A Working with Bitter Nightshade: Binding & Reading

by Jessica Pape-Green

[This post was originally posted to WordPress and may have formatting errors as a result to being moved here.]

Yesterday, Kendra and I spent the majority of the day gardening, getting our recently purchased plants finally in the ground. We've found that we work best with Kendra laying out tasks and me offering input and opinions based on my own experience, but still largely taking her direction. The last task set for me was to plant our shade plants and pull up as much of the bitter nightshade that had taken over the corner by the ramp as possible. I then shooed Kendra inside because she wasn't feeling well.

Once I got to the nightshade, I found that it was relatively easy to pull up and I only needed my clippers to make short work of tangles and did not need my trowel or knife at all. After a few minutes I remembered that the suburbs are not the woods I'm used to, and I can't just dump pulled weeds in some area I don't care about - I have to actually put them in one of those lawn waste bags for pick up. *SIGH*

So I retrieve the bag and set back to work. As I continue working, it strikes me that I feel a potential for magic here. I'm reminded of the time I used poison ivy to curse my late aunt's husband because he'd revealed himself to be an absolute piece of shit upon her death. Bitter nightshade is not like poison ivy, however. It's a surprisingly feeble plant that will take over when unchecked, and while its toxin is easy to avoid, it can be deadly if you let your guard down. (Neighbourhood children play in our yard sometimes, so these deadly poisonous berries were our primary reason for removing it.) In fact, come to think of it, that is a great description for my father-in-law.

We've been joking for over a year about cursing my father-in-law, due to the way he's become an abusive monster. The main reason we haven't is that when we're most motivated to is after he has been so awful that it has exhausted us and neither of us have energy to do the working. We are unable to fully cut him off for our health and safety because he also happens to have huge health issues and the government literally will not let close relations "abandon" their elders if they have needs. Even though he would honestly have more resources and better care if they took over his case. It's a tricky topic because these rules are there to prevent elder abuse, but the frank uncomfortable truth is that we do not actually oweour elders care against our will, especially so when the elder in question is literally causing psychological trauma and a constant real threat to personal safety.

So you can see why I thought bitter nightshade matched him well.

It's a surprisingly feeble plant that will take over when unchecked, and while its toxin is easy to avoid, it can be deadly if you let your guard down.

I quickly figured out that what I wanted to do was a binding, limiting his ability to access us for non-necessary reasons. So, using the bitter nightshade as a proxy for him, I began my work. I'd pull up a plant or clip off a bundle of vines, twist it back on itself a couple times, then wrap it in the remainder of its vines. I sang to myself "I uproot you, I bind you, I take you away from here," all the while keeping in mind my intention of limiting my father-in-law's ability to hurt us.

And then something interesting happened. I found that the plant was growing thickest around the ramp he used to use to get into the house, and despite the fact that it's a normally weak plant, it became much harder to pull up. One plant in particular was rooted right at the root of the house, was strongly lodged in place, and I couldn't use my trowel or knife to remove it because it was right next to electrical... things. Look, I'm not an electrician, but I know what I shouldn't be swinging metal tools at. Instead, I used my clippers to to take off all the vines. Plants started bleeding on me when they hadn't done so before and giving me minor lacerations despite being a pretty soft plant. I couldn't help but read the situation. The divination here was obvious.

Uprooting my father-in-law was never going to be easy and complete. Whatever power I exercise and however weak he may seem, he will fight back. He is too connected to our house, too close to our own roots, to be able to remove fully.

In the end, the last of it had to be saved for another day, due to my back issues and having already worked so hard that day. I do think there had to have been some measure of success because of the powerful response I got from the working. If the plants hadn't started behaving differently, if I hadn't been able to divine from the situation, I might have had my doubts. But everything flowed so naturally and so powerfully that I have a feeling I successfully did something, even if I probably won't get the full effect I want until I successfully tear it all out.

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