Monday, October 29, 2018

The Herb Society of America talks "Witching Herbs and their Lore"




New post on The Herb Society of America Blog


Witching Herbs and their Lore

By Andrea Jackson, Western Pennsylvania Unit of The Herb Society of America
When I started my herbal adventure many years ago, I was drawn to unusual herbal topics.  Oh, I made my vinegars (still do) and my wreaths. My cooking was much improved. But as my herbal interests broadened and my library grew and grew and grew, I became fascinated by the history and lore of herbs.
With fall comes the witching season. What better time to explore some of the witching herbs?  While many of the plants in our gardens can be used for charms and spells, some are truly sinister plants that every self-respecting witch needs.
Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum) ... In ancient times this plant was used as an aphrodisiac and treatment for infertility. It was mentioned in Genesis when the childless Rachel asked Leah for some of the mandrakes (likely the fruit) she has gathered. It must have worked since she subsequently gave birth to Joseph. Pieces of mandrake were found in the Egyptian tombs and it was mentioned in the Ebers papyrus.  How is came to be associated with magic may be lost in the mists of time but someone noticed the resemblance of the root to the shape of a man and a new charm was born.
Recall from Harry Potter how the plant screams when removed from the ground. This ear-piercing scream was said to be able to kill whomever tried to remove it. So, a special procedure was devised. Three circles were drawn around the plant for protection. Then, the soil was loosened around the plant and a black dog was tied to the plant.  The witch stepped out of the circle and called the dog which pulled up the plant.  In some telling of the tale, the dog would live if it stayed in the first circle but in most the dog was sacrificed to obtain the plant.
As if it wasn’t difficult enough to obtain a mandrake, a special procedure was needed to maintain it.  It must be bathed in wine, wrapped in white silk then covered with a black velvet coat. Each week it should be bathed and the bedding and silk changed.
Perhaps all of this was worthwhile since mandrake was believed to contain the red earth of paradise which was necessary to produce the philosopher’s stone. Oh, and it also made one invincible in battle.
Wolfsbane (Aconitum lycoctonum) ... Closely related to monkshood (Aconitum napellus), wolfsbane contains aconitine, a deadly poison, and was considered the most dangerous of all the magical herbs. This baleful plant was made by Hecate from the foaming mouth of Cerberus the three-headed dog who guarded the gates of the underworld.
If you have a stray lizard around, you can bind wolfsbane with the skin of your lizard and you will become invisible. Then think of all the candy you could snatch on Halloween.  If you are plagued by vampires and werewolves this is the plant for you since it is an effective deterrent.
Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger)  ... The plant looks and smells of death, perhaps because its favorite home is graveyards. Legend has it that henbane seeds were smoked by the Oracle of Delphi to increase his prophetic powers. Meanwhile the Celts considered it sacred to Bel, their god of prophecy.
Henbane contains atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine which in large doses increase the heart rate. They also cause dry mouth, dilated pupils, weakness and agitated excitement.  The herb can produce the sensation of the soul separating from the body and flying through the skies. It can also produce a sense of body dissolution and erotic hallucinations. Then, when it wears off the person remembers nothing of what has happened.
(It is interesting to note that atropine is used in medicine to increase the heart rate and scopolamine was a component of “twilight sleep” formerly administered to women in labor so they did not remember childbirth.)
Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) and Jimson weed (Datura stramonium) and mandrake all contain atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine.  The plants and sometimes a bit of opium and fly agaric were included in flying ointments. This was a dangerous brew indeed.  Undoubtedly some witches got to the other side in a way they never intended.
If all this seems a bit frightening, just remember that you can keep witches away by throwing a yarrow leaf into the fire or by rubbing your floor with rue.
Happy Halloween!
Andrea Jackson, R.N.,  is a master gardener with a certificate in sustainable horticulture. She has more than 30 years’ experience studying, lecturing and loving herbs. She belongs to the Herb Society of America, American Herbalist’s Guild and Piccadilly Herb Club, and the American Botanical Council.
The Herb Society of America | October 29, 2018 at 7:00 am | Categories: Uncategorized | URL: https://wp.me/p3b0ip-1gu

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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

4th Annual Lavender Festival at Blooming Hill


     
4th Annual Blooming Hill
 Lavender Festival
Friday & Saturday, June 8 & 9, 2018
Talks, Have Tea with Us, Tours, Crafters, Labyrinth, Lavender Ice Cream, Gardens, Gift Shop, Wine & Mead Tastings, Cocktail Tastings, French pastries and treats & Yoga in the field. Best of all, LAVENDER!
Parking $5/Car
*No reservations necessary to have tea and scones out on the patio, $15/person.
*Make lavender wands & tussie mussies with members of the Herb Society of America.
*Learn about growing & crafting with gourds with members of the Virginia Lover’s Gourd   
  Society.
*Pick-Your-Own Lavender - 15 cents/stem.
*Lavender Plants for sale
*Specific costs apply to specific activities, purchases & tastings.
* Contact loudounvalleyyoga.com to schedule your space in a yoga class; Friday & Saturday - 12 noon  

