This is a Datura, blossoming on our back porch. Its Latin name is Datura metel and it is known by several common names, including Devil’s Trumpet, Thornapple or Horn of Plenty. It is a witch’s plant. I don’t just mean that we, as witches own it, I mean that it is one of the most storied, mythologized and whispered about herbs in the world of paganism.
Datura is highly toxic, every bit of it. Roots, leaves, flowers, stem, all of it, yet it is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful flowering plants on earth, smells like a ambrosial combination of honeysuckle and black locust and its scent is most potent at night when it shows its most breathtaking self to the world brave enough to grow it.
Its hallucinogenic properties are legendary but its lethality stands behind it like a dare, challenging those willing to venture into those lands with possible death.
That is the nature of darker magic. It is beautiful, seductive, elegant, addictive and deadly.
Why am I telling you this?
Because these days I am walking in an odd place of one foot in the light, one in the darkness and trying desperately to lean into the light while the universe insists on the other choice.
I am living the life of a juggler’s ball, constantly moving, unfixed, spinning between hours of near perfect giddiness, joy and laughter and periods of soul crushing fear, depression and anxiety.
I am better when I am among the plants.
When I am out tending to our tomatoes, peppers, herbs and orchids, I am green, sacred, powerful and towering above the hurt and human problems that plague me otherwise.
I grow deadly plants like the Datura for their beauty and the tradition, as my mother grew them and I remember my time in the garden with her to be among my happiest.
Often, when I am working outside, weeding, watering, trimming or staking our growing jungle, one of our many serpents is around my neck, their powerful coils holding them to me like roots, and there you can find me, serpents and moonflowers. The symbolism is rife with possibilities.
I am better when interacting with the snakes.
But the time comes when it all must be put aside and I have to face the more greedy world of daily life and then, then the darkness is all I can see.
My prolonged illness from 2010 to 2015 cost me everything. I do not say that flippantly. I came away from it with the clothes on my back, furniture given to me by friends and a second hand laptop. That was it. There I was in my mid 40’s with nothing but a tiny one bedroom apartment, a mystery illness that looked incurable to every doctor on the Eastern seaboard and forced to start over, again.
This time, I was not alone. Gypsy, Jaryd and Erych were there and I could focus on them. Cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, making them laugh, trying to establish myself as a writer and getting back into the business of educating the world about snakes which I had done since I was a child.
My illness was so bad that I was given disability. The major concern was and still is my compromised white cell count. I have an immunodeficiency with no knowable cause. And so it is a threat for me to go back into the workforce where I would be subject to every virus and illness that came down the pike. But the state, in its wisdom decided that since I was able to cook, do my own laundry and help out with the family, then I must be okay and they cancelled my disability.
So, I had been left in a situation where I was contributing next to nothing. But the absolute terror of going through the cycle of illnesses, hospitalizations (28 months in hospitals and rehabs over four years.) has left me in an emotional limbo.
So I redoubled my effort to find work I could do from home. Freelance writing and speaking, snake educational programs, almost anything. But so far it has been too little, not often enough.
And thus the darkness.
And so I sit, working, constantly trying, ear to the ground, nose in the wind, hopeful but growing ever more scared.
“Get a bicycle and lose weight. It will help.” At my weight, a bicycle that will hold me costs around $600 dollars.
“Raise and sell plants. You’re so good at it!” To buy the light tables and other supplies I need, about the same as the bicycle.
“Breed snakes, you made good money at that before.” And the list goes on. Needing money to make money and the money, all that I saved, all that I earned, all that I got from selling off my newly gained things, gone… And still, the bills come in.
I hunt bargains, I find them too. I am brilliant at it. I can cook good, healthy food inexpensively, I am growing eight varieties of tomatoes, six types of peppers, herbs and maybe cucumbers but it will be a while.
I have put the word out that I need to make money, I need to feel useful. I need to be a part of making the darkness come back into a manageable twilight. But so far, all I hear is my voice echoing off of the distant hillsides, with no other ones replying.
And so, I grow things, I commune with serpents, I make people laugh, I think in gorgeous poetry and I try to lift up everyone I encounter.
That is the truest form of magic. The act of trying to lift people into the light, even when you are in the darkest of shadows.
Here, at the moment it is night, but at least the flowers are beautiful.