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fennel button Fennel
Foeniculum vulgare
Family: Apiaceae (Umbelliferae)
Common Names: ~Sweet Fennel~ ~Wild Fennel~

Fennel has been used for centuries, and came originally from Europe. The word fennel comes from the Latin word ~fenum~ meaning ~hay~ which describes its sweet smell. The original Greek name for fennel was marathron, from maraino, which meant ~to grow thin.~

The Emperor Charlemagne was responsible for introducing fennel into central Europe. This aromatic plant is found in Greek mythology, and Italian folklore. Fennel is said to have bestowed immortality in the Greek legend of Prometheus. Roman women ate fennel to reduce obesity. Fennel is used today, to help make fatty foods more digestible. It is said to promotes strength and courage, and also longevity. Snakes were said to eat fennel to help them slough their skins and horses could be caught if fed fennel, mixed in gingerbread. Fennel looks similar to dill and is an important culinary herb, having an aniseed flavour. It is believed to be useful in treating eye complaints. It was also known to Pliny as a cure for many complaints and for improving sight.

Fennel was used in medieval times to keep away evil spirits. On Midsummer's Eve it was hung over doorways with herbs like St. John's Wort. Keyholes blocked with fennel seeds prevented the entry of ghosts. It was eaten as a condiment to the salt fish during Lent.

Fennel has a long history of herbal use and is a commonly used household remedy. The seeds, leaves and roots can be used, but the seeds are most active medicinally and are the part normally used. An essential oil is extracted from the fully ripened and dried seed for medicinal use, though it should not be given to pregnant women. The seeds are also used in Latin America to increase the flow of breast milk. Fennel has also been used as a remedy for cough and colic in infants.

fern button Ferns
Family: N.O. Filices

Ferns are a very ancient family of plants: early fern fossils predate the beginning of the Mesozoic era, 360 million years ago. They are older than the dinosaurs. They were thriving on Earth for two hundred million years before the flowering plants evolved.

The word ~fern~ is from the old Anglo-Saxon ~fearn~ meaning ~feather.~ Like feathers, the leaves of most ferns are delicate and divided.

Also known as ~Devil Brushes.~ In England it is believed that hanging dried ferns in the house will protect all the inhabitants from thunder and lightning damage. It is believed that it may rain when the ferns are cut or burnt. The bracken seed of the plant is said to provide magical qualities if you place a few in the pocket - invisibility being the most notable. It is also believed that treading on a fern will cause the traveller to become confused and lose his way.

Fern is used in flower arrangements for its protective properties. Inside the home, fern is also protective. When carried or worn, fern has the power to guide its bearer to discover treasures, and the person who breaks the first fern frond of spring will have good luck. Stomach ache is supposed to be alleviated by taking crushed bracken seed taken with water from a fern growing on a tree.

Powers: Health, Luck, Protection and Riches

feverfew button Feverfew
Chrysanthemum Parthenium L.
Family: Compositae
Common Names: ~Bride's Button~ ~Featherfew~ ~Featherfoil~ ~Febrifuge Plant~ ~Feverfew~ ~Pyrethrum~ ~Wild Chamomile~ ~Altamisa~ ~Amargosa~ ~Bachelor's Button~ ~Feverfew~ ~Flirtwort~ ~Manzanilla~ ~Featherfew~ ~Featherfoil~ ~Wild Chamomile~ ~Mum~ ~Tanacetum~ ~Febrifuge Plant~~Wild Quinine~ ~Mutterkraut~

This plant is native to southeastern Europe but is now found in North and South America.
~Pyrethrum~ is derived from the Greek~ pur~ meaning ~fire,~ in allusion to the hot taste of the root. According to a legend, this herb saved the life of a person who fell off the famous temple, the Parthenon, in ancient Greece. Hence, the name ~parthenium~ according to legend.

Some people say that the name feverfew is a corruption of featherfew, referring to the plant's petals. Some say that feverfew is effective against fever and colds if it is gathered with the left hand as the name of the patient is spoken aloud and without a glance behind. According to another old superstition, when planted around dwellings it purified the air and warded off disease. The pungent odor is disliked by bees that branches of it were carried around to hold the bees at a distance.

The ancient Greeks and Egyptians cherished Feverfew as a valuable remedy for many ills. The Greek herbalist Dioscorides treated arthritis with this herb. In 1649, Culpeper recommended feverfew for headaches and to strengthen women's wombs, Feverfew is a preventive for migraine headaches.

