EMBRACING THE Myths, Traditions, Superstitions, and Folk-Lore of the Plant Kingdom.

BY
RICHARD FOLKARD, JUN.

PREFACE.

Having, some few years ago, been associated in the conduct of a journal devoted to horticulture, I amassed for literary purposes much of the material made use of in the present volume. Upon the discontinuance of the journal, I resolved to classify and arrange the plant lore thus accumulated, with a view to its subsequent publication, and I have since been enabled to enrich the collection with much Continental and Indian lore (which I believe is quite unknown to the great majority of English readers) from the vast store to be found in Signor De Gubernatis’ volumes on plant tradition, a French edition of which appeared two years ago, under the title of La Mythologie des Plantes. To render the present work comprehensive and at the same time easy of reference, I have divided the volume into two sections, the first of which is, in point of fact, a digest of the second; and I have endeavoured to enhance its interest by introducing some few reproductions of curious illustrations pertaining to the subjects treated of. Whilst preferring no claim for anything beyond the exercise of considerable industry, I would state that great care and attention has been paid to the revision of the work, and that as I am both author and printer of my book, I am debarred in that dual capacity from even palliating my mistakes by describing them as “errors of the press.” In tendering my acknowledgments to Prof. De Gubernatis and other authors I have consulted on the various branches of my subject, I would draw attention to the annexed list of the principal works to which reference is made in these pages.

RICHARD FOLKARD, Jun.

Principal Works Referred to.

Adams, H. C. ‘Flowers; their Moral, Language, and Poetry.’
Albertus Magnus. De Mirabilibus Mundi.
Aldrovandus. Ornithologia.
Bacon, Lord. ‘Sylva Sylvarum,’ and ‘Essay on Gardens.’
Bauhin, C. De plantis a divis sanctisve nomen habentibus (1591).
Brand, J. ‘Popular Antiquities.’
Bright, H. A. ‘A Year in a Lancashire Garden.’
Campbell, J. F. ‘Tales of the Western Highlands.’
‘Choice Notes from Notes and Queries.’
Coles, W. ‘Adam in Eden’ (1657); and ‘The Art of Simpling’ (1656).
‘The Compleat English Gardener’ (1683).
‘The Countryman’s Recreation’ (1640).
Croker, T. C. ‘Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland.’
Culpeper, N. ‘British Herbal.’
Cutts, Rev. E. ‘Decoration of Churches.’
Darwin, E. ‘The Botanic Garden’: a Poem.
Dasent, Sir G. W. ‘Popular Tales from the Norse.’
Daubeny, C. ‘Trees and Shrubs of the Ancients.’
Day, Rev. Lal Behari. ‘Folk-Tales of Bengal.’
De Gubernatis, A. La Mythologie des Plantes; ou les Légendes du Règne Végétal.
Dixon, W. G. ‘The Land of the Morning: Japan.’
‘The Dutch Gardener’ (1703).
Dyer, Rev. T. F. ‘English Folk-lore.’
Ennemoser, J. ‘History of Magic.’
Evelyn, J. ‘Sylva: a Discourse of Forest Trees’ (1662); ‘The French Gardener’ (1658); and ‘Kalendarium Hortense’ (1664).
‘The Expert Gardener’ (1640).
‘The Fairy Family.’
Farrer, J. A. ‘The Names of Flowers’ (In ‘Cornhill Magazine,’ Vol. XLV.).
Fitzherbarde, Sir Anthony. ‘Boke of Husbandry’ (1523).
Fleetwood, Bishop. ‘Curiosities of Nature and Art in Husbandry and Gardening’ (1707).
‘Flower Lore’ (M’Caw & Co., Belfast).
Gerarde, J. ‘The Herbal; or, General Historie of Plantes.’ Edited by Johnson (1633).
Grimm, J. ‘Teutonic Mythology’ (Translated by Stallybrass.)
Henderson, W. ‘Folk-lore of the Northern Counties.’
Hunt, R. ‘Popular Romances of the West of England.’
Ingram, J. ‘Flora Symbolica.’
Jameson, Mrs. ‘Sacred and Legendary Art’; ‘Legends of the Monastic Orders’; and ‘Legends of the Madonna.’
Karr, Alphonse. ‘A Tour Round my Garden.’
Kelly, W. K. ‘Curiosities of Indo-European Tradition and Folk-lore.’
Kent, Miss. ‘Flora Domestica,’ and ‘Sylvan Sketches.’
King, R. J. ‘Sketches and Studies.’
Kircherus. De Luce et Umbra, Ars Magnetica.
‘The Language of Flowers’ (Saunders and Otley).
Liger, Louis. ‘The Retired Gardener’ (1717).
Loudon, J. C. ‘Encyclopædia of Gardening.’
Loudon, Mrs. ‘Companion to the Flower Garden.’
Macer Floridus. De Viribus Herbarum (1527).
Mallet, M. ‘Northern Antiquities.’
Mannhardt, Prof. Baumkultus der Germanen; Germanische Mythen; and Wald- und Feld-Kulte.
Marmier, X. Légendes des Plantes.
Marshall, S. ‘Plant Symbolism’ (In ‘Natural History Notes,’ Vol. II.).
Martyn, Thos. ‘Miller’s Gardener’s and Botanist’s Dictionary.’
Matthiolus. De Plantis (1585).
Maundevile, Sir John. ‘Voiage and Travaile’ (Edit. 1725).
Mentzelius, C. Index Nominum Plantarum Multilinguis (1682).
Moore, T. ‘Lalla Rookh.’
Müller, Max. ‘Selected Essays.’
Murray, E. C. G. ‘Songs and Legends of Roumania.’
Newton, W. ‘Display of Heraldry.’
Nork. Mythologie der Volkssagen.
Oldenburg, Dr. H. ‘Buddha: his Life, Doctrine, and Order.’
Parkinson, J. ‘Paradisi in Sole: Paradisus Terrestris’ (1656).
Paxton, Sir Joseph. ‘Botanical Dictionary.’
Percival, Rev. P. ‘The Land of the Veda.’
Phillips, J. ‘Flora Historical.’
Pirie, M. ‘Flowers, Grasses, and Shrubs.’
Plat, Sir Hugh, Knt. ‘The Garden of Eden’ (1600).
Pliny. ‘Natural History.’
Porta, J. B. Phytognomica (1588).
Pratt, A. ‘Flowering Plants and Ferns of Great Britain.’
Prior, Dr. ‘Popular Names of British Plants.’
Ralston, W. R. ‘Forest and Field Myths’ (In ‘Contemporary Review,’ Vol. XXXI.).
Rapin, R. De Hortorum Cultura (Gardiner’s trans., 1665).
Rawlinson, Rev. G. ‘The Religions of the Ancient World.’
Reade, W. W. ‘The Veil of Isis; or, the Mysteries of the Druids.’
Rea, J. ‘Flora, Ceres, and Pomona’ (1665).
Rimmel, E. ‘The Book of Perfumes.’
The ‘Royal and Imperial Dream Book.’
Sawyer, F. E. ‘Sussex Folk-lore and Customs.’
Shway Yoe. ‘The Burman: his Life and Notions.’
Thorpe, B. ‘Yule-tide Stories.’
Tighe, W. ‘The Plants’: a Poem.
Timbs, J. ‘Popular Errors;’ ‘Curiosities of History;’ and ‘Things Not Generally Known.’
Turner, Robert. ‘Botanologia: The Brittish Physician; or, the Nature and Vertues of English Plants’ (1687).
Turner, W. ‘The Herball.’
Tusser, Thomas. ‘Five Hundred Points of Husbandry’ (1562).
White, Rev. Gilbert. ‘Natural History of Selborne.’
Wilkinson, Sir G. ‘The Ancient Egyptians.’
Zahn, J. Speculæ Physico-Mathematico-Historicæ (1696).

TABLE OF CONTENTS.

  • INTRODUCTION xiii.
  • CHAPTER I.
  • THE WORLD-TREES OF THE ANCIENTS.—The Scandinavian Ash—The Hindu World-Tree—The World-Tree of the Buddhists—The Iranian World-Tree—The Assyrian Sacred Tree—The Mother Tree of the Greeks, Romans, and Teutons 1
  • CHAPTER II.
  • THE TREES OF PARADISE AND THE TREE OF ADAM.—The Terrestrial Paradise—The Paradise of the Persians, Arabians, Hindus, Scandinavians, and Celts—The Mosaic Paradise—Eden and the Walls of its Garden—The Tree of Life—The Tree of Knowledge—The Forbidden Fruit—Adam’s Departure from Paradise—Seth’s Journey to the Garden of Eden—The Death of Adam—The Seeds of the Tree of Life—Moses and his Rods—King David and the Rods—Solomon and the Cedars of Lebanon—The Tree of Adam and the Tree of the Cross 9
  • CHAPTER III.
  • SACRED PLANTS OF THE ANCIENTS.—The Parsis and the Cypress—The Oak—Sacred Plants and Trees of the Brahmans and Buddhists—Plants Revered by the Burmans—The Cedar, Elm, Ash, Rowan, Baobab, Nipa, Dragon Tree, Zamang, and Moriche Palm—The Nelumbo or Sacred Bean—Plants Worshipped by Egyptians—The Lotus, Henna, and Pomegranate—Sacred Plants of the Græco-Roman Divinities—Plants of the Norse Gods 21
  • CHAPTER IV.
  • FLORAL CEREMONIES, GARLANDS, AND WREATHS.—The Altars of the Gods—Flowers, Fragrant Woods, and Aromatics—Incense—Perfumes—Ceremonies of the Assyrians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans—The Roman Triumphs—Festivals of the Terminalia and Floralia—May-day Customs—Well-flowering—Harvest Festivals—Flowers and Weddings—Floral Games of Toulouse and Salency—The Rosière—Rose Pelting—Battle of Flowers—Japanese New Year’s Festival—Wreaths, Chaplets, and Garlands 26
  • CHAPTER V.
  • PLANTS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.—The Virgin Mary and her Flowers—Joseph’s Plants—The Plants of Bethlehem—Flora of the Flight into Egypt—The Herb of the Madonna—Plants of the Virgin—The Annunciation, Visitation, and Assumption—The Rosary—The Plants of Christmas—The Garden of Gethsemane—Plants of the Passion—The Crown of Thorns—The Wood of the Cross—Veronica—The Plants of Calvary—The Trees and the Crucifixion—The Tree of Judas—Plants of St. John the Baptist—Plant Divination on St. John’s Eve—Flowers of the Saints—The Floral Calendar—Flowers of the Church’s Festivals—Decoration of Churches—Gospel Oaks—Memorial Trees—The Glastonbury Thorn—St. Joseph’s Walnut Tree—St. Martin’s Yew 40
  • CHAPTER VI.
  • PLANTS OF THE FAIRIES AND NAIADES.—The Elves and the Oak—Elves of the Forest—The Elf of the Fir-tree—The Rose Elf—Moss or Wood Folk—The Black Dwarfs—The Still Folk—The Procca—English Fairies—The Fairy Steed—Fairy Revels—Elf Grass—Fairy Plants—The Cowslip, or Fairy Cup—The Foxglove, or Lusmore—The Four-leaved Clover—The Fairy Unguent—The Russalkis—Naiades and Water Nymphs—The Fontinalia—Fays of the Well 64
  • CHAPTER VII.
  • SYLVANS, WOOD NYMPHS, AND TREE SPIRITS.—Fauns, Satyrs, Dryads, and Hamadryads—The Laurel Maiden—The Willow Nymph—The Sister of the Flowers—Sacred Groves and their Denizens—The Spirits of the Forest—The Indian Tree Ghosts—The Burmese Nats—The African Wood Spirits—The Waldgeister of the Germans—The Elder-mother—German Tree and Field Spirits 74
  • CHAPTER VIII.
  • PLANTS OF THE DEVIL.—Puck’s Plant—Pixie-stools—Loki’s Plants—The Trolls and the Globe-flower—Accursed and Unlucky Plants—Plants connected with the Black Art—Plant-haunting Demons—The Devil and Fruit Trees—Tree Demons on St. John’s Eve—Demons of the Woods and Fields—The Herb of the Devil—Poisonous and Noxious Plants—Ill-omened Plants—The Devil’s Key—Plants Inimical to the Devil—The Devil-Chaser—The Deadly Upas—The Manchineel—The Oleander—The Jatropha Urens—The Lotos—The Elder—The Phallus Impudicus—The Carrion Flower—The Antchar—The Loco or Rattle Weed—The Aquapura—Deadly Trees of Hispaniola and New Andalusia—Poisonous Plants 82
  • CHAPTER IX.
  • PLANTS OF THE WITCHES.—The Herbs of Hecate, Circe, and Medea—Witch Powder—Witches and Elders—Sylvan Haunts of Witches—Witches’ Plant-steeds—Witches’ Soporifics—The Nightmare Flower—Plants used in Spells—Potions, Philtres, and Hell-broths—The Hag Taper—Witch Ointment—The Witches’ Bath—Foreign Witches and their Plants—Plants used for Charms and Spells—Witches’ Prescriptions—Herbs of Witchcraft—Plants Antagonistic to Witches 91
  • CHAPTER X.
  • MAGICAL PLANTS.—Plants producing Ecstasies and Visions—Soma—Laurel—The Druids and Mistletoe—Prophetic Oaks—Dream Plants—Plants producing Love and Sympathy—The Sorcerer’s Violet—Plants used for Love Divination—Concordia—Discordia—The Calumny Destroyer—The Grief Charmer—The Sallow, Sacred Basil, Eugenia, Onion, Bay, Juniper, Peony, Hypericum, Rowan, Elder, Thorn, Hazel, Holly—The Mystic Fern-seed—Four-leaved Clover—The Mandrake, or Sorcerer’s Root—The Metal Melter—The Misleading Plant—Herb of Oblivion—Lotos Tree—King Solomon’s Magical Herb Baharas—The Nyctilopa and Springwort—Plants influencing Thunder and Lightning—The Selago, or Druid’s Golden Herb—Gold-producing Plants—Plants which disclose Treasures—The Luck Flower—The Key-Flower—Sesame—The Herb that Opens—The Moonwort, or Lunary—The Sferracavallo—Magic Wands and Divining Rods—Moses’ Rod 105
  • CHAPTER XI.
  • FABULOUS, WONDROUS, AND MIRACULOUS PLANTS.—Human Trees—Man-bearing Trees—The Wak-Wak, or Tree bearing Human Heads—Chinese and Indian Bird-bearing Tree—Duck-bearing Tree—The Barnacle, or Goose Tree—The Serpent-bearing Tree—The Oyster-bearing Tree—The Animal-bearing Tree—The Butterfly-bearing Tree—The Vegetable Lamb—The Lamb-bearing Tree—Marvellous Trees and Plants—Vegetable Monstrosities—Plants bearing Inscriptions and Figures—Miraculous Plants—The Tree of St. Thomas—The Withered Tree of the Sun—The Tree of Tiberias—Father Garnet’s Straw 116
  • CHAPTER XII.
  • PLANTS CONNECTED WITH BIRDS AND ANIMALS.—Seed-sowing Birds—Birds as Almanacks—The Cuckoo and the Cherry Tree—Augury by Cock and Barley—The Nightingale and the Rose—The Robin and the Thorn—The Missel-Thrush and Mistletoe—The Swallow and Celandine—The Hawk and Hawkweed—Life-giving Herb—The Woodpecker and the Peony—The Spring-wort and the Birds—Choughs and Olives—Herb of the Blessed Virgin Mary—The Eyebright and Birds—Plants named after Birds and Animals 136
  • CHAPTER XIII.
  • THE DOCTRINE OF PLANT SIGNATURES.—Illustrations and Examples of the Signatures and Characterisms of Plants—The Diseases Cured by Herbs—General Rules of the System of Plant Signatures supposed to Reveal the Occult Powers and Virtues of Vegetables—Plants Identified with the Various Portions of the Human Body—The Old Herbals and Herbalists—Extraordinary Properties attributed to Herbs 154
  • CHAPTER XIV.
  • PLANTS AND THE PLANETS.—When to Pluck Herbs—The Plants of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, the Sun, and the Moon—Sun Flowers—The Influence of the Moon on Plants—Times and Seasons to Sow and Plant—The Moon and Gardening Operations—The Moon-Tree—Plants of the Moon-Goddesses—The Man in the Moon 164
  • CHAPTER XV.
  • PLANT SYMBOLISM AND LANGUAGE.—Plant Emblems of the Ancients—The Science of Plant Symbolism—Floral Symbols of the Scriptures—The Passion Flower, or Flower of the Five Wounds—Mediæval Plant Symbolism—Floral Emblems of Shakspeare—The Language of Flowers—Floral Vocabulary of the Greeks and Romans—A Dictionary of Flowers—Floral Divination 176
  • CHAPTER XVI.
  • FUNERAL PLANTS.—The Ancient Death-Gods—The Elysian Fields—Death Trees—Funereal Trees—Aloe, Yew, Cypress, Bay, Arbor-Vitæ, Walnut, Mountain Ash, Tamarisk—The Decorations of Tombs—Flowers at Funerals—Old English Burial Customs—Funeral Pyres—Embalming—Mummies—Plants as Death Portents 189
  • PART THE SECOND.
  • AN ENCYCLOPÆDIA OF SIX HUNDRED PLANTS, ENGLISH AND FOREIGN, giving their Myths, Legends, Traditions, Folk-Lore, Symbolism, and History 205
  • List of Illustrations.
  • Gathering the Selago (drawn by Louis Absolon) Cover.
  • The Garden of Eden (Parkinson’s Paradisus) Frontispiece.
  • Yggdrasill, the Mundane Ash (Finn Magnusen) 2
  • Relics of the Crucifixion (Maundevile’s Travels) 45
  • The Tree of Judas Iscariot (Maundevile’s Travels) 49
  • The Barnacle Tree (Aldrovandi Ornithologia) 118
  • The Goose Tree (Gerarde’s Herbal) 119
  • The Barometz, or Vegetable Lamb (Zahn) 121
  • The Lamb Tree (Maundevile’s Travels) 122
  • Dead Sea Fruit (Maundevile’s Travels) 125
  • The Stone Tree (Gerarde’s Herbal) 126
  • Arbor Secco, or the Withered Tree (Maundevile’s Travels) 131
  • The Miraculous Tree of Tiberias (Maundevile’s Travels) 132
  • Father Garnet’s Straw (Apology of Eudæmon Joannes) 135
  • Pious Birds and Olives (Maundevile’s Travels) 143
  • The Passion Flower of the Jesuits (Parkinson’s Paradisus) 182
  • The Tree of Death (Maundevile’s Travels) 190
  • The Granadilla, or Passion Flower (Zahn) 487

INTRODUCTION.

The Garden of Eden

The analogy existing between the vegetable and animal worlds, and the resemblances between human and tree life, have been observed by man from the most remote periods of which we have any records. Primitive man, watching the marvellous changes in trees and plants, which accurately marked not only the seasons of the year, but even the periods of time in a day, could not fail to be struck with a feeling of awe at the mysterious invisible power which silently guided such wondrous and incomprehensible operations. Hence it is not astonishing that the early inhabitants of the earth should have invested with supernatural attributes the tree, which in the gloom and chill of Winter stood gaunt, bare, and sterile, but in the early Spring hastened to greet the welcome warmth-giving Sun by investing itself with a brilliant canopy of verdure, and in the scorching heat of Summer afforded a refreshing shade beneath its leafy boughs. So we find these men of old, who had learnt to reverence the mysteries of vegetation, forming conceptions of vast cosmogonic world- or cloud-trees overshadowing the universe; mystically typifying creation and regeneration, and yielding the divine ambrosia or food of immortality, the refreshing and life-inspiring rain, and the mystic fruit which imparted knowledge and wisdom to those who partook of it. So, again, we find these nebulous overspreading world-trees connected with the mysteries of death, and giving shelter to the souls of the departed in the solemn shade of their dense foliage.

Looking upon vegetation as symbolical of life and generation, man, in course of time, connected the origin of his species with these shadowy cloud-trees, and hence arose the belief that humankind first sprang from Ash and Oak-trees, or derived their being from Holda, the cloud-goddess who combined in her person the form of a lovely woman and the trunk of a mighty tree. In after years trees were almost universally regarded either as sentient beings or as constituting the abiding places of spirits whose existence was bound up in the lives of the trees they inhabited. Hence arose the conceptions of Hamadryads, Dryads, Sylvans, Tree-nymphs, Elves, Fairies, and other beneficent spirits who peopled forests and dwelt in individual trees—not only in the Old World, but in the dense woods of North America, where the Mik-amwes, like Puck, has from time immemorial frolicked by moonlight in the forest openings. Hence, also, sprang up the morbid notion of trees being haunted by demons, mischievous imps, ghosts, nats, and evil spirits, whom it was deemed by the ignorant and superstitious necessary to propitiate by sacrifices, offerings, and mysterious rites and dances. Remnants of this superstitious tree-worship are still extant in some European countries. The Irminsul of the Germans and the Central Oak of the Druids were of the same family as the Asherah of the Semitic nations. In England, this primeval superstition has its descendants in the village maypole bedizened with ribbons and flowers, and the Jack-in-the-Green with its attendant devotees and whirling dancers. The modern Christmas-tree, too, although but slightly known in Germany at the beginning of the present century, is evidently a remnant of the pagan tree-worship; and it is somewhat remarkable that a similar tree is common among the Burmese, who call it the Padaytha-bin. This Turanian Christmas-tree is made by the inhabitants of towns, who deck its Bamboo twigs with all sorts of presents, and pile its roots with blankets, cloth, earthenware, and other useful articles. The wealthier classes contribute sometimes a Ngway Padaytha, or silver Padaytha, the branches of which are hung with rupees and smaller silver coins wrapped in tinsel or coloured paper. These trees are first carried in procession, and afterwards given to monasteries on the occasion of certain festivals or the funerals of Buddhist monks. They represent the wishing-tree, which, according to Burmese mythology, grows in the Northern Island and heaven of the nats or spirits, where it bears on its fairy branches whatever may be wished for.

The ancient conception of human trees can be traced in the superstitious endeavours of ignorant peasants to get rid of diseases by transferring them to vicarious trees, or rather to the spirits who are supposed to dwell in them; and it is the same idea that impels simple rustics to bury Elder-sticks and Peach-leaves to which they have imparted warts. The recognised analogy between the life of plants and that of man, and the cherished superstition that trees were the homes of living and sentient spirits, undoubtedly influenced the poets of the ancients in forming their conceptions of heroes and heroines metamorphosed into trees and flowers; and traces of the old belief are to be found in the custom of planting a tree on the birth of an infant; the tree being thought to symbolise human life in its destiny of growth, production of fruit, and multiplication of its species; and, when fully grown, giving shade, shelter, and protection. This pleasant rite is still extant in our country as well as in Germany, France, Italy, and Russia; and from it has probably arisen a custom now becoming very general of planting a tree to commemorate any special occasion. Nor is the belief confined to the Old World, for Mr. Leland has quite recently told us that he observed near the tent of a North American Indian two small evergreens, which were most carefully tended. On enquiry he found the reason to be that when a child is born, or is yet young, its parent chooses a shrub, which growing as the child grows, will, during the child’s absence, or even in after years, indicate by its appearance whether the human counterpart be ill or well, alive or dead. In one of the Quādi Indian stories it is by means of the sympathetic tree that the hero learns his brother’s death.

In the middle ages, the old belief in trees possessing intelligence was utilised by the monks, who have embodied the conception in many mediæval legends, wherein trees are represented as bending their boughs and offering their fruits to the Virgin and her Divine Infant. So, again, during the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, trees are said to have opened and concealed the fugitives from Herod’s brutal soldiery. Certain trees (notably the Aspen) are reputed to have been accursed and to have shuddered and trembled ever after on account of their connexion with the tragedy of Calvary; while others are said to have undergone a similar doom because they were attainted by the suicide of the traitor Judas Iscariot.

Seeing that the reverence and worship paid to trees by the ignorant and superstitious people was an institution impossible to uproot, the early Christian Church sought to turn it to account, and therefore consecrated old and venerated trees, built shrines beneath their shade, or placed on their trunks crucifixes and images of the Blessed Virgin. Legends connecting trees with holy personages, miracles, and sacred subjects were, in after years, freely disseminated; one of the most remarkable being the marvellous history of the Tree of Adam, in which it is sought to connect the Tree of Paradise with the Tree of Calvary. Evelyn summarises this misty tradition in the following sentence:—“Trees and woods have twice saved the whole world: first, by the Ark, then by the Cross; making full amends for the evil fruit of the tree in Paradise by that which was borne on the tree in Golgotha.” In course of time the flowers and plants which the ancients had dedicated to their pagan deities were transferred by the Christian Church to the shrines of the Virgin and sainted personages; this is especially noticeable in the plants formerly dedicated to Venus and Freyja, which, as being the choicest as well as the most popular, became, in honour of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady’s plants. Vast numbers of flowers were in course of time appropriated by the Church, and consecrated to her saints and martyrs—the selection being governed generally by the fact that the flower bloomed on or about the day on which the Church celebrated the saint’s feast. These appropriations enabled the Roman Catholics to compile a complete calendar of flowers for every day in the year, in which each flower is dedicated to a particular saint.

But if the most beautiful flowers and plants were taken under the protection of the Church, and dedicated to the memory of her holiest and most venerated members, so, also, certain trees, plants, and flowers—which, either on account of their noxious properties, or because of some legendary associations, were under a ban—became relegated to the service of the Devil and his minions. Hence we find a large group of plants associated with enchanters, sorcerers, wizards and witches, many of which betray in their nomenclature their Satanic association, and are, even at the present day, regarded suspiciously as ill-omened and unlucky. These are the plants which, in the dark days of witchcraft and superstition, were invested with mysterious and magical properties,—the herbs which were employed by hags and witches in their heathenish incantations, and from which they brewed their potions and hell-broths. Thus Ben Jonson, in his fragment, ‘The Sad Shepherd,’ makes one of his characters say, when speaking of a witch:—

“He knows her shifts and haunts,
And all her wiles and turns. The venom’d plants
Wherewith she kills! where the sad Mandrake grows,
Whose groans are dreadful! the dead-numming Nightshade!
The stupefying Hemlock! Adder’s-tongue!
And Martagan!”

The association of plants with magic, sorcery, and the black art dates from remote times. The blind Norse god Hödr slew Baldr with a twig of Mistletoe. In the battles recorded in the Vedas as being fought by the gods and the demons, the latter employ poisonous and magical herbs which the gods counteract with counter-poisons and health-giving plants. Hermes presented to Ulysses the magical Moly wherewith to nullify the effects of the potions and spells of the enchantress Circe, who was well acquainted with all sorts of magical herbs. The Druids professed to know the secrets of many magical plants which they gathered with mysterious and occult rites. The Vervain, Selago, Mistletoe, Oak, and Rowan were all said by these ancient priests and lawgivers to be possessed of supernatural properties; and remnants of the old belief in their magical powers are still extant.

In works on the subject of plant lore hitherto published in England, scarcely any reference has been made to the labours in the field of comparative mythology of Max Müller, Grimm, Kuhn, Mannhardt, De Gubernatis, and other eminent scholars, whose erudite and patient investigations have resulted in the accumulation of a vast amount of valuable information respecting the traditions and superstitions connected with the plant kingdom. Mr. Kelly’s interesting work on Indo-European Tradition, published some years ago, dealt, among other subjects, with that of plant lore, and drew attention to the analogy existing between the myths and folk-lore of India and Europe relating more especially to plants which were reputed to possess magical properties. Among such plants, peculiar interest attaches to a group which, according to Aryan tradition, sprang from lightning—the embodiment of fire, the great quickening agent: this group embraces the Hazel, the Thorn, the Hindu Sami, the Hindu Palasa, with its European congener the Rowan, and the Mistletoe: the two last-named plants were, as we have seen, employed in Druidic rites. These trees are considered of good omen and as protectives against sorcery and witchcraft: from all of them wishing-rods (called in German Wünschelruthen) and divining-rods have been wont to be fashioned—magical wands with which, in some countries, cattle are still struck to render them prolific, hidden springs are indicated, and mineral wealth is discovered. Such a rod was thought to be the caduceus of the god Hermes, or Mercury, described by Homer as being a rod of prosperity and wealth. All these rods are cut with a forked end, a shape held to be symbolic of lightning and a rude effigy of the human form. It is interesting to note that in the Rigveda the human form is expressly attributed to the pieces of Asvattha wood used for kindling the sacred fire—a purpose fulfilled by the Thorn in the chark or instrument employed for producing fire by the Greeks. Another group of plants also connected with fire and lightning comprises the Mandrake (the root of which is forked like the human form), the Fern Polypodium Filix mas (which has large pinnate leaves), the Sesame (called in India Thunderbolt-flower), the Spring-wort, and the Luck-flower. The Mandrake and Fern, like King Solomon’s Baharas, are said to shine at night, and to leap about like a Will-o’the-wisp: indeed, in Thuringia, the Fern is known as Irrkraut, or Misleading Herb, and in Franche Comté this herb is spoken of as causing belated travellers to become light-headed or thunder-struck. The Mandrake-root and the Fern-seed have the magical property of granting the desires of their possessors, and in this respect resemble the Sesame and Luck-flower, which at their owners’ request will disclose treasure-caves, open the sides of mountains, clefts of rocks, or strong doors, and in fact render useless all locks, bolts, and bars, at will. The Spring-wort, through the agency of a bird, removes obstacles by means of an explosion caused by the electricity or lightning of which this plant is an embodiment. Akin to these are plants known in our country as Lunary or Moonwort and Unshoe-the-Horse, and called by the Italians Sferracavallo—plants which possess the property of unshoeing horses and opening locks. A Russian herb, the Rasrivtrava, belongs to the same group: this plant fractures chains and breaks open locks—virtues also claimed for the Vervain (Eisenkraut), the Primrose (Schlüsselblume), the Fern, and the Hazel. It should be noted of the Mistletoe (which is endowed by nature with branches regularly forked, and has been classified with the lightning-plants), that the Swedes call it “Thunder-besom,” and attribute to it the same powers as to the Spring-wort. Like the Fly-Rowan (Flög-rönn) and the Asvattha, it is a parasite, and is thought to spring from seeds dropped by birds upon trees. Just as the Druids ascribed peculiar virtues to a Mistletoe produced by this means on an Oak, so do the Hindus especially esteem an Asvattha which has grown in like manner upon a Sami (Acacia Suma).

It is satisfactory to find that, although the Devil has had certain plants allotted to him wherewith to work mischief and destruction through the agency of demons, sorcerers, and witches, there are yet a great number of plants whose special mission it is to thwart Satanic machinations, to protect their owners from the dire effects of witchcraft or the Evil Eye, and to guard them from the perils of thunder and lightning. In our own country, Houseleek and Stonecrop are thought to fulfil this latter function; in Westphalia, the Donnerkraut (Orpine) is a thunder protective; in the Tyrol, the Alpine Rose guards the house-roof from lightning; and in the Netherlands, the St. John’s Wort, gathered before sunrise, is deemed a protection against thunderstorms. This last plant is especially hateful to evil spirits, and in days gone by was called Fuga dæmonum, dispeller of demons. In Russia, a plant, called the Certagon, or Devil-chaser, is used to exorcise Satan or his fiends if they torment an afflicted mourner; and in the same country the Prikrit is a herb whose peculiar province it is to destroy calumnies with which mischief-makers may seek to interfere with the consummation of lovers’ bliss. Other plants induce concord, love, and sympathy, and others again enable the owner to forget sorrow.

Plants connected with dreams and visions have not hitherto received much notice; but, nevertheless, popular belief has attributed to some few—and notably the Elm, the Four-leaved Clover, and the Russian Son-trava—the subtle power of procuring dreams of a prophetic nature. Numerous plants have been thought by the superstitious to portend certain results to the sleeper when forming the subject of his or her dreams. Many examples of this belief will be found scattered through these pages.

The legends attached to flowers may be divided into four classes—the mythological, the ecclesiastical, the historical, and the poetical. For the first-named we are chiefly indebted to Ovid, and to the Jesuit René Rapin, whose Latin poem De Hortorum Cultura contains much curious plant lore current in his time. His legends, like those of Ovid, nearly all relate to the transformation by the gods of luckless nymphs and youths into flowers and trees, which have since borne their names. Most of them refer to the blossoms of bulbous plants, which appear in the early Spring; and, as a rule, white flowers are represented as having originated from tears, and pink or red flowers from blushes or blood. The ecclesiastical legends are principally due to the old Catholic monks, who, while tending their flowers in the quietude and seclusion of monastery gardens, doubtless came to associate them with the memory of some favourite saint or martyr, and so allowed their gentle fancy to weave a pious fiction wherewith to perpetuate the memory of the saint in the name of the flower. For many of the historical legends we are also indebted to monastic writers, and they mostly pertain to favourite sons and daughters of the Church. Amongst what we have designated poetical legends must be included the numerous fairy tales in which flowers and plants play a not unimportant part, as well as the stories which connect plants with the doings of Trolls, Elves, Witches, and Demons. Many such legends, both English and foreign, will be found introduced in the following pages.

It has recently become the fashion to explain the origin of myths and legends by a theory which makes of them mere symbols of the phenomena appertaining to the solar system, or metaphors of the four seasons and the different periods in a day’s span. Thus we are told that, in the well-known story of the transformation of Daphne into a Laurel-bush, to enable her to escape the importunities of Apollo (see p. 404), we ought not to conceive the idea of the handsome passionate god pursuing a coy nymph until in despair she calls on the water-gods to change her form, but that, on the contrary, we should regard the whole story as simply an allegory implying that “the dawn rushes and trembles through the sky, and fades away at the sudden appearance of the bright sun.” So, again, in the myth of Pan and Syrinx (p. 559), in which the Satyr pursues the maiden who is transformed into the Reed from which Pan fashioned his pipes, the meaning intended to be conveyed is, we are told, that the blustering wind bends and breaks the swaying Rushes, through which it rustles and whistles. Prof. De Gubernatis, in his valuable work La Mythologie des Plantes, gives a number of clever explanations of old legends and myths, in accordance with the “Solar” theory, which are certainly ingenious, if somewhat monotonous. Let us take, as an example, the German story of the Watcher of the Road, which appears at page 326. In this tale a lovely princess, abandoned for a rival by her attractive husband, pines away, and at last desiring to die if only she can be sure of going somewhere where she may always watch for him, is transformed into the wayside Endive or Succory. Here is the Professor’s explanation:—“Does not the fatal rival of the young princess, who cries herself to death on account of her dazzling husband’s desertion, and who even in death desires still to gaze on him, symbolise the humid night, which every evening allures the sun to her arms, and thus keeps him from the love of his bride, who awakens every day with the sun, just as does the flower of the Succory?” These scientific elucidations of myths, however dexterous and poetical they may be, do not appear to us applicable to plant legends, whose chief charm lies in their simplicity and appositeness; nor can we imagine why Aryan or other story-tellers should be deemed so destitute of inventive powers as to be obliged to limit all their tales to the description of celestial phenomena. In the Vedas, trees, flowers, and herbs are invoked to cause love, avert evil and danger, and neutralise spells and curses. The ancients must, therefore, have had an exalted idea of their nature and properties, and hence it is not surprising that they should have dedicated them to their deities, and that these deities should have employed them for supernatural purposes. Thus Indra conquered Vritra and slew demons by means of the Soma; Hermes presented the all-potent Moly to Ulysses; and Medea taught Jason how to use certain enchanted herbs; just as, later in the world’s history, Druids exorcised evil spirits with Mistletoe and Vervain, and sorcerers and wise women used St. John’s Wort and other plants to ward off demons and thunderbolts. The ancients evidently regarded their gods and goddesses as very human, and therefore it would seem unnecessary and unjust so to alter their tales about them as to explain away their obvious meaning.

Flowers are the companions of man throughout his life—his attendants to his last resting place. They are, as Mr. Ruskin says, precious always “to the child and the girl, the peasant and the manufacturing operative, to the grisette and the nun, the lover and the monk.” Nature, in scattering them over the earth’s surface, would seem to have designed to cheer and refresh its inhabitants by their varied colouring and fragrance, and to elevate them by their wondrous beauty and delicacy; from them, as old Parkinson truly wrote, “we may draw matter at all times, not onely to magnifie the Creator that hath given them such diversities of forms, sents, and colours, that the most cunning workman cannot imitate, … but many good instructions also to our selves; that as many herbs and flowers, with their fragrant sweet smels do comfort and as it were revive the spirits, and perfume a whole house, even so such men as live vertuously, labouring to do good, and profit the Church, God, and the common wealth by their pains or pen, do as it were send forth a pleasing savour of sweet instructions.” The poet Wordsworth reminds us that

“God made the flowers to beautify
The earth, and cheer man’s careful mood;
And he is happiest who hath power
To gather wisdom from a flower,
And wake his heart in every hour
To pleasant gratitude.”

In these pages will be found many details as to the use of these beauteous gems of Nature, both by the ancient races of the world and by the people of our own generation; their adaptation to the Church’s ceremonial and to popular festivals; their use as portents, symbols, and emblems; and their employment as an adornment of the graves of loved ones. Much more could have been written, had space permitted, regarding their value to the architect and the herald. The Acanthus, Lotus, Trefoil, Lily, Vine, Ivy, Pomegranate, Oak, Palm, Acacia, and many other plants have been reproduced as ornaments by the sculptor, and it is a matter of tradition that to the majestic aspect of an avenue of trees we owe the lengthy aisle and fretted vault of the Gothic order of architecture. In the field of heraldry it is noticeable that many nations, families, and individuals have, in addition to their heraldic badges, adopted plants as special symbols, the circumstances of their adoption forming the groundwork of a vast number of legends: a glance at the index will show that some of these are to be discovered in the present work. Many towns and villages owe their names to trees or plants; and not a few English families have taken their surnames from members of the vegetable kingdom. In Scotland, the name of Frazer is derived from the Strawberry-leaves (fraises) borne on the family shield of arms, and the Gowans and Primroses also owe their names to plants. The Highland clans are all distinguished by the floral badge or Suieachantas which is worn in the bonnet. For the most part the plants adopted for these badges are evergreens; and it is said that the deciduous Oak which was selected by the Stuarts was looked upon as a portent of evil to the royal house.

The love of human kind for flowers would seem to be shared by many members of the feathered tribe. Poets have sung of the passion of the Nightingale for the Rose and of the fondness of the Bird of Paradise for the dazzling blooms of the Tropics: the especial liking, however, of one of this race—the Amblyornis inornata—for flowers is worthy of record, inasmuch as this bird-gardener not only erects for itself a bower, but surrounds it with a mossy sward, on which it continually deposits fresh flowers and fruit of brilliant hue, so arranged as to form an elegant parterre.

We have reached our limit, and can only just notice the old traditions relating to the sympathies and antipathies of plants. The Jesuit Kircher describes the hatred existing between Hemlock and Rue, Reeds and Fern, and Cyclamen and Cabbages as so intense, that one of them cannot live on the same ground with the other. The Walnut, it is believed, dislikes the Oak, the Rowan the Juniper, the White-thorn the Black-thorn; and there is said to be a mutual aversion between Rosemary, Lavender, the Bay-tree, Thyme, and Marjoram. On the other hand, the Rose is reported to love the Onion and Garlic, and to put forth its sweetest blooms when in propinquity to those plants; and a bond of fellowship is fabled to exist between a Fig-tree and Rue. Lord Bacon, noticing these traditionary sympathies and antipathies, explains them as simply the outcome of the nature of the plants, and his philosophy is not difficult to be understood by intelligent observers, for, as St. Anthony truly said, the great book of Nature, which contains but three leaves—the Heavens, the Earth, and the Sea—is open for all men alike.

CHAPTER I. PLANT LORE, LEGENDS, AND LYRICS.

CHAPTER I. PLANT LORE, LEGENDS, AND LYRICS.

The World-Trees of the Ancients.

It is a proof of the solemnity with which, from the very earliest times, man has invested trees, and of the reverence with which he has ever regarded them, that they are found figuring prominently in the mythology of almost every nation; and despite the fact that in some instances these ancient myths reach us, after the lapse of ages, in distorted and grotesque forms, they would seem to be worthy of preservation, if only as curiosities in plant lore. In some cases the myth relates to a mystic cloud-tree which supplies the gods with immortal fruit; in others to a tree which imparts to mankind wisdom and knowledge; in others to a tree which is the source and fountain of all life; and in others, again, to the actual descent of mankind from anthropological or parent trees. In one cosmogony—that of the Iranians—the first human pair are represented as having grown up as a single tree, the fingers or twigs of each one being folded over the other’s ears, till the time came when, ripe for separation, they became two sentient beings, and were infused by Ormuzd with distinct human souls.

But besides these trees, which in some form or other benefit and populate the earth, there are to be found in ancient myths records of illimitable trees that existed in space whilst yet the elements of creation were chaotic, and whose branches overshadowed the universe. One of the mythical accounts of the creation of the world represents a vast cosmogonic tree rearing its enormous bulk from the midst of an ocean before the formation of the earth had taken place; and this conception, it may be remarked, is in consonance with a Vedic tradition that plants were created three ages before the gods. In India the idea of a primordial cosmogonic tree, vast as the world itself, and the generator thereof, is very prevalent; and in the Scandinavian prose Edda we find the Skalds shadowing forth an all-pervading mundane Ash, called Yggdrasill, beneath whose shade the gods assemble every day in council, and whose branches spread over the whole world, and even reach above heaven, whilst its roots penetrate to the infernal regions. This cloud-tree of the Norsemen is thought to be a symbol of universal nature.

The accompanying illustration is taken from Finn Magnusen’s pictorial representation of the Yggdrasill myth, and depicts his conception of

The Norse World-Tree.

According to the Eddaic accounts, the Ash Yggdrasill is the greatest and best of all trees. One of its stems springs from the central primordial abyss—from the subterranean source of matter—runs up through the earth, which it supports, and issuing out of the celestial mountain in the world’s centre, called Asgard, spreads its branches over the entire universe. These wide-spread branches are the æthereal or celestial regions; their leaves, the clouds; their buds or fruits, the stars. Four harts run across the branches of the tree, and bite the buds: these are the four cardinal winds. Perched upon the top branches is an eagle, and between his eyes sits a hawk: the eagle symbolises the air, the hawk the wind-still æther. A squirrel runs up and down the Ash, and seeks to cause strife between the eagle and Nidhögg, a monster, which is constantly gnawing the roots: the squirrel signifies hail and other atmospherical phenomena; Nidhögg and the serpents that gnaw the roots of the mundane tree are the volcanic agencies which are constantly seeking to destroy earth’s foundations. Another stem springs in the warm south over the æthereal Urdar fountain, where the gods sit in judgment. In this fountain swim two swans, the progenitors of all that species: these swans are, by Finn Magnusen, supposed to typify the sun and moon. Near this fountain dwell three maidens, who fix the lifetime of all men, and are called Norns: every day they draw water from the spring, and with it sprinkle the Ash in order that its branches may not rot and wither away. This water is so holy, that everything placed in the spring becomes as white as the film within an egg-shell. The dew that falls from the tree on the earth men call honey-dew, and it is the food of the bees. The third stem of Yggdrasill takes its rise in the cold and cheerless regions of the north (the land of the Frost Giants), over the source of the ocean, typified by a spring called Mimir’s Well, in which wisdom and wit lie hidden. Mimir, the owner of this spring, is full of wisdom because he drinks of its waters. One day Odin came and begged a draught of water from the well, which he obtained, but was obliged to leave one of his eyes as a pledge for it. This myth Finn Magnusen thinks signifies the descent of the sun every evening into the sea (to learn wisdom from Mimir during the night); the mead quaffed by Mimir every morning being the ruddy dawn, that, spreading over the sky, exhilarates all nature.

Yggdrasill, the Mundane Tree.
Yggdrasill, the Mundane Tree.

The Hindu World-Tree.

The Indian cosmogonic tree is the symbol of vegetation, of universal life, and of immortality. In the sacred Vedic writings it receives the special names of Ilpa, Kalpadruma, Kalpaka-taru, and Kalpavriksha, on the fruits of which latter tree the first men sustained and nourished life. In its quality of Tree of Paradise, it is called Pârijâta; and as the ambrosial tree—the tree yielding immortal food—it is known as Amrita and Soma. This mystic world-tree of the Hindus, according to the Rigveda, is supernaturally the God Brahma himself; and all the gods are considered as branches of the divine parent stem—the elementary or fragmentary form of Brahma, the vast overspreading tree of the universe. In the Vedas this celestial tree is described as the Pippala (Peepul), and is alluded to as being in turns visited by two beauteous birds—the one feeding itself on the fruit (typifying probably the moon or twilight); the other simply hovering, with scintillating plumage, and singing melodiously (typifying perhaps the sun or daybreak).

Under the name of Ilpa (the Jamboa, or Rose-apple) the cosmogonic tree is described as growing in the midst of the lake Ara in Brahma’s world, beyond the river that never grows old, from whence are procured the waters of eternal youth. Brahma imparts to it his own perfume, and from it obtains the sap of vitality. To its branches the dead cling and climb, in order that they may enter into the regions of immortality.

As the Kalpadruma, Kalpaka-taru, and Kalpavriksha, the Indian sacred writings describe a cloud-tree, which, by its shadows, produced day and night before the creation of sun and moon. This cosmogonic tree, which is of colossal proportions, grows in the midst of flowers and streamlets on a steep mountain. It fulfils all desires, imparts untold bliss, and, what in the eyes of Buddhists constitutes its chief sublimity, it gives knowledge and wisdom to humanity; in a word it combines within its mystic branches all riches and all knowledge.

