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Posts tagged ‘herbs’

Cruel Man of the Woods

Cruel Man of the Woods (Strobilomyces strobilaceus), also known as Old Man of the Woods, is a relatively rare mushroom found in deciduous woods and conifer forests in both the U.S. and U.K. It can be hard to spot since its color changes over time from white to black and can be obscured by dead leaves and underbrush. It appears between August and October. Purportedly, the younger mushrooms are edible, but some suggest that since they are rare and have little cooking value, they should be left alone. However, Morel Mushroom Hunting Club suggests they are best when dried for use in soups, sauces, and gravy.

As always in folk medicine and conjure, the names of plants often vary: some say that Cruel Man of the Woods is Poltandra alba.

Medically, extracts may inhibit tumor and sarcoma growth. Many other mushrooms are also cited in anti-cancer literature for similar purposes.

Wikipedia Photo

In hoodoo, the mushroom, which can be included whole in mojo bags or ground up into powders, is generally used to cause bad luck to others, control others, and to protect one’s property. Harm can come, it is believed when an enemy touches the mushroom–especially if they have harmed you.

ConjureDoctors.com says that if you “Take a piece of Cruel Man of the Woods, some Master Root, Licorice root and Devil’s Shoestring and wrap in red flannel and your influence over anyone will be unsurpassed.”

Some burn this for happiness and protection for themselves, but I find this problematic inasmuch as you could inhale it unless you isolated it on your property.

Alan Dundes, in Mother Wit from the Laughing Barrell includes the mushroom when he chastizes the uninformed by saying they “may be inclined so scoff at the red flanne; hoodoo-bag, containing such waifs and estrays as lodestone, steel filings, graveyard dirt, red pepper, gunpowder, anvil-dust, bluestone, nail trimmings and the thousand and one roots individualized as ‘Red Shanks,’ ‘Devil’s Shoe String,’ ‘Angels Turnip,’ ‘Purpose of the World,’ ‘Cruel Man of the Woods,’ and such like, but noe careful observer in the field can deny the fact that these various conjures in many cases actually work.”

For sale on eBay

I write about conjure in my fiction, but I’m superstitious enough not to doubt it when push comes to shove.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Conjure Woman’s Cat,” “Eulalie and Washerwoman,” and “Lena.” You can find all three of these novels combined in one e-book called “Florida Folk Magic Stories.”

 

 

 

 

 

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What Macbeth’s Witches Were Really Mixing Up

Wikipedia graphic

Fillet of a fenny snake, 
In the cauldron boil and bake; 
Eye of newt and toe of frog, 
Wool of bat and tongue of dog, 
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, 
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing, 
For a charm of powerful trouble, 
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble. 

Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1

When you read Macbeth and hear the witches chanting about the eye of newt and tongue of dog, don’t worry. Most of those ingredients are the folk names of herbs, not critters’ body parts. Here are those added by the second witch.

  • Fenny Snake – Fenny refers to fens (swamps).
  • Eye of Newt – Seeds of Black or Brown Mustard (Brassica juncea), which–in hoodoo- are used to confuse enemies. They are often mixed with sulfur powder.
  • Buttercup: Steve Matson photo from Califlora

    Toe of Frog – Yellow Buttercup, including within the United States, the Western Buttercup (Ranunculus occidentalis Nutt), the seeds of which were ground up by Indians with other seeds for making a flour-like staple called pinole. The flowers themselves are considered poisonous.

  • Wool of Bat – Holly (Ilex aquifollium), meaning “holy,” used by Druids and other ancient Europeans. Holly symbolized male and female and Yule and is still considered in conjure as not only a blessing to the household and as protection for the home.
  • Tongue of Dog – Houndstongue (Cynoglossum officinale), also called dog’s tongue and gypsy flower. It was once considered a cure for madness and has been used by herbalists for a variety of ailments, including venereal disease and inflammations.
  • Dog-tooth Violet – Wikipedia photo.

    Adder’s Fork – Dog-Tooth Violet (Erythronium americanum) and related species. It’s also referred to as rattlesnake violet and serpent’s tongue. It’s not related to the violet. In conjure, it’s used to stop slander and gossip and those who are using it against you. It is placed on the doorsteps of enemies or when meddling inlaws are the problem, mixed with slippery elm into a body wash.

  • Blind Worm’s Sting – This is a lizard that looks like a worm. It’s sting is it’s bite. Perhaps they used the poison or tossed in the worm.
  • Lizard’s Leg – Ivy, genus (Hedera) and other creeping plants. Potentially, might include poison ivy and poison oak. Ivy is for binding things together as well as for ensnarring unwelcome desires (including drinking too much.) One can spend days trying to unravel the folklore and symbolism of ivy throughout the ages, including the use of the plant as a crown. Holly and ivy are among the evergreens used to decorate houses for Christmas and Yule as symbols of rebirth.
  • Howlet – That is to say, an owl.

–Malcolm

The Kindle edition of my hoodoo novel “Lena” is on sale this weekend at Amazon for only 99₵. P.S. I have no idea why WordPress changed the font of the Toe of Frog paragraph

If your conjure woman stocks Belladonna, run like hell

Wikipedia photo.

Belladonna (nightshade) and the potato you eat with your steak are related. Solanaceae, plants that prefer shade or dappled sunlight, is a large family! However, if your conjure practitioner keeps belladonna in stock, its primary use–other than as a curiosity or an ornamental–in folk magic is to poison people. In 1915, plant researcher Henry Walters said nightshade was a plant filled with hatred.

Several berries might do the trick. Touching it will badly inflame your skin. In areas where belladonna grows wild, medical students were (and perhaps still are) taught to recognize the symptoms of belladonna poisoning by memorizing this phrase: “Hot as a hare, blind as a bat, dry as a bone, red as a beat, and mad as a hatter.”

It’s use now in cosmetics is rare, though it once was fairly common. It was once used by women to accentuate their eyes, hence bella donna (beautiful woman). It still has some medical uses, though the dangers it presents are outside the skill set of most herbalists and root doctors.

It can be used in the treatment of whooping cough, Parkinson’s disease, motion sickness, psychiatric conditions, and as a painkiller. (See WebMD for more information.)

How apt that the active agent in belladonna, atropine, is named after Atropos, the Greek fate who snipped an individual’s threat of life. Or, as Milton said, “Comes the blind Fury with the abhorred shears/And skits the thin-spun life.

The plant often appears in myths and fairy lore. Purportedly, it put Snow White to sleep when it was injected into the apple she was given. Like Henbane and Thornapple (aka Devil’s Apple), Belladonna is associated with the goddess of night and death, Hecate.

According to Amy Stewart (in a handy and fun little guidebook called Wicked Plants) says that nightshade “causes rapid heartbeat, confusion, hallucinations, and seizures. The symptoms are so unpleasant that atropine is sometimes added to potentially addictive painkillers to keep patients from getting hooked.”

The plant’s names, nightshade and belladonna sound like magic, mystery and enchantment. Yet, it’s not the kind of mystery I want my friendly neighborhood herbalist or conjure woman playing around with.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of Conjure Woman’s Cat and its sequel Eulalie and Washerwoman.