Feverfew keeps bugs and insects away from plants. Some people plant in their roses or around the garden for pest control. One of the bug killing properties of feverfew is pyrethrin.

flax button Flax
Linum perenne
Family: Linaceae

The Latin name of flax is ~linum,~ from which its genus and family names are derived. For many years, blue flax was called ~Lewis' flax~ in honor of Captain Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Members of the Expedition first discovered the plant in Montana. The word ~perenne~ means ~lasting the whole year~ in Latin. This variety of blue flax was first described for science by the German botanist Frederick Pursh in his monumental Flora Americae Septentrionalis of 1814.
One folk tale tells how Holda/Bertha lured a poor farmer into a magical cavern on a mountain top. She appeared as a beautiful queen surrounded by handmaidens, in a room full of precious stones and gold. Holda asked the farmer to name a gift that he desired. He asked for the flowers she held in her hand. The blooms were of the flax plant, which were then unknown. Holda gave him a bag of flax seeds and when the crop was ripe she taught the farmer's wife to make linen cloth from the plants.

The flax is the flower of the goddess Bertha, whose eyes shone in its blossoms and whose femininity was filled by its fibers.

forgetmenot button Forget-Me-Not
Myosotis scorpioides
Family: Boraginaceae
Forget-me-not retains its legends in its name. According to legend, a young man and his sweetheart were walking beside the Danube when they came across some blue flowers that grew on an islet in the stream. The man leapt into the river to pluck them for her, regardless of the current and the protest of the girl. He crossed safely, plucked the flowers and was almost at the bank again when he was wrung by a cruel cramp, and could not hold his way against the whirl and surge of the rapid. He looked into the white face of his beloved, and flung the bouquet at her feet with his last strength, cried, ~Forget me not!~ and disappeared. She never forgot him, and wore the flowers in her hair until her own death.

Another legend tells of a wayfarer in a lonely valley who sees a flower at his feet he had never before seen. He picked the flower, and immediately the mountainside opened. He entered and saw rich stores of gold and precious gems. He began to gather them, but dropped the little flower, which murmured faintly, ~forget-me-not.~ The wayfarer was so intent on the possessions before him, he ignored the plea. The rift in the mountain began to close, and he barely had time to escape. But, alas! the little flower that had opened the treasure-cave was lost forever.

According to Christian lore when God was walking through the Garden of Eden after the Creation, He noticed a small blue flower and asked its name. The flower, overcome by shyness, whispered, 'I am afraid I have forgotten, Lord.' God answered, 'Forget Me not. Yet I will not forget thee.'

foxglove1.jpg button Foxglove
Digitalis purpurea
family Scrophulariaceae
Common Names: ~Purpur-Fingerhut~ ~Folksglove~ ~Fairy-Caps~ ~Fairy-Petticoats~ ~Witches' Thimbles~ ~Fairy-Thimbles~

Foxglove, has large tubular flowers and with its glove-like blossoms, became the Virgin Mary's Glove. In France it is known as ~Gant de Notre Dame.~
Foxglove has a long association with magic and mystery. The name comes from the Anglo Saxon ~foxes' glove.~ In China and Japan foxes are credited with the ability to change themselves into humans. According to a legend, men once killed foxes for their bushy tales which were a charm against the devil. The foxes begged God for protection, so he put bell-shaped flowers in the field to ring whenever hunters would approach.

According to another legend fairies used to give the blossoms of the flower to foxes to wear as gloves so they would not get caught raiding the chicken coop. With magical powers, the foxes were able to move without making a sound. Some believe the name actually comes from ~Folk' Gloves,~ since the blossoms were worn by fairies and wee folk as mittens. In Ireland the flowers were called ~Fairy Thimbles~ and in Wales ~Goblin's Gloves.~ Supposedly, if you picked a foxglove you would offend the fairies. If the fairies stole your baby, the juice of the foxglove would help you get it back.

Ancient Greeks and Romans used the juice of the foxglove for sprains and bruises. It is the original source of digitalis, the most valuable cardiac drug ever discovered. Medieval witches grew foxglove in their gardens to use as a potent ingredient used in spells. They used the chemical digitalis, which is yielded by foxglove, to sudden deaths in victims. Foxglove was discovered in the 1700's to stimulate the kidneys to release excess fluid, and a tea brewed from the foxglove leaves was used in treating Dropsy, a disease in which water accumulates in the body and causes it to swell up.

