Tag Archives: Middle Ages

What Made Juliet Slumber and Witches Fly?


I know! I know! Beth has her hand up.

Belladonna (Deadly Nightshade)

belladonna (1)

“In Italian, a belladonna is a beautiful lady; in English it’s a deadly poison.” ~Ambrose Bierce

Alternate name for Belladonna: Devil‘s Cherries, Naughty Man’s Cherries, Divale, Black Cherry, Devil’s Herb, Great Morel, Dwayberry.

The Atropa genus (that Atropa belladonna belongs to) is a member of the Solanaceae (the nightshade or potato) family of plants which includes brugmansia, capsicum (used to make paprika and chili pepper), eggplant, jimsonweed, mandrake, petunia, potato, tobacco, and tomato plants.

Deadly Nightshade - Atropa belladonna--flowersBelladonna has a fascinating history and uses.  All parts of the plant are potentially toxic, including the berries, and it’s made into a liquid extract which can be administered.  The toxin is also absorbed through the skin.

From Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs“During the Middle Ages, men and women believed that deadly nightshade was the favorite plant of the devil. This is not surprising when one considers the stories told of this plant. Belladonna was said to be an ingredient in the refreshments of wild orgies at which women would strip off their clothes, dance, and throw themselves into the arms of eager men. Sorcerers and witches added the juices of the plant to their brews and ointments.  Witches rubbed a lotion containing belladonna and aconite into their skin believing that it helped them to fly.  Given the physiological effects of both of these herbs, in a way it probably did make them fly. Deadly nightshade’s toxicity did not go unnoticed either.  Men used this herb frequently to kill.”

Habitat: Widely distributed over Central and Southern EuropeSouth-west Asia and Algeria; cultivated in England, France and North America. (I’m not cultivating deadly nightshade but it grows freely in my yard and garden if not pulled out.)

DescriptionThe root is thick, fleshy and whitish, about 6 inches long, or more, and branching. It is perennial. The purplish-coloured stem is annual and herbaceous. It is stout, 2 to 4 feet high, undivided at the base, but dividing a little above the ground into three – more rarely two or four branches, each of which again branches freely.

The leaves are dull, darkish green in colour and of unequal size, 3 to 10 inches long…the fresh plant, when crushed, exhales a disagreeable odour, almost disappearing on drying, and the leaves have a bitter taste, when both fresh and dry.

The flowers, which appear in June and July, singly, in the axils of the leaves, and continue blooming until early September, are of a dark and dingy purplish colour, tinged with green, large (about an inch long), pendent, bell-shaped, furrowed, the corolla with five large teeth or lobes, slightly reflexed. The five-cleft calyx spreads round the base of the smooth berry, which ripens in September, when it acquires a shining black colour and is in size like a small cherry. It contains several seeds. The berries are full of a dark, inky juice, and are intensely sweet, and their attraction to children on that account, has from their poisonous properties, been attended with fatal results.

150px-Atropa_belladonna_berryIt is said that when taken by accident, the poisonous effects of Belladonna berries may be prevented by swallowing as soon as possible an emetic, such as a large glass of warm vinegar or mustard and water. In undoubted cases of this poisoning, emetics and the stomach-pump are resorted to at once, followed by a dose of magnesia, stimulants and strong coffee, the patient being kept very warm and artificial respiration being applied if necessary. A peculiar symptom in those poisoned by Belladonna is the complete loss of voice, together with frequent bending forward of the trunk and continual movements of the hands and fingers, the pupils of the eye becoming much dilated.

Chaucer-HistoryThe plant in Chaucer’s days was known as Dwale, which Dr. J. A. H. Murray considers was probably derived from the Scandinavian dool, meaning delay or sleep. Other authorities have derived the word from the Frenchdeuil (grief), a reference to its fatal properties.

Its deadly character is due to the presence of an alkaloid, Atropine, 1/10 grain of which swallowed by a man has occasioned symptoms of poisoning. As every part of the plant is extremely poisonous, neither leaves, berries, nor root should be handled if there are any cuts or abrasions on the hands. The root is the most poisonous, the leaves and flowers less so, and the berries, except to children, least of all. It is said that an adult may eat two or three berries without injury, but dangerous symptoms appear if more are taken, and it is wiser not to attempt the experiment.

Belladonna is supposed to have been the plant that poisoned the troops of Marcus Antonius during the Parthian wars. Plutarch gives a graphic account of the strange effects that followed its use.

Scotland, Forest, Old, TreeBuchanan relates in his History of Scotland (1582) a tradition that when Duncan I was King of Scotland, the soldiers of Macbeth poisoned a whole army of invading Danes by a liquor mixed with an infusion of Dwale supplied to them during a truce. Suspecting nothing, the invaders drank deeply and were easily overpowered and murdered in their sleep by the Scots.

According to old legends, the plant belongs to the devil who goes about trimming and tending it in his leisure, and can only be diverted from its care on one night in the year, that is on Walpurgis, when he is preparing for the witches’ sabbath. The apples of Sodom are held to be related to this plant, and the name Belladonna is said to record an old superstition that at certain times it takes the form of an enchantress of exceeding loveliness, whom it is dangerous to look upon, though a more generally accepted view is that the name was bestowed on it because its juice was used by the Italian ladies to give their eyes greater brilliancy, the smallest quantity having the effect of dilating the pupils of the eye.

belladonnaAnother derivation is founded on the old tradition that the priests used to drink an infusion before they worshipped and invoked the aid of Bellona, the Goddess of War.