                                                 
                                         Participating Crafters and Vendors:

Alex Carr Art Studio
Barefoot Weavers
Bittersweet Design Studio
Catoctin Distillery
Green Alchemy Herb & Mercantile Co.
Herb Society of America, Potomac Unit
AB Hats
La Petite LouLou Café
Loudoun Valley Herbs
Loudoun Valley Yoga
Madeira Woodworking & Garden Finds
Mary Mayo Designs
Stonehouse Meadery
Sunny Lane Forge
Suzabelle Vintage Handbags
The Oktopous Garden
Virginia Lover’s Gourd Society


19929 Telegraph Springs Road
Purcellville (Philomont) VA 20132
                                           bloominghillva.com
                                                           703-431-0779
JThe sun always shines at
Blooming HillJ!



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

#bloominghilllavenderfestival


     


4th Annual Blooming Hill
 Lavender Festival
Friday & Saturday, June 8 & 9, 2018
Talks, Have Tea with Us, Tours, Crafters, Labyrinth, Lavender Ice Cream, Gardens, Gift Shop, Wine & Mead Tastings, Cocktail Tastings, French pastries and treats & Yoga in the field. Best of all, LAVENDER!
Parking $5/Car
*No reservations necessary to have tea and scones out on the patio, $15/person.
*Make lavender wands & tussie mussies with members of the Herb Society of America.
*Learn about growing & crafting with gourds with members of the Virginia Lover’s Gourd   
  Society.
*Pick-Your-Own Lavender - 15 cents/stem.
*Lavender Plants for sale
*Specific costs apply to specific activities, purchases & tastings.
* Contact loudounvalleyyoga.com to schedule your space in a yoga class; Friday & Saturday - 12 noon  


Participating Crafters &  Vendors:
Alex Carr Art Studio
Barefoot Weavers
Bittersweet Design Studio
Catoctin Distillery
Green Alchemy Herb & Mercantile Co.
Herb Society of America, Potomac Unit
AB Hats
La Petite LouLou Café
Loudoun Valley Herbs
Loudoun Valley Yoga
Madeira Woodworking & Garden Finds
Mary Mayo Designs
Stonehouse Meadery
Sunny Lane Forge
Suzabelle Vintage Handbags
The Oktopous Garden
Virginia Lover’s Gourd Society

Our Location: (GPS Address)
19929 Telegraph Springs Road
Purcellville (Philomont) VA 20132
bloominghillva.com
  703-431-0779

  


JThe sun always shines at
Blooming HillJ!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Welcome Spring!



The first day of spring is one thing, and the first
spring day is another. The difference between them is
sometimes as great as a month.
— Henry Van Dyke, "Fisherman's Luck"
While March may own the first day of spring, it also is responsible for the last day of winter!
Even though end of winter offers hope, it can also be as endless as the cold winter nights of December and January.
Perhaps it's time to sit a while and contemplate the ways of Mother Nature and not take her for granted, although the snow, a four letter word, is not so bad after all.
Wake me up when spring has sprung and the cold days are gone.  March still wants to hold on to the blankets of snow and keep the shades of grey drawn as if to say, "I'll hit the snooze alarm, pull the covers over my head and get a few more moments of sleep, out in the field, too.
Tables and chairs at the ready to welcome a change of pace and a flush of color along with the warm breath of sunny spring days--hope springs eternal!
Blossoms and snowflakes vie for their own space on this first full day of spring who, by the way cannot make up her mind as to which one is her favorite.  My money is on the blossoms that may fall off in the long run but, they are making way for green leaves.
Have a happy first day of Spring.  Keep in mind that the snow is just a fleeting fancy in March, a most fickle month!



Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Ultra Violet--It's Really Ultra Lavender!


Image result for images of pantone color of the year for 2018

Every year, I wait in anticipation for Pantone's announcement of their chosen color of the new year and I especially love it when they choose a shade of purple that most resembles the color of lavender--the plant, I mean.  They always seem to avoid the elephant in the room and give the pretty purple hue another name than what it really should be.  After all, a rose by any other name is still a rose so why should it be different for another garden princess whom we lovingly refer to as lavender?

Lavender in bloom here at Blooming Hill last summer.
Ultra Violet looks wonderfully, yet not surprisingly familiar to me so I'll just cut to the chase and say that lavender is purple and purple is "Ultra Violet", therefore "Ultra Violet" is purple and purple is lavender! It's gonna be a great year.  Thanks Pantone.  You made my life in lavender even bigger and brighter than I ever could have imagined for 2018.


