Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Thoughts on a train: strange Russian women, squirrels, unicorns, men...etc

I left the house and thought – ‘yes, well, whatever it doesn’t matter’.  There were no histrionics, or my usual pounding sense of incompletion and fear at having been angry.  There was just a sense that in this instance at least, I had been right, and that he was being rather silly and unreasonable, and that I was both really pissed off with the whole thing, and really utterly bored.

I went off down the street and felt that there was no hint of vulnerability in my body movements, just a sense of onward momentum.  Boot before boot, clip clip clip.  A drone with the other drones, on the way to work or errands, tra laa, as usual, another day, another long savage day.

Sat on the train, with my mind quite quiet. I got my book out, but instead read the paper. It wasn’t like last night, where on the train back from Purley I had been unable to read because of a hugely corpulent Russian peasantly dressed woman opposite me, who had talked non-stop to her teenage daughters – in a guttural and tired forceful monologue.  In the end, I had given up trying to fight against the sound of her voice, and had flowed with it.  Put my book down, closed my eyes and rested my head on the glass (which for once wasn’t greasy), surrendering my ears to the cadence of her.  She didn’t stop talking once.  She sat there, a grubby version of The Empress in the tarot, dressed in a cheap blood red crushed velvet skirt, swollen legs splayed and toes barely contained in green flip flops.  She had a headscarf on, with the protruding hair looking dirty.  Her children looked clean, but scruffy, all in mismatched clothes.  They were an archetype, a stereotype – they looked like you would cross their palms with silver and they might laugh.  Not even bother lying to you about the journeys you might take or the roads you might travel with that dark and handsome man from across the sea.  Everything about them had been said before, and they knew it, and lounged there, stolid and unbothered, the teenagers even laughing sometimes.  She would glance at me now and again, the mother – making me feel inexplicably over tidy in my dark workish clothes.  Her eyes were both guarded and blank.  An aimless but serious hostility in there, deep.  I wasn’t them.

So I sat there, with my paper, which I read loads of, unusually.  The train stopped in tunnels a few times, and I had a vague sensation of my usual panic, but I was in a room in my head that didn’t allow for much of that – it was calmly focussed on other things.  The journey took ages. I drifted.

I can smell coffee, as I sit here chugging along and the refreshment trolley goes past. It reminds me, that particular coffee smell, of my last job and the way the machine had to be cleaned constantly, always breaking.  Cleaned by Jason, the new engineer, who seems much nicer and less stroppy than Damien, the regular refill guy.  Anyway, the machine has been playing up and producing drinks that look and smell like coffee, but taste like dishwater: soapy.  So Jason is here to clean the machine and see what the trouble is.  He is a bit chatty.  I may have chatted to him too much in my bubbly friendly way; as now I am having to look down a lot, as he is eyeing me in an interested way.  Ho hum.

School, and my English teacher Mr David. In school, I was a bit of a prodigy in English.  Definitely the star of that class.  This was nice, as I was so unpopular in absolutely everything else.  Mr David used to take me up into his strange little portocabin type office.  I seem to remember the school was perennially in the stages of construction or modification of some sort.  The English office lost its original location quite early on.  Hence being boosted into this strange little upper on stilts type office, neither on one floor nor another, but between the second floor staircase and the English and French classrooms.

I remember walking down the corridors – the smells of sour girl sweat of all nations; the smell of fear and discontent (also sour and somehow sweetened both at the same time).  I was always tense, always holding myself against a blow, a verbal blow.  Unhappy, but keeping my head up, because I was inside and no one could make me come out, inside was all I had.  In later life people have told me repeatedly I have excellent posture when walking, that I am very upright and unbowed.  It’s school that taught me this.  There was no other defiance I had, as though I could talk my way out of some things to a degree, there is no point trying that with people who are going to hit you if you make them feel stupid in any way.

