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valerian button Valerian
Valeriana officinalis L.
Family: Valerianaceae
Common Names: ~All-heal~ ~American English valerian~ ~Blessed herb~ ~Capon's tail~ ~English Valerian~ ~ Garden Heliotrope~ ~German Valerian~ ~Heal-all~ ~Setwall~ ~Vandal Root~ ~Vermont Valerian~ ~Wild Valerian~ ~Amantilla~ ~Setewale~ ~Capon's Tail~

Native of Europe, valerian grows in damp woods, roadsides, and riversides. It was known as the ~all-heal~ plant in mediviel times, which comes from the Latin word ~valere~ meaning to ~be well.~ Mediaeval herbalists called it ~Capon's Tail~ in reference to its spreading head of whitish flowers. Valerian is said to be the spikenard referred to in the Bible.

Valerian has an unpleasant smell, and was called ~phu~ by the Greek physician Galen. Named the ~Valium of the 19th century~ (unrelated to Valium), it is known for the relaxing effect, it has on the body. The roots of the valerian were ground and put into protective sachets to gaurd against lightning stricking the house. It was also sprinkled around the floor area of two people arguing to induce peace and calm. It was put into love pillows and hung above doors to guard against evil. The Pied Piper of Hamlyn had a pocket full of this when he lured the rats away into the water. Rats and cats are supposedly attracted to the plant and it is thought to arouse amorous feelings in humans. An oil prepared from valerian and aniseed is used by gypsies to quell unfriendly dogs. Horses are also known to like its scent.

It's hairy root is used for medicinal purposes, as a sedaitve. A cup of valerian tea relieves stress, and helps one to fall asleep easier. It is a good aromatheraphy herb for the bath. Lady's Slipper is often called American valerian. The flowers are great in flower arrangements, but do not dry well.

verbena button Vervaine
Verbena simplex
Family : Verbenaceae (Verbena family)
Common Names: ~Herba Sacra~ ~Holy Plant~ ~Herba Veneris~ ~Herb of Enchantment~ ~Ferfaen~ ~Holy Wort~ ~Herb Of The Cross ~

Vervain grows in sunny areas and especially around limestone. The name Verbena was the classical Roman name for ~altar-plants.~ Vervain is a derivation of Celtic ~ferfaen~ with ~fer~ meaning to ~drive away~ and ~faen~ meaning ~a stone~ and may have been used as a treatment for bladder aliments. Others suggest that vervain had aphrodisiac effects and that the name ~Herba venerisis~ is derived from the ~vein of Venus.~ The Blue Vervain's species name ~hastata~ refers to its ~spear-like~ leaves. Priests used it for sacrifices, and hence the name ~Herba sacra.~

Vervain is said to have been found on Mt. Calvary were it staunched the wounds of the crucified Christ. It is one of the sacred herbs of Greece. It is used as an aphrodisiac and in love potions. It had to be dug up with a piece of gold or a stag's horn on the Saints Days, June 27 and July 25. Often used with endive seed. Vervain was used in sacrifices in ancient times. Held sacred by the Druids, who gathered vervain before sunrise. Jupiter's altars were sprinkled with vervain water. Virgil called it holy and rich. Vervain was carried during peace negotiations in ancient Rome.

Said to be used for purification, healing, youth, peace and money spells. It provides protection and repels evil when gathered with the left hand at the rise of Sirius, the dog star. Helps win in court and tell the future. Put it in the house, grounds or vineyard for abundant revenues or yearly profits.
It is associated with witchcraft and sorcery. Vervain water was sprinkled in the house to cast out evil spirits and protect the house. Medieval Swedes considered vervain powerful against the devil. Magicians used it in the Middle Ages for casting spells. Sorcerers wore a crown of vervain when they invoked demons. Worn around the neck as a good luck charm. Dried, peeled and worn around the neck on a white ribbon, it was a charm against scrofulous and scorbutic conditions. It was used as a charm for young children, to make them happy and to give them a love of learning.

Vervain was believed to confer immortality and protect against the plague. Believed to heal epilepsy, when it was gathered while the sun was in Aries and combined with a grain of corn or aone-year-old penny. Planted in fertile soil it was believed to engender worms in eight weeks, and that a person who touched these worms would die. Powdered and put in the sun, it was said to make the sun look blue. Powdered root placed in a house or between two lovers to caused malice and strife. Placed in a dove cote, it was supposed to cause doves to gather there.

