Although many plants and herbs traditional to the European culture are assigned widely- recognized planetary rulerships, many of the foods, such as plants and herbs, that we eat in contemporary times aren’t included in the classical methodology. So, we have to use our best judgment. Today, when I took a detour to pick up some prickly pear cactus that a neighbor in a nearby town was giving away, it came to mind, “this MARS plant must really want to work with me again!”
I say “again” because I used to bring home prickly pear cactus fruit (but never the pads; that’s new to me this year!) when I was living in Athens, Georgia all the time, and so I have a little history with this succulent. There was a HUGE plant right by where the Shamanic center and Aerial Arts studio that I attended was, in a sort of remote industrial area by long-abandoned train tracks. I’d gather the huge fruits, fingers-a-pricked, and enjoy bright pink sweetness for days and days. So, when I learned someone was throwing away plants on this sunny Tuesday (Mars-Day!), I jumped at the chance to rescue them.
What makes Prickly Pear of Mars? Well, for starters, the sharp spines that look like swords, and the tiny spines all over the pads that fall right out when you touch them, embedding themselves in your skin. Ouch! The plant itself is a weapon! This is the most obvious reason. There is also the bright red fruit. Sure, it’s more pink then a true red, but the way it bleeds all over your skin or clothes, leaving stains, is Martian: it’s an aggressive pigment. And, the fruit itself has very hard seeds in it: you have to be careful not to chew too hard! As I explain below, it forces one to be gentle and patient, calming and neutralizing anger or rage.
But there’s another reason why I attribute this plant to Mars: the flavor of the pads is slightly sour. After cleaning them with great care (which always results in a prick or two anyway… by the way, don’t let children handle this vegetable unless all spines and tiny prickers have been removed), they can be cooked like any other vegetable. I like slapping them on a cast iron pan with oil, salt, and pepper. They can be sliced and added to any meal or salad, or eaten straight! But they aren’t sweet, like another “gooey” vegetable I like, okra; instead, they are a bit sour, even bitter. I wouldn’t call them astringent, though.
They’re very common in Mexican cuisine, but may be a bit strange to an unaccustomed palate. But, they are a delicacy, and considered an important medicine in the cultures where they grow most commonly. They like growing in sandy, dry soil (Mars is hot and dry) but aren’t limited to hot climates: I’m writing from Long Island NY, and we are still almost freezing at night on occasion this past month! This plant is a warrior: fierce and lusty, defensive yet desirable!
Prickly Pear can be used as a spirit medicine for those who want to work on Mars-related issues. For example, if you have trouble dealing with anger or impatience, working with this plant will help because you MUST be patient and careful to get to the edible part; rage will not fly! It also can help with standing up for yourself if you are too passive, or have a weak Mars. In that way it works both ways. It is also helpful for increasing libido, if you have trouble allowing yourself to desire, and work diligently to gain what you desire. Most people may avoid this plant altogether, but it is a wonderful ally!
Update: Mars-Day, June 23 2020: The first flower (main picture) blossomed today, and it’s the first cactus flower I have ever seen, even from the HUGE plant I knew in Athens that was almost as tall as I am. What a blessing! It smells SWEET!