The generic name of the plant, Atropa, is derived from the Greek Atropos, one of the Fates who held the shears to cut the thread of human life – a reference to its deadly, poisonous nature.

Thomas Lupton (1585) says: ‘Dwale makes one to sleep while he is cut or burnt by cauterizing.’ Gerard (1597) calls the plant the Sleeping Nightshade, and says the leaves moistened in wine vinegar and laid on the head induce sleep.

Mandrake, a foreign species ofAtropa (A. Mandragora), was used in Pliny’s day as an anesthetic for operations. Its root contains an alkaloid, Mandragorine. The sleeping potion of Juliet was a preparation from this plant – perhaps also the Mandrake wine of the Ancients. It was called Circaeon, being the wine of Circe.

Mandrake, the screaming roots in Harry Potter, is related to Belladonna.

Antidotes and treatment for Belladonna poisoning from: Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes  :

Antidotes for Poisons: Belladonna, or Deadly Nightshade

Symptoms: Dryness of the mouth and throat, great thirst, difficulty of swallowing, nausea, dimness, confusion or loss of vision, great enlargement of the pupils, dizziness, delirium, and coma. Treatment: There is no known antidote. Give a prompt emetic and then reliance must be placed on continual stimulation with brandy, whisky, etc., and to necessary artificial respiration. Opium and its preparations, as morphia, laudanum, etc., are thought by some to counteract the effect of belladonna, and may be given in small and repeated doses, as also strong black coffee and green tea.

***Activated charcoal is also said to be helpful in absorbing the poison.

What Made Juliet Slumber and Witches Fly


Belladonna (Deadly Nightshade)

“In Italian, a belladonna is a beautiful lady; in English it’s a deadly poison.” ~ Ambrose Bierce

Alternate name for Belladonna: Devil‘s Cherries, Naughty Man’s Cherries, Divale, Black Cherry, Devil’s Herb, Great Morel, Dwayberry.

The Atropa genus (that Atropa belladonna belongs to) is a member of the Solanaceae (the nightshade or potato) family of plants which includes brugmansia, capsicum (used to make paprika and chili pepper), eggplant, jimsonweed, mandrake, petunia, potato, tobacco, and tomato plants.

Belladonna has a fascinating history and uses.  All parts of the plant are potentially toxic, including the berries, and it’s made into a liquid extract which can be administered.  The toxin is also absorbed through the skin.

From Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs: “During the Middle Ages, men and women believed that deadly nightshade was the favorite plant of the devil. This is not surprising when one considers the stories told of this plant. Belladonna was said to be an ingredient in the refreshments of wild orgies at which women would strip off their clothes, dance, and throw themselves into the arms of eager men. Sorcerers and witches added the juices of the plant to their brews and ointments.  Witches rubbed a lotion containing belladonna and aconite into their skin believing that it helped them to fly.  Given the physiological effects of both of these herbs, in a way it probably did make them fly. Deadly nightshade’s toxicity did not go unnoticed either.  Men used this herb frequently to kill.”

From A Modern Herbal:

Habitat: Widely distributed over Central and Southern Europe, South-west Asia and Algeria; cultivated in England, France and North America.

Description: The root is thick, fleshy and whitish, about 6 inches long, or more, and branching. It is perennial. The purplish-coloured stem is annual and herbaceous. It is stout, 2 to 4 feet high, undivided at the base, but dividing a little above the ground into three – more rarely two or four branches, each of which again branches freely.

The leaves are dull, darkish green in colour and of unequal size, 3 to 10 inches long…the fresh plant, when crushed, exhales a disagreeable odour, almost disappearing on drying, and the leaves have a bitter taste, when both fresh and dry.

The flowers, which appear in June and July, singly, in the axils of the leaves, and continue blooming until early September, are of a dark and dingy purplish colour, tinged with green, large (about an inch long), pendent, bell-shaped, furrowed, the corolla with five large teeth or lobes, slightly reflexed. The five-cleft calyx spreads round the base of the smooth berry, which ripens in September, when it acquires a shining black colour and is in size like a small cherry. It contains several seeds. The berries are full of a dark, inky juice, and are intensely sweet, and their attraction to children on that account, has from their poisonous properties, been attended with fatal results.

It is said that when taken by accident, the poisonous effects of Belladonna berries may be prevented by swallowing as soon as possible an emetic, such as a large glass of warm vinegar or mustard and water. In undoubted cases of this poisoning, emetics and the stomach-pump are resorted to at once, followed by a dose of magnesia, stimulants and strong coffee, the patient being kept very warm and artificial respiration being applied if necessary. A peculiar symptom in those poisoned by Belladonna is the complete loss of voice, together with frequent bending forward of the trunk and continual movements of the hands and fingers, the pupils of the eye becoming much dilated.

History: The plant in Chaucer’s days was known as Dwale, which Dr. J. A. H. Murray considers was probably derived from the Scandinavian dool, meaning delay or sleep. Other authorities have derived the word from the French deuil (grief), a reference to its fatal properties.

Its deadly character is due to the presence of an alkaloid, Atropine, 1/10 grain of which swallowed by a man has occasioned symptoms of poisoning. As every part of the plant is extremely poisonous, neither leaves, berries, nor root should be handled if there are any cuts or abrasions on the hands. The root is the most poisonous, the leaves and flowers less so, and the berries, except to children, least of all. It is said that an adult may eat two or three berries without injury, but dangerous symptoms appear if more are taken, and it is wiser not to attempt the experiment.