This plant was used in the Fens, an area known for flooding problems, to help find drowned bodies as it was believed to attract eels to the place where the body lay. Vervains have been used for the folk treatments of various aliments usually as ~vervain tea~ and was worn around the neck to cure headaches. It was also used to treat both snakebites and ~bad luck.~

flower button Venus-looking-glass
Specularia perfoliata Family: Campanulaceae
Common Names: ~Bellflower~

Venus's looking-glass is found in the Mediterranean area and throughout North America. The scientific name comes from the Latin specularius referring to mirrors and the plant's shiny seeds.

It is said that Venus, the goddess of love and beauty of Rome, had lost her magic mirror that anyone who looked in it would see nothing but beauty. A poor shepherd boy found it, but would not give it back because he had become entranced with his own image. Venus therefore sent Cupid down to get it back, and in his haste, Cupid struck the shepherd's hand. The mirror shattered, and everywhere a piece of it landed, a Venus-looking-glass flower began to grow. It symbolises Gratitude
*See Campanula

violet button Violet
Viola odorata
Family: Violaceae
Common Names: ~Hearts Ease~ ~Bird's Eye~ ~Bullweed~ ~Pink-eyed John~ ~Pink-of-my-Joan~ ~Godfathers~ ~Godmothers~ ~Wild Pansy~ ~Love-lies-bleeding~ ~Love-in idleness~ ~Love Idol~ ~Cuddle Me~ ~Call-me-to-you~ ~Meet-me-in-the-entry~ ~Kit-run-in-the-fields~ ~Three-faces-under-a-hood~ ~Jack-jump-up-and-kiss-me~ ~Kiss-me-at-the-garden-gate~ ~Kiss-her-in-the-buttery~

Violas have over 200 common names, a large number of them relating to sex and love. The name Violet is said to be from ~Vias~ meaning ~wayside.~

Called the ~Flower of Modesty~ because it hides its flowers in the heart-shaped leaves. Also called ~Our Lady's Modesty~ because it was said to have blossomed when Mary said to the Angel Gabriel, who had come to tell her she was to bear the Son of God, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord."

The monks of the Middle Ages called ~Viola tricolor,~ common in Europe, the ~Herb of the Trinity~ (~herba trinitatis~ ) because they saw the symbol of the trinity in their three colors. The name ~Heartsease~ stemmed from its old use as a medicine to treat heart disease. People believed God gave the plant heart-shaped leaves for that use. The name may also come from its ancient use as an aphrodisiac and a love potion. The deep purple~Viola odorata~ native of the Mediterranean region, is so sweet that an oil from it is used in the perfume industry.

According to one legend it was Venus who made the violet blue. She had been disputing with her son Cupid as to which was more beautiful... herself or a bevy of girls, and Cupid, with no fear of his mother, declared for the girls. This sent Venus into such a rage that she beat her rivals till they turned blue and turned into violets.

Greek legend tells of a nymph named Lo, who was beloved by Zeus. To hide her from his wife Hera, Zeus changed Lo into a white cow. When Lo wept over the taste of the coarse grass she was forced to eat, Zeus changed her tears into sweet-smelling violets that only she was permitted to eat.

Violets figured prominently in the worship of Attis and Cybele. Attis was a shepherd loved by the Phyrigian Mother of the gods, Cybele. His death was due to a boar but in the more popular legend of his death, he emasculated himself underneath a pine tree and bled to death. Violets were said to have sprung from his blood. The priests of Cybele ritually self-mutilated themselves in the same manner. During the spring festival of Cybele and Attis, a pine tree was cut down and brought to the temple, then swathed in violets. During the third day of the festival the ~Day of Blood,~ the high priest would cut his arms and offer the blood as a sacrifice, while the novices would castrate themselves underneath the violet-covered tree.

According to mythology, the daughter of Demeter, the Earth Mother, was playing with her companions, gathering lilies and violets, when Pluto saw her, and carried her off to live with him in the underworld. A similar English myth tells us that King Frost felt lonely in his huge ice palace where everything was frozen and lifeless. He sent his courtiers out to look for a lovely girl to melt his heart and bring him happiness. The courtiers found a very shy maiden named Violet and presented to the king. He immediately came under the spell of her charm and fell in love with her. Although once a strict and passionless monarch, he slowly became gentle and warmhearted and vowed to his people that the harsh and endless winters of his realm would become milder for one half of each year. Such was the tender effect that Violet had upon the king. Violet pleaded with the king to allow her to see her people again and because of his love for her, he granted her wish to visit them each spring. His only condition was that she could only return to them in the form of a flower for part of the year, coming back to her husband's icy realm each winter.