Monday, December 18, 2017

Ol' Red



A week to go until Christmas and the rush is on since there is no place like home for the holidays and the best way to get there, at least in a Hallmark Christmas card, and perhaps in our own imaginations, would be in a vintage-style, fire engine red truck with your faithful, furry four-legged friend at your side and a freshly cut fur tree in the back, maybe with a few wrapped presents, too.
This piece of Americana seems to be the newest holiday--yet has always been there in plain site--symbol of coming back home to spend time with family and appreciate the simpler things in life, even if it means your home is in a city high-rise.


Our Blooming Hill rendition of "OL' Red" is a real work horse here, hauling everything from trailers and boats to stone and mulch the whole year through:)
I happen to be one of those fortunate owners of an old red truck.  However, our "Ol' Red" is  border-lining on something akin to being beyond bucolic, but has survived more than a few new transmissions, is approaching 300 thousand miles and is proudly competing with the Ever Ready Bunny and an old Timex watch as it "takes a licking and keeps on ticking!"  Yes--I know I'm showing my age with that commercial buzz line:)

Something about these images of old red trucks carrying a fresh, perfectly shaped Christmas Tree just plucked from a snow covered forest of fragrant pine and ready to be displayed in a place of honor, turns our hearts toward home, wherever that may be.  Anticipation swells in our hearts as we envision the emerald green tree in a ruby red truck trundling through the woods and over the icy roads to the front door of the ever familiar homestead.  A wood burning fire, Nana's cookies and hot chocolate await their arrival. There is no room for Scrooge here--just homecoming happiness and love!

In any case, fire engine red trucks with faithful four-footed companions sitting calmly in the truck bed along with the perfect Christmas tree is portrayed just about everywhere from trays to mugs to life-sized nostalgic renditions ready for sale in modern Christmas displays.  Who can resist these iconic pieces of Americana---It seems I certainly can't! Season Greetings to you and your family from Blooming Hill.


Monday, October 30, 2017

A Witch's Garden Courtesy of the Herb Society of America

Thought I would share this interesting and fun blog posting from the Herb Society of America, of which (not witch, mind you) I am fortunate and proud to be a member.  Note: Anyone can join--it's a great organization.  Anyway, this is terrific read for you "Herbie-Halloweenies!"


Herb Society of America posted: " By Jackie Johnson ND, Planhigion Herbal Learning Center From Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling, we seem to have an undying curiosity of what plants witches used….and for what.  In the spirit of Halloween, it seems appropriate to explore these. Shakespeare g"
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New post on The Herb Society of America Blog


The Witch’s Herb Garden

By Jackie Johnson ND, Planhigion Herbal Learning Center
From Shakespeare to J.K. Rowling, we seem to have an undying curiosity of what plants witches used….and for what.  In the spirit of Halloween, it seems appropriate to explore these.
Shakespeare gave us the most recognizable and infamous of all incantations with the three Scottish witches in Macbeth:
"Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."
Although there are variations on the plants symbolized in the chant, following are some of the more accepted versions:
·       Eye of newt – mustard seed
·       Toe of frog – buttercup leaves
·       Wool of bat – holly or moss
·       Tongue of dog – hounds tooth
·       Adder’s fork – violet
·       Blind worm’s sting - knotweed
·       Lizard’s leg – ivy
·       Howlet’s wing – garlic or maybe ginger
We wonder, did the wise women (or witch) use odd names for effect, for safety, or something else?
Perhaps it was something else, something politically motivated. After al, women practiced the healing arts throughout Europe, mostly as midwives, until the church and state targeted them. And that happened because the church and state wanted the power and money associated with healing arts.
When Rome fell, monks gathered the healing herbs brought across Europe by the Romans.  Then, they became the healers. Power hungry and corrupt leaders always need a scapegoat to blame for the troubles in their worlds, and what better place to look than older defenseless women who owned valuable property just waiting to be confiscated?
I’ve always wondered about the bravery -- or maybe the stupidity -- of these foolish men. It raises a question: If these women were as powerful and wicked as charged, how could the prosecutors survive? Weren’t they afraid that a nose twitch could web their fingers, curse their family….or  far, far worse?
But these powerful women persisted, from the burning times until now. The journey of the “witch” (or wise woman) continues, though still under a cloud of suspicion.
Let’s look back to the Wise Old Woman who lived on the far edges of the village, alone, with her cats.  Her home is rundown, the plants and trees are overgrown, the path is covered in leaves and rusty gate squeaks as we push it open.  It’s autumn and the days are shorter and the air is brisk.
You’ll find monkshood (aconite) so lethal that it was used to poison arrows and, in World War II, the Nazi’s put it on their bullets.  Witches believed it could make them invisible if they tied the seeds to them wrapped in lizard’s skin.  It was reputed to protect one from vampires and werewolves.
In the garden the winter rose (black hellebore) sits in the corner in bloom. Thought to be a cure for insanity, it would also help one become invisible.
In the back is a lush bunch of witch’s bells (foxglove).  They seem to be growing in each corner of the stone fence.  Ahhh, for protection. I imagine if we looked in the cottage, we’d see black stone floors – dyed with the leaves of the foxglove- to keep negativity out.
What self-respecting witch would be without moonflower (datura) with white flowers that bloom in the night and give off an intoxicating fragrance?  Used as a hallucinogen, and to increase physic vision and communicate with friendly spirits, the plant is poison to even handle.   When a visitor would come begging for something to stop another from harming her/him, the Old Woman would often take the seeds, wrap them in brown cloth and tell the visitor to gather something belonging to the alleged ill-doer and place the bag of seeds on top of the item and hide it well.  So long as the bag remained over the object, the ill-doer could do them no harm.
Overgrowing anything in its way, the deadly nightshade knows it will always be the Devil’s favorite plant.  Often nightshade was put in ‘flying’ ointments, but was also handy for helping one forget an old love.  Some believe the more nightshade in a garden, the greater the protection from evil.
Continued on October 31, 2017 

