August 27th, 2008
In ancient Italy, extracts of belladonna were used by women in the form of cosmetic eye drops, which dilated their pupils and gave their eyes a bright, glistening appearance. Large pupils were thought to be a sign of feminine beauty, hence the name Belladonna for “beautiful woman.”
They are always beautiful, the Belladonna women, if not in the classical sense, then in some unusual and overstated way. Like an electric light show in a darkened theater, a Belladonna woman charges the atmosphere around her, flashing her eccentric style and rare form to the amazement of a populace unwittingly numbed by everyday plainness. Visually stimulating, the Belladonna woman is also magnetic, capable of drawing an individual of interest or even a large crowd around them with barely any effort at all.
Incapable of mediocrity in appearance or attitude, even on those rare occasions when they try to blend in, a Belladonna woman rarely escapes notice – or the judgment of others. While most will find her colorful demeanor intriguing, some will feel a need to shut her down – to gray wash her with some sort of damnation. They will decry the falseness of her palette, the way she pridefully carries her individuality, and they will reject her for vanity or difference.
In response, the Belladonna woman will brighten her colors, stand taller, and narrow her beautiful eyes. Unlike the male Narcissus, she will avoid the sword of judgment. She sees her own beauty not as a source of shame or folly, but of personal power, a feeling which she nurtures as a source of strength and confidence. Shunning didactic mythology, the Belladonna woman refuses to be the moral to anyone’s story, including her own. Morals are for the rugged, the religious, or the simple. Instead, the Belladonna woman will have her own set of refined juggernaut scruples, which she may reorder from time to time, but they will always be strongly held and forcefully applied.
Yet, for all of her seeming strength and confidence, a Belladonna woman is easily hurt. Whether her vulnerability comes from a place of ego or heart is often debated, even by those who know her best. They wonder about the duality of her occasionally fragile spirit and her unbreakable pride. They may wonder for a lifetime, because the Belladonna woman always leaves mystery – and so many other things – in her wake.
All parts of the true belladonna are narcotic.
Like a siren’s call, the Belladonna woman is hard to resist. She has a lyrical quality about her, a deep vein of emotion and truthfulness that rises above the daily din. The emotions will be her own, as will the truths – and either may be shaded by incongruent hues – but the way she sings them will make true believers even out of jaded skeptics.
Many are content to sway to her song from a distance, whereas other will feel a need to serve her in some capacity. The Belladonna woman, however, will reject most people who seek her out. She is selective, and her choices are predicated upon her needs or desires at any given time.
The call of a Belladonna woman who accepts someone into her inner circle is not the call of a mere friend or lover, but of a female monarch. To enter her court, whether it’s a rundown apartment in the city, or a gleaming skyscraper, one must have something of value and worthy of royalty’s favor. Once they are in, she may not ask them for their biggest gifts, but she will expect them as her due. Putting the Belladonna woman in the position of having to ask for anything will set off a surge of distrust and unease in her, since she feels that those who love her should anticipate her needs and understand her desires. If they do not, and fail to learn quickly enough, the Belladonna woman’s song will turn into a metaphorical call of “off, off with their heads.” To fail her is to show incompetence, and she will not suffer the blunders of others for long. She is a woman whose sense of self is very much reflected in her environment. She cannot feel as confident and secure when those who serve her, her rooks and knights and pawns, are clumsy and inadequate.
It would be easy to call her a bitch, but it wouldn’t be wholly accurate. While the Belladonna is a queen among women, and an often unpredictable and demanding one at that, she has a glowing vibrancy about her that’s both fascinating and contagious. The Belladonna woman is drama, comedy, excitement, and adventure. To be with her is to look at life through many colored lenses. Every day, and sometimes several times a day, the spectrum changes, and it is always lively, and always animated.
Belladonna was an important ingredient in Witches brew during the Middle ages, often being equated with female sexuality.
The narcotic nature of the Belladonna woman’s appeal can offer solace as well as seduction – a feeling of flying, or at least of being light years beyond a dull existence. She will take her lovers to places few others will ever experience, and teach them how to soar their spirits farther, higher, faster. Her sensitivities will move her lovers, as well as her friends, in a profound way. Both will feel instinctually protective of the Belladonna woman, even during her most steely phases, suspecting that her stubborn shows of strength are, at least in part, a cover for deeper wounds.
Lovers feel heightened just by being in the Belladonna woman’s presence. Sights, smells, tastes, sounds, and textures all seem sharper, richer, deeper, and somehow more real than they’ve ever felt before. While in her court, lovers feel compelled to stand taller and be more heroic than they ever have before – to immerse themselves in a shared life that is fully thriving and saturated with desire.
It is the constant challenge of being in the Belladonna woman’s good graces that lends fire to the flames of her would-be heroes. Even small tokens of appreciation from her act as a catapult, launching lovers into a quest to find more, do more, love more, and be more. It is this never-ending quest of “more” that leaves one reeling with happiness over every success, and newly motivated by every failure. When love is present, and the Belladonna woman is in full bloom, the quest is more invigorating than exhausting.
It is when she wilts and turns away that the trip, once so beautiful and enlivening, turns bad.
Belladonna was used during the middle ages to gain confessions. This psychochemical torture would confuse and weaken victims, making them unsure of what was fantasy or reality, what they had done, or had merely imagined.
The sudden absence of her brightness leaves a void, and with a Belladonna woman, it is almost always sudden. It may be as simple as boredom for her, or a chill she suddenly developed when a particular lover’s gift, or even a friend’s, failed to please her. It may be that a quirk, a whim, or a new pair of eyes seen from across a crowded room piqued her interest, and curiosity in a Belladonna woman rarely goes unsated. She is a woman who acts upon her feelings, swiftly and confidently, and she is unlikely to consider any explanation necessary.
Left in the darkness, alone with a love that is not returned, those who have been upended by a Belladonna woman are wracked with grief and unanswered questions. Initially, they will torture themselves over what they might have done or failed to do, but soon they will question their own part in the Belladonna play, ruminating over the gifts they gave so freely, and the sacrifices they made without hesitation, so that they could stand in a ray of light that was not their own, and that never could be.
It can takes months or even years, but eventually the blackness turns to a familiar shade of gray. Numbness sets in, and its blank palette is felt as a relief. Life moves forward, at escalator pace, on some auto-pilot never noticed before. In time, feelings start to return, but they are guarded and framed in question marks. Still, even in the painful aftermath, the purples of African violets and the oranges and reds of sunsets stand out, as do the feathers, the bricks, the cracks in the sidewalks. . .the lilt of a piano, or the strum of a guitar. . . . the quickening of a pulse, the warmth of skin upon skin, the chill of morning, and the heat of fire.
Nothing after a Belladonna woman is the same as before. Even loneliness is more acute, and longing more intense.
And one day, you will see another Belladonna, beautiful and colorful, and charged with something rare and electric. Your eyes will meet hers as she is sizing you up. Instinctively, you will straighten your shoulders, stand a little taller, and the hero that resides in your heart will start pounding. . . .