March 6, 2021
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The Place of Orchitic Musk in the Vegetal World

Musk-Orchid-ChokmahOrchidaceae is a diverse and widespread family of flowering plants with blooms that are often colourful and often fragrant, commonly known as the orchid family. Along with the Asteraceae, they are one of the two largest families of flowering plants, with between 21,950 and 26,049 currently accepted species.  More specifically to the point, Herminium monorchis, the musk orchid, is a commonly occurring species of European orchid.  The Musk Orchid is a inconspicuous and rare orchid of Germany, which prefers calcareous and wet-dry soils.  It is generally found in very short, well drained grasslands on chalk or limestone [3] There are up to 20 species of Herminium, a Eurasian genus, recorded but only one from Europe.  In the UK, Musk Orchid is alone in the genus Herminium, but globally there are about species. It has a localised distribution in Britain; sites where it is found include Ham Hill in Wiltshire. [4] The hillsides at this site have short, herb-rich grassland, and the flatter areas, taller vegetation. This is one of only two confirmed sites in Wiltshire for Musk Orchid (Herminium monorchis). The leaves are 2 or 3 in number and elongated elliptical. It grows in short grass on lime. Contrary to the name, it smells of honey rather than musky. [5] The floral fragrance is essential for the attraction of pollinators, which must be very small indeed in order to pollinate this particular orchid. However, it seems that Musk Orchid mainly propagates vegetatively, forming large colonies in some European locations.  It grows in neglected grasslands as well as in fens. It small stature means that it cannot compete if the vegetation is tall, so thin or compact soils that restricts plant grow are favored. It particularly like the narriw “terracettes” formed on steep downland slopes by soil creep, as well as ancient earthworks, abandoned quaries, chalk and lime pits and spoil heaps. [6] The plant emits during flowering time, which lies between June and July, a honey-like scent.

Herminium_monorchis-Orchis_Mainly Musk Orchids propagate vegetatively by underground stolons, so that they are often in small troops to be found.  This overall greenish-yellow orchid is very difficult to spot and usually grows to about 15 cm (occasionally to 30 cm) on short calcareous grassland. The flowers have a strong honey scent and are very attractive to insects but in order to pollinate the minute flowers the insects must be very small indeed. Rather than relying solely on pollination it seems that the Musk Orchid is mainly propagated vegetatively which would account for the large colonies that form in some locations in Europe, although the flower numbers fluctuate tremendously from year to year making it a difficult species to monitor. The pretty little flowers of this diminutive orchid are honey-scented. They are easily mistaken for : Fen Orchid (Liparis loeselii) which also has a short (actually slightly taller) spike of yellow-green flowers, but there they are angled upwards (rather than angled downwards as Musk Orchid) They have some similarities with the Bog Orchid (Hammararbya paludosa) but that is half the height at onlt 6cm and has dark-green flowers that are outwardly-directed. There is a Superficial resemblance between Musk Orchids and the Small-White Orchid (Pseudorchis albida) but that also has flowers that are angled outwards and which are variously white, creamy-white, yellowish-green or green. The Mustk orchid is not un-like the Common Twayblade (Neottia ovata) but at 60cm that is much taller, and the flowers, although mainly yellowish-green, are man-shaped – tall and standing up with a large round cowl as a ‘head’. There is no relation with Musk (Mimulus moschatus), Musk Mallow (Malva moschata), Greater Musk-mallow (Malva alcea), Musk Storksbill (Erodium moschatum), nor to Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans) [plants with similar names belonging to disparate families].

The Symbolism and Ritual Use of Orchidic Musk

The orchids have been used for a very long time in love spells, specially the root, which is carried in sachet. [7] Some type of orchids are used in “creating visions, trance-states, and inducing psychic powers.” [8]

Tree of Life Attribution

Its perfume the orchitic musk, plant the amaranth, which is the flower of immortality. [1] In his qabalistic writtings, Aleister Crowley explain the attribution saying that ” the orchitic origin of Musk indicates Chokmah.  This is the male aspect of the work.” [2]


[1] Aleister Crowley, 777 and Other Qabalistic Writtings of Aleister Crowley, 13; Israel Regardie, A Garden of Pomegrenates, p. 42.
[2] Aleister Crowley, 777 and Other Qabalistic Writtings of Aleister Crowley, 113
[3] Anne Harrap & Simon Harrap, Orchids of Britain and Ireland: A Field and Site Guide Ebook,2009 on Google Book.
[4] Ham Hill  is an area of chalk downland in Wiltshire, on the steep banks running alongside the road from the village of Ham to Buttermere, close to the Berkshire border. A biological Site of Special Scientific Interest, notified in 1971, covers 1.5 hectares of the site; this designation is due to the site’s species-rich plant and insect communities, which include some rare species. Notable among these is the Musk Orchid (Herminium monorchis), which has been confirmed at only one other site in Wiltshire. The site is managed as a nature reserve by Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. It is managed by grazing with sheep to prevent scrub encroachment and takeover by rank vegetation, which would otherwise crowd out the scarce plant species.
[5] Anne Harrap & Simon Harrap, Orchids of Britain and Ireland: A Field and Site Guide Ebook,2009on Google Book.
[6] Anne Harrap & Simon Harrap,Orchids of Britain and Ireland: A Field and Site Guide Ebook,2009on Google Book.
[7] Scott Cunningham, Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Expanded & Revised Edition, p. 190.
[8] Scott Cunningham, Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Expanded & Revised Edition, p. 190.


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