Belloween-A Halloween Adventure with Atropa Belladonna

October 31, 2007

I thought I’d share an interesting experience I recently had with the Atropa belladonna plant, commonly known as Belladonna.
First, it may have been a coincidence, but I was harvesting two of these plants on that most belladonna-esque of days-Halloween.
I was gathering these two plants before the cold took them down, as I was preparing to prepare some medicines from this beautiful, strong and potentially toxic species. It was still green-leaved, purplish-stemmed with some mature intoxicating-looking black fruits on them. They were not too large; I had planted them as young plants that I ordered on-line. Only one of the three gained much mass, but here they were, here I was, pruners in hand on All Hollow’s Eve’s day.

As I recite this story it will become apparent how cavalier I can be as it concerns the handling of potentially dangerous plants. Tis true. But I knew it, and knew that it is in my nature to play around with such cool fire. And with this attitude I uprooted these plants, washed them and took them inside where bare-handedly I cut them up with a favorite cleaver. I cut the roots and the de-stemmed leaves and fruits separately. I then tinctured each; the root batch 1:2, leaves and fruit 1:3 both in 95% ethanol.

So far so good, then it was time to clean all implements that came into contact with the plants with a thorough soap and water wash.
And still I felt little different, which is not uncommon for me, I often handle strong plants with little effects. This goes too with my inner terrain, I am one of those insensitive individuals who can drink 4 ounces of most any nervine with only a vague residue reflecting any nervous system alteration.
And then (of course this episode has an ‘and then’ aspect), I felt the need to lie down. So I went belly down on a futon in my sunroom/classroom. And I thought, heck there ain’t nothing really happening here, this is just my desire to have some mind-conceived belladonna effect to take place so I can write about it later.

But the longer I was lying down the more I realized that my skeletal muscles were less likely to take commands from upstairs. That is to say, that while I felt in no fear, actually quite mentally alert, I was relaxing ever further onto this mattress. It was not as if I could not move, rather any desire for movement further than blinking and the occasional words were all I seemed to care to perform.
It felt something like being hung-over without pain, after a four-hour massage. In other words, deeply relaxed with no desire to move.
Now to many of you out there who do not know me, this is somewhat antithetical to my native spirit which is generally a kind of agitated can’t-sit-down-for-long demeanor (fortunately I was well out of school before ADHD became all the rage).

So there was some pleasure in this dopey empty-headedness state-of-being. And very fortunately, Ms. Bevin Clare was here to teach, because it was becoming ever more obvious that I was getting deeper into this relaxed morass than moving out.
I was also glad to have Bevin around because I was not sure what to expect and Bevin is not one easily intimidated by the temporarily physically-challenged. Also my three sweet hard-working apprentices (a tip of the metaphorical hat to you Brittany, Bryan and Pearl) were not quite sure of what to do with their beached-whale-like teacher.

I could speak and did every once in a while. I think I did it more for my own sake just to make sure that I could. Also, it seemed the only way I could communicate with myself was to speak out loud (audible whisper mode). With later insight I realized I did this because my head was so vacuous, that the only way to carry on an internal conversation was to externalize the words otherwise they would get lost in the void formerly known as my mind. I was conscious to not speak too loudly as hearing someone talk to themselves frequently is one of those scary warning signs.

I had a bit of a motto that I would repeat to myself and anyone in earshot-“Conscious but Altered”. Somehow I liked how this sounded.

Eventually I acquired the wherewithal to go carry my body weight outside, blanket in tow, to lie outside and watch the tall grasses move in the brilliant blueness of a sunny northeastern autumn. One of the apprentices brought me a blanket to help keep me off the cold ground. Eventually I moved two more times, leaving a trail of blankets behind, and made it to the small wooden pier to the pond here.

And I continued to do what it seemed Atropa wanted of my nervous system, and that was to stare off into nature and be empty-headed. I was not too lost to the world as I did have some thoughts such as “if I am having an anticholinergic effect, how come my eyes are no more sensitive to the sun than usual”, and “is this the effects of the Belladonna or am I just playing weird head games with myself”. Now since I am already in possession of a weird head I could not really say for certain which it was.
At one point, the apprenti and Bevin came and joined me on the dock (glad to see that I was not preparing to jump in). It was good to have them there, but I was sensitized to sounds and I enjoyed it most when voices were quiet.

Now about 1½ hours later I realized that students were going to be coming up the path soon and that seemed way to much stimulation, so I dragged my bulk up to my room above the classroom. Much better. A bed and sunlight streaming in.
Two o’clock, class time, soon rolled around and the ever-capable Bevin was there to lead the show. I made a brief appearance in the class room for reasons more of habit than anything. Unfortunately one of the student’s mom’s was visiting and I’m glad the school year was drawing to a close, otherwise she might have dragged her away permanently.

I was aware and did answer a question or two, but then it was time to lie down and this time (and for the first time since this episode began) I became very tired and fell into a deep sleep for a few hours.

I awoke after a few hours much revived. This became obvious to all as my trademark biting sarcasm once again became my primary speech form.
So there you have it, another herbal odyssey