Belladonna is supposed to have been the plant that poisoned the troops of Marcus Antonius during the Parthian wars. Plutarch gives a graphic account of the strange effects that followed its use.

Buchanan relates in his History of Scotland (1582) a tradition that when Duncan I was King of Scotland, the soldiers of Macbeth poisoned a whole army of invading Danes by a liquor mixed with an infusion of Dwale supplied to them during a truce. Suspecting nothing, the invaders drank deeply and were easily overpowered and murdered in their sleep by the Scots.

According to old legends, the plant belongs to the devil who goes about trimming and tending it in his leisure, and can only be diverted from its care on one night in the year, that is on Walpurgis, when he is preparing for the witches’ sabbath. The apples of Sodom are held to be related to this plant, and the name Belladonna is said to record an old superstition that at certain times it takes the form of an enchantress of exceeding loveliness, whom it is dangerous to look upon, though a more generally accepted view is that the name was bestowed on it because its juice was used by the Italian ladies to give their eyes greater brilliancy, the smallest quantity having the effect of dilating the pupils of the eye.

Another derivation is founded on the old tradition that the priests used to drink an infusion before they worshipped and invoked the aid of Bellona, the Goddess of War.

The generic name of the plant, Atropa, is derived from the Greek Atropos, one of the Fates who held the shears to cut the thread of human life – a reference to its deadly, poisonous nature.

Thomas Lupton (1585) says: ‘Dwale makes one to sleep while he is cut or burnt by cauterizing.’ Gerard (1597) calls the plant the Sleeping Nightshade, and says the leaves moistened in wine vinegar and laid on the head induce sleep.

Mandrake, a foreign species of Atropa (A. Mandragora), was used in Pliny’s day as an anesthetic for operations. Its root contains an alkaloid, Mandragorine. The sleeping potion of Juliet was a preparation from this plant – perhaps also the Mandrake wine of the Ancients. It was called Circaeon, being the wine of Circe.

Mandrake, the screaming roots in Harry Potter, is related to Belladonna.

Antidotes and treatment for Belladonna poisoning from: Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas Recipes Processes  :

Antidotes for Poisons: Belladonna, or Deadly Nightshade

Symptoms: Dryness of the mouth and throat, great thirst, difficulty of swallowing, nausea, dimness, confusion or loss of vision, great enlargement of the pupils, dizziness, delirium, and coma. Treatment: There is no known antidote. Give a prompt emetic and then reliance must be placed on continual stimulation with brandy, whisky, etc., and to necessary artificial respiration. Opium and its preparations, as morphia, laudanum, etc., are thought by some to counteract the effect of belladonna, and may be given in small and repeated doses, as also strong black coffee and green tea.

***Royalty free images apart from the scene in Harry Potter

“There’s Rosemary That’s for Remembrance. Pray, You Love, Remember.” ~ Hamlet


“There’s rosemary and rue. These keep
Seeming and savor all the winter long.
Grace and remembrance be to you.”
William Shakespeare

I love rosemary both for its scent and wonderful history.  I’m never without at least one modest plant.  My current specimen is making a come back from a winter in my chilly sun room, and I’m rooting a few cuttings.

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs says:  “For centuries people thought that a rosemary plant would grow no higher than 6 feet in 35 years so as not to stand taller than Christ.  Another story tells that the flowers were originally thought to be white but changed to blue when the Virgin Mary hung her cloak on a bush while fleeing from Herod’s soldiers with the Christ child.

Rosemary possessed powers of protection against evil spirits, or so people thought.  In the Middle Ages, men and women would place sprigs under their pillows to ward off demons and prevent bad dreams.

“There’s rosemary that’s for remembrance. Pray, you love, remember.” ~ Hamlet

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, mostly just because. I rarely cook with it, but love its scent and the wealth of history behind it. Known as the herb of remembrance from the time of ancient Greece, it appears in that immortal verse by Shakespeare.  My fascination with herbs plays a significant role in my historical/light paranormal romance Somewhere My Love, as does Hamlet, for that matter.  I always wanted to write a murder mystery with a focus on herbs and parallels to a Shakespearean play, and so I did.

Regarding Rosemary, Maud Grieve in A Modern Herbal says,
“The Ancients were well acquainted with the shrub, which had a reputation for strengthening the memory. On this account it became the emblem of fidelity for lovers. It holds a special position among herbs from the symbolism attached to it. Not only was it used at weddings, but also at funerals, for decking churches and banqueting halls at festivals, as incense in religious ceremonies, and in magical spells.

At weddings, it was entwined in the wreath worn by the bride, being first dipped into scented water.  Anne of Cleves, (*4th wife of Henry V111 and one who survived him), we are told, wore such a wreath at her wedding. A Rosemary branch, richly gilded and tied with silken ribands of all colours, was also presented to wedding guests, as a symbol of love and loyalty. Together with an orange stuck with cloves it was given as a New Year’s gift…

In early times, Rosemary was freely cultivated in kitchen gardens and came to represent the dominant influence of the house mistress, ‘Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled.’

The Treasury of Botany says:
‘There is a vulgar belief in Gloucestershire and other counties, that Rosemary will not grow well unless where the mistress is “master”; and so touchy are some of the lords of creation upon this point, that we have more than once had reason to suspect them of privately injuring a growing rosemary in order to destroy this evidence of their want of authority.’