As the Soma, the world-tree becomes in Indian mysticism a tree of Paradise, at once the king of all trees and vegetation, and the god Soma to be adored. It furnishes the divine ambrosia or essence of immortality, concealed sometimes in the clouds, sometimes in the billows of the soft and silvery light that proceeds from the great-Soma, the great Indu, the moon. Hence this mystic tree, from the foliage of which drops the life-giving Soma, is sometimes characterised as the Hindu Moon-Tree. Out of this cosmogonic tree the immortals shaped the heaven and the earth. It is the Tree of Intelligence, and grows in the third heaven, over which it spreads its mighty branches; beneath it Yama and the Pitris dwell, and quaff the immortalising Soma with the gods. At its foot grow plants of all healing virtue, incorporations of the Soma. Two birds sit on its top, one of which eats Figs, whilst the other simply watches. Other birds press out the Soma juice from its branches. This ambrosial tree, besides dropping the precious Soma, bears fruit and seed of every kind known in the world.

The World-Tree of the Buddhists.

The Sacred Tree of Buddha is in the complex theology of his followers represented under different guises: it is cosmogonic, it imparts wisdom, it produces the divine ambrosia or food of immortality, it yields the refreshing and life-inspiring rain, and it affords an abiding-place for the souls of the blessed.

The supernatural and sacred Tree of Buddha, the cloud-tree, the Tree of Knowledge, the Tree of Wisdom, the Ambrosia-tree, is covered with divine flowers; it glows and sparkles with the brilliance of all manner of precious stones; the root, the trunk, the branches, and the leaves are formed of gems of the most glorious description. It grows in soil pure and delightfully even, to which the rich verdure of grass imparts the tints of a peacock’s neck. It receives the homage of the gods; and the arm of Mâyâ (the mother of Buddha) when she stretches it forth to grasp the bough which bends towards her, shines as the lightning illumines the sky. Beneath this sacred tree, the Tree of Knowledge, Buddha, at whose birth a flash of light pierced through all the world, sat down with the firm resolve not to rise until he had attained the knowledge which “maketh free.” Then the Tempter, Mâra, advanced with his demoniacal forces: encircling the Sacred Tree, hosts of demons assailed Buddha with fiery darts, amid the whirl of hurricanes, darkness, and the downpour of floods of water, to drive him from the Tree. Buddha, however, maintained his position unmoved; and at length the demons were compelled to fly. Buddha had conquered, and in defeating the Tempter Mâra, and obtaining possession of his Tree of Knowledge, he had also obtained possession of deliverance. Prof. De Gubernatis, in explaining this myth, characterises the tree as the cloud-tree: in the clouds the heavenly flame is stored, and it is guarded by the dark demons. In the Vedic hymns, the powers of light and darkness fight their great battle for the clouds, and the ambrosia which they contain; this is the identical battle of Buddha with the hosts of Mâra. In the cloud-battle the ambrosia (amrita) which is in the clouds is won; the enlightenment and deliverance which Buddha wins are also called an ambrosia; and the kingdom of knowledge is the land of immortality.

There is a tradition current in Thibet that the Tree of Buddha received the name of Târâyana, that is to say, The Way of Safety, because it grew by the side of the river that separates the world from heaven; and that only by means of its overhanging branches could mankind pass from the earthly to the immortal bank.

The material tree of Buddha is generally represented either under the form of the Asvattha (the Ficus religiosa), or of the Udumbara (the Ficus glomerata), which appeared at the birth of Buddha; but in addition to these guises, we find it also associated with the Asoka (Jonesia Asoka), the Palasa (Butea frondosa), the Bhânuphalâ (Musa sapientum), and sometimes with the Palmyra Palm (Borassus flabelliformis).

Under one of these trees the ascetic, Gautama Buddha, one momentous night, went through successively purer and purer stages of abstraction of consciousness, until the sense of omniscient illumination came over him, and he attained to the knowledge of the sources of mortal suffering. That night which Buddha passed under the Tree of Knowledge on the banks of the river Nairanjanâ, is the sacred night of the Buddhist world. There is a Peepul-tree (Ficus religiosa) at Buddha Gayâ which is regarded as being this particular tree: it is very much decayed, and must have been frequently renewed, as the present tree is standing on a terrace at least thirty feet above the level of the surrounding country.

The Iranian World-Tree.

The world-tree of the Iranians is the Haoma, which is thought to be the same as the Gaokerena of the Zendavesta. This Haoma, the sacred Vine of the Zoroastrians, produces the primal drink of immortality after which it is named. It is the first of all trees, planted in heaven by Ormuzd, in the fountain of life, near another tree called the “impassive” or “inviolable,” which bears the seeds of every kind of vegetable life. Both these trees are situated in a lake called Vouru Kasha, and are guarded by ten fish, who keep a ceaseless watch upon a lizard sent by the evil power, Ahriman, to destroy the sacred Haoma. The “inviolable” tree is also known both as the eagle’s and the owl’s tree. Either one or the other of these birds (probably the eagle) sits perched on its top. The moment he rises from the tree, a thousand branches shoot forth; when he settles again he breaks a thousand branches, and causes their seed to fall. Another bird, that is his constant companion, picks up these seeds and carries them to where Tistar draws water, which he then rains down upon the earth with the seeds it contains. These two trees—the Haoma and the eagle’s or “inviolable”—would seem originally to have been one. The lizard sent by Ahriman to destroy the Haoma is known to the Indians as a dragon, the spoiler of harvests, and the ravisher of the Apas, or brides of the gods, Peris who navigate the celestial sea.

The Assyrian Sacred Tree.

In intimate connection with the worship of Assur, the supreme deity of the Assyrians, “the God who created himself,” was the Sacred Tree, regarded by the Assyrian race as the personification of life and generation. This tree, which was considered coeval with Assur, the great First Source, was adored in conjunction with the god; for sculptures have been found representing figures kneeling in adoration before it, and bearing mystic offerings to hang upon its boughs. In these sculptured effigies of the Sacred Tree the simplest form consists of a pair of ram’s horns, surmounted by a capital composed of two pairs of rams’ horns, separated by horizontal bands, above which is a scroll, and then a flower resembling the Honeysuckle ornament of the Greeks. Sometimes this blossoms, and generally the stem also throws out a number of smaller blossoms, which are occasionally replaced by Fir-cones and Pomegranates. In the most elaborately-portrayed Sacred Trees there is, besides the stem and the blossoms, a network of branches, which forms a sort of arch, and surrounds the tree as it were with a frame.

The Phœnicians, who were not idolaters, in the ordinary acceptation of the word—inasmuch as they did not worship images of their deities, and regarded the ever-burning fire on their altars as the sole emblem of the Supreme Being,—paid adoration to this Sacred Tree, effigies of which were set up in front of the temples, and had sacrifices offered to them. This mystic tree was known to the Jews as Asherah. At festive seasons the Phœnicians adorned it with boughs, flowers, and ribands, and regarded it as the central object of their worship.

The Mother Tree of the Greeks, Romans, and Teutons.

The Greeks appear to have cherished a tradition that the first race of men sprang from a cosmogonic Ash. This cloud Ash became personified in their myth as a daughter of Oceanos, named Melia, who married the river-god Inachos, and gave birth to Phoroneus, in whom the Peloponnesian legend recognised the fire-bringer and the first man. According to Hesychius, however, Phoroneus was not the only mortal to whom the Mother Ash gave birth, for he tells us distinctly that the race of men was “the fruit of the Ash.” Hesiod also repeats the same fable in a somewhat different guise, when he relates how Jove created the third or brazen race of men out of Ash trees. Homer appears to have been acquainted with this tradition, for he makes Penelope say, when addressing Ulysses: “Tell me thy family, from whence thou art; for thou art not sprung from the olden tree, or from the rock.” The Ash was generally deemed by the Greeks an image of the clouds and the mother of men,—the prevalent idea being that the Meliai, or nymphs of the Ash, were a race of cloud goddesses, daughters of sea gods, whose domain was originally the cloud sea.

But besides the Ash, the Greeks would seem to have regarded the Oak as a tree from which the human race had sprung, and to have called Oak trees the first mothers. This belief was shared by the Romans. Thus Virgil speaks

“Of nymphs and fauns, and savage men, who took
Their birth from trunks of trees and stubborn Oak.”

In another passage the great Latin poet, speaking of the Æsculus, a species of Oak, sacred to Jupiter, gives to it attributes which remind us in a very striking manner of Yggdrasill, the cloud-tree of the Norsemen.

“Æsculus in primis, quæ quantum vortice ad auras
Ætherias, tantum radice in Tartara tendit.”—Georg. ii.
“High as his topmost boughs to heaven ascend,
So low his roots to hell’s dominion tend.”—Dryden.

In the Æneid, Book IV., speaking of the Oak as Quercus, Virgil uses the same expression with regard to the roots of Jove’s tree descending to the infernal regions. Juvenal, also, in his sixth satire, alluding to the beginning of the world, speaks of the human race as formed of clay or born of the opening Oak, which thus becomes the mystical mother-tree of mankind, and, like a mother, sustained her offspring with food she herself created. Thus Ovid tells us that the simple food of the primal race consisted largely of “Acorns dropping from the tree of Jove;” and we read in Homer and Hesiod that the Acorn was the common food of the Arcadians.

The belief of the ancient Greeks and Romans that the progenitors of mankind were born of trees was also common to the Teutons. At the present day, in many parts of both North and South Germany, a hollow tree overhanging a pool is designated as the first abode of unborn infants, and little children are taught to believe that babies are fetched by the doctor from cavernous trees or ancient stumps. “Frau Holda’s tree” is a common name in Germany for old decayed boles; and she herself, the cloud-goddess, is described in a Hessian legend as having in front the form of a beautiful woman, and behind that of a hollow tree with rugged bark.

But besides Frau Holda’s tree the ancient Germans knew a cosmogonic tree, assimilating to the Scandinavian Yggdrasill. The trunk of this Teutonic world-tree was called Irminsul, a name implying the column of the universe, which supports everything.

A Byzantine legend, which is current in Russia, tells of a vast world-tree of iron, which in the beginning of all things spread its gigantic bulk throughout space. Its root is the power of God; its head sustains the three worlds,—heaven, with the ocean of air; the earth, with its seas of water; and hell, with its sulphurous fumes and glowing flames.

Rabbinic traditions make the Mosaic Tree of Life, which stood in the centre of the Garden of Eden, a vast world-tree, resembling in many points the Scandinavian Ash Yggdrasill. A description of this world-tree of the Rabbins, however, need not appear in the present chapter, since it will be found on page 13.

The Trees of Paradise and the Tree of Adam.

CHAPTER II.

The Trees of Paradise and the Tree of Adam.

Amongst all peoples, and in all ages, there has lingered a belief possessing peculiar powers of fascination, that in some unknown region, remote and unexplored, there existed a glorious and happy land; a land of sunshine, luxuriance, and plenty, a land of stately trees and beauteous flowers,—a terrestrial Paradise.

A tradition contained in the sacred books of the Parsis states that at the beginning of the world Ormuzd, the giver of all good, created the primal steer, which contained the germs of all the animals. Ahriman, the evil spirit, then created venomous animals which destroyed the steer: while dying, there sprang out of his right hip the first man, and out of his left hip the first man’s soul. From him arose a tree whence came the original human pair, namely Mâshya and Mashyôî who were placed in Heden, a delightful spot, where grew Hom (or Haoma), the Tree of Life, the fruit of which gave vigour and immortality. This Paradise was in Iran. The woman being persuaded by Ahriman, in the guise of a serpent, gave her husband fruit to eat, which was destructive.

The Persians also imagined a Paradise on Mount Caucasus. The Arabians conceived an Elysium in the midst of the deserts of Aden. The pagan Scandinavians sang of the Holy City of Asgard, situated in the centre of the world. The Celts believed an earthly Paradise to exist in the enchanted Isle of Avalon—the Island of the Blest—

“Where falls not hail or rain, or any snow,
Nor even wind blows loudly; but it lies
Deep-meadow’d, happy, fair, with orchard lawn
And bowery hollows.”

The Greeks and Romans pictured to themselves the delightful gardens of the Hesperides, where grew the famous trees that produced Apples of gold; and in the early days of Christendom the poets of the West dreamt of a land in the East (the true Paradise of Adam and Eve, as they believed) in which dwelt in a Palm-tree the golden-breasted Phœnix,—the bird of the sun, which was thought to abide a hundred years in this Elysium of the Arabian deserts, and then to appear in the Temple of the Sun at Heliopolis, fall upon the blazing altar, and, pouring forth a melodious song from or through the orifices of its feathers (which thus formed a thousand organ-pipes), cremate itself, only to rise again from its smoking ashes, and fly back to its home in the Palm-tree of the earthly Paradise. The Russians tell of a terrestrial Paradise to be sought for on the island of Bujan, where grows the vast Oak tree, amidst whose majestic branches the sun nestles to sleep every evening, and from whose summit he rises every morning.

The Hindu religion shadows forth an Elysium on Mount Meru, on the confines of Cashmere and Thibet. The garden of the great Indian god Indra is a spot of unparalleled beauty. Here are to be found an umbrageous grove or wood, where the gods delight to take their ease; cooling fountains and rivulets; an enchanting flower-garden, luminous flowers, immortalising fruits, and brilliantly-plumed birds, whose melody charms the gods themselves. In this Paradise are fine trees, which were the first things that appeared above the surface of the troubled waters at the beginning of the creation; from these trees drop the immortalising ambrosia. The principal tree is the Pârijâta, the flower of which preserves its perfume all the year round, combines in its petals every odour and every flavour, presents to each his favorite colour and most-esteemed perfume, and procures happiness for those who ask it. But beyond this, it is a token of virtue, losing its freshness in the hands of the wicked, but preserving it with the just and honourable. This wondrous flower will also serve as a torch by night, and will emit the most enchanting sounds, producing the sweetest and most varied melody; it assuages hunger and thirst, cures diseases, and remedies the ravages of old age.

The Paradise of Mahomet is situated in the seventh heaven. In the centre of it stands the marvellous tree called Tooba,[1] which is so large that a man mounted on the fleetest horse could not ride round its branches in one hundred years. This tree not only affords the most grateful shade over the whole extent of the Mussulman Paradise; but its boughs are laden with delicious fruits of a size and taste unknown to mortals, and moreover bend themselves at the wish of the inhabitants of this abode of bliss, to enable them to partake of these delicacies without any trouble. The Koran often speaks of the rivers of Paradise as adding greatly to its delights. All these rivers take their rise from the tree Tooba; some flow with water, some with milk, some with honey, and others even with wine, the juice of the grape not being forbidden to the blessed.

We have seen how the most ancient races conceived and cherished the notion of a Paradise of surpassing beauty, situate in remote and unknown regions, both celestial and terrestrial. It is not, therefore, surprising that the Paradise of the Hebrew race—the Mosaic Eden—should have been pictured as a luxuriant garden, stocked with lovely flowers and odorous herbs, and shaded by majestic trees of every description.

We are told, in the second chapter of Genesis, that at the beginning of the world “the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden,” and that out of this country of Eden a river went out “to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.” These “heads” or rivers are further on, in the Biblical narrative, named respectively Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, and Euphrates. Many have been the speculations as to the exact site, geographical features., of Eden, and the Divinely-planted Paradise in its midst, and the subject has been one which has ever been fruitful of controversy and conjecture. Sir John Maundevile has recorded that the Garden of Eden, or Paradise, was enclosed by a wall. This old Eastern traveller tells us that although, in the course of his wanderings, he had never actually seen the land of Eden, yet wise men had discoursed to him concerning it. He says: “Paradise Terrestre, as wise men say, is the highest place of earth—that is, in all the world; and it is so high, that it toucheth nigh to the circle of the moon. For it is so high that the flood of Noah might never come to it, albeit it did cover all the earth of the world, all about, and aboven and beneathen, save Paradise alone. And this Paradise is enclosed all about with a wall, and men wist not whereof it is; for the walls be covered all over with moss, as it seemeth. And it seemeth not that the wall is stone of nature. And that wall stretcheth from the South to the North, and it hath not but one entry, that is closed with fire burning, so that no man that is mortal he dare not enter. And in the highest place of Paradise, exactly in the middle, is a well that casts out the four streams which run by divers lands, of which the first is called Pison, or Ganges, that runs throughout India. And the other is called Nile, or Gyson, which goes through Ethiopia, and after through Egypt. And the other is called Tigris, which runs by Assyria, and by Armenia the Great. And the other is called Euphrates, which runs through Media, Armenia, and Persia. And men there beyond say that all the sweet waters of the world, above and beneath, take their beginning from the well of Paradise, and out of the well all waters come and go.”

Eden (a Hebrew word, signifying “Pleasure”), it is generally conceded, was the most beauteous and luxuriant portion of the world; and the Garden of Eden, the Paradise of Adam and Eve, was the choicest and most exquisite portion of Eden. As regards the situation of this terrestrial Paradise, the Biblical narrative distinctly states that it was in the East, but various have been the speculations as to the precise locality. Moses, in writing of Eden, probably contemplated the country watered by the Tigris and Euphrates—the land of the mighty city of Babylon. Many traditions confirm this view: not only were there a district called Eden, and a town called Paradisus, in Syria, a neighbouring country to Mesopotamia, but in Mesopotamia itself there is a certain region which, as late as the year 1552, was called Eden. Some would localise the Eden of Scripture near Mount Lebanon, in Syria; others between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, to the west of Babylon; others, again, in the delightful plains of Armenia, or in the highlands of Armenia, where the Tigris and Euphrates have their rise. An opinion very generally held is, that Eden was placed at the junction of several rivers, on a site which is now swallowed up by the Persian Gulf, and that it never existed after the deluge, which effaced this Paradise from the face of a polluted earth. Another theory places Eden in a vast central portion of the globe, comprising a large piece of Asia and a portion of Africa, the four rivers being the Ganges, the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Nile. Dr. Wild, of Toronto, is of opinion that the Garden of Paradise embraced what we now call Syria. The land that God gave to Abraham and his seed for ever—the Land of Promise, the Holy Land—is the very territory that constituted the Garden of Paradise. “Before the flood,” says the reverend gentleman, “there was in connection with this garden, to the east of it, a gate and a flaming sword, guarding this gate, and a way to the Tree of Life. On that very spot I believe the Great Pyramid of Egypt to be built, to mark where the face of God shone forth to man before the Flood; and the Flood, by changing the land surface through the changing of the ocean bed, changed the centre somewhat, and threw it further south. It is the very centre of the earth now where the Pyramid stands, … and marks the place where the gate of Eden was before the Flood.”[2]

The Tree of life.

Whatever may have been the site of the land of Eden or Pleasure, Moses, in describing Paradise as its garden (much as we speak of Kent as the Garden of England), doubtless wished to convey the idea of a sanctuary of delight and primal loveliness; indeed, he tells us that “out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.” This Paradise was in the middle of Eden, and in the middle of Paradise was planted the Tree of Life, and, close by, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Into this garden the Lord put the man whom He had formed, “to dress and to keep it,” in other words to till, plant, and sow.

In the very centre of Paradise, in the midst of the land of Eden, grew the Tree of Life. Now, what was this tree? Various have been the conjectures with regard to its nature. The traditions of the Rabbins make the Tree of Life a supernatural tree, resembling the world- or cloud-trees of the Scandinavians and Hindus, and bearing a striking resemblance to the Tooba of the Mahomedan Paradise. They describe the Tree of Life as being of enormous bulk, towering far above all others, and so vast in its girth, that no man, even if he lived so long, could travel round it in less than five hundred years. From beneath the colossal base of this stupendous tree gushed all the waters of the earth, by whose instrumentality nature was everywhere refreshed and invigorated. Regarding these Rabbinic traditions as purely mythical, certain commentators have regarded the Tree of Life as typical only of that life and the continuance of it which our first parents derived from God. Others think that it was called the Tree of Life because it was a memorial, pledge, and seal of the eternal life which, had man continued in obedience, would have been his reward in the Paradise above. Others, again, believe that the fruit of it had a certain vital influence to cherish and maintain man in immortal health and vigour till he should have been translated from the earthly to the heavenly Paradise.

Dr. Wild considers that the Tree of Life stood on Mount Moriah, the very spot selected, in after years, by Abraham, whereon to offer his son Isaac, the type, and the mount to which Christ was led out to be sacrificed. As Eden occupied the centre of the world, and the Tree of Life was planted in the middle of Eden, that spot marked the very centre of the world, and it was necessary that He who was the life of mankind should die in the centre of the world, and act from the centre. Hence, the Tree of Life, destroyed at the flood, on account of man’s wickedness, was replaced on the same spot, centuries after, by the Cross,—converted by the Redeemer into a second and everlasting Tree of Life.

Adam was told he might eat freely of every tree in the garden, excepting only the Tree of Knowledge; we may, therefore, suppose that he would be sure to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Life, which, from its prominent position “in the midst of the garden,” would naturally attract his attention. Like the sacred Soma-tree of the Hindus, the Tree of Life probably yielded heavenly ambrosia, and supplied to Adam food that invigorated and refreshed him with its immortal sustenance. So long as he remained in obedience, he was privileged to partake of this glorious food; but when, yielding to Eve’s solicitations, he disobeyed the Divine command, and partook of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, he found it had given to him the knowledge of evil—something of which he had hitherto been in happy ignorance. He had sinned; he was no longer fit to taste the immortal ambrosia of the Tree of Life; he was, therefore, driven forth from Eden, and lest he should be tempted once again to return and partake of the glorious fruit of the immortalising tree, God “placed at the east of the Garden of Eden cherubims and a flaming sword, which turned every way, to keep the way of the Tree of Life.” Henceforth the immortal food was lost to man: he could no longer partake of that mystic fruit which bestowed life and health. Dr. Wild is of opinion that the Tree of Knowledge stood on Mount Zion, the spot afterwards selected by the Almighty for the erection of the Temple; because, through the Shechinah, men could there obtain knowledge of good and evil.

Some have claimed that the Banana, the Musa paradisiaca, was the Tree of Life, and that another species of the tree, the Musa sapientum, was the Tree of Knowledge; others consider that the Indian sacred Fig-tree, the Ficus religiosa, the Hindu world-tree, was the Tree of Life which grew in the middle of Eden; and the Bible itself contains internal evidence supporting this idea. In Gen. iii. 8, we read that Adam and Eve, conscious of having sinned, “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.” Dr. Wright, however, in his Commentary, remarks that, in the original, the word rendered “trees” is singular—“in the midst of the tree of the garden”—consequently, we may infer that Adam and Eve, frightened by the knowledge of their sin, sought the shelter of the Tree of Life—the tree in the centre of the garden; the tree which, if it were the Ficus religiosa, would, by its gigantic stature, and the grove-like nature of its growth, afford them agreeable shelter, and prove a favourite retreat. Beneath the shade of this stupendous Fig-tree, the erring pair reflected upon their lost innocence; and in their conscious shame, plucked the ample foliage of the tree, and made themselves girdles of Fig-leaves. Here they remained hidden beneath the network of boughs which drooped almost to the earth, and thus formed a natural thicket within which they sought to hide themselves from an angry God.

“A pillared shade
High over-arched, with echoing walks between.”—Milton.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The Tree of Knowledge, in the opinion of some commentators, was so called, not because of any supernatural power it possessed of inspiring those who might eat of it with universal knowledge, as the serpent afterwards suggested, but because by Adam and Eve abstaining from or eating of it after it was prohibited, God would see whether they would prove good or evil in their state of probation.

The tradition generally accepted as to the fruit which the serpent tempted Eve to eat, fixes it as the Apple, but there is no evidence in the Bible that the Tree of Knowledge was an Apple-tree, unless the remark, “I raised thee up under the Apple-tree,” to be found in Canticles viii., 5, be held to apply to our first parents. Eve is stated to have plucked the forbidden fruit because she saw that it was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and that the tree which bore it was “to be desired to make one wise.”

According to an Indian legend, it was the fruit of the Banana tree (Musa paradisiaca or M. sapientum) that proved so fatal to Adam and Eve. We read in Gerarde’s ‘Herbal,’ that “the Grecians and Christians which inhabit Syria, and the Jewes also, suppose it to be that tree of whose fruit Adam did taste.” Gerarde himself calls it “Adam’s Apple-tree,” and remarks of the fruit, that “if it be cut according to the length oblique, transverse, or any other way whatsoever, may be seen the shape and forme of a crosse, with a man fastened thereto. My selfe have seene the fruit, and cut it in pieces, which was brought me from Aleppo, in pickle; the crosse, I might perceive, as the forme of a spred-egle in the root of Ferne, but the man I leave to be sought for by those which have better eies and judgement than my selfe.” Sir John Mandeville gives a similar account of the cross in the Plantain or “Apple of Paradise.” In a work by Léon, called ‘Africa,’ it is stated that the Banana is in that country generally identified with the Tree of Adam. “The Mahometan priests say that this fruit is that which God forbade Adam and Eve to eat; for immediately they eat they perceived their nakedness, and to cover themselves employed the leaves of this tree, which are more suitable for the purpose than any other.” To this day the Indian Djainas are by their laws forbidden to eat either Bananas or Figs. Vincenzo, a Roman missionary of the seventeenth century, after stating that the Banana fruit in Phœnicia bears the effigy of the Crucifixion, tells us that the Christians of those parts would not on any account cut it with a knife, but always broke it with their hands. This Banana, he adds, grows near Damascus, and they call it there “Adam’s Fig Tree.” In the Canaries, at the present time, Banana fruit is never cut across with a knife, because it then exhibits a representation of the Crucifixion. In the island of Ceylon there is a legend that Adam once had a fruit garden in the vicinity of the torrent of Seetagunga, on the way to the Peak. Pridham, in his history of the island, tells us that from the circumstance that various fruits have been occasionally carried down the stream, both the Moormen and Singalese believe that this garden still exists, although now inaccessible, and that its explorer would never return. Tradition, however, affirms that in the centre of this Ceylon Paradise grows a large Banana-tree, the fruit of which when cut transversely exhibits the figure of a man crucified, and that from the huge leaves of this tree Adam and Eve made themselves coverings.

Certain commentators are of opinion that the Tree of Knowledge was a Fig-tree—the Ficus Indica, the Banyan, one of the sacred trees of the Hindus, under the pillared shade of which the god Vishnu was fabled to have been born. In this case the Fig-tree is a tree of ill-omen—a tree watched originally by Satan in the form of a serpent, and whose fruit gave the knowledge of evil. After having tempted and caused Adam to fall by means of its fruit, its leaves were gathered to cover nakedness and shame. Again, the Fig was the tree which the demons selected as their refuge, if one may judge from the fauni ficarii, whom St. Jerome recognised in certain monsters mentioned by the prophets. The Fig was the only tree accursed by Christ whilst on earth; and the wild Fig, according to tradition, was the tree upon which the traitor Judas hanged himself, and from that time has always been regarded as under a bane.

The Citron is held by many to have been the forbidden fruit. Gerarde tells us that this tree was originally called Pomum Assyrium, but that it was known among the Italian people as Pomum Adami; and, writes the old herbalist, “that came by the opinion of the common rude people, who thinke it to be the same Apple which Adam did eate of in Paradise, when he transgressed God’s commandment; whereupon also the prints of the biting appeare therein as they say; but others say that this is not the Apple, but that which the Arabians do call Musa or Mosa, whereof Avicen maketh mention: for divers of the Jewes take this for that through which by eating Adam offended.”

The Pomegranate, Orange, Corn, and Grapes have all been identified as the “forbidden fruit;” but upon what grounds it is difficult to surmise.

After their disobedience, Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise, and, according to Arabian tradition, Adam took with him three things—an ear of Wheat, which is the chief of all kinds of food; Dates, which are the chief of fruits; and the Myrtle, which is the chief of sweet-scented flowers. Maimonides mentions a legend, cherished by the Nabatheans, that Adam, when he reached the district about Babylon, had come from India, carrying with him a golden tree in blossom, a leaf that no fire would burn, two leaves, each of which would cover a man, and an enormous leaf plucked from a tree beneath whose branches ten thousand men could find shelter.

The Tree of Adam.

There is a legend handed down both by Hebrews and Greeks, that when Adam had attained the ripe age of 900 years, he overtaxed his strength in uprooting an enormous bush, and that falling very sick, and feeling the approach of death, he sent his son Seth to the angel who guarded Paradise, and particularly the way to the Tree of Life, to ask of him some of its ambrosia, or oil of mercy, that he might anoint his limbs therewith, and so regain good health. Seth approached the Tree of Knowledge, of the fruit of which Adam and Eve had once partaken. A youth, radiant as the sun, was seated on its summit, and, addressing Seth, told him that He was the Son of God, that He would one day come down to earth, to deliver it from sin, and that He would then give the oil of mercy to Adam.

The angel who was guarding the Tree of Life then handed to Seth three small seeds, charging him to place them in his father’s mouth, when he should bury him near Mount Tabor, in the valley of Hebron. Seth obeyed the angel’s behests. The three seeds took root, and in a short time appeared above the ground, in the form of three rods. One of these saplings was a branch of Olive, the second a Cedar, the third a Cypress. The three rods did not leave the mouth of Adam, nor was their existence known until the time of Moses, who received from God the order to cut them. Moses obeyed, and with these three rods, which exhaled a perfume of the Promised Land, performed many miracles, cured the sick, drew water from a rock.

After the death of Moses, the three rods remained unheeded in the Valley of Hebron until the time of King David, who, warned by the Holy Ghost, sought and found them there. Hence they were taken by the King to Jerusalem, where all the leprous, the dumb, the blind, the paralysed, and other sick people presented themselves before the King, beseeching him to give them the salvation of the Cross. King David thereupon touched them with the three rods, and their infirmities instantly vanished. After this the King placed the three rods in a cistern, but to his astonishment upon going the next day for them, he discovered they had all three firmly taken root, that the roots had become inextricably interlaced, and that the three rods were in fact reunited in one stem which had shot up therefrom, and had become a Cedar sapling,—the tree that was eventually to furnish the wood of the Cross. This reunion of the three rods was typical of the Trinity. The young Cedar was subsequently placed in the Temple, but we hear nothing more of it for thirty years, when Solomon, wishing to complete the Temple, obtained large supplies of Cedars of Lebanon, and as being well adapted for his purpose cut down the Cedar of the Temple. The trunk of this tree, lying with the other timber, was seen by a woman, who sat down on it, and inspired with the spirit of prophecy cried: “Behold! the Lord predicts the virtues of the Sacred Cross.” The Jews thereupon attacked the woman, and having stoned her, they plunged the sacred wood of the Temple into the piscina probatica, of which the water acquired from that moment healing qualities, and which was afterwards called the Pool of Bethesda. In the hope of profaning it the Jews afterwards employed the sacred wood in the construction of the bridge of Siloam, over which everybody unheedingly passed, excepting only the Queen of Sheba, who, prostrating herself, paid homage to it and prophetically cried that of this wood would one day be made the Cross of the Redeemer.

Thus, although Adam by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, came to know that which was evil, and could no longer be permitted to partake of the fruit or essence of the Tree of Life, yet, from its seeds, placed in his mouth after death, sprang the tree which produced the Cross of Christ, by means of which he and his race could attain to eternal life.

According to Prof. Mussafia,[3] an authority quoted by De Gubernatis, the origin of this legend of Seth’s visit to Paradise is to be found in the apocryphal gospel of Nicodemus, where it is stated that the Angel Michael refused to give the oil of mercy to Seth, and told him that Christ would one day visit the earth to anoint all believers, and to conduct Adam to the Tree of Mercy. Some of the legends collected by the Professor are very curious.

An Austrian legend records that the Angel Michael gave to Eve and her son Seth a spray with three leaves, plucked from the Tree of Knowledge, with directions to plant it on the grave of Adam. The spray took root and became a tree, which Solomon placed as an ornament in the Temple of Jerusalem, and which was cast into the piscina probatica, where it lay until the day of Christ’s condemnation, when it was taken out and fashioned into the Cross on which He suffered.

A German legend narrates that Eve went with Seth to Paradise, where she encountered the serpent; but the Angel Michael gave her a branch of Olive, which, planted over the grave of Adam, grew rapidly. After the death of Eve, Seth returned to Paradise, and there met the Angel, who had in his hands a branch to which was suspended the half of the Apple which had been bitten by his mother Eve. The Angel gave this to Seth, at the same time recommending him to take as great care of it as of the Olive planted on Adam’s grave, because these two trees would one day become the means of the redemption of mankind. Seth scrupulously watched over the precious branch, and at the hour of his death bequeathed it to the best of men. Thus it came into the hands of Noah, who took it into the Ark with him. After the Deluge, Noah sent forth the dove as a messenger, and it brought to him a branch of the Olive planted on the tomb of Adam. Noah religiously guarded the two precious branches which were destined to be instrumental in redeeming the human race by furnishing the wood of the Cross.

A second German legend states that Adam, when at the point of death, sent Seth to Paradise to gather there for him some of the forbidden fruit (probably this is a mistake for “some of the fruit of the Tree of Life”). Seth hesitated, saying as an excuse that he did not know the way. Adam directed him to follow a tract of country entirely bare of vegetation. Arrived safely at Paradise, Seth persuaded the angel to give him, not the Apple, but simply the core of the Apple tasted by Eve. On Seth returning home, he found his father dead; so extracting from the Apple-core three pips, he placed them in Adam’s mouth. From them sprang three plants that Solomon cut down in order to form a cross—the selfsame cross afterwards borne by our Saviour, and on which He was crucified—and a rod of justice, which, split in the middle, eventually served to hold the superscription written by Pilate, and placed at the head of the Cross.

A legend, current in the Greek Church, claims the Olive as the Tree of Adam: this, perhaps, is not surprising considering in what high esteem the Greeks have always held the Olive. The legend tells how Seth, going to seek the oil of mercy in Paradise, in consequence of his father’s illness, was told by the angel that the time had not arrived. The angel then presented him with three branches—the Olive, Cedar, and Cypress: these Seth was ordered to plant over Adam’s grave, and the promise was given him that when they produced oil, Adam should rise restored to health. Seth, following these instructions, plaited the three branches together and planted them over the grave of his father, where they soon became united as one tree. After a time this tree was transplanted, in the first place to Mount Lebanon, and afterwards to the outskirts of Jerusalem, and it is there to this day in the Greek Monastery, having been cut down and the timber placed beneath the altar. From this circumstance the Monastery was called, in Hebrew, the Mother of the Cross. This same wood was revealed to Solomon by the Queen of Sheba, and Solomon therefore ordered it to be used in the foundation of a tower; but the tower having been rent in twain by an earthquake which occurred at our Saviour’s birth, the wood was cast into a pool called the probatica piscina, to which it imparted wonderful healing qualities.[4]

There is another somewhat similar Greek legend, in which Abraham takes the place of Adam, and the Pine supersedes the Olive. According to this version, a shepherd met Abraham on the banks of the Jordan, and confessed to him a sin he had committed. Abraham listened, and counselled the erring shepherd to plant three stakes, and to water them carefully until they should bud. After forty days the three stakes had taken the form of a Cypress, a Cedar, and a Pine, having different roots and branches, but one indivisible trunk. This tree grew until the time of Solomon, who wished to make use of it in the construction of the Temple. After several abortive attempts, it was at length made into a seat for visitors to the Temple. The Sibyl Erythræa (the Queen of Sheba) refused to sit upon it, and exclaimed: “Thrice blessed is this wood, on which shall perish Christ, the King and God.” Then Solomon had the wood mounted on a pedestal and adorned with thirty rings or crowns of silver. These thirty rings became the thirty pieces of silver, the price of Judas, the betrayer, and the wood was eventually used for the Saviour’s Cross.

Sacred Trees & Plants of the Ancients.

CHAPTER III.

Sacred Trees & Plants of the Ancients.

All the nations of antiquity entertained for certain trees and plants a special reverence, which in many cases degenerated into a superstitious worship. The myths of all countries contain allusions to sacred or supernatural plants. The Veda mentions the heavenly tree which the lightning strikes down; the mythology of the Finns speaks of the celestial Oak which the sun-dwarf uproots; Yama, the Vedic god of death, sits drinking with companies of the blessed, under a leafy tree, just as in the northern Saga Hel’s place is at the foot of the Ash Yggdrasill.

In the eyes of the ancient Persians the tree, by its changes in Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, appeared as the emblem of human existence, whilst at the same time, by the continuity of its life, it was reverently regarded as a symbol of immortality. Hence it came to pass that in Persia trees of unusual qualities were in course of time looked upon as being the abode of holy and even celestial spirits. Such trees became sacred, and were addressed in prayer by the reverential Parsis, though they eschewed the worship of idols, and honoured the sun and moon simply as symbols. Ormuzd, the good spirit, is set forth as giving this command:—“Go, O Zoroaster! to the living trees, and let thy mouth speak before them these words: I pray to the pure trees, the creatures of Ormuzd.” Of all trees, however, the Cypress, with its pyramidal top pointing to the sky, was to the Parsis the most venerated: hence they planted it before their temples and palaces as symbolic of the celestial fire.

The Oak, the strongest of all trees, has been revered as the emblem of the Supreme Being by almost all the nations of heathendom, by the Jewish Patriarchs, and by the children of Israel, who eventually came to esteem the tree sacred, and offered sacrifices beneath its boughs. Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Teutons, and Celts, all considered the Oak as sacred, and the Druids taught the people of Britain to regard this tree with peculiar reverence and respect. It is frequently mentioned by the Roman poets as the tree of Jove, to whom it was dedicated; and near to Chaonia, a mountainous part of Epirus, was a forest of Oaks, called the Chaonian or Dodonæan Forest, where oracles were given, as some say, by the trees themselves. The world-tree of Romowe, the old centre of the Prussians, was an Oak, and it was reverenced as a tree of great sanctity.

The Indians adored the tree Asoka, consecrated to Vishnu; and the Banyan, in the belief that Vishnu was born amongst its branches.[5]

The Soma-latâ (Sarcostemma aphylla), or sacred plant yielding the immortal fluid offered to the gods on the altars of the Brahmans, is regarded with extreme reverence. The name Amrita, or Immortal Tree, is given to the Euphorbia, Panicum Dactylon, Cocculus cordifolius, Pinus Deodara, Emblica officinalis, Terminalia citrina, Piper longum, and many others. The Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) is looked upon as a sacred plant. The Deodar is the Devadâru or tree-god of the Shastras, alluded to in Vedic hymns as the symbol of majesty and power.

To Indra, the supreme god of the Vedic Olympus, are dedicated the Terminalia Arjuna (the Tree of Indra), the Methonica superba (the Flower of Indra), a species of Pumpkin called Indra-vârunikâ (appertaining to Indra and Varuna), the Vitex Negundo (the drink of Indra), the Abrus precatorius, and Hemp (the food of Indra).

To Brahma are sacred the Butea frondosa, the Ficus glomerata, the Mulberry (the seed of Brahma), the Clerodendron Siphonanthus, the Hemionitis cordifolia (leaf of Brahma), the Saccharum Munga (with which is formed the sacred girdle of the Brahmans), and the Poa cynosuroides, or Kusa Grass, a species of Vervain, employed in Hindu sacrificial rites, and held in such sanctity as to be acknowledged as a god.

The Peepul or Bo-tree (Ficus religiosa) is held sacred by Buddhists as the Holy Tree and the Tree of Knowledge.

The Burmese Buddhists surround their Pagodas and religious houses with trees, for which they entertain a high regard. The first holy men dwelt under the shade of forest trees, and from that circumstance, in the Burmese cultus, every Budh is specially connected with some tree—as Shin Gautama with the Banyan, under which he attained his full dignity, and the Shorea robusta, under which he was born and died—and, as we are told, the last Budh of this world cycle, Areemadehya, will receive his Buddhaship under the Mesua ferrea.

The Burman also regards the Eugenia as a plant of peculiar sanctity—a protective from all harm. The Jamboa, or Rose Apple, is held in much reverence in Thibet, where it is looked upon as the representative of the mystical Amrita, the tree which in Paradise produces the amrita or ambrosia of the gods.

The Cedar has always been regarded by the Jews as a sacred tree; and to this day the Maronites, Greeks, and Armenians go up to the Cedars of Lebanon, at the Feast of the Transfiguration, and celebrate Mass at their feet.

To the ancient inhabitants of Northern Europe the Elm and the Ash were objects of especial veneration. Many sacred trees or pillars, formed of the living trunks of trees, have been found in Germany, called Irminseule, one of which was destroyed by Charlemagne in 772, in Westphalia.

The Mountain Ash, or Rowan Tree, was, in olden times, an object of great veneration in Britain; and in Evelyn’s day was reputed of such sanctity in Wales, that there was not a churchyard that did not contain one.

The colossal Baobab (Adansonia) is worshipped as a divinity by the negroes of Senegambia. The Nipa or Susa Palm (Nipa fruticans) is the sacred tree of Borneo. The gigantic Dragon Tree (Dracæna Draco) of Orotava was for centuries the object of deep reverence to the aborigines of the Canary Isles. The Zamang of Guayra, an enormous Mimosa, has from time immemorial been held sacred in the province of Caracas. The Moriche Palm (Mauritia flexuosa) is considered a deity by the Tamancas, a tribe of Oronoco Indians, and is held sacred by the aboriginal Mexicans.

The Nelumbo, or Sacred Bean (Nelumbium speciosum), was the Lotus adored by the Ancient Egyptians, who also paid divine honours to the Onion, Garlic, Acacia, Laurel, Peach-tree, Lentils of various sorts, and the Heliotrope. Wormwood was dedicated to Isis, and Antirrhinum (supposed to be the ancient Cynocephalia, or Dog’s Head) to Osiris.

The sacred Lotus of the East, the flower of the
“Old Hindu mythologies, wherein
The Lotus, attribute of Ganga—embleming
The world’s great reproductive power—was held
In veneration,”

was the Nelumbium speciosum. This mystic flower is a native of Northern Africa, India, China, Japan, Persia, and Asiatic Russia, and in all these countries has, for centuries, maintained its sacred character. It is the Lien-wha of the Chinese, and, according to their theology, enters into the beverage of immortality.

Henna (Lawsonia alba), the flower of Paradise, is dedicated to Mahomet, who characterised it as the “chief of the flowers of this world and the next.”

The Pomegranate-tree was highly reverenced both by the Persians and the Jews. The fruit was embroidered on the hem of Aaron’s sacred robe, and adorned the robes of Persia’s ancient Priest-Kings.

Pine-cones were regarded by the Assyrians as sacred symbols, and as such were used in the decoration of their temples.

In Teutonic and Scandinavian mythology the Rose is sacred to Hulda, the Flax to Bertha, the Spignel to Baldr, and the Hair Moss (Polytrichum commune) is dedicated to Thor’s wife, Sif. Of the divinities after whom the days of the week were named, the Sun has his special flower, the Moon her Daisy, Tyr (Tuesday) the Tys-fiola or March Violet and the Mezereon; Woden (Wednesday) the Geranium sylvaticum (Odin’s Favour) and the Monkshood (Odin’s Helm); Thor (Thursday) the Monkshood (Thor’s Hat) and the Burdock (Thor’s Mantle); Frig (Friday) and Freyja, who is often confounded with her, had many plants dedicated to them, which have since been transferred to Venus and the Virgin Mary, and are not now recognised by the name of either of the Scandinavian goddesses. In the North of Europe, however, the Supercilium Veneris is still known as Freyja’s Hair, and the perfumed Orchis Gymnadenia conopsea as Frigg’s Grass. Sæterne or Sætere (Saturday), the supposed name of an Anglo-Saxon god, is probably but a mere adaptation of the Roman Saturnus. It may, perhaps, be apposite to quote (for what it may be worth) Verstegan’s statement that the Saxons represented “Seater” as carrying a pail of water in which were flowers and fruits, whereby “was declared that with kindly raine he would nourish the earth to bring foorth such fruites and flowers.”

In the Grecian and Roman mythology we find numerous trees and flowers dedicated to the principal divinities. Thus, the

  • Alder was dedicated to Neptune.
  • Apple was dedicated to Venus.
  • Ash was dedicated to Mars.
  • Bay was dedicated to Apollo.
  • Beech was dedicated to Jupiter Ammon.
  • Cornel Cherry was dedicated to Apollo.
  • Cypress was dedicated to Pluto.
  • Dittany was dedicated to Juno, Diana, and Luna.
  • Dog-grass was dedicated to Mars.
  • Fir was dedicated to Cybele and Neptune.
  • Heliotrope was dedicated to Phœbus Apollo.
  • Horsetail was dedicated to Saturn.
  • Iris was dedicated to Juno.
  • Ivy was dedicated to Bacchus.
  • Laurel was dedicated to Apollo.
  • Lily was dedicated to Juno.
  • Maidenhair was dedicated to Pluto and Proserpine.
  • Myrtle was dedicated to Venus and Mars.
  • Narcissus was dedicated to Ceres, Pluto, and Proserpine.
  • Oak was dedicated to Jupiter.
  • Olive was dedicated to Minerva.
  • Palm was dedicated to Mercury.
  • Pine was dedicated to Neptune and Pan.
  • Pink was dedicated to Jupiter.
  • Pomegranate was dedicated to Juno.
  • Poplar was dedicated to Hercules.
  • Poppy was dedicated to Ceres, Diana, and Somnus.
  • Rhamnus was dedicated to Janus.
  • Rocket was dedicated to Priapus.
  • Rose was dedicated to Venus.
  • Vine was dedicated to Bacchus.
  • Willow was dedicated to Ceres.

