MAKING SPAGYRIC ESSENCES
In describing how to make spagyric essences, I have tried to keep things very simple. There is already a great deal written about alchemy, and much of it leads away from the simplicity of the original intention, which is to maintain contact with the astral and vital healing powers of plants, to capture these powers, and through alchemy, even enhance them.
A well-made spagyric essence is a liquid of delightful fineness. Take time to make the essences well and you will be rewarded with tools of healing that will serve you well. Choosing an apposite time to make them according to the planetary disposition is ideal but even more important is to make them while you are in a positive and cheerful frame of mind. Manfred Junius used to say it was important to make spagyric essences with love, just as it is important to cook with love for the family and friends who will sit around your table. Use meditation and prayerfulness to clear the mind and free the heart of anxiety and resentment; these will contaminate. Let your shadow fall across them as little as possible, both literally and metaphorically. Far more can be achieved by working with conscious intention than by drifting along thinking of something else.
Alchemical work is a point of departure rather than an arrival. The study of both plants and alchemy is a fascinating pursuit that is never finished. The work is a continual process, both on the inner and the outer plane. It is for you to find your own way of working with the herbs and to draw upon the great gifts of nature that are freely given. Making even one spagyric essence for yourself brings with it a deepening awareness of yourself and the world around you.
Even if you live in a city, you may still own enough outdoor space in which to grow some herbs in a container. Choose plants to which you are drawn and pay attention to them, by which I mean more than simply providing enough water. By observing their growth from seeds or cuttings you can contact their healing forces. If you cannot grow your own herbs, make friends with plants whenever you are out in the countryside; take time to sit with them and find out what you can about how they grow and how they respond to light, dark, and the changes in seasons.
Common name: Yarrow
Other names: Thousand-leaf, Nosebleed, Milfoil. The plant is known in French as Mille fleuille; in German as Scharfgarbe; in Italian as Achillea.
Ruling planet: Venus
Parts used: leaves and flowers
The plant is evergreen and therefore available for most of the year. It dries well if hung up in small bunches where the air can circulate. It is a plant best harvested when flowering. Its fine leaves have a large surface area, and the plant can accumulate toxins from the atmosphere, such as car exhaust, so choose your harvesting area carefully.
Achillea millefolium is native to Europe but is widespread across all temperate zones. It is a perennial, aromatic herb that grows to about two feet in height. The bipinate leaves, between two and four inches long, are slightly hairy and divided into fine leaflets that grow in a graduated way, like a feather. They are broadest near the bottom of the stem. The white or pinkish white flowers surmount an erect furrowed stem up to two feet high and appear in late spring/early summer.
Sphere of Therapeutic Action
Nicholas Culpeper attributes the knowledge of this plant to Achilles, after whom it is named and was instructed in its use by Chiron the Centaur. Achilles used it as a wound dressing for the fallen heroes of the Trojan War; it is a valuable styptic, quickly reducing bleeding from open wounds and stopping hemorrhages. Thought to have a special affinity for healing wounds made with iron, it has been called the “Soldier’s woundwort,” herba militaris, and Knight’s milfoil, and has been used as a battlefield remedy for centuries. No special preparation is required; he leaves stripped from the stem can be packed in and around a fresh wound, where its antibacterial and antimicrobial action will set to work. It is also an effective painkiller.
In the Doctrine of Signatures its fine feathery leaves are shown to resemble blood vessels, branching out and becoming finer and finer, and indeed this is the sphere of its action. It will reduce hypertension by dilating the smaller blood vessels and the capillaries. This same dilating ability applies also to the skin. During a fever, yarrow will open the pores and encourage sweating. Fresh leaves rolled up and stuffed into the nostrils will abort a nosebleed, and this use for the plant has become one of its common folk names: nosebleed plant.
Achillea millefolium will resolve congealed blood, so it can be used for clots, bruises, and bleeding beneath the skin or fingernails. It has even been known to be effective in aneurism and stroke. Its ability to relieve stagnancy in the blood means that it is also an excellent remedy for women; it will regularize the periodic flow, correcting it when the flow is too heavy or scanty and reducing clotting. Its normalizing effects may help to correct infertility in women, and it has the additional advantage of ameliorating period pains. As a styptic, it is useful in metrorrhagia and menorrhagia.
So, a soldier’s remedy, a women’s remedy: yarrow has been called a “cure-all” for its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, astringent, carminative, tonic, and anti-spasmodic qualities. In Old English, it was called gearwe, meaning simply “healer.”
Achillea millefolium can be combined with most other herbs, as it seems to intensify the medicinal action of other herbs.
Sensitive skin may be irritated. Avoid in pregnancy because it can cause contractions. Avoid when breastfeeding and with small children under five years old. Large doses can cause vertigo or headaches in people who are susceptible.