Rosemary was one of the cordial herbs used to flavour ale and wine. It was also used in Christmas decoration.
“Down with the rosemary and so,
Down with the baies and mistletoe,
Down with the holly, ivie all
Wherewith ye deck the Christmas Hall.” —HERRICK.

“As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not only because my bees love it but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship, whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language.”
Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) British writer, statesman and philosopher

Miss Ainslie gathered a bit of rosemary, crushing it between her white fingers. “See,” she said, “some of us are like that it takes a blow to find the sweetness in our souls.”
Lavender and Old Lace
-Myrtle Reed (1874–1911)

To Guard Against Spells and Enchantment–Herbal Lore–Beth Trissel


The sacred herb, Angelica, as its name alone implies, has a lofty status in the world of herbal lore.  I used this herb in my historical fantasy romance novel The Bearwalker’s Daughter, and my upcoming release, Traitor’s Curse. I’ve grown Angelica in the garden, a large aromatic plant with lacy white umbels, but it died out, so I replanted seedlings this spring. They took off, and I hope will survive the winter. Angelica makes a nice addition to a perennial herb and flower border, but be certain to allow plenty of room; it reaches a height of 4 to 6 feet. The flowers are also appealing to butterflies, another plus.

“According to one legend, (European-angelica) Angelica was revealed in a dream by an angel to cure the plague (hence the name Angelica or Archangel). All parts of the plant were believed effective against evil spirits and witchcraft. It was held in such esteem that it was called ‘The Root of the Holy Ghost.’

In America it was used by the Iroquois and other tribes as Witchcraft Medicine, an infusion of smashed roots were used as wash to remove ghosts from the house.”  This quote is from an interesting site called Alternative Nature Online Herbal.  You can also view lovely pics of Angelic there.

From Real MagickMagickal Use and Lore:

“As seen by its name, angelica has been associated with the Archangel Michael. It comes into bloom near his feast day and has been connected to the Christian observance of the Annunciation. Angelica is known for its protection against evil spells.”

From Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs: “Throughout history angelica has been a standout herb…supposed to ward off evil spirits and witches.  Peasants would weave necklaces of the leaves for their children to wear to protect them. The juice of the roots was used to make Carmelite water, considered a ‘sovereign remedy’ and drunk to endure a long life and to protect against the poisons and spells of witches.”

Here I want to point out that the hysteria over witchcraft peaked in the Middle Ages, but endured well beyond.  How many unfortunates were burnt at the stake as a result of witch hunts is uncertain but they numbered in the thousands.  Most confessions were gained as the result of torture, although the suggestion has been made that the side effects of some potent herbs made people think they could actually fly and that they possessed special powers.  And who’s to say that some individuals didn’t have special powers.  But once condemned, few were powerful enough to keep themselves from a bad end.  Note that no witches were ever burned in North America, not even at the Salem Witch Trials.  By then, hanging was the preferred method of execution, far more civilized.  Burning was so sixteenth century.

From A Modern Herbal: (Bear in mind that this was written in the early 20th century, so not all that ‘modern.’  Ms. Grieve has a great deal to say about Angelica–I’ve touched on portions.)

Garden Angelica. Archangelica officinalis.
Parts Used: root, leaves, seeds.

History: Its virtues are praised by old writers, and the name itself, as well as the folk-lore of all North European countries, testify to the great antiquity of a belief in its merits as a protection against contagion, for purifying the blood, and for curing every conceivable malady: it was held a sovereign remedy for poisons agues and all infectious maladies.

The author goes on to say, “After the introduction of Christianity, the plant became linked in the popular mind with some archangelic patronage, and associated with the spring-time festival of the Annunciation. According to one legend, Angelica was revealed in a dream by an angel to cure the plague. Another explanation of the name of this plant is that it blooms on the day of Michael the Archangel (May 8, old style), and is on that account a preservative against evil spirits and witchcraft: all parts of the plant were believed efficacious against spells and enchantment. It was held in such esteem that it was called ‘The Root of the Holy Ghost.’

*Medieval herb garden

Angelica is unique amongst the Umbelliferae (*which means plants with umbel shaped flowers, think Queen Ann’s Lace) for its pervading aromatic odour, a pleasant perfume, entirely differing from Fennel, Parsley, Anise, Caraway or Chervil. One old writer compares it to Musk, others liken it to Juniper. Even the roots are fragrant, and form one of the principal aromatics of European growth- the other parts of the plant have the same flavour, but their active principles are considered more perishable.

Cultivation: Cultivate in ordinary deep, moist loam, in a shady position, as the plant thrives best in a damp soil and loves to grow near running water.

Parts Used: The roots and leaves for medicinal purposes, also the seeds. The stems and seeds for use in confectionery and flavouring and the preparation of liqueurs.  The dried leaves, on account of their aromatic qualities, are used in the preparation of hop bitters.  Angelica roots should be dried rapidly and placed in air-tight receptacles. They will then retain their medicinal virtues for many years.

The flavour of Angelica suggests that of Juniper berries, and it is largely used in combination with Juniper berries, or in partial substitution for them by gin distillers.