To the Furies was consecrated the Juniper; the Fates wore wreaths of the Narcissus, and the Muses Bay-leaves.

The Grecian Centaurs, half men, half horses, like their Indian brethren the Gandharvas, understood the properties of herbs, and cultivated them; but, as a rule, they never willingly divulged to mankind their knowledge of the secrets of the vegetable world. Nevertheless, the Centaur Chiron instructed Æsculapius, Achilles, Æneas, and other heroes in the polite arts. Chiron had a panacea of his own, which is named after him Chironia Centaurium, or Gentiana Centaurium; and, as a vulnerary, the Ampelos Chironia of Pliny, or Tamus communis. In India, on account of the shape of its leaves, the Ricinus communis is called Gandharvahasta (having the hands of a Gandharva).

Floral Ceremonies, Wreaths, and Garlands.

CHAPTER IV.

Floral Ceremonies, Wreaths, and Garlands.

The application of flowers and plants to ceremonial purposes is of the highest antiquity. From the earliest periods, man, after he had discovered

“What drops the Myrrh and what the balmy Reed,”

offered up on primitive altars, as incense to the Deity, the choicest and most fragrant woods, the aromatic gums from trees, and the subtle essences he obtained from flowers. In the odorous but intoxicating fumes which slowly ascended, in wreaths heavy with fragrance, from the altar, the pious ancients saw the mystic agency by which their prayers would be wafted from earth to the abodes of the gods; and so, says Mr. Rimmel, “the altars of Zoroaster and of Confucius, the temples of Memphis, and those of Jerusalem, all smoked alike with incense and sweet-scented woods.” Nor was the admiration and use of vegetable productions confined to the inhabitants of the old world alone, for the Mexicans, according to the Abbé Clavigero, have, from time immemorial, studied the cultivation of flowers and odoriferous plants, which they employed in the worship of their gods.

But the use of flowers and odorous shrubs was not long confined by the ancients to their sacred rites; they soon began to consider them as essential to their domestic life. Thus, the Egyptians, though they offered the finest fruit and the finest flowers to the gods, and employed perfumes at all their sacred festivals, as well as at their daily oblations, were lavish in the use of flowers at their private entertainments, and in all circumstances of their every-day life. At a reception given by an Egyptian noble, it was customary, after the ceremony of anointing, for each guest to be presented with a Lotus-flower when entering the saloon, and this flower the guest continued to hold in his hand. Servants brought necklaces of flowers composed chiefly of the Lotus; a garland was put round the head, and a single Lotus-bud, or a full-blown flower was so attached as to hang over the forehead. Many of them, made up into wreaths and devices, were suspended upon stands placed in the room, garlands of Crocus and Saffron encircled the wine cups, and over and under the tables were strewn various flowers. Diodorus informs us that when the Egyptians approached the place of divine worship, they held the flower of the Agrostis in their hand, intimating that man proceeded from a well-watered land, and that he required a moist rather than a dry aliment; and it is not improbable that the reason of the great preference given to the Lotus on these occasions was derived from the same notion.

This fondness of the ancients for flowers was carried to such an extent as to become almost a vice. When Antony supped with Cleopatra, the luxurious Queen of Egypt, the floors of the apartments were usually covered with fragrant flowers. When Sardanapalus, the last of the Assyrian monarchs, was driven to dire extremity by the rapid approach of the conqueror, he chose the death of an Eastern voluptuary: causing a pile of fragrant woods to be lighted, and placing himself on it with his wives and treasures, he soon became insensible, and was suffocated by the aromatic smoke. When Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian king, held high festival at Daphne, in one of the processions which took place, boys bore Frankincense, Myrrh, and Saffron on golden dishes, two hundred women sprinkled everyone with perfumes out of golden watering-pots, and all who entered the gymnasium to witness the games were anointed with some perfume contained in fifteen gold dishes, holding Saffron, Amaracus, Lilies, Cinnamon, Spikenard, Fenugreek. When the Roman Emperor Nero sat at banquet in his golden palace, a shower of flowers and perfumes fell upon him; but Heliogabalus turned these floral luxuries into veritable curses, for it was one of the pleasures of this inhuman being to smother his courtiers with flowers.

Both Greeks and Romans caried the delicate refinements of the taste for flowers and perfumes to the greatest excess in their costly entertainments; and it is the opinion of Baccius that at their desserts the number of their flowers far exceeded that of their fruits. The odour of flowers was deemed potent to arouse the fainting appetite; and their presence was rightly thought to enhance the enjoyment of the guests at their banqueting boards:—

“The ground is swept, and the triclinium clear,
The hands are purified, the goblets, too,
Well rinsed; each guest upon his forehead bears
A wreath’d flow’ry crown; from slender vase
A willing youth presents to each in turn
A sweet and costly perfume; while the bowl,
Emblem of joy and social mirth, stands by,
Filled to the brim; and then pours out wine
Of most delicious flavour, breathing round
Fragrance of flowers, and honey newly made,
So grateful to the sense, that none refuse;
While odoriferous fumes fill all the room.”—Xenophanes.

In all places where festivals, games, or solemn ceremonials were held, and whenever public rejoicings and gaiety were deemed desirable, flowers were utilised with unsparing hands.

“Set before your doors
The images of all your sleeping fathers,
With Laurels crowned; with Laurels wreath your posts,
And strew with flowers the pavement; let the priest
Do present sacrifice; pour out the wine,
And call the gods to join with you in gladness.”—Dryden.

In the triumphal processions of Rome the streets were strewed with flowers, and from the windows, roofs of houses, and scaffolds, the people cast showers of garlands and flowers upon the crowds below and upon the conquerors proudly marching in procession through the city. Macaulay says—

“On ride they to the Forum,
While Laurel-boughs and flowers,
From house-tops and from windows,
Fell on their crests in showers.”

In the processions of the Corybantes, the goddess Cybele, the protectress of cities, was pelted with white Roses. In the annual festivals of the Terminalia, the peasants were all crowned with garlands of flowers; and at the festival held by the gardeners in honour of Vertumnus on August 23rd, wreaths of budding flowers and the first-fruits of their gardens were offered by members of the craft.

In the sacrifices of both Greeks and Romans, it was customary to place in the hands of victims some sort of floral decoration, and the presiding priests also appeared crowned with flowers.

“Thus the gay victim with fresh garlands crowned,
Pleased with the sacred pipe’s enlivening sound.
Through gazing crowds in solemn state proceeds,
And dressed in fatal pomp, magnificently bleeds.”—Phillips.

The place erected for offerings was called by the Romans ara, an altar. It was decorated with leaves and grass, adorned with flowers, and bound with woollen fillets: on the occasion of a “triumph” these altars smoked with perfumed incense.

The Greeks had a Nymph of Flowers whom they called Chloris, and the Romans the goddess Flora, who, among the Sabines and the Phoceans, had been worshipped long before the foundation of the Eternal City. As early as the time of Romulus the Latins instituted a festival in honour of Flora, which was intended as a public expression of joy at the appearance of the welcome blossoms which were everywhere regarded as the harbingers of fruits. Five hundred and thirteen years after the foundation of Rome the Floralia, or annual floral games, were established; and after the sibyllic books had been consulted, it was finally ordained that the festival should be kept every 20th day of April, that is four days before the calends of May—the day on which, in Asia Minor, the festival of the flowers commences. In Italy, France, and Germany, the festival of the flowers, or the festival of spring, begins about the same date—i.e., towards the end of April—and terminates on the feast of St. John.

The festival of the Floralia was introduced into Britain by the Romans; and for centuries all ranks of people went out a-Maying early on the first of the month. The juvenile part of both sexes, in the north, were wont to rise a little after midnight, and walk to some neighbouring wood, accompanied with music and the blowing of horns,

“To get sweet Setywall [red Valerian],
The Honeysuckle, the Harlock,
The Lily and the Lady-smock,
To deck their summer hall.”

They also gathered branches from the trees, and adorned them with nosegays and crowns of flowers, returning with their booty homewards, about the rising of the sun, forthwith to decorate their doors and windows with the flowery spoil. The after-part of the day, says an ancient chronicler, was “chiefly spent in dancing round a tall pole, which is called a May-pole; which, being placed in a convenient part of the village, stands there, as it were, consecrated to the goddess of flowers, without the least violation offered it in the whole circle of the year.”

“Your May-pole deck with flowery coronal;
Sprinkle the flowery coronal with wine;
And in the nimble-footed galliard, all,
Shepherd and shepherdess, lively join,
Hither from village sweet and hamlet fair,
From bordering cot and distant glen repair:
Let youth indulge its sport, to old bequeath its care.”

Old John Stowe tells us that on May-day, in the morning, “every man, except impediment, would walk into the sweet meadows and green woods, there to rejoice their spirits with the beauty and savour of sweet flowers, and with the harmony of birds praising God in their kind.” In the days of Henry VIII. it was the custom for all classes to observe the May-day festival, and we are told that the king himself rode a-Maying from Greenwich to Shooter’s Hill, with his Queen Katherine, accompanied by many lords and ladies. Chaucer relates how on May-day

“Went forth all the Court both most and least;
To fetch the floures fresh, and branch and blome,
And namely Hawthorn brought both page and grome;
And then rejoysen in their great delite,
Eke each at other threw the floures bright.
The Primrose, Violette, and the Golde,
With garlands partly blue and white.”

The young maidens repaired at daybreak to the meadows and hill-sides, for the purpose of gathering the precious May-dew, wherewith to make themselves fair for the remainder of the year. This old custom is still extant in the north of England and in some districts of Scotland. Robert Fergusson has told how the Scotch lassies swarmed at daybreak on Arthur’s Seat:

“On May-day in a fairy ring,
We’ve seen them round St. Anthon’s spring
Frae grass the caller dew-draps wring,
To wet their ein,
And water clear as crystal spring.
To synd them clean.”

In Ross-shire the lassies pluck sprigs of Ivy, with the May-dew on them, that have not been touched by steel.

It was deemed important that flowers for May garlands and posies should be plucked before the sun rose on May-day morning; and if perchance, Cuckoo-buds were included in the composition of a wreath, it was destroyed directly the discovery was made, and removed immediately from a posie.

In the May-day sports on the village green, it was customary to choose as May Queen either the best dancer or the prettiest girl, who, at sundown was crowned with a floral chaplet—

“See where she sits upon the grassie greene,
A seemly sight!
Yclad in scarlet, like a mayden queene,
And ermines white.
Upon her head a crimson coronet,
With Daffodils and Damask Roses set:
Bay-leaves betweene,
And Primroses greene
Embellished the sweete Violet.”—Spenser.

The coronation of the rustic queen concluded the out-door festivities of May-day, although her majesty’s duties would not appear to have been fulfilled until she reached her home.

“Then all the rest in sorrow,
And she in sweet content,
Gave over till the morrow,
And homeward straight they went;
But she of all the rest
Was hindered by the way,
For every youth that met her
Must kiss the Queen of May!”

At Horncastle, in Lincolnshire, there existed, till the beginning of the present century, a ceremony which evidently derived its origin from the Roman Floralia. On the morning of May-day, a train of youths collected themselves at a place still known as the May-bank. From thence, with wands enwreathed with Cowslips they walked in procession to the may-pole, situated at the west end of the town, and adorned on that morning with every variety of wild flowers. Here, with loud shouts, they struck together their wands, and, scattering around the Cowslips, testified their thankfulness for the bounteous promise of spring.

Aubrey (MS., 1686), tells us that in his day “at Woodstock in Oxon they every May-eve goe into the parke, and fetch away a number of Haw-thorne-trees, which they set before their dores.” In Huntingdonshire, fifty years ago, the village swains were accustomed, at sunrise, to place a branch of May in blossom before the door of anyone they wished to honour. In Tuscany the expression, Appiccare il maio ad una porta, has passed into a proverb, and means to lay siege to a maiden’s heart and make love to her. In the vicinity of Valenciennes, branches of Birch or Hornbeam are placed by rural swains at the doors of their sweethearts; thorny branches at the portals of prudes; and Elder boughs at the doors of flirts. In the villages of Provence, on May-day, they select a May Queen. Crowned with a wreath, and adorned with garlands of Roses, she is carried through the streets, mounted on a platform, her companions soliciting and receiving the offerings of the towns-people. In olden times it was customary even among the French nobility to present May to friends and neighbours, or as it was called, esmayer. Sometimes this presenting of May was regarded as a challenge. The custom of planting a May-tree in French towns subsisted until the 17th century: in 1610, one was planted in the court of the Louvre. In some parts of Spain the name of Maia is given to the May Queen (selected generally as being the handsomest lass of the village), who, decorated with garlands of flowers, leads the dances in which the young people spend the day. The villagers in other provinces declare their love by planting, during the preceding night, a large bough or a sapling, decked with flowers, before the doors of their sweethearts. In Greece, bunches of flowers are suspended over the doors of most houses; and in the rural districts, the peasants bedeck themselves with flowers, and carry garlands and posies of wild flowers.

In some parts of Italy, in the May-day rejoicings, a May-tree or a branch in blossom and adorned with fruit and ribbands, plays a conspicuous part: this is called the Maggio, and is probably a reminiscence of the old Grecian Eiresione.

Of the flowers specially dedicated to May, first and foremost is the Hawthorn blossom. In some parts of England the Convallaria is known as May Lily. The Germans call it Mai blume, a name they also apply to the Hepatica and Kingcup. In Devon and Cornwall the Lilac is known as May-flower, and much virtue is thought to be attached to a spray of the narrow-leaf Elm gathered on May morning.

In Asia Minor the annual festival of flowers used to commence on the 28th of April, when the houses and tables were covered with flowers, and every one going into the streets wore a floral crown. In Germany, France, and Italy, the fête of the flowers, or the fête of spring, commences also towards the end of April, and terminates at Midsummer. Athenians, on an early day in spring, every year crowned with flowers all children who had reached their third year, and in this way the parents testified their joy that the little ones had passed the age rendered critical by the maladies incident to infants. The Roman Catholic priesthood, always alert at appropriating popular pagan customs, and adapting them to the service of their church, have perpetuated this old practice. The little children crowned with flowers and habited as angels, who to this day accompany the procession of the Corpus Domini at the beginning of June, are taught to scatter flowers in the road, to symbolise their own spring-time and the spring-time of nature. On this day, along the entire route of the procession at Rome, the ground is thickly strewn with Bay and other fragrant leaves. In the worship of the Madonna, flowers play an important rôle, and Roman altars are still piled up with fragrant blossoms, and still smoke with perfumed incense.

After the feast of Whitsuntide, the young Russian maidens repair to the banks of the Neva, and fling in its waters wreaths of flowers, which are tokens of affection to absent friends.

In the West of Germany and the greater part of France the ceremony is observed of bringing home on the last harvest wain a tree or bough decorated with flowers and gay ribbons, which is graciously received by the master and planted on or near the house, to remain there till the next harvest brings its successor. Some rite of this sort, Mr. Ralston says, seems to have prevailed all over the North of Europe. “So, in the autumnal harvest thanksgiving feast at Athens, it was customary to carry in sacred procession an Olive-branch wrapped in wool, called Eiresione, to the temple of Apollo, and there to leave it; and in addition to this a similar bough was solemnly placed beside the house door of every Athenian who was engaged in fruit culture or agriculture, there to remain until replaced by a similar successor twelve months later.”
Well-Flowering.

From the earliest days of the Christian era our Lord’s ascension into heaven has been commemorated by various ceremonies, one of which was the perambulation of parish boundaries. At Penkridge, in Staffordshire, as well as at Wolverhampton, long after the Reformation, the inhabitants, during the time of processioning, used to adorn their wells with boughs and flowers; and this ancient custom is still practised every year at Tissington, in Derbyshire, where it is known as “well-flowering.” There are five wells so decorated, and the mode of dressing or adorning them is this:—the flowers are inserted in moist clay and put upon boards cut in various forms, surrounded with boughs of Laurel and White Thorn, so as to give the appearance of water issuing from small grottoes. The flowers are arranged in various patterns, to give the effect of mosaic work, and are inscribed with texts of Scripture and suitable mottoes. After church, the congregation walk in procession to the wells and decorate them with these boards, as well as with garlands of flowers, boughs. Flowers were cast into the wells, and from their manner of falling, lads and lasses divined as to the progress of their love affairs.

“Bring flowers! bring flowers! to the crystal well,
That springs ’neath the Willows in yonder dell.
And we’ll scatter them over the charmed well,
And learn our fate from its mystic spell.”
“And she whose flower most tranquilly
Glides down the stream our Queen shall be.
In a crown we’ll wreath
Wild flowers that breathe;
And the maiden by whom this wreath shall be worn
Shall wear it again on her bridal morn.”—Merritt.

Before the Reformation the Celtic population of Scotland, the Hebrides, Ireland, Wales, and Cornwall were in the habit of naming wells and springs after different saints and martyrs. Though forbidden by the canons of St. Anselm, many pilgrimages continued to be made to them, and the custom was long retained of throwing nosegays into springs and fountains, and chaplets into wells. Sir Walter Scott tells us that “in Perthshire there are several wells dedicated to St. Fillan, which are still places of pilgrimage and offerings, even among Protestants.”

“Thence to St. Fillan’s blessed well
Whose spring can frenzied dreams dispel,
And the crazed brain restore.”

Into some of these Highland wells flowers are cast, and occasionally pins, while the surrounding bushes are hung with rags and shreds, in imitation of the old heathen practice. The ceremony of sprinkling rivers with flowers was probably of similar origin. Milton and Dryden both allude to this custom being in vogue as regards the Severn, and this floral rite is described in ‘The Fleece’ as follows:—

“With light fantastic toe the nymphs
Thither assembled, thither every swain;
And o’er the dimpled stream a thousand flowers,
Pale Lilies, Roses, Violets, and Pinks,
Mix’d with the greens of Burnet, Mint, and Thyme,
And Trefoil, sprinkled with their sportive arms.
Such custom holds along th’ irriguous vales,
From Wreken’s brow to rocky Dolvoryn,
Sabrina’s early haunt.”

Bridal Floral Ceremonies.

In all countries flowers have from time immemorial been chosen as the happy accompaniment of bridal ceremonies. Among the ancients it was customary to crown newly-married persons with a chaplet of red and white Roses. On arriving at the house of her husband, the Roman bride found woollen fillets round the door-posts, which were adorned with evergreens and blossoms, and anointed with the fat of wolves to avert enchantment.

In M. Barthélemi’s ‘Travels of Young Anacharsis’ the author, describing a marriage ceremony in the Island of Delos, says that the inhabitants of the island assembled at daybreak, crowned with flowers; flowers were strewn in the path of the bride and bridegroom; and the house was garlanded with them. Singers and dancers appeared crowned with Oak, Myrtles, and Hawthorn. The bride and bridegroom were crowned with Poppies, and upon their approach to the temple, a priest received them at the entrance, and presented to each a branch of Ivy—a symbol of the tie which was to unite them for ever.[6]

At Indian nuptials, the wedding wreath, the varamâlâ, united bride and bridegroom. At the marriage feasts of the Persians, a little tree is introduced, the branches of which are laden with fruit: the guests endeavour to pluck these without the bridegroom perceiving them; if successful, the latter has to make them a present; if, however, a guest fails, he has to give the bridegroom a hundred times the value of the object he sought to remove from the tree.

In Germany, among the inhabitants of Oldenburg, there exists a curious wedding custom. When the bridegroom quits his father’s roof to settle in some other town or village, he has his bed linen embroidered at the corners with flowers surmounted by a tree, on whose branches are perched cock birds: on each side of the tree are embroidered the bridegroom’s initials. In many European countries it is customary to plant before the house of a newly-married couple, one or two trees, as a symbol of the good luck wished them by their friends.

Floral Games and Festivals.

Floral games have for many years been held at Toulouse, Barcelona, Tortosi, and other places; but the former are the most famed, both on account of their antiquity and the value of the prizes distributed during the fêtes. The ancient city of Toulouse had formerly a great reputation for literature, which had, however, been allowed to decline until the visit of Charles IV. and his bride determined the capitouls or chief magistrates to make an effort to restore its prestige as the centre of Provençal song. Troubadours there were who, banded together in a society, met in the garden of the Augustine monks to recite their songs, sirventes, and ballads; and in order to foster the latent taste for poetry, the capitouls invited the poets of the Langue d’oc, to compete for a golden Violet to be awarded to the author of the best poem produced on May 4th, 1324. The competition created the greatest excitement, and great numbers of people met to hear the judges’ decision: they awarded the golden Violet to Arnaud Vidal for his poem in honour of the Virgin. In 1355, three prizes were offered—a golden Violet for the best song; an Eglantine (Spanish Jasmine), for the best sirvente, or finest pastoral; and a Flor-de-gang (yellow Acacia) for the best ballad. In later years four prizes were competed for, viz., an Amaranth, a Violet, a Pansy, and a Lily. In 1540, Clemence Isaure, a poetess, bequeathed the bulk of her fortune to the civic authorities to be expended in prizes for poetic merits, and in fêtes to be held on the 1st and 3rd of May. She was interred in the church of La Daurade, on the high altar of which are preserved the golden flowers presented to the successful competitors at the Floral Games. The ceremonies of the fêtes thus revived by Clemence Isaure commenced with the strewing of her tomb with Roses, followed by mass, a sermon, and alms-giving. In 1694, the Jeux Floraux were merged into the Academy of Belles Lettres, which gives prizes, but almost exclusively to French poets. The festival, interrupted by the Revolution, was once more revived in 1806, and is still held annually in the Hotel-de-Ville, Toulouse.

St. Medard, Bishop of Noyon, in France, instituted in the sixth century a festival at Salency, his birth-place, for adjudging a most interesting prize offered by piety to virtue. This prize consists of a simple crown of Roses bestowed on the girl who is acknowledged by all her competitors to be the most amiable, modest, and dutiful. The founder of this festival had the pleasure of crowning his own sister as the first Rosiere of Salency. This simple institution still survives, and the crown of Roses continues to be awarded to the most virtuous of the maidens of the obscure French village. A similar prize is awarded in the East of London by an active member of the Roman Catholic Church—the ceremony of crowning the Rose Queen being performed annually in the Crystal Palace at Sydenham.

In the middle ages the Queen of Flowers contributed to a singular popular festival at Treviso, in Italy. In the middle of the city the inhabitants erected a mock castle of upholstery. The most distinguished unmarried females of the place defended the fortress, which was attacked by the youth of the other sex. The missiles with which both parties fought consisted of Roses, Lilies, Narcissi, Violets, Apples, and Nuts, which were hurled at each other by the combatants. Volleys of Rose-water and other perfumes were also discharged by means of syringes. This entertainment attracted thousands of spectators from far and near, and the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa himself accounted it a most pleasing diversion.

The custom of pelting with Roses is still common in Persia, where it is practised during the whole season that these flowers are blooming. A company of young men repair to the places of public entertainment to amuse the guests with music, singing, and dancing, and in their way through the streets they pelt the passengers whom they meet with Roses, and generally receive a small gratuity in return.

Striking features of the Japanese festival on New Year’s Day are the decorations erected in front of nearly every door, of which Mr. Dixon tells us the principal objects are, on the right a Pinus densiflora, on the left a P. Thunbergius, both standing upright: the former is supposed to be of the female and the latter of the male sex, and both symbolise a robust age that has withstood the storms and trials of life. Immediately behind each of the Pines is a Bamboo, the straight stem of which, with the knots marking its growth, indicates hale life and fulness of years. A straw rope of about six feet in length connects the Bamboos seven or more feet from the ground, thus completing the triumphal arch. In the centre of the rope (which is there to ward off evil spirits) is a group in which figures a scarlet lobster, the bent back of which symbolises old age: this is embedded in branches of the Melia Japonica, the older leaves of which still remain after the young ones have burst forth. So may the parents continue to flourish while children and grandchildren spring forth! Another plant in the central group is the Polypodium dicotomon, a Fern which is regarded as a symbol of conjugal life, because the fronds spring in pairs from the stem. There are also bunches of seaweed, which have local significance, and a lucky bag, filled with roasted Chesnuts, the seeds of the Torreya nucifera, and the dried fruit of the Kaki.

Garlands, Chaplets, and Wreaths.

All the nations of antiquity—Indians, Chinese, Medes, Persians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Egyptians, Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans—were accustomed to deck themselves, their altars, and their dwellings with flowers, and to weave chaplets and garlands of leaves and blossoms. In the Vedic Vishnupurâna, the sage Durvâsas (one of the names of Siva, the destroyer), receives of the goddess Srî (the Indian Venus) a garland of flowers gathered from the trees of heaven. Proceeding on his way, he meets the god Indra, seated on an elephant, and to pay him homage he places on his brow the garland, to which the bees fly in order to suck the ambrosia. The Persians were fond of wearing on their heads crowns made of Myrrh and a sweet-smelling plant called Labyzus. Antiochus Epiphanes, the Syrian king, once held some games at Daphne, to which thousands of guests were invited, who, after being richly feasted, were sent away with crowns of Myrrh and Frankincense. Josephus, in his history of the Jews, has recorded the use of crowns in the time of Moses, and on certain occasions the mitre of the High Priest was adorned with a chaplet of Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger). Wreaths and chaplets were in common use among the Egyptians at a very early period; and although the Lotus was principally preferred in their formation, many other flowers and leaves were employed—as of the Chrysanthemum, Acinos, Acacia, Strychnos, Persoluta, Anemone, Convolvulus, Olive, Myrtle, Amaracus, Xeranthemum, Bay-tree, and others. Plutarch says that when Agesilaus visited Egypt, he was so delighted with the chaplets of Papyrus sent him by the King, that he took some home when he returned to Sparta. In India, Greece, and Rome, the sacrificial priests were crowned, and their victims were decorated with garlands of flowers.

In ancient Greece and Rome the manufacture of garlands and chaplets became quite an art, so great was the estimation in which these adornments were held by these highly-civilised nations. With them the composition of a garland possessed a deep significance, and warriors, statesmen, and poets alike coveted these simple insignia at the hands of their countrymen. Pliny tells us that the Sicyonians were considered to surpass all other people in the art of arranging the colours of garlands and imparting to them the most agreeable mixture of perfumes. They derived this taste from Glycera, a woman so skilled in the art of arranging chaplets and garlands that she won the affection of Pausias, a celebrated painter, who delighted in copying the wreaths of flowers so deftly arranged by his mistress. Some of these pictures were still in existence when Pliny wrote, four hundred and fifty years after they were painted. Cato, in his treatise on gardens, directs specially that they should be planted with such flowers as are adapted for chaplets and wreaths. Pliny states that Mnestheus and Callimachus, two renowned Greek physicians, compiled several books on the virtues of chaplets, pointing out those hurtful to the brain, as well as those which had a beneficial influence on the wearer; for both Greeks and Romans had found, by experience, that certain plants and flowers facilitated the functions of the brain, and assisted materially to neutralise the inebriating qualities of wine. Thus, as Horace tells us, the floral chaplets worn by guests at feasts were tied with the bark of the Linden to prevent intoxication.

“I tell thee, boy, that I detest
The grandeur of a Persian feast;
Nor for me the binder’s rind
Shall no flow’ry chaplet bind.
Then search not where the curious Rose,
Beyond his season loitering grows;
But beneath the mantling Vine,
While I quaff the flowing wine,
The Myrtle’s wreath shall crown our brows,
While you shall wait and I carouse.”

Besides the guests at feasts, the attendants were decorated with wreaths, and the wine-cups and apartments adorned with flowers. From an anecdote related by Pliny we learn that it was a frequent custom, common to both Greeks and Romans, to mix the flowers of their chaplets in their wine, when they pledged the healths of their friends. Cleopatra, to ridicule the mistrust of Antony, who would never eat or drink at her table without causing his taster to test every viand, lest any should be poisoned, commanded a chaplet of flowers to be prepared for the Roman General, the edges of which were dipped in the most deadly poison, whilst that which was woven for her own brow was, as usual, mixed with aromatic spices. At the banquet Antony received his coronet of flowers, and when they had become cheerful through the aid of Bacchus, Cleopatra pledged him in wine, and taking off the wreath from her head, and rubbing the blossoms into her goblet, drank off the contents. Antony was following her example, but just as he had raised the fatal cup to his lips, the Queen seized his arm, exclaiming, “Cure your jealous fears, and learn that I should not have to seek the means of your destruction, could I live without you.” She then ordered a prisoner to be brought before them, who, on drinking the wine from Antony’s goblet, instantly expired in their presence.

The Romans wore garlands at sacred rites, games and festivals, on journeys and in war. When an army was freed from a blockade its deliverer was presented with a crown composed of the Grass growing on the spot. In modern heraldry, this crown of Grass is called the Crown Obsidional, and appertains to the general who has held a fortress against a besieging army and ultimately relieved it from the assailants. To him who had saved the life of a Roman soldier was given a chaplet of Oak-leaves: this is the modern heraldic civic crown bestowed on a brave soldier who has saved the life of a comrade or has rescued him after having been taken prisoner by the enemy. The glories of all grand deeds were signalized by the crown of Laurel among both Greeks and Romans. This is the heraldic Crown Triumphant, adjudged in our own times to a general who has achieved a signal victory. The Romans were not allowed by law to appear in festal garlands on ordinary occasions. Hence Cæsar valued most highly the privilege accorded him by the Senate of wearing a Laurel crown, because it screened his baldness, which, both by the Romans and Jews, was considered a deformity. This crown was generally composed of the Alexandrian Laurel (Ruscus Hypoglossum)—the Laurel usually depicted on busts and coins. The victors at the athletic games were adjudged crowns differing in their composition according to the place in which they had won their honours. Thus, crowns of

Olive were given at the Olympic games.
Beech, Laurel, or Palm were given at the Pythian games.
Parsley were given at the Nemean games.
Pine were given at the Isthmian games.

It is not too much to say that Greeks and Romans employed garlands, wreaths, and festoons of flowers on every possible occasion; they adorned with them the sacrificial victims, the statue of the god to whom sacrifice was offered, and the priest who performed the rite. They placed chaplets on the brows of the dead, and strewed their graves with floral wreaths, whilst at their funeral feasts the parents of the departed one encircled their heads with floral crowns. They threw them to the successful actors on the stage. They hung with garlands the gates of their cities on days of rejoicing. They employed floral wreaths at their nuptials. Nearly all the plants composing these wreaths had a symbolical meaning, and they were varied according to the seasons and the circumstances of the wearer. The Hawthorn adorned Grecian brides; but the bridal wreath of the Romans was usually composed of Verbena, plucked by the bride herself. Holly wreaths were sent as tokens of good wishes. Chaplets of Parsley and Rue were worn to keep off evil spirits.

But the employment of garlands has by no means been confined to the ancients. At the present day the inhabitants of India make constant use of them. The Brahmin women, who burn themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands, deck their persons with chaplets and garlands, and present wreaths to the young women who attend them at this terrible sacrifice. The young Indian girls adorn themselves with garlands during the festival of Kâmadeva, the god of love, which takes place during the last days of spring. In the nuptial ceremonies of India, the garland of flowers is still a feature which possesses a recognised symbolic value. In Northern India garlands of the African Marigold are placed on the trident emblem of Mahâdeva, and both male and female worshippers wear chaplets composed of the same sacred flower on his festivals. The Moo-le-hua, a fragrant Jasmine, is employed in China and other Eastern countries in forming wreaths for the decoration of ladies’ hair, and an Olive crown is still the reward of literary merit in China. The Japanese of both sexes are fond of wearing wreaths of fragrant blossoms.

The Italians have artificers called Festaroli, whose especial office it is to manufacture garlands and festoons of flowers and other decorations for feasts. The maidens of Greece, Germany, and Roumania still bear wreaths of flowers in certain processions which have long been customary in the spring of the year. The Swiss peasants are fond of making garlands, for rural festivities, of the Globe-flower (Trollius Europæus), which grows freely on all the chain of the Alps. In Germany a wreath of Vervain is presented to the newly-married, and in place of the wreath of Orange-blossoms which decorates the brow of the bride in England, France, and America, a chaplet of Myrtle is worn. The blossom of the Bizarade or bitter Orange is most prized for wreaths and favours when the fresh flowers can be procured.

Plants of the Christian Church.

CHAPTER V.

Plants of the Christian Church.

After Rome Pagan became Rome Christian, the priests of the Church of Christ recognised the importance of utilising the connexion which existed between plants and the old pagan worship, and bringing the floral world into active co-operation with the Christian Church by the institution of a floral symbolism which should be associated not only with the names of saints, but also with the Festivals of the Church.

But it was more especially upon the Virgin Mary that the early Church bestowed their floral symbolism. Mr. Hepworth Dixon, writing of those quiet days of the Virgin’s life, passed purely and tenderly among the flowers of Nazareth, says—“Hearing that the best years of her youth and womanhood were spent, before she yet knew grief, on this sunny hill and side slope, her feet being for ever among the Daisies, Poppies, and Anemones, which grow everywhere about, we have made her the patroness of all our flowers. The Virgin is our Rose of Sharon—our Lily of the Valley. The poetry no less than the piety of Europe has inscribed to her the whole bloom and colouring of the fields and hedges.”

The choicest flowers were wrested from the classic Juno, Venus, and Diana, and from the Scandinavian Bertha and Freyja, and bestowed upon the Madonna, whilst floral offerings of every sort were laid upon her shrines.

Her husband, Joseph, has allotted to him a white Campanula, which in Bologna is known as the little Staff of St. Joseph. In Tuscany the name of St. Joseph’s staff is given to the Oleander: a legend recounts that the good Joseph possessed originally only an ordinary staff, but that when the angel announced to him that he was destined to be the husband of the Virgin Mary, he became so radiant with joy, that his very staff flowered in his hand.

Before our Saviour’s birth, the Virgin Mary, strongly desiring to refresh herself with some luscious cherries that were hanging in clusters upon the branch of a tree, asked Joseph to gather some for her. He hesitated, and mockingly said—“Let the father of thy child present them to you.” Instantly the branch of the Cherry-tree inclined itself to the Virgin’s hand, and she plucked from it the refreshing fruit. On this account the Cherry has always been dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Strawberry, also, is specially set apart to the Virgin’s use; and in the Isle of Harris a species of Beans, called Molluka Beans, are called, after her, the Virgin Mary’s Nuts.

At Bethlehem, the manger in which the Infant Jesus was laid after His birth was filled with Our Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum). Some few drops of the Virgin’s milk fell upon a Thistle, which from that time has had its leaves spotted with white, and is known as Our Lady’s Thistle (Carduus Marianus). In Germany the Polypodium vulgare, which grows in clefts of rocks, is believed to have sprung from the milk of the Virgin (in ancient times from Freyja’s milk). The Pulmonaria is also known as Unser Frauen Milch (Our Lady’s Milk).

When, after the birth of Jesus, His parents fled into Egypt, traditions record that in order that the Virgin might conceal herself and the infant Saviour from the assassins sent out by Herod, various trees opened, or stretched their branches and enlarged their leaves. As the Juniper is dedicated to the Virgin, the Italians consider that it was a tree of that species which thus saved the mother and child, and the Juniper is supposed to possess the power of driving away evil spirits and of destroying magical spells. The Palm, the Willow, and the Rosemary have severally been named as having afforded their shelter to the fugitives. On the other hand, the Lupine, according to a tradition still current among the Bolognese, received the maledictions of the Virgin Mary because, during the flight, certain plants of this species, by the noise they made, drew the attention of the soldiers of Herod to the spot where the harassed travellers had halted.

During the flight into Egypt a legend relates that certain precious bushes sprang up by the fountain where the Virgin washed the swaddling clothes of her Divine babe. These bushes were produced by the drops of water which fell from the clothes, and from which germinated a number of little plants, each yielding precious balm. Wherever the Holy Family rested in their flight sprang up the Rosa Hierosolymitana—the Rosa Mariæ, or Rose of the Virgin. Near the city of On there was shown for many centuries the sacred Fig-tree under which the Holy Family rested. They also, according to Bavarian tradition, rested under a Hazel.

Plants of the Virgin Mary.

In Tuscany there grows on walls a rootless little pellitory (Parietaria), with tiny pale-pink flowers and small leaves. They gather it on the morning of the Feast of the Ascension, and suspend it on the walls of bed-rooms till the day of the Nativity of the Virgin (8th September), from which it derives its name—the Herb of the Madonna. It generally opens its flowers after it has been gathered, retaining sufficient sap to make it do so. This opening of a cut flower is regarded by the peasantry as a token of the special blessing of the Virgin. Should the flower not open, it is taken as an omen of the Divine displeasure. In the province of Bellune, in Italy, the Matricaria Parthenium is called the Herb of the Blessed Mary: this flower was formerly consecrated to Minerva.

In Denmark, Norway, and Iceland, they give the name of Mariengras (Herb of Mary) to different Ferns, and in those countries Mary often replaces the goddess Freyja, the Venus of the North, in the names of flowers. No doubt the monks of old delighted in bestowing upon the Virgin Mary the floral attributes of Venus, Freyja, Isis, and other goddesses of the heathen; but, nevertheless, it is not long since that a Catholic writer complained that at the Reformation “the very names of plants were changed in order to divert men’s minds from the least recollection of ancient Christian piety;” and a Protestant writer of the last century, bewailing the ruthless action of the Puritans in giving to the “Queen of Beauty” flowers named after the “Queen of Heaven,” says: “Botany, which in ancient times was full of the Blessed Virgin Mary, … is now as full of the heathen Venus.”

Amongst the titles of honour given to the Virgin in the ‘Ballad of Commendation of Our Lady,’ in the old editions of Chaucer, we find: “Benigne braunchlet of the Pine tree.”

In England “Lady” in the names of plants generally has allusion to Our Lady, Notre Dame, the Virgin Mary. Our Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris) is the Máríu Stakkr of Iceland, which insures repose when placed beneath the pillow. Scandix Pecten was Our Lady’s Comb, but in Puritan times was changed into Venus’ Comb. The Cardamine pratensis is Our Lady’s Smock; Neottia spiralis, Our Lady’s Tresses; Armeria vulgaris, Our Lady’s Cushion; Anthyllis vulneraria, Our Lady’s Fingers; Campanula hybrida, Our Lady’s Looking-glass; Cypripedium Calceolus, Our Lady’s Slipper; the Cowslip, Our Lady’s Bunch of Keys; Black Briony, Our Lady’s Seal (a name which has been transferred from Solomon’s Seal, of which the ‘Grete Herbal’ states, “It is al one herbe, Solomon’s Seale and Our Lady’s Seale”). Quaking Grass, Briza media, is Our Lady’s Hair; Maidenhair Fern, the Virgin’s Hair; Mary-golds (Calendula officinalis) and Mary-buds (Caltha palustris) are both named after the Virgin Mary. The Campanula and the Digitalis are in France the Gloves of Mary; the Nardus Celtica is by the Germans called Marienblumen; the White-flowered Wormwood is Unser Frauen Rauch (Smoke of Our Lady); Mentha spicata is in French, Menthe de Notre Dame—in German, Unser Frauen Müntz; the Costus hortensis, the Eupatorium, the Matricaria, the Gallitrichum sativum, the Tanacetum, the Persicaria, and a Parietaria are all, according to Bauhin, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The name of Our Lady’s Tears, or Larmes de Sainte Marie, has been given to the Lily of the Valley, as well as to the Lithospermon of Dioscorides, the Satyrium maculatum, and the Satyrium basilicum majus. The Narcissus Italicus is the Lily of Mary. The Toad Flax is in France Lin de Notre Dame, in Germany, Unser Frauen Flachs. The Dead-Nettle is Main de Sainte Marie. Besides the Alchemilla, the Leontopodium, the Drosera, and the Sanicula major are called on the Continent Our Lady’s Mantle. Woodroof, Thyme, Groundsel, and St. John’s Wort form the bed of Mary.

In Piedmont they give the name of the Herb of the Blessed Mary to a certain plant that the birds are reputed to carry to their young ones which have been stolen and imprisoned in cages, in order that it shall cause their death and thus deliver them from their slavery.

The Snowdrop is the Fair Maid of February, as being sacred to the Purification of the Virgin (February 2nd), when her image was removed from the altar and Snowdrops strewed in its place.

To the Madonna, in her capacity of Queen of Heaven, were dedicated the Almond, the White Iris, the White Lily, and the Narcissus, all appropriate to the Annunciation (March 25th). The Lily and White and Red Roses were assigned to the Visitation of Our Lady (July 2nd): these flowers are typical of the love and purity of the Virgin Mother. To the Feast of the Assumption (August 15th) is assigned the Virgin’s Bower (Clematis Flammula); to the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin (September 8th) the Amellus (Aster Amellus); and to the Conception (December 8th) the Arbor Vitæ.

St. Dominick instituted the “Devotion of the Rosary” of the Virgin Mary—a series of prayers, to mark the repetition of which a chaplet of beads is employed, which consists of fifteen large and one hundred and fifty small beads; the former representing the number of Pater Nosters, the latter the number of Ave Marias. As these beads were formerly made of Rose-leaves tightly pressed into round moulds, where real Roses were not strung together, this chaplet was called a Rosary, and was blessed by the Pope or some other holy person before being so used.

Valeriana sativa is in France called Herbe de Marie Magdaleine, in Germany Marien Magdalenen Kraut; the Pomegranate is the Pommier de Marie Magdaleine and Marien Magdalenen Apfel.

The Plants of Our Saviour.

We have seen that at the birth of Christ, the infant Jesus was laid on a manger containing Galium verum, at Bethlehem, a place commemorated by the Ornithogalum umbellatum, or Star of Bethlehem, the flowers of which resemble the pictures of the star that indicated the birth of Jesus. Whilst lying in the manger, a spray of the rose-coloured Sainfoin, says a French legend, was found among the dried grass and herbs which served for His bed. Suddenly the Sainfoin began to expand its delicate blossoms, and to the astonishment of Mary, formed a wreath around the head of the holy babe. In commemoration of the infant Saviour having laid on a manger, it is customary, in some parts of Italy, to deck mangers at Christmas time with Moss, Sow-Thistle, Cypress, and prickly Holly: boughs of Juniper are also used for Christmas decorations, because tradition affirms that the Virgin and Child found safety amongst its branches when pursued by Herod’s mercenaries. The Juniper is also believed to have furnished the wood of the Cross on which Jesus was crucified.

At Christmas, according to an ancient pious tradition, all the plants rejoice. In commemoration of the birth of our Saviour, in countries nearer His birthplace than England, the Apple, Cherry, Carnation, Balm, Rose of Jericho, and Rose of Mariastem (in Alsatia), burst forth into blossom at Christmas, whilst in our own land the day is celebrated by the blossoming of the Glastonbury Thorn, sprung from St. Joseph’s staff, and the flowering of the Christmas Rose, or Christ’s Herb, known in France as la Rose de Noel, and in Germany as Christwurzel.

On Good Friday, in remembrance of the Passion of our Lord, all the trees, says the legend, shudder and tremble. The Swedes and Scotch have a tradition that Christ was scourged with a rod of the dwarf Birch, which was once a noble tree, but has ever since remained stunted and lowly. It is called Láng Fredags ris, or Good Friday rod. There is another legend extant, which states that the rod with which Christ was scourged was cut from a Willow, and that the trees of its species have drooped their branches to the earth in grief and shame from that time, and have, consequently, borne the name of Weeping Willows.

The Crown of Thorns.

Sir J. Maundevile, who visited the Holy Land in the fourteenth century, has recorded that he had many times seen the identical crown of Thorns worn by Jesus Christ, one half of which was at Constantinople and the other half at Paris, where it was religiously preserved in a vessel of crystal in the King’s Chapel. This crown Maundevile says was of “Jonkes of the see, that is to sey, Rushes of the see, that prykken als scharpely as Thornes;” he further adds that he had been presented with one of the precious thorns, which had fallen off into the vessel, and that it resembled a White Thorn. The old traveller gives the following circumstantial account of our Lord’s trial and condemnation, from which it would appear that Jesus was first crowned with White Thorn, then with Eglantine, and finally with Rushes of the sea. He writes:—“In that nyghte that He was taken, He was ylad into a gardyn; and there He was first examyned righte scharply; and there the Jewes scorned Him, and maden Him a croune of the braunches of Albespyne, that is White Thorn, that grew in the same gardyn, and setten it on His heved, so faste and so sore, that the blood ran doun be many places of His visage, and of His necke, and of His schuldres. And therefore hathe the White Thorn many vertues; for he that berethe a braunche on him thereoffe, no thondre, ne no maner of tempest may dere him; ne in the hows that it is inne may non evylle gost entre ne come unto the place that it is inne. And in that same gardyn Seynt Petre denyed oure Lord thryes. Aftreward was oure Lord lad forthe before the bischoppes and the maystres of the lawe, in to another gardyn of Anne; and there also He was examyned, repreved, and scorned, and crouned eft with a White Thorn, that men clepethe Barbarynes, that grew in that gardyn; and that hathe also manye vertues. And afterward He was lad into a gardyn of Cayphas, and there He was crouned with Eglentier. And aftre He was lad in to the chambre of Pylate, and there He was examynd and crouned. And the Jewes setten Hym in a chayere and cladde Hym in a mantelle; and there made thei the croune of Jonkes of the see; and there thei kneled to Hym, and skorned Hym, seyenge: ‘Heyl, King of the Jewes!’”

