. It is an attractive plant that looks very much like a fern;
it grows quickly, however, intensive cultivation of land and the
use of chemical weed killer have combined to make it an increasingly
rare wild plant.