Character: Deity Name: Henbane Pantheon: New Gods Current Alias: Nisha Banesworth Apparent Age: Twenties Occupation: Drifter - Nisha goes from job to job, keeping them only for a short time.
Personality: Henbane is very quiet. Few words leave her lips and she is most certainly not the chatty type. Even where “family” is concerned, she can be distant and withdrawn. She would rather be by herself than indulge in silly chatter. One might even say she is stuck up, considering how she will turn her back on almost any who approach her. But that usually isn’t much of a problem, considering she gives off a faint smell. It’s hardly distinguishable, but those who detect it are often turned off and turn tail as quickly as possible. Such behavior often results in the slightest of grins. She is not exactly stable and sometimes even finds it difficult to notice the difference between fact and fiction.
She does not go to bars or clubs or visit libraries. She prefers to hang out in strange places, such as city dumps or near rundown buildings. Of the places she does go, the least strange is the beach. She loves feeling the sand between her toes, which is probably the most normal thing Henbane does. She is very prideful and rarely takes any offer of housing. Instead, she would rather sleep on the streets or stay in shelters. Sometimes she will even break into houses when the occupants are gone, leaving it almost exactly as she found it (what is different is usually a little surprise left in the fridge). Where friends are concerned, she simply doesn't have any. It would take someone with a similar mindset to be her friend. Happy, upbeat, chatty people simply annoy her and they are usually her preferred targets. She will take her own leaves, chop them up, and put them in a salad for those types to eat. She misses the days of witches brew.
She doesn’t really like jokes, at least not the kind that come from the mouth. The jokes she does like are those which she plays on people; even those may not be considered actual jokes, but more along the lines of harmful playing. They’re usually crude, embarrassing, and involve convulsions. She gets her energy mostly from medicinal purposes, though she is by no means strong. She is very possessive of her "followers" in that she believes them to be hers. Once someone uses Henbane for any purpose, she believes she has every right to claim them as her own. If she loses one, she does not take it well.
History: Henbane, or Hyoscyamus niger, can be dated back to as early as ancient Greece and is one of eleven species of the hyoscyamus family. It is also known as stinking nightshade. It is a part of the Solanaceae plant family (also the nightshade family), which originated in Eurasia. At first, "Hen" probably meant death instead of having to do with chickens. Such tropane alkaloids as hyoscyamine and scopolamine as well as others can be found in both Henbane's seeds and leaves. When consumed by humans the most common effects are hallucinations, dilation of pupils, restlessness, and flushed skin, while the least common effects are rapid heart rate, convulsions, vomiting, hypertension, fever with elevated body temperature, and lack of muscle coordination. It can be toxic and even fatal to animals, though some are immune to its toxins such as the cabbage moth and some other larvae in the Lepidoptera species.
Henbane was once used along with mandrake, belladonna, and datura to create an anesthetic. They were also used in witches brew. It would cause hallucinations and the sensation of flying. The anesthetic would be soaked up into a sponge and a patient would inhale it in order to pass out. However, if there were not enough the patient would feel every touch and if there were too much the patient would never wake again. The right amount was of the utmost importance. They have been called the devils recipe, and for good reason. Children in Turkey would play a game in which they will eat certain plants, Henbane having been one of them. It would cause intoxication, and in come instances a coma or death. Pliny wrote that Henbane was used amongst the ancient Greeks, having been called Herba Apollinaris, and was used by Apollo's priestesses in order to produce prophecies. He also wrote that the plants, "trouble the braine, and put men beside their right wits; beside that, they breed dizziness of the head." Henbane was used by Dioscorides in the first century to acquire sleep and alleviate pain; Celsus also used it for the same purposes. It was during the Middle Ages that Henbane began to spread from Eurasia into England.