Mr David used to call me into his office quite often, and sit me close to him on his shabby old chairs – motheaten, bits of dulled yellow foam pushing out.  He’d ask me where I got the inspiration for this poem or that story, discuss my plans for publication with me.  Sometimes, and a few times I remember very well indeed, he would quietly back me up against a wall.  Me with my back to it, and he would hem me in by resting his hand on the wall by my head and leaning in.  I of course, so flattered at this attention from a teacher in such an unhappy place, in my black court shoes and long hair over one eye, would stare at him longer than necessary, and push my chest out a bit.  I remember not even knowing quite why I was doing that last bit, only that it seemed the thing to do.  His breath stank of black coffee, a bitter sour smell.  His intense interest repulsed and flattered me at the same time – his little slightly wheezing breaths.

The train stops.  Rain hits the windows. In a field past the raindrops, a white horse crops at the grass. I used to believe in unicorns.  I wrote a poem about them, that had the words ‘my secret valley’ in it.  I don’t remember anything else. Once my school friend Aisling sent me a card with a beautiful silvery picture of unicorns on it.  Blue kingfisher skies, silvery flanks, white manes, the swirling of the horns spiral looking like a child’s sweet made of bone.  I liked the picture so much I stuck it on my wall.  I used to look at it and fantasize that I was there, not doing anything in particular – just coexisting, peacefully and happily  with the unicorns.  Which of course existed, they were just lying low for fear of being hunted for their horns (by ivory or magic traders), or simply being hounded by wanton attention seekers.

I  used to believe in a lot of things. I am currently unsure if I believe in anything much at all.  It may be that I am being refined; or that I am simply lost. Either way, I don’t believe in much anymore. It’s sad, because today, when I went for a walk and saw a full 12 squirrels (how cool is that? Little fluffy buggers), ordinarily I would have been feeling excited about it.  Having one of my connected to nature feelings, absorbing the peace from the trees, their green rustlings, and feeling the flow of the mother, the light and rain from the father.  I would have been feeding the squirrels, and collecting feathers and small innocuous pieces of wood (remember the hill in Eastbourne where I found a twig I am still partially happy to think of as a transmogrified fairy whistle – and yes, I was 32 at the time; and yes, I have always been this fanciful).

But lately, what I do when I go walking, what I am aware of, is that I am doing my body good, I am burning fat, working my cardiovascular system – and that I am entirely alone.  I walk on the earth – veering from the path to the grass, to feel it give under my feet, watch the orange and dirty brown leaves in their pattern of violence on the ground. Splayed and ungainly, pointed and definitive.  And I see it is beautiful, and I see it is real.  I smell the vehement but gentle smell of mulching earth. But I am feeling nothing much. A sense of mild relief to be outside. Knowing it is good for me to be here, good for the lowering of my tense shoulder muscles. But feeling it…not.  Beautiful, but far away.

We pull away from Haywards Heath after more carriages have been added.  I see a man go by in a bright blue outfit and remember.  A man dressed in light blue denim, head to foot.  He had blonde hair.  And that’s all I can tell you about him, because I was completely and utterly pinned by his eyes.  My 14 year old self had nothing else to see.  I lost my brain in those few moments it took to leave the bus and go round the corner.  All he did was look up at me to get his bearings, as we were passing through a narrow space and it was possible we would bump into each other. So he was only meeting my eyes for the fewest of moments.

But that look he gave me – never experienced anything like it before or since. He drilled into me and excited all my zones at once.  He looked and I felt hot, cold, frozen. My palms began to sweat, I felt aroused. In a second, I was ready. A great feeling. I felt myself swollen and warm, tingling.  I was disembodied and fluffy – only sensation, only these spots, the rest of me fuzzy at the edges.  He had hit me with a vibe, a spell, a pheromone bolt and I had splatted and fallen, unexpected and stunned.

Yet it was also as though he were not there. I have no memory of touching him, though we must have brushed each other to get past. I have no memory of his smell, and you’d think, with the degree of awareness I got off him in one moment, that I would have been especially conscious of both these things. But no.  Not at all. I don’t even remember where I was.  Some school trip, we’d gone somewhere.  Country, city – no clue.  I just have that one elongated moment where I saw him and reacted, and then he was past.  I have a slight memory that maybe he curled his lips, that his eyes knew exactly what he had done.  Did he feel it too?  Or was it just a trick he played on girls for power?

