Today is the Listing Hop brought to you by Bish Denham to celebrate her EIGHTH YEAR of blogging. Woo-hoo!! Wander on over to congratulate Bish and check out all the other entries. Congratulations, BISH, and thank you for hosting such a FUN bloghop!!
The rules were soooo simple. In fact, I have to say this is the simplest bloghop I've ever been involved in. All I had to do was sign up, grab the banner, and make a list of between 5 and 25 things. Seriously. That's it!
I've thought all weekend about what to list. I make lists for EVERYTHING, especially creative projects. I have this huge (and I mean HUGE) green, three-ring binder FULL of story notes, ideas for articles, and pages and pages of lists.
But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about the things I LOVE writing about, the things I'm most interested in. It gave me an idea to make a short list of some of my favorite herbs. Some of you know that I've worked in the alternative health field for over five years and I just recently returned to it after a year-long hiatus. Herbs fascinate me not just for their health properties, but also for their beauty, their practicality and their folklore.
Oh yes, Dear Reader, herbs have tales to tell! And the funniest thing about them is I find myself having tales to tell whenever I dip my hands into the soil to plant, harvest, or just clip off a few sprigs of an herb and inhale the fragrance. Perhaps they really do have magical properties: herbs invoke stories. I like that!
I also like saying their Latin names. Makes me feel a bit Hermione-ish.
So here's my list! Just a few botanicals that can inspire, intrigue, and perhaps, even make your halloween a bit spookier :)
1. LAVENDER (lavandula angustifolia)
Ahh, lavender. That sweet, musty smelling fragrance that instantly reminds you of grandmothers and old wardrobes. Frankly, I love the smell of old wardrobes. Very Narnian of me. My mother has always loved lavender. It peppers her house and wafts from the corners, weaving past all the cinnamon and clove. Lavender is well known to calm and soothe and it's used in loads of perfumes, room sprays and sachets. I love the long, graceful, purple fronds and enjoy drying them. They look lovely bouquets or even tied to packages with a bit of string. Lavender can even be used in baking and turn ordinary sugar cookies into something a bit more posh. Try it at your next High Tea!
The next time you're feeling stressed or just a bit anxious, take a deep whiff of lavender. Better yet, keep it next to you while you're watching all these lovely Halloween movies! I've got mine right here...I just started reading The Woman in Black!
2. SAGE, CLARY (Horminum Pyrenaicum)
Sage. I LOVE this herb. It's spicy and woody and the smell is downright comforting. There are several types of sage. Common garden sage is the one most of you are familiar with. It's the one you find in your seasoning blends and at your local garden center. It has a wonderful flavor and is used in heavy meat dishes, especially stews. Clary Sage, however, is a bit more pungent and is used more often in medicinal blends than in cooking pots. ( Unless your cooking pot is a large, black cauldron...) The adjective "clary" calls another name to mind, "clear eye". An infusion of clary sage was traditionally used in eye drops and was thought to clear the eyes.
The essential oil of clary sage has also been used to help clear the mind. It's a wonderful oil to sniff when you need to remember something, like study material for an upcoming test. I've used it while writing to keep me focused on the task at hand. Also, Clary Sage has been used in extreme cases of hysteria. Do with that bit of information what you will :)
3. ROSEMARY (rosemarinus officinalis)
" There's Rosemary, that's for remembrance." ~ Shakespeare (Hamlet)
"Are you going to Scarborough Faire?
Parsley, Sage, ROSEMARY, and Thyme?" ~ traditional folk song
This has got to be one of my favorite herbs. Rosemary is found everywhere, along garden paths, growing in pots at restaurants, and in every garden center in the spring. It's sweet, warm, spicy fragrance calls to mind peaceful, happier times. Seriously. Every time I see it, I have to run my fingers through the spikey fronds and gather some of that luscious fragrance for myself. It's cleansing and always reminds me of my mother's herb garden.
See? Shakespeare got it right :)
It has been said that rosemary can be used to stimulate hair growth or strengthen hair growth when the hair is thinning or falling out. You dilute some of the essential oil in a bit of water or in some coconut or olive oil and massage it into the scalp, leave it for several minutes, then rinse. It certainly can't hurt and at the very least you'll smell lovely afterward.
Rosemary always reminds me of the folk song Scarborough Faire. Most everyone has heard Simon and Garfunkle sing it but search for Sarah Brightman's or Haley Westenra's versions. These ladies add an even more haunting spin to this enchanting song. Why is it so haunting? I honestly don't know, but I love to hum it around the house and it always puts me in the mood for a ghost story. Seriously. It's weird...
4. NIGHTSHADE, DEADLY (atropa belladonna)
This plant, as the name suggests, is deadly. It is a beautiful flower with tempting berries. Sadly, those berries have historically been enticing to children with disastrous results. It's deadly nature comes from it being filled with atropine, a poison that, according to Mrs. Grieve, requires only 1/10 of a grain to do it's dirty deed.
Here's a bit of fun about this plant taken from A Modern Herbal by Mrs. Grieve:
"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."
Whether or not it was delivered by the devil, it's best to leave this one alone. Lovely to look at, but please don't touch!
5. FOXGLOVE (digitalis purpurea)
Oddly enough, foxglove is one of my favorite plants. You've all seen it. It's sold at garden centers in the spring along side other beautiful, flowering perennials. Planted next to snapdragons, they complement the garden as tall, elegant spikes filled with little bell shaped flowers in varying shades of purple and pink. It is a wonderful plant for a bee garden as honeybees are attracted to the flowers and the pollen within. Originally it was called FOLKSGLOVE which alluded to the thought that fairies, or The Good Folk, used the flowers for gloves. It naturally grows in shady dales and valleys-prime fairy watching spots- and naturally associated with the Folk. An old legend suggests that Foxglove got its name due to bad fairies giving the flowers to a crafty fox who wished to creep unheard into a nearby farmer's chicken coop. The "gloves" muffled the sound of the approaching fox and allowed him all the fresh chicken he could eat.
Foxglove's poison comes from the chemical digitalis, found it its leaves. You may recognize the name, Dear Reader. Digitalis is a heart medication and, when administered correctly and by a health care professional, can help those inclined to heart problems. However, it's poisonous reputation comes from the abuse of this helpful nature. Too much digitalis and it will inspire a fatal heart attack.
Hmm, I suppose this little herb can teach us a bit about moderation.
So there you have it! My list. Click over to Bish's blog and find a whole list of people who are making and sharing lists. Feel free to share your own, even if you didn't sign up for the bloghop. Give me a head's up and I'll read yours!
Do YOU make lists for your writing or any other crafty projects? For your daily life? For the sheer fun of collecting ideas? Do tell!
Enjoy your day, Dear Reader, and have a very happy (and safe) Halloween!!
(***reference material found at Botanical.com, A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve. If you wish to use herbs for any reason, do your homework. Don't be stupid. It's not becoming and it can get you into trouble in the plant world.***)
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