Herbs of the Sun, Moon and Planets is a herbal with a difference because it looks at why ancient herbalists, like Nicholas Culpeper, decided to group various culinary and medicinal herbs under the astrological dominion of the Sun, Moon and the planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Of course, the title otherwise would make you wonder what it is about because this is the only planet in this Solar System with vegetation growing on it, as far as we know.
Culpeper: Public Domain
The ancient herbalists assigned plants to planetary rulers according to their characteristics. For example, herbs ruled by Mars the god of war, had something aggressive about them, such as spines or sword-shaped leaves. Herbs ruled by Venus the goddess of love had some connection with sensuality and passion.
Dragon Tree: Public Domain
The weird dragon tree from the Canary Islands is a herb of Mars. It has lance-shaped leaves and bleeds a red resinous sap called dragon’s blood. The rose is a symbol of romantic love, and not surprisingly is a herb of Venus. Herbs of the Sun could have golden-yellow flowers, like the sunflower, or perhaps they have petals that radiate out from a central disk. The sunflower has this characteristic too. Herbs of the Moon have something rounded about them, such as rounded leaves, or white or silvery colour. The white water lily is a good example of a herb of the Moon. water is also associated with the Moon because the Moon has an effect on the tides.
White Water Lilies : Public Domain
Mercury was the messenger of the gods, so herbs ruled by Mercury have something that really communicates about them. Fennel is an example of a herb of Mercury. It communicates visually with its graceful appearance and feathery leaves, and to our tastes and sense of smell with its flavour like aniseed and aroma like aniseed too. Herbs of Jupiter have something expansive about them and this is why many trees, such as the lime tree and the oak, are considered as under the dominion of Jupiter. Herbs of Saturn could be poisonous ones, like the hemlock, the monkshood and the henbane. This is because Saturn is associated with death and the “Grim Reaper.”
Herbs of the Sun, Moon and Planets is being published by Moon Books at the end of May, 2016. It has seven sections for each of the seven heavenly bodies, and seven herbs are described in each section. The book follows on from Herbs of the Northern Shaman which was published by the same publisher. It is already listed on Amazon.
An online course about Herbs of the Sun, Moon and Planets
With the help of my partner Melissa Houghton I am putting together an online course of video presentations featuring the many herbs covered in my book. The course will give additional information to what is in the book and will include footage of the actual plants which will be useful for identification. We want this educational project to be an artistic one and so it will contain Melissa’s poetry in places too. It will be a collaboration and a work of inspiration, as well as a work of education.
Birth of Venus :Public Domain
In addition to looking at why the ancient herbalists decided that specific herbs were governed by particular planets and their deities, and the associated folklore and superstitions about the plants, I will be looking at the practical uses for the herbs, in herbal medicine and in the kitchen, in the perfume industry, to make cosmetics, or to make clothes dyes even. Herbs are all around us and have so many uses. The painkiller we all know as Aspirin has its origins in the willow tree. Herbs are a part of the natural world and help us connect with it, the more we know about them. This is why this project is educational in a bigger way than just learning about herbs and how they were once viewed by the herbalists of the past.
Melissa and I have started a Kickstarter Campaign to help us raise the money for a trip to London where we can visit Kew Gardens and capture video footage for the course, as well as to consult the fantastic library in this world famous botanical gardens. Kew is a place where we can get up close to the plants I have written about, and where I can research about them in the library. The Herbarium at Kew Gardens has over seven million specimens in its vast collection. The Kew Library, which is part of the Herbarium, has one of the largest collections relating to botany in the world. Where better could a researcher go?
To find out more about our campaign please see Film featuring Herbology with the Bard of Ely at Kew Gardens. Please support the campaign by backing it and sharing it! With your help we can make this work! Backers will receive an artfully rendered film of Kew Gardens with me showing you the plants we found there, and Melissa waxing poetically.
Endorsements for Herbs of the Sun, Moon and Planets
Herbs of the Sun, Moon and Planets has received some excellent endorsements. Celebrated poet and author Peter Finch had this to say about it: “The spirit here might at first seem to be Sun Ra via Captain Beefheart or Dr William Price channelling Iolo Morganwg but read and you’ll find a work of accessible erudition, a herbalist ground breaker of considerable scope. Steve Andrews, poet, mystic, and author of distinction rides again.”
And Archdruid of Avebury and Keeper of the Stones, Terry Dobney, endorsed it with these words: “As the Keeper of the Stones here at Avebury, the knowledge of the herbs, plants and trees is a daily wonder, and this knowledge is there in this intriguing book, for all to unlock the secrets of their magic and uses. A beneficial "right" arm to those full of questions! Seek the knowledge and you will understand - highly recommended!”