Biennial Henbane has been recorded as having stalked leaves from 9-12 inches in the first year, growing up to 4 feet in the second year, and dying once its fruit matures. Annual Henbane will grow its leaves, fruit, and stem in the same year before dying; it tends to have long sweeping stalks and no flowers. British annual Henbane has stalked leaves and light yellow flowers with purple streaks. The biennial was the only variety that was an official pharmaceutical ingredient in England. German and exotic varieties were mixed with stramonium leaves, the latter of which was useless in pharmaceutical use. Other varieties of poisonous Henbane include white, Russian, and Egyptia Henbane. Henbane is especially known for its pungent aroma. It can be so toxic that on hot days one may faint in its presence. It was once used to treat epilepsy, as well as other nervous and convulsive diseases.
Up until the 11th century, Henbane was used in such beverages as gruit which was used for giving beer a bitter flavor. After that, hops replaced gruit. The Bavarian Purity Law of 1516 is one example in which only hops, barley, and water (yeast added years later when it was proven safe) could be used for beer ingredients. It is most likely Henbane had been discontinued due to its effects it had on humans.
After expanding its horizons and making way into England, Henbane began to get a little more tricky amongst humans. It would "hide" amongst other plants, posing as nothing more than a safe and innocent plant which could be used as food. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Henbane would not take victims, but victims would find Henbane. They would uproot the plant, take off its leaves, wash it, and include it in whatever meal they were currently having. And then, strange things would happen. Henbane would take hold. The human would begin to see things that were not there, they would not know it unless someone looked but their eyes would dilate, their skin would appear rosy, and they would be incredibly restless. Those were the lucky ones. The ones who were not so lucky would feel the more hurtful symptoms.
Henbane has come to be called many names: Common Henbane, hyoscyamus, Hog's-bean, Jupiter's-bean, symphonica, cassilata, cassilago, and deus caballinus. It is found most often in trash, sandy places, on road sides, and near old buildings. It can also be found near the sea and on dry ground. Henbane may have been the substance hebenon used in Hamlet, which was poured into the ear of Hamlet's father. Hawley Harvey Crippen, a homeopathic doctor from America who lived in London, supposedly used scopolamine from Henbane to poison his wife. In England, it was most widespread during Gerard's time. Some remedies for Henbane include goat's milk, water with honey, and pine kernels with sweet wine. Henbane is still poisonous even after drying or boiling the plant. The taste and smell do run people away, so accidental consumption is not very common. The roots, however, resemble those of the plant salsafy and have been pulled up accidentally and consumed. Biennial Henbane is the most grown, used for medicinal purposes. The best time to harvest Henbane is during August.
It was sometime between the prophecies of Apollo's priestesses and the move into England when Henbane became more than just a plant. It was used widely enough so that the faintest of heartbeats could be felt, nothing detectable by human touch. Every once in a while it could even see. But it could see far more than a small spot; it could see in every area in which it was planted, as though millions of tiny eyes were on its leaves. That, however, did not last long. It soon began to grow. Not into a larger plant, but into what appeared to be a human. At that point, Henbane preferred "she" to "it" and she walked amongst humans as though one of them. While she could do whatever a human could do, she preferred to simply exist and play tricks on humans. She never ate food, as water was her "food" of choice. She spent a great deal of time in the sun. She would spend her nights regaining her strength. And she would indulge in all the pleasures of humans.
Henbane was brought to North America after 1672 and has been growing every since the English settled in New England. As a goddess, Henbane lives amongst mortals, pretending to be one of them. Her trickery has yet to change and she continues to spring up in undesirable places. She knows that some unlucky fool will come along and uproot her plants, to be eaten and cause sickness. One of her more recent amusements was in 2008 when a celebrity chef by the name of Antony Worrall Thompson mistook henbane for Fat Hen, saying it was a "tasty addition to salads". Unfortunately for Henbane, he noticed his mistake and fixed it. That doesn't mean there wasn't someone who didn't hear about it before it was too late. These days, she simply drifts, picking up a job here and there when money is needed.
PB: Léa Seydoux and Jodelle Ferland (younger form) Image Link:Here and here Journal:blackbane