11″ X 17″ HELLEBORE Art print on Parchment from Maxine Miller's Magical Botanicals Plant Series.
This print depicts HELLEBORE from this series.
Print is unframed and signed by Maxine Miller.
Hellebore (Helleborius Niger) is native to much of Europe and is commonly found in early spring and shade gardens in North America as well. The flowers have five petal-like sepals that surround a ring of cup-like nectaries (petals modified to hold nectar). These sepals stay on the plant sometimes for many months giving hellebores a long “blooming” time. They often flower in winter and early spring with some evergreen species and are shade and frost hardy, making them quite useful for problem garden areas.
Superficially, many hellebores look like members of the rose family but they are actually members of the buttercup family. These two families are very similar in appearance but they have an important difference. Most members of the rose family are edible, or at least harmless. Most members of the buttercup family are poisonous, or at least mildly toxic.
Ancient herbals distinguish between Black Hellebore and White Hellebore. White Hellebore has been identified by modern scholars as a plant now known as False Hellebore. Black Hellebore, on the other hand has been identified as Helleborus officianalis, a native of Greece and Asia Minor.
The genus name, Helleborus comes from the Greek elein, meaning “to injure” and bora, meaning “food” alluding to the plant’s poisonous nature.
Perhaps the most insidious use of hellebore is in the death of Alexander the Great. He was in Babylon at the time and was already taking medication administered by his royal cup bearer Iollas, a position that required the utmost trust.
Having created many powerful enemies through his conquests of the Mediterranean and North Africa, it was only a matter of time before an assassination attempt was made. This turned out to be an inside job arranged and executed by top Greek politicians.
Using the son of Alexander’s Greek Viceroy as a ‘mule’, hellebore was brought into Babylon, cleverly hidden inside a mules hoof. It was later administered by the royal cupbearer in a dreadful betrayal of his position. Twelve days later and Alexander was dead from an overdose of hellebore.
There are also stories of the great Hippocrates using hellebore as a purgative although the actual plant used is believed to be the white hellebore, also known as Veratrum album or False Hellebore. Nevertheless, this plant is also highly toxic containing the poisons jervine, cyclopamine and veratrine.
However there is however one story in Greek Mythology where Hellebore has been given a positive message. It was used to cure the daughters of King Midas after they were touched by madness and found running naked through the streets screaming. Believed to have been given the madness by the god Dionysus, it was the quick thinking actions off Melampus of Pylos who, after administering a potion of hellebore, managed to save both the daughters and the day.
There is one more rather charming story that is derived from the Helleborus nigra, a plant which is more commonly known as the Christmas rose. Tradition says that the Christmas rose received its name after growing from the tears of a young Jewish girl. The reason why she was so sad was because she was too poor to have a gift to give the baby Jesus, as was the custom in her day. The rest of that story, as they say, is history.
According to some sources, Hellebore was an ingredient in the legendary “flying ointment” and it has long association with witches and witchcraft.
Hellebore is associated with Mars and Saturn and corresponds to the element water.
It is used in magic for healing of mental/emotional afflictions and for banishing and exorcisms. It has been used also for increasing intelligence and for protection and invisibility spells. Apparently the plant was dried and powdered and scattered around the person to be made invisible. Ancient magicians also used hellebore to change the nature of other plants, to make their fruits have various unpleasant and unhealthy properties by either grafting the plants together or using hellebore as fertilizer.
This is a baneful herb which should never be ingested and you should wear gloves when handling it.
For magical purposes, roses can be substituted for hellebore.
Artist: Maxine Miller
Specializing in Scottish, Irish, Welsh and the Celtic and Pagan Communities Worldwide.
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