Medicinal Action and Uses

Angelica is a good remedy for colds, coughs, pleurisy, wind, colic, rheumatism and diseases of the urinary organs, though it should not be given to patients who have a tendency towards diabetes, as it causes an increase of sugar in the urine.  It is generally used as a stimulating expectorant, combined with other expectorants the action of which is facilitated, and to a large extent diffused, through the whole of the pulmonary region.  It is a useful agent for feverish conditions, acting as a diaphoretic.

An infusion may be made by pouring a pint of boiling water on an ounce of the bruised root, and two tablespoonsful of this should be given three or four times a day, or the powdered root administered in doses of 10 to 30 grains. The infusion will relieve flatulence, and is also of use as a stimulating bronchial tonic, and as an emmenagogue…used for indigestion, general debility and chronic bronchitis. For external use, the fresh leaves of the plant are crushed and applied as poultices in lung and chest diseases.

The following is extracted from an old family book of herbal remedies:

‘Boil down gently for three hours a handful of Angelica root in a quart of water; then strain it off and add liquid Narbonne honey or best virgin honey sufficient to make it into a balsam or syrup and take two tablespoonsful every night and morning, as well as several times in the day. If there be hoarseness or sore throat, add a few nitre drops.’

Angelica stems are also grateful to a feeble stomach, and will relieve flatulence promptly when chewed. An infusion of Angelica leaves is a very healthful, strengthening tonic and aromatic stimulant, the beneficial effect of which is felt after a few days’ use.

The yellow juice yielded by the stem and root becomes, when dry, a valuable medicine in chronic rheumatism and gout.

Taken in medicinal form, Angelica is said to cause disgust for spirituous liquors.  (*It occurs to me that this might be beneficial to alcoholics). It is a good vehicle for nauseous medicines and forms one of the ingredients in compound spirit of Aniseed. Gerard, among its many virtues that he extols, says ‘it cureth the bitings of mad dogs and all other venomous beasts.’~

Cadfael, starring  Derek Jacobi, is a fascinating mystery series set in the old Norman England town of Shrewsbury featuring a Crusader turned monk, skilled in the use of herbs and solving murders.  A healer atoning for the lives he took as a soldier, Brother Cadfael is often in his herborium at the monastery, busy with his mortar and pestle or distilling some potent elixir.  Dried herbs hang in bunches from the rafters overhead, fill baskets and shelves alongside glass vials, crocks and other medicinal vessels made of pottery… kewl stuff.  He also loves to be among the herbs in his garden.  But mysteries often summon him from these simple joys.

The opening theme features sacred Medieval music, haunting voices from ages past.  The show is available at netflix, some in instant streaming.  Listen to the clip below…intriguing.

***Royalty free images of old stained glass windows, medieval apothecary and pharmacist, monastic gardens, and herbs

The Shroud of Turin–With Exciting Update!


Controversy has raged for centuries over the validity of the Shroud of Turin
. In a short post, I can only touch on the trove of information surrounding this sacred Christian relic, but I encourage you to learn more on your own.
(*Closeup of the Facial Image as it appears to the naked eye.)

Some of you may ask, ‘what is the Shroud of Turin?’

It’s a 14 ft. long burial cloth with the image of a man on the linen who suffered a violent death by crucifixion. Many believe the image is that of Jesus Christ embedded on the cloth by the vast energy released at the moment of his resurrection. Others regard it as an elaborate forgery.

Last year I rented the documentary from Netflix on Jesus And The Shroud of Turin; I’d become acquainted with the shroud years ago through the avid interest of a friend, but like many, I thought it was a hoax. However, after watching this film and reviving my curiosity, I’m rethinking my position. Whether or nor the film and new evidence that has come to light makes a believer of you, the history of the shroud is fascinating. (*Image on the Shroud as it appears in a photographic negative)

For instance, The Knights Templar, the religious order that existed for two centuries during the Crusades in the Middle Ages, took care of the cloth for more than a hundred years and kept it from falling into the hands of heretical groups that might have destroyed it. Anything having to do with these Knights interests me.

(Ancient Mosaic of Jesus Christ in the old church of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, Turkey–image from istock)

There are many online sites devoted to the history and ongoing research of the Shroud. The main one seems to be: http://www.shroud.com/
To quote from The Shroud Website: ‘Modern science has completed hundreds of thousands of hours of detailed study and intense research on the Shroud. It is, in fact, the single most studied artifact in human history, and we know more about it today than we ever have before. And yet, the controversy still rages…we believe that if you have access to the facts, you can make up your own mind about the Shroud.’

From Wikipedia: The image on the shroud is much clearer in a black-and-white negative than in its natural sepia color. The striking negative image was first observed on the evening of May 28, 1898, on the reverse photographic plate of amateur photographer Secondo Pia, who was allowed to photograph it while it was being exhibited in the Turin Cathedral. According to Pia, he almost dropped and broke the photographic plate from the shock of seeing an image of a person on it.’  ***I thought this negative image that showed up in the photograph is one of the most remarkable aspects of the shroud.

http://www.shroudstory.com/
This shroud site says, ‘New Information: A team of nine scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory has confirmed that the carbon dating of the Shroud of Turin is wrong. See the Fact Check and Carbon Dating Tabs at Shroud of Turin Blog.

http://shroudofturin.wordpress.com/

That the original carbon dating may be wrong is an extremely important development because it had placed the shroud in the Middle Ages. Now, it seems the cloth may actually date back to the time of Christ.