Relics of the Crucifixion. From Maundevile’s Travels.
Relics of the Crucifixion. From Maundevile’s Travels.

The illustration represents the Crown of Thorns, worn by our Saviour, his coat without seams, called tunica inconsutilis; the sponge; the reed by means of which the Jews gave our Lord vinegar and gall; and one of the nails wherewith He was fastened to the Cross. All these relics Maundevile tells us he saw at Constantinople.

Of what particular plant was composed the crown of Thorns which the Roman soldiers plaited and placed on the Saviour’s head, has long been a matter of dispute. Gerarde says it was the Paliurus aculeatus, a sharp-spined shrub, which he calls Christ’s Thorn; and the old herbalist quotes Bellonius, who had travelled in the Holy Land, and who stated that this shrubby Thorn was common in Judea, and that it was “The Thorne wherewith they crowned our Saviour Christ.” The melancholy distinction has, however, been variously conferred on the Buckthorns, Rhamnus Spina Christi and R. Paliurus; the Boxthorn, the Barberry, the Bramble, the Rose-briar, the Wild Hyssop, the Acanthus, or Brank-ursine, the Spartium villosum, the Holly (called in Germany, Christdorn), the Acacia, or Nabkha of the Arabians, a thorny plant, very suitable for the purpose, since its flexible twigs could be twisted into a chaplet, and its small but pointed thorns would cause terrible wounds; and, in France, the Hawthorn—the épine noble. The West Indian negroes state that Christ’s crown was composed of a branch of the Cashew-tree, and that in consequence one of the golden petals of its blossom became black and blood-stained.

The Reed Mace (Typha latifolia) is generally represented as the reed placed, in mockery, by the soldiers in the Saviour’s right hand.

The Wood of the Cross.

According to the legend connected with the Tree of Adam, the wood of the Cross on which our Lord was crucified was Cedar—a beam hewn from a tree which incorporated in itself the essence of the Cedar, the Cypress, and the Olive (the vegetable emblems of the Holy Trinity). Curzon, in his ‘Monasteries of the Levant,’ gives a tradition that the Cedar was cut down by Solomon, and buried on the spot afterwards called the Pool of Bethesda; that about the time of the Passion of our Blessed Lord the wood floated, and was used by the Jews for the upright posts of the Cross. Another legend makes the Cross of four kinds of wood representing the four quarters of the globe, or all mankind: it is not, however, agreed what those four kinds of wood were, or their respective places in the Cross. Some say they were the Palm, the Cedar, the Olive, and the Cypress; hence the line—

“Ligna crucis Palma, Cedrus, Cupressus, Oliva.”

In place of the Palm or the Olive, some claim the mournful honour for the Pine and the Box; whilst there are others who aver it was made entirely of Oak. Another account states the wood to have been the Aspen, and since that fatal day its leaves have never ceased trembling with horror.

“Far off in Highland wilds ’tis said
That of this tree the Cross was made.”

In some parts of England it is believed that the Elder was the unfortunate tree; and woodmen will look carefully into the faggots before using them for fuel, in case any of this wood should be bound up in them. The gipsies entertain the notion that the Cross was made of Ash; the Welsh that the Mountain Ash furnished the wood. In the West of England there is a curious tradition that the Cross was made of Mistletoe, which, until the time of our Saviour’s death, had been a goodly forest tree, but was condemned henceforth to become a mere parasite.

Sir John Maundevile asserts that the Cross was made of Palm, Cedar, Cypress, and Olive, and he gives the following curious account of its manufacture:—“For that pece that wente upright fro the erthe to the heved was of Cypresse; and the pece that wente overthwart to the wiche his honds weren nayled was of Palme; and the stock that stode within the erthe, in the whiche was made the morteys, was of Cedre; and the table aboven his heved, that was a fote and an half long, on the whiche the title was written, in Ebreu, Grece, and Latyn, that was of Olyve. And the Jewes maden the Cros of theise 4 manere of trees: for thei trowed that oure Lord Jesu Crist scholde han honged on the Cros als longe as the Cros myghten laste. And therfore made thei the foot of the Cros of Cedre: for Cedre may not in erthe ne in watre rote. And therfore thei wolde that it scholde have lasted longe. For thei trowed that the body of Crist scholde have stonken; therfore thei made that pece that went from the erthe upward, of Cypres: for it is welle smellynge, so that the smelle of His body scholde not greve men that wenten forby. And the overthwart pece was of Palme: for in the Olde Testament it was ordyned that whan on overcomen, He scholde be crowned with Palme. And the table of the tytle thei maden of Olyve; for Olyve betokenethe pes. And the storye of Noe wytnessethe whan that the culver broughte the braunche of Olyve, that betokend pes made betwene God and man. And so trowed the Jewes for to have pes whan Crist was ded: for thei seyd that He made discord and strif amonges hem.”

Plants of the Crucifixion.

In Brittany the Vervain is known as the Herb of the Cross. John White, writing in 1624, says of it—

“Hallow’d be thou Vervain, as thou growest in the ground,
For in the Mount of Calvary thou first was found.
Thou healedst our Saviour Jesus Christ
And staunchedst His bleeding wound.
In the name of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I take thee from the ground.”

In the Flax-fields of Flanders, there grows a plant called the Roodselken, the red spots on the leaves of which betoken the blood which fell on it from the Cross, and which neither rain nor snow has since been able to wash off. In Cheshire a similar legend is attached to the Orchis maculata, which is there called Gethsemane.

“Those deep unwrought marks,
The villager will tell thee,
Are the flower’s portion from the atoning blood
On Calvary shed. Beneath the Cross it grew.”

In Palestine there exists a notion that the red Anemone grew at the foot of the Cross, and hence the flower bears the name of the “Blood-drops of Christ.” The Wood Sorrel is introduced in their paintings of the Crucifixion by the early Italian painters, perhaps as symbolizing the Trinity with its triple leaf.

Whilst wearily bearing His Cross on the way to Calvary, our Lord passed by the door of St. Veronica, who, with womanly compassion, wiped with her kerchief the drops of agony from His brow. The Redeemer’s features remained miraculously impressed on the linen, and from that time the flowers of the wayside Speedwell have ever borne a representation of the precious relic. In Brittany it is said that whilst Christ was bearing His Cross a little robin took from His mocking crown one of the thorns, steeped in His blood, which dyed the robin’s breast; henceforth the robin has always been the friend of man.

“Bearing His cross, while Christ passed forth forlorn,
His God-like forehead by the mock crown torn,
A little bird took from that crown one thorn,
To soothe the dear Redeemer’s throbbing head,
That bird did what she could; His blood, ’tis said,
Down dropping, dyed her bosom red.”—J. H. Abrahall.

The early Spanish settlers of South America saw in the Flor de las cinco llagas, the Flower of the Five Wounds, or Passion Flower, a marvellous floral emblem of the mysteries of Christ’s Passion, and the Jesuits eagerly adopted it as likely to prove useful in winning souls to their faith. An old legend, probably of monkish origin, recounts the emotions of plants on the death of the Saviour of mankind.

  • The Pine of Damascus said:—As a sign of mourning, from this day my foliage will remain sombre, and I will dwell in solitary places.
  • The Willow of Babylon.—My branches shall henceforth incline towards the waters of the Euphrates, and there shed the tears of the East.
  • The Vine of Sorrento.—My grapes shall be black, and the wine that shall flow from my side shall be called Lacryma Christi.
  • The Cypress of Carmel.—I will be the guest of the tombs, and the testimony of grief.
  • The Yew.—I will be the guardian of graveyards. No bee shall pillage with impunity my poisoned flowers. No bird shall rest on my branches; for my exhalations shall give forth death.
  • The Iris of Susa.—Henceforth I will wear perpetual mourning, in covering with a violet veil my golden chalice.
  • The Day Lily.—I will shut every evening my sweet-smelling corolla, and will only re-open it in the morning with the tears of the night.

In the midst of these lamentations of the flowers the Poplar alone held himself upright, cold, and arrogant as a free-thinker. As a punishment for this pride, from that day forth, at the least breath of wind it trembles in all its limbs. Revolutionists have, therefore, made it the Tree of Liberty.

The Tree of Judas Iscariot.

In connection with the Crucifixion of our Lord many trees have had the ill-luck of bearing the name of the traitor Judas—the disciple who, after he had sold his Master, in sheer remorse and despair went and hanged himself on a tree.

The Tree of Judas. From Maundevile’s Travels.
The Tree of Judas. From Maundevile’s Travels.

The Fig, the Tamarisk, the Wild Carob, the Aspen, the Elder, and the Dog Rose have each in their turn been mentioned as the tree on which the suicide was committed. As regards the Fig, popular tradition affirms that the tree, after Judas had hung himself on it, never again bore fruit; that the Fig was the identical Fig-tree cursed by our Lord; and that all the wild Fig-trees sprang from this accursed tree. According to a Sicilian tradition, however, Judas did not hang himself on a Fig but on a Tamarisk-tree called Vruca (Tamarix Africana): this Vruca is now only a shrub, although formerly it was a noble tree; at the time of Judas’ suicide it was cursed by God, and thenceforth became a shrub, ill-looking, misshapen, and useless. In England, according to Gerarde, the wild Carob is the Judas-tree (Cercis Siliquastrum): this Arbor Judæ was in olden times known as the wild or foolish Cod. By many, however, the Elder has been supposed to be the fatal tree: thus we read in Piers Plowman’s ‘Vision’:—

“Judas he japed
With Jewen silver,
And sithen on an Eller
Hanged hymselve.”

Sir John Maundevile, from whose work the foregoing illustration has been copied, corroborates this view; for he tells us that in his day there stood in the vicinity of Mount Sion “the tree of Eldre, that Judas henge him self upon, for despeyr.”

A Russian proverb runs:—“There is an accursed tree which trembles without even a breath of wind,” in allusion to the Aspen (Populus tremula); and in the Ukraine they say that the leaves of this tree have quivered and shaken since the day that Judas hung himself on it.

The Plants of St. John.

Popular tradition associates St. John the Baptist with numerous marvels of the plant world. St. John was supposed to have been born at midnight; and on the eve of his anniversary, precisely at twelve o’clock, the Fern blooms and seeds, and this wondrous seed, gathered at that moment, renders the possessor invisible: thus, in Shakspeare’s Henry IV., Gadshill says: “We have the receipt of Fern-seed, we walk invisible.”

The Fairies, commanded by their queen, and the demons, commanded by Satan, engage in fierce combats at this mysterious time, for the possession of the invisible seed.

In Russia, on St. John’s Eve, they seek the flower of the Paporot (Aspidium Filix mas), which flowers only at the precise moment of midnight, and will enable the lucky gatherer, who has watched it flower, to realise all his desires, to discover hidden treasures, and to recover cattle stolen or strayed. In the Ukraine it is thought that the gatherer of the Fern-flower will be endowed with supreme wisdom.

The Russian peasants also gather, on the night of the Vigil of St. John, the Tirlic, or Gentiana Amarella, a plant much sought after by witches, and only to be gathered by those who have been fortunate enough first to have found the Plakun (Lythrum Salicaria), which must be gathered on the morning of St. John, without using a knife or other instrument in uprooting it. This herb the Russians hold to be very potent against witches, bad spirits, and the evil eye. A cross cut from the root of the Plakun, and worn on the person, causes the wearer to be feared as much as fire. Another herb which should be gathered on St. John’s Eve is the Hieracium Pilosella, called in Germany Johannisblut (blood of St. John): it brings good-luck, but must be uprooted with a gold coin.

In many countries, before the break of day on St. John’s morning, the dew which has fallen on vegetation is gathered with great care. This dew is justly renowned, for it purifies all the noxious plants and imparts to certain others a fabulous power. By some it is treasured because it is believed to preserve the eyes from all harm during the succeeding year. In Venetia the dew is reputed to renew the roots of the hair on the baldest of heads. It is collected in a small phial, and a herb called Basilica is placed in it. In Normandy and the Pyrenees it is used as a wash to purify the skin; in Brittany it is thought that, thus used, it will drive away fever; and in Italy, Roumania, Sweden, and Iceland it is believed to soften and beautify the complexion. In Egypt the nucta or miraculous drop falls before sunrise on St. John’s Day, and is supposed to have the effect of stopping the plague. In Sicily they gather the Hypericum perforatum, or Herb of St. John, and put it in oil, which is by this means transformed into a balm infallible for the cure of wounds.

In Spain garlands of flowers are plucked in the early morn of St. John’s Day, before the dew has been dried by the sun, and a favourite wether is decked with them, the village lasses singing—

“Come forth, come forth, my maidens, we’ll gather Myrtle boughs,
And we shall learn from the dews of the Fern if our lads will keep their vows:
If the wether be still, as we dance on the hill, and the dew hangs sweet on the flowers,
Then we’ll kiss off the dew, for our lovers are true, and the Baptist’s blessing is ours.”

The populace of Madrid were long accustomed, on St. John’s Eve, to wander about the fields in search of Vervain, from a superstitious notion that this plant possesses preternatural powers when gathered at twelve o’clock on St. John’s Eve.

In some parts of Russia the country people heat their baths on the Eve of St. John and place in them the herb Kunalnitza (Ranunculus); in other parts they place herbs, gathered on the same anniversary, upon the roofs of houses and stables, as a safeguard against evil spirits. The French peasantry rub the udders of their cows with similar herbs, to ensure plenty of milk, and place them over the doorways of cattle sheds and stables.

On the Eve of St. John, Lilies, Orpine, Fennel, and every variety of Hypericum are hung over doors and windows. Garlands of Vervain and Flax are also suspended inside houses; but the true St. John’s garland is composed of seven elements, namely white Lilies, green Birch, Fennel, Hypericum, Wormwood, and the legs of game birds: these are believed to have immense power against evil spirits. After daybreak on St. John’s Day it is dangerous to pluck herbs; the gatherer running the risk of being afflicted with cancer.

According to Bauhin, the following plants are consecrated to St. John:—First and specially the Hypericum, or perforated St. John’s Wort, the fuga dæmonum, or devil’s flight, so named from the virtue ascribed to it of frightening away evil spirits, and acting as a charm against witchcraft, enchantment, storms, and thunder. It is also called Tutsan, or All-heal, from its virtues in curing all kinds of wounds; and Sanguis hominis, because of the blood-red juice of its flowers.

The leaves of the common St. John’s Wort are marked with blood-like spots, which alway appear on the 29th of August, the day on which the Baptist was beheaded. The “Flower of St. John” is the Chrysanthemum (Corn Marigold), or, according to others, the Buphthalmus (Ox-Eye) or the Anacyclus. Grapes of St. John are Currants. The Belt or Girdle of St. John is Wormwood. The Herbs of St. John comprise also Mentha sarracenica or Costus hortensis; Gallithricum sativum or Centrum galli or Orminum sylvestre; in Picardy Abrotanum (a species of Southernwood); and, according to others, the Androsæmon (Tutsan), the Scrophularia, and the Crassula major. The scarlet Lychnis Coronaria is said to be lighted up on his day, and was formerly called Candelabrum ingens. A species of nut is named after the Saint. The Carob is St. John’s Mead, so called because it is supposed to have supplied him with food in the wilderness, and to be the “locusts” mentioned in the Scriptures.

The festival of St. John would seem to be a favourite time with maidens to practice divination in their love affairs. On the eve of St. John, English girls set up two plants of Orpine on a trencher, one for themselves and the other for their lover; and they estimate the lover’s fidelity by his plant living and turning to theirs, or otherwise. They also gather a Moss-rose so soon as the dew begins to fall, and, taking it indoors, carefully keep it till New Year’s Eve, when, if the blossom is faded, it is a sign of the lover’s insincerity, but if it still retains its common colour, he is true. On this night, also, Hemp-seed is sown with certain mystic ceremonies. In Brittany, on the Saint’s Vigil, young men wearing bunches of green Wheat-ears, and lasses decked with Flax-blossoms, assemble round one of the old pillar-stones and dance round it, placing their wreath upon it. If it remains fresh for some time after, the lover is to be trusted, but should it wither within a day or two, so will the love prove but transient. In Sweden, on St. John’s Eve, young maidens arrange a bouquet composed of nine different flowers, among which the Hypericum, or St. John’s Wort, or the Ox-eye Daisy, St. John’s Flower, must be conspicuous. The flowers must be gathered from nine different places, and the posy be placed beneath the maiden’s pillow. Then he who she sees in her dreams will be sure soon to arrive.[7]

“The village maids mysterious tales relate
Of bright Midsummer’s sleepless nights; the Fern
That time sheds secret seeds; and they prepare
Untold-of rites, predictive of their fate:
Virgins in silent expectation watch
Exact at twelve’s propitious hour, to view
The future lover o’er the threshold pass;
Th’ inviting door wide spread, and every charm
Performed, while fond hope flutters in the breast,
And credulous fancy, painting his known form,
Kindles concordant to their ardent wish.”—Bidlake.

Flowers of the Saints.

In the dark ages the Catholic monks, who cultivated with assiduity all sorts of herbs and flowers in their monastic gardens, came in time to associate them with traditions of the Church, and to look upon them as emblems of particular saints. Aware, also, of the innate love of humanity for flowers, they selected the most popular as symbols of the Church festivals, and in time every flower became connected with some saint of the Calendar, either from blowing about the time of the saint’s day, or from being connected with him in some old legend.

St. Benedict’s herbs are the Avens, the Hemlock, and the Valerian, which were assigned to him as being antidotes; a legend of the saint relating that upon his blessing a cup of poisoned wine, which a monk had presented to him to destroy him, the glass was shivered to pieces. To St. Gerard was dedicated the Ægopodium Podagraria, because it was customary to invoke the saint against the gout, for which this plant was esteemed a remedy. St. Christopher has given his name to the Baneberry (Actæa spicata), the Osmund Fern (Osmunda regalis), the Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica), and, according to old herbalists, to several other plants, including Betonica officinalis, Vicia Cracca and Sepium, Gnaphalium germanicum, Spiræa ulmaria, two species of Wolf’s Bane. St. George has numerous plants named after or dedicated to him. In England his flower is the Harebell, but abroad the Peony is generally called after him. His name is also bestowed on the Lilium convallium. The Herb of St. George is the Valeriana sativa; his root, Dentaria major; his Violet, Leucoium luteum; his fruit, Cucumis agrestis. In Asia Minor the tree of St. George is the Carob. The Eryngium was dedicated to St. Francis under the name of St. Francis’s Thorn. Bunium flexuosum, is St. Anthony’s nut—a pig-nut, because he is the patron of pigs; and Senecio Jacobæa is St. James’s Wort (the saint of horses and colts)—used in veterinary practice. The Cowslip is dedicated to St. Peter, as Herb Peter of the old herbals, from some resemblance which it has to his emblem—a bunch of keys. As the patron of fishermen, Crithmum maritimum, which grows on sea-cliffs, was dedicated to this saint, and called in Italian San Pietro, in French Saint Pierre, and in English Samphire. Most of these saintly names were, however, given to the plants because their day of flowering is connected with the festival of the saint. Hence Hypericum guadrangulare is the St. Peter’s Wort of the modern floras, from its flowering on the 29th of June. The Daisy, as Herb Margaret, is popularly supposed to be dedicated to “Margaret that was so meek and mild;” probably from its blossoming about her day, the 22nd of February: in reality, however, the flower derived its name from St. Margaret of Cortona. Barbarea vulgaris, growing in the winter, is St. Barbara’s Cress, her day being the fourth of December, old style; and Centaurea solstitialis derives its Latin specific, and its popular name, St. Barnaby’s Thistle, from its flourishing on the longest day, the 11th of June, old style, which is now the 22nd. Nigella damascena, whose persistent styles spread out like the spokes of a wheel, is named Katharine’s flower, after St. Katharine, who suffered martyrdom on a wheel. The Cranesbill is called Herb Robert, in honour of St. Robert, Abbot of Molesme and founder of the Cistercian Order. The Speedwell is St. Paul’s Betony. Archangel is a name given to one umbelliferous and three labiate plants. An angel is said to have revealed the virtues of the plants in a dream. The umbelliferous plant, it has been supposed, has been named Angelica Archangelica, from its being in blossom on the 8th of May, old style, the Archangel St. Michael’s Day. Flowering on the fête day of such a powerful angel, the plant was supposed to be particularly useful as a preservative of men and women from evil spirits and witches, and of cattle from elfshot.

Roses are the special flowers of martyrs, and, according to a tradition, they sprang from the ashes of a saintly maiden of Bethlehem who perished at the stake. Avens (Geum urbanum) the Herba benedicta, or Blessed Herb, is a plant so blessed that no venomous beast will approach within scent of it; and, according to the author of the Ortus sanitatis, “where the root is in a house, the devil can do nothing, and flies from it, wherefore it is blessed above all other herbs.” The common Snowdrops are called Fair Maids of February. This name also, like the Saints’ names, arises from an ecclesiastical coincidence: their white flowers blossom about the second of February, when maidens, dressed in white, walked in procession at the Feast of the Purification.

The name of Canterbury Bells was given to the Campanula, in honour of St. Thomas of England, and in allusion probably to the horse-bells of the pilgrims to his shrine. Saxifraga umbrosa is both St. Patrick’s cabbage and St. Anne’s needlework; Polygonum Persicaria is the Virgin’s Pinch; Polytrichum commune, St. Winifred’s Hair; Myrrhis odorata, Sweet Cicely; Origanum vulgare, Sweet Margery; Oscinium Basilicum, Sweet Basil. Angelica sylvestris, the Root of the Holy Ghost; Hedge Hyssop, Cranesbill, and St. John’s Wort are all surnamed Grace of God; the Pansy, having three colours on one flower, is called Herb Trinity; the four-leaved Clover is an emblem of the Cross, and all cruciform flowers are deemed of good omen, having been marked with the sign of the Cross. The Hemp Agrimony is the Holy Rope, after the rope with which Christ was bound; and the Hollyhock is the Holy Hock (an old word for Mallow).

The feeling which inspired this identification of flowers and herbs with holy personages and festivals is gracefully expressed by a Franciscan in the following passage:—“Mindful of the Festivals which our Church prescribes, I have sought to make these objects of floral nature the timepieces of my religious calendar, and the mementos of the hastening period of my mortality. Thus I can light the taper to our Virgin Mother on the blowing of the white Snowdrop, which opens its flower at the time of Candlemas; the Lady’s Smock and the Daffodil remind me of the Annunciation; the blue Harebell, of the Festival of St. George; the Ranunculus, of the Invention of the Cross; the Scarlet Lychnis, of St. John the Baptist’s day; the white Lily, of the Visitation of our Lady; and the Virgin’s Bower, of the Assumption; and Michaelmas, Martinmas, Holy Rood, and Christmas have all their appropriate decorations.” In later times we find the Church’s Calendar of English flowers embodied in the following lines:—

“The Snowdrop, in purest white arraie,
First rears her hedde on Candlemass daie:
While the Crocus hastens to the shrine
Of Primrose lone on S. Valentine.
Then comes the Daffodil beside
Our Ladye’s Smock at our Ladye tide,
Aboute S. George, when blue is worn,
The blue Harebells the fields adorn;
Against the daie of the Holie Cross,
The Crowfoot gilds the flowrie grasse.
When S. Barnabie bright smiles night and daie,
Poor Ragged Robbin blooms in the hay.
The scarlet Lychnis, the garden’s pride,
Flames at S. John the Baptist’s tide;
From Visitation to S. Swithen’s showers,
The Lillie white reigns queen of the floures
And Poppies a sanguine mantle spread,
For the blood of the dragon S. Margaret shed,
Then under the wanton Rose agen,
That blushes for penitent Magdalen,
Till Lammas Daie, called August’s Wheel,
When the long Corn smells of Cammomile.
When Marie left us here belowe,
The Virgin’s Bower is full in blowe;
And yet anon the full Sunflower blew,
And became a starre for S. Bartholomew.
The Passion-flower long has blowed,
To betoken us signs of the holie rood:
The Michaelmass Dasie among dede weeds,
Blooms for S. Michael’s valorous deeds,
And seems the last of the floures that stood,
Till the feste of S. Simon and S. Jude;
Save Mushrooms and the Fungus race,
That grow till All Hallowtide takes place.
Soon the evergreen Laurel alone is green,
When Catherine crownes all learned menne;
Then Ivy and Holly berries are seen,
And Yule clog and wassail come round agen.”
Anthol. Bor. et Aus.

The Roman Catholics have compiled a complete list of flowers, one for every day in the year, in which each flower has been dedicated to a particular saint, usually for no better reason than because it bloomed about the date of the saint’s feast day. This Saints’ Floral Directory is to be found in extenso in Hone’s ‘Every-day Book.’ In the Anglican church the principal Festivals or Red Letter Days have each their appropriate flowers assigned them, as will be seen from the following table:—

  • DATE. SAINT. APPROPRIATE FLOWER.
  • Nov. 30. S. Andrew. S. Andrew’s Cross—Ascyrum Crux Andreæ.
  • Dec. 21. S. Thomas. Sparrow Wort—Erica passerina.
  • Dec. 25. Christmas. Holly—Ilex bacciflora.
  • Dec. 26. S. Stephen. Purple Heath—Erica purpurea.
  • Dec. 27. S. John Evan. Flame Heath—Erica flammea.
  • Dec. 28. Innocents. Bloody Heath—Erica cruenta.
  • Jan. 1. Circumcision. Laurustine—Viburnum tinus.
  • Jan. 6. Epiphany. Screw Moss—Tortula rigida.
  • Jan. 25. Conversion of S. Paul. Winter Hellebore—Helleborus hyemalis.
  • Feb. 2. Purification of B. V. M. Snowdrop—Galanthus nivalis.
  • Feb. 24. S. Matthias. Great Fern—Osmunda regalis.
  • Mar. 25. Annunciation of B. V. M. Marigold—Calendula officinalis.
  • Apr. 25. S. Mark. Clarimond Tulip—Tulipa præcox.
  • May 1. S. Philip and S. James. Tulip—Tulipa Gesneri, dedicated to S. Philip.
  • Red Campion—Lychnis dioica rubra.
  • Red Bachelor’s Buttons—Lychnis dioica plena, dedicated to S. James.
  • June 11. S. Barnabas. Midsummer Daisy—Chrysanthemum leucanthemum.
  • June 24. S. John Baptist. S. John’s Wort—Hypericum pulchrum.
  • June 29. S. Peter Yellow Rattle—Rhinanthus Galli.
  • July 25. S. James Herb Christopher—Actæa spicata.
  • Aug. 24. S. Bartholomew Sunflower—Helianthus annuus.
  • Sept. 21. S. Matthew Ciliated Passion-flower.—Passiflora ciliata.
  • Sept. 29. S. Michael. Michaelmas Daisy—Aster Tradescanti.
  • Oct. 18. S. Luke. Floccose Agaric—Agaricus floccosus.
  • Oct. 28. S. Simon and S. Jude Late Chrysanthemum—Chrysanthemum serotinum.
  • Scattered Starwort—Aster passiflorus, dedicated to S. Jude.
  • Nov. 1. All Saints. Amaranth.

In old church calendars Christmas Eve is marked “Templa exornantur”—Churches are decked.

Herrick, in the time of Charles I., thus combines a number of these old customs connected with the decoration of churches—

“Down with Rosemary and Bays,
Down with the Mistletoe,
Instead of Holly now upraise
The greener Box for show.
The Holly hitherto did sway;
Let Box now domineer,
Until the dancing Easter Day
Or Easter’s Eve appear.
Then youthful Box, which now hath grace
Your houses to renew,
Grown old, surrender must his place
Unto the crisped Yew.
When Yew is out, then Birch comes in,
And many flowers beside,
Both of a fresh and fragrant kin,
To honour Whitsuntide.
Green Rushes then, and sweetest Bents,
With cooler Oaken boughs,
Come in for comely ornaments
To re-adorn the house.
Thus times do shift; each thing his turn does hold,
New things succeed as former things grow old.”

Flowers of the Church’s Festivals.

In the services of the Church every season has its appropriate floral symbol. In olden times on Feast days places of worship were significantly strewed with bitter herbs. On the Feast of Dedication (the first Sunday in October) the Church was decked with boughs and strewn with sweet Rushes; for this purpose Juncus aromaticus (now known as Acorus Calamus) was used.

“The Dedication of the Church is yerely had in minde,
With worship passing Catholicke, and in a wondrous kinde.
From out the steeple hie is hanged a crosse and banner fayre,
The pavement of the temple strowde with hearbes of pleasant ayre;
The pulpets and the aulters all that in the Church are seene,
And every pewe and pillar great are deckt with boughs of greene.”
T. Naogeorgus, trans. by Barnabe Googe, 1570.

It was customary to strew Rushes on the Church floor on all high days. Newton, in his ‘Herbal to the Bible’ (1587), speaks of “Sedge and Rushes, with which many in the country do use in Summer time to strewe their parlors and Churches, as well for coolness and for pleasant smell.” Cardinal Wolsey in the pride of his pomp had the strewings of his great hall at Hampton Court renewed every day. Till lately the floor of Norwich Cathedral was strewn with Acorus Calamus on festal days, and when the Acorus was scarce, the leaves of the yellow Iris were used. At the church of St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, Rushes are strewn every Whitsuntide. The parish of Middleton-Cheney, Northamptonshire, has a benefaction to provide hay for strewing the Church in summer, the rector providing straw in the winter. In Prussia Holcus odoratus is considered Holy Grass, and is used for strewing purposes. The Rush-bearings which are still held in Westmoreland, and were until quite recently general in Cheshire, would appear to be a relic of the custom of the Dedication Feast. At these Rush-bearings young men and women carry garlands in procession through the village to the Church, which they enter and decorate with their floral tributes. Besides giving the Church a fresh strewing every feast day, it was in olden times customary to deck it with boughs and flowers; and as the flowers used at festivals were originally selected because they happened to be in bloom then, so in time they came to be associated therewith.

On Palm Sunday, it was customary for the congregation to carry Palm branches in procession, and deposit them on the altar of the Church to be blessed, after which they were again distributed to the people. Various substitutes for the Eastern Palm were used in England, but the most popular was the Sallow, because its lithe green wands, full of sap, and covered with golden catkins, were at that season of the year the things most full of life and blossom. Yew branches were also employed for Palm, and some Churches were decked with boughs of Box.

White Broom and white flowers of all descriptions are applicable to the great festival of Easter, as well as purple Pasque flowers and golden Daffodils. The peasants of Bavaria weave garlands of the fragrant Coltsfoot (Nardosmia fragrans) on Easter Day, and cast them into the fire. In Rogation Week processions perambulated the parishes with the Holy Cross and Litanies, to mark the boundaries and to invoke the blessing of God on the crops: on this occasion maidens made themselves garlands and nosegays of the Rogation-flower, Polygala vulgaris, called also the Cross-, Gang-, and Procession-flower.

On Ascension Day it is customary in Switzerland to suspend wreaths of Edelweiss over porches and windows,—this flower of the Alps being, like the Amaranth, considered an emblem of immortality, and peculiarly appropriate to the festival.

May Day, in olden times, was the anniversary of all others which was associated with floral ceremonies. In the early morn all ranks of people went out a-Maying, returning laden with Hawthorn blossoms and May flowers, to decorate churches and houses. Shakspeare notices how, in his day, every one was astir betimes:—

“’Tis as much improbable,
Unless we swept them from the door with cannons,
To scatter ’em, as ’tis to make ’em sleep
On May-day morning.”

It being also the festival of SS. Philip and James, the feast partook somewhat of a religious character. The people not only turned the streets into leafy avenues, and their door-ways into green arbours, and set up a May-pole decked with ribands and garlands, and an arbour besides for Maid Marian to sit in, to witness the sports, but the floral decorations extended likewise into the Church. We learn from Aubrey that the young maids of every parish carried about garlands of flowers, which they afterwards hung up in their Churches; and Spenser sings how, at sunrise—

“Youth’s folke now flocken in everywhere
To gather May-buskets and smelling Brere;
And home they hasten the postes to dight
And all the Kirke pillours ere day light
With Hawthorn buds and sweete Eglantine,
And girlonds of Roses, and Soppes-in-wine.”

The beautiful milk-white Hawthorn blossom is essentially the flower of the season, but in some parts of England the Lily of the Valley is considered as “The Lily of the May.” In Cornwall and Devon Lilac is esteemed the May-flower, and special virtues are attached to sprays of Ivy plucked at day-break with the dew on them. In Germany the Kingcup, Lily of the Valley, and Hepatica are severally called Mai-blume.

Whitsuntide flowers in England are Lilies of the Valley and Guelder Roses, but according to Chaucer (‘Romaunt of the Rose’) Love bids his pupil—

“Have hatte of floures fresh as May,
Chapelett of Roses of Whit-Sunday,
For sich array ne costeth but lite.”

The Germans call Broom Pentecost-bloom, and the Peony the Pentecost Rose. The Italians call Whitsunday Pasqua Rosata, Roses being then in flower.

To Trinity Sunday belong the Herb-Trinity or Pansy and the Trefoil. On St. Barnabas Day, as on St. Paul’s Day, the churches were decked with Box, Woodruff, Lavender, and Roses, and the officiating Priests wore garlands of Roses on their heads.

On Royal Oak Day (May 29th), in celebration of the restoration of King Charles II., and to commemorate his concealment in an aged Oak at Boscobel, gilded Oak-leaves and Apples are worn, and Oak-branches are hung over doorways and windows. From this incident in the life of Charles II., the Oak derives its title of Royal.

“Blest Charles then to an Oak his safety owes;
The Royal Oak, which now in song shall live,
Until it reach to Heaven with its boughs;
Boughs that for loyalty shall garlands give.”

On Corpus Christi Day it was formerly the custom in unreformed England to strew the streets through which the procession passed with flowers, and to decorate the church with Rose and other garlands. In North Wales a relic of these ceremonies lingered till lately in the practice of strewing herbs and flowers at the doors of houses on the Corpus Christi Eve. In Roman Catholic countries flowers are strewed along the streets in this festival, and the route of the procession at Rome is covered with Bay and other fragrant leaves.

On the Vigil of St. John the Baptist, Stowe tells us that in his time every man’s door was shadowed with green Birch, long Fennel, St. John’s Wort, Orpine, white Lilies, and such like, garnished upon with garlands of beautiful flowers, and also lamps of glass, with oil burning in them all night. Birch is the special tree, as the yellow St. John’s Wort (Hypericum) is the special flower, of St. John. In the life of Bishop Horne we read that in the Court of Magdalen, Oxford, a sermon used to be preached on this day from the stone pulpit in the corner, and “the quadrangle was furnished round with a large fence of green boughs, that the meeting might more nearly resemble that of John Baptist in the wilderness.”

On All Saints’ or All Hallows’ Day, Roman Catholics are wont to visit the graves of departed relatives or friends, and place on them wreaths of Ivy, Moss, and red Berries. On the Eve of this day, Hallowe’en (October 31st), many superstitious customs are still practised. In the North young people dive for Apples, and for divining purposes fling Nuts into the fire; hence the vulgar name of Nut-crack Night. In Scotland young women determine the figure and size of their future husbands by paying a visit to the Kail or Cabbage garden, and “pu’ing the Kailstock” blindfold. They also on this night throw Hazel Nuts in the fire, named for two lovers, judging according as they burn quickly together, or start apart, the course of their love.

At Christmas tide Holly (the “holy tree”), Rosemary, Laurel, Bay, Arbor Vitæ, and Ivy are hung up in churches, and are suitable also for the decoration of houses, with the important addition of Mistletoe (which, on account of its Druidic connection, is interdicted in places of worship). Ivy should only be placed in outer passages or doorways. At Christmas, which St. Gregory termed the “festival of all festivals,” the evergreens with which the churches are ornamented are a fitting emblem of that time when, as God says by the prophet Isaiah, “I will plant in the wilderness the Cedar, the Shittah tree and the Myrtle, and the Oil tree; I will set in the desert the Fir tree and the Pine, and the Box tree together (xli., 19). The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the Fir tree, the Pine tree, and the Box together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary; and I will make the place of my feet glorious” (lx., 13).

Gospel Oaks and Memorial Trees.

There exist in different parts of England several ancient trees, notably Oaks, which are traditionally said to have been called Gospel trees in consequence of its having been the practice in times long past to read under a tree which grew upon a boundary-line a portion of the Gospel on the annual perambulation of the bounds of the parish on Ascension Day. In Herrick’s poem of the ‘Hesperides’ occur these lines in allusion to this practice:—

“Dearest, bury me
Under that holy Oak or Gospel tree,
Where, though thou see’st not, thou mayest think upon
Me when thou yearly go’st in procession.”

Many of these old trees were doubtless Druidical, and under their “leafy tabernacles” the pioneers of Christianity had probably preached and expounded the Scriptures to a pagan race. The heathen practice of worshipping the gods in woods and trees continued for many centuries, till the introduction of Christianity; and the first missionaries sought to adopt every means to elevate the Christian worship to higher authority than that of paganism by acting on the senses of the heathen. St. Augustine, Evelyn tells us, held a kind of council under an Oak in the West of England, concerning the right celebration of Easter and the state of the Anglican church; “where also it is reported he did a great miracle.” On Lord Bolton’s estate in the New Forest stands a noble group of twelve Oaks known as the Twelve Apostles: there is another group of Oaks extant known as the Four Evangelists. Beneath the venerable Yews at Fountain Abbey, Yorkshire, the founders of the Abbey held their council in 1132.

“Cross Oaks” were so called from their having been planted at the junction of cross roads, and these trees were formerly resorted to by aguish patients, for the purpose of transferring to them their malady.

Venerable and noble trees have in all ages and in all countries been ever regarded with special reverence. From the very earliest times such trees have been consecrated to holy uses. Thus, the Gomerites, or descendants of Noah, were, if tradition be true, accustomed to offer prayers and oblations beneath trees; and, following the example of his ancestors, the Patriarch Abraham pitched his tents beneath the Terebinth Oaks of Mamre, erected an altar to the Lord, and performed there sacred and priestly rites. Beneath an Oak, too, the Patriarch entertained the Deity Himself. This tree of Abraham remained till the reign of Constantine the Great, who founded a venerable chapel under it, and there Christians, Jews, and Arabs held solemn anniversary meetings, believing that from the days of Noah the spot shaded by the tree had been a consecrated place.

Dean Stanley tells us that “on the heights of Ephraim, on the central thoroughfare of Palestine, near the Sanctuary of Bethel, stood two famous trees, both in after times called by the same name. One was the Oak-tree or Terebinth of Deborah, under which was buried, with many tears, the nurse of Jacob (Gen. xxxv. 8). The other was a solitary Palm, known in after times as the Palm-tree of Deborah. Under this Palm, as Saul afterwards under the Pomegranate-tree of Migron, as St. Louis under the Oak-tree of Vincennes, dwelt that mother in Israel, Deborah, the wife of Lapidoth, to whom the sons of Israel came to receive her wise answers.”

Since the time when Solomon cut the Cedars of Lebanon for the purpose of employing them in the erection of the Temple of the Lord, this renowned forest has been greatly shorn of its glories; but a grove of nearly four hundred trees still exists. Twelve of the most valuable of these trees bear the titles of “The Friends of Solomon,” or “The Twelve Apostles.” Every year the Maronites, Greeks, and Armenians go up to the Cedars, at the Feast of the Transfiguration, and celebrate mass on a homely stone altar erected at their feet.

In Evelyn’s time there existed, near the tomb of Cyrus, an extraordinary Cypress, which was said to exude drops of blood every Friday. This tree, according to Pietro della Valla, was adorned with many lamps, and fitted for an oratory, and was for ages resorted to by pious pilgrims.

Thevenot and other Eastern travellers mention a tree which for centuries had been regarded with peculiar reverence. “At Matharee,” says Thevenot, “is a large garden surrounded by walls, in which are various trees, and among others, a large Sycamore, or Pharaoh’s Fig, very old, which bears fruit every year. They say that the Virgin passing that way with her son Jesus, and being pursued by a number of people, the Fig-tree opened to receive her; she entered, and it closed her in, until the people had passed by, when it re-opened, and that it remained open ever after to the year 1656, when the part of the trunk that had separated itself was broken away.”

Near Kennety Church, in the King’s County, Ireland, is an Ash, the trunk of which is nearly 22 feet round, and 17 feet high, before the branches break out, which are of enormous bulk. When a funeral of the lower class passes by, they lay the body down a few minutes, say a prayer, and then throw a stone to increase the heap which has been accumulating round the roots.

The Breton nobles were long accustomed to offer up a prayer beneath the branches of a venerable Yew which grew in the cloister of Vreton, in Brittany. The tree was regarded with much veneration, as it was said to have originally sprung from the staff of St. Martin.

In England, the Glastonbury Thorn was long the object of pious reverence. This tree was supposed to have sprung from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, to whom the original conversion of this country is attributed in monkish legends. The story runs that when Joseph of Arimathea came to convert the heathen nations he selected Glastonbury as the site for the first Christian Church, and whilst preaching there on Christmas-day, he struck his staff into the ground, which immediately burst into bud and bloom; eventually it grew into a Thorn-bush, which regularly blossomed every Christmas-day, and became known throughout Christendom as the Glastonbury Thorn.

“The winter Thorn, which
Blossoms at Christmas, mindful of our Lord.”

Like the Thorn of Glastonbury, an Oak, in the New Forest, called the Cadenham Oak, produced its buds always on Christmas Day; and was, consequently, regarded by the country people as a tree of peculiar sanctity. Another miraculous tree is referred to in Collinson’s ‘History of Somerset.’ The author, speaking of the Glastonbury Thorn, says that there grew also in the Abbey churchyard, on the north side of St. Joseph’s Chapel, a miraculous Walnut-tree, which never budded forth before the Feast of St. Barnabas (that is, the 11th of June), and on that very day shot forth leaves, and flourished like its usual species. It is strange to say how much this tree was sought after by the credulous; and though not an uncommon Walnut, Queen Anne, King James, and many of the nobility of the realm, even when the times of monkish superstition had ceased, gave large sums of money for small cuttings from the original.

Plants of the Fairies and Naiades.

CHAPTER VI.

Plants of the Fairies and Naiades.

Centuries before Milton wrote that “Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth unseen, both when we wake, and when we sleep,” our Saxon ancestors, whilst yet they inhabited the forests of Germany, believed in the existence of a diminutive race of beings—the “missing link” between men and spirits—to whom they attributed extraordinary actions, far exceeding the capabilities of human art. Moreover, we have it on the authority of the father of English poetry that long, long ago, in those wondrous times when giants and dwarfs still deigned to live in the same countries as ordinary human beings,

“In the olde dayes of King Artour,
Of which the Bretons speken gret honour,
All was this land fulfilled of faerie;
The Elf-quene and hire joly compaynie
Danced full oft in many a grene mede.
This was the old opinion as I rede.”

The old Welsh bards were accustomed to sing their belief that King Arthur was not dead, but conveyed away by the fairies into some charmed spot where he should remain awhile, and then return again to reign with undiminished power. These wondrous inhabitants of Elf-land—these Fays, Fairies, Elves, Little Folk, Pixies, Hobgoblins, Kobolds, Dwarfs, Pigmies, Gnomes, and Trolls are all more or less associated with the plant kingdom. They make their habitations in the leafy branches of trees, or dwell in the greater seclusion of their hollow trunks; they dally and gambol among opening buds and nodding blossoms; they hide among blushing Roses and fragrant shrubs; they dance amid the Buttercups, Daisies, and Meadow-Sweet of the grassy meads; and, as Shakspeare says, they “use flowers for their charactery.”

Grimm tells us that in Germany the Elves are fond of inhabiting Oak trees, the holes in the trunks of which are deemed by the people to be utilised by the Fairies as means of entry and exit. A similar belief is entertained by the Hindus, who consider holes in trees as doors by which the inhabiting spirit passes in and out. German elves are also fond of frequenting Elder-trees.

The Esthonians believe that during a thunder-storm, and in order to escape from the lightning, the timorous Elves burrow several feet beneath the roots of the trees they inhabit. As a rule these forest Elves are good-natured: if they are not offended, not only will they abstain from harming men, but they will even do them a good turn, and teach them some of the mysteries of nature, of which they possess the secret.

The Elves were in former days thought to practise works of mercy in the woods, and a certain sympathetic affinity with trees became thus propagated in the popular faith. The country-folk were careful not to offend the trees that were inhabited by Fairies, and they never sought to surprise the Elfin people in their mysterious retreats, for they dreaded the power of these invisible creatures to cause ill-luck or some unfortunate malady to fall on those against whom they had a spite. Even deaths were sometimes laid at their door.

A German legend relates that as a peasant woman one day tried to uproot the stump of an old tree in a Fir forest, she became so feeble that at last she could scarcely manage to walk. Suddenly, while endeavouring to crawl to her home, a mysterious-looking man appeared in the path before the poor woman, and upon hearing what was the matter with her, he at once remarked that she had wounded an Elf. If the Elf got well, so would she; but if the Elf should unfortunately perish, she would also assuredly die. The stump of the old Fir-tree was the abode of an Elf, and in endeavouring to uproot it, the woman had unintentionally injured the little creature. The words of the mysterious personage proved too true. The peasant languished for some time, but drooped and died on the same day as the wounded Elf. To this day, in the vast forests of Germany and Russia, instead of uprooting old Firs, the foresters, remembering the Elfish superstition, always chop them down above the roots.

In the Indian legend of Sâvitri, the youthful Satyavant, while felling a tree, perspires inordinately, is overcome with weakness, sinks exhausted, and dies. He had mortally wounded the Elf of the tree. Since the days of Æsop it has become a saying that Death has a weakness for woodmen.

