When the wolfsbane is blooming, my ears prick up to the sound of howling in the distant hills. My pack is calling me, its Omega, home. ‘ You have spent enough time with the silly humans. Listen to the beating of your heart, to the pumping of the blood through your lupine veins.
[Below is a page from the website homeovision.org on some of the mythology and legends surrounding this, one of my most favourite of plants.]
Some species of Aconite were well known to the ancients as deadly poisons. It was said to be the invention of Hecate from the foam of Cerberus, and it was a species of Aconite that entered into the poison which the old men of the island of Ceos were condemned to drink when they became infirm and no longer of use to the State. Aconite is also supposed to have been the poison that formed the cup which Medea prepared for Theseus. (Note---Aconite and Belladonna were said to be the ingredients in the witches' 'Flying ointments.' Aconite causes irregular action of the heart, and Belladonna produces delirium. These combined symptoms might give a sensation of 'flying.'---ED.}\
Monkshood or Wolfsbane has a long history of association with witchcraft. Having proved too dangerously toxic for the legitimate pharmacy, it fell to the province of sorcerers & witches. It was a believed by many Christians to be a common ingredient in witches' potions, as is the case in Nathaniel Hawthorn's great tale of "Young Goodman Brown." Monkshoods are occasionally named "Love Poison" because it was used in love potions, forever the most popular thing witches (or any crone with a lifetime of herblore in her) was asked to concoct. If the proportions were gotten wrong, or if it was over used when not effective on the first couple doses, the object of the potion's effect merely died.
Mixed with belladonna, it was thought to induce hallucinations, & a widespread but improbable story is that covens of witches rubbed a concoction of monkshood & belladona all over their bodies in order to fly, or at least imagine they were flying. The toxin can in fact be absorbed through skin, & can at least caused elevated sense of extreme well-being. So whether or not it was actually used within sorcerous covens, there seems little doubt that, given the nature of the human beast, it was often regarded worth the risk of death merely to get stoned.
In mythology, Monkshood was nefarious Medea's poison of choice. Ovid said she gathered it in Scythia, where it first grew from the slobber of three-headed Cerberus, the terrible dog that guards the gate to Tartarus. Pliny also tells the story of Hercules dragging the monstrous beast through its cavern to chain it to a pillar, & from its howling snapping jaws slavering froth flung out of cave giving rise to this plant in the mortal world. So when called "Dogbane," Cerberus the offspring of the Echidna is the dog meant.
For another post on this oft misinterpreted beauty click here.