Plants with associated myths/correspondences from Norse Traditional Folklore prt 1/??
The following knowledge is translated/shortened from a Danish book. I will not list the source here, as it’s probably under copyright, but given that the source is unlikely to be translated into English, I still wanted to share it with you. I trust the source/research is genuine, based on the writer and the texts used. If you know Danish and would like to read the book yourself, PM me for the deets.
I first list the name of the herb in Danish, then English and then the latin, for maximum ease :) All of these should be either native to Northern Europe or able to grow here. As always, use common sense and care.
Akeleje. European Columbine. Aquilegia Vulgaris. In the language of flowers, columbine is associated with sillyness, due to it’s slight resemblance to a jesters hat. In medieval covent gardens though, the plant was a symbol of the Holy Trinity and was used in the treatment of measles, throat infections and swollen glands, as well as being part of a cure against the plague (alongside six other unnamed herbs). According to Simon Pauli’s Flora Danica (1648) one can die by holding the warm root of the plant in your hands, and today it’s still regarded as slightly poisonous and inedible.
Almindelig Engelsød, Common Polypody, Polypodium Vulgare Common Polypody, a fern, were used for treating “women’s ailments”, as an effective laxative, as a treatment against parasitic worms and stuffed sinuses. Generally ferns have also been regarded as especially magically protective - for example, if a person hid under a fern on Saint John’s Eve, they could observe witches flying on their way to Sabbath while being protected from evil themselves.
Asters, The European Micheal-mas Daisy, Aster Ammelus “Aster” means star, and the plant is also called “starwort”. It’s associated with Astraria, the Goddess of Justice and Innocence, daughter of Zeus. According to greek myth, Astraria saw how sin had consumed the earth, and she left this realm and was transformed into a star, (one that became Virgo in the Zodiac). When Zeus saw what had happened he becamse so angry that he let the world flood, except the top of the mountain Parnosses, where the last surviving humans, including Deucalian and his wife Pyrrha, fled. When the water retreaded, the last survivors felt lost and hopeless, and so Astraria shone her starlight down to lead them. Her tears fell like stardust and covered the ground, and where they fell the flowers grew. The flower is also associated with the arch-Angel Michael, and love prophecy, a folk belief referenced in Goethe’s Faust.
Bakketimian, Breckland Thyme, Thymus Serpullum Traditionally thyme been used as a healing herb, and for keeping evil at bay during labour and it’s recommended for eating and drinking. Simon Pauli in Flora Danica (1648) even recommends consumption as protecting against viper bites during sleep! It’s fragrant qualities has also been used for embalming and the oil extraced from the plant called “thymol” is an effective antiseptic. In southern Europe, thyme has been used in the bathing of corpses for burial, with the local name “karvendel”: “Kar” is supposedly deriving from the word “cara” meaning “sorrow” and “vendel” is to turn something around. Today thyme is used for spice, as a tea against headaches and to ease a cold, coughing and sore throat. Drinking tea of thyme or washing yourself with thyme is also supposed to restore the spark of life - and to turn sorrow into joy.
Balsamurt, Costa Mary, Tanacetum (Chrysanthemum) Balsamatica A very fragrant and easy to grow plant, but it used to be one of the most expensive herbs. Traditionally made into tea against period troubles, but it has also called “bible leaf” as people kept leaves of it in the bible. Allegedly a preventative for dozing off during long sermons; rolling the leaf tightly together and sticking it up your nose should produce a rousing effect! Today a more common use for the fragrant plant is in regular old potpourri (…but you could try to stick a leaf in your nose and see what happens :)
Enebærsbusk, Juniper, Junipera Communis Regarded as a blessed and protective plant and it’s said that even foxes and hares seek protection from under its branches. Bundles of juniper were burnt and the smoke used as incense in the homes of deceased people or livestock, as it was believed to drive away evil spirits. Juniper was also carried around the neck as a protective amulet, or its branches hung above the entreway of houses and stables in order to keep evil out. According to myth, the reason juniper works as a deterrent against trolls and witches is because they are supernaturally compelled to count every needle of the plant before entering, a task which they can never accomplish. More commonly Juniper is used as a spice for cooking.
Febernellikerod, Wood Avens, Geum Urbanum Today commonly regarded as a weed, wood avens can be found on the forest floor, but also easily take over gardens if not kept in check. Its latin name comes from the word “geno” which means scent, and when the root of the plant is dried it gives off the vague fragrance of eugenol. The dried and powdered root can also be used when baking cookies, or as a fragrant powder for detering cloth-eating moths in closets. The plant has also been associated with healing, as the three-pronged leaves where seen as a reference to the holy trinity, and the five petals of the flower as a symbol of the five wounds of Jesus. Its use as a healing herb can still be found in the Danish name, as it references fever, and the plant was traditionally used in tea to lower the fever of the afflicted.
Engnellikerod, Water Avens Geum Rivale Grows on moist soil and blooms in May/July. Its nickname “Devil’s Death” refers to the plants use as protection of the home. A bundle of fragrant roots kept in the home would hinder the Devil from doing his evil in your domain.
Okay, that’s all folks for now. It’s a long book, but I’ll post the next part soon! Follow my blog if you want to keep an eye out for updates and happy crafting :)
As soon as it got dark, Simon headed to Magnus’ apartment. In the elevator, he found himself once again thinking about the almost impossible mission Raphael forced him to do. The weight of it still felt heavy on his shoulders, but, thinking back to the failed mission with Magnus in Agra still made him feel better.
Humans, like most mammals, have turned to plants for food and medicine since our earliest times. No doubt some of our ancestors suffered the consequences of unfortunate choices along the way. If you read the book or watched the movie Into the Wild, you realize we sometimes still err, confusing a poisonous plant for edible greenery. People still mistake the death cap mushroom for something more savory. And a couple of years ago, I even found some teenage boys sitting along an irrigation ditch, fashioning poison hemlock stems into cigarette holders.
Nevertheless, most of the medicinal herbs sold in the United States are safe when taken in recommended dosages. More than 38 million Americans use herbs each year, yet the majority of calls to Poison Control Centers about plant ingestions have to do with people (usually children) and pets eating potentially poisonous house and garden plants—not medicinal herbs.
To ensure your experiences with medicinal herbs remain positive—without inadvertent mishaps—follow these nine basic guidelines.
1. Start with Food Herbs
You can bet on safety when you use herbs as foods—think garlic, ginger, nettles, dandelion greens, shiitake mushrooms, nettles, burdock root (also called gobo) and rosehips. Culinary herbs—thyme, oregano, turmeric, cayenne—are also low-risk. Externally applied herbs (compresses, poultices, salves) provide another good testing ground.
The next step is to begin experimenting with infusions (commonly known as “teas”). Many of the food herbs mentioned above can be dried, chopped, and steeped as tea. Extracts of herbs in alcohol (tinctures) or glycerin (glycerites) generally are more potent. Solid extracts, in which all the solvent has been removed, and carbon dioxide-extract herbs are stronger still. Standardized extracts are designed to have a consistent level of suspected active ingredients from batch to batch. This process allows for more precise dosing and easier use in research, but also makes the product closer to a drug.