In our own land, Oaks have always been deemed the favourite abodes of Elves, and wayfarers, upon approaching groves reputed to be haunted by them, used to think it judicious to turn their coats for good luck. Thus Bishop Corbet, in his Iter Boreale, writes:—

“William found
A means for our deliverance: ‘Turn your cloakes,’
Quoth he, ‘for Pucke is busy in these Oakes;
If ever we at Bosworth will be found,
Then turn your cloakes, for this is Fairy ground.’”

It was believed that the Fairy folk made their homes in the recesses of forests or secluded groves, whence they issued after sunset to gambol in the fields; often startling with their sudden appearance the tired herdsman trudging homeward to his cot, or the goodwife returning from her expedition to market. Thus we read of “Fairy Elves whose midnight revels by a forest side or fountain some belated peasant sees.”

“Would you the Fairy regions see,
Hence to the greenwoods run with me;
From mortals safe the livelong night,
There countless feats the Fays delight.”—Leftly.

In the Isle of Man the Fairies or Elves used to be seen hopping from trees and skipping from bough to bough, whilst wending their way to the Fairy midnight haunts.

In such esteem were they held by the country folk of Devon and Cornwall, that to ensure their friendship and good offices, the Fairies, or Pixies, used formerly to have a certain share of the fruit crop set apart for their special consumption.

Hans Christian Andersen tells of a certain Rose Elf who was instrumental in punishing the murderer of a beautiful young maiden to whom he was attached. The Rose, in olden times, was reputed to be under the especial protection of Elves, Fairies, and Dwarfs, whose sovereign, Laurin, carefully guarded the Rose-garden.

“Four portals to the garden lead, and when the gates are closed,
No living wight dare touch a Rose, ’gainst his strict command opposed.
Whoe’er would break the golden gates, or cut the silken thread,
Or who would dare to waste the flowers down beneath his tread,
Soon for his pride would leave to pledge a foot and hand;
Thus Laurin, King of Dwarfs, rules within his land.”

A curious family of the Elfin tribe were the Moss- or Wood-Folk, who dwelt in the forests of Southern Germany. Their stature was small, and their form weird and uncouth, bearing a strange resemblance to certain trees, with which they flourished and decayed. Describing a Moss-woman, the author of ‘The Fairy Family’ says:—

“‘A Moss-woman!’ the hay-makers cry,
And over the fields in terror they fly.
She is loosely clad from neck to foot
In a mantle of Moss from the Maple’s root,
And like Lichen grey on its stem that grows
Is the hair that over her mantle flows.
Her skin, like the Maple-rind, is hard,
Brown and ridgy, and furrowed and scarred;
And each feature flat, like the bark we see,
Where a bough has been lopped from the bole of a tree,
When the newer bark has crept healingly round,
And laps o’er the edge of the open wound;
Her knotty, root-like feet are bare,
And her height is an ell from heel to hair.”

The Moss- or Wood-Folk also lived in some parts of Scandinavia. Thus, we are told that, in the churchyard of Store Hedding, in Zealand, there are the remains of an Oak wood which were trees by day and warriors by night.

The Black Dwarfs were a race of Scandinavian Elves, inhabiting coast-hills and caves; the favourite place of their feasts and carousings, however, was under the spreading branches of the Elder-tree, the strong perfume of its large moon-like clusters of flowers being very grateful to them. As has been before pointed out, an unexplained connection of a mysterious character has always existed between this tree and the denizens of Fairy-land.

The Still-Folk of Central Germany were another tribe of the Fairy Kingdom: they inhabited the interior of hills, in which they had their spacious halls and strong rooms filled with gold, silver, and precious stones—the entrance to which was only obtained by mortals by means of the Luck-flower, or the Key-flower (Schlüsselblume). They held communication with the outer world, like the Trolls of Scandinavia, through certain springs or wells, which possessed great virtues: not only did they give extraordinary growth and fruitfulness to all trees and shrubs that grew near them, whose roots could drink of their waters, or whose leaves be sprinkled with the dews condensed from their vapours, but for certain human diseases they formed a sovereign remedy.

In Monmouthshire, in years gone by, there existed a good Fairy, or Procca, who was wont to appear to Welshmen in the guise of a handful of loose dried grass, rolling and gambolling before the wind.

Fairy Revels.

The English Fays and Fairies, the Pixies of Devon—

“Fantastic Elves, that leap
The slender Hare-cup, climb the Cowslip bells,
And seize the wild bee as she lies asleep,”

According to the old pastoral poets, were wont to bestir themselves soon after sunset—a time of indistinctness and gloomy grandeur, when the moonbeams gleam fitfully through the wind-stirred branches of their sylvan retreats, and when sighs and murmurings are indistinctly heard around, which whisper to the listener of unseen beings. But it is at midnight that the whole Fairy kingdom is alive: then it is that the faint music of the blue Harebell is heard ringing out the call to the Elfin meet:

“’Tis the hour of Fairy ban and spell,
The wood-tick has kept the minutes well,
He has counted them all with click and stroke,
Deep on the heart of the forest Oak;
And he has awakened the sentry Elve,
That sleeps with him in the haunted tree,
To bid him ring the hour of twelve,
And call the Fays to their revelry.
“They come from the beds of the Lichen green,
They creep from the Mullein’s velvet screen,
Some on the backs of beetles fly
From the silver tops of moon-touched trees,
Where they swing in their cobweb hammocks high,
And rocked about in the evening breeze;
Some from the hum-bird’s downy nest,
Had driven him out by Elfin power,
And pillowed on plumes of his rainbow crest,
Had slumbered there till the charmed hour;
Some had lain in a scarp of the rock,
By glittering ising-stars inlaid,
And some had opened the ‘Four-o’-Clock,’
And stolen within its purple shade;
And now they throng the moonlight glade,
Above, below,—on every side,
Their little minim forms arrayed,
In the tricksy pomp of Fairy pride.”—Dr. Drake’s ‘Culprit Fay.’

Like the Witches, Fairies dearly love to ride to the trysting-place on an aerial steed. A straw, a blade of Grass, a Fern, a Rush, or a Cabbage-stalk, alike serve the purpose of the little people. Mounted on such simple steeds, each joyous Elf sings—

“Now I go, now I fly,
Malkin, my sweet spirit, and I.
O what a dainty pleasure ’tis
To ride in the air,
When the morn shines fair,
And sing and dance, and toy and kiss!”

Arrived at the spot selected for the Fairy revels—mayhap, “a bank whereon the wild Thyme blows, where Oxlips and the nodding Violet grows”—the gay throng wend their way to a grassy link or neighbouring pasture, and there the merry Elves trip and pace the dewy green sward with their printless feet, causing those dark green circles that are known to mortals as “Fairy Rings.”

The Fays that haunt the moonlight dell,
The Elves that sleep in the Cowslip’s bell,
The tricksy Sprites that come and go,
Swifter than a gleam of light;
Where the murmuring waters flow,
And the zephyrs of the night,
Bending to the flowers that grow,
Basking in the silver sheen,
With their voices soft and low,
Sing about the rings of green
Which the Fairies’ twinkling feet,
In their nightly revels, beat.

Old William Browne depicts a Fairy trysting-place as being in proximity to one of their sylvan haunts, and moreover gives us an insight into the proceedings of the Fays and their queen at one of their meetings. He says:—

“Near to this wood there lay a pleasant meade
Where Fairies often did their measures treade,
Which in the meadows made such circles greene,
As if with garlands it had crowned beene,
Or like the circle where the signes we tracke,
And learned shepheards call’t the zodiacke;
Within one of these rounds was to be seene
A hillock rise, where oft the Fairie queene
At twilight sat, and did command her Elves
To pinch those maids that had not swept their shelves;
And further, if by maiden’s oversight,
Within doors water were not brought at night,
Or if they spread no table, set no bread,
They should have nips from toe unto the head,
And for the maid that had performed each thing,
She in the water-pail bade leave a ring.”

St. John’s Eve was undoubtedly chosen for important communication between the distant Elfin groves and the settlements of men, on account of its mildness, brightness, and unequalled beauty. Has not Shakspeare told us, in his ‘Midsummer’s Night’s Dream,’ of the doings, on this night, of Oberon, Ariel, Puck, Titania, and her Fairy followers?—

“The darling puppets of romance’s view;
Fairies, and Sprites, and Goblin Elves we call them,
Famous for patronage of lovers true;
No harm they act, neither shall harm befall them,
So do not thou with crabbed frowns appal them.”

Yet timorous and ill-informed folk, mistrusting the kindly disposition of Elves and Fairies, took precautions for excluding Elfin visitors from their dwellings by hanging over their doors boughs of St. John’s Wort, gathered at midnight on St. John’s Eve. A more kindly feeling, however, seems to have prevailed at Christmas time, when boughs of evergreen were everywhere hung in houses in order that the poor frost-bitten Elves of the trees might hide themselves therein, and thus pass the bleak winter in hospitable shelter.

Fairy Plants.

In Devonshire the flowers of Stitchwort are known as Pixies.

Of plants which are specially affected by the Fairies, first mention should be made of the Elf Grass (Vesleria cærulea), known in Germany as Elfenkraut or Elfgras. This is the Grass forming the Fairy Rings, round which, with aerial footsteps, have danced

“Ye demi-puppets, that
By moonlight do the green sour ringlets make,
Whereof the ewe not bites.”—Shakspeare’s Tempest.

The Cowslip, or Fairy Cup, Shakspeare tells us forms the couch of Ariel—the “dainty Ariel” who has so sweetly sung of his Fairy life—

“Where the bee sucks, there lurk I;
In a Cowslip’s bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry;
On a bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily, shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.”

The fine small crimson drops in the Cowslip’s chalice are said to possess the rare virtue of preserving, and even of restoring, youthful bloom and beauty; for these ruddy spots are fairy favours, and therefore have enchanted value. Shakspeare says of this flower of the Fays:—

“And I serve the Fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green:
The Cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours:
In those freckles live their savours.”

Another of the flowers made potent use of by the Fairies of Shakspeare is the Pansy—that “little Western flower” which Oberon bade Puck procure:—

“Fetch me that flower,—the herb I showed thee once:
The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid,
Will make a man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.”

The Anemone, or Wind-flower, is a recognised Fairy blossom. The crimson marks on its petals have been painted there by fairy hands; and, in wet weather, it affords shelter to benighted Elves, who are glad to seek shelter beneath its down-turned petals. Tulips are greatly esteemed by the Fairy folk, who utilise them as cradles in which to rock the infant Elves to sleep.

The Fairy Flax (Linum catharticum) is, from its extreme delicacy, selected by the Fays as the substance to be woven for their raiment. The Pyrus Japonica is the Fairies’ Fire. Fairy-Butter (Tremella arborea and albida) is a yellowish gelatinous substance, found upon rotten wood or fallen timber, and which is popularly supposed to be made in the night, and scattered about by the Fairies. The Pezita, an exquisite scarlet Fungus cup, which grows on pieces of broken stick, and is to be found in dry ditches and hedge-sides, is the Fairies’ Bath.

To yellow flowers growing in hedgerows, the Fairies have a special dislike, and will never frequent a place where they abound; but it is notorious that they are passionately fond of most flowers. It is part of their mission to give to each maturing blossom its proper hue, to guide creepers and climbing plants, and to teach young plants to move with befitting grace.

But the Foxglove is the especial delight of the Fairy tribe: it is the Fairy plant par excellence. When it bends its tall stalks the Foxglove is making its obeisance to its tiny masters, or preparing to receive some little Elf who wishes to hide himself in the safe retreat afforded by its accommodating bells. In Ireland this flower is called Lusmore, or the Great Herb. It is there the Fairy Cap, whilst in Wales it becomes the Goblin’s Gloves.

As the Foxglove is the special flower of the Fairies, so is a four-leaved Clover their peculiar herb. It is believed only to grow in places frequented by the Elfin tribe, and to be gifted by them with magic power.

“I’ll seek a four-leaved Clover
In all the Fairy dells,
And if I find the charmed leaf,
Oh, how I’ll weave my spells!”—S. Lover.

The maiden whose search has been successful for this diminutive plant becomes at once joyous and light-hearted, for she knows that she will assuredly see her true love ere the day is over. The four-leaved Clover is the only plant that will enable its wearer to see the Fairies—it is a magic talisman whereby to gain admittance to the Fairy kingdom,[8] and unless armed with this potent herb, the only other means available to mortals who wish to make the acquaintance of the Fairies is to procure a supply of a certain precious unguent prepared according to the receipt of a celebrated alchymist, which, applied to the visual orbs, is said to enable anyone with a clear conscience to behold without difficulty or danger the most potent Fairy or Spirit he may anywhere encounter. The following is the form of the preparation:—

“R. A pint of Sallet-oyle, and put it into a vial-glasse; but first wash it with Rose-water and Marygolde water; the flowers to be gathered towards the east. Wash it till the oyle come white; then put it into the glasse, ut supra: and then put thereto the budds of Holyhocke, the flowers of Marygolde, the flowers or toppers of Wild Thyme, the budds of young Hazle: and the Thyme must be gathered neare the side of a hill where Fayries used to be: and take the grasse of a Fayrie throne. Then all these put into the oyle into the glasse: and sette it to dissolve three dayes in the sunne, and then keep it for thy use; ut supra.”—[Ashmolean MSS.].

Plants of the Water Nymphs and Fays.

Certain of the Fairy community frequented the vicinity of pools, and the banks of streams and rivers. Ben Jonson tells of “Span-long Elves that dance about a pool;” and Stagnelius asks—

“Say, know’st the Elfin people gay?
They dwell on the river’s strand;
They spin from the moonbeams their festive garb,
With their small and lily hand.”

Of this family are the Russalkis, river nymphs of Southern Russia, who inhabit the alluvial islands studding the winding river, or dwell in detached coppices fringing the banks, or construct for themselves homes woven of flowering Reeds and green Willow-boughs.

The Swedes delight to tell of the Strömkarl, or boy of the stream, a mystic being who haunts brooks and rivulets, and sits on the silvery waves at moonlight, playing his harp to the Elves and Fays who dance on the flowery margin, in obedience to his summons—

“Come queen of the revels—come, form into bands
The Elves and the Fairies that follow your train;
Tossing your tresses, and wreathing your hands,
Let your dainty feet dance to my wave-wafted strain.”

The Græco-Latin Naiades, or Water-nymphs, were also of this family: they generally inhabited the country, and resorted to the woods or meadows near the stream over which they presided. It was in some such locality on the Asiatic coast that the ill-fated Hylas was carried off by Isis and the River-nymphs, whilst obtaining water from a fountain.

“The chiefs composed their wearied limbs to rest,
But Hylas sought the springs, by thirst opprest;
At last a fount he found with flow’rets graced:
On the green bank above his urn he placed.
’Twas at a time when old Ascanius made
An entertainment in his watery bed,
For all the Nymphs and all the Naiades
Inhabitants of neighb’ring plains and seas.”

These inferior deities were held in great veneration, and received from their votaries offerings of fruit and flowers; animal sacrifices were also made to them, with libations of wine, honey, oil, and milk; and they were crowned with Sedges and flowers. A remnant of these customs was to be seen in the practice which formerly prevailed in this country of sprinkling rivers with flowers on Holy Thursday. Milton, in his ‘Comus,’ tells us that, in honour of Sabrina, the Nymph of the Severn—

“The shepherds at their festivals
Carol her good deeds loud in rustic lays,
And throw sweet garland wreaths into her stream,
Of Pansies, Pinks, and gaudy Daffodils.”

A belief in the existence of good spirits who watched and guarded wells, springs and streams, was common to the whole Aryan race. On the 13th of October the Romans celebrated at the Porta Fontinalis a festival in honour of the Nymphs who presided over fountains and wells: this was termed the Fontinalia, and during the ceremonies wells and fountains were ornamented with garlands. To this day the old heathen custom of dressing and adorning wells is extant, although saints and martyrs have long since taken the place of the Naiades and Water-nymphs as patrons. In England, well-dressing at Ascension-tide is still practised, and some particulars of the ancient custom will be found in the chapter on Floral Ceremonies.

“The fountain marge is fairly spread
With every incense flower that blows,
With flowry Sedge and Moss that grows,
For fervid limbs a dewy bed.”—Fane.

Pilgrimages are made to many holy wells and springs in the United Kingdom, for the purpose of curing certain diseases by the virtues contained in their waters, or to dress these health-restoring fountains with garlands and posies of flowers. It is not surprising to find Ben Jonson saying that round such “virtuous” wells the Fairies are fond of assembling, and dancing their rounds, lighted by the pale moonshine—

“By wells and rills, in meadows greene,
We nightly dance our hey-day guise;
And to our Fairye king and queene
We chant our moonlight minstrelsies.”—Percy Reliques.

In Cornwall pilgrimages are made in May to certain wells situated close to old blasted Oaks, where the frequenters suspend rags to the branches as a preservative against sorcery and a propitiation to the Fairies, who are thought to be fond of repairing at night to the vicinity of the wells. From St. Mungo’s Well at Huntly, in Scotland, the people carry away bottles of water, as a talisman against the enmity of the Fairies, who are supposed to hold their revels at the Elfin Croft close by, and are prone to resent the intrusion of mortals.

Sylvans, Wood Nymphs, and Tree Spirits.

CHAPTER VII.

Sylvans, Wood Nymphs, and Tree Spirits.

Closely allied to the Fairy family, the Well Fays, and the Naiades, are the Sylvans of the Græco-Roman mythology, which everywhere depicts groves and forests as the dwelling-places and resorts of merry bands of Dryads, Nymphs, Fauns, Satyrs, and other light-hearted frequenters of the woods. Mindful of this, Horace, when extolling the joys and peacefulness of sylvan retirement, sings:—

“Me the cool woods above the rest advance,
Where the rough Satyrs with the light Nymphs dance.”

The Dryads were young and beautiful nymphs who were regarded as semi-goddesses. Deriving their name from the Greek word drus, a tree, they were conceived to dwell in trees, groves, and forests, and, according to tradition, were wont to inflict injuries upon people who dared to injure the trees they inhabited and specially protected. Notwithstanding this, however, they frequently quitted their leafy habitations, to wander at will and mingle with the wood nymphs in their rural sports and dances. They are represented veiled and crowned with flowers. Such a sylvan deity Rinaldo saw in the Enchanted Forest, when

“An aged Oak beside him cleft and rent,
And from his fertile hollow womb forth went
(Clad in rare weeds and strange habiliment)
A full-grown Nymph.”

The Hamadryads were only females to the waist, their lower parts merging into the trunks and roots of trees. Their life and power terminated with the existence of the tree over which they presided. These sylvan deities had long flowing hair, and bore in their hands axes wherewith to protect the tree with which they were associated and on the existence of which their own life depended. The trees of the Hamadryads usually grew in some secluded spot, remote from human habitations and unknown to men, where

“Much sweet grass grew higher than grew the Reed,
And good for slumber, and every holier herb,
Narcissus and the low-lying Melilote,
And all of goodliest blade and bloom that springs
Where, hid by heavier Hyacinth, Violet buds
Blossom and burn, and fire of yellower flowers,
And light of crescent Lilies and such leaves
As fear the Faun’s, and know the Dryad’s foot.”—Theocritus.

The rustic deities, called by the Greeks Satyrs, and by the Romans, Fauns, had the legs, feet, and ears of goats, and the rest of the body human. These Fauns, according to the traditions of the Romans, presided over vegetation, and to them the country folk gave anything they had a mind to ask—bunches of Grapes, ears of Wheat, and all sorts of fruit. The food of the Satyrs was believed, by the early Romans, to be the root of the Orchis or Satyrion; its aphrodisiacal qualities exciting them to those excesses to which they are stated to have been so strongly addicted.

A Roumanian legend[9] tells of a beauteous sylvan nymph called the Daughter of the Laurel, who is evidently akin to the Dryads and wood nymphs; and Mr. Ralston, in an article on ‘Forest and Field Myths,’[10] gives the following variation of the story:—“There was once a childless wife who used to lament, saying, ‘If only I had a child, were it but a Laurel berry!’ And heaven sent her a golden Laurel berry; but its value was not recognised, and it was thrown away. From it sprang a Laurel-tree, which gleamed with golden twigs. At it a prince, while following the chase, wondered greatly; and determining to return to it, he ordered his cook to prepare a dinner for him beneath its shade. He was obeyed. But during the temporary absence of the cook, the tree opened, and forth came a fair maiden who strewed a handful of salt over the viands, and returned into the tree, which immediately closed upon her. The prince returned and scolded the cook for over-salting the dinner. The cook declared his innocence; but in vain. The next day just the same occurred. So on the third day the prince kept watch. The tree opened, and the maiden came forth. But before she could return into the tree, the prince caught hold of her and carried her off. After a time she escaped from him, ran back to the tree, and called upon it to open. But it remained shut. So she had to return to the prince, and after a while he deserted her. It was not till after long wandering that she found him again, and became his loyal consort.” Mr. Ralston says that in Hahn’s opinion the above story is founded on the Hellenic belief in Dryads; but he himself thinks it belongs to an earlier mythological family than the Hellenic, though the Dryad and the Laurel-maiden are undoubtedly kinswomen. “Long before the Dryads and Oreads had received from the sculpturesque Greek mind their perfection of human form and face, trees were credited with woman-like inhabitants, capable of doing good and ill, and with power of their own, apart from those possessed by their supernatural tenants, of banning and blessing. Therefore was it that they were worshipped, and that recourse was had to them for the strengthening of certain rites. Similar ideas and practices still prevail in Asia: survivals of them may yet be found in Europe.”

In Moldavia there lingers the cherished tradition of Mariora Floriora, the Zina (nymph) of the mountains, the Sister of the Flowers, at whose approach the birds awoke and sung merrily, desirous of anticipating her every wish, and the wild flowers exhaled their choicest perfume, and, bowing gently in the wind, proffered every virtue contained in their blossoms. Yielding one day to the fascinations of a mortal, Mariora Floriora gave herself to him, and forgot her flowers, so that the leaves fell yellow and withered, and the flowers drooped their heads and faded. Then they complained to the Sun that the flower nymph no longer tended them, but rambled over the mountains and meadows absorbed with her mortal lover. So a Zméu (evil spirit) was sent, who seized her in his arms, and carried her away over the mountain. Now she is never seen; but when the moon is shining on a serene night, her plaintive murmurs are sometimes heard in the caverns of the mountain.

Sacred Groves and their Denizens.

The Roman goddess Pomona, we are told by Ovid, came of the family of Dryads, or sylvan deities; and although “the Nymph frequented not the fluttering stream, nor meads, the subject of a virgin’s dream,” yet—

“In garden culture none could her excel,
Or form the pliant souls of plants so well,
Or to the fruit more gen’rous flavours lend,
Or teach the trees with nobler loads to bend.”

As a deity, Pomona presided over gardens and all sorts of fruit-trees, and was honoured with a temple in Rome, and a regular priest, called Flamen Pomonalis, who offered sacrifices to her divinity for the preservation of fruit. In this respect Pomona differed from the other Sylvans, who were only regarded as semi-gods and goddesses. The worship of these sylvan deities, however, by the Greeks and Romans caused them to regard with reverence and respect their nemorous habitations. Hence we find that, like the Egyptians, they were fond of surrounding their temples and fanes with groves and woods, which in time came to be regarded as sacred as the temples themselves. Pliny, speaking of groves, says: “These were of old the temples of the gods; and after that simple but ancient custom, men at this day consecrate the fairest and goodliest trees to some deity or other; nor do we more adore our glittering shrines of gold and ivory than the groves in which, with profound and awful silence, we worship them.” Ancient writers often refer to “vocal forests,”—in their sombre and gloomy recesses, the frighted wayfarer imagined, as the wind soughed and rustled through the dense foliage, that the tree spirits were humming some sportive lay, or—perchance more frequently—chanting weirdly some solemn dirge. The grove which surrounded Jupiter’s Temple at Dodona was supposed to be endowed with the gift of prophecy, and oracles were frequently there delivered by the sacred Oaks.

“Due honours once Dodona’s forest had,
When oracles were through the Oaks conveyed.
When woods instructed prophets to foretel,
And the decrees of fate in trees did dwell.”

In course of time each tree of these sacred groves was held to be tenanted, or presided over, either by a god or goddess, or by one of the sylvan semi-deities. Impious was deemed he who dared to profane the sanctity of one of these nemorous retreats, either by damaging or by felling the consecrated trees. Rapin, in his Latin poem on Gardens, says:

“But let no impious axe profane the woods,
Or violate the sacred shades; the Gods
Themselves inhabit there. Some have beheld
Where drops of blood from wounded Oaks distill’d;
Have seen the trembling boughs with horror shake!
So great a conscience did the ancients make
To cut down Oaks, that it was held a crime
In that obscure and superstitious time.
When Driopeius Heaven did provoke,
By daring to destroy th’ Æmonian Oak,
And with it its included Dryad too,
Avenging Ceres then her faith did show
To the wrong’d nymph.”

When threatened with the woodman’s axe, the tutelary genius of the doomed tree would intercede for its life, the very leaves would sigh and groan, the stalwart trunk tremble with horror. Ovid relates how Erisichthon, a Thessalian, who derided Ceres, and cut down the trees in her sacred groves, was, for his impiety, afflicted with perpetual hunger. Of one huge old Oak the poet says—

“In the cool dusk its unpierc’d verdure spread
The Dryads oft their hallow’d dances led.”

But the vindictive Erisichthon bade his hesitating servants fell the venerable tree, and, dissatisfied with their speed, seized an axe, and approached it, declaring that nothing should save the Oak:—

“He spoke, and as he pois’d a slanting stroke,
Sighs heav’d and tremblings shook the frighted Oak;
Its leaves look’d sickly, pale its Acorns grew,
And its long branches sweat a chilly dew,
But when his impious hand a wound bestow’d,
Blood from the mangled bark in currents flow’d.
The wonder all amaz’d: yet one more bold,
The fact dissuading, strove his axe to hold;
But the Thessalian, obstinately bent,
Too proud to change, too harden’d to repent,
On his kind monitor his eyes, which burn’d
With rage, and with his eyes his weapon, turn’d;
Take the reward (says he) of pious dread;—
Then with a blow lopp’d off his parted head.
No longer check’d, the wretch his crime pursued,
Doubled his strokes, and sacrilege renew’d;
When from the groaning trunk a voice was heard,—
‘A Dryad I,’ by Ceres’ love preferred,
Within the circle of this clasping rind
Coeval grew, and now in ruin join’d;
But instant vengeance shall thy sin pursue,
And death is cheered with this prophetic view.”
Garth’s Ovid.

Tree Spirits.

Ovid, in his ‘Metamorphoses,’ has told us how, after Daphne had been changed into a Laurel, the nymph-tree still panted and heaved her heart; how, when Phaethon’s grief-stricken sisters were transformed into Poplars, they continued to shed tears, which were changed into amber; how Myrrha, metamorphosed into a tree, still wept, in her bitter grief, the precious drops which retain her name; how Dryope, similarly transformed, imparted her life to the branches, which glowed with a human heat; and how the tree into which the nymph Lotis had been changed, shook with sudden horror when its blossoms were plucked and blood welled from the broken stalks. In these poetic conceptions it is easy to see the embodiment of a belief very rife among the Greeks and Romans that trees and shrubs were tenanted in some mysterious manner by spirits. Thus Virgil tells us that when Æneas had travelled far in search of the abodes of the blest—

“He came to groves, of happy souls the rest;
To evergreens, the dwellings of the blest.”

Nor was this notion confined simply to the Greeks and Romans, for among the ancients generally there existed a wide-spread belief that trees were either the haunts of disembodied spirits, or contained within their material growth the actual spirits themselves. Evelyn tells us that “the Ethnics do still repute all great trees to be divine, and the habitations of souls departed: these the Persians call Pir and Imàm.” The Persians, however, entertaining a profound regard for trees of unusual magnitude, were of opinion that only the spirits of the pure and holy inhabited them.

In this respect they differed from the Indians, who believed that both good and evil spirits dwelt in trees. Thus we read in the story of a Brahmadaitya (a Bengal folk-tale), of a certain Banyan-tree haunted by a number of ghosts who wrung the necks of all who were rash enough to approach the tree during the night. And, in the same tale, we are told of a Vakula-tree (Mimusops Elengi) which was the haunt of a Brahmadaitya (the ghost of a Brahman who dies unmarried), who was a kindly and well-disposed spirit. In another folk-tale we are introduced to the wife of a Brahman who was attacked by a Sankchinni, or female ghost, inhabiting a tree near the Brahman’s house, and thrust by the vindictive ghost into a hole in the trunk. The Rev. Lal Behari Day explains that Sankchinnis or Sankhachurnis are female ghosts of white complexion, who usually stand in the dead of night at the foot of trees. Sometimes these tree-spirits appear to leave their usual sylvan abode and enter into human beings, in which case an exorcist is employed, who detects the presence of the spirit by lighting a piece of Turmeric root, which is an infallible test, as no ghost can put up with the smell of burnt Turmeric.

The Shánárs, aborigines of India, believe that disembodied spirits haunt the earth, dwelling in trees, and taking special delight in forests and solitary places. Against the malignant influence of these wandering spirits, protection is sought in charms of various kinds; the leaves of certain trees being esteemed especially efficacious. Among the Hindus, if an infant refuse its food, and appear to decline in health, the inference is drawn that an evil spirit has taken possession of it. As this demon is supposed to dwell in some particular tree, the mothers of the northern districts of Bengal frequently destroy the unfortunate infant’s life by depositing it in a basket, and hanging the same on the demon’s tree, where it perishes miserably.[11]

In Burmah the worship of Nats, or spirits of nature, is very general. Indeed among the Karens, and numerous other tribes, this spirit-worship is their only form of belief. The shrines of these Nats are often, in the form of cages, suspended in Peepul or other trees—by preference the Le’pan tree, from the wood of which coffins are made. When a Burman starts on a journey, he hangs a bunch of Plantains, or a spray of the sacred Eugenia, on the pole of his buffalo cart, to conciliate any spirit he may intrude upon. The lonely hunter in the forest deposits some Rice, and ties together a few leaves, whenever he comes across some imposing-looking tree, lest there should be a Nat dwelling there. Should there be none, the tied-back leaves will, at any rate, stand in evidence to the Nat or demon who presides over the forest. Some of the Nats or spirits are known far and wide by special or generic names. There is the Hmin Nat who lives in woods, and shakes those he meets so that they go mad. There is the Akakasoh, who lives in the tops of trees; Shekkasoh, who lives in the trunk; and Boomasoh, who dwells contentedly in the roots. The presence of spirits or demons in trees the Burman believes may always be ascertained by the quivering and trembling of the leaves when all around is still.

Schweinfurth, the African explorer, tells us that, at the present day, among the Bongos and the Niam-Niams, woods and forests are regarded with awe as weird and mysterious places, the abodes of supernatural beings. The malignant spirits who are believed to inhabit the dark and gloomy forests, and who inspire the Bongos with extraordinary terror, have, like the Devil, wizards, and witches, a distinctive name: they are called bitâbohs; whilst the sylvan spirits inhabiting groves and woods are known as rangas. Under this last designation are comprised owls of different species, bats, and the ndorr, a small ape, with large red eyes and erect ears, which shuns the light of day, and hides itself in the trunks of trees, from whence it comes forth at night. As a protection against the influence of these malignant spirits of the woods, the Bongos have recourse to certain magical roots which are sold to them by their medicine-men. According to those worthies no one can enter into communication with the wood spirits except by means of certain roots, which enable the possessor to exorcise evil spirits, or give him the power of casting spells. All old people, but especially women, are suspected of having relations, more or less intimate, with the sylvan spirits, and of consulting the malign demons of the woods when they wish to injure any of their neighbours. This belief in evil spirits, which is general among the Bongos and other tribes of Africa, exists also among the Niam-Niams. For the latter, the forest is the abode of invisible beings who are constantly conspiring to injure man; and in the rustling of the foliage they imagine they hear the mysterious dialogues of the ghostly inhabitants of the woods.

The ancient German race, in whom there existed a deep reverence for trees, peopled their groves and forests with a whole troup of Waldgeister, both beneficent and malevolent. A striking example is to be seen in the case of the Elder, in which dwells the Hylde-moer (Elder-mother), or Hylde-vinde (Elder-queen), who avenges all injuries done to the Elder-tree. On this account Elder branches may not be cut until permission has been asked of the Hylde-moer. In Lower Saxony the woodman will, on his bended knee, ask permission of the Elder-tree before cutting it, in these words: “Lady Elder, give me some of thy wood; then will I give thee, also, some of mine when it grows in the forest.” This formula is repeated three times.

Nearly allied to the tree-spirits were the Corn-spirits,[12] which haunted and protected the green or yellow fields. Mr. Ralston tells us that by the popular fancy they were often symbolised under the form of wolves, or of “buckmen,” goat-legged creatures, similar to the classic Satyrs. “When the wind blows the long Grass or waving Corn, German peasants still say, ‘The Grass-wolf’ or ‘The Corn-wolf,’ is abroad! In some places the last sheaf of Rye is left as a shelter to the Roggenwolf, or Rye-wolf, during the winter’s cold; and in many a summer or autumn festive rite, that being is represented by a rustic, who assumes a wolf-like appearance. The Corn-spirit, however, was often symbolised under a human form.”

The belief in the existence of a spirit whose life is bound up in that of the tree it inhabits remains to the present day. There is a wide-spread German belief that if a sick man is passed through a cleft made in a tree, which is immediately afterwards bound up, the man and the tree become mysteriously connected—if the tree flourishes so will the man; but if it withers he will die. Should, however, the tree survive the man, the soul of the latter will inhabit the tree; and (according to Pagan tradition) if the tree be felled and used for ship-building, the dead man’s ghost becomes the haunting genius of the ship. This strange notion may have had its origin in the classic story of the Argonauts and their famous ship. A beam on the prow of the Argo had been cut by Minerva out of the forest of Dodona, where the trees were thought to be inhabited by oracular spirits: hence the beam retained the power of giving oracles to the voyagers, and warned them that they would never reach their country till Jason had been purified of the murder of Absyrtus. There is a story that tells how, when a musician cut a piece of wood from a tree into which a girl had been metamorphosed by her angry mother, he was startled to see blood oozing from the wound. And when he had shaped it into a bow, and played with it upon his violin before her mother, such a heart-rending wail made itself heard, that the mother was struck with remorse, and bitterly repented of her hasty deed. Mr. Ralston quotes a Czekh story of a Nymph who appeared day by day among men, but always went back to her willow by night. She married a mortal, bare him children, and lived happily with him, till at length he cut down her Willow-tree: that moment his wife died. Out of this Willow was made a cradle, which had the power of instantly lulling to sleep the babe she had left behind her; and when the babe became a child, it was able to hold converse with its dead mother by means of a pipe, cut from the twigs growing on the stump, which once had been that mother’s abiding-place.

Plants of the Devil.

CHAPTER VIII.

Plants of the Devil.

We have seen, in a former chapter, how intimate has been the association between flowers and the Fairies, Pixies, or Elves, and, therefore, it is not surprising to find that the King of Fairies, Puck, has a plant specially dedicated to him. This is the Lycoperdon, or Puckfist. Dr. Prior points out that in some old works Puck, who has the credit of being partial to coarse practical jokes, is alluded to as no other than the Devil. His very name would seem to be derived from Pogge, a toad, which in popular opinion was the impersonation of the Devil: hence Toadstools, Pixie-stools, or Paddock-stools, were thought to be but Devil’s droppings—the work of those Elves

“Whose pastime
Is to make moonlight Mushrooms.”

In Sussex, the Puff-ball is called Puck’s Stool, and the needle of the Scandix Pecten is called Pook-needle.

Loki, the Scandinavian malignant spirit, possesses many of the characteristics of Puck, and is in point of fact the Devil of the old Norse mythology. In Jutland, Polytrichum commune is called Loki’s Oats, and the Yellow Rattle is known there as Loki’s Purse. The Trolls, a race of gigantic demons, or evil spirits, spoken of in Northern mythology, have given their name to the Globe-flower (Trollius), which is also known as the Troll-flower, probably on account of its acrid and poisonous qualities having suggested its use by these followers of the Devil.

Speaking generally, trees, plants, and herbs of evil omen may be placed in the category of plants of the Devil, and amongst them must be included such as have the reputation of being accursed, enchanted, unlucky, and sorrowful. The plants dedicated to Hecate, the Grecian goddess of Hell, who presided over magic and enchantments, as well as those made use of by her daughters Medea and Circe, in their sorceries, were all satanic. Circe was specially distinguished for her knowledge of venomous herbs, and in later times the plants used by her were universally employed by witches and sorcerers in their incantations. The spells of wizards, magicians, witches, and others who were acquainted with the secrets appertaining to the black art, were always made in the name of the Devil: hence all herbs and plants employed by them became veritable plants of the Devil. These plants are particularised in the chapter on Plants of the Witches.

The belief that certain trees are haunted by the Devil, or by malignant demons who act as his satellites, is of world-wide extent, and, in connection with tree spirits, the subject has been incidentally touched upon in the previous chapter. A Russian proverb says that “From all old trees proceeds either an owl or a Devil;” and in many countries where a tree becomes old and past bearing, its sterility is attributed to a demon. The Albanians believe that trees are haunted by Devils which they call aërico. Certain trees are especially affected by these aerial demons: these are the Fig, the Walnut, the wild Plum, the Mulberry, the Sycamore, the Pimpernel, the Willow, and in general all fruit trees (but especially the Cherry) when they are old and cease to bear. As regards sterile fruit trees, the belief that they are haunted by Devils is common to many countries. In some parts of England, Blackberries are never picked after Michaelmas-day, when the Devil is supposed to stamp them with his hoof. Mrs. Latham has told us that the watchfulness of the Devil makes it dangerous to go out nutting on a Sunday, and worthy mothers may be heard warning their children against it by assuring them that if they do so, “the Devil will hold down the branches for them.” Mr. Sawyer has pointed out that the Sussex saying, “as black as the Devil’s nutting bag,” is associated with this belief. St. Ouen, writing in the 17th century, cautioned shepherds and others never to let their flocks pass a hollow tree, because by some means or other the Devil was sure to have taken possession of it.

Moore, in ‘The Light of the Haram,’ speaks of the Siltim, a demon which is thought to haunt the forests of Persia, and to lurk among the trees in human form. The Indian demons bhûtûs and piçacâs are represented as dwelling in trees.

In the vicinity of Mount Etna the country people have a very strong aversion to sleep beneath trees on St. John’s Eve, lest they should become possessed of an evil spirit; for according to popular tradition, on that night—the shortest of the year—the demons inhabiting trees and plants quit their leafy habitations, and seek refuge in the first object they come across.

In Germany, numerous demons are recognised as dwelling in trees; and, according to Prof. Mannhardt, whole troops of emissaries of the Devil are thought to haunt the fields, and lurk among the crops of Wheat and vegetables. Among the most noticeable of this satanic legion are the Aprilochse, a demon infesting the fields in April; Auesau, or Sow of the Wheatsheaf, a spirit which lies concealed among the Corn; Baumesel, a goblin of the trees; Erntebock, a demon which steals part of the Corn during harvest; Farre, or the Little Bull, one of a number of spirits infesting the Corn-fields; Gerstenwolf, or Barley-wolf, a demon which devours the Barley; Graswolf, a spirit haunting pastures; Habergeiss, or Haferbock, Goat of the Oats; Halmbock, a goblin whose hiding-place is among straw or the stems of plants; Heukatze and Heupudel, Hay Cat and Pup, demons infesting Hay; Kartoffelwolf, or Potato-goblin; Katzenmann, or Man-Cat, a monster dwelling amidst Wheat; Kleesau, or Sow of the Clover; Krautesel, or Ass of the Grass, a spirit especially inimical to Lettuces; Kornwolf, Kornsau, Kornstier, Kornkuh, Kornmutter, Kornkind, and Kornmaid, all demons, spirits, and monsters infesting Corn.

In some parts of Russia the Devil is invoked through the medium of a herb. On the occasion of a marriage, the peasants put into a bottle of brandy a certain plant called the Herb of the Devil; the bottle is then ornamented with ribbons and coloured tapers, and armed with this present the father of the intended bride pays a visit to the father of the bridegroom, who offers to ransom this bottled Devil by the payment of five kopecks. “No,” says the girl’s father, “Our princess wishes more than that.” So after further bargaining, a price of fifty kopecks is finally agreed upon. In certain parts of Russia the Tobacco-plant is deemed a diabolic plant. In India the Witches’ Herb (Sinapis racemosa) is called Asurî (the she-devil).

A few plants named after dragons, serpents, or snakes, and many of those which are of a poisonous or noxious nature, must be classed with the plants of the Devil; such as, for example, the Upas, the Manchineel, the Magnolia, the Oleander, that deadly Persian flower, the Kerzereh, the fœtid Stapelia, the Phallus impudicus, the Thief’s Plant of the Franche-Comté Mountains, which opens all doors; that satanic plant, the sap of which gives to Witches the power of riding in the air on a broomstick; and the accursed plant which misleads the traveller, dragging him from one path to another, but always leading him farther and farther away from his goal, until at last he sinks exhausted with fatigue.

Certain plants and trees have become ill-omened from having received the maledictions of some divine personage. Several were cursed by the Virgin Mary during her flight into Egypt. The tree which yielded the timber of the Cross became for all time “the accursed tree”; the tree on which Judas hung himself became also a satanic tree. Under this ban have been included the Fig, the Tamarisk, the Aspen, the Dog Rose, the Elder, and the Cercis or Judas Tree.

Many plants, both in England and on the Continent, have been specially named after the Devil. Thus we find that, on account of the fœtid odour of the gum or juice obtain from its root, Ferula Assafœtida is known in Germany, Sweden, and Italy as Devil’s Dung (Stercus Diaboli), although it is employed in Persia and Arabia as a medicine, The Poplar-leaved Fig is the Devil’s tree; the berry of the Deadly Nightshade, the Devil’s berry: the plant itself is called Death’s Herb, and in olden times its fruit bore the name of Dwale-berry—the word dvale, which is Danish, meaning a deadly trance. An old German name for the Briony was Devil’s Cherry. The Germans, also, called the Petty Spurge (Euphorbia Peplus) Teufelsmilch, Devil’s Milk; a species of ground Moss, Teufelsklaeun, Devil’s Claws. The Clematis is the Devil’s Thread; Indigo, Devil’s Dye; and the Mandrake, from the lurid glare its leaves emit during the night-time, the Devil’s Candle. In an old work we find the description of a small herb called Clavis Diaboli, which is so poisonous that if cattle eat it they immediately begin to swell, and eventually die, unless by good luck they should happen to catch sight of another plant of the same species, when the poison is dispelled and the animals will recover. We are likewise assured that the seed is so poisonous as to render it unsafe for anyone to walk over a plant of this genus unless his feet have previously been wrapped in the leaves.

Scabiosa succisa is generally known as the Devil’s-Bit Scabious, a name it obtained from a notion which was formerly very prevalent that the short blackish root of the plant had originally been bitten short by the Devil out of spite to mankind, because he knew that otherwise it would be good for many profitable uses. This belief was also very general on the Continent, as the plant bears a corresponding name in France, Germany, and Holland. Dr. Prior quotes a legend recorded by Threlkeld, that “the root was once longer, until the Devil bit away the rest, for spite; for he needed it not to make him sweat who is always tormented with fear of the day of judgment.” According to the Ortus Sanitatis, on the authority of Oribasius, the plant was called Morsus Diaboli, “because with this root the Devil practised such power, that the mother of God, out of compassion, took from the Devil the means to do so with it any more; and in the great vexation that he had that the power was gone from him, he bit it off, so that it grows no more to this day.” Gerarde says: “The great part of the root seemeth to be bitten away: old fantasticke charmers report that the Devil did bite it for envie, because it is an herbe that hath so many good vertues, and is so beneficial to mankinde.” After recounting minor virtues, the old herbalist remarks that Devil’s Bit is potential against the stingings of venomous beasts, poisons, and pestilent diseases, and will consume and waste away plague sores, if pounded and laid upon them.

The Nigella Damascena is called Devil-in-the-Bush, from its round capsules peering from a bush of finely-divided involucre. The long awns of Scandix Pecten are termed the Devil’s Darning Needles, the beans of its seed vessels being called Venus’ comb. The Dodder (Cuscuta) has gained the opprobrious epithet of Devil’s Guts, from the resemblance of its stem to cat-gut, and its mischievous tendencies. The acrid milk or sap extracted from the Euphorbia has, from its poisonous qualities, obtained the name of Devil’s Milk. The poisonous Puff-balls (Lycoperdon) are called Devil’s Snuff-boxes, on account of the dust or particles they contain, which have long borne an ill name. Gerarde says that “it is very dangerous for the eies, for it hath been often seene that divers have beene pore-blinde ever after when some small quantitie thereof hath beene blowne into their eies.” The Fungus Exidia glandulosa (Witches’ Butter) is known in Sweden as the Devil’s Butter.