To quote the Shroud of Turin Blog:  “Is it real?
Scientifically, we don’t know the age of the Shroud of Turin. However, we do know it is at least twice as old as the now discredited carbon 14 date. As for the images, we have no idea how they are formed. But they were not made by any known artistic method.

The Atheist, the skeptic, the rationalist must accept the scientific facts just as any Christian should. To deny that the shroud is authentic requires a leap of faith. So does affirmation. But the evidence suggests that it is a late-Second Temple era burial shroud of a crucifixion victim. From that, much can be inferred.”

(*The garden tomb in Jerusalem where many believe Jesus was buried. Image from istock.)

*****

Mita Jain is quoted on the blog as saying, “There has been a lot of debate about whether this was actually the cloth, in which Jesus was buried, or if it was someone else or perhaps if it’s just a hoax. Carbon 14 dating was done to verify the time of the linen cloth, and it was found that the cloth was from Middle Ages, ie about 1300 years after Jesus’s death. This dampened the believers’ spirit. But a follow up research, proved that the sample cloth chosen initially was a bad one because the cloth had been repaired in Middle Ages. The cloth also survived fire, and hence could have radiocarbon content indicating towards wrong age. Some people still believe that Turin’s shroud is a proof of Jesus’s sacrifice for the mankind. The others do not. I believe that it doesn’t matter whether the shroud is actual or not. Even if it’s not real, if it can bring some kindness and peace to today’s human race, then there is no harm believing in it. If it can bring out goodness in today’s world, then there is no harm worshipping it. The power of belief and faith can do wonders. After all, isn’t this what religion is all about?”~Mita Jain

(*Medieval painting of Jesus Christ in the Exeter Cathedral, Exeter, England. Image from istock)

In conclusion, all I can say is that the shroud is amazing. I got goosebumps looking at that picture. I believe it may be real, but as a Christian my faith is not dependent on the shroud being genuine.

This link takes you to a page where you can click on any part of the image of the shroud and it will allow you a closer examination. http://www.shroud.com/examine.htm

*Breaking News on May 2nd 2010

In an article released by the Associated Press,  Pope Benedict is quoted as saying: “This is a burial cloth that wrapped the remains of a crucified man in full correspondence with what the Gospels tell us of Jesus,” Benedict said. He said the relic — one of the most important in Christianity — should be seen as a photographic document of the “darkest mystery of faith” — that of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.~
For the complete article on Pope Benedict’s trip to Turin to view the Shroud visit this site:  Pope All But Endorses Authenticity Of Turin Shroud.
*** Someone mentioned a very interesting book about the Shroud entitled An Adventure of Discovery, by Mary and Alan Whanger~

“Parsley – the jewel of herbs, both in the pot and on the plate.” ~Albert Stockli


Parsley seeds must go to the devil and back nine times before sprouting.” ~Old Folk saying that stems from the length of time it takes parsley seeds to sprout.

“An honest laborious Country-man, with good Bread, Salt and a little Parsley, will make a contented Meal with a roasted Onion.” ~ John Evelyn (1620-1706)

“A prudent Victorian English girl would not cut parsley, as that would make her unlucky in love, or give it away, as that would give away her luck in love.” ~ From http://www.motherearthliving.com/Mother-Earth-Living/HERBS-of-LOVE

This year we have a thriving parsley plant (pictured alongside asparagus and black-eyed Susan and one close up image) and one that got buried under the dill and is not so content.  The kind of parsley we favor is the flat-leafed Italian variety, best for cooking. From the Kitchen Dictionary:  “There are more than 30 varieties of parley, but the most common are curly-leaf and the more pungent Italian or flat-leaf parsley. The flat-leaf has more flavor than curly parsley and is preferred for cooking, while dried parsley has little flavor at all. In ancient times parsley wreaths were used to ward off drunkenness. Chewing parsley will help with bad breath from food odors such as garlic”~

Read more: http://www.food.com/library/parsley-171#ixzz1RGqCyTOv

Parsley has an interesting and ancient history of use and much lore surrounding it which I find fascinating.   From my favorite source for antiquated herbal information: A Modern Herbal:

“There is an old superstition against transplanting parsley plants. (*I had no idea just how old this superstition was, but am aware of it.)  The herb is said to have been dedicated to Persephone and to funeral rites by the Greeks. It was afterwards consecrated to St. Peter in his character of successor to Charon.

In the sixteenth century, Parsley was known as A. hortense, but herbalists retained the official name petroselinum. Linnaeus in 1764 named it A. petroselinum, but it is now assigned to the genus Carum.

The Greeks held Parsley in high esteem, crowning the victors with chaplets of Parsley at the Isthmian games, and making with it wreaths for adorning the tombs of their dead. The herb was never brought to table of old, being held sacred to oblivion and to the dead. It was reputed to have sprung from the blood of a Greek hero, Archemorus, the forerunner of death, and Homer relates that chariot horses were fed by warriors with the leaves. Greek gardens were often bordered with Parsley and Rue.

Several cultivated varieties exist, the principal being the common plain-leaved, the curled-leaved, the Hamburg or broadleaved and the celery-leaved. Of the variety crispum, or curled-leaved, there are no less than thirty-seven variations; the most valuable are those of a compact habit with close, perfectly curled leaves. The common sort bears close leaves, but is of a somewhat hardier nature than those of which the leaves are curled; the latter are, however, superior in every way. The variety crispum was grown in very early days, being even mentioned by Pliny.

Turner says, ‘if parsley is thrown into fishponds it will heal the sick fishes therein.’

