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The Darkest Shade of Night: A Journey Through the Botanical Underworld of the Nightshade Family

Updated: Aug 2, 2022

By: A. W. Finnegan #Plants #PlantSpirits #PlantIntelligence

My rendition of the Tower Card, inspired by the nightshade plants

In my previous article, I covered some of the ways in which we can work with and draw spiritual influence from living, non-human intelligence in the plant, animal, and insect kingdoms, such as the scorpion. I published an article specific to the scorpion and its symbolism, titled In the Shadow of the Scorpion: The Symbolic Teachings & Archetypal Invocation of an Ancient Spirit. It is possible to work with these creatures in a spiritual context through observation and interpretation of their most essential qualities, their symbolic affiliations or correspondences, and the habits or ways in which they live their life. This same process can also be applied to the animal and plant kingdom. Plant Intelligence can and do interact with us on many levels, although their degree of consciousness is more atypical compared to the animal and insect kingdoms, they still find their way of communicating to us, their message and influence.

Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)

Working with these forms of intelligence goes beyond mere influence, when we go a step further and also care for and raise them, in the most literal sense. This would mean growing the plants, caring for them, feeding and nurturing these living things so they can be healthy plants and live a meaningful existence. All plants are but a spirit of the Earth, but each have their particular spirit or nature in which they exist and be as individuals. They can sometimes call out to us and inspire us through our encounters or exposure to them, and through their dreamy consciousness, perhaps they are not bound by their physical limitations, and enter the realm of thought and dreams to interact with us, which is how I became more acquainted with my plant guide.

The plants I work with are a sacred group of magical plants in the tropane alkaloid-containing nightshade family (Solanaceae). This would include the plants of Datura, Brugmansia, Henbane, Belladonna, Mandrake, Solandra, among others. These plants I have come to know very well and grow species of them from all over the world. The plants definitely have characteristics that make them unique and set them apart from the others. These nightshade plants have a dark, feminine spirit, not necessarily by any means an evil spirit, any more than the spirit of Earth itself, but the Earth can sometimes be a dark, brutal place. It can also be indescribably beautiful, and thus the nightshade plants are in many ways the same, like a microcosm of the macrocosm. She is but an emissary of her larger whole, the Planet Earth.

These plants have been used throughout history in almost every civilization, for as long as recorded history has left us records. For instance, the Sumerians gave belladonna to treat depression and psychoses caused by 'demons.' In every corner of the globe, from Russia to South America, North America, to Africa, and Europe, these plants have been used in a medicinal and spiritual context. They have a wide diversity of application, and have found use in many ways. The plant is considered a sacred plant in many parts of the world from the start of time.

White Henbane (Hyoscyamus albus)

The nightshade plants have notable qualities, intense in all her glorious magnitude. She is a feminine energy, but with a masculine kind of power. She is a spirit of power and intensity. She is ruled under the sign of Saturn. Saturn has the association with time, power, death, and transformation. She is of this essential nature and I have come to know her in great depth over the years. She never fails to inspire me, but also, she never fails to remind me that life is full of magic, although sometimes hidden quite well. Fortunately, learning to use our latent powers of intuition runs strong with these plants, and has helped me tune into my own quite well.

My story begins with these magnificent plants back in 2012, at a time that was perhaps the worst year of my life, right before a major life transformation that was very painful but necessary. Here again, we have that Saturn energy, the energy that reaps what has been sown, but in some instances, such as mine, the curse can become the blessing, especially when you make the decision to work with the flow of the Universe, rather than against it. Back then, I was a complete mess, in a drug-induced psychosis from a hard run with amphetamines, sleep deprivation, and a severe dependency to benzodiazapines and opiates. I came to a point where I wanted out of life, getting off the drugs seemed far too difficult, and death seemed like a better option. I came across these plants researching different poisons I might find to achieve this goal. It was a ridiculous idea, but that’s the Hell I was in back then. Anyway, I came across the nightshade plants like Datura, Belladonna, and Henbane, and I was in awe of their magnificence and beauty. Although I was not able to secure myself any of these plants back then, she had made an imprint on my mind.

Angel's Trumpet from Ecuador (Brugmansia versicolor)

Eventually, the lifestyle I was living, like a train with no brakes, came to its eventual conclusion, with me getting in some serious trouble and having to go to jail for setting a really big fire, and although no one got hurt, it damaged a lot of property and I had to do time for it. Because I was in such bad mental shape at that point, they sent me to Bridgewater State Hospital, a prison for the criminally insane. I was in a drug-induced psychosis, and it took me many months to return to normal. This is common with people who severely abuse amphetamines and stay up for days on end. The sleep deprivation catches up with you in a serious way, and your whole personality unravels in a drawn-out process.

