Tag Archives: Harry Potter

Love Potions, Fairy Gloves And Mandrake Roots


“And because the Breath of Flowers is farre Sweeter in the Aire (where it comes and Gose, like the Warbling of Musick) than in the hand, therefore nothing is more fit for delight, than to know what be the Flowers and the Plants that doe best perfume the Aire.” ~Frances Bacon

My fascination with herbs is largely prompted by my absorption with all things historic and the thrill of seeing, touching, sometimes tasting, and above all smelling the same plants known by the ancients.  Herbs have changed little, if at all, over the centuries and offer us a connection with the past that precious little does in these modern days.  It’s pure intoxication to rub fragrant leaves between my fingers and savor the scent while pondering the wealth of lore behind these plants.

I hope my enthusiasm will enrich your lives with a deeper awareness of those people who dwelt on this earth long before us and to inspire you to plant herbs in your gardens or in pots on a patio or sunny windowsill.  My love of herbs and herbal lore spills over into my stories.

The following post is one I wrote for my blog that’s been reprinted at various online sites and in RWA® chapter newsletters and sums it up rather well.

~Time out of mind, herbs have figured prominently in mystery and romance. Shakespeare is probably the most famous author to incorporate the juice of monkshood as the deadly elixir in Hamlet.  Mandrake, the screaming roots in Harry Potter, made up the sleeping potion that sent Juliette into a death-like slumber.  Poor Romeo, if only he’d known before he drank belladonna, a member of the deadly nightshade family, or wolf’s bane. It seems no one is quite certain what the ill-fated lover knocked back.

Whimsical fancies sprang up around the shape of plants. The bell-like flowers of foxglove were thought to be the minute gloves that fairies wore, especially as foxglove bloomed in shady woodlands where everyone knows the little folk dwell. Commonly called digitalis, this now-famous plant is widely used to treat heart disease. But too strong a dose and bang––you have a murder mystery. In Pocketful of Rye, Agatha Christie favored a poisonous concoction made of yew disguised in marmalade. The author hid deadly hemlock in a bottle of cold beer in Five Little Pigs.

Many herbs also had romantic uses. The love potion in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has been analyzed by a fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry in England. Doctor Sell thinks it was made up of heart’s ease (violas) blended with the sweetness of musk roses. In the play, Oberon drops the flowery decoction onto the eyelids of the sleeping Titania, but the good doctor cautions against trying this at home. Rather, opt for the nape of the neck or the décolleté. Men just love the décolleté––breasts pushed up by a tightly drawn corset for those of you who didn’t realize.

Speaking of romance, it was thought that a young maiden could toss a sprig of St. John’s Wort over her shoulder and soon learn the name of the man she was to marry. Leafy branches of this herb were also hung in windows to ward off evil spirits and burnt to protect against devils, goblins and witches. Bear this in mind, if you’re troubled by them. Legend has it that angelica was revealed in a dream by an angel to cure the bubonic plague. All parts of the plant were deemed of great value against enchantment. And don’t forget boughs of the sacred rowan tree to ward off evil spells.

Feeling timid? Anoint your feet with catnip tea to embolden yourself. Fennel seed is said to boost desire. Lavender is “of ‘especiall good use for all griefes and paines of the head.” For those of you who would be true, rosemary is the symbol of fidelity between lovers. Traditionally, a wreath of the aromatic herb was worn by brides. Rosemary is also the herb of remembrance left at the grave of loved ones.

Historical writers, especially, can incorporate the use of herbs to flavor their stories, as do I. But anyone can mix in a love potion or fatal elixir to spice up the usual suspects in a suspense or murder mystery. ~

I’m teaching an online class in May for Celtic Hearts Romance Writers, open to anyone. If interested click this link and scroll down to the info on my class: http://www.celtichearts.org/ workshops.html

Shades of November


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Misty days, cold rain falling, leaves scattering from the trees in a red-gold swirl meld with days of brilliant sunshine.  Pure light streams through late autumn color and spills over fields of new, green rye.  My fair valley is a glistening jewel on such days and I can see the Alleghenies from my window.  When it’s hazy, mist veils the mountains rising beyond the muted hills above our meadow.

On my dining room table sits a box of crocus and other tiny bulbs that ought to be in the ground.  I’ve already planted oodles of bulbs this fall and temporarily stalled as to where to put these.  I got carried away in hot muggy August when daughter Elise and I ordered the bulbs–even tacked this order  on to the one she and I’d already made after she returned to school.  Back then autumn seemed but a  dream of faultless blue skies, crisp air, and glorious leaves that stretched on and on infinitely in my mind.   In reality,  fall comes and goes all too quickly…the wonder and beauty that lures me into those long dark months before the return of my beloved spring.  Not all the leaves are fallen yet and some vivid color remains on the trees, but not for long.  Still, there is much to be savored about every season and I seek for the joys in this one.

