Having previously published Stanislas de Guaita’s brief dictionary-like entry on the Tarot, as well as his table of analogical correspondences, and prior to publishing a more extensive examination on what we may term the “medical Tarot,” we have seen fit to present another entry from de Guaita’s work, the only one, to the best of our knowledge, which mentions a potential correlation between the arcana of the Tarot and the list of 16 plants with magical properties, known as the Chaldean herbs.
With the exception of vervain, De Guaita does not further develop the analogies or correspondences between the plants and the arcana of the Tarot. In effect, vervain is summarily dealt with in the entry immediately preceding this one, based chiefly on an article by the spagyrist Jan Baptist van Helmont in his De magnetica vulnerum curatione, but like the alchemist before him, studiously omitting to specify the means by which this plant may be used to concoct a love potion. De Guaita’s source for the list of Chaldean herbs is the Trinum Magicum of Cæsar Longinus, 1629 [1630; pp. 168-180 in the linked version]. One will note some of the minor divergences in spelling from the list given in the work attributed to Albertus Magnus, the Grand Albert, the ultimate source of these herbs. This entry, ‘Plantes Magiques,’ appears on page 372 of Le Serpent de la Genèse, book 1, Le Temple de Satan, Librairie du Merveilleux, 1891.
The topic of hermetic herbology is extremely interesting, and English-speaking readers now benefit from the new editions of the classic French works Hermetic Herbalism by Jean Mavéric and Occult Botany by Paul Sédir, both superbly translated and annotated by R. Bailey, and which provide a wealth of information on the subject, and whose English equivalences we have followed here.
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Stanislas de Guaita
The attractive plant is not the only one doted with occult properties of a marvellous energy. The ancient mages knew of 22 plants, whose properties corresponded to the esoteric significance of the 22 arcana of the absolute Doctrine. Vervain was related to Arcanum VI (the Lover of the Tarot).
The magicians of the Middle Ages had been able to gather only the remnants of these traditions. The late heirs of a science that had become very debased, albeit still real, they reduced the list of sacred plants to sixteen names. (1) Moreover, the numerical order of the ordinary classification was inverted, and unfortunate substitutions further altered an already unrecognisable nomenclature.
According to Cæsar Longinus, the sixteen sacred plants are:
- Heliotrope (the Chaldean Ireos), the herb of sincerity;
- Nettle (Roybra), the herb of bravery;
- Shepherd’s Purse (Lorumborat), the herb of fertility;
- Greater Celandine (Aquilaris), the herb of triumph;
- Periwinkle (Iterisi), the herb of fidelity;
- Catnip (Bieith), the herb of vitality;
- Hound’s-Tongue (Algeil), the herb of sympathy;
- Henbane (Mansesa), the herb of death;
- Lily (Augo), the herb of manifestation;
- Mistletoe (Luperax), the herb of salvation;
- Greater Centaury (Isiphilon), the herb of enchantments;
- Sage (Coloricon), the herb of life;
- Vervain (Ophanas), the herb of love;
- Lemon Balm (Celeivos), the herb of comfort;
- Rose (Eglerisa), the herb of initiation;
- Bistort (Cartulin), the herb of fluids.
- The science of the neo-mages of Chaldea.
Image: Image of Vervain taken from Matthiole’s Commentaries on Dioscorides, 1572. Source.
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