In honor of this Harvest/Autumn/Halloween time of year, I decided to stir up some magic for you. Plant magic, that is! Nature is quite amazing, and humankind has utilized its wondrous magic since our beginnings. I became a Certified Herbalist many years ago, and when writing my first Tween/Teen books, I enjoyed weaving herb lore throughout them. In addition to herb lore, I had fun with Celtic tree lore to show the marvelous magic of trees. I used the (totally fun!) folk names for herbs and trees, and had my main character use plant remedies for wounds and ailments that she and her loved-ones endured.
A little trivia about remedies found in nature . . .
The Doctrine of Signatures dates back to ancient times, and was studied in depth in Western Europe. The idea was that certain plants resembled the body parts they healed. Also, the names given to certain plants correlated to their healing properties. Some examples:
Walnuts—resembles a brain and helps memory
Ginger Root—resembles a stomach and helps nausea
Kidney Bean—resembles a kidney and helps kidney function
Eyebright—helps with “pink eye” and other eye irritation
Bloodroot—has red sap and helps purify the blood
In addition, herbalists found that certain “cures” grew near “causes.” An example is Jewelweed, an herb used to heal skin conditions, which is often found growing near Stinging Nettles and Poison Ivy.
Folk names were the early names given to herbs, and often eluded to their healing function. Some names, however, are perplexing or quite silly sounding. In fact, some of these silly-sounding herbs were used in healing remedies and not at all the literal meanings that their names may have suggested. Here are a handful of some fun “Halloween-ish” herb names:
So, this year, while enjoying the festivities, if you happen to hear, “In the cauldron, Toe of Frog; watch it bubble with Tongue of Dog,” you might just find a neighborhood herbalist brewing up an herbal remedy.
Christina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. She enjoys life in the foothills of Northern California with her husband, sons, pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees. For more about her and her writing, visit www.christinamercer.com