The Witch's Garden
Verbena Rudbeckia and Her Monster Plants
How might a witches' garden look?
The Witches' 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)
How Poisonous is that Ivy?
"Leaves of three, let it be."
It is true that poison ivy ALWAYS grows with "leaves of three."
The poison comes from the oil urushiol, which causes an allergic reaction that produces a rash on the skin. Breathing in oil-containing smoke from burning pooison ivy may cause a rash of the membranes of mouth, nose, throat, and lungs.
The oil is in all parts of the plant - the leaves, vines, and roots.
What's a Witch?
Here's one definition:
Women thought to have magic evil powers. They are popularly depicted as wearing a black cloak and pointed hat, and flying on a broomstick
Poirot: Halloween Party Music (2010) - "Secret Garden" - Also known as "Magic Garden"
With the dubious help of the grisly old village witch and the wildly speculative mystery writer Ariadne Oliver, Poirot investigates old sins and discovers connections between a years-old stabbing and the creation of a Quarry garden.
Curious Children and Adults
October is the time for witches, goblins and exotic looking plants and fruit. While some of autumn's most attractive plants are great for cooking and seasonal decorations, others are poisonous and indeed belong in a witch's garden. It's almost as if they scheme with witches to cry out "Touch Me!" and "Taste Me."
Colorful plants look attractive to average toddlers and preschoolers, and sometimes festive-looking leaves and fruit attract even older children and adults. There is a bit of squirrel in each of us, and unsuspecting adults gather unknowns in hopes that what looks good will taste good. The best defense against poisoning from plants is knowledge and good practice.
Children are drawn to brightly-colored fruit more than leaves. However, if they are accustomed to seeing adults working in a garden munching on bits if herbs or walking through wooded areas nibbling on tasty twigs of sweet birch (Betula lenta), they may be tempted to experiment on their own.
Beware White Fruit
Some words of warning from the Arnold Arboretum (Boston, MA) plant folks:
Avoid any fruit that is white. It's bound to be poisonous.
Examples: poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), Doll's-eyes / White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda), and mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens).
Poem 'The Rose' from the book "The Temple" (1633) by George Herbert (1593 - 1633)
From: The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes by John Gerarde [or Gerard]
"What is fairer than a rose?
What is sweeter? Yet, it purgeth."
Norton and Whittaker: London, 1633, p.1263, lists the medicinal properties of roses.
What's with Roses and Purgeth?
One of the "Vertues" of the Rose was it could be used as a purge.
A purge is something to drink that flushes unhealthy toxins from the system via the large intestine.
Could there be "death by roses?"
Could a little bit much of a rose distillation be definitely too much for an unsuspecting victim?
Know your poisonous plants!
Which of the following is not a poisonous plant?
Witches and Their Images - Fact or Fiction
Witch images have been with humans since antiquity. All images change along the way. Images of witches continue to change. Do they still need black cats to maintain an image? Do they still need to be surrounded by evil or poisonous plants?
How do you imagine witches?
Witch on Bicycle Garden Spinner
'The Winter's Tale' William Shakespeare
"Here's flowers for you;
Hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram;
The marigold, that goes to bed wi' the sun
And with him rises weeping: these are flowers
Of middle summer, and I think they are given
To men of middle age."
Amazon Books on Poisonous Plants - Familiar Plants. Some Good, Some Nasty. Learn to Know the Difference.
Plants have always been thought to be powerful. Now, we know that they contain nasty chemicals that can injure both humans and animals. Witches know their plants by extensive and careful study.
COTTON MATHER (1663-1728) Puritan, Congregational Minister and Author - Excerpt from the "Angel of Bethesda"
Before the Age of Enlightenment texts like The Angel of Bethesda explained many illnesses in a spiritual context, attributing illnesses to demonic and divine sources. The use of repentance and traditional folk medicine were treatments for mental illness. Afflicted individuals were blamed for their own sickness This was the age of witches in both the New World as well as the Old One.
"The Vertues of every Plant call for thy praises to the Glorious God who has made the Plant and taught us the Vertues of it. And if thou are a Plant of Righteousness thou wilt study to be one, upon the Accounts, of greater Vertues than any that are to found, from the Cedar that is in Lebanon even unto the Hyssop that springs out of the wall..." Cotton Mather
the practice of divination using herbs. An ancient method of magic practiced by witches; they would burn plants and trees and read the message in the ashes.
Hyssop officinalis - the hyssop herb
Salvia officinalis - official or culinary sage
Invitation to a Heavenly Feast - Meditation #62 - Edward Taylor (1642-1729) - American Puritan poet and minister of the Westfield, MA Congregational Church
"I'll surely come, Lord fit me for this feast:
Give me my Sage and my Savory; me dub
with Goldenrod, and with Saint Johns wort good.
Root up my Henbain, Fainbain, Divells bit,
My Dragons, Chokewort, Grasswort, Ragwort, vice
And set my knot with Honeysuckle, stick
Rich Herb-a-Grace and Grains of Paradise,
Angelica, yea Sharons Rose the best
And Herba Trinitatis in my breast."
What's in a Name?
"herba trinitatis" is the herbalists' name for Viola tricolor (heartsease,wild pansy)
Witches Chant - Shakespeare's McBeth
Some witches like those described in Shakespeare's McBeth preferred to use reptiles, amphibians, and parts of small mammals rather than plants in their potions.
"Double, double, toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of finny 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,
Lizards leg and owlets wing.
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a devil's broth now bubble.
Double, double, toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Cool it with baboons' blood,
When the charm is firm and good."
A Cauldron is...
sometimes called a caldron and is a large metal pot (kettle) for cooking and/or boiling over an open fire, with a large mouth and frequently with an arc-shaped hanger.
The garden is the poor man's apothecary ~ German Proverb
The Mud Maid in The Lost Gardens of Heligan
Witches and Your Thoughts
What did you think about this hub page? Did it make you think differently about witches? Would you like to know more about witches?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Georgene Moizuk Bramlage