The plain-leaved parsley was the first known in this country, (*she’s speaking of Great Britain) but it is not now much cultivated, the leaves being less attractive than those of the curled, of a less brilliant green, and coarser in flavour. It also has too close a resemblance to Fool’s Parsley (Anthriscus cynapium), a noxious weed of a poisonous nature infesting gardens and fields. The leaves of the latter, though similar, are, however, of a rather darker green and when bruised, emit an unpleasant odour, very different to that of Parsley. They are, also, more finely divided. When the two plants are in flower, they are easily distinguished, Anthriscus having three tiny, narrow, sharp-pointed leaflets hanging down under each little umbellule of the white umbel of flowers, whereas in the Garden Parsley there is usually only one leaflet under the main umbel, the leaflets or bracts at the base of the small umbellules only being short and as fine as hairs. Anthriscus leaves, also, are glossy beneath. Gerard called Anthriscus ‘Dog’s Parsley,’ and says ‘the whole plant is of a naughty smell.’ It contains a peculiar alkaloid called Cynapium.

Stone Parsley (Sison), or Breakstone, is an allied plant, growing in chalky districts. S. Amomum is a species well known in some parts of Britain, with cream-coloured flowers and aromatic seeds. The name is said to be derived from the Celtic sium (running stream), some of the species formerly included growing in moist localities.

Of our Garden Parsley (which he calls Parsele) Gerard says, ‘It is delightful to the taste and agreeable to the stomache,’ also ‘the roots or seeds boiled in ale and drank, cast foorth strong venome or poyson; but the seed is the strongest part of the herbe.’

Though the medicinal virtues of Parsley are still fully recognized, in former times it was considered a remedy for more disorders than it is now used for. Its imagined quality of destroying poison, to which Gerard refers, was probably attributed to the plant from its remarkable power of overcoming strong scents, even the odour of garlic being rendered almost imperceptible when mingled with that of Parsley.

The plant is said to be fatal to small birds and a deadly poison to parrots, also very injurious to fowls, but hares and rabbits will come from a great distance to seek for it, so that it is scarcely possible to preserve it in gardens to which they have access. Sheep are also fond of it, and it is said to be a sovereign remedy to preserve them from footrot, provided it be given them in sufficient quantities.”~

“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.” ~Proverb


March is a ‘right mixy’ month, to use a country expression.  Last week’s balmy warmth was followed by snow and today is cold, cold, cold, followed by a projected warm spell and then more snow to round out this month of extreme weather contrasts.  But that’s early spring in the Shenandoah Valley.

I grieve for the foolish apricot tree lured into bloom by the warmth, then zapped by the returning chill.  This happens nearly every spring, except last year when we had a lovely luscious crop. And the tulip leaves are looking sad, but I hope they’ll revive.  The best cure for a cold snap is a soothing wash of warm spring rain.

For some reason, the birds have nibbled the blooms on the pussy willow to bits. And I feed the birds.  The feeder hangs from the remains of the old cherry tree not far removed from the pussy willow.  My solution is to root pussy willow cuttings and plant them somewhere else.  Apparently the birds like some fresh greens along with their sunflower seeds and soft silvery little ‘pussies’ will serve. Who knew?  But I love catkins so will tuck some in an out-of-the-way corner.  Perhaps down near the pond.  I also love my birds, and kitties (big bird fans).   Sometimes our loves do not meld well.

“It’s spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!  ~Mark Twain

“Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”  ~Doug Larson

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.”  ~Anne Bradstreet

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.”  ~Hal Borland

“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.”  ~Virgil A. Kraft

“Where man sees but withered leaves,

God sees sweet flowers growing.”
~Albert Laighton

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”  ~Margaret Atwood

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold:  when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”  ~Charles Dickens

“In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.”  ~Mark Twain

*Pics of the Shenandoah Valley, my garden, and our gosling and kitten taken by my mom and daughter Elise.

There’s Rosemary, That’s For Remembrance


“There’s rosemary and rue. These keep
Seeming and savor all the winter long.
Grace and remembrance be to you.”
– William Shakespeare (Winter’s Tale, Act 4, Scene 4)

I love rosemary both for its scent and wonderful history.  I’m never without at least a modest plant.  My current specimen is rather pathetic.    It’s been a long, cold winter on my window sill.  Even my sun space was too frigid this year.

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs says:  “For centuries people thought that a rosemary plant would grow no higher than 6 feet in 35 years so as not to stand taller than Christ.  Another story tells that the flowers were originally thought to be white but changed to blue when the Virgin Mary hung her cloak on a bush while fleeing from Herod’s soldiers with the Christ child.

Rosemary possessed powers of protection against evil spirits, or so people thought.  In the Middle Ages, men and women would place sprigs under their pillows to ward off demons and prevent bad dreams.

“There’s rosemary that’s for remembrance. Pray, you love, remember.” ~ Hamlet

Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, mostly just because. I rarely cook with it, but love its scent and the wealth of history behind it. Known as the herb of remembrance from the time of ancient Greece, it appears in that immortal verse by Shakespeare.  My fascination with herbs plays a significant role in my historical/light paranormal romance Somewhere My Love, as does Hamlet, for that matter.  I always wanted to write a murder mystery with a focus on herbs and parallels to a Shakespearean play, and so I did.

