SOCIAL MEDIA

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Herbarium: Magical and Medicinal Uses of Poppy

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Gender: Feminine
Planet: Moon
Element: Water
Powers: Death, Fertility, Love, Sleep, Remembrance
Magical Uses and History: Poppies, which come in an array of varieties including corn, oriental, and opium, have long been cultivated throughout Southern Europe and Asia, and later North America, mostly due to their popularity as a beautiful garden addition. All parts of the plant are toxic, except for the seeds which can be eaten or the pod sap distilled into opium. Like all plants, poppies have a rich history of occult and spiritual uses. Poppies are deeply associated with love, partly due to their red color. In Persia, the poppy represents love and those that have died for love's sake. We see this same tradition in the Greek myth of Demeter and Mekon. Mekon, being a mortal, died, leaving Demeter to mourn his death. In her despair, she turned Mekon into a poppy, thus symbolizing their love and the remembrance of such love. Furthermore, poppy blooms only last about a day, symbolizing the loss of a young life or a life cut short. The Egyptians included poppies in their funeral and burial rites to assure life after death (remembrance), evidence of which dates back some 3,000 years. This idea of remembrance was captured more recently in the famous poem In Flanders Fields by John McRae which describes the brutalities of trench warfare during World War I in fields of poppies. Red poppies are commonly worn by veterans and distributed among the graves of veterans during Memorial Day, Veterans' Day, and Remembrance Day to symbolize remembrance of those we have loved and lost to war. In 2019, a pigeon in Canberra, Australia made her nest out of poppies taken from a local war memorial, uniting the idea that those we have lost are resting peacefully in love. As such, poppies, especially red poppies can be used to symbolize love, peace, and remembrance of those we have loved and lost. Use poppy seeds and flowers in love spells and rituals to induce love or bring love to you. The seeds are sometimes used in kitchen witchery to induce love, but be mindful that eating the seeds can show up on drug tests.

The depiction of poppies springing up on a battlefield and being used during funeral rites not only associates the flower with remembrance but death as well. Legend says that white poppies sprang from the battlefields of Genghis Khan. After the battle of Waterloo, it is said that poppies sprang from the blood scattered across the field, just as they did at Flanders after WWI. In Greek mythology, Thanatos, the god of death, is often depicted wearing a crown of poppies. Both the Greeks and Romans, like the Egyptians, used poppy flowers as an offering to the dead and when used on gravestones, represent eternal sleep. This symbolism was immortalized in Virgil's epic tale, Aeneid in 25 BC, in his description of Euryalus's death saying it was "...like poppies bowing their heads when the rain burdens them and their necks grow weary." Place poppies on your ancestral altar as an offering to those that have passed and to let them know they are remembered or use in spells to summon your ancestors to you. Furthermore, their ability to grow in poor soil conditions, such as those after a war where the soil has been beaten, trampled, and depleted of nutrients, speaks to the resilience and regenerative properties of the poppy. As such, poppies are associated with fertility, especially in regard to agriculture. The Assyrians referred to the poppy as the "daughter of the fields," and they were commonly used during crop rotations to repair the soil. Use poppies to enhance the fertility of your own garden or yourself should you be looking to have children.

In the Language of the Flowers during the Victorian period, poppies symbolized eternal sleep, oblivion, and imagination. This symbolism likely originated from the opium poppy that, when taken, would induce a dream-like, hallucinogenic state or sleep which was popular among Victorians, including Charles Dickens, and the mild analgesic and sedative properties of other poppies. Famous painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti captured this symbolism of eternal sleep and death in his painting Beata Beatrix, which was a tribute to his late wife, Elizabeth Siddal, who died due to an overdose of laudanum, an opium derivative. The painting features a dove delivering poppy flowers to a young, red-hair maiden. Other paintings, such as Ophelia by John Millais and Death the Bride by Thomas Coope Gotch show similar iconography. However, the idea that poppy is associated with sleep dates back further to the Greek god, Hypnos, the god of sleep. Hypnos is sometimes featured carrying a poppy stalk or a horn filled with poppy juice, again likely related to opium which has been used as far back as Mesopotamia. Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, is also said to use poppies to help shape the dreams of mortals. This is likely where the name morphine originates. Evelyn De Morgan's Night and Sleep depicts a personification of sleep sprinkling poppies to help those below rest peacefully. In some European folklore, an old folk remedy for insomnia included staring into the black center (oblivion) of a poppy flower. The idea that poppies can be used to aid in sleep is so pervasive that it appears in pop culture, including the story of The Wizard of Oz where Dorthy falls asleep in a field of poppies. John Keats also included poppy imagery in his poem, To Sleep where he says, "...ere thy poppy throws, Around my bed its lulling charities." Place the seeds under your pillow to aid in sleep or mix the seeds into a sleeping draft. Again, be mindful that poppy seeds often appear on drug tests.

Poppy can be used in a number of spells including:
    Love Spells
    Fertility Rites
    Ancestral Offerings
    Remembrance Rituals
    Death Magic
    Dream Magic

Medicinal Uses: Opium poppy contains alkaloids in its immature seed pods which are used to make opium, codeine, morphine, and heroin. For obvious reasons, you should not attempt to make these substances at home and should consult a doctor should you need to manage pain relief. The mature seeds are a mild analgesic and therefore can be used to treat insomnia, anxiety, and tension. However, it is important to note that poppy seeds often show up on drug tests. The rest of the plant is toxic and should not be ingested.

Preparation and Dosage: Please consult a medical professional if you are looking to use poppies to treat pain or insomnia. Due to their addictive properties, I will not offer any preparation or dosage information for this plant.


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