Power games. I sat on a Hammersmith and City Line tube, going from Stanley’s to elsewhere, back in 2006. See a much better memory here, more detail; and had a similar experience.  Nowhere near the same intensity, but similar.  I looked up from being absorbed in my reading, in a sort of primed sexual state (Stanley and I had not long been together, it was still all very new, that intensity you get at the beginnings).  I looked up and saw a young man dressed in student smart-drabs – old tweedy jacket, raggedy trousers, little wire rimmed glasses, old bag with his books in.  He lounged in the seat, reading something wordy and involved. No idea when he got on.  He glanced up, total insouciance, and held my eyes, telegraphing sexual interest.  Or…not exactly sexual interest; he was telegraphing me to have it toward him.  It was a come hither without wanting me to really, and without him feeling it himself.  I held the gaze for a few moments and met it with my own situation, that was not to do with him – it was a look of, ‘I am being serviced elsewhere, can’t you see my bedhead and flushed cheeks, reddened skin?’. The gazes met, he thought he won, and as I got off the train, he curled his lip as if that was such fun; making the woman think he was interested when clearly he was not.  The joke was of course, on him.  As I was encased in a complete coating of my own Stanley oriented lust, and all he had done was pick up on it and imagine it was for him because he wasn’t looking very hard.  My look that had said to him ’you aren’t needed’, he had decided to read as ‘I am in need’, because that’s what he wanted to see.  I find men often see what they want when they don’t know you personally; they have less of a tendency to home in on the detail than females do.  

 Much as, the stereotyping goes, women will see what Stanley calls ‘my shadows’ – the things that aren’t there.  The rampant reading between the lines, that ends up leading to overgeneralising.  The details are lost then too.  I wish we’d all remember to be specific when we deal with people, to not only deal with them as patterns from our lives, but as a distinct individual encounter.  I am guilty too.

I climb off the train, my errands ended, my feet begin to walk home. I seem to be sighing a lot.  It’s no use pretending that I write, when for years I did anything but.  I would set up all my things around me, and nothing would happen.  I would work my way through Julia Cameron’s An Artists Way, doing each day’s tasks with mad diligence and an increasing sense of purpose and readiness - then I would finish the book…and nothing.  It would all flow away again.  To nothing.  I would suddenly and very successfully fall asleep (ah sleep), or tidy, or have to watch an inspiring film first.  Or somesuch.

It’s a fact that some of the best reading or the best naps I have ever had – have all taken place when I was supposed to be doing something else entirely.  The sense of decadence, or being bad and wrong and unreliable and even dishonourable (like cheating in a pub quiz, hmm?), was half the enjoyment, half the thrill.

Reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana, I think I was supposed to be doing something else entirely – and instead, there I was, hiding in Fry’s bedroom, and hunching over the book – it was the bit where the heroine died, and it was something about diving, and pearls?  Whatever it was, it was very good and I remember the sense of fevered intensity I had reading it, how utterly involved I was.

In fact, that is life. I strain for communication with actual humans, and it’s always but a pale representation of what is actually going on in my head; only through music, or in books, or when I write (rarely), do I feel I have genuinely touched someone else’s mind.

Stanley thinks that he and I are very close…and mostly we are. Though early on I felt such a distance from him a lot of the time.  Distance that I felt he was pursuing, as I am sure I used to stand there, pretty much still, with my arms open, coaxing, all the time.  And he used to be ‘I have to go, I have things to do now’, and off he would trot, happy happy happy. Quite happy to be left alone however long.  I used to be very confused by that.  He used to say he missed me when I wasn’t there, but when I was, he would feel perfectly content to go off and leave me all evening, now the comfort blanket was returned to the zone.  Understandable in one way, insane in another.  Then Fluffhead came. Now I remembered the need for personal space with an addict’s panic.  I understand Stanley rushing off now.  We swap rushing off when we can, and comeback replenished with information and things to tell the other. 