Although the Devil extends his authority over so many plants, it is satisfactory to know that the St. John’s Wort is a dispeller of demons (Fuga dæmonum), and that there is in Russia a plant called the Devil-chaser. Prof. De Gubernatis tells us that he has received from the Princess Galitzin Prazorova the following particulars of this plant, which is known as Certagon. It grows in meads and woods, is somewhat thorny, and bears a deep-blue flower. It protects infants from fright, and drives away the Devil. Sometimes the plant is boiled in water, and the children are bathed in it. At other times the plant is merely placed in the cradle. If mourners are prostrated with grief and the recollection of the departed one (which is simply a visitation of the Devil) it is only necessary to hold up a sprig of the mystic Certagon, when the excessive grief will be assuaged, and the Devil will be compelled to flee. The best way to exorcise an evil spirit from the dead is to sit on the pall, to chew some seeds of Camphor while combing the hair of the corpse, and finally to wave aloft the Certagon—the Devil-chaser.

Noxious, Deadly, and Ill-Omened Plants.

Prof. De Gubernatis remarks that “there are good and bad herbs, and good and bad plants: the good are the work of Ormuzd, the bad the work of Ahriman.” All these bad herbs, plants, and trees, noxious, poisonous, and deadly—the dangerous classes in the vegetable kingdom—are of evil augury, and belong to the category of Plants of the Devil.

There are many trees and plants which emit emanations highly injurious, and in some cases fatal to life. Perhaps the most notorious of these is the deadly Upas, which rises in the ‘Valley of Death’ in Java, where it is said to blight all neighbouring vegetation, and to cause the very birds that approach it in their flight to drop down lifeless. No animal can live where its baneful influence extends, and no man durst approach its pestilential shade.

The Strychnos Tienté is the plant which yields the Upas Tienté, one of the Javanese poisons; it contains strychnia, and is as deadly as strychnine itself. The Upas Antiar is another Javanese poison—a bitter, milky juice, which acts violently on the heart.

The noxious exudations of the Manchineel-tree are said to cause certain death to those who rashly sleep beneath its foliage. The wonderfully fragrant blossoms of the Magnolia grandiflora emit so strong a perfume that, when inhaled in the immediate neighbourhood of a group in flower, it becomes overpowering. The Indians will never sleep under Magnolia in blossom.

Linnæus has mentioned a case in which the odour of the Oleander, or Rose-bay (Nerium Oleander), proved fatal. The foliage and flowers of this shrub will exercise a deadly influence on many quadrupeds: hence it is called in India the Horse-killer, and in Italy, Ass-bane.

The Elder-tree is reputed to exhale so narcotic a scent when in flower, that it is unwholesome for animals to rest under its shade; and it is considered unadvisable to plant one of these trees where its exhalations can be wafted into a sleeping apartment. On account of this pungent smell, country people often strike with Elder-boughs the leaves of fruit-trees and vegetables, in order that by being impregnated with the scent of the Elder-berries, they may prove noisome to troublesome insects.

The Jatropha urens, a native of Brazil, is a plant the properties of which are so noxious that its possession is absolutely fraught with danger. Not many years ago the Curator of Kew Gardens was one day reaching over a plant when its fine bristly stings touched his wrist: the first sensation was a numbness and swelling of the lips; the action of the poison was on the heart, circulation was stopped, and the unfortunate Curator soon fell unconscious. A doctor was fetched, who administered antidotes effectually; but no gardener could afterwards be got to come within arm’s length of the diabolical plant; and both it and another specimen, subsequently introduced, shortly afterwards mysteriously disappeared from the house.

The Nitraria tridentata, which is by some believed to be the Lotos-tree of the ancients, grows in the Desert of Soussa, near Tunis, and is called Damouch by the Arabs, who are fully alive to the semi-intoxicating qualities of its berries, which produce a state of lassitude similar to the infatuating food of the Lotophagi.

Alex. Pouchkine has given a vivid description of the Indian Antchar, thought to be a variety Aconitum ferox. Growing in a wild and sterile desert, this Antchar has its roots and the sickly verdure of its branches steeped in poison. Melted by the mid-day heat, the poison filters through the plant’s outer skin in clammy drops: in the evening these become congealed into a transparent gum. Birds turn aside directly they see this deadly plant; the tiger avoids it; a passing puff of wind shakes its foliage,—the wind hurries on tainted and infected; a shower waters for an instant its drooping leaves, and from its branches forthwith falls a deadly rain on the burning soil. But a man has made a sign: another man obeys. The Antchar must be procured. He departs without hesitation; and on the morrow brings back the deadly gum, and some drooping stalks and leaves, while from his pallid brow the cold sweat falls in streams. He staggers, falls on the mats of the tent, and, poor miserable slave, expires at the feet of his proud master. And the prince steeps his ruthless arrows in the cruel poison; they are destined to carry destruction to his neighbours across the frontier.

In Mexico there grows a herb, familiarly known there as the Loco or Rattle Weed, which has such a powerful effect on animals, that horses eating it are driven raving mad.

In Scotland there is a certain weed that grows in and about the Borgie Well at Cambuslang, near Glasgow, which possesses the awful property of making all who drink of its waters mad. Hence the local saying:

“A drink of the Borgie, a bite of the weed,
Sets a’ the Cam’slang folk wrang in the head.”

Some few plants are repellent from the obnoxious smells which they emit: among these are the Phallus impudicus, and many of the Stapelias. One—the Carrion-flower—has an odour so like putrid meat, that flesh flies, attracted by it, deposit their ova in the flowers; and when the maggots are in due course produced, they perish miserably for lack of food.

Zahn, in his Speculæ Physico-Mathematico-Historicæ (1696) enumerates several trees and plants which had, in his day, acquired a very sinister reputation. He tells us that—

“Herrera speaks of a tree, in Granada, called Aquapura, which is so poisonous, that when the Spaniards, at first ignorant of its deadly power, slept under its shade, their members were all swelled, as if they had taken dropsy. The barbarians also, who lingered naked or intoxicated under it, had their skin broken by large swellings, which distended their intestines, and brought them to a miserable death.

“There is a tree in Hispaniola, bearing Apples of a very fragrant smell, which, if they are tasted, prove hurtful and deadly. If any one abides for a time beneath its shade he loses sight and reason, and cannot be cured save by a long sleep. Similar trees are found in the island Codega.

“In the same island, Hispaniola, another kind of tree is found which produces fruit formed like Pears, very pleasant to the sight, and of delicious odour. If any one lies beneath its shade and falls asleep, his face begins to swell, and he is seized with severe pain in the head, and with the sorest cold. In the same island another tree is found, whose leaf, if touched, causes at once a tumour of a very painful nature to break out, which can only be checked and healed by frequent washing with sea water. There also grows a plant called Cohobba, which is said to be lymphatic. It intoxicates by its mere smell, and renders fanatical, Cardanus believes this plant to be of the Stramonium (Datura) family, which infuriates those who drink it.

“In New Andalusia very poisonous trees are seen. If one of their leaves were to fall upon a person, he would be killed at once, unless the place be quickly smeared with the spittle of a fasting man. These trees are called pestiferous and pestilent, from the sudden death which they cause, like the plague.

“In the island of San Juan de Porto Ricco grow certain small fruit-bearing trees which are so pernicious that if a person lies down and sleeps beneath their shade, he is seized with paralysis and cannot move from the place. Should, perchance, a fish taste of their fallen leaves, and a man eat the fish, he either dies at once or at least loses all his hair.

“On an island near Brazil a very pleasant tree is said to grow, whose leaves are not unlike those of the Laurel. But if any person should touch ‘a leaf of this tree, and then touch his face and eyes with the hand, he is at once deprived of sight and suffers the severest pains in his eyes. Not far distant, however, there grows another tree, whose leaves, if rubbed over the eyes, restore the eyesight, and remove the pains.

“Kircher relates that a wonderful tree is found in the Philippine Islands. Its leaves, facing eastward, are healthy, but those facing westward are poisonous.

“Clusius states that in America there is a kind of Larch, which makes men who sleep under its shade so delirious, that when they are awakened, they are out of their minds and assume strange attitudes. Some act like prophets, some like soldiers, some like merchants, everyone for the time being as his natural propensity impels him.

“In the bishopric of New Spain, called Antequera, around the valley of Guaxaca, a strange poisonous plant is found which, if given to anyone in food or drink, at once causes death. If it is dried and removed anywhere, according to the time from its being cut, it kills. Thus: if it has been cut for a year, so after a year it causes death; if for a month, then after a month it brings death.

“The inhabitants of Macassar in the island of Celebes obtain from a certain tree growing there a most deadly and virulent poison, in which they dip their weapons. So pestiferous is this poisonous tree, that the earth around it for some distance produces neither grass nor vegetable life of any kind. Although instant death may sometimes be avoided by means of antidotes, yet the victim is doomed to die even after a lapse of two or three years. Married men and Mushroom-eaters are more subject to the action of this poison than other people.

“Ophiusa, in the island of Elephantine, in Ethiopia, has a livid and horrid appearance. If persons drink it they become dreadfully afraid of serpents—so much so, that they commit suicide. Palm wine, however, is said to counteract its influence.

“The plant called Apium risus is noxious, through causing those who partake of it to die of excessive laughter. Apuleius says that this is more particularly the case when the herb is taken by a person who has not broken his fast. From the fact that the plant was also known as Sardonia arose the expression “sardonic smile.” People who taste it do not die at once from laughter, but, as Salustius relates, rather from the contraction of the nerves of the lips and the muscles of the mouth; but they appear to die by laughing.

“In Bactria and around the Dnieper, a plant called Gelotophyllis is said to grow, which, if it be drunk with wine and myrrh, produces continuous laughter. A similar result is produced by Arum Ægyptiacum, when eaten, and by the flowers or seed of the Datura.

“Therionarca grows in Cappadocia and Mysia. All wild animals which touch it become torpid, and can only regain animation by being besprinkled with the water voided by hyænas.”

Plants of the Witches.

CHAPTER IX.

Plants of the Witches.

Hecate, the Grecian goddess of the infernal regions, presided over magic and enchantment, and may fairly be styled the goddess, queen, and patroness of Witches and sorcerers. She was acquainted with the properties of every herb, and imparted this knowledge to her daughters Medea and Circe.[13] To this trio of classical Witches were specially consecrated the following herbs:—The Mandrake, the Deadly Nightshade, the Common Nightshade, the Wolfs-bane, the Pontic Azalea, the Cyclamen, the Cypress, Lavender, Hyssop-leaved Mint, the Poley or Mountain Germander, the Ethiopian Pepper, the Corn Feverfew, the Cardamom, the Musk Mallow, the Oriental Sesame, the rough Smilax, the Lion’s-foot Cudweed (a love philtre), and Maidenhair, a plant particularly dear to Pluto. Medea was specially cognisant of the qualities of the Meadow Saffron, Safflower, Dyer’s Alkanet, the clammy Plantain or Fleawort, the Chrysanthemum, and the brown-berried Juniper. All these plants are, therefore, persistently sought for by Witches, who have not only the power of understanding and appreciating the value of herbs, but know also how to render harmless and innocuous plants baleful and deadly. Thus we find that an Italian Witch, condemned in 1474, was shown to have sown a certain noxious powder amidst the herbage near her dwelling, and the unfortunate cows, stricken at first with the Evil Eye, were at length attacked with a lingering but deadly malady. So, again, in the ‘Tempest,’ Shakspeare tells us that in the magic rings traced on the grass by the dance of the Elves, the herbage is imbued with a bitterness which is noisome to cattle. These rings, which are often to be met with on the Sussex Downs, are there called Hag-tracks, because they are thought to be caused by hags and Witches who dance there at night.

It is recorded that, during the period of the Witch persecutions, whoever found himself unexpectedly under an Elder-tree was involuntarily seized with such horror, that he in all probability fell into an ecstatic or hysterical state. Although not one of the trees dedicated to Hecate and her Witch progeny, the Elder appears to have invariably possessed a certain weird attraction for mischievous Elves and Witches, who are fond of seeking the shelter of its pendent boughs, and are wont to bury their satanic offspring, with certain cabalistic ceremonies, beneath its roots.

These satanic children of Witches are elfish creatures, sometimes butterflies, sometimes bumble bees, sometimes caterpillars or worms. They are called good or bad things—Holds or Holdikens. The Witches injure cattle with them; conjure them into the stem of a tree; and, as we have seen, bury them under the Elder-bushes; then, as the caterpillars eat the foliage of the tree, the hearts of those people are troubled of whom the Witches think.

The ill-omened Cercis Siliquastrum, or Judas Tree, is reputed to be specially haunted by Witches, who experience a grim pleasure in assembling around the tree on which the traitorous disciple is said to have hung himself. Perhaps it is they who have spread the tradition that death overtakes anyone who is unfortunate enough to fall into one of these trees.

The Witches of the Tyrol are reputed to have a great partiality for Alder-trees.

Witches are fond of riding about through the air in the dead of night, and perform long journeys to attend their meetings. Matthison tells us that

“From the deep mine rush wildly out
The troop of Gnomes in hellish rout:
Forth to the Witches’ club they fly;
The Griffins watch as they go by.
The horn of Satan grimly sounds;
On Blocksberg’s flanks strange din resounds,
And Spectres crowd its summit high.”

Their favourite steeds for these midnight excursions are besoms, which are generally to be found ready to hand; but the large Ragwort (which in Ireland is called the Fairies’ Horse) is highly prized for aerial flights. Bulrushes are also employed for locomotive purposes, and other plants are used for equipments, as we read in ‘The Witch of Fife’:—

“The first leet night, quhan the new moon set,
Quhan all was dousse and mirk,
We saddled our naigis wi’ the Moon-fern leif,
And rode fra Kilmerrin Kirk.
Some horses were of the Brume-cane framit,
And some of the greine Bay-tree,
But mine was made of are Humloke schaw,
And a stout stallion was he.”

William of Auverne, who wrote in the thirteenth century, states that when the Witches of his time wished to go to the place of rendezvous, they took a Reed or Cane, and, on making some magical signs, and uttering certain barbarous words, it became transformed into a horse, which carried them thither with extraordinary rapidity.

If the Witches are married, it becomes necessary to administer to their husbands a potion that shall cause them to slumber and keep them asleep during the Witches’ absence in the night. For this purpose the Sleep-Apple, a mossy sort of excrescence on the Wild Rose, and Hawthorn (called in the Edda Sleep-Thorn), are employed, because they will not allow anyone to awake till they are taken away. A very favourite plant made use of by American Witches to produce a similar result, is the Flor de Pesadilla, or Nightmare Flower of Buenos Ayres, a small, dark-green foliaged plant, with lanceolate leaves and clusters of greenish-white flowers, which emit a powerful narcotic smell. From the acrid milky juice pressed from the stem of this plant, Witches obtain a drug which, administered to their victims, keeps them a prey all night to terrible dreams, from which they awake with a dull throbbing sensation in the brain, while a peculiar odour pervades the chamber, causing the air to appear heavy and stifling.

Ben Jonson, in his ‘Masque of Queens,’ introduces therein a conventicle of Witches, who, as part of the business which has brought them together, relate their deeds. One of the hags, who has been gathering that mysterious plant of superstition, the Mandragora, croaks:—

“I last night lay all alone
On the ground, to hear the Mandrake groan;
And plucked him up, though he grew full low;
And, as I had done, the cock did crow.”

Another, whose sinister proceedings have excited the neighbouring watch-dogs, remarks:—

“And I ha’ been plucking plants among
Hemlock, Henbane, Adder’s-tongue;
Nightshade, Moonwort, Libbard’s-bane,
And twice by the dogs was like to be ta’en.”

And a third, who has procured a supply of the plants needful for the working of the Witches’ spells, says:—

“Yes, I have brought to help our vows
Homed Poppy, Cypress boughs,
The Fig-tree wild that grows on tombs,
And juice that from the Larch-tree comes.”

One of the principal results of the knowledge possessed by Witches of the properties of herbs was the concoction by them of noxious or deadly potions with which they were enabled to work their impious spells. Ovid tells us how Medea, in compounding a poisonous draught, employed Monk’s-hood or Wolfs-bane, the deadly Aconitum, that sprang up from the foam of the savage many-headed Cerberus, the watch-dog of the infernal regions:—

“Medea to dispatch a dang’rous heir
(She knew him) did a poisonous draught prepare,
Drawn from a drug long while reserved in store,
For desp’rate uses, from the Scythian shore,
That from the Echidnæan monster’s jaws
Derived its origin.”

Medea’s sister, the Enchantress Circe, having been neglected by a youth for whom she had conceived a passion, turned him, by means of a herb potion, into a brutal shape, for

“Love refused, converted to disdain.
Then, mixing powerful herbs with magic art,
She changed his form who could not change his heart.”

So intimate was the acquaintance of this celebrated Witch with the subtle properties of all plants, that by the aid of the noxious juices she extracted from them, she was enabled to exercise marvellous powers of enchantment. At her bidding,

“Now strange to tell, the plants sweat drops of blood,
The trees are toss’d from forests where they stood;
Blue serpents o’er the tainted herbage slide,
Pale glaring spectres on the æther ride.”

Circe was assiduous in “simpling on the flow’ry hills,” and her attendants were taught to despise the ordinary occupations of women: they were unburdened by household cares,

“But culled, in canisters, disastrous flowers
And plants from haunted heaths and Fairy bowers,
With brazen sickles reap’d at planetary hours
Each dose the goddess weighed with watchful eye;
So nice her art in impious pharmacy.”

Old Gerarde tells us that Circe made use in her incantations and witchcrafts of the Mullein or Hag-taper (Verbascum Thapsus); and Gower relates of Medea that she employed the Feldwode, which is probably the same plant, its Anglo-Saxon name being Feldwyrt.

“Tho toke she Feldwode and Verveine,
Of herbes ben nought better tweine.”

The composition of philtres, and the working of spells and incantations to induce love, are amongst the most highly prized of witches’ functions, investing them with a power which they delight to wield, and leading to much pecuniary profit.

In Moore’s ‘Light of the Haram,’ the Enchantress Namouna, who was acquainted with all spells and talismans, instructs Nourmahall to gather at midnight—“the hour that scatters spells on herb and flower”—certain blossoms that, when twined into a wreath, should act as a spell to recall her Selim’s love. The flowers gathered, the Enchantress proceeds to weave the magic chaplet, singing the while—

“I know where the wing’d visions dwell
That around the night-bed play;
I know each herb and floweret’s bell,
Where they hide their wings by day;
Then hasten we, maid,
To twine our braid,
To-morrow the dreams and flowers will fade.
“The image of love, that nightly flies
To visit the bashful maid;
Steals from the Jasmine flower, that sighs
Its soul, like her, in the shade.
The dream of a future happier hour,
That alights on misery’s brow,
Springs out of the silvery Almond flower
That blooms on a leafless bough.
“The visions that oft to worldly eyes
The glitter of mines unfold,
Inhabit the mountain herb that dyes
The tooth of the fawn like gold.
The phantom shapes—oh, touch not them!—
That appal the murderer’s sight,
Lurk in the fleshly Mandrake’s stem,
That shrieks when pluck’d at night!
“The dream of the injur’d, patient mind,
That smiles at the wrongs of men,
Is found in the bruis’d and wounded rind
Of the Cinnamon, sweetest then.
Then hasten we, maid,
To twine our braid,
To-morrow the dreams and flowers will fade.”

The chief strength of poor witches lies in the gathering and boiling of herbs. The most esteemed herbs for their purposes are the Betony-root, Henbane, Mandrake, Deadly Nightshade, Origanum, Antirrhinum, female Phlox, Arum, Red and White Celandine, Millefoil, Horned Poppy, Fern, Adder’s-tongue, and ground Ivy. Root of Hemlock, “digged in the dark,” slips of Yew, “slivered in the moon’s eclipse,” Cypress, Wild Fig, Larch, Broom, and Thorn are also associated with Witches and their necromancy. The divining Gall-apple of the Oak, the mystic Mistletoe, the Savin, the Moonwort, the Vervain, and the St. John’s Wort are considered magical, and therefore form part of the Witches’ pharmacopœia—to be produced as occasion may require, and their juices infused in the hell-broths, philtres, potions, and baleful draughts prepared for their enemies. Cuckoo-flowers are gathered in the meadows on the first of May. Chervil and Pennyroyal are used because they both have the effect of making anyone tasting their juices see double. Often many herbs are boiled together—by preference seven or nine. Three kinds of wood make bewitched water boil. Witch-ointments, to be effective, must contain seven herbs.

One of the favourite remedies of Scotch Witches is the Woodbine or Honeysuckle. In effecting their magical cures, they cause their patients to pass a certain number of times (usually nine) through a “girth” or garland of Woodbine, repeating the while certain incantations and invocations. According to Spenser, Witches in the Spring of every year were accustomed to do penance, and purify themselves by bathing in water wherein Origane and Thyme had been placed:—

“Till on a day (that day is every Prime,
When witches wont do penance for their crime)
I chaunst to see her in her proper hew,
Bathing herself in Origane and Thyme.”

In Lower Germany, the Honeysuckle is called Albranke, the Witch-snare. Long running plants and entangled twigs are called Witch-scapes, and the people believe that a Witch hard pursued could escape by their means.

On the Walpurgisnacht, the German Witches are wont to gather Fern to render themselves invisible. As a protection against them, the country people, says Aubrey, “fetch a certain Thorn, and stick it at their house door, believing the Witches can then do them no harm.” On the way to the orgies of this night, the Oldenburg Witches are reputed to eat up all the red buds of the Ash, so that on St. John’s Day the Ash-trees appear denuded of them.

The German Witches are cunning in the use and abuse of roots: for example, they recommend strongly the Meisterwurzel (root of the master), the Bärwurzel (root of the bears), the Eberwurzel (root of the wild boar), and the Hirschwurzel (root of the stag—a name given to the Wild Parsley, to the Black Gentian, and to the Thapsia), as a means of making a horse run for three consecutive days without feeding him.

On St. John’s Eve, the Witches of Russia are busily engaged searching on the mountains for the Gentiana amarella, and on the morning of St. John’s Day, for the Lythrum silicaria, without having found which no one can hope to light upon the former herb. These herbs being hostile to Witches, are sought by them only to be destroyed.

In Franche-Comté they tell of a certain satanic herb, of which the juice gives to Witches the power of riding in the air on a broomstick when they wish to proceed to their nocturnal meeting.

Plants used for Charms and Spells.

In mediæval times the sick poor were accustomed to seek and find the relief and cure of their ailments at the hands of studious, kind-hearted monks, and gentle, sympathetic nuns; but after the Reformation, the practice of the healing art was relegated either to charitable gentlewomen, who deemed it part of their duty to master the mysteries of simpling, or to the Wise Woman of the village, who frequently combined the professions of midwife and simpler, and collected and dispensed medical herbs. Too often, however, the trade in simples and herbs was carried on by needy and ignorant persons—so-called herbalists, quack doctors, and charlatans, or aged crones, desirous of turning to account the superficial knowledge they possessed of the properties of the plants which grew on the neighbouring hill-sides, or were to be found nearer at hand in the fields and hedgerows. As these simplers and herbalists often made serious mistakes in their treatment, and were willing, as a rule, to supply noisome and poisonous herbs to anyone who cared to pay their price, it is not to be wondered at that they were often regarded with dread by their ignorant neighbours, and that eventually they came to be stigmatised as Wizards and Witches.

In the preface to “The Brittish Physician,” a work issued by one Robert Turner, “botanical student,” two hundred years ago, the author, after expatiating on the value of herbs and plants, adds: “but let us not offer sacrifices unto them, and say charms over them, as the Druids of old and other heathens; and as do some cacochymists, Medean hags, and sorcerers nowadays, who, not contented with the lawful use of the creatures, out of some diabolical intention, search after the more magical and occult vertues of herbs and plants to accomplish some wicked ends; and for that very cause, King Hezekiah, fearing lest the herbals of Solomon should come into profane hands, caused them to be burned.” The old herbalist was doubtless acquainted with many of the superstitious practices of the “Medean hags”—the Wise Women, old wives, and Witches of the country—to whom he so scathingly refers. These ill-favoured beldames had a panacea for every disease, a charm or a potion for every disorder, a talisman or amulet against every ill. In addition to herbs, Rowan-tree, salt, enchanted flints, south-running water, and doggrel verses were the means employed for effecting a cure; whilst diseases were supposed to be laid on by forming pictures and images of clay or wax, by placing a dead hand or mutilated member in the house of the intended victim, or by throwing enchanted articles at his door. In reality, however, the mischief was done by means of poisonous herbs or deadly potions, cunningly prepared by the Witch and her confederates.

One of the most remarkable of the many superstitions inculcated by these ignorant and designing Witches and quacks, was the notion that diseases could be transferred from human beings to trees. Gilbert White has recorded that at Selborne there stood, in his time, a row of Pollard-Ashes which, when young and flexible, had been severed and held open by wedges, while ruptured children, stripped naked, were pushed through the apertures, under a belief that their infirmity would be thereby cured. Children were also passed through cleft trees, to cast out all witchcraft, or to neutralise its baleful effects, and to protect them from the influence of Witches; and sometimes they were passed through the branches of a Maple, in order that they might be long-lived. Sick sheep were made to go through the cleft of a young Oak, with a view of transferring their diseases to the spirit of the tree. People afflicted with ague were directed to repair to the Cross Oaks which grew at the junctions of cross-roads, for the purpose of transferring to them their malady. Aguish patients were ordered to proceed without speaking or crossing water, to a lofty Willow, to make a gash in it, breathe three times into the crevice, close it quickly, and hasten away without looking back: if they did this correctly, the ague was warranted to leave them. A twisted neck or cuts in the body were thought to be cured by twisting a Willow round the affected part. In the West of England, peasants suffering from blackhead were bidden to crawl under an arched Bramble, and if they had the toothache, the prescribed remedy was for them to bite the first Fern that appeared in Spring. In other parts of the country toothache was cured by sticking into the bark of a young tree the decayed tooth after it had been drawn. If a child did not willingly learn to walk, the Wise Woman of the village would direct its troubled mother to make it creep through the long withes of the Blackberry-bush, which were grown down to the earth, and had taken fresh root therein. Sufferers from gout were relieved by the Witch transferring the disorder to some old Pine-tree, or rather to the genius inhabiting it. Many magical arts attended the transference of the disease to the spirit of the vicarious tree, and the operation was generally accompanied by the recital of some formula. Amongst the forms of adjuration was the following commencement: “Twig, I bind thee; fever, now leave me!” A sufferer from cramp was ordered to stretch himself on a Plum-tree, and say, “Climbing-plant, stand! Plum-tree, waver.”

If we seek for the origin of this superstitious notion of transferring diseases to trees, we shall find a clue in the works of Prof. Mannhardt, who recounts the names of demons which in Germany are identified with nearly all the maladies of plants, and particularly with those of Wheat and vegetables.[14] The superstitious country people, struck with the affinity which exists between the vegetable world and the animal world, came, in course of time, to think that the same demon caused the disease of plants and that of man; and therefore they conceived that, in order to safeguard mankind, it was only necessary to confine the demon in the plant. Examples of this belief are still to be found in our own country, and similar superstitious observances are common on the Continent. The German peasant creeps through an Oak cleft to cure hernia and certain other disorders; and the Russian moujik splits an Ilex in order to perform a similar curative operation. De Gubernatis tells us that the Venetian peasant, when fever-stricken, repairs to a tree, binds up the trunk, and says to it thrice, without taking breath, “I place thee here, I leave thee here, and I shall now depart.” Thereupon the fever leaves the patient; but if the tree be a fruit tree, it will from that time cease to yield fruit. In the Netherlands, a countryman who is suffering from the ague will go early in the morning to an old Willow-tree, tie three knots in a branch, and say: “Good morning, old one! I give thee the cold; good morning, old one.” This done, he will turn round quickly, and run off as fast as he can, without looking behind him.

But to revert to the superstitious practices of English Witches, Wise Women, and midwives. One of their prescriptions for the ague was as follows:—A piece of the nail of each of the patient’s fingers and toes, and a bit of hair from the nape of the neck, being cut whilst the patient was asleep, the whole were wrapped up in paper, and the ague which they represented was put into a hole in an Aspen tree, and left there, when by degrees the ague would quit the patient’s body. A very old superstition existed that diseases could be got rid of by burying them: and, indeed, Ratherius relates that, so early as the tenth century, a case of epilepsy was cured by means of a buried Peach-blossom; it is not surprising, therefore, that English Witches should have professed themselves able to cure certain disorders in this fashion; and accordingly we find that diseases and the means of their cure were ordered by them to be buried in the earth and in ants’ nests.

One of the Witches’ most reliable sources of obtaining money from their dupes was the concoction of love-philtres for despondent swains and love-sick maidens. In the composition of these potions, the juices of various plants and herbs were utilised; but these will be found adverted to in the chapter on Magical Plants. Fresh Orchis was employed by these cunning and unscrupulous simplers, to beget pure love; and dried Orchis to check illicit love. Cyclamen was one of the herbs prescribed by aged crones for a love potion, and by midwives it was esteemed a most precious and invaluable herb; but an expectant mother was cautioned to avoid and dread its presence. If, acting on the advice of the Wise Woman, she ate Quince- and Coriander-seed, her child, it was promised, would assuredly be ingenious and witty; but, on the contrary, should she chance to partake too bountifully of Onions, Beans, or similar vaporous vegetable food, she was warned that her offspring would be a fool, and possibly even a lunatic. Mothers were also sagely cautioned that to preserve an infant from evil, it was necessary to feed it with Ash-sap directly it was born; and they were admonished that it should never be weaned while the trees were in blossom, or it would have grey hair.

As relics of the charms and prescriptions of the old Witches, countless superstitions connected with plants are to be found at the present day rife in all parts of the country. Of these the following are perhaps the principal:—For the cure of diseases: Blue Cornflowers gathered on Corpus Christi Sunday stop nose-bleeding if they are held in the hand till they are warm. Club Moss is considered good for all diseases of the eyes, and Euphrasy and Rue for dimness of sight. Cork has the power of keeping off the cramp, and so have Horse-chesnuts if carried in the pocket. Elder-sticks in the pocket of a horseman when riding prevent galling; and the same, with three, five, or seven knots, if carried in the pocket will ward off rheumatism. A Potato (stolen, if possible) or a piece of Rowan-wood in the trousers pocket will also cure rheumatism. The roots of Pellitory of Spain and Tarragon, held between the teeth, cure the toothache, and so will splinters of an Oak struck by lightning. Hellebore, Betony, Honesty, and Rue are antidotes against madness. The root of a male Peony, dried and tied to the neck, cures epilepsy and relieves nightmare. Castoreum, Musk, Rue-seed, and Agnus Castus-seed are likewise all remedies for nightmare. Chelidonium placed under the bare feet will cure jaundice. A twig of Myrtle carried about the person is efficacious in cases of tumour in the groin. Green Wormwood placed in the shoes will relieve pains in the stomach of the wearer. Spurge and Laurel-leaves, if broken off upwards, will cause vomiting; if downwards, purging. Plantain laid under the feet removes weariness; and with Mugwort worn beneath the soles of his feet a man may walk forty miles without tiring. Agnus Castus, if carried in the hand, will prevent weariness; and when placed in a bed preserves chastity. Henbane, laid between the sheets, also preserves chastity, and will besides kill fleas. Necklaces of Peony-root, worn by children, prevent convulsions. The excrescence found in Rose-bushes, known as “Robin Redbreast’s Cushion,” when hung round children’s necks, will cure whooping-cough. Pansy-leaves, placed in the shoe, or Sage-leaves eaten, will cure ague. The roots of white Briony, bruised and applied to any place, when the bones are broken, help to draw them forth, as also splinters, arrow-heads, and thorns in the flesh. The root of an Iris, if it grow upwards, will attract all thorns from the flesh; if, on the contrary, it inclines downwards, it will cure wounds. A piece of Oak, rubbed in silence on the body, on St. John’s Day, before the sun rises, heals all open wounds. An Apple is deemed potent against warts, and so is a green Elder-stick, rubbed over them, and then buried in muck, to rot. Sometimes the Elder-stick has a notch cut in it for each wart; it is then rubbed over the warts, and finally burned. Warts are also cured by pricking them with a Gooseberry-thorn passed through a wedding-ring; and by rubbing them with a Bean-shell, which is afterwards secretly taken under an Ash-tree by the operator, who then repeats the words—

“As this Bean-shell rots away,
So my warts shall soon decay.”

Catmint will cause those of the most gentle and mild dispositions to become fierce and quarrelsome. Crocus-flowers will produce laughter and great joy. Rosemary, worn about the body, strengthens the memory. He who sows seed should be careful not to lay it on a table, otherwise it will not grow. In sowing peas, take some of them in your mouth before the sun goes down, keep them there in silence while you are sowing the rest, and this will preserve them from sparrows. A piece of wood out of a coffin that has been dug up, when laid in a Cabbage-bed, will defend it from caterpillars. A bunch of wild Thyme and Origanum, laid by the milk in a dairy, prevents its being spoiled by thunder: Sunflowers are also held to be a protection against thunder. A bunch of Nettles laid in the barrel, in brewing, answers the same purpose. Water Pepper, put under the saddle of a tired horse, will refresh him and cause him to travel well again. Basil, if allowed to rot under an earthen jar, will become changed into scorpions, and the frequent smelling of this herb is apt to generate certain animals like scorpions in the brain. The Oak being a prophetic tree, a fly in the gall-nut is held to foretell war; a maggot, dearth; a spider, pestilence.

Probably the most frequent visitors to the Witch’s cottage were vain and silly maidens, desirous either of procuring some potion which should enhance their rustic charms, or of learning from the lips of the Witch the mysteries of the future. To such credulous applicants the beldame would impart the precious secrets, that Lilies of the Valley, gathered before sunrise, and rubbed over the face, would take away freckles; and that Wild Tansy, soaked in butter-milk for nine days, and then applied as a wash to the face, would cause the user to look handsome. For those who were anxious to consult her as to their love affairs, or desired to test her powers of divination, the Witch had an abundant stock of charms and amulets, and was prepared with mystic and unerring spells. She would take a root of the Bracken-fern, and, cutting its stem very low down, would show to the inquiring maiden the initial letter of her future husband’s name. She knew where to procure two-leaved and four-leaved Clover, and even-leaved Ash, by the aid of which lovers would be forthcoming before the day was over. She could instruct a lass in the mystic rite of Hemp-sowing in the churchyard at midnight on St. Valentine’s Eve. She knew and would reveal where Yarrow was to be found growing on a dead man’s grave, and would teach country wenches the charmed verse to be repeated when the magic plant should be placed beneath their pillow. She could superintend the construction of “The Witches’ Chain” by three young women, and could provide the necessary Holly, Juniper, and Mistletoe-berries, with an Acorn for the end of each link; and she would instruct them how to wind this mystic chain around a long thin log of wood, which was to be placed on the fire, accompanied by many magical rites (the secret of which she would divulge), and then burnt, with the promised result that just as the last Acorn was consumed, each of the three maidens should see her future husband walk across the room, or if she were doomed to celibacy, then a coffin or some misshapen form.

The Witch was cunning in the composition of draughts which should procure dreams, and the secret of many of these potions is still known and treasured. Thus: fresh Mistletoe-berries (not exceeding nine in number), steeped in a liquid composed of equal proportions of wine, beer, vinegar, and honey, taken as pills on an empty stomach before going to bed, will cause dreams of your future destiny (providing you retire to rest before twelve) either on Christmas-eve or on the first and third of a new moon. Similar dreams may be procured by making a nosegay of various-coloured flowers, one of a sort, a sprig of Rue, and some Yarrow off a grave; these must be sprinkled with a few drops of the oil of Amber, applied with the left hand, and bound round the head under the night-cap, when retiring to bed, which must be supplied with clean linen. A prophetic dream is to be procured through the medium of what is known as “Magic Laurel,” by carrying out the following formula:—Rise between three and four o’clock in the morning of your birthday, with cautious secresy, so as to be observed by no one, and pluck a sprig of Laurel; convey it to your chamber, and hold it over some lighted brimstone for five minutes, which you must carefully note by a watch or dial; wrap it in a white linen cloth or napkin, together with your own name written on paper, and that of your lover (or if there is more than one, write all the names down), write also the day of the week, the date of the year, and the age of the moon; then haste and bury it in the ground, where you are sure it will not be disturbed for three days and three nights; then take it up, and place the parcel under your pillow for three nights, and your dreams will be truly prophetic as to your destiny. A dream of fate is to be procured on the third day of the months between September and March by any odd number of young women not exceeding nine, if each string nine Acorns on a separate string (or as many Acorns as there are young women), wrap them round a long stick of wood, and place it in the fire, precisely at midnight. The maidens, keeping perfect silence, must then sit round the fire till all the Acorns are consumed, then take out the ashes, and retire to bed directly, repeating—

“May love and marriage be the theme,
To visit me in this night’s dream;
Gentle Venus, be my friend,
The image of my lover send;
Let me see his form and face,
And his occupation trace;
By a symbol or a sign,
Cupid, forward my design.”
Plants Antagonistic to Witchcraft.

The Rowan, Mountain Ash, or Care-tree has a great repute among country folk in the cure of ills arising from supernatural as well as natural causes. It is dreaded and shunned by evil spirits; it renders null the spells of Witches and sorcerers, and has many other marvellous properties. A piece of Rowan wood carried in the pocket of a peasant acts as a charm against ill-wishes, and bunches of Care suspended over the cow’s stall and wreathed around her horns will guard her from the effects of the Evil Eye and keep, her in health, more especially if her master does not forget to repeat regularly the pious prayer—

“From Witches and Wizards, and long-tailed Buzzards,
And creeping things that run in hedge-bottoms,
Good Lord, deliver us!”

The Ash, in common with the Rowan-tree, possesses the property of resisting the attacks of Witches, Elves, and other imps of darkness; on this account Ash-sap is administered to newly-born children, as without some such precaution the Fairies or Witches might change the child, or even steal it.

“Rowan, Ash, and red thread
Keep the Devils frae their speed.”

The Hazel, according to German tradition, is inimical to Witches and enchanters. North says that by means of Hazel-rods Witches can be compelled to restore to animals and plants the fecundity of which by their malign influence they had previously deprived them.

Elder, gathered on the last day of April, and affixed to the doors and windows of the house, disappoints designing Witches and protects the inhabitants from their diabolical spells.

Mistletoe, as a distinctly sacred plant, is considered a talisman against witchcraft. A small sprig of this mystic plant worn round the neck is reputed to possess the power of repelling Witches, always provided that the bough from which it was cut has not been allowed to touch the earth after being gathered. Plucked with certain ceremonies on the Eve of St. John, and hung up in windows, it is considered an infallible protection against Witches, evil spirits, and phantoms, as well as against storms and thunder.

Cyclamen would appear to be considered a preservative from the assaults of witchcraft and evil spirits, if we may judge from the following couplet:—

“St. John’s Wort and fresh Cyclamen she in her chamber kept,
From the power of evil angels to guard him while he slept.”

Vervain and St. John’s Wort, carried about the person, will prove a sure preservation against the wiles of Satan and the machinations and sorcery of Witches.

“Gin you would be leman of mine,
Lay aside the St. John’s Wort and the Vervain.”

Dill has also the reputation of counteracting the enchantments of Witches and sorcerers—

“The Verdain and the Dill
That hindreth Witches of their will.”

St. John’s Wort (Hypericum), the Fuga Dæmonum of the old writers, is a plant detested by Witches, who are scared when in its neighbourhood.

“St. John’s Wort, scaring from the midnight heath
The Witch and Goblin with its spicy breath.”

Herb Paris, according to Matthiolus, takes away all evil done by witchcraft; Pimpernel is potent to prevent it; and Angelica worn round the neck will defeat the malignant designs of Witches, who moreover, it is satisfactory to know, detest the Bracken Fern, because if its stem be cut, there will be found therein the monogram of Christ. Flowers of a yellow or greenish hue, growing in hedgerows, are also repugnant to them.

In the Tyrol there exists a belief that by binding Rue, Broom, Maidenhair, Agrimony, and ground Ivy, into one bundle, the bearer of the same is enabled to see and know Witches.

Magical Plants.

CHAPTER X.

Magical Plants.

In remote ages, the poisonous or medicinal properties of plants were secrets learnt by the most intelligent and observant members of pastoral and nomadic tribes and clans; and the possessor of these secrets became often both medicine-man and priest, reserving to himself as much as possible the knowledge he had acquired of herbs and their uses, and particularly of those that would produce stupor, delirium, and madness; for by these means he could produce in himself and others many startling and weird manifestations, which the ignorance of his fellows would cause them to attribute to Divine or supernatural causes. The Zuckungen, or convulsions, ecstacies, temporary madness, and ravings, that formerly played so important a part in the oracular and sacerdotal ceremonies, and which survive even at the present day, had their origin in the tricks played by the ancient medicine-man in order to retain his influence over his superstitious brethren. The exciting and soporific properties of certain herbs and plants, and the peculiar phenomena which, in skilful hands, they could be made to produce in the victim, were well known to the ancient seers and priests, and so were easily foretold; while the symptoms and effects could be varied accordingly as the plants were dried, powdered, dissolved in water, eaten freshly gathered, or burnt as incense on the altars. The subtle powers of opiates obtained from certain plants were among the secrets carefully preserved by the magi and priests.

According to Prosper Alpinus, dreams of paradise and celestial visions were produced among the Egyptians by the use of Opium; and Kaempfer relates that after having partaken of an opiate in Persia, he fell into an ecstatic state, in which he conceived himself to be flying in the air beyond the clouds, and associating with celestial beings.

From the juice of the Hemp, the Egyptians have for ages prepared an intoxicating extract, called Hashîsh, which is made up into balls of the size of a Chestnut. Having swallowed some of these, and thereby produced a species of intoxication, they experience ecstatic visions.

Among the Brahmins, the Soma, a sacred drink prepared from the pungent juice of the Asclepias acida, or Cyanchum viminale, was one of the means used to produce the ecstatic state. Soma juice was employed to complete the phrensied trances of the Indian Yogis or seers: it is said to have the effect of inducing the ecstatic state, in which the votary appears in spirit to soar beyond the terrestrial regions, to become united with Brahma, and to acquire universal lucidity (clairvoyance). Windischmann observes that in the remote past, the mystic Soma was taken as a holy act—a species of sacrament; and that, by this means, the soul of the communicant became united with Brahma. It is frequently said that even Parashpati partook of this celestial beverage, the essence, as it is called, of all nourishment. In the human sacrifices, the Soma-drink was prepared with magical ceremonies and incantations, by which means the virtues of the inferior and superior worlds were supposed to be incorporated with the potion.

John Weir speaks of a plant, growing on Mount Lebanon, which places those who taste it in a state of visionary ecstacy; and Gassendi relates that a fanatical shepherd in Provence prepared himself for the visionary and prophetic state by using Stramonium.

The Laurel was held specially sacred to Apollo, and the Pythia who delivered the answer of the god to those who consulted the famous oracle at Delphi, before becoming inspired, shook a Laurel-tree that grew close by, and sometimes ate the leaves with which she crowned herself. A Laurel-branch was thought to impart to prophets the faculty of seeing that which was obscure or hidden; and the tree was believed to possess the property of inducing sleep and visions. Among the ancients it was also thought useful in driving away spectres. Evelyn, remarking on the custom of prophets and soothsayers sleeping upon the boughs and branches of trees, or upon mattresses composed of their leaves, tells us that the Laurel and Agnus Castus were plants “which greatly composed the phansy, and did facilitate true visions, and that the first was specially efficacious to inspire a poetical fury.” According to Abulensis, he adds, “such a tradition there goes of Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, in imitation of her father-in-law.” And he thinks it probable that from that incident the Delphic Tripos, the Dodonæan Oracle in Epirus, and others of a similar description, took their origin. Probably, when introducing the Jewish fortune-tellers in his sixth satire, Juvenal alludes to the practice of soothsayers and sibyls sleeping on branches and leaves of trees, in the lines—

“With fear
The poor she-Jew begs in my Lady’s ear,
The grove’s high-priestess, heaven’s true messenger,
Jerusalem’s old laws expounds to her.”

The Druids, besides being priests, prophets, and legislators, were also physicians; they were acquainted, too, with the means of producing trances and ecstacies, and as one of their chief medical appliances they made use of the Mistletoe, which they gathered at appointed times with certain solemn ceremonies, and considered it as a special gift of heaven. This plant grew on the Oak, the sacred tree of the Celts and Druids; it was held in the highest reverence, and both priests and people then regarded it as divine. To this day the Welsh call Pren-awr—the celestial tree—

“The mystic Mistletoe,
Which has no root, and cannot grow
Or prosper but by that same tree
It clings to.”

The sacred Oak itself was thought to possess certain magical properties in evoking the spirit of prophecy: hence we find the altars of the Druids were often erected beneath some venerated Oak-tree in the sombre recesses of the sacred grove; and it was under the shadow of such trees that the ancient Germans offered up their holy sacrifices, and their inspired bards made their prophetic utterances. The Greeks had their prophetic Oaks that delivered the oracles of Jupiter in the sacred grove of Dodona—

“Such honours famed Dodona’s grove acquired,
As justly due to trees by heaven inspired;
When once her Oaks did fate’s decrees reveal,
And taught wise men truths future to foretel.”—Rapin.

The Arcadians attributed another magical power to the Oak, for they believed that by stirring water with an Oaken bough rain could be brought from the clouds.

The Russians are acquainted with a certain herb which they call Son-trava, or Dream Herb, which has been identified with the Pulsatilla patens. This plant is said to blossom in the month of April, and to put forth an azure-coloured flower; if this is placed under the pillow, it will induce dreams, and these dreams are said to be fulfilled. In England, a four-leaved Clover similarly treated will produce a like result.

