Plants of Halloween Oct 29, 2014 21:30:46 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Oct 29, 2014 21:30:46 GMT -5
Plants Play a Role in Halloween Tradition
As Halloween draws near, children and adults dressed as witches, ghosts, zombies and even bloodier characters roam the streets, and the magic of play acting is abroad. But in the long-ago roots of Halloween, when people lived with the belief that spirits surrounded their lives and could wreak harm if they wished, there was another kind of magic, and at times real fear. This is because Halloween (then called Samhain) was the one night when the gates of death stood open and spirits were said to move freely in both directions. And this is why people relied on the magic of certain plants to protect them against any harm that might come from the unseen world. Often the magic of these plants were embraced by their use in healing and many of them are still used today.
Planted near a door, rosemary could bar evil spirits from your home, protect you from nightmares and prevent the plague. Ivy could also stop evil spirits from entering, but it had to grow on the walls of your house. Garlic was even more useful because it was thought to evict evil spirits once they got inside and to ward off vampires as well. Holly planted near a house was believed to be yet another protection, as were hawthorn and rowan (mountain ash).
One of the beliefs of the time was that on Halloween, witches held ceremonies in which they flew on broomsticks with the aid of flying ointment. The reported plant ingredients are interesting because some are poisonous, pain relievers or tranquilizers, while others are hallucinogenic. These include: foxglove (digitalis), hemp (marijuana), wolfsbane (Aconitum napellus), deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), hellebore and also poppy juice made from Papaver somniferum (the source of opium). All have immense power, but the sad truth is the healing records from these plants wasn’t good because some patients died from the medicine. Most are beautiful plants but inexperienced gardeners should refrain from planting them anywhere near edible-leaf plants that might be harvested by mistake.
Deadly nightshade grows in the wild, an attractive plant with shiny purple berries and purple petaled flowers, but all parts of the plant is poisonous and those unfamiliar with such poisons should avoid the plant. Monkshead (aconitum), the tall, blue-flowered garden perennial is so poisonous it can burn unprotected skin on susceptible people. Hellebore seeds will blister the fingers if they are harvested without gloves and marijuana, as every one knows, can get you into difficulty with the authorities.
The seed of the opium poppy is used by many chefs and one can purchase poppy seed muffins, etc. The decorative, pink-double form is the one usually grown and seeds and plants are easily available, however, it is a prodigious seeder and you can end up with more poppies than you want.
One of the magical trees associated with Halloween is the willow. In fact, the words “witch,” “wicked” and “wicker” all come from the same ancient word for willow. The belief was that a witch’s broom had an ash handle and birch twigs while willow stems formed the binding. Another magical tree is the hazel, which was believed to supply the wood for witches’ wands. Today a forked hazel branch is sometimes used as divining rods.
Source: Tri-Cities Now, October 28, 2014.