Regarding Rosemary, Maud Grieve says in A Modern Herbal,
“The Ancients were well acquainted with the shrub, which had a reputation for strengthening the memory. On this account it became the emblem of fidelity for lovers. It holds a special position among herbs from the symbolism attached to it. Not only was it used at weddings, but also at funerals, for decking churches and banqueting halls at festivals, as incense in religious ceremonies, and in magical spells.

At weddings, it was entwined in the wreath worn by the bride, being first dipped into scented water. Anne of Cleves, we are told, wore such a wreath at her wedding. A Rosemary branch, richly gilded and tied with silken ribands of all colours, was also presented to wedding guests, as a symbol of love and loyalty. Together with an orange stuck with cloves it was given as a New Year’s gift…

In early times, Rosemary was freely cultivated in kitchen gardens and came to represent the dominant influence of the house mistress, ‘Where Rosemary flourished, the woman ruled.’

The Treasury of Botany says:
‘There is a vulgar belief in Gloucestershire and other counties, that Rosemary will not grow well unless where the mistress is “master”; and so touchy are some of the lords of creation upon this point, that we have more than once had reason to suspect them of privately injuring a growing rosemary in order to destroy this evidence of their want of authority.’

Rosemary was one of the cordial herbs used to flavour ale and wine. It was also used in Christmas decoration.
“Down with the rosemary and so,
Down with the baies and mistletoe,
Down with the holly, ivie all
Wherewith ye deck the Christmas Hall.” —HERRICK.

“As for rosemary, I let it run all over my garden walls, not only because my bees love it but because it is the herb sacred to remembrance and to friendship, whence a sprig of it hath a dumb language.”
– Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) British writer, statesman and philosopher

Miss Ainslie gathered a bit of rosemary, crushing it between her white fingers. “See,” she said, “some of us are like that it takes a blow to find the sweetness in our souls.”
Lavender and Old Lace
-Myrtle Reed (1874–1911)

“The Garden is the Poor Man’s Apothecary”~German Proverb


Parsley: a member of the carrot, parsnip and celery family.  We always grow parsley and usually start our own plants from seed.  Slow to germinate, there’s an old saying that parsley must go to the devil and back seven times before it comes up and the devil likes it so much he always keeps some.  The flat-leafed Italian variety is best for cooking.  Parsley is one of the herbs preferred by the Eastern Black swallowtail butterfly to lay its eggs on.  If you spot some funny looking caterpillars eating your parsley or dill don’t be alarmed, they will transform into lovely butterflies.  There’s nothing like fresh parsley in leek and potato soup made from your own vegetables.  Home grown onions can be substituted for the leeks.

Let thy kitchen be thy apothecary;
and, Let foods be your medicine.
–  Hippocratus

From Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs:

Parsley has the misfortune of being a token herb on plates of steak and fish.  But that resilient sprig is really edible and its high chlorophyll content makes it a natural breath sweetener.

The Romans are said to have used it at orgies to cover up the smell of alcohol on their breath, while aiding in digestion. (Who knew this even mattered at a Roman orgy?)

And there’s the unflattering reference remark that was once made about those who looked as if at death’s door: “That man’s in need of parsley.” (Corpses were sprinkled with parsley to deodorize them.)

*First two images of parsley in garden are of ours.

In ancient Greece parsley was used in funeral ceremonies long before it was thought of as a garnish.  It was also placed in wreaths given to winning athletes because the Greeks believed that the god Hercules had chosen parsley for his garlands.  And for athletic horses, the greens were thought to give stamina to win races.

The Greeks also associated parsley with oblivion and death.  According to one legend, parsley sprang up where the blood of the Greek hero Archemorus was spilled when he was eaten by serpents.  The Greeks used the wreaths for graves.

By the Middle Ages, parsley had made its appearance in herbal medicines. It has been given credit for curing a great range of human ills, especially those having to do with kidneys and liver.  It has also been used against plague, asthma, dropsy, and jaundice as a carminative, an emmenagogue, and an aide to digestion.

*A carminative is an herb or preparation that either prevents formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract, or facilitates the expulsion of said gas, thereby combating flatulence.

*An emmenagogue is an herb that has the ability to provoke menstruation and may be mild or dangerously potent.  More on this subject at: http://www.sisterzeus.com/Emmeno.htm

“Garlic is as good as ten mothers.”~

From A Modern Herbal:

Culpepper tells us:

‘It is very comfortable to the stomach…good for wind and to remove obstructions both of the liver and spleen…Galen commendeth it for the falling sickness…the seed is effectual to break the stone and ease the pains and torments thereof…The leaves of parsley laid to the eyes that are inflamed with heat or swollen, relieves them if it be used with bread or meat…The juice dropped into the ears with a little wine easeth the pains.’

Of our Garden Parsley (which he calls Parsele) Gerard says, ‘It is delightful to the taste and agreeable to the stomache,’ also ‘the roots or seeds boiled in ale and drank, cast foorth strong venome or poyson; but the seed is the strongest part of the herbe.’

Though the medicinal virtues of Parsley are still fully recognized, in former times it was considered a remedy for more disorders than it is now used for. Its imagined quality of destroying poison, to which Gerard refers, was probably attributed to the plant from its remarkable power of overcoming strong scents, even the odour of garlic being rendered almost imperceptible when mingled with that of Parsley.~

“Eat leeks in oile and ramsines in May,
And all the year after physicians may play.
“~
(Ramsines were old-fashioned broad-leafed leeks.)

Royalty free images except for tiny bunny