I tried to tell him about my rewatching of Perfume, the film of the (brilliant) book, last night. Amazing music.  One of those films that make you have really vivid thoughts, coalesced and sudden, that flood into the centre of the forefront of your mind, there solidifying.  The nature of loneliness, the hypnotic nature of absorption, in anything. The sad skewedness of obsession.  It was all sad.  Maybe I shouldn’t watch that again.  Back to Lovefilm in its little folder.

I enter the house.  He is waiting for me with a smile that has a sorry in it. Fluffhead runs out and nearly knocks me over with the force of the leg hug.

‘I love you really much’, he says into my chilly jean leg.  I realise unicorns do exist, again. 

Stanley comes and buries his head on my shoulder.  I remember the squirrels and I feel their swishy tails, feel the cold plumey air on the trees.  My thoughts of aloneness and sadness lift away.  They just fall aside; the Russian woman folds them into her bag with a blank face.  I don’t think about power games and men on old trains anymore. I put my arms around him.

’I’m sorry,’ I say. That was simple.

‘Me too,’ he says to my neck. We hug.  I close the door.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Betony: Snippets of Interesting Things (interesting herbal things!), Part 5

NECESSARY DISCLAIMER!  ALL INFO GIVEN FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES – don’t go diagnosing or treating yourself from info on this post!  Use a Doctor or qualified Herbalist!

I know these posts are supposed to be concerning the herbs I come across with reference to my Ovate OBOD studies this year…but early last week I had a dream, where I was in some woods with a small water inlet, surrounded on all sides by a plant I knew to be Wood or Water Betony. It had the most interesting smell, and I was aware it had many uses, and I was there to collect some and take it away for helping someone.  I was also hiding from someone else while I did this…in the manner of dreams I then woke up, with no memory of whether I had ever actually seen Wood (or Water) Betony in real life, or whether I knew what it looked like even.  So I decided this next post in this series of Snippets of Interesting (Herbal) Things – as it really should be known, should teach me some basics about Betony.  And you, of course.  I bet you don’t know much about Betony either…
So here it is, in its natural wooded environment.

Culpepper, as usual, had a lot to say about it, and gave a lengthy description:
The common or wood betony has many leaves arising from the root, which are somewhat broad and round at the ends, roundly dented about the edges, standing upon long stalks, from among which rise up small, square, slender, but yet upright, hairy stalks, with some leaves thereon, two apiece at the joints, smaller than the lower, whereon are set several spiked heads of flowers like lavender, but thicker and shorter for the most part, and of a reddish or purple colour, spotted with white spots both in the upper and lower part:, the seeds, being contained within the husks that hold the flowers, are blackish, somewhat long and uneven. The roots are many white thread strings; the stalk perishes, but the root, with some leaves thereon, abides all the winter.  The whole plant is somewhat small.[1]
I do like the way Culpepper describes in such depth, such detail.  He had quite a bit to say about the usage of this plant in his period too.