Part  II:

The Witch’s Herb Garden II

By Jackie Johnson ND, Planhigion Herbal Learning Center
L0051251 Mandragora (Mandrake) plant from 'De historia...'Continued from October 30, 2017 … See Part I
All alone in a corner of the Old Woman’s garden are the mandrakes – waiting for some poor fool to pull them out.  They scream when ripped from the ground you know, and any person or animal hearing the scream will immediately perish.   Long used for dark magic, this plant was sacred to Aphrodite and used as a powerful aphrodisiac.  Too strong, some say.  Its roots are shaped like humans and carrying even a tiny piece insures good health and much more.  It hides from man, and it glows in the dark.
The following steps for harvesting mandrake was taken from an old English Herbarium from 1000 AD
  1. Before sunset – draw a circle around it with an iron tool lest it flee from you.
  2. While facing west, cut off the top of the plant.
  3. Being careful not to touch the plant, dig around it with an iron tool.
  4. When you see its hands and feet, fasten them.  Take the other end of the rope and tie it around a hungry black dog’s neck.
  5. Throw meat in front of the black dog so he cannot reach it unless he pulls up the plant.
  6. Run fast lest you hear the screams and perish with the dog.
Difficult, yes, but mandrake was one of the best plants for hexing, and black dogs were easy to find.
Aside from the poison garden, people would visit the Old Woman for a variety of reasons.
Many wanted love charms.  In front of the house, for easy pickings, sits the love potion garden.  The most important plant in the garden for love is the apple tree. Sometimes the spell was as easy as cutting an apple with the intention of forever love, and handing half to the object of affection. Both halves must be eaten simultaneously for the charm to work.
Caution was required when cutting the apple … an even number of seeds on both sides meant love and a happy marriage. If one seed is cut, rocky love will follow and the marriage will be filled with anger and yelling.  If two seeds are cut, the husband will perish within one year.
Apple blossoms are so sweet smelling, is it any wonder they were often dried and used in love potions?
Protective amulets were cut of apple wood, and when properly done, insured a long life.
RoseOther plants in the love garden include lemon balm, roses, basil, catnip, daisies, peppermint mallow and periwinkle.   Several of these in a sachet under your pillow might help the man of your dreams come into your life.   If your love has left you, you might be instructed to put a vase of mallow flowers in your window.  This should make him think of you and return to your arms.
The inability to become pregnant brought a number of women thru the Old Woman’s creaky gate. In the back, along the mossy stone fence, lies the fertility garden.  It is filled with cucumbers, carrots, mustard, and poppy and more.
Some women would come to visit the Old Woman to insure there was no pregnancy or question what was to be done about a current one.   That garden was outside her back gate and the plants were scattered through the forest, looking like they weren’t cared for to the uninformed.  This allowed her to claim ignorance if “they” came for her.  We won’t talk about what might be in that garden.
Infidelity was a common complaint and many women wandered in seeking help with rotten husbands.  The Old Woman might hand them some dried basil with instructions to sprinkle it on his cheating heart as he slept.  Or she might suggest slipping a caraway seed or two in his pocket.
And thievery – oh such a common complaint.  For that the Old Woman might suggest caraway seed sprinkled around the property to help bad guys choose another place. And if you were about to travel, a piece of comfrey with your belongings would help them travel unnoticed.
Yes, the Old Woman’s garden was full of plants.  Every corner of her yard offered up something to the trained healer/witch/midwife.
No wonder so many feared or coveted her knowledge.


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