On Growing a Saturnian Garden

As I write this, I am 5 months into growing my first Mandrake plants. If you had asked me last summer if I’d ever grow mandrake, I’d have probably given you some serious side eye. Why would I ever want to grow mandrake (okay, there is a legitimate answer for that and I’d have known it even then, I just wasn’t particularly curious about it that point in my life—after all, I had a 4 year old in my home and it isn’t the safest of plants to introduce into a home with a child). But in Dec of 2018, out of nowhere, I suddenly got it in my head to go buy Mandragora seeds.

Long story short, out of the blue, within a week, I had up and ordered these seeds without really giving it much thought or having done much research and having no clear idea about what I was going to do with the plants when they grew.

I won’t lie. When I started out with the seeds, I was totally winging it. I planted them in peat pots I purchased from Canadian Tire. I didn’t cold water stratify them. I just plunked them into their peat pots, added a drop of an elemental tincture link into each pot, and stuck them on my altar in my practice room, off to the side of the window because I’d read that seedlings shouldn’t have direct light (not sure about that now but it worked so…).

The first challenge I faced was that, despite the fact that I watered them lightly, by dropper (yes, by dropper), mold started to grow on the peat pots. I was such a newbie at growing plants that I didn’t even know this is what it was at first, so I actually watched it grow with a certain amount of fascination. Thankfully my hyper paranoid nature started to wonder and did some research.

So I scraped off the mold and lifted the lid so that it was better ventilated. I think I probably also moved the plants into more light. And lo and behold the plants started to grow. It was so exciting. And it was amazing to share it with my son. Every day we checked on my plant babies and when he got bored, I’d stay behind and talk to my little seedlings in order to foster the link between us.

As the plants grew, the link became stronger. It was amazing. And unexpected. I honestly never thought plants would speak to me. That they would enter into my dreams or just let me know things in a way that was undoubtably linked to them. I mean, I knew it was possible but having no experience with it, I never expected it would happen to me. I was open to the idea but wasn’t looking or expecting it.

And just like that, my entire world started to evolve. What I knew to be my path suddenly took a sharp veering off into another direction. Saturn is not an easy taskmaster. Any skeletons that were in my closet came out. Literally and figuratively. In the time that my mandrakes grew, my husband came out as bisexual (this wasn’t news but rather a question of him coming to terms with his own identity) and we had to deal with it as a family; my resentments and frustrations were unveiled within a group dynamic; I applied to a new job and started seriously thinking about leaving the company I’ve worked at for over 11 years; and I left my coven of 9 years.  Of course, you could argue that these were merely coincidences or that it was uber retrograde season. But I believe it was more than that. I feel that perhaps planetary retrogrades may have contributed but I don’t think it was coincidental. Especially given the way I just knew things about my plants.

Saturn had started working its magic and I couldn’t resist the call this turn of the wheel, even if it meant that it turned my life inside out.

I ordered more Saturnian seeds. Datura. Henbane. Belladonna. Mullein. I learned about cold water stratification with the Henbane and Belladonna. My mandrakes continued to grow and I eventually transitioned them into larger pots and took them outside. My energies shifted as I started to work with the other plants. They challenged me in very different ways. They were slower, more cagey, harder to pin down (except for the Mullein which has thrived even in the face of indifference). The Belladonna felt hard. And ultimately, she never grew for me. The Henbane had so many false starts. It was only when I put her on mound like hills that she started to take.

The Datura was the biggest surprise of them all. Just when I had given up, she thrived. I read somewhere that Datura comes to you when you have work to do on yourself. And she only started to grow after I left my coven. There’s something in that timing. There is also something to the fact that I fought bug infestations in 3 of the plant families I grew: mandrake, henbane, and datura. By the time the infestation hit the Datura, I was much better equipped to treat it, but I spent more time cleaning and tending these plants than I have any other plant in my life.

I haven’t completely unpacked the challenges, timings, and attacks yet, but I know that they are significant. I need to ponder whether the challenges arose from external, internal sources, or both.

My other Saturnian plants have not invaded my dreams and life the same way the Mandrakes did. Perhaps this is because I didn’t keep them in my magical craft room and talk to them in the same way. Perhaps it was because I had too many energies and plants vying for my attention by that point. I don’t really know. But I do know that despite the challenges of the past season, my Saturnian plants have helped me grown in ways I’d have never expected when I started this journey. Whether I end up harvesting them or growing them again next year is irrelevant. For me, the largest part of working with plants magically is less about the end product and more about the alchemical transformation and relationship that occurs during the process. I have emerged from this working transformed. Still the same; yet different. I am inspired by what the plants have to teach me and where my alchemical plant journeys will lead next growing season.

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