The Crooked Path of Poison

coby michael ward poisoners apothecary the house of twigs thot

Poison or Panacea? 

Deep within the dark forest of the Craft there is a Path.  It is overgrown and obscured by thorn and vine, hidden by superstition and legends to confuse would be travelers.  In some places the path is broken, branching out into dead ends that seem to lead to no where.  Slowly but surely there are those returning to this Path, gradually clearing away the debris of dead leaves and fallen limbs that have accumulated over the centuries.  This is the Crooked Path of Poison.  The way of the Veneficus and Pharmakos; synonymous with magic and sorcery.  This is a path of intoxication, the intoxication of the spirit.  It is not the type of intoxication that is seen in recreational drug users; not the incoherent ramblings of drug addled minds or those who have fallen into addiction.  I would know because I have experienced both.

Circe-The Sorceress. John William Waterhouse. Flickr.

This is a sacred art of intoxication, of hypnosis, ritual ecstasies, and dreams induced by the holy sacraments of the natural world.  Some work very slowly and subtly, lowering our conscious inhibitions just enough that we might easily enter into the other world, seeing what is just beyond the veil.  Others present themselves more powerfully, creating cathartic experiences capable of healing old traumas, breaking depression and habits that have taken our lives away.  The naturally occurring compounds in these plants have led to the discovery of some of our most powerful and helpful medicines.

Not all poisons are deadly in the sense that we use the word.  Some are inebriants, visionary plants, aphrodisiacs and stimulants; others relieve pain, bring sleep or allow us to see with different eyes.  One thing that they have in common is that they help us to step outside of our ordinary reality, giving us wings to fly or scales to slither across the ground.  They subdue our inhibitions “killing” our ego so that we can return reborn bearing something new, a new understanding or insight that we didn’t have before.  It is a shamanic death, a death of initiation, that grants us access to places within ourselves that were hidden before.

Fly Agaric. Bernard Spragg. Flickr.

Forging New Pathways

Working with these plants allows us to tap into a part of ourselves and our Craft that has been marginalized and left in the shadows by many modern practitioners.  There are a handful of visionaries who hung on to the idea of this old knowledge, seeing it as more than medieval superstition.  These early explorers of the Poison Path pieced together bits of lore from across time and space helping to build a body of lore that has led to a Venefic Renaissance.  This Path helps us to connect with many of the themes of classical witchcraft and medieval magic, such as the Witches Sabbath, spirit flight, plant spirit familiars, and Unguentum Lamiarum; the infamous Witches’ Ointment.  It is a part of natural magic, a plant based practice, but instead of working with the plants of light and Sun, we seek the roots and vines of shadowy places, deserted wastelands and moonlight graveyards.  The Poison Path is a nocturnal path, practiced in shadow and secret places.  It is the nightside revelry of the green witch and secret knowledge of the wortcunner.  By day offering elixirs of healing and relief, by night calling up spirits with intoxicating smoke, anointing bones so they may sing their secrets.

Wolfsbane. O.W. Thome. Flickr.

Perhaps it is the infamous lore these plants have gathered over time, or their connection to witches and sorcery that makes them so mysterious.  It is as if they hold some secret that can only be won through their deadly sacrament.  There are many practitioners today seeking to work with these plants; growing Deadly Nightshade in their gardens, making tinctures of Mandrake root or burning Henbane seeds to speak to the dead.  The fact that so many modern practitioners are working with these plants is promising.  There are more people uncovering scattered bits of lore and finding new ways to work with these powerful plant allies.  There are sacred plants that are an important part of the indigenous cultures of the Americas, Africa and Asia so it is no surprise that the ancient tribal peoples of Europe had their own sacred plant medicine as well.  The Poison Path is a synergy of these ancient tribal beliefs and practices coupled with the legends and folklore of medieval Europe.  Exploring the nature of these plants can give us new insight into the practices that have become part of modern traditional witchcraft.

The Poisoner’s Apothecary: An Exploration of Baneful Herbs and Esoterica.

A Collection of Posts on the Poison Path

The Poisoner’s Pocket Guide by Coby Michael Ward

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Coby Michael Ward

,
I am a practitioner of traditional witchcraft, proud armchair occultist, and cultivar of baneful herbs. I have a passion for potion-making and arcane artifacts. I love researching and writing about the history of magic, occult philosophy, and the Pagan practices of Germanic/Norse traditions and the British Isles. As a writer, I have been working for about two years, and have taught workshops on esoteric herbalism, witches’ flying ointments, and the Poison Path. I recently self-published a zine-like booklet called “The Poisoner’s Pocket Guide” a collection of baneful plant lore and witchcraft. I have been growing a Witch’s Garden for about six years consisting of various plants commonly associated with witches and sorcery. I have been studying magic and the occult for a number of years. I later decided to go to school for religious studies, which helped me with my writing. Arizona State University is where I studied religion with an emphasis on religious text and ritual. I became interested in poisonous plants and traditional European witchcraft via my studies of American Folk Magic and African American Hoodoo, which introduced me to the grimoire tradition and eventually Sabbatic Witchcraft. In my writing I look to draw new connections between ancient mythology, symbolism, astrological correspondence and traditional witchcraft practices like spirit work, herb craft and soul flight.

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Coby Michael Ward

,
I am a practitioner of traditional witchcraft, proud armchair occultist, and cultivar of baneful herbs. I have a passion for potion-making and arcane artifacts. I love researching and writing about the history of magic, occult philosophy, and the Pagan practices of Germanic/Norse traditions and the British Isles. As a writer, I have been working for about two years, and have taught workshops on esoteric herbalism, witches’ flying ointments, and the Poison Path. I recently self-published a zine-like booklet called “The Poisoner’s Pocket Guide” a collection of baneful plant lore and witchcraft. I have been growing a Witch’s Garden for about six years consisting of various plants commonly associated with witches and sorcery. I have been studying magic and the occult for a number of years. I later decided to go to school for religious studies, which helped me with my writing. Arizona State University is where I studied religion with an emphasis on religious text and ritual. I became interested in poisonous plants and traditional European witchcraft via my studies of American Folk Magic and African American Hoodoo, which introduced me to the grimoire tradition and eventually Sabbatic Witchcraft. In my writing I look to draw new connections between ancient mythology, symbolism, astrological correspondence and traditional witchcraft practices like spirit work, herb craft and soul flight.

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