Freesia button Freesia
Family: Iridaceae
The history of freesia goes back 200 years to South-Africa where all species were discovered. This beautiful flower received its name from Dr. Christian P. Ecklon who named it after his friend a German botanist, Friedrich H. T. Freese.

Freesias are native to the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. Freesias grow from a corm, or thickened underground stem. They are important as commercial cut flowers. They are not successful garden plants in the northern U.S. Freesias that are raised in the U.S. are varieties of two wild species, Freesia armstrongi and F. refracta. Freesias can last 10 - 14 days in a vase.

frankincense button Frankincense
Boswellia Thurifera
Family: N.O Burseraceae

Frankincense has been used since antiquity as an incense in India, China and in the West by the Catholic Church. It was highly prized was used in various rituals in many cultures, including Egyptian, Greek and Roman. Early Aegean cultures traded with the Frankincense colonies of the Red Sea. The Catholic Church has been one of the largest consumers of Frankincense in recorded history. Islam considers Frankincense & Myrrh a holy incense... the healing hand of Allah.

The word ~incense~ means the aroma given off with the smoke of any odoriferous substance when burnt. Frankincense is a gum resin which seeps from the frankincense tree. The very best frankincense comes from trees in the Nejd area of southern Oman, to the north of the hills of Dhofar.

Frankincense was important in Jewish ritual. The ceremonial incense of the Jews was made of four ~sweet scents,~ of which pure Frankincense was one. With other spices, it was stored in a great chamber of the House of God at Jerusalem. The Greeks and the Romans used frankincense as incense, but not as offerings. Instead it was used in everyday life, burning on the braziers for heat.

According to Herodotus, Frankincense to the amount of 1,000 talents weight was offered every year, during the feast of Bel, on the great altar of his temple, in Babylon. The religious use of incense was as common in ancient Persia as in Babylon and Assyria. Herodotus states that the Arabs brought every year to Darius as tribute 1,000 talents of Frankincense, and the modern Parsis of Western India still preserve the ritual of incense.

Frankincense, was one of the most common kinds of incense offered to the gods among the Greeks. The Romans use of Frankincensenot only for religious ceremonies but also on state occasions, and in domestic life. Egyptian inscriptions dated 2,800 B.C., document expeditions to the land of Punt, from which Egypt was importing incense. Punt is the area of Arabia and Africa at the extreme south of the Red Sea, comprising of today's Oman, Yemen and Somalia, the only places where frankincense and myrrh grow naturally. Frankincense was also valued by the cultures of the Near East and Mediterranean including the Chinese who sent porcelain to Arabia to trade for it.

The earliest recorded use of frankincense was inscribed on a tomb of a 15th century BC queen named Hathsepsut. The charred remains of the burnt frankincense was ground into a black powder called kohl. Kohl is the substance used in creating the distinctive black eyeliner found on the figures in Egyptian art. It was used in ancient Egypt in rejuvenating face mask, cosmetics and perfumes. Frankincense is also made into a paste with other ingredients to perfume the hands. In cold weather, the Egyptians warm their rooms with a brazier where incense is burnt.

The ancient world believed that the smoke of incense carried their prayers to heaven. No matter what religion observance was celebrated, incense had to be burned. Frankincense was used to embalm corpses. When the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun was opened in 1922, one of the sealed flasks released a whiff of the incense, after 3,300 years. It was noted that the embalmers of old did not fall prey to the diseases from which the people had died. During the Black Death in England, from 1603 to 1666, the perfumers of the period were immune to plague, since they were always surrounded by essential oils. Frankincense was used in medical prescriptions by the Arabs for many generations. Arabic doctors had their clothes strongly scented with insence when visiting patients.

Medicinally, the small tree with white flowers has been used for a variety of complaints including syphilis, rheumatism and respiratory tract infections. It is used as camel food. The roots are debarked and eaten raw or used in beverages. The inner bark is used to make a brown dye and can even be used as fish bait. The resin is used in wine as an additive. The soft wood is used in a variety of building/craft products.
Magical Uses: Atmospheric tonic, Blessings, Initiation rites.

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Copyright Pinkie D'Cruz 1998
Friday, January 16, 1998


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