Hag’s Taper

Mullein-fl3Late August… the fields are full of Summer still (in the words of the poet), but this time around, the waning of the year draws implacably onward with bracingly cool evenings.  Daytime sunshine can still be torrid, however.  The time approaches when I prepare for my annual pilgrimage to the Blue Heron Gathering https://sites.google.com/site/blueheronfaeriehome/.  For a week, I live in a tent in the long field called Little Canada, am off the grid, and without telephone or internet service.  I adore every moment.  I move into a blissful realm of leisurely visiting (some of it with people I see only at this time… there’s an air of Brigadoon about the place).  In 2010, my diary from the year’s sojourn included these passages:

I sit on the green bank by the pond listening to Bhagavan das chanting the Names of the Mother of All Living. A dragonfly perches in utterly still splendor on the roof of my tent. As we pass the talisman in heart circle, I lie on my back looking up at a dragonfly resting on the extended twig at the end of the branch of a high tree. My mind moves upon the silence. … … …

(Friday) W from Syracuse presents an ancestral gallery of portraits of men who may or may not have been lovers of other men gathered from the 19th and 20th centuries. We dance to Connie Francis and Charles Aznavour. I start out waltzing with another man but the dyad quickly opens up and the dance ends with eight or nine of us in a dizzy, laughing, affectionate circle.

 I associate the tall grizzled stalks of late Summer mullein with Blue Heron.  It was there that I first encountered the plant, or at least, came to know of him.  I feel Mullein to be a very male presence.  In the earlier season of the year, he bears very buttery yellow blooms that can be used to make a bright yellow dye.  Agrippa associates him with Mercury, but Culpeper found a Saturnian resonance, no doubt because the plant has an affinity with Crone Goddesses and age-heavy Elder Gods. I personally feel the energy of Hekate strong in Mullein.  The Romans dipped the tall straight stalks in wax and burned them as torches at funeral processions.  One year at Blue Heron, we had a procession lit by mullein torches.  The plant’s folk names include Velvet Plant (when young, it has a very velvety look), Wild Ice Leaf, Our Lady’s Flannel, Jupiter’s Staff, Hare’s Beard, Candelaria, Quaker Rouge, Fluffweed, Shepherd’s Staff, Woolen Rag, and Hag’s Taper.  A kenning for the plant, Graveyard Dirt, is reminiscent of the practice which was known in Antiquity of listing herbs required for a Working by nicknames that evoked frightening or disgusting sensations in the reader (“eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, tongue of dog,” etc.).

A brighter friend of this season is the gracious bloom of the morning glory.  The flowers of the mullein have five petals and the exquisitely colored trumpets of the morning glory bear five mystic rays.  The five pointed star seen in each reminds us of the Lady’s favor and blessing. And bears a token for all with eyes to see of the special joys each turning of the Year’s Wheel can bring.

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