On April 4th, we end the most recent Mercury Retrograde cycle.  It is time for the planet Mercury, the cosmic messenger, to resume a direct course in the heavens. Here at the Dream Tribe, we’ve dedicated our posts for this retrograde time to honor the symbolic energy of Mercury, the messenger in his/her many guises and forms.

Our final post on dream messengers will focus on how plants can help to influence and activate the messages that come in dreams.

Plants that shift our consciousness

Plants have many abilities to shift and open our consciousness. The plants in this category that often first come to mind are the visionary/psychotropic plants and fungi like Los Ninos Santos (psilocybin mushroom), Peyote, San Pedro Cactus, and Ayhuasca.

As an herbalist, I have observed that many other plants and herbs, not just the psychotropic ones, have an ability to affect our consciousness.  All plants have both spirit and intelligence.  Therefore any plant, even something as ordinary as grass, can affect both our waking and dreaming states.

Plants that induce special dream states

Certain plants are known for their ability to influence & activate the dream state.  The name for the category of plants that induce dreams is “oneirogen.”

Oneirogen plants are dream messengers, as they bring about messages in and from the dream world.   One of the most well-known dream inducing plants is mugwort, artemesia vulgaris.  Both Ryan and I have written about mugwort previously here at DT.  In general, mugwort tends to activate dreaming and stimulate colorful, vibrant, Alice-in-Wonderland type of dreams.  Mugwort is a great plant to help induce dreams for people who normally don’t remember their dreams.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with other lesser-known oneirogen plants.  These include calea zacatechichi (“bitter grass”, “leaf of the god”); hemia salicifolia (“abra de sol” or “sun opener”) and seline capensis (“Xhosa dream plant”).

The Xhosa dream plant

Today I’ll focus on seline, the Xhosa dream plant, which I’m happy to say I planted in my dream herb garden bed just yesterday!

Seline is native to South Africa, and is used ceremonially by the Xhosa speaking tribal people. There are 8 million Xhosa speaking people in South Africa and they are divided into several distinct tribes.  Xhosa is the second most common language spoken in South Africa after Zulu. Famous people of Xhosa descent include Nelson Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu.


Dreams, divination and the ancestors all play a big role in the traditional culture & spirituality of the Xhosa.  In this way, the dream-inducing plant, silene capensis, is considered a very sacred herb to the Xhosa.  The Xhosa name for this plant is “undela zimmhlope” which translates to “white ways” or “white path.”[2]  White is a sacred color to the Xhosa, who consider the color white to be directly connected to their ancestors.[3]

Silene is used traditionally by the Xhosa for divinatory dreams.  Silene activates dreams that are vivid, prophetic and lucid. As the “white ways” dream plant, Silene dreams tend to include imagery infused with the color white.  Another special characteristic of Silene is that its dreams are so realistic that it is hard to distinguish them from waking life.

An unusual feature of Silene is that it is normally taken in the morning to affect the dream state at night.  A person maintains a normal, ordinary state of consciousness during the day when taking it and then the visionary properties of the plant are activated during sleep.

Xhosa dream observations

An interesting thing I observed when taking Xhosa is that the visionary dreams came to me, but with some lag time. Often a few days & nights would pass between taking the Xhosa in the morning and the arrival of the dream a few nights later.

The first silene induced dream came a few nights after taking it.  This dream was very realistic and very detailed.  This dream was also sexual and personal, so I will not share it in detail here.  However, the quality of detail and realism I experienced in this dream was notably unusual and vivid.

The white path

A few nights later, I had this dream:

I am travelling near Point Reyes.  I pass by someone’s yard and see a white horse.  I open the gate and borrow the horse.  I am riding the horse bareback.  It takes me on a journey that is both exciting and frightful.

When I awoke from this dream, I did not make any connection to taking the silene.  Since I had taken it a few days earlier, I wasn’t paying close attention to the way that it might be affecting my dream state.

Later that week, it dawned on me that the white horse was an unusual dream character for me.  I do not often dream of horses and I have never dreamed of a white horse.  However, the white horse is definitely a white being, a classic signature of a silene dream messenger.   Also, since the Xhosa name translates to “white path”, I realized that in this dream, the white horse was taking me on a journey on a definite path.  The path was not white, but the being carrying me on it was!

Magical being in white

The next time I dreamed with silene, the dream came more immediately.  I incubated a dream with silene for Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead—a time of the year when the ancestors are close to those of us here on the earth plane.

I encounter a being in white.  Brilliantly white, covered with feathers like a white peacock or swan. 

This dream was easier to recognize as a silene dream.  As I write this, I give thanks to the appearance of this angelic being in my dreams, who may be an ancestor or spirit guide and I give thanks to the Xhosa dream plant for bringing this messages and messengers from the dream world.

Safety considerations

Silene and the other dream-inducing plants are very sacred and should be taken in a safe and respectful way.  Make sure you do good research into the safety considerations of using these herbs before taking any of these plants.

I used the alchemical extract of silene from Al-kemi (http://www.al-qemi.com/) and followed the recommended dosage of 1-3 drops.  Other herbal preparations may have different strengths, so carefully follow the recommendations given with the product.

Have you had any silene dreams you’d like to share? Please share them below.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xhosa_people

[2] http://entheology.com/plants/silene-capensis-african-dream-root/

[3] http://al-kemi.com/alchemy/2009/02/silene-dreaming-in-white/

Silene Capensis photo by haraldhobbit