Rhizotomoi: Oxalis

And whispering say: Here 'neath the leafy mold
The wild oxalis hides her glistening gold,
till coined by the magic touch of Spring
To lure the butterfly's inconstant wing;
-Samuel Minturn Peck from, Rhymes and Roses

I don't know if I believe any rhizome can act in the way an alraun acts.  Not just because traditional lore is so specific, but through personal experience with some plants, I feel their nature as individuals do not always prefer the somewhat lonely life and death and afterlife of a magic root.   Where I'm from, rootbabies and alrauns are a tad rare to see- closer to the Spanish end of magic than the indigenous one.  In Southwest witchery, lodestones take the place of alrauns and are fed and kept similarly as a root- except rather than being fed particular organics, the lodestone is typically fed iron shavings and metal filings, nails, studs, thorns, and the like in addition to blood. For my part, I prefer to put my roots to work IN something- to be part of a greater mechanism, rather than keeping the root as a fetch in a sacred box.  I'm not against such a thing, it's just that the kinds of roots that I work with are usually Venusian roots who do not prefer solitude, so instead I work roots into other charms such as poppets, rather than the traditional alraun magic associated with say, the mandrake, which does not grow in my region and is not part of my pharmacopoeia. 

I adore rootmagic in history, especially Theophrastus' tales of the Greek root venders and their relation to pharmacobotony and pharmakaeia... after all, I am particularly fond of love magic; philia and eros alike.   All we know of the medical attributes of roots and plants derived from earlier pseudo-scientists and witch-doctors who, though scarcely educated in the true nature of these plants, none the less had at least some occult literacy on the folk uses of seeds, bulbs and roots.  Dioscorides, like Culpepper, may not be trustworthy sources for the medicinal nature of roots, but they are invaluable when it comes to gaining perspective on how our Western ancestors viewed botany.   I'm also pretty fond of Southern hoodoo which implements regionally specific roots in charms, no doubt a contribution from the indigenous people who had far better knowledge of Southern plant life than the slaves and settlers.  I've only ever seen the roots worked in that manner as suffumigation; like osha and cohosh, or as food additives; wild carrot and burdock.  In this art, I am working mostly from literature and intuition, since there aren't any rootworkers to learn from around here.  So here I go, wielding my UPG like a sonofawitch.

My familiarity with root magic is almost exclusively medicinal and talismanic, so when I found the oxalis (false shamrock) in my garden had grown plump and green, fed on my love, blood and power, I immediately decided the little bulb was ready for use in a lucky love poppet, one who will draw healthy, lucky relationships to the keeper while turning away those who would cast the evil eye.  I don't think I'll get any salt of lemon out of this baby, heh, so I'm skipping any attempt at outright alchemy and going straight for the "low magic" of it.  I don't know how other witches work their rootbabies, but mine and I have to develop a relationship first; they are fed on a strict diet and worked with for the appropriate cycle.

For example; oxalis is harvested from my own money-garden, on a Sunday, hour of Venus, when fully opened and blooming.  Helleborus niger roots have a far more difficult harvest preparation which requires gloves, some serious charms of protection and a moonless Saturday night.  Dandelion roots are harvested on a Thursday in high summer, new moon, hour of mercury by hand or by bronze- they're actually pretty friendly spirits and their song is a veritable prayer to Hekate.  Orris roots are harvested from my mother's garden on Fridays, during the full moon, hour of Venus, in the sunlight, wrapped in white linen and dried carefully after their funeral songs are sang.  The overwhelming majority of plants I use in practice dwell in the Garden of Venus, and so their harvest songs include lamentations of love, like the Portuguese Fado, or, sweet little love songs, like the rhymes of Mother Goose.  It depends on the nature of the plant, what song to sing to it to wake it up, and what song to sing when you take its life.

You've got to sing a death song for a root- that's the heart of some plants and their seat of power, and to rip it from the earth is to end its existence in that form.  I'm compelled to ethically harvest my portions and part of that practice is to speak the verbis viridi, the green language of the plants I'm harvesting for occult work, and that can mean anything from the lengthy presentation of the plant's "true name" before harvesting, or a rite of sacrifice followed by funereal services and the leaving of healing offerings in the place of the root.  Roots can be sorcerers, and they hold grudges.  Even sweet, kind Orris will haunt a witch if improperly pulled.

So I sang the song oxalis wanted to hear.  A sweet song about love and kindness and healing the heart.  As I prepared the soil for pulling, I sang Buffalo Springfield's "Kind Woman" to her, but when the time came to take her from the ground and lay her in the salt box for purification, I sang a song in the green language; both wordless and lyrically rich, both a hum and a keen, but sweet and delicate and short, just like the nature of oxalis.  The song encompasses all that the plant is; where it was born, who raised it, what it ate, how I love it, what it has done, what it will go on to do in death, how it turns to the sun and fades in the shade, how it covers the earth in spring and wilts in winter, how the nature of its life is a cycle of death and rebirth.  The song is about the eternal life of the green, the steady decay of time and at last, the rebirth into a new purpose.

Into the salt box, for purification.  I've done this twice before with similar species of root with good results; the root doesn't rot in the heart of the doll once it's been dried and the salt from the bedding absorbs both the chemical and mystical properties of the plant and is used in charms of home consecration and to expel bitter hearts.  The smell of the salt is a tad tart and a tad bitter after a while, I kind of like it. This dolly wont be placed under the bed or in the eaves; it is meant to be kept beside you as you rest from one Friday night to the next, and then buried.

A lot goes into dollies; acorn of intellect, strewing herbs like hempseed, elder flower, yarrow, tansey and meadowsweet along with fresh poplar cotton for wholeness and health, rabbit bone for swift action and fertility, a heart of oxalis for luck, skin of plant-dyed cotton for balance, other things for other reasons.  I love poppets and dolly making.  In summer I make corn husk dollies during the fire festivals and burn them all by the Fall Equinox as a sacrifice to the Old Woman.  In winter I make twig dollies from the brittle holly branches that fall and bind them in red thread and burn them on the evergreen pile by Midwinter, to honor the coming of the Green Woman.

I make poppets of cotton, linen, leaves and wool, of moleskin and wood and clay.  Dollies are as much a tool of comfort as they are a sympathetic fetish; their preparation alone is a ritual and can take you from the profane to the sacred just through the nature of assembly.  With some intent, faith and stony Will, the dolly becomes more than the focus of one's desires- it becomes a symbol of where one is at spiritually, mentally and emotionally, it can be a map of one's own self and reflect that which needs tending, filling, stitching-up.  It can act as the vessel of the divine, housing multiple spirits in it's simple folds, becoming more than the sum of its parts.  Sacred vessels are an art form unto themselves. I'm so excited to have added oxalis to my collection of doll parts.

Further Reading...

Rhymes and Roses by Samuel Minturn Peck
Goddesses, Elixirs, and Witches: Plants and Sexuality throughout Human History by J. Riddle
Pharmakon: Plato, Drug Culture, and Identity in Ancient Athens by Michael A. Rinella
The Green Mantle by Michael Jordan
Witchcraf Medicine by Claudia Müller-Ebeling and Christian Rätsch
Kremers and Urdang's History of Pharmacy by Edward Kremers and Glenn Sonnedecker
Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs

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