At one point while I was there, there was a book on poisonous plants in the library, and I enjoyed looking through the book. It had all the beautiful nightshade plants and I was again, deeply inspired. I began to have repetitive dreams that the plant spirit, a feminine energy who took the form of a woman in my dreams, but would disappear and become the plants, she would bring me into a big field of her plants, and they were calling me. I felt very drawn to them. This continued to occur throughout my sentence, and I was also able to order books from Amazon, about the plants, and I read and studied to learn all I could about them before my release, and I already had plans to grow them, this time, for benign purposes. They were so beautiful, and I learned all the different species and groups of them, such as those I listed.

Upon my release, I ordered many seeds and began my journey to grow and learn of her nature and spirit. From the time they first sprouted forth out of the soil, I cared for them and watched them grow. They slowly reached a point where the buds came forth, and I saw them bloom. The first bloom was a Datura stramonium, and I was able to capture a perfect image of the bloom, which is the icon on my site, with the white flower. Next, I had the blooms of the Himalayan Datura (Datura metel), which are also magnificent. I raised a Brugmansia hybrid of some kind, which was also a beautiful site, with her giant trumpet flowers that hang upside down, a relative of the Datura plant. That first year I also grew black henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) and a latecomer belladonna plant (Atropa belladonna). The following year I grew a bunch of exotic types of all the nightshade plants from all over the world, many different kinds of belladonna, henbane, datura, and so on. Each year I seem to grow a different set of varieties.

Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium)

As I grew them, they began to teach me their ways, much like the scorpion would in later years. The plants had a subtle but profound way of communicating to me. There have been so many experiences that I could relay about my journey with them. I plan to someday write a book about it. But until then, I’ll try to communicate some of the interactions and teachings I was given by this magnificent plant. Many of its teachings are laid out through its qualities and by analogy to life itself. That being said, there is a deeper element and interaction with this plant that I cannot fully explain, and it is like magic to me, a magic that is inherent in the plant and carries over into my life and interaction with the plant.

It is said that the nightshade plants are a gateway to the land of the dead, it is also said that the plants can bring you the ability of sight, clairvoyance, sharp intuition. I have found this to be true. While some of these aspects are powers already latent within us, such as our intuition, I’ve come to realize that the plant has this uncanny ability to potentiate or align you with these abilities with striking accuracy. There are times when things just come to me, that I can feel in my gut that is true, and without fail every time I get this sense, the information I receive is true. There were times when the plant would come to me in my dream and show me things that were true that I wouldn’t have guessed, only later to be verified as true. This included times when I was being betrayed, and many other situations. The plant can work with you, when you care and work with it.

Gateway to the land of the dead?

There was one time, I was growing the Sacred Datura (Datura discolor), a species from Southwestern United States, and it bloomed for the first time on my birthday, as if to thank me and brought me joy. Another time, I was seeking out the most rare species of Datura, called Oak-Leaf Datura (Datura quercifolia), with leaves that look like oak trees, but has a big spiky seedpod that resembles a weapon of war. This species only grows in certain parts of New Mexico and possibly in the surrounding states. They were impossible to find online, and I ended up putting out an ad on Craigslist in New Mexico, asking anyone who might have these growing, if they could send me seedpods with seeds. I asked the plant itself, to please come to me somehow, because I wanted to grow it. I received all these emails from people with pictures of bushes, trees, plants, that did not resemble any of the pictures I had posted of this plant, but finally, one woman said she had the right ones, and the pictures she sent me were a match. She told me an unusual story, she said that every year she usually cuts these down, because she has horses and doesn't want them eating the plant, but that this year something told her to leave them, and that she happened to be on Craigslist and found my ad, and was a very strange thing, that she happened to leave them, and now have them when I was seeking them out.

I have had many unusual but super interesting experiences with this plant, and I have experienced and taken the plant internally in many different ways, but also burned the plant as an incense, and things of that nature. The plant is considered a hallucinogen, and a very strong, intense one at that. In fact, they consider it more a deliriant, but the plant can bring on intense hallucinations that seem entirely real. I have had this experience once with Datura ceratocaula, the Mexican water datura nicknamed Torna Loco 'crazy plant'. There was a time when I was in my room and thought it was daytime, and saw the sun shining into my room like it was high noon, but actually it was midnight. The experience was posted in an Erowid report I had made called At the Water Park with Torna Loco, because I had this experience she brought me to a water park.

