Let's call this post and the post on the 28th experiments. Heck, let's call the posts for the rest of this month experiments! Sometimes you need to play with words before you get a feel for them, before you can get a handle on style. Oh! And don't forget - The A-Z Challenge Theme Reveal Bloghop is Monday the 21st!! I can't wait to see what fun and interesting themes you guys come up with this year!
Simon and Garfunkel may have made this old folk song famous but the herbs mentioned in the verses were well known and revered even before the old folk song was first sung. We'll start our folklore wanderings with four of my favorite herbs. The first two we'll examine today.
1. Parsley : petroselimum sativum
Good old parsley. That unassuming garnish that accompanies many a fancy dinner plate. Oh, but it's much more than a way to add color to a dull dinner. Parsley is a traditional breath sweetener and digestive. It has also been used for kidney stones and bladder disturbances.
The Greeks associated parsley with Hercules and awarded wreathes of the herb to the winners of their athletic competitions to be worn as crowns. Also in ancient times, our fair garnish would have never been let near the table; it was sacred to oblivion, death, and funeral rites! Hmm, the insurmountable task of Hercules' venture into the Underworld anyone?
If you decide to grow parsley, make sure you keep it away from your pet canary. Parsley is fatal to small birds and a deadly poison to parrots. Polly does NOT want this cracker (sorry...I had to.)
Now, how can this knowledge help you as a writer? Use it at a dinner party. Have your main character focus on while asking a very difficult question or listening to another round of arguments between her brother and over-bearing father. Perhaps Great Aunt Harriet swears by it for her reoccurring bladder infections or a body builder always eats a few sprigs before every competition. It could be used as a harbinger of death to a discerning detective or perhaps a malicious murderer knows Grandmama will go mad if Chirpy the goldfinch kicks the bucket. Maybe she'll even die before she can change her will...
dun, dun, DUNNNN!!!
2. Sage : salvia
Sage has many reputed curative properties. In the Middle Ages it was widely known as a cure-all. The most well-known traditional use for sage is for mental clarity and improved memory. The Old English word "sage" meaning "wise man" comes from this traditional usage.
Superstition tells us that if all is well in the house, sage will flourish in the garden. If things are amiss, the plant will droop and wilt. Sage is said to carry powers of wisdom and longevity. Bundles of dried sage, called smudge sticks, are burned by some to clear the air of negative energy and spirits.
Any character that gardens must have sage in the garden. Have a struggling college student turn to traditional remedies out of a desperate attempt to get good grades on his midterms. Have it work! Throw in a wizard, a "wise man" and give him a fondness for sage herb. Use sage as an ongoing barometer to give clues to the emotional weather throughout a novel. Perhaps an eccentric, a paranoid classmate, a desperate homeowner burns it in a vain (or not so vain?) attempt to get rid of a poltergeist. A demon. The moody old spirit of Uncle Ross.
Have fun playing in the garden! Even if you just use them to help get those creative juices flowing, dig deep and see where they might lead you. Don't every be afraid to wander down an over-grown garden path to see what ideas might be planted there.
PS: Never, never, never experiment with herbs unless you are 100% sure you know what you're doing and/or have a marvelous herbalist/natural health practitioner you can call upon for advice. I'm not a doctor. I'm a folklorist, a garden rambler, and Entwife. That's all the disclaimer I need.
The Book of Herbs by Country Home Books - Meredith Books, 1994
Herbs: How to Select, Grow, and Enjoy - Norma Jean Lathrop, HP Books, 1981
The Little Herb Encyclopedia - Jack Ritchason, ND, 3rd Edition, 1995