Historical Usage – Culpepper
The first thing he notes is that although the flowers appear in July, the plant itself is at its prime in May.  It’s ruled by Jupiter and under the sign of Aries (remember, medicine at this time was deeply entangled with both astrology and alchemy, so this was very relevant information for him to give – it would also govern when the plant was best given for maximum efficaciousness).  He gives a very long description for the many functions of this plant, and to give you a flavour, I’ll just quote the beginning of it:
Antonius Musa, physician to the emperor Julius Caesar, wrote a book on the virtues of this herb; and, amongst other virtues, said of it, that it preserves the lives and bodies of men from the danger of epidemical diseases and witchcrafts also. It is found by daily experience to be good for many diseases; it helps those that cannot digest their meat, those that have weak stomachs, or belchings, or a continual rising in their stomach[2], using it familiarly either green or dry; either the herb or root, or the flowers, drunk in broth or meat, or made into conserve, syrup, water, electuary[3], or powder, as everyone may best frame themselves unto, or as the time or season requires.  Taken any of the aforesaid ways, it helps the jaundice, falling sickness, the palsy, convulsions, or shrinking of the sinews; the gout, and those that are inclined to dropsies[4]; and those that have continual pains in their head, supposing that it turns to inflammation of the brain.  The powder mixed with pure honey is no less available for all sorts of coughs or colds, wheezing, shortness of breath, or distillations of thin rheum upon the lungs, which causes consumptions.  The decoction made with mead and a little penny-royal is good for those that are troubled with putrid agues[5], whether quotidian, tertian or quartan, and to draw down and evacuate the blood and humours that by falling into the eyes doth hinder the sight: the decoction thereof made in wine and taken kills the worms in the belly, opens obstructions both of the liver and spleen, cures stitches and pains in the back or side, the torments and griping pains of the bowels, and the wind-colic; and mixed with honey purges the belly, helps to bring down women’s menses, and is of special use for those troubled with the falling down of the womb[6], and pains thereof, and causes an easy and speedy delivery of women in childbirth; it also helps to break and expel the stone in either the bladder or kidneys.[7]
You can see why this is one of the herbs that in the medieval and through to the eighteenth century was referred to as a ‘cure-all’ – Culpepper and other practitioners could find a use for it for most ailments.  In addition, he cited it for usage in the case of: snake bites, toothache, ulcers and ‘fistulous’ sores, plague-sores and boils, travel weariness, nose or mouth bleeds, internal bleeding, bruises and wound healing.

Traditional Usage – Scotland
Agnes Walker, Botanist at Kelvingrove Museum Glasgow has looked into the long history of plant usage for health in the UK. She notes Betony is first referenced by Roman polymath and encyclopaedist Pliny the Elder (23-79AD):
He wrote his vast Naturalis Historia, and these included medicinal uses of plants. He reported that the treatments he mentioned often cured illness, but did not claim to know how they worked. […]  He mentioned some Gallic names of herbs, for example […] vettonica which is Betony, Stachys officinalis.[8]
Walker notes that in Scotland (as also evidenced by Culpepper’s very long list of claims) so many “extravagant uses grew up around betony that later it was ignored”; though she mentions a specific Scottish use for the plant as a tobacco substitute, as well as the standard usages of betony as headache remedy and nerve tonic.  She references a claim that “it was said that wild animals would seek out and eat betony if wounded, and would be cured”[9]. She also notes that another Scots botanist, Beith, has cautioned that since the uses of “betony and germander speedwell may have been confused as their early names were similar, so the Highland remedies may actually be germander speedwell”[10]. This is a good point to bear in mind, since often folk names for plants could lead to confusion, and now, when researching usage of the past, it’s as well to triple check names and references (and actions of herbs (as betony and speedwell do not do the same thing!) before being certain the correct remedy has been located!

Traditional Usage – England
Gabrielle Hatfield, a Research Fellow at both Kew and the University of East Anglia, spent a lifetime collecting snippets and stories of herblore and cures.  She found various mentions of Betony in her work.  She references (again, we’ve got a pattern going now!) the ‘cure all’ nature of betony by starting her mention of it with a proverb that used to be common usage in England, taken originally from Italy: ‘sell your coat and buy Betony’.  She found mention of betony first in the 1548 book by the physician Turner[11], who “recounts thirty complaints such as that can be cured by betony […], and then tells us: ‘I shall conclude with the words I have found in an old manuscript […] More than all this have been proved of betony’.”[12]

It was often used in conjunction with other herbs, as shown by the diary of George Ridpath, a mid eighteenth century minister in Stitchel. He says:
Munday (sic) May 2nd 1757.  […]sore distrest at a pain and stiffness in the lower ribs […]
Thursday May 5th[…] easier today, tho’ still greatly opprest.  Drank in the morning ground ivy with dandelion and betony, and a little lavender to flavour them.  Finding these things clearing my crop gradually, and promoting diuresis.[13]

She notes that in the twentieth century usage began to dwindle, with the infusion still being used for headaches, and for kidney complaints.  She quotes a letter received from a contributor who was young in the 1920s in Essex and “used to collect Betony for my grandfather who use to boil it and drink the water. I think this was for his kidneys or urine”[14].