For one thing, advancing November is what I call ‘the snugly time.’  For those of you with real fireplaces, I envy you.  There’s such primal satisfaction and comfort in the crackle of a wood fire, the orange glow of the flames and red coals,  the smoky fragrance.  I have a fireplace DVD, I kid you not, and a large electric space heater that looks like a wood stove with a fake fire in it.  But it gives out warmth and if I play the fireplace DVD while running the space heater/wood stove, at least it provides the feel of a hearth.  Certainly better than when all I owned was the DVD that emitted zero heat in this drafty old farm house.

My sister, feeling this was the height of pathetic, gave me the wood stove/space heater for Christmas.  We do have ancient chimneys here but none are safe to use.  Someday, someday, we shall build a new one.  But the farm has a way of eating up all the scanty funds before they stretch to include a new stone hearth.

I’d love a massive hearth such as I describe in many of my novels. The Big Meadows Lodge up on the Skyline Drive has the most wonderful hearth in the world.  I could settle in for days and write in that cozy room with a superb view of the ridges and valley spreading out below–my father says when he was young and the air clearer, people could see the Washington Monument in Washington, DC from a point in the Blue Ridge.  I hope we will get our air quality that pure again.  Meanwhile, when I’m in the lodge before that hearth I’m deeply content to let the rain fall and fog shroud the ridges.  A snug log cabin would also do nicely as a writers retreat.

One of the benefits of these darkening days is that it’s an excellent time for writing and reading, two of my most favorite occupations.    I need a new CD, something with a historic and fantasy sound, music that transports me from here to there, to write my latest light paranormal romance to.  Recent choices include the soundtrack from Prince Caspian, Lord of the Rings (all three of them) the latest Harry Potter soundtrack…I’m open to suggestions.  I love Celtic music and have collected releases from various artists but nothing I have seems to suit the mood I’m seeking.  On goes my search for the perfect music to write to.

*This is also a great time of year for making soup and baking bread, one of today’s projects.

*Pics of The Alleghenies, Our Farm, The Big Meadows Lodge, and Me writing with my faithful companion Sadie Sue~ Pics by mom, daughter Elise, and I don’t know who took the one of the lodge.

November Musings


Stone hearthMisty autumn day, cold rain falling, leaves scattering from the trees in a red-gold swirl.  The Alleghenies are veiled in the distance beyond the hazy hills above our meadow.  On my dining room table sits a box of tiger lily and tulip bulbs that need planting, should already be in the sodden ground.  I trust we’ll have some fine sunny days yet that may entice me out into the garden before winter settles in.

Daughter Elise and I ordered the bulbs back in hot, muggy August when fall seemed but a  dream of deep blue skies, crisp air, and glorious leaves.   Too fast it comes and goes, the wonder and beauty that lures us into those long dark months before the return of my beloved spring.  Not all the leaves are fallen yet and some vivid color remains on the trees, but not for long.  Still, there is much to be savored about every season and I shall seek for the joys in this one while bidding a wistful farewell to what has been a spectacular October.

campfireFor one thing, advancing November is what I call ‘the snugly time.’  For those of you with real fireplaces, I envy you.  There’s such primal satisfaction and comfort in the crackle of a wood fire, the orange glow of the flames and red coals,  the smoky scent.  I have a fireplace DVD, I kid you not, and an large electric space heater that looks like a wood stove with a fake fire in it.  But it gives out warmth and if I play the fireplace DVD while running the space heater/wood stove, at least it provides the feel of a hearth.  Certainly better than back when all I had was the DVD alone.  That emitted zero heat in this drafty old farm house.  My sister, feeling this was the height of pathetic, gave me the wood stove/space heater for Christmas.  We do have ancient chimneys here but none are safe to use.  Someday, someday, we shall build a new one.  But the farm has a way of eating up all the scanty funds before they stretch to include a new stone hearth.

iStock_000002286112XSmallI’d love a massive hearth such as I describe in many of my novels.  Hint, hint.  The Big Meadows Lodge up on the Skyline Drive has the most wonderful hearth in the world.  I could settle in for days and write in that cozy room with a superb view of the ridges and valley spreading out below.  On a clear day, you can see for miles and miles.  And when I’m up there before that hearth I am deeply content to let the rain fall and fog shroud the ridges.  A snug log cabin would also do nicely as a writers retreat.

As for one of the benefits of these darkening days.  It’s an excellent time for writing and reading, two of my most favorite occupations.    I need a new CD, something with an historic and fantasy sound, music that transports me from here to there, to finish writing my latest light paranormal novel.  Recent choices include the soundtrack from Prince Caspian, Lord of the Rings (all three of them) the latest Harry Potter soundtrack…I’m open to suggestions.  I love Celtic music, but own quite a collection of various artists and nothing I have seems to suit the mood I’m seeking.  On goes my search for the perfect music to write to.

*This is also a great time of year for making soup.