By Jackie Johnson ND, Planhigion Herbal Learning Center
Continued from October 30, 2017 … See Part I
All alone in a corner of the Old Woman’s garden are the mandrakes – waiting for some poor fool to pull them out. They scream when ripped from the ground you know, and any person or animal hearing the scream will immediately perish. Long used for dark magic, this plant was sacred to Aphrodite and used as a powerful aphrodisiac. Too strong, some say. Its roots are shaped like humans and carrying even a tiny piece insures good health and much more. It hides from man, and it glows in the dark.
The following steps for harvesting mandrake was taken from an old English Herbarium from 1000 AD
- Before sunset – draw a circle around it with an iron tool lest it flee from you.
- While facing west, cut off the top of the plant.
- Being careful not to touch the plant, dig around it with an iron tool.
- When you see its hands and feet, fasten them. Take the other end of the rope and tie it around a hungry black dog’s neck.
- Throw meat in front of the black dog so he cannot reach it unless he pulls up the plant.
- Run fast lest you hear the screams and perish with the dog.
Difficult, yes, but mandrake was one of the best plants for hexing, and black dogs were easy to find.
Aside from the poison garden, people would visit the Old Woman for a variety of reasons.
Many wanted love charms. In front of the house, for easy pickings, sits the love potion garden. The most important plant in the garden for love is the apple tree. Sometimes the spell was as easy as cutting an apple with the intention of forever love, and handing half to the object of affection. Both halves must be eaten simultaneously for the charm to work.
Caution was required when cutting the apple … an even number of seeds on both sides meant love and a happy marriage. If one seed is cut, rocky love will follow and the marriage will be filled with anger and yelling. If two seeds are cut, the husband will perish within one year.
Apple blossoms are so sweet smelling, is it any wonder they were often dried and used in love potions?
Protective amulets were cut of apple wood, and when properly done, insured a long life.
Other plants in the love garden include lemon balm, roses, basil, catnip, daisies, peppermint mallow and periwinkle. Several of these in a sachet under your pillow might help the man of your dreams come into your life. If your love has left you, you might be instructed to put a vase of mallow flowers in your window. This should make him think of you and return to your arms.
The inability to become pregnant brought a number of women thru the Old Woman’s creaky gate. In the back, along the mossy stone fence, lies the fertility garden. It is filled with cucumbers, carrots, mustard, and poppy and more.
Some women would come to visit the Old Woman to insure there was no pregnancy or question what was to be done about a current one. That garden was outside her back gate and the plants were scattered through the forest, looking like they weren’t cared for to the uninformed. This allowed her to claim ignorance if “they” came for her. We won’t talk about what might be in that garden.
Infidelity was a common complaint and many women wandered in seeking help with rotten husbands. The Old Woman might hand them some dried basil with instructions to sprinkle it on his cheating heart as he slept. Or she might suggest slipping a caraway seed or two in his pocket.
And thievery – oh such a common complaint. For that the Old Woman might suggest caraway seed sprinkled around the property to help bad guys choose another place. And if you were about to travel, a piece of comfrey with your belongings would help them travel unnoticed.
Yes, the Old Woman’s garden was full of plants. Every corner of her yard offered up something to the trained healer/witch/midwife.
No wonder so many feared or coveted her knowledge.