Common saying about the violet is ~Dream of violets and advance in life.~ It is said that a garland of violets worn about the head prevents drunkenness. They are considered a good luck gift, but when violets bloom in autumn, epidemics or death will follow within the year.

The Greeks treasured violets and the Athenians considered them as the symbols of their city. It is said that Ion, the legendary founder of Athens, was leading his people to Attica and was welcomed by water nymphs, who gave him violets as signs of their good wishes. The flower became the city's emblem and one could not find an Athenian house, altars, weddings without violets.

Like the Greeks, Romans would decorate banquet tables with violets in the belief that the flowers could prevent drunkenness. Violet wreaths were used by the Romans to relieve hangovers. They drank a wine made from violet blossoms. They also placed violets on the graves of small children.

The ancient Persians and Greeks used the violet to heal the heart and the head. An infusion of violets in hot water helped to ease a broken heart. Greeks used the plants to help induce sleep, and to calm anger. It was used as a symbol of innocence and modesty.
Medieval Christians believed violets were once strong, upright flowers until the day, the shadow of the cross fell upon them on Mount Calvary. Forever after they bowed in shame at what man had done. In connection with this legend, violets were often used in Good Friday ceremonies. However, while the violet is usually noted as being modest, Sir Walter Scott once characterized it as a ~boastful queen of the forest flowers.~

According to the Welsh, if a man had been beaten, violets would supposedly divine whether he would live or die. A bruised violet was bound to his forefinger; if he fell asleep, he would recover. Otherwise, he would die.

Napoleon Bonaparte loved the violets. When he married Josephine, she wore violets and on each anniversary Napolean sent her a violet bouquet. Josephine maintained an extensive garden of violets which, became the rage in France. In 1814, Napoleon asked to visit Josephine's tomb, before being exiled to the Island of St. Helena. There he picked the violets that were found in a locket around his neck after he died. The French thus chose the violet as their emblem, and Napoleon was nicknamed ~Corporal Violet~ or ~Le Pere Violet~ meaning ~the little flower that returns with spring.~

Postcards picturing a bunch of violets flooded France, but when scrutinized closely, the violets in the bouquet revealed the outlines of portraits of Napoleon, Maria Louise and of their three year old son, Charles, King of Rome. Later Napoleon III adopted the violet as the symbol of his regime. The day he met his future wife, Eugenie, she expressed her favor of him by wearing a violet gown and violets in her hair at a ball. She carried violets at her wedding and received bouquets of them at her anniversaries. Because of all the Napoleonic interest in violets, France became a leader in developing and cultivating new varieties of violets and pansies.

Mohammed considered them his favorite flower. A 10th Century English herbal said the blossoms could chase away evil spirits. Ancient Britons used the flowers as a cosmetic, and Celtic women mixed violets and goat's milk to concoct a beauty lotion. It is also believed to encourage fleas to move into the home.

Violets are also considered to be funeral flowers. It was thrown in graves for remembrance in rural England. The mourners also carried violets to protect themselves against poisonous exhalations while in the cemetery. In ancient Greece, so many violets were placed in a grave that they almost completed concealed the body, and they were also scattered about tombs. Persephone was gathering violets the day she was kidnapped by Pluto and carried off to the Underworld. Josephine had them showered on her coffin when she died. Napoleon the Little was buried under a pall of woven violets. Because of their association with death, violets became a flower of ill omen.

The violet's use as a medicine was extensive from the 16th Century onwards. Among the few plants to contain salicylic acid, the chief ingredient in aspirin, certain violets have found use as pain relievers. Its most interesting medicinal use, has been as a treatment for cancers, such as those of the tongue, skin, and colon. Mrs. Grieve records one case in which a man was supposedly cured of colon cancer in nine weeks, during which time he had consumed almost all the leaves from a nursery bed of violets covering an area equal to 1,600 square feet.

The bands of invading Tartars were often forced to live off the land as they moved across central Russia. An account by the 17th century Russian traveler Gmelin, informs us that the Tartars ate the roots of violets which were cooked down into a thick soup which aided in keeping their stomachs full as they migrated westward. Violets, which contain sugar, have found their way into the culinary world. The flowers have been popular crystallized and served as a candy or a cake decoration. The flowers have also been used as a food dye, in candy-making.

Violet is the - Flower of February
It symbolizes Purity and Charm against evil, I return your love Faithfulness, Modesty and Simplicity
Blue violets - "I'll always be true" and signify constancy
White violets- depict modesty and the desire to "take a chance on happiness"
Yellow violets - convey modest worth.

Violet is the State flower of Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

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Friday, January 16, 1998

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