Torna Loco (Datura ceratocaula)

Strangely, there is a common set of phenomena, that occur when people take the plant in hefty doses. Several themes seem to occur often, and they are, the smoking of phantom cigarettes, which seem to disappear and reappear at random. Next, there is a common theme of seeing friends and acquaintances that haven’t been seen in a really long time, such was the case for me at the water park, I was with my best friend from sixth grade, Derek. Other common themes are seeing deceased pets, friends, and relatives, and also telepathy has been noted often. I made an interesting post about this on my old website called Zombie Parties and Phantom Cigarettes: Strange Phenomena in the Realms of the Unexplained. I have had some very unusual experiences as well, that I cannot fully explain. There is definitely a pronounced element of mystery and surprise with the plant. She controls the experience, and you are but its guest.

I have also used the plant to make these charms with the Datura seedpods, and they are decorative, but also used in some ways like protection charms, or charms that are meant to scare away the unwanted spirits or energies, to keep weakness at bay, a spiritual empowering force, like a talisman or symbol. The spiky seedpods look and resemble weapons of war, so there is that association with the Mars energy of war, which can imply spiritual wars. The fight in you, the fight against the adversities of life, is how one can think of it. I have made many of these for myself, as well as for other people.

Datura seedpod charms

They say the plant spirit is a seductress, not in a romantic kind of way obviously, but in a way whereby she seduces you into wanting to grow more and more of her plants, spend more time on them, and she always wants to take over any garden, like a possessive girlfriend, in a figurative sense. I have found this to be true, the plant has an alluring beauty, that pulls you in, makes you forget about other plants, and you put more and more time into her plants. They have this quality, and in some ways, it is comical to me, but nonetheless true. I have found that occasionally I have to put my foot down and keep her in check.

I used to run an entire site about the plants called Poison Path, and it is still available on the Internet Archive. That site explained many elements, mechanisms, and history of the plant. The plant has also been misused and abused for harmful or evil purposes. This does not, however, make the plant evil. The plant is a spirit of the earth, and it is that which a person holds in his or her heart that makes the evil produced, whether using the plant as a channel for it or not. The plant can be used in maligned ways, as a poison, but the plant can also be used as a medicine, so again, it is the intent that brings the outcome. I do not use the plant for evil purposes, I work with the plant in the interest of my work, adding to the Great Work, and adding to the betterment of humanity, rather than selfish purposes. It is but a guide, an alliance, a give and take relationship that I hold with the plant, by caring for it, and it offers its help and influence to me, in subtle, sometimes analogous ways, sometimes very literal, direct ways through dreams and the realm of thought. There are subtle channels which I believe plant intelligence can operate through and communicate with you. It is very atypical, compared to human to human communication, but nonetheless real.

collage of the Nightshade plants

Plants can keep us grounded and connected with the Earth, when we let them into our lives. There are so many kinds of plants out there. The nightshade plants that I work with are not for everyone, but they are for me. Just as the scorpion is not a creature that everyone wants to get too close to, the nightshade plants also have this dark, saturnine quality. They are both ruled under the planetary sign, Saturn, the hand of time, karma, power, death, and transformation. I am an intense personality, through my Leo nature, but also, I have this Saturn shadow quality to my inner being, which aligns with these more mysterious, dark qualities found in things like scorpions and the nightshade plants. The plants are part of me, in this sense, she has chosen to align herself with me, and vice versa. It has reached a point where I need these plants around my living space, I choose to have them with me, in my room, and all around my place. They keep me company, and I care for them. Caring for any living thing is a good thing, it keeps the quality of Care in your heart, and when Care is something you put your time and energy into, you are using the Saturn energies for good purposes, not maligned purposes. I have learned the nature of these plants and their qualities, and by analogy, I apply them also to my life. That has been my journey through the botanical underworld of the nightshade family, and a family to me, she has become...

Here are some links to the research I had done from my old site, if anyone is interested to read further about the plants and their rich history, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Tropane Alkaloids in Ancient Practice & Modern Medicine: Hidden Healing and Curative Properties of a Demonized Plant

Scopolamine and Mind Control: Intelligence Agencies and The Search for an All-Subversive Agent

Jimsonweed: A Manson Family Recipe The Hidden Ingredient Behind the Creation of the Manson Cult & the Infamous Murders of the Late 1960’s

Zombie Parties and Phantom Cigarettes Strange Phenomena in the Realms of the Unexplained

Sweet Nectar of Lady Nightshade: The Role of Bees and Psychoactive Honey in Shamanism

Lucid Nightmare: Tropane Alkaloids & Acetylcholine

Crazy Kieri: Wolves of Good & Evil

Unholy Alliance: Taming The Devil’s Weed

My rendition of the Nightshade Spirit in the Sun Tarot card

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