Traditional Magical Usage
I’ve found it hard to find reliable sources for uses of betony magically, but have found various references to it on several websites, but they are not 100% reliable sites so I had to start asking around online, amongst my pagan practicing friends. From them, I got a variety of suggestions for folk magical use that they were aware of; it wasn’t seen as one of the major magical herbs, but a useful bolster to others. Its actions are claimed to be quite blanket, protecting a house from evil, and especially from the bites of snakes – that last reminded me of the Culpepper usage as a snakebite remedy, so that’s possibly where that idea came from.  Its usage as a general protector from evil seem to be specifically in the area of shielding from bad dreams, fantasies, daydreams (often added to dream pillows, tied around a bedroom in dried sprigs, or sprinkled at the base of doorways) - which again ties in to its herbal health usage for anxiety and for nervous exhaustion, its application as a sedative plant.  I’ve noticed before that often, the magical uses of herbs and other plants are not far from their actual physical and medicinal use, they just move into a more symbolic or metaphorical area.  (Not always, but often!)

A mention I found in an old (and very faded and tatty) medicines sales catalogue dated 1990 I got from a charity shop in Worthing years ago, was that their ‘wonderful Bettony (sic) ampules protect against the bad dreams, and the unwanted attentions of men’ – which did make me wonder if only women could take these, and not men pursued by a woman they didn’t like…??
Chatting to a Druid friend, I was told it was sometimes used in Midsummer, added to the herbs thrown on the fire before the participants would jump over.  They were supposed to be leaving behind their darkest fears and dreams, their inner demons and those self-generated things that hold you back, as they moved through the smoke - again, a usage related to its medicinal use for anxiety related headaches and as a tonic for nervous disorder.

Annoyingly, I wasn't able to use my copy ofthis book for this post, as I've lent it out and not got it back yet.  But its worth a read, for thoseinterested in herbs in hoodoo.

In Hoodoo, it’s referred to as Lousewort, and also used for protection, but specifically from evil spirits and as an ‘uncrossing’ plant (a reverser of curses, hexes).  For this purpose it was often used with Agrimony (see a previous post on this herb, by me) in the form of incense burned on charcoal.  It’s falling out of common favour though, I’m told, seen as a relic of the old European days, not so much a homegrown remedy (which is especially important in some hoodoo, the local and meaningful provenance of as many items as used as possible).[15]

Modern Usage and Cultivation
Ever reliable Jekka assures me that the main kind of Betony (Stachys Officinalis) is a hardy herbaceous perennial, growing to 60cm (24in) and spreading 25cm (10in).  Dense spikes of pink or purple flowers can appear all summer, and the serrated leaves contain bitter aromatic oil[16].  If you want to grow it, the seeds should be planted about now – early autumn – while still fresh.  Germination can be as early as one month. The young plants need to be wintered in a cold frame before being planted out in spring.  If you’re going to plant directly outside in autumn, then cover with leaf mould (useful mulch, with low nutrient content so suiting most herbs), with germination not occurring till spring. Once plants have grown up, separate and plant 30cm apart[17].

As to where to plant it, its hardy and adaptable, though particularly likes the edges of wooded areas; and can even be planted along with other flowers in a pot, provided a loam substrate is used. It’s easy to maintain too, needing little care other than deadheading in autumn and seed saving at the same time.  She goes on to suggest if you are going to use the leaf for medicinal purposes it is best saved in late spring before the plant flowers.  The flowers can be picked for drying just as they begin to open.

