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Monday, October 31, 2011

A Witchy Brew and a Poem, Too!

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"Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
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 owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble..."
William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I

Now doesn't that sound like a delicious brew for a chilly Halloween evening?   Let's see if we can recreate this brew! 

Photo from Wikipedia
"Fillet of Fenny Snake"
Arum palaestinum

I am going to let you in on a little secret  Fillet of Fenny Snake, Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, etc. those are really folk names for herbs.  Let me see.....Fillet of Fenny Snake is well, that one is a little more on the mysterious side.  Fillet of a Fenny Snake is very debated as to meanings. It can actually mean "fenny snake" which is a snake from the fens of England, or some people debate that it isn't actually a snake, but is a type of fruit called Arum, and it is sometimes called "Snake's Meat".  An herb named Snake's Meat.  Oh, how lovely.  Oh, and by the way, this is a poisonous plant and not a Texas Native.

Now, let me look through my herbal apothecary for, ahhh, there it is "Eye of Newt". 

There is no way to be absolutely certain, but modern herbalists speculate that Eye of Newt referred to the seeds of the wild mustard plant, which could look like the small yellow eyes of the newt.  The photo of the Newt is by Byron Moore from Fotolia.com.  Wild mustard mixed with old wine has been used throughout its history to disguise unpleasant food tastes.  Hmm, makes you wonder if those witchy sisters were covering up the taste of "Fillet of Fenny Snake"?  Another source I came across said eye of newt could have been any of the daisy-type flowers such as English daisy (Bellis perenis).   I like the mustard seed version better, He, He, He.
Photo from
Toe of Frog
Bulbous Buttercup
Ranunculus Bulbosus

Toe of frog?  Let me reach way in the back of the cupboard.  Ahh, there I got it.  Toe of Frog or Bulbous Buttercup leaves. 
"The toxins of the buttercup cause contact dermatitis in humans. Beggars once used this property to create blisters to engender sympathy for alms; the name Blister plant reflects this practice.  When buttercups are eaten by grazing animals, the toxic oils cause oral irritation and blistering of the esophagus. In severe cases, gastrointestinal distress can lead to convulsions, paralysis and death."
This plant does grow in Texas and sounds like one that needs to be avoided!
Now we need to add a little Wool of Bat.  Wool of Bat is more commonly known as Holly Ilex aquifolium.  Okay, the Holly in our brew will be a Yaupon Holly Ilex vomitoria  because it is a Texas Native.

Native Americans used the leaves and stems to brew a tea, commonly thought to be called asi or black drink for male-only purification and unity rituals. The ceremony included vomiting, and Europeans incorrectly believed that it was Ilex vomitoria that caused it (hence the Latin name). The active ingredient is actually caffeine, and the vomiting was either learned or as a result of the great quantities in which they drank the beverage coupled with fasting.  Hudson, C. M. (1976). The Southeastern Indians. University of Tennessee Press ISBN 0-87049-248-9.

Tongue of Dog
Hound's Tongue
Cynoglossum officinale

Oh, dear, now where did I put that dried Tongue of Dog.  Noooo, I didn't, wouldn't, couldn't use are real dog's tongue.  Tongue of dog is Hound's Tongue Cynoglossum officinale.  This plant is also called Gypsy Flower or Rats and Mice due to its smell.  Tongue of Dog does not grow in Texas, is considered a noxious weed where it does grow and is a medicinal plant.

A serpent's tongue.
Isn't he cute!

Now a pinch of Adder's Fork or Serpent's Tongue Erythronium americanum.
Caution!   Adder's fork can be strongly emetic  in some people (which means it makes you throw up a lot).
Adder's Fork is native to Texas.

Now for  a good dose of Blind-worm's Sting and Owlet's Wing.  Ahhh, sorry, folks, these must be the secret ingredients because I cannot seem to find out any information on these herbs.

Could you please bring me that fresh Lizard's Leg?  Oh, look, there is some on that wall over there!  No, not that cute little Gecko!  That Ivy trailing along the wall!  Yes, that is the fresh Leg of Lizard that Mr. S's witches are using.

Okay, so now we have all the ingredients  to make some sort of mystical concoction.  We will put it on the fire to let the cauldron bubble.  Well, not actually the brew given above but how about a big pot of Veggie soup?

Anyway, have a Happy Halloween and remember Nov. 1st  is the Day of the Dead. 

Until next time,
Spookily yours, Susan 

The Witch's Garden

In the witch's garden,
The gate is open wide.

"Come inside," says the witch,
'Dears, come inside."

"No flowers in my garden,
Nothing minty, nothing chivey."

"Come inside, come inside,
See my lovely poison ivy."

By Lilian Moore (1909-2004)

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