Like the Grecian sorceresses, Medea and Circe, the Vedic magicians were acquainted with numerous plants which would produce love-philtres of the most powerful character, if not altogether irresistible. The favourite flowers among the Indians for their composition are the Mango, Champak, Jasmine, Lotus, and Asoka. According to Albertus Magnus, the most powerful flower for producing love is that which he calls Provinsa. The secret of this plant had been transmitted by the Chaldeans. The Greeks knew it as Vorax, the Latins as Proventalis or Provinsa; and it is probably the same plant now known to the Sicilians as the Pizzu’ngurdu, to which they attribute most subtle properties. Thus the chastest of women will become the victim of the most burning passion for the man who, after pounding the Pizzu’ngurdu, is able to administer it to her in any sort of food.

Satyrion was a favourite herb with magicians, sorceresses, Witches, and herbalists, who held it to be one of the most powerful incentives of amatory passions. Kircher relates the case of a youth who, whenever he visited a certain corner of his garden, became so inflamed with passionate longings, that, with the hope of obtaining relief, he mentioned the circumstance to a friend, who, upon examing the spot, found it overgrown with a species of Satyrion, the odour from which had the effect of producing amatory desires.

The Mandrake, Carrot, Cyclamen, Purslain (Aizoon), Valerian, Navel-wort (Umbilicus Veneris), Wild Poppy (Papaver Argemone), Anemone, Orchis odoratissima, O. cynosorchis, O. tragorchis, O. triorchis, and others of the same family, and Maidenhair Fern (Capillus Veneris) have all of them the property of inspiring love.

In Italy, Basil is considered potent to inspire love, and its scent is thought to engender sympathy. Maidens think that it will stop errant young men and cause them to love those from whose hands they accept a sprig. In England, in olden times, the leaves of the Periwinkle, when eaten by man and wife, were supposed to cause them to love one another. An old name appertaining to this plant was that of the “Sorcerer’s Violet,” which was given to it on account of its frequent use by wizards and quacks in the manufacture of their charms against the Evil Eye and malign spirits. The French knew it as the Violette des Sorciers, and the Italians as Centocchio, or Hundred Eyes.

In Poland, a plant called Troizicle, which has bluish leaves and red flowers, has the reputation of causing love and forgetfulness of the past, and of enabling him who employs it to go wherever he desires.

Helmontius speaks of a herb that when held in the palm of the hand until it grows warm, will rapidly acquire the power of detaining the hand of another until it not only grows warm, also, but the owner becomes inflamed with love. He states that by its use he inspired a dog with such love for himself, that he forsook a kind mistress to follow him, a stranger. This herb is said to be met with everywhere, but unfortunately the name is not given.

Cumin is thought to possess a mystical power of retention: hence it has found its way into many a love-philtre, as being able to ensure fidelity and constancy in love.

Among the plants and flowers to which the power of divination has been ascribed, and which are consulted for the most part by rustic maidens in affairs of the heart, are the Centaury, Bluet, or Horseknot, the Starwort, the Ox-eye Daisy, the Dandelion, Bachelor’s Buttons, the Primrose, the Rose, the Poppy, the Hypericum, the Orpine, the Yarrow, the Mugwort, the Thistle, the Knotweed, Plantain, the Stem of the Bracken Fern, Four-leaved and Two-leaved Clover, Even Ash-leaves, Bay or Bay-leaves, Laurel-leaves, Apples and Apple-pips, Nuts, Onions, Beans, Peascods, Corn, Maize, Hemp-seed.

Albertus Magnus states that Valeria yields a certain juice of amity, efficacious in restoring peace between combatants; and that the herb Provinsa induces harmony between husband and wife. Gerarde, in his ‘Herbal,’ mentions a plant, called Concordia, which he says is Argentina, or Silver-weed (Potentilla anserina); and in Piedmont, at the present time, there grows a plant (Palma Christi), locally known as Concordia, which the peasantry use for matrimonial divinations. The root of the plant is said to be divided into two parts, each bearing a resemblance to the human hand, with five fingers: if these hands are found united, marriage is sure; but if separated, a rupture between the lovers is presaged. There is also, in Italy, a plant known as Discordia, likewise employed for love divinations. In this plant the male flowers are violet, the female white; the male and female flowers blossom almost always the one after the other—the male turns to the East, the female to the West.

In the Ukraine, there grows a plant called there Prikrit, which, if gathered between August 15th and October 1st, has the property of destroying calumnies spread abroad in order to hinder marriages. In England, the Baccharis, or Ploughman’s Spikenard, is reputed to be able to repel calumny. In Russia, a plant called Certagon, the Devil-chaser, is used to exorcise the devil, who is supposed to haunt the grief-stricken husband or wife whom death has robbed of the loved one. This grief-charming plant is also used to drive away fear from infants. The Sallow has many magical properties: no child can be born in safety where it is hung, and no spirit can depart in peace if its foliage be anywhere near.

The Zuñis, a tribe of Mexican Indians, hold in high veneration a certain magical plant called Té-na-tsa-li, which they aver grows only on one mountain in the West, and which produces flowers of many colours, the most beautiful in the world, whilst its roots and juices are a panacea for all injuries to the flesh of man.

The Indian Tulasi, or Sacred Basil (Ocimum sanctum) is pre-eminently a magical herb. By the Hindus it is regarded as a plant of the utmost sanctity, which protects those that cultivate it from all misfortunes, guards them from diseases and injuries, and ensures healthy children. In Burmah, the Eugenia is endowed with similar magical properties, and is regarded by the Burmese with especial reverence.

The Onion, if suspended in a room, possesses the magical powers of attracting and absorbing maladies that would otherwise attack the inmates.

In Peru, there is said to grow a wonderful tree called Theomat. If a branch be placed in the hand of a sick person, and he forthwith shows gladness, it is a sign that he will at length recover; but if he shows sadness and no sign of joy, that is held to be a certain sign of approaching death.

In England, the withering of Bay-leaves has long been considered ominous of death: thus Shakspeare writes—

“’Tis thought the King is dead; we will not stay.
The Bay-trees in our country are all withered.”

The smoke of the green branches of the Juniper was the incense offered by the ancients to the infernal deities, whilst its berries were burnt at funerals to keep off evil spirits.

The Peony drives away tempests and dispels enchantments. The St. John’s Wort (called of old Fuga dæmonum) is a preservative against tempests, thunder, and evil spirits, and possesses other magical properties which are duly enumerated in another place.

The Rowan-tree of all others is gifted with the powers of magic, and is held to be a charm against the Evil Eye, witchcraft, and unholy spells. The Elder, the Thorn, the Hazel, and the Holly, in a similar manner, possess certain properties which entitle them to be classed as magical plants. Garlic is employed by the Greeks, Turks, Chinese, and Japanese, as a safeguard against the dire influences of the Evil Eye.

The extraordinary attributes of the Fern-seed are duly enumerated in Part II., under the head of Fern, and can be there studied by all who are desirous of investigating its magic powers.

The Clover, if it has four leaves, is a magical plant, enabling him who carries it on his person to be successful at play, and have the power of detecting the approach of malignant spirits. If placed in the shoe of a lover, the four-leaved Clover will ensure his safe return to the arms and embraces of his sweetheart.

The Mandrake is one of the most celebrated of magical plants, but for an enumeration of its manifold mystic powers readers must be referred to the description given in Part II., under the head of Mandrake. This plant was formerly called Circeium, a name derived from Circe, the celebrated enchantress. The Germans call it Zauberwurzel (Sorcerer’s root), and the young peasant girls of the Fatherland often wear bits of the plant as love charms.

The marshes of China are said to produce a certain fruit which the natives call Peci. If any one puts with this fruit a copper coin into his mouth, he can diminish it with no less certainty than the fruit itself, and reduce it to an eatable pulp.

In France, Piedmont, and Switzerland, the country-people tell of a certain Herb of Oblivion which produces loss of memory in anyone putting his foot upon it. This herb also causes wayfarers to lose their way, through the unfortunates forgetting the aspects of the country, even although they were quite familiar to them before treading on the Herb of Forgetfulness. Of a somewhat similar nature must have been the fruit of the Lotos-tree, which caused the heroes of the Odyssey to forget their native country.

King Solomon, whose books on Magic King Hezekiah destroyed lest their contents should do harm, ascribed great magical powers to a root which he called Baharas (or Baara). Josephus, in his History of the Jewish Wars, states that this wonderful root is to be found in the region of Judæa. It is like a flame in colour, and in the evening appears like a glittering light; but upon anyone approaching it with the idea of pulling it up, it appears to fly or dart away, and will avoid its pursuer until it be sprinkled either with menstrual blood or lotium femininum.

“The Mandrake’s charnel leaves at night”

possess the same characteristic of shining through the gloom, and, on that account, the Arabians call it the Devil’s Candle.

The ancients knew a certain herb called Nyctilopa, which had the property of shining from afar at night: this same herb was also known as Nyctegredum or Chenomychon, and geese were so averse to it, that upon first spying it they would take to instant flight. Perhaps this is the same plant as the Johanniswurzel or Springwort (Euphorbia lathyris), which the peasants of Oberpfalz believe can only be found among the Fern on St. John’s Night, and which is stated to be of a yellow colour, and to shine at night as brightly as a candle. Like the Will-o’-the-Wisp, the Johanniswurzel eludes the grasp of man by darting and frisking about.

Several plants are credited with possessing the power of preservation from thunder and lightning. Pliny mentions the Vibro, which he calls Herba Britannica, as a plant which, if picked before the first thunderblast of a storm was heard, was deemed a safeguard against lightning. In the Netherlands, the St. John’s Wort, gathered before sunrise, is credited with protective powers against lightning. In Westphalia, the Donnerkraut (the English Orpine, or Live-long) is kept in houses as a preservative from thunder. In England, the Bay is considered a protection from lightning and thunder; the Beech was long thought to be a safeguard against the effects of lightning; and Houseleek or Stonecrop, if grown upon a roof, is still regarded as protecting the house from being struck by lightning. The Gnaphalium, an Everlasting-flower, is gathered on the Continent, on Ascension Day, and suspended over doorways, to fulfil the same function. In Wales, the Stonecrop is cultivated on the roof to keep off disease.

The Selago, or Golden Herb of the Druids, imparted to the priestess who pressed it with her foot, the knowledge of the language of animals and birds. If she touched it with iron, the sky grew dark, and a misfortune befell the world.

The old magicians were supposed to have been acquainted with certain plants and herbs from which gold could be extracted or produced. One of these was the Sorb-tree, which was particularly esteemed for its invaluable powers; another was a herb on Mount Libanus, which was said to communicate a golden hue to the teeth of the goats and other animals that grazed upon it. Niebuhr thinks this may be the herb which the Eastern alchymists employed as a means of making gold. Father Dundini noticed that the animals living on Mount Ida ate a certain herb that imparted a golden hue to the teeth, and which he considered proceeded from the mines underground. It was an old belief in Germany, by the shores of the Danube, and in Hungary, that the tendrils and leaves of the Vines were plated with gold at certain periods, and that when this was the case, it was a sure sign that gold lay hidden somewhere near.

Plutarch speaks of a magical herb called Zaclon, which, when bruised and thrown into wine, would at once change it into water.

Some few plants, like the well-known Sesame of the ‘Arabian Nights,’ are credited with the power of opening doors and obtaining an entry into subterranean caverns and mountain sides. In Germany, there is a very favourite legend of a certain blue Luck-flower which gains for its fortunate finder access to the hidden recesses of a mountain, where untold riches lie heaped before his astonished eyes. Hastily filling his pockets with gold, silver, and gems, he heeds not the presence of a dwarf or Fairy, who, as he unknowingly drops the Luck-flower whilst leaving the treasure-house, cries “Forget not the best of all.” Thinking only of the wealth he has pocketed, he unheedingly passes through the portal of the treasure cave, only just in time to save himself from being crushed by the descending door, which closes with an ominous clang, and shuts in for ever the Luck-flower, which can alone open the cave again.

In Russia, a certain herb, which has the power of opening, is known as the Rasriv-trava. The peasants recognise it in this manner: they cut a good deal of grass about the spot where the Rasriv-trava is thought to grow, and throw the whole of it into the river; thereupon this magic plant will not only remain on the surface of the water, but it will float against the current. The herb, however, is extraordinarily rare, and can only be found by one who also possesses the herb Plakun and the Fern Paporotnik. The Fern, like the Hazel, discovers treasures, and therefore possesses the power of opening said to belong to the Rasriv-trava, but the latter is the only plant that can open the locks of subterranean entrances to the infernal regions, which are always guarded by demons. It also has the special property of being able to reduce to powder any metal whatsoever.

The Primrose is in Germany regarded as a Schlüsselblume, or Key-flower, and is supposed to provide the means of obtaining ingress to the many legendary treasure-caverns and subterranean passages under hill and mountain sides dating back from the remote times when the Goddess Bertha was wont to entice children to enter her enchanted halls by offering them pale Primroses.

The Mistletoe, in addition to its miraculous medicinal virtues, possesses the power of opening all locks; and a similar property is by some ascribed to Artemisia, the Mandrake, and the Vervain.

The Moonwort, or Lesser Lunary (Botrychium Lunaria)—the Martagon of ancient wizards, the Lunaria minor of the alchymists—will open the locks of doors if placed in proper fashion in the keyhole. It is, according to some authorities, the Sferracavallo of the Italians, and is gifted with the power of unshoeing horses whilst at pasture.

Grimm is of opinion that the Sferracavallo is the Euphorbia lathyris, the mystic Spring-wort, which, like the Luck-flower, possesses the wondrous power of opening hidden doors, rocks, and secret entrances to treasure caves, but which is only to be obtained through the medium of a green or black woodpecker under conditions which will be found duly recorded in Part II., under the head of Springwort.

The Mouse-ear is called Herba clavorum because it prevents the blacksmith from hurting horses when he is shoeing them.

Magic Wands and Divining Rods.

At so remote a period as the Vedic age we find allusions to magic wands or rods. In the Vedas, the Hindu finds instructions for cutting the mystic Sami branch and the Arani. This operation was to be performed so that the Eastern and Western sun shone through the fork of the rod, or it would prove of no avail. The Chinese still abide by these venerable instructions in the cutting of their magic wands, which are usually cut from the Peach or some other fruit tree on the night preceding the new year, which always commences with the first new moon after the Winter solstice. The employment of magic wands and staffs was in vogue among the Chaldæans and Egyptians, who imparted the knowledge of this system of divination to the Hebrews dwelling among them. Thus we find the prophet Hosea saying, “My people ask counsel at their stocks, and their staff declareth unto them.” Rhabdomancy, or divination by means of a rod, was practised by the ancient Greeks and Romans, and the art was known in England at the time of Agricola, though now it is almost forgotten. In China and Eastern lands, the art still flourishes, and various kinds of plants and trees are employed; the principal being, however, the Hazel, Osier, and Blackthorn. The Druids were accustomed to cut their divining-rods from the Apple-tree. In competent hands, the Golden Rod is said to point to hidden springs of water, as well as to hidden treasures of gold and silver.

“Some sorcerers do boast they have a rod,
Gathered with vows and sacrifice,
That, borne aloft, will strangely nod
To hidden treasure where it lies.”—Shepherd (1600).

In Cornwall, the divining-rod is still employed by miners to discover the presence of mineral wealth; in Lancashire and Cumberland, the belief in the powers of the magic wand is widely spread; and in Wiltshire, it is used for detecting water. The Virgula divinatoria is also frequently in requisition both in Italy and France. Experts will tell you that, in order to ensure success, certain mystic rites must be performed at the cutting of the rod: this must be done after sunset and before sunrise, and only on certain special nights, among which are those of Good Friday, Epiphany, Shrove-Tuesday, and St. John’s Day, the first night of a new moon, or that preceding it. In cutting the divining-rod, the operator must face the East, so that it shall be one which catches the first rays of the morning sun, or it will be valueless. These conditions, it will be found, are similar to those contained in the Hindu Vedas, and still enforced by the Chinese. Some English experts are of opinion that a twig of an Apple-tree may be used as successfully as a Hazel wand—but it must be of twelve months’ growth. The seventh son of a seventh son is considered to be the most fitting person to use the rod. In operating, the small ends, being crooked, are to be held in the hands in a position flat or parallel to the horizon, and the upper part at an elevation having an angle to it of about seventy degrees. The rod must be grasped strongly and steadily, and then the operator walks over the ground: when he crosses a lode, its bending is supposed to indicate the presence thereof. According to Vallemont, the author of a treatise on the divining-rod, published towards the end of the seventeenth century, its use was not merely confined to indicate metal or water, but it was also employed in tracking criminals; and an extraordinary story is told of a Frenchman who, guided by his rod, “pursued a murderer, by land, for a distance exceeding forty-five leagues, besides thirty leagues more by water.”

From an article in the ‘Quarterly Review,’ No. 44, the statements in which were vouched by the Editor, it would seem that a Lady Noel possessed the faculty of using the divining-rod. In operating, this lady “took a thin forked Hazel-twig, about sixteen inches long, and held it by the end, the joint pointing downwards. When she came to the place where the water was under the ground, the twig immediately bent; and the motion was more or less rapid as she approached or withdrew from the spring. When just over it, the twig turned so quick as to snap, breaking near the fingers, which, by pressing it, were indented and heated, and almost blistered; a degree of agitation was also visible in her face. The exercise of the faculty is independent of any volition.”

In Germany, the divining-rod is often called the wishing-rod, and as it is by preference cut from the Blackthorn, that tree is known also as the Wishing Thorn. In Prussia, the Hazel rod must be cut in Spring to have its magical qualities thoroughly developed. When the first thunderstorm is seen to be approaching, a cross is made with the rod over every heap of grain, in order that the Corn so distinguished may keep good for many a month. In Bohemia, the magic rod is thought to cure fever; it is necessary, however, when purchasing one, not to raise an objection to the price. In Ireland, if anyone dreams of buried money, there is a prescribed formula to be employed when digging for it—a portion of which is the marking upon a Hazel wand three crosses, and the recital of certain words, of a blasphemous character, over it.

Sir Thomas Browne tells us that, in his time, the divining-rod was called Moses’ Rod; and he thinks, with Agricola, that this rod is of Pagan origin:—“The ground whereof were the magical rods in poets, that of Pallas in Homer, that of Mercury that charmed Argus, and that of Circe which transformed the followers of Ulysses. Too boldly usurping the name of Moses’ Rod, from which notwithstanding, and that of Aaron, were probably occasioned the fables of all the rest. For that of Moses must needs be famous, unto the Egyptians, and that of Aaron unto many other nations as being preserved in the Ark until the destruction of the Temple built by Solomon.” The Rabbis tell us that the rod of Moses was, originally, carved by Adam out of a tree which grew in the Garden of Eden; that Noah, who took it into the Ark with him, bequeathed it to Shem; that it descended to Abraham; that Isaac gave it to Jacob; that, during his sojourn in Egypt, he gave it to Joseph; and that finally it became the property of Moses.

Fabulous, Wondrous, and Miraculous Plants.

CHAPTER XI.

Fabulous, Wondrous, and Miraculous Plants.

We have seen how, among the ancient races of the earth, traditions existed which connected the origin of man with certain trees. In the Bundehesh, man is represented as having first appeared on earth under the form of the plant Reiva (Rheum ribes). In the Iranian account of man’s creation, the primal couple are stated to have first grown up as a single tree, and at maturity to have been separated and endowed with a distinct existence by Ormuzd. In the Scandinavian Edda, men are represented as having sprung from the Ash and Poplar. The Greeks traced the origin of the human race to the maternal Ash; and the Romans regarded the Oak as the progenitor of all mankind. The conception of human trees was present in the mind of the Prophet Isaiah, when he predicted that from the stem of Jesse should come forth a rod, and from his roots, a branch. The same idea is preserved in the genealogical trees of modern heraldry; and the marked analogy between man and trees has doubtless given rise to the custom of planting trees at the birth of children. The old Romans were wont to plant a tree at the birth of a son, and to judge of the prosperity of the child by the growth and thriving of the tree. It is said in the life of Virgil, that the Poplar planted at his birth flourished exceedingly, and far outstripped all its contemporaries. De Gubernatis records that, as a rule, in Germany, they plant Apple-trees for boys, and Pear-trees for girls. In Polynesia, at the birth of an infant, a Cocoa-nut tree is planted, the nodes of which are supposed to indicate the number of years promised to the little stranger.

According to a legend that Hamilton found current in Central India, the Khatties had this strange origin. When the five sons of Pându (the heroes whose exploits are told in the Mahâbhârata) had become simple tenders of flocks, Karna, their illegitimate brother, wishing to deprive them of these their last resource, prayed the gods to assist him: then he struck the earth with his staff, which was fashioned from the branch of a tree. The staff instantly opened, and out of it sprang a man, who said that his name was Khat, a word which signifies “begotten of wood.” Karna employed this tree-man to steal the coveted cattle, and the Khatties claim to be descended from this strange forefather.

The traditions of trees that brought forth human beings, and of trees that were in themselves partly human, are current among most of the Aryan and Semitic races, and are also to be found among the Sioux Indians. These traditions (which have been previously noticed in Chapter VII.) have probably given rise to others, which represent certain trees as bearing for fruit human beings and the members of human beings.

In the fourteenth century, an Italian voyager, Odoricus du Frioul, on arriving at Malabar, heard the natives speaking of trees which, instead of fruit, bore men and women: these creatures were scarcely a yard high, and their nether extremities were attached to the tree’s trunk, like branches. Their bodies were fresh and radiant when the wind blew, but on its dropping, they became gradually withered and dried up.

In the first book of the Mahâbhârata, reference is made, in the legend of Garuda, to an enormous Indian Fig-tree (Ficus religiosa), from the branches of which are suspended certain devotees of dwarfed proportions, called Vâlakhilyas.

Among the Arabs, there exists a tradition of an island in the Southern Ocean called Wak-Wak, which is so-named because certain trees growing thereon produce fruit having the form of a human head, which cries Wak! Wak!

Among the Chinese, the myth of men being descended from trees is reversed, for we find a legend current in the Flowery Land that, in the beginning, the herbs and plants sprang from the hairs of a cosmic giant.

The Chinese, however, preserve the tradition of a certain lake by whose margin grew great quantities of trees, the leaves of which when developed became changed into birds. In India, similar trees are referred to in many of the popular tales: thus, in “The Rose of Bakavali” mention is made of a garden of Pomegranate-trees, the fruit of which resembled earthenware vases. When these were plucked and opened, out hopped birds of beautiful plumage, which immediately flew away.

Pope Pius II., in his work on Asia and Europe, published towards the end of the fifteenth century, states that in Scotland there grew on the banks of a river a tree which produced fruits resembling ducks; these fruits, when matured, fell either on the river bank or into the water: those which fell on the ground perished instantly; those which fell into the water became turned at once into ducks, acquired plumage, and then flew off. His Holiness remarks that he had been unable to obtain any proof of this wondrous tree existing in Scotland, but that it was to be found growing in the Orkney Isles.

As early as the thirteenth century, Albertus Magnus expressed his disbelief in the stories of birds propagated from trees, yet there were not wanting writers who professed to have been eye-witnesses of the marvels they recounted respecting Bernicle or Claik Geese. Some of these witnesses, however, asserted that the birds grew on living trees, while others traced them to timber rotted in the sea, or boughs of trees which had fallen therein. Boëce, who favoured the latter theory, writes that “because the rude and ignorant people saw oft-times the fruit that fell off the trees (which stood near the sea) converted within a short time into geese, they believed that yir-geese grew upon the trees, hanging by their nebbis [bills] such like as Apples and other fruits hangs by their stalks, but their opinion is nought to be sustained. For as soon as their Apples or fruit falls off the tree into the sea-flood, they grow first worm-eaten, and by short process of time are altered into geese.” Munster, in his ‘Cosmographie,’ remembers that in Scotland “are found trees which produce fruit rolled up in leaves, and this, in due time, falling into water, which it overhangs, is converted into a living bird, and hence the tree is called the Goose-tree. The same tree grows in the island of Pomona. Lest you should imagine that this is a fiction devised by modern writers, I may mention that all cosmographists, particularly Saxo Grammaticus, take notice of this tree.” Prof. Rennie says that Montbeillard seems inclined to derive the name of Pomona from its being the orchard of these goose-bearing trees. Fulgosus depicts the trees themselves as resembling Willows, “as those who had seen them in Ireland and Scotland” had informed him. To these particulars, Bauhin adds that, if the leaves of this tree fall upon the land, they become birds; but if into the water, then they are transmuted into fishes.

Maundevile speaks of the Barnacle-tree as a thing known and proved in his time. He tells us, in his book, that he narrated to the somewhat sceptical inhabitants of Caldilhe how that “in oure contre weren trees that beren a fruyt that becomen briddes fleiynge: and thei that fallen on the erthe dyen anon: and thei ben right gode to mannes mete.”

Aldrovandus gives a woodcut of these trees, in which the foliage resembles that of Myrtles, while the strange fruit is large and heart-shaped.

The Barnacle or Goose Tree.
The Barnacle or Goose Tree.

Gerarde also gives a figure of what he calls the “Goose-tree, Barnacle-tree, or the tree bearing geese,” a reproduction of which is annexed. And although he speaks of the goose as springing from decayed wood., the very fact of his introducing the tree into the catalogue of his ‘Herbal,’ shows that he was, at least, divided between the above-named opinions. “What our eyes have seen,” he says, “and what our hands have touched, we shall declare. There is a small island in Lancashire, called the Pile of Foulders, wherein are found broken pieces of old ships, some whereof have been thrown thither by shipwracke, and also the trunks and bodies, with the branches of old and rotten trees cast up there likewise; whereon is found a certain spume or froth, that in time breedeth unto certaine shells, in shape like to those of the muskle, but sharper pointed, and of a whitish colour, wherein is contained a thing in forme like a lace of silke finely woven, as it were, together, of a whitish colour; one end whereof is fastned unto the inside of the shell, even as the fish of oisters and muskles are; the other end is made fast unto the belly of a rude mass, or lumpe, which, in time, commeth to the shape and forme of a bird. When it is perfectly formed, the shell gapeth open, and the first thing that appeareth is the foresaid lace or string; next come the legs of the bird hanging out, and as it groweth greater it openeth the shell by degrees, till at length it is all come forth, and hangeth onely by the bill; in short space after it commeth to full maturitie, and falleth into the sea, where it gathereth feathers, and groweth to a fowle bigger than a mallard and lesser than a goose, having blacke legs and bill or beake, and feathers blacke and white, spotted in such manner as is our magpie; called in some places a pie-annet, which the people of Lancashire call by no other name than tree-goose; which place aforesaid, and all those parts adjoyning, do so much abound therewith, that one of the best is bought for threepence. For the truth hereof, if any doubt, may it please them to repaire unto me, and I shall satisfie them by the testimonie of good witnesses.

Martin assures us that he had seen many of these fowls in the shells, sticking to the trees by the bill, but acknowledges that he had never descried any of them with life upon the tree, though the natives [of the Orkney Isles] had seen them move in the heat of the sun.

In the ‘Cosmographiæ of Albioun,’ Boëce (to whom we have before referred) considered the nature of the seas acting on old wood more relevant to the creation of barnacle or claik geese than anything else. “For,” he says, “all trees that are cassin into the seas, by process of time appears at first worm-eaten, and in the small holes or bores thereof grows small worms. First they show their head and neck, and last of all they show their feet and wings. Finally, when they are come to the just measure and quantity of geese, they fly in the air, as other fowls wont, as was notably proven in the year of God one thousand four hundred and eighty in the sight of many people beside the castle of Pitslego.” He then goes on to describe how a tree having been cast up by the sea, and split by saws, was found full of these geese, in different stages of their growth, some being “perfect shapen fowls;” and how the people, “having ylk day this tree in more admiration,” at length deposited it in the kirk of St. Andrew’s, near Tyre.”

Among the more uninformed of the Scotch peasantry, there still exists a belief that the Soland goose, or gannet, and not the bernicle, grows by the bill on the cliffs of Bass, of Ailsa, and of St. Kilda.

Giraldus traces the origin of these birds to the gelatinous drops of turpentine which appear on the branches of Fir-trees.

“A tree that bears oysters is a very extraordinary thing,” remarks Bishop Fleetwood in his ‘Curiosities of Agriculture and Gardening’ (1707), “but the Dominican Du Tertre, in his Natural History of Antego, assures us that he saw, at Guadaloupa, oysters growing on the branches of trees. These are his very words. The oysters are not larger than the little English oysters, that is to say, about the size of a crown piece. They stick to the branches that hang in the water of a tree called Paretuvier. No doubt the seed of the oysters, which is shed in the tree when they spawn, cleaves to those branches, so that the oysters form themselves there, and grow bigger in process of time, and by their weight bend down the branches into the sea, and then are refreshed twice a day by the flux and reflux of it.”

The Oyster-bearing Tree, however, is not the only marvel of which the good Bishop has left a record: he tells us that near the island Cimbalon there lies another, where grows a tree whose leaves, as they fall off, change into animals: they are no sooner on the ground, than they begin to walk like a hen, upon two little legs. Pigafetta says that he kept one of these leaves eight days in a porringer; that it took itself to walking as soon as he touched it; and that it lived only upon the air. Scaliger, speaking of these very leaves, remarks, as though he had been an eye-witness, that they walk, and march away without further ado if anyone attempts to touch them. Bauhin, after describing these wonderful leaves as being very like Mulberry-leaves, but with two short and pointed feet on each side, remarks upon the great prodigy of the leaf of a tree being changed into an animal, obtaining sense, and being capable of progressive motion.

The Barometz, or Vegetable Lamb.
The Barometz, or Vegetable Lamb.

Kircher records that in his time a tree was said to exist in Chili, the leaves of which produced worms; upon arriving at maturity, these worms crawled to the edge of the leaf, and thence fell to the earth, where after a time they became changed into serpents, which over-ran the whole land. Kircher endeavours to explain this story of the serpent-bearing tree by giving, as a reason for the phenomenon, that the tree attached to itself, through its roots, moisture pregnant with the seed of serpents. Through the action of the sun’s rays, and the moisture of the tree, this serpent-spawn degenerates into worms, which by contact with the earth become converted into living serpents.

The same authority states that in the Molucca islands, but more particularly in Ternate, not far from the castle of the same name, there grew a plant which he describes as having small leaves. To this plant the natives gave the name of Catopa, because when its leaves fall off they at once become changed into butterflies.

Doctor Darwin, in his botanical poem called ‘The Loves of the Plants,’ thus apostrophises an extraordinary animal-bearing plant:—

“Cradled in snow and fanned by Arctic air,
Shines, gentle Barometz! thy golden hair;
Rooted in earth, each cloven hoof descends,
And round and round her flexile neck she bends;
Crops the gray coral-moss and hoary Thyme,
Or laps with rosy tongue the melting rime,
Eyes with mute tenderness her distant dam,
Or seems to bleat, a vegetable Lamb.”

In the curious frontispiece to Parkinson’s ‘Paradisus,’ which will be found reproduced at the commencement of this work, it will be noticed that the Barometz, or Vegetable Lamb, is represented as one of the plants growing in Eden. In Zahn’s Speculæ Physico-Mathematico-Historicæ (1696) is given a figure of this plant, accompanied by a description, of which the following is a translation:—

“Very wonderful is the Tartarian shrub or plant which the natives call Boromez, i.e., Lamb. It grows like a lamb to about the height of three feet. It resembles a lamb in feet, in hoofs, in ears, and in the whole head, save the horns. For horns, it possesses tufts of hair, resembling a horn in appearance. It is covered with the thinnest bark, which is taken off and used by the inhabitants for the protection of their heads. They say that the inner pulp resembles lobster-flesh, and that blood flows from it when it is wounded. Its root projects and rises to the umbilicus. What renders the wonder more remarkable is the fact that, when the Boromez is surrounded by abundant herbage, it lives as long as a lamb, in pleasant pastures; but when they become exhausted, it wastes away and perishes. It is said that wolves have a liking for it, while other carnivorous animals have not.”

Scaliger, in his Exotericæ Exercitationes, gives a similar description, adding that it is not the fruit, the Melon, but the whole plant, that resembles a lamb. This does not tally with the account given by Odorico da Pordenone, an Indian traveller, who, before the Barometz had been heard of in Europe, appears to have been informed that a plant grew on some island in the Caspian Sea which bore Melon-like fruit resembling a lamb; and this tree is described and figured by Sir John Maundevile, who, in speaking of the countries and isles beyond Cathay, says that when travelling towards Bacharye “men passen be a Kyngdom that men clepen Caldilhe; that is a fulle fair Contree. And there growethe a maner of fruyt as thoughe it waren Gowrdes; and whan thei ben rype, men kutten hem a to, and men fynden with inne, a lytylle Best, in flessche, in bon, and blode, as though it were a lytylle Lomb, with outen wolle. And men eten bothe the Frut and the Best; and that is a gret marveylle. Of that Frute I have eten; alle thoughe it were wonderfulle; but that I knowe wel that God is marveyllous in his werkes.”

The Lamb Tree. From Maundevile’s Travels.
The Lamb Tree. From Maundevile’s Travels.

Maundevile, who in his book has left a record of so many marvellous things which he either saw or was told of during his Eastern travels, mentions a certain Indian island in the land of Prester John, where grew wild trees which produced Apples of such potent virtue that the islanders lived by the mere smell of them: moreover if they went on a journey, the men “beren the Apples with hem: for yif thei hadde lost the savour of the Apples thei scholde dyen anon.” In another island in the same country, Sir John was told were the Trees of the Sun and of the Moon that spake to King Alexander, and warned him of his death. Moreover, it was commonly reported that “the folk that kepen the trees, and eten of the frute and of the bawme that growethe there, lyven wel 400 yere or 500 yere, be vertue of the fruit and of the bawme.” In Egypt the old traveller heard of the Apple-tree of Adam, “that hav a byte at on of the sydes;” there also he saw Pharaoh’s Figs, which grew upon trees without leaves; and there also he tells us are gardens that have trees and herbs in them which bear fruit seven times in the year.

One of the most celebrated of fabulous trees is that which grew in the garden of the Hesperides, and produced the golden Apples which Hercules, with the assistance of Atlas, was able to carry off. Another classic tree is that bearing the golden branch of Virgil, which is by some identified with the Mistletoe. Among other celebrated mythical trees may be named the prophetic Oaks of the Dodonæan grove; the Singing Tree of the ‘Arabian Nights,’ every leaf of which was a mouth and joined in concert; and the Poet’s Tree referred to by Moore, in ‘Lalla Rookh,’ which grows over the tomb of Tan-Sein, a musician of incomparable skill at the court of Akbar, and of which it is said that whoever chews a leaf will have extraordinary melody of voice.

Wondrous Plants.

In Bishop Fleetwood’s curious work, to which reference has already been made, we find many extraordinary trees and plants described, some of which are perhaps worthy of a brief notice. He tells us of a wonderful metal-sapped tree known as the Mesonsidereos, which grows in Java, and even there is very scarce. Instead of pith, this tree has an iron wire that comes out of the root, and rises to the top of the tree. “But the best of all is, that whoever carries about him a piece of this ferruginous pith is invulnerable to any sword or iron whatever.” In Hirnaim de Typho this tree is said to produce fruit impenetrable by iron.

There are some trees that must have fire to nourish them. Methodius states that he saw on the top of the mountain Gheschidago (the Olympus of the ancients), near the city of Bursa, in Natolia, a lofty tree, whose roots were spread amidst the fire that issues from the vents of the earth; but whose leafy and luxuriant boughs spread their shade around, in scorn of the flames in the midst of which it grew.

This vegetable salamander finds its equal in a plant described by Nieuhoff as growing in rocky and stony places in the kingdom of Tanju, in Tartary. This extraordinary plant cannot be either ignited or consumed by fire; for although it becomes hot, and on account of the heat becomes glowing red in the fire, yet so soon as heat is removed, it grows cold, and regains its former appearance: in water, however, this plant is wont to become quite putrid.

Of a nature somewhat akin to these fire-loving plants must be the Japanese Palm, described by A. Montanus. This tree is said to shun moisture to such an extent, that if its trunk be in the least wet, it at once pines away and perishes as though it had been poisoned. However, if this arid tree be taken up by the roots, throughly dried in the sun, and re-planted with sand and iron filings around it, it will once more flourish, and become covered with new branches and leaves, provided that so soon as it has been re-planted, the old leaves are cut off with an iron instrument and fastened to the trunk.

The Bishop remarks that “one of the most wonderful plants is that which so mollifies the bones, that when we have eaten of it we cannot stand upon our legs. An ox who has tasted of it cannot go; his bones grow so pliant, that you may bend his legs like a twig of Ozier. The remedy is to make him swallow some of the bones of an animal who died from eating of that herb: ’tis certain death, and cannot be otherwise, for the teeth grow soft immediately, and ’tis impossible even to eat again.” “There is a plant that produces a totally opposite effect. It hardens the bones to a wondrous degree. A man who has chewed some of it, will have his teeth so hard as to be able to reduce flints and pebbles into impalpable powder.”

Maundevile describes some wonderful Balm-trees that in his time grew near Cairo, in a field wherein were seven wells “that oure Lord Jesu Christ made with on of His feet, whan He wente to pleyen with other children.” The balm obtained from these trees was considered so precious, that no one but the appointed tenders was allowed to approach them. Christians alone were permitted to till the ground in which they grew, as if Saracens were employed, the trees would not yield; and moreover it was necessary that men should “kutten the braunches with a scharp flyntston or with a scharp bon, whanne men wil go to kutte hem: For who so kutte hem with iren, it wolde destroye his vertue and his nature.”

The old knight has left a record of his impressions of the country near the shores of the Dead Sea, and has given a sketch of those Apple-trees of which Byron wrote—

“Like to the Apples on the Dead Sea’s shore,
All ashes to the taste.”

These trees producing Dead Sea fruit he tells us bore “fulle faire Apples, and faire of colour to behold; but whoso brekethe hem or cuttethe hem in two, he schalle fynd with in hem Coles and Cyndres, in tokene that, be wratthe of God, the cytees and the lond weren brente and sonken in to Helle.”

Dead Sea Fruit. From Maundevile’s Travels.
Dead Sea Fruit. From Maundevile’s Travels.

In Zahn’s Speculæ Physico-Mathematico-Historicæ we read of a peculiar Mexican tree, called Tetlatia or Gao, which causes both men and animals to lose their hair if they rub themselves against its trunk or sleep beneath its branches. Then we are told of a tree growing in Sofala, Africa, which yields no leaf during the whole year, but if a branch be cut off and placed in water, it grows green in ten hours, and produces abundance of leaves. Again, we read of the Zeibas, immense trees “in the new Kingdom of Granada,” which fifteen men could scarcely encompass with their arms; and which, wonderful to relate, cast all their leaves every twelve hours, and soon afterwards acquire other leaves in their place.

A certain tree is described as growing in America, which bears flowers like a heart, consisting of many white leaves, which are red within, and give forth a wonderfully sweet fragrance: these flowers are said to comfort and refresh the heart in a remarkable manner. A curious account is given of a plant, which Nierenbergius states grows in Bengal, which attracts wood so forcibly, that it apparently seizes it from the hands of men. A similar plant is said to exist in the island of Zeilan, which, if placed between two pieces of wood, each distant twenty paces from it, will draw them together and unite them.

Respecting the Boriza, a plant also known as the Lunaria or Lunar Herb, Zahn states that it is so called because it increases and decreases according to the changes of the moon: for when the moon is one day old, this plant has one leaf, and increases the number of leaves in proportion to the moon’s age until it is fifteen days old; then, as the moon decreases, its leaves one by one fall off. In the no-moon period, being deprived of all its leaves, it hides itself. Just as the Boriza is influenced by the moon, so are certain shrubs under the sway of the sun. These shrubs are described as growing up daily from the sand until noon, when they gradually diminish, and finally return to the earth at sunset.

Gerarde tells us that among the wonders of England, worthy of great admiration, is a kind of wood, called Stony Wood, alterable into the hardness of a stone by the action of water. This strange alteration of Nature, he adds, is to be seen in sundry parts of England and Wales; and then he relates how he himself “being at Rougby (about such time as our fantasticke people did with great concourse and multitudes repaire and run headlong unto the sacred wells of Newnam Regis, in the edge of Warwickshire, as unto the water of life, which could cure all diseases),” went from thence unto these wells, “where I found growing ouer the same a faire Ashe-tree, whose boughs did hang ouer the spring of water, whereof some that were seare and rotten, and some that of purpose were broken off, fell into the water and were all turned into stones. Of these boughes or parts of the tree I brought into London, which when I had broken in pieces, therein might be seene that the pith and all the rest was turned into stones, still remaining the same shape and fashion that they were of before they were in the water.”

In Hainam, a Chinese island, grows a certain tree known as the Fig of Paradise. Its growth is peculiar: from the centre of a cluster of six or seven leaves springs a branch with no leaves, but a profusion of fruit resembling Figs. The leaves of this tree are so large and so far apart, that a man could easily wrap himself up in them; hence it is supposed that our first parents, after losing their innocence, clothed themselves with the leaves of a tree of this species.

The island of Ferro, one of the Canaries, is said to be without rivers, fountains, and wells. However, it has a peculiar tree, as Metellus mentions, surrounded by walls like a fountain. It resembles the Nut-tree; and from its leaves there drops water which is drinkable by cattle and men. A certain courtesan of the island, when it was first subdued, made it known to the Spaniards. Her perfidy, however, is said to have been discovered and punished with death by her own people.

Bishop Fleetwood gives the following description, by Hermannus Nicolaus, of what he calls the Distillatory Plant:—“Great are the works of the Lord, says the wise man; we cannot consider them without ravishment. The Distillatory Plant is one of these prodigies of nature, which we cannot behold without being struck with admiration. And what most surprises me is the delicious nectar, with which it has often supplied me in so great abundance to refresh me when I was thirsty to death and unsufferably weary…. But the greatest wonder of it is the little purse, or if you will, a small vessel, as long and as big as the little finger, that is at the end of each leaf. It opens and shuts with a little lid that is fastened to the top of it. These little purses are full of a cool, sweet, clear cordial and very agreeable water. The kindness this liquor has done me when I have been parched up with thirst, makes me always think of it with pleasure. One plant yields enough to refresh and quench the thirst of a man who is very dry. The plant attracts by its roots the moisture of the earth, which the sun by his heat rarifies and raises up through the stem and the branches into the leaves, where it filtrates itself to drop into the little recipients that are at the end of them. This delicious sap remains in these little vessels till it be drawn out; and it must be observed that they continue close shut till the liquor be well concocted and digested, and open of themselves when the juice is good to drink. ’Tis of wonderful virtue to extinguish speedily the heats of burning fevers. Outwardly applied, it heals ring-worms, St. Anthony’s Fire, and inflammations.”

Plants Bearing Inscriptions and Figures.

Gerarde has told us that in the root of the Brake Fern, the figure of a spread-eagle may be traced; and Maundevile has asserted that the fruit of the Banana, cut it how you will, exhibits a representation of the Holy Cross. L. Sarius, in his Chronicles to the year 1559, records that, in Wales, an Ash was uprooted during a tempest, and in its massive trunk, rent asunder by the violence of the storm, a cross was plainly depicted, about a foot long. This cross remained for many years visible in the shattered trunk of the Ash, and was regarded with superstitious awe by the Catholics as having been Divinely sent to reprove the officious zeal of Queen Elizabeth in banishing sacred images from the Churches.

In Zahn’s work is an account—“resting on the sworn testimony of the worthiest men,” and on the authority of an archbishop—of the holy name Jesu found in a Beech that had been felled near Treves. The youth, who was engaged in chopping up this tree, observed while doing so, a cloud or film surrounding the pith of the wood. Astonished at the sight, he called his uncle Hermann, who noticed at once the sacred name in a yellow colour, changing to black. Hermann carried the wood home to his wife, who had long been an invalid, and she, regarding it as a precious relic, received much comfort, and finally, in answer to daily prayer, her strength was restored. After this, the wood was presented to the Elector Maximilian Henry, who was so struck with the phenomenon, that he had it placed in a rich silver covering, and publicly exposed as a sacred relic in a church; and on the spot where the tree was cut, he caused a chapel to be erected, to preserve the name of Jesu in everlasting remembrance.

In the same work, we are told that in a certain root, called Ophoides, a serpent is clearly represented; that the root of Astragalus depicts the stars; that in the trunk of the Quiacus, a dog’s head was found delineated, together with the perfect figure of a bird; that the trunk of a tree, when cut, displayed on its inner surface eight Danish words; that in a Beech cut down by a joiner, was found the marvellous representation of a thief hanging on a gibbet; and that in another piece of wood adhering to the former was depicted a ladder such as was used in those days by public executioners: these figures were distinctly delineated in a black tint. In 1628, in the wood of a fruit-tree that had been cut down near Haarlem, in Holland, the images of bishops, tortoises, and many other things were seen; and one Schefferus, a physician, has recorded that near the same place, a piece of wood was found in which there was given “a wonderful representation by Nature of a most orderly star with six rays.” Evelyn, in his ‘Sylva,’ speaks of a tree found in Holland, which, being cleft, exhibited the figures of a chalice, a priest’s alb, his stole, and several other pontifical vestments. Of this sort, he adds, was an Oxfordshire Elm, “a block of which wood being cleft, there came out a piece so exactly resembling a shoulder of veal, that it was worthy to be reckoned among the curiosities of this nature.” Evelyn also notices a certain dining-table made of an old Ash, whereon was figured in the wood fish, men, and beasts. In the root of a white Briony was discovered the perfect image of a human being: this curious root was preserved in the Museum at Bologna. Many examples of human figures in the roots of Mandrakes have been known, and Aldrovandus tell us that he was presented with a Mandrake-root, in which the image was perfect.

