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yarrow button Yarrow
Achillea millefolium
Family: Compositae
Common Names: ~Bloodwort~ ~Devil's Bit~ ~Knight's Milfoil Eerie~ ~Staunch~ ~Thousand Leaf~ ~Thousand-Seal~ ~Soldier's Woundwort~ ~Snake Grass~ ~Arrow Root~ ~Milfoil~

Yarrow, a hardy perennial is native to Europe and Western Asia. The botanical name, ~achillea~ comes from the Greek hero Achilles name. When Achilles was born, his mother was said to have held him by his heel and dipped him in a bath of yarrow-infused water to protect him. His vulnerable heel, the one she held him by, was where he was eventually mortally wounded. During the Trojan wars, Achilles was also said to have staunched the bleeding of his soldiers with yarrow hence its other names, ~Staunchweed,~ ~Herbe militaris'~ and ~Soldier's Woundwort.~ The French word ~millesfeuilles~ was used to describe its feathery and fern-like appearance. Over time the pronunciation became corrupted and it was called ~Milfoil.~

It was considered to be one of the devil's favorite plants and used in spells by witches, hence its other names ~Devil's Plaything,~ the ~Devil's Nettle~ and the ~Bad Man's Plaything.~ It was said to provide the wearer with second sight if the leaves were held over the eyes by people from the Western Isles.

Yarrow was regarded as a sacred and medicinal herb. Yarrow stems were used by the Druids to divine seasonal weather in Europe and were the original stalks used by the Chinese in consulting the I Ching. It was also an herb with strong associations to the wise women healers of Europe. During the Middle Ages, it was used to keep evil spirits away and worn as an amulet to protect against negativity.

Yarrow has been used as a tea for various ailments. There is much folk magic associated with yarrow. Yarrow is one of the sacred herbs of midsummer. A pinch of yarrow, wrapped in flannel cloth and placed under the pillow at night, was said to bring a vision of one's future husband or wife. Maidens also consulted the yarrow flowers to choose future lovers. The flower had to be plucked from a young man's grave, while reciting a chant. This chant was supposed to give the yarrow power to bring visions of the lover. If one happened to dream of the yarrow plant itself, it meant they would be deprived of the object of their affection. Using yarrow in a love charm was said to keep couples loving and faithful for seven years. Carrying yarrow in a wedding bouquet was said to ensure seven years of happiness. Washing the head with an infusion of yarrow was said to prevent baldness.

In Sweden beer was made from this plant. It was used for a wound poultice with plantain leaves during the Civil War.

The flowers are perfect for drying and preserving. Also good for topiary. Yarrow symbolizes war.

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Copyright Pinkie D'Cruz 1998

Friday, January 16, 1998

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