Paracelsus, the 14th century doctor, chemist, alchemist and founder of modern chemistry, used the doctrine of ‘like cures like’ (homeopathic principle) and the relationship between plants and planets to treat illness.
“if an organ is sick, the doctor appeals to the corresponding organ in the macrocosm”
As a simple explanation of this:
- Every planet corresponds to a different organ in the body. Eg. Jupiter = liver.
- Every plant corresponds to a planet. Eg. Jupiter and Dandelion.
So if you had a sick liver, you would look to Jupiter and one of Jupiter’s corresponding plants (eg. Dandelion) to cure.
This is simplified. As there are hundreds of herbs, you would use a Jupiter herb that corresponded to the specific symptoms – both physically and emotionally and using the principle of Like cures like.
This is the basis of planetary rulership of herbs. So how do we learn more about this?
There are resources that list herbal correspondences that can be used as a guide, one of the oldest is Culpeper’s Compleat Herbal.
But the real knowledge of planetary rulership comes from, firstly knowing a little about each of the planets and what they represent and are associated with, and then getting to know the plants directly.
It can be easy to generalise and be seduced into creating rules. But be warned! Blanket statements such as all spiky plants are ruled by Mars, or orange flowers are Sun herbs, or big flowers are ruled by Jupiter (expansion, big energy), can be useful as a general guide, but when it comes down to it, can be quite off the mark. The importance lies in individual connection. Each plant will express their energies uniquely. And more than that, each has a multitude of planetary relationships.
To discover a plant’s planetary ruler, you need to understand the core essence of the plant. Then you’ll see the planetary rulership running through the whole picture, rather than just one aspect. Even plants with the same planetary ruler can express this in vastly different ways. There’s no one size fits all.
For example, when you have a spiky plant, there’s some Mars energy in there. But is the plant as a whole ruled by Mars is the question. That’s what you want to get to.
The doctrine of signatures is an awesome imaginary tool and it’s one of the ways that plants can talk to us and teach us. If we go in thinking that something is ruled by a certain planet, we can really close down to greater learning as then there is a tendency to affirm what you think you know already, rather than staying open to what’s there.
In alchemy, we work with the astrology and the rulerships of the planet and we always work on the days or hours that are ruled by the planet that governs the plant. So, if it’s a Sun plant, we’ll work on Sundays, for instance. But sometimes I go into an alchemy not knowing what the astrological relationship is, or maybe having an idea from external sources, but not really knowing. For example, the Mugwort alchemy was like that. In various books, I found conflicting rulerships of Mugwort – some say it is ruled by the Moon, others say it’s ruled by Venus, so I went into that alchemy with a question. I wonder what it will be! Open to all possibilities. Very quickly, and that might not always be the case because some plants it can take some time to really understand, but it was fast with Mugwort – I was shown several plant signatures and it became clear of its relationship to the Moon. Of course, its name – Artemisia comes from Artemis, goddess of the Moon too, but on its own that isn’t enough. Again, you don’t go by just one thing you want to find the essence. What is the underlying essence of the plant? The planetary relationship will relate to that.
Another example of the need to assess each plant and get to know it in order to understand its planetary relationship, is Borage. Borage is ruled by Jupiter. Now if you go in with a fixed idea thinking Jupiter plants have big flowers, then you’ve already counted Borage out, as its flowers are small.
It is so easy to learn knowledge from books without ever making a direct connection and hence never building real wisdom of a plant, which creates a big gap in our understanding. It’s really important to listen and learn from the knowledge of our predecessors and external sources, to go in carrying them lightly, but also staying open to what happens in direct communication, because you may find a much greater truth that hasn’t been discovered or realised before. But, coming back to Borage, it does have very big leaves, and energetically, it has a big energy. You can’t see that by looking, but when you tune in, you can feel it. This is an expression of the Jupiter expansion energy. Jupiter plants often have a direct impact on the liver which is ruled by Jupiter, but you don’t see that so much in Borage although it does have a detox effect. This illustrates that not all Jupiter plants will work the same way. In Borage, you can see the expansiveness of Jupiter in a different way. It’s a cosmic plant. Starflower. It has a big relationship to stars and the big, cosmic picture and the courage to battle outward in order to be more here on this planet. So that’s a little of how Jupiter expresses through Borage. Planetary rulership may not be obvious to the untrained eye!
In a sense you can see that Jupiter plays out through many plants in the Boraginaceae family. In Australia, another in this family is Paterson’s Curse (Echium). It’s called Patterson’s curse because this guy called Patterson brought it to Australia, and it spread so widely over thousands of acres in New South Wales and took over and became a ‘curse’. Again, you can see this spreading expansive quality of Jupiter. Or Comfrey, it has this spreading nature too and big leaves, however, when you get to know it at a deeper level, the pervading energy is the opposite – Saturnine. Saturn is a contractive, condensing energy. The more you learn from Comfrey, the more you see the qualities of the Earth and Water elementals and how it works on these parts of us. This is why it is really important to know your elements, not in the sense of water is water, but really knowing their energetic qualities, what that means and how they express. Because the elementals are the base blocks of everything – of us, of plants, all of it. This is foundational herbal medicine and foundational nature connection to understand these energies, so that you can understand how the more complex layers of herbs unfold.
So as a whole, you could say the Boraginaceae family is quite Jupiter related, but that doesn’t mean that every plant within the family, will necessarily be ruled by Jupiter.
The main thing to remember is the importance of connecting directly, not going by a rule or someone else’s rules. There are generalities and it is great get to know these themes because it will help you to learn and discover and grow. But don’t let them become fixed rules!
For the most part you really need to get to know the plant before you’ll be able to understand their planetary rulership fully. Because you’ve got to see the essence, the core nature, and that takes a little while to get to. Layer by layer, just like a person, it takes time to see and know the deeper personality. You don’t know really who they are on a first meeting. Plants and people they’re the same. You’ll start with what is immediately apparent – the external image, the physical, and then slowly work inwards to begin to understand the soul level or essence of a plant. This doesn’t happen with just one meeting except for super exuberant and open plants!
Once you get to the deeper layers, the core layers, you start to understand why it does what it does physically (on the outer layers). The trouble with a lot of herbal information out there, is that it never goes beyond the external physical level. Or the essence is separated from the physical. When you reach the soul level, everything about the way that plant works and expresses begins to make sense. It’s all pervasive, it runs through the whole picture. There is no separation. When you get to the soul, you’ll understand why it works in that way on the physical, emotional and the spiritual, because it radiates through all of it.