Vegetable Monstrosities.

It is related that, in the year 1670, there was exposed for sale, in the public market of Vratislavia, an extraordinary wild Bugloss, which, on account of the curiosity of the spectators and the different superstitious speculations of the crowd, was regarded not only as something monstrous but also as marvellous. This Bugloss was a little tortuous and 25 inches in length. Its breadth was 4 inches. It possessed a huge and very broad stem, the fibres of which ran parallel to each other in a direct line. It bore flowers in the greatest abundance, and had at least one root.

Aldrovandus, in his Liber de Monstris, describes Grapes with beards, which were seen in the year 1541 in Germany, in the province of Albersweiler. They were sent as a present, first to Louis, Duke of Bavaria, and then to King Ferdinand and other princes.

Zahn figures, in his work, a Pear of unusual size which was gathered from a tree growing in the Royal Garden at Stuttgart, towards the close of June, 1644. This Pear strongly resembled a human face, with the features distinctly delineated, and at the end, forming a sort of crown, were eight small leaves and two young shoots with a blossom at the apex of each. This curious and unique vegetable monstrosity was presented to his Serene Highness the Prince of Wurtemburg.

In the same book is given a description of a monstrous Rape—bearing a striking resemblance to the figure of a man seated, and exhibiting perfectly body, arms, and head, on which the sprouting foliage took the place of hair. This Rape grew in the garden of a nobleman in the province of Weiden, in the year 1628.

Mention is made of a Daucus which was planted and became unusually large in size. Some pronounced it to be a Parsnip, having a yellow root, and thin leaves. This Parsnip had an immense root, like a human hand, which, from its peculiar growth, had the appearance of grasping the Daucus itself.

In Zahn’s book are recorded many other vegetable marvels: amongst them is the case of a Reed growing in the belly of an elephant; a ear of Wheat in the nose of an Italian woman; Oats in the stomach of a soldier; and various grains found in wounds and ulcers, in different parts of the human body.

Miraculous Trees and Plants.

There are some few plants which have at different times been prominently brought into notice by their intimate association with miracles. Such a one was the branch of the Almond-tree forming the rod of Aaron, which, when placed by Moses in the Tabernacle, miraculously budded and blossomed in the night, as a sign that its owner should be chosen for High Priest. Such, again, was the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, which, when driven, one Christmas-day, into the ground at Glastonbury, took root and produced a Thorn-tree, which always blossomed on that day. Such, again, was the staff of St. Martin, from which sprang up a goodly Yew, in the cloister of Vreton, in Brittany; and such was the staff of St. Serf, which, thrown by him across the sea from Inchkeith to Culross, straightway took root and became an Apple-tree.

In the same category must be included the tree miraculously secured by St. Thomas, the apostle of the Indians, and from which he was enabled to construct a church, inasmuch as when the sawdust emitted by the tree when being sawn was sown, trees sprang up therefrom. The tree (represented as being a species of Kalpadruma) was hewn on the Peak of Adam, in Ceylon, by two servants of St. Thomas, and dragged by him into the sea, where he appears to have left it with the command, “Vade, expecta nos in portu civitatis Mirapolis.” … When it reached its destination, this tree had grown to such an enormous bulk, that although the king and his army of ten thousand troops, with many elephants, did their utmost to secure it and drag it on shore, they were unable to move it. Mortified at his failure, the king descried the holy Apostle Thomas approaching, riding upon an ass. The holy Apostle was accompanied by his two servants, and by two great lions. “Forbear,” said he, addressing the king: “Touch not the wood, for it is mine.” “How can you prove it is yours?” enquired the king. Then Thomas, loosing his girdle, threw it to the two servants, and bade them tie it around the tree; this they speedily did, and, with the assistance of the lions, dragged the huge trunk ashore. The king was astonished and convinced by the miracle, and at once offered to Thomas as much land whereon to erect a church to his God as he cared to ride round on his ass. So with the aid of the miraculous tree the Apostle Thomas set to work to build his church. When his workmen were hungry he took some of the sawdust of the tree, and converted it into Rice; when they demanded payment, he broke off a small piece of the wood, which instantly became changed into money.

Popular tradition has everywhere preserved the remembrance of a certain Arbor secco, which, according to Marco Polo, Frate Odorico, and the Book of Sidrach, existed in the East. This Arbor secco of the Christians is the veritable Tree of the Sun of the ancient pagans. Marco Polo calls the tree the Withered Tree of the Sun, and places it in the confines of Persia; Odorico, near Sauris. According to Maundevile, the tree had existed at Mamre from the beginning of the world. It was an Oak, and had been held in special veneration since the time of Abraham. The Saracens called it Dirpe, and the people of the country, the Withered Tree, because from the date of the Passion of Our Lord, it has been withered, and will remain so until a Prince of the West shall come with the Christians to conquer the Holy Land: then “he shalle do synge a masse undir that dry tree, and than the tree shalle waxen grene and bere bothe fruyt and leves.” Fra Mauro, in his map of the world, represents the Withered Tree in the middle of Central Asia. It has been surmised that this Withered Tree is no other than that alluded to by the Prophet Ezekiel (xvii., 24): “And all the trees of the field shall know that I the Lord have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree.”

Sulpicius Severus relates that an abbot, in order to test the patience of a novice, planted in the ground a branch of Styrax that he chanced to have in his hand, and commanded the Novice to water it every day with water to be obtained from the Nile, which was two miles from the monastery. For two years the novice obeyed his superior’s injunction faithfully, going every day to the banks of the river, and carrying back on his shoulder a supply of Nile water wherewith to water the apparently lifeless branch. At length, however, his steadfastness was rewarded, for in the third year the branch miraculously shot out very fine leaves, and afterwards produced flowers. The historian adds that he saw in the monastery some slips of the same tree, which they took delight to cultivate as a memento of what the Almighty had been pleased to do to reward the obedience of his servant.

Another miraculous tree is alluded to in Fleetwood’s ‘Curiosities,’ where, on the authority of Philostratus, the author describes a certain talking Elm of Ethiopia, which, during a discussion held under its branches between Apollonius and Thespesio, chief of the Gymnosophists, reverently “bowed itself down and saluted Apollonius, giving him the title of Wise, with a distinct but weak and shrill voice, like a woman.”

The blind man to whom our Saviour restored his sight said, at first, “I see men walking as if they were trees!” one Anastasius of Nice, however, has recorded that, oppositely, he had seen trees walk as if they were men. Bishop Fleetwood remarks that this Anastasius, being persuaded that by miraculous means our neighbours’ trees may be brought into our own field, relates that a heretic of Zizicum, of the sect of the Pneumatomachians, had, by the virtue of his art, brought near to his own house a great Olive-tree belonging to one of his neighbours, that he and his disciples might have the benefit of the freshness of the shade to protect them from the heat of the sun. By this art, also, it was that the plantation of Olives, belonging to Vectidius, changed its place.

Maundevile has preserved a record of a tree of miraculous origin, that in his time grew in the city of Tiberias. The old knight writes:—“In that cytee a man cast an brennynge [a burning] dart in wratthe after oure Lord, and the hed smote in to the eerthe, and wex grene, and it growed to a gret tree; and yit it growethe, and the bark there of is alle lyke coles.”

Miraculous Tree of Tiberias. From Maundevile’s Travels.
Miraculous Tree of Tiberias. From Maundevile’s Travels.

Among flowers, the Rose—the especial flower of martyrdom—has been the most connected with miracles. Maundevile gives it a miraculous origin, alleging that at Bethlehem the faggots lighted to burn an innocent maiden were, owing to her earnest prayers, extinguished and miraculously changed into bushes which bore the first Roses, both white and red. According to monastic tradition, the martyr-saint Dorothea sent a basket of Roses miraculously to the notary Theophilus, from the garden of Paradise. The Romish legend of St. Cecilia relates that after Valerian, her husband, had been converted and baptised by St. Urban, he returned to his home, and heard, as he entered it, the most enchanting music. On reaching his wife’s apartment, he beheld an angel standing near her, who held in his hand two crowns of Roses gathered in Paradise, immortal in their freshness and perfume, but invisible to the eyes of unbelievers. With these the angel encircled the brows of Cecilia and Valerian, and promised that the eyes of Tiburtius, Valerian’s brother, should be opened to the truth. Then he vanished. Soon afterwards Tiburtius entered the chamber, and perceiving the fragrance of the celestial Roses, but not seeing them, and knowing that it was not the season for flowers, he was astonished, yielded to the fervid appeal of St. Cecilia, and became a Christian.

St. Elizabeth, of Hungary, is always represented with Roses in her lap or hand, in allusion to a legend which relates that this saint, the type of female charity, one day, in the depth of winter, left her husband’s castle, carrying in the skirts of her robe a supply of provisions for a certain poor family; and as she was descending the frozen and slippery path, her husband, returning from the chase, met her bending under the weight of her charitable burden. “What dost thou here, my Elizabeth?” he asked: “let us see what thou art carrying away.” Then she, confused and blushing to be so discovered, pressed her mantle to her bosom; but he insisted, and opening her robe, he beheld only red and white Roses, more beautiful and fragrant than any that grow on this earth, even at summer-tide, and it was now the depth of winter! Turning to embrace his wife, he was so overawed by the supernatural glory exhibited on her face, that he dared not touch her; but, bidding her proceed on her mission, he took one of the Roses of Paradise from her lap, and placed it reverently in his breast.

Trithemius narrates that Albertus Magnus, in the depths of winter, gave to King William on the festival of Epiphany a most elegant banquet in the little garden of his Monastery. Suddenly, although the monastery itself was covered with snow, the atmosphere in the garden became balmy, the trees became covered with leaves, and even produced ripe fruit—each tree after its kind. A Vine sent forth a sweet odour and produced fresh grapes in abundance, to the amazement of everyone. Flocks of birds of all kinds were attracted to the spot, and, rejoicing at the summer-like temperature, burst into song. At length, the wonderful entertainment came to an end, the tables were removed, and the servants all retired from the grounds. Then the singing of the birds ceased, the green of the trees, shrubs, and grasses speedily faded and withered, the flowers drooped and perished, the masses of snow which had so strangely disappeared now covered everything, and a piercing cold of great intensity obliged the king and his fellow-guests to seek shelter and warmth within the Monastery walls. Greatly astonished and moved at what he had seen, King William called Albertus to him, and promised to grant him whatever he might request. Albertus asked for land in the State of Utrecht, whereon to erect a Monastery of his own order. His request was granted, and he also obtained from the King many other favours.

It is recorded that on the same day that Alexander de’ Medici, the Duke of Florence, was treacherously killed, in the Villa of Cosmo de’ Medici, an abundance of all kinds of flowers burst into bloom, although quite out of the flowering season; and on that day the Cosmian gardens alone appeared gay with flowers, as though Spring had come.

Father Garnet’s Straw.

At the commencement of the present chapter on extraordinary and miraculous plants, allusion was made to certain trees which were reputed to have borne as fruit human heads. A fitting conclusion to this list of wonders would appear to be an account of a wondrous ear of Straw, which, in the year 1606, was stated miraculously to have borne in effigy the head of Father Garnet, who was executed for complicity in the Gunpowder Plot. It would seem that, after the execution of Garnet and his companion Oldcorne, tales of miracles performed in vindication of their innocence, and in honour of their martyrdom, were circulated by the Jesuits. But the miracle most insisted upon as a supernatural confirmation of the Jesuit’s innocence and martyrdom, was the story of Father Garnet’s Straw. The originator of this miracle was supposed to be one John Wilkinson, a young Catholic, who, at the time of Garnet’s trial and execution, was about to pass over into France, to commence his studies at the Jesuits’ college at St. Omers. Some time after his arrival there, Wilkinson was attacked by a dangerous disease, from which there was no hope of recovery; and while in this state he gave utterance to the story, which Eudæmon-Joannes relates in his own words. Having described his strong impression that he should “witness some immediate testimony from God in favour of the innocence of His saint,” his attendance at the execution, and its details, he proceeds thus:—“Garnet’s limbs having been divided into four parts, and placed together with the head in a basket, in order that they might be exhibited according to law in some conspicuous place, the crowd began to disperse. I then again approached close to the scaffold, and stood between the cart and the place of execution; and as I lingered in that situation, still burning with the desire of bearing away some relique, that miraculous ear of Straw, since so highly celebrated, came, I know not how, into my hand. A considerable quantity of dry Straw had been thrown with Garnet’s head and quarters from the scaffold into the basket; but whether this ear came into my hand from the scaffold or from the basket, I cannot venture to affirm: this only I can truly say, that a Straw of this kind was thrown towards me before it had touched the ground. This Straw I afterwards delivered to Mrs. N., a matron of singular Catholic piety, who inclosed it in a bottle, which being rather shorter than the Straw, it became slightly bent. A few days afterwards, Mrs. N. showed the Straw in the bottle to a certain noble person, her intimate acquaintance, who, looking at it attentively, at length said, ‘I can see nothing in it but a man’s face.’ At this, Mrs. N. and I, being astonished at the unexpected exclamation, again and again examined the ear of Straw, and distinctly perceived in it a human countenance, which others, also coming in as casual spectators, or expressly called by us as witnesses, also beheld at that time. This is, as God knoweth, the true history of Father Garnet’s Straw.”

Father Garnet’s Straw.
Father Garnet’s Straw.

In process of time, the fame of the prodigy encouraged those who had an interest in upholding it to add considerably to the miracle as it was at first promulgated. Wilkinson and the first observers of the marvel merely represented that the appearance of a face was shown on so diminutive a scale, upon the husk or sheath of a single grain, as scarcely to be visible unless specifically pointed out. Fig. 1 in the accompanying plate accurately depicts the miracle as it was at first displayed.

But a much more imposing image was afterwards discovered. Two faces appeared upon the middle part of the Straw, both surrounded with rays of glory; the head of the principal figure, which represented Garnet, was encircled with a martyr’s crown, and the face of a cherub appeared in the midst of his beard. In this improved state of the miracle, the story was circulated in England, and excited the most profound and universal attention; and thus depicted, the miraculous Straw became generally known throughout the Christian world. Fig. 2 in the sketch exactly represents the prodigy in its improved state: it is taken from the frontispiece to the ‘Apology of Eudæmon-Joannes.’

So great was the scandal occasioned by this story of Father Garnet’s miraculous Straw, that Archbishop Bancroft was commissioned by the Privy Council to institute an inquiry, and, if possible, to detect and punish the perpetration of what he considered a gross imposture; but although a great many persons were examined, no distinct evidence of imposition could be obtained. It was proved, however, that the face might have been limned on the Straw by Wilkinson, or under his direction, during the interval which occurred between the time of Garnet’s death and the discovery of the miraculous head. At all events, the inquiry had the desired effect of staying public curiosity in England; and upon this the Privy Council took no further proceedings against any of the parties.

Plants Connected with Birds and Animals.

CHAPTER XII.

Plants Connected with Birds and Animals.

The association of trees and birds has been the theme of the most ancient writers. The Skalds have sung how an Eagle sat in stately majesty on the topmost branch of Yggdrasill, whilst the keen-eyed Hawk hovered around. The Vedas record how the Pippala of the Hindu Paradise was daily visited by two beauteous birds, one of which fed from its celestial food, whilst its companion poured forth delicious melody from its reed-like throat. On the summit of the mystic Soma-tree were perched two birds, the one engaged in expressing the immortalising Soma-juice, the other feeding on the Figs which hung from the branches of the sacred tree. A bird, bearing in its beak a twig plucked from its favourite tree, admonished the patriarch Noah that the waters of the flood were subsiding from the deluged world.

In olden times there appears to have been a notion that in some cases plants could not be germinated excepting through the direct intervention of birds. Thus Bacon tells us of a tradition, current in his day, that a bird, called a Missel-bird, fed upon a seed which, being unable to digest, she evacuated whole; and that this seed, falling upon boughs of trees, put forth the Mistletoe. A similar story is told by Tavernier of the Nutmeg. “It is observable,” he says, “that the Nutmeg-tree is never planted: this has been attested to me by several persons who have resided many years in the islands of Bonda. I have been assured that when the nuts are ripe, there come certain birds from the islands that lie towards the South, who swallow them down whole, and evacuate them whole likewise, without ever having digested them. These nuts being then covered with a viscous and glutinous matter, when they fall on the ground, take root, vegetate, and produce a tree, which would not grow from them if they were planted like other trees.”

The Druids, dwelling as they did in groves and forests, frequented by birds and animals, were adepts at interpreting the meaning of their actions and sounds. A knowledge of the language of the bird and animal kingdoms was deemed by them a marvellous gift, which was only to be imparted to the priestess who should be fortunate enough to tread under foot the mystic Selago, or Golden Herb.

At a time when men had no almanack to warn them of the changing of the seasons, no calendar to guide them in the planting of their fields and gardens, the arrival and departure of birds helped to direct them in the cultivation of plants. So we find Ecclesiastes preached “a bird of the air shall carry the voice,” and in modern times the popular saying arose of “a little bird has told me.”

This notion of the birds imparting knowledge is prettily rendered by Hans Christian Andersen, in his story of the Fir-tree, where the sapling wonders what is done with the trees taken out of the wood at Christmas time. “Ah, we know—we know,” twittered the Sparrows; “for we have looked in at the windows in yonder town.”

Dr. Solander tells us that the peasants of Upland remark that “When you see the Wheatear you may sow your grain,” for in this country there is seldom any severe frost after the Wheatear appears; and the shepherds of Salisbury Plain say:—

“When Dotterel do first appear,
It shows that frost is very near;
But when the Dotterel do go,
Then you may look for heavy snow.”

Aristophanes makes one of his characters say that in former times the Kite ruled the Greeks; his meaning being that in ancient days the Kite was looked upon as the sign of Spring and of the necessity of commencing active work in field and garden; and again, “The Crow points out the time for sowing when she flies croaking to Libya.” In another place he notices that the Cuckoo in like manner governed Phœnicia and Egypt, because when it cried Kokku, Kokku, it was considered time to reap the Wheat and Barley fields.

In our own country, this welcome harbinger of the Springtide has been associated with a number of vernal plants: we have the Cuckoo Flower (Lychnis Flos cuculi), Cuckoo’s Bread or Meat, and Cuckoo’s Sorrel (Oxalis Acetosella), Cuckoo Grass (Lazula campestris), and Shakspeare’s “Cuckoo Buds of yellow hue,” which are thought to be the buds of the Crowfoot (Ranunculus). The association in the popular rhyme of the Cuckoo with the Cherry-tree is explained by an old superstition that before it ceases its song, the Cuckoo must eat three good meals of Cherries. In Sussex, the Whitethorn is called the Cuckoo’s Bread-and-Cheese Tree, and an old proverb runs—

“When the Cuckoo comes to the bare Thorn,
Then sell your Cow and buy your Corn.”

Mr. Parish has remarked that it is singular this name should be given to the Whitethorn, as among all Aryan nations the tree is associated with lightning, and the Cuckoo is connected with the lightning gods Jupiter and Thor.

Pliny relates that the Halcyon, or Kingfisher, at breeding-time, foretold calm and settled weather. The belief in the wisdom of birds obtained such an ascendancy over men’s minds, that we find at length no affair of moment was entered upon without consulting them. Thus came in augury, by which was meant a forewarning of future events derived from prophetic birds. One of these systems of divinations, for the purpose of discovering some secret or future event was effected by means of a Cock and grains of Barley, in the following manner: the twenty-four letters of the alphabet having been written in the dust, upon each letter was laid a grain of Barley, and a Cock, over which previous incantations had been uttered, was let loose among them; those letters off which it pecked the Barley, being joined together, were then believed to declare the word of which they were in search. The magician Jamblichus, desirous to find out who should succeed Valens in the imperial purple, made use of this divination, but the Cock only picked up four grains, viz., those which lay upon the (Greek) letters th. e. o. d., so that it was uncertain whether Theodosius, Theodotus, Theodorus, or Theodectes, was the person designed by the Fates. Valens, when informed of the matter, was so terribly enraged, that he put several persons to death simply because their names began with these letters. When, however, he proceeded to make search after the magicians themselves, Jamblichus put an end to his majesty’s life by a dose of poison, and he was succeeded by Theodosius in the empire of the East.

The loves of the Nightingale and the Rose have formed a favourite topic of Eastern poets. In a fragment by the celebrated Persian poet Attar, entitled Bulbul Nameh (the Book of the Nightingale), all the birds appear before Solomon, and charge the Nightingale with disturbing their rest by the broken and plaintive strains which he warbles forth in a sort of frenzy and intoxication. The Nightingale is summoned, questioned, and acquitted by the wise king, because the bird assures him that his vehement love for the Rose drives him to distraction, and causes him to break forth into those languishing and touching complaints which are laid to his charge. Thus the Persians believe that the Nightingale in Spring flutters around the Rose-bushes, uttering incessant complaints, till, overpowered by the strong scent, he drops stupefied to the ground. The impassioned bird makes his appearance in Eastern climes at the season when the Rose begins to blow: hence the legend that the beauteous flower bursts forth from its bud at the song of its ravished adorer. The Persian poet Jami says, “The Nightingales warbled their enchanting notes and rent the thin veils of the Rose-bud and the Rose;” and Moore has sung—

“Oh sooner shall the Rose of May
Mistake her own sweet Nightingale,
And to some meaner minstrel’s lay
Open her bosom’s glowing veil,
Than love shall ever doubt a tone—
A breath—of the beloved one!”

And in another place, the author of ‘Lalla Rookh’ asks—

“Though rich the spot
With every flower the earth hath got,
What is it to the Nightingale,
If there his darling Rose is not?”

Lord Byron has alluded to this pretty conceit in the ‘Giaour,’ when he sings—

“The Rose o’er crag or vale,
Sultana of the Nightingale,
The maid for whom his melody,
His thousand songs are heard on high,
Blooms blushing to her lover’s tale,
His queen, the garden queen, his Rose,
Unbent by winds, unchill’d by snows.”

From the verses of the poet Jami may be learnt how the first Rose appeared in Gulistan at the time when the flowers, dissatisfied with the reign of the torpid Lotus, who would slumber at night, demanded a new sovereign from Allah. At first the Rose queen was snowy white, and guarded by a protecting circlet of Thorns; but the amorous Nightingale fell into such a transport of love over her charms, and so recklessly pressed his ravished heart against the cruel Thorns, that his blood trickling into the lovely blossom’s bosom, dyed it crimson; and, in corroboration of this, the poet demands, “Are not the petals white at the extremity where the poor little bird’s blood could not reach?” Perhaps this Eastern poetic legend may have given rise to the belief, which has long been entertained, that the Nightingale usually sleeps on, or with its bosom against, a Thorn, under the impression that in such a painful situation it must remain awake. Young, in his ‘Night Thoughts,’ thus refers to this curious idea—

“Grief’s sharpest Thorn hard-pressing on my breast,
I share with wakeful melody to cheer
The sullen gloom, sweet Philomel! like thee,
And call the stars to listen.”

And in Thomson’s ‘Hymn to May,’ we find this allusion:—

“The lowly Nightingale,
A Thorn her pillow, trills her doleful tale.”

In a sonnet by Sir Philip Sydney, afterwards set to music by Bateson, we read—

“The Nightingale, as soon as April bringeth
Unto her rested sense a perfect waking,
When late bare earth, proud of new clothing, springeth,
Sings out her woes, a Thorn her song-book making,
And mournfully bewailing,
Her throat in tunes expresseth,
While grief her heart oppresseth,
For Tereus o’er her chaste will prevailing.”

Shakspeare notices the story in the following quaint lines—

“Everything did banish moan,
Save the Nightingale alone;
She, poor bird, as all forlorn,
Leaned her breast up till a Thorn,
And then sung the doleful ditty,
That to hear it was great pity.”

In Yorkshire, there is a tradition of Hops having been planted many years ago, near Doncaster, and of the Nightingale making its first appearance there about the same time. The popular idea was, that between the bird and the plant some mysterious connecting link existed. Be this as it may, both the Hops and the Nightingale disappeared long ago.

It is not alone the Nightingale that has a legendary connection with a Thorn. Another favourite denizen of our groves may also lay claim to this distinction, inasmuch as, according to a tradition current in Brittany, its red breast was originally produced by the laceration of an historic Thorn. In this story it is said that, whilst our Saviour was bearing His cross on the way to Calvary, a little bird, struck with compassion at His sufferings, flew suddenly to Him, and plucked from His bleeding brow one of the cruel thorns of His mocking crown, steeped in His blood. In bearing it away in its beak, drops of the Divine blood fell upon the little bird’s breast, and dyed its plumage red; so that ever since the Red-breast has been treated as the friend of man, and is studiously protected by him from harm.

Whether or no this legend of the origin of our little friend’s red breast formerly influenced mankind in its favour, it is certain that the Robin has always been regarded with tenderness. Popular tradition, even earlier than the date of the story of the Children in the Wood, has made him our sexton with the aid of plants:—

“No burial this pretty pair
Of any man receives,
Till Robin Redbreast, painfully,
Did cover them with leaves.”

It is noted in Gray’s Shakspeare that, according to the oldest traditions, if the Robin finds the dead body of a human being, he will cover the face at least with Moss and leaves.

“Cov’ring with Moss the dead’s unclosed eye
The little Redbreast teacheth charitie.”—Drayton’s ‘Owl.’

The Wren is also credited with employing plants for acts of similar charity. In Reed’s old plays, we read—

“Call for the Robin Redbreast and the Wren,
Since o’er shady groves they hover,
And with leaves and flow’rs do cover
The friendless bodies of unburied men.”

A writer in one of our popular periodicals[15] gives another quaint quotation expressive of the tradition, from Stafford’s ‘Niobe dissolved into a Nilus’: “On her (the Nightingale) smiles Robin in his redde livvrie; who sits as a coroner on the murthred man; and seeing his body naked, plays the sorrie tailour to make him a Mossy rayment.”

The Missel or Missel-Thrush is sometimes called the Mistletoe-Thrush, because it feeds upon Mistletoe berries. Lord Bacon, in Sylva Sylvarum, refers (as already noted) to an old belief that the seeds of Mistletoe will not vegetate unless they have passed through the stomach of this bird.

The Peony is said to cure epilepsy, if certain ceremonies are duly observed. A patient, however, must on no account taste the root, if a Woodpecker should happen to be in sight, or he will be certain to be stricken with blindness.

Among the many magical properties ascribed to the Spreng-wurzel (Spring-wort), or, as it is sometime called, the Blasting-root, is its power to reveal treasures. But this it can only do through the instrumentality of a bird, which is usually a green or black Woodpecker (according to Pliny, also the Raven; in Switzerland, the Hoopoe; in the Tyrol, the Swallow). In order to become possessed of a root of this magical plant, arrangements must be made with much care and circumspection, and the bird closely watched. When the old bird has temporarily left its nest, access to it must be stopped up by plugging the hole with wood. The bird, finding this, will fly away in search of the Spring-wort, and returning, will open the nest by touching the obstruction with the mystic root. Meanwhile a fire or a red cloth must be spread out closely, which will so startle the bird, that it will let the root fall from its bills, and it can thus be secured. Pliny relates of the Woodpecker, that the hen bird brings up her young in holes, and if the entrance be plugged up, no matter how securely, the old bird is able to force out the plug with an explosion caused by the plant. Aubrey confounds the Moonwort with the Springwort. He says:—“Sir Benet Hoskins, Baronet, told me that his keeper at his parke at Morehampton, in Herefordshire, did, for experiment’s sake, drive an iron naile thwert the hole of the Woodpecker’s nest, there being a tradition that the damme will bring some leafe to open it. He layed at the bottome of the tree a cleane sheet, and before many hours passed, the naile came out, and he found a leafe lying by it on the sheete. They say the Moonewort will doe such things.”

Tradition tells us of a certain magical herb called Chora, which was also known as the Herba Meropis, or plant of the Merops, a bird which the Germans were familiar with under the name of Bömhechel or Baumhacker (Woodpecker). This bird builds its nest in high trees, but should anyone cover the young brood with something which prevents the parent bird from visiting the nest, it flies off in search of a herb. This is brought in the Merops’ beak, and held over the obstacle till it falls off or gives way.

In Swabia, the Springwort is regarded as a plant embodying electricity or lightning; but the Hoopoe takes the place of the Woodpecker in employing the herb for blasting and removing offensive obstacles. The Swabians, however, instead of a red cloth, place a pail of water, or kindle a fire, as the Hoopoe, wishing to destroy the Springwort, after using it, drops it either into fire or water. It is related of the Hoopoe, that one of these birds had a nest in an old wall in which there was a crevice. The proprietor, noticing the cleft in the wall, had it stopped up with plaster during the Hoopoe’s absence, so that when the poor bird returned to feed her young, she found that it was impossible to get to her nest. Thereupon she flew off in quest of a plant called Poa, thought to be Sainfoin or Lucerne, and, having found a spray, returned and applied it to the plaster, which instantly fell from the crevice, and allowed the Hoopoe ingress to her nest. Twice again did the owner plaster up the rent in his wall, and twice again did the persistent and sagacious bird apply the magic Poa with successful results.

In Piedmont there grows a little plant which, as stated in a previous chapter, bears the name of the Herb of the Blessed Mary. This plant is known to the birds as being fatal when eaten: hence, when their young are stolen from them and imprisoned in cages, the parent birds, in order that death may release them from their life of bondage, gather a spray of this herb and carry it in their beaks to their imprisoned children.

The connection between the Dove and the Olive has been set forth for all time in the Bible narrative of Noah and the Flood; but it would seem from Sir John Maundevile’s account of the Church of St. Katherine, which existed at his time in the vicinity of Mount Sinai, that Ravens, Choughs, and Crows have emulated the example of the Dove, and carried Olive-branches to God-fearing people. This Church of St. Katherine, we are told, marks the spot where God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, and in it there were many lamps kept burning: the reason of this Maundevile thus explains:—“For thei han of Oyle of Olyves ynow bothe for to brenne in here lampes, and to ete also: And that plentee have thei be the Myracle of God. For the Ravenes and Crowes and the Choughes, and other Foules of the Contree assemblen hem there every Yeer ones, and fleen thider as in pilgrymage: and everyche of hem bringethe a Braunche of the Bayes or of Olive, in here bekes, in stede of Offryng, and leven hem there; of the whiche the monkes maken gret plentee of Oyle; and this is a gret Marvaylle.”

Pious Birds and Olives. From Maundevile’s Travels.
Pious Birds and Olives. From Maundevile’s Travels.

The ancients entertained a strong belief that birds were gifted with the knowledge of herbs, and that just as the Woodpecker and Hoopoe sought out the Springwort, wherewith to remove obstructions, so other birds made use of certain herbs which they knew possessed valuable medicinal or curative properties; thus Aristotle, Pliny, Dioscorides, and the old herbalists and botanical writers, all concur in stating that Swallows were in the habit of plucking Celandine (Chelidonium), and applying it to the eyes of their young, because, as Gerarde tells us, “With this herbe the dams restore sight to their young ones when their eies be put out.” W. Coles, fully accepting the fact as beyond cavil, thus moralizes upon it:—“It is known to such as have skill of nature what wonderful care she takes of the smallest creatures, giving to them a knowledge of medicine to help themselves, if haply diseases annoy them. The Swallow cureth her dim eyes with Celandine; the Wesell knoweth well the virtue of Herb Grace; the Dove the Verven; the Dogge dischargeth his mawe with a kind of Grasse; … and too long it were to reckon up all the medicines which the beestes are known to use by Nature’s direction only.” The same writer, in his ‘Adam and Eden,’ tells us that the Euphrasia, or Eyebright, derived its English name from the fact of its being used by Linnets and other birds to clear their sight. Says he: “Divers authors write that Goldfinches, Linnets, and some other birds make use of this herb for the repairing of their young ones’ sight. The purple and yellow spots and stripes which are upon the flowers of Eyebright very much resemble the diseases of the eyes, or bloodshot.”

Apuleius tells us that the Eagle, when he wishes to soar high and scan far and wide, plucks a wild Lettuce, and expressing the juice, rubs with it his eyes, which in consequence become wonderfully clear and far-seeing. The Hawk, for a similar purpose, was thought to employ the Hawk-bit, or Hawk-weed (Hieracium). Pigeons and Doves, not to be behind their traditional enemy, discovered that Vervain possessed the power of curing dimness of vision, and were not slow to use it with that object: hence the plant obtained the name of Pigeon’s-grass. Geese were thought to “help their diseases” with Galium aparine, called on that account Goose-grass; and they are said to sometimes feed on the Potentilla anserina, or Goose Tansy. On the other hand, they were so averse to the herb known to the ancients as Chenomychon, that they took to flight the moment they spied it.

There is an old tradition of a certain life-giving herb, which was known to birds, and a story is told of how one day an old man watched two birds fighting till one was overcome. In an almost exhausted state it went and ate of a certain herb, and then returned to the onslaught. When the old man had observed this occur several times, he went and plucked the herb which had proved so valuable to the little bird; and when at last it came once more in search of the life-giving plant, and found it gone, it uttered a shrill cry, and fell down dead. The name of the herb is not given; but the story has such a strong family likeness to that narrated by Forestus, in which the Goat’s Rue is introduced, that, probably, Galega is the life-giving herb referred to. The story told by Forestus is as follows:—A certain old man once taking a walk by the bank of a river, saw a Lizard fighting with a Viper; so he quietly lay down on the ground, that he might the better witness the fight without being seen by the combatants. The Lizard, being the inferior in point of strength, was speedily wounded by a very powerful stroke from the Viper—so much so, that it lay on the turf as if dying. But shortly recovering itself, it crept through the rather long Grass, without being noticed by the Viper, along the bank of the river, to a certain herb (Goat’s Rue), growing there nigh at hand. The Lizard, having devoured it, regained at once its former strength, and returning to the Viper, attacked it in the same way as before, but was wounded again from receiving another deadly blow from the Viper. Once more the Lizard secretly made for the herb, to regain its strength, and being revived, it again engaged with its dangerous enemy—but in vain; for it experienced the same fate as before. Looking on, the old man wondered at the plant not less than at the battle; and in order to try if the herb possessed other hidden powers, he pulled it up secretly, while the Lizard was engaged afresh with the Viper. The Lizard having been again wounded, returned towards the herb, but not being able to find it in its accustomed place, it sank exhausted and died.

Numerous plants have had the names of birds given to them, either from certain peculiarities in their structure resembling birds, or because they form acceptable food for the feathered race. Thus the Cock’s Comb is so called from the shape of its calyx; the Cock’s Foot, from the form of its spike; and the Cock’s Head (the Sainfoin), from the shape of the legume. The Crane’s Bill and the Heron’s Bill both derive their names from the form of their respective seed vessels. The Guinea Hen (Fritillaria meleagris) has been so called from its petals being spotted like this bird. The Pheasant’s Eye (Adonis autumnalis) owes its name to its bright red corolla and dark centre; the Sparrow Tongue (the Knot-grass) to its small acute leaves; and the Lark’s Spur, Heel, Toe, or Claw (Delphinium) to its projecting nectary. Chickweed and Duckweed have been so called from being favourite food for poultry. The Crow has given its name to a greater number of plants than any other bird. The Ranunculus is the Coronopus or Crow Foot of Dioscorides, the Geranium pratense is the Crowfoot Crane’s Bill, the Lotus corniculatus is called Crow Toes, the Daffodil and the Blue-bell both bear the name of Crow Bells, the Empetrum nigrum is the Crow Berry, Allium vineale is Crow Garlick, Scilla nutans, Crow Leeks, and the Scandix Pecten, Crow Needles. The Hen has a few plants named after it, the greater and lesser Hen Bits (Lamium amplexicaule and Veronica hederifolia); the Hen’s Foot (Caucalis daucoides), so called from the resemblance of its leaves to a hen’s claw; and Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), which seems to have derived its name from the baneful effects its seeds have upon poultry.

Plants Connected with Animals.

The Ass has named after it the Ass Parsley (Æthusa Cynapium), and the Ass’s Foot, the Coltsfoot, Tussilago Farfara. William Coles says that “if the Asse be oppressed with melancholy, he eates of the Herbe Asplenion or Miltwaste, and eases himself of the swelling of the spleen.” D. C. Franciscus Paullini has given, in an old work, an account of three Asses he met in Westphalia, which were in the habit of intoxicating themselves by eating white Henbane and Nightshade. These four-footed drunkards, when in their cups, strayed to a pond, where they pulled themselves together with a dip and a draught of water. The same author relates another story. A miller of Thuringia had brought meal with his nine Asses into the next district. Having accepted the hospitality of some boon companions, he left his long-eared friends to wander around the place and to feed from the hedgerows and public roads. There they chanced to find a quantity of Thistles that had been cut, and other food mixed with Hemlock, and at once devoured the spoil greedily and confidently. At dusk, the miller, rising to depart, was easily detained by his associates, who cried out that the road was short, and that the moon, which had risen, would light him better than any torch. Meanwhile, the Asses, feeling the Hemlock’s power in their bodies, fell down on the public road, being deprived of all motion and sensation. At length, about midnight, the miller came to his Asses, and thinking them to be asleep, lashed them vigorously. But they remained motionless, and apparently dead. The miller, much frightened, now besought assistance from the country-folks, but they were all of one opinion, that the Asses were dead, and that they should be skinned the next day, when the cause of such a sudden death could be inquired into. “Come,” said he, “if they are dead, why should I worry myself about them—let them lie. We can do no good. Come, my friends, let us return into the inn—to-morrow you will be my witnesses.” Meanwhile the skinners were called; and, after looking at the Asses, one of them said, “Do you wish, miller, that we should take their skins off; or would you be disposed, if we restored the beasts to life, to give us a handsome reward? You see they are quite in our power. Say what you wish, and it shall be done, miller.” “Here is my hand,” replied the miller, “and I pledge my word that I will give you what you wish, if you restore them to life.” The skinner, smiling, caught hold of the whip, and lashing the beasts with all his might, roused all from their lethargic condition. The rustics were confounded. “O! you foolish fellows,” said he, “look at this herb (showing them some Hemlock), how profusely it grows in this neighbourhood. Do you not know that Hemlock causes Asses to fall into a profound sleep?” The rustics, flocking together under a Lime-tree, as rustics do, made there and then a law that whosoever should discover, in field or garden, or anywhere else, that noxious plant, he should pluck it quickly, in order that men and beasts might be injured by it no more.

The Bear has given its name to several English plants. The Primula Auricula, on account of the shape of its leaves, is called Bear’s Ears; the Helleborus fœtidus, for a similar reason, is known as Bears Foot; Meum athamanticum is Bear’s-wort; Allium ursinum, Bear’s Garlic; and Arctostaphylos uva ursi, Bear’s Berry, or Bear’s Bilberry; the three last plants being favourite food of Bears. The Acanthus used at one time to be called Bear’s Breech, but the name has for some unaccountable reason been transferred to the Cow Parsnip, Heracleum Sphondylium. In Italy the name of Branca orsina is given to the Acanthus. This plant was considered by Dioscorides a cure for burns. Pliny says that Bear’s grease had the same property. De Gubernatis states that two Indian plants, the Argyreia argentea and the Batatas paniculata, bear Sanscrit names signifying “Odour pleasing to Bears.”

The Bull has given its name to some few plants. Tussilago Farfara, generally called Coltsfoot, is also known as Bull’s-Foot; Centaurea nigra is Bull’s-weed; Verbascum Thapsus is Bullock’s Lungwort, having been so denominated on account of its curative powers, suggested, on the Doctrine of Signatures, by the similarity of its leaf to the shape of a dewlap. The purple and the pale spadices of Arum maculatum are sometimes called Bulls and Cows. The Great Daisy is Ox-Eye; the Primula elatior, Ox-Lip; the Helminthia echioides, Ox-Tongue; and the Helleborus fætidus, Ox-Heel. The Antirrhinum and Arum maculatum are, from their resemblance in shape, respectively known as Calf’s Snout and Calf’s Foot.

Cats have several representative plants. From its soft flower-heads, the Gnaphalium dioicum is called Cat’s Foot; from the shape of its leaves, the Hypochæris maculata is known as Cat’s Ear; the Ground Ivy, also from the shape of its leaves, is Cat’s Paw; two plants are known as Cat’s Tail, viz., Typha latifolia and Phleum pratense. Euphorbia helioscopia, on account of its milky juice, is Cat’s Milk; and, lastly, Nepeta cataria is denominated Cat-Mint, because, as Gerarde informs us in his ‘Herbal,’ “Cats are very much delighted herewith: for the smell of it is so pleasant unto them, that they rub themselves upon it, and wallow or tumble in it, and also feed on the branches very greedily.” We are also told by another old writer that Cats are amazingly delighted with the root of the plant Valerian; so much so, that, enticed by its smell, they at once run up to it, lick it, kiss it, jump on it, roll themselves over it, and exhibit almost uncontrollable signs of joy and gladness. There is an old rhyme on the liking of Cats for the plant Marum, which runs as follows:—

“If you set it,
The Cats will eat it;
If you sow it,
The Cats will know it.”

The Cow has given its name to a whole series of plants: its Berry is Vaccinium Vitis idæa, its Cress, Lepidium campestre, its Parsley or Weed, Chærophyllum sylvestre, its Parsnip, Heracleum Sphondylium, its Wheat, Melampyrum. The Quaking Grass, Briza media, is known as Cow Quake, from an idea that cattle are fond of it; and the Water Hemlock (Cicuta virosa) has the opprobrious epithet of Cow Bane applied to it, from its supposed baneful effect upon oxen. The Primula veris is the Cowslip.

In Norway is to be found the herb Ossifrage—a kind of Reed which is said to have the remarkable power of softening the bones of animals; so much so, that if oxen eat it, their bones become so soft that not only are the poor beasts rendered incapable of walking, but they can even be rolled into any shape. They are not said to die however. Fortunately they can be cured, if the bones are exhibited to them of another animal killed by the eating of this plant. It is most wonderful, however, that the inhabitants make a medicine for cementing bones from this very herb.

There are several plants dedicated to man’s faithful friend. Dog’s Bane (Apocynum) is a very curious plant: its bell-shaped flowers entangle flies who visit the flower for its honey-juice, so that in August, when full blown, the corolla is full of their dead bodies. Although harmless to some persons, yet it is noxious to others, poisoning and creating swellings and inflammations on certain people who have only trod on it. Gerarde describes it as a deadly and dangerous plant, especially to four-footed beasts; “for, as Dioscorides writes, the leaves hereof, mixed with bread, and given, kill dogs, wolves, foxes, and leopards.” Dog’s Chamomile (Matricaria Chamomila) is a spurious or wild kind of Chamomile. Dog Grass (Triticum caninum) is so called because Dogs take it medicinally as an aperient. Dog’s Mercury (or Dog’s Cole) is a poisonous kind, so named to distinguish it from English Mercury. Dog’s Nettle is Galeopsis Tetrahit. Dog’s Orach (Chenopodium Vulvaria), is a stinking kind. Dog’s Parsley (Æthusa Cynapium), a deleterious weed, also called Fool’s Parsley and Lesser Hemlock. Dog Rose (Rosa canina) is the common wilding or Canker Rose; the ancients supposed the root to cure the bite of a mad Dog, it having been recommended by an oracle for that purpose; hence the Romans called it Canina; and Pliny relates that a soldier who had been bitten by a mad Dog, was healed with the root of this shrub, which had been indicated to his mother in a dream. Dog’s Tail Grass (Cynosurus cristatus) derives its name from its spike being fringed on one side only. Dog Violet (Viola canina) is so-called contemptuously because scentless. Dog’s Tongue, or Hound’s Tongue (Cynoglossum officinale) derived its name from the softness of its leaf, and was reputed to have the magical property of preventing the barking of Dogs if laid under a person’s feet. Dog Wood (Cornus sanguinea) is the wild Cornel; and Dog Berries the fruit of that herb, which was also formerly called Hound’s Tree. Dr. Prior thinks that this name has been misunderstood, and that it is derived from the old English word dagge, or dagger, which was applied to the wood because it was used for skewers by butchers. The ancient Greeks knew a plant (supposed to be a species of Antirrhinum) which they called Cynocephalia (Dog’s Head), as well as Osiris; and to this plant Pliny ascribes extraordinary properties. As a rule, the word “Dog,” when applied to any plant, implies contempt.

After the Fox has been named, from its shape, the Alopecurus pratensis, Fox-Tail-grass; and the Digitalis has been given the name of Fox-Glove.

The Goat has its Weed (Ægopodium Podagraria), and has given its name to the Tragopogon pratensis, which, on account of its long, coarse pappus, is called Goat’s Beard. Caprifolium, or Goat’s Leaf, is a specific name of the Honeysuckle, given to it by the old herbalists, because the leaf, or more properly the stem, climbs and wanders over high places where Goats are not afraid to tread.

A species of Sow Thistle, the Sonchus oleraceus, is called the Hare’s Palace, from a superstitious notion that the Hare derives shelter and courage from it. Gerarde calls it the Hare’s Lettuce, a name given to it by Apuleius, because, when the Hare is fainting with heat or fatigue, she recruits her failing strength with it. Dr. Prior gives the following extracts from old authors respecting this curious tradition. Anthony Askam says, “yf a Hare eate of this herbe in somