Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

I’m not sure how many folks out there understand French. Translated, that means “the more things change, the more it’s the same thing”. Happens a lot but for about 1600 years? Read on.

A couple of years ago, I got all excited about Mullein popping up in our yard. I had a good harvest in 2010 and last year but this year? All I have are leaves; no stalks, no flowers. No flowers=no seeds so I’ll just have to hope the birds and wind help me out from afar next year.

In that post I mentioned that powdered Mullein can be used as a substitute for graveyard dirt in spells. (If you’re practicing true hoodoo, there is no substitute for dirt collected and purchased from a graveyard.) The substitution is lucky for me – I live a long way from relatives’ graves and the graveyards around here aren’t friendly to my type. As a matter of fact, the residents of the closest one don’t want me to set foot on the property, even in daylight. I do try to respect the wishes of the dead …

Anyway, this use is pretty common knowledge in the modern magical world but me being the nosy, intellectual type, I like to know why and I found a trail the other day while reading this book about magic in the Greek and Roman worlds:

Mullein is mentioned in the Cyranides, a Hermetic magico-medical compilation from about the 4th century CE. There, it is called nekua, or literally “death plant”. It was used to protect against demons, presumably demons of the dead. One use of graveyard dirt is protection so the substitution of Mullein makes a little more sense.

Now, to find an English translation of the Cyranides to follow the trail farther (or rabbit off on another one) …