Modern Medicinal Usage
In Europe and the UK, betony is often used to treat diarrhoea, cystitis and liver and gallbladder infections.  Jekka notes that the root is toxic, and should not be used for anything ingestible[18].  Made weakly as an infusion, this can also be used as a drink for headaches. This is a plant it is unwise to home administer, and using a qualified herbalist is the way to go.
A qualified herbalist has very specific requirements for usage of the plant: the plants must be dried in the sun, carefully, not allowed to dampen at all, so that that the active constituents of the plant remain intact – in this case alkaloids including betonicine, stachydrene and trigonelline.  The action of the plant on the system is sedative, nervine tonic and bitter.  David Hoffman describes its usual applications:
Betony feeds and strengthens the central nervous system… [Its sedative action] finds use in nervous debility associated with anxiety and tension. It will ease headaches and neuralgia if they are of nervous origin… [For the treatment of nervous headache] it combines well with Skullcap, [where when used as an infusion one should] pour a cup of boiling water on 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes.  As a Tincture, 2-6 ml should be taken three times a day[19].
As with most herbs, its modern usage is less than its historical usage and more specific.

Modern Industrial Usage
Used as a final hair rinse, an infusion of betony can darken greying hair, and until recently, a small herbal brand in Scotland (now defunct due to the recession) was using betony as its main ingredient in ‘gentleman’s cover-up’ – an equivalent to the Grecian 2000 market niche[20]. Until recently, it was also used as a dye in textiles, producing a rich yellow colour[21].
So – more than you ever wanted to know about Betony…all from a dream, we now have this! I hope you found that as interesting as I did to research!  More herbs soon.

[1] Culpepper’s Complete Herbal, by Nicholas Culpepper (London: Arcturus, 2009), p.48.
[2] Here Culpepper is referring to acid reflux.
[3] Electuary = a medicinal substance mixed with honey or other sweet substance; Betony was often used as a cough syrup this way.
[4] Dropsy = oedema, large swelling related to lymph.
[5] Ague = an illness involving chills, fever and sweating; often used to refer to malaria, but not exclusively.
[6] ‘falling down of the womb’ = prolapsed womb.
[7] Culpepper, p.49.
[8] A Garden of Herbs, by Agnes Walker (Argyll, Scotland: Argyll Publishing, 2003), p.17.
[9] The book Walker is referencing here is Maud Grieve’s  A Modern Herbal (London: Tiger Books International, 1992).  This book is in some circles more highly regarded and seen as more accurate, historically, for folk practice, than the more famous Culpepper.
[10] Walker is referencing Mary Beith’s influential study Healing Threads (Edinburgh: Polygon, 1995), which was very thoroughly and closely researched.  Ms Beith uncovered lots of confusions within collations of early herblore, and her book is well worth reading.
[11] He wrote 2 relevant books: The first and second parts of the Herbal…with the third parte (London, 1568), and Libellus de Re Herbaria 1538 and The Names of Herbes 1548 (London: Ray Society, 1965).
[12] Memory, Wisdom and Healing: The History of Domestic Plant Medicine, by Gabrielle Hatfield (Gloucestershire: Sutton Publishing, 1999), p.56.
[13] If you would like to read more of his diary, it’s in print: Notes from Diary of George Ridpath, Minister of Stitchel, 1755-1761, edited with notes and introduction by Sir James Balfour Paul (Edinburgh, printed by Constable for Scottish History Society, 1922).
[14] Hatfield, p.73.
[15] None of my practicing pagan friends wanted to be quoted directly or identified, so I’ve just passed on what anecdotal usages they told me of, uncheckable, and left it at that.  Annoying in an essay otherwise peppered with footnotes, but that’s the nature of interviewing people - sometimes they want to be IDed, sometimes not!
[16] The New Book of Herbs, by Jekka McVicar (London: Dorling Kindersley, 2004),p.245.
[17] Ibid.
[18] McVicar, p.245.
[19] The New Holistic Herbal, by David Hoffman, (London: Element, 1990), p.179.
[20] Uses of Wood Plants, by Silas Tooghie (London: HerbLore SmallPress, 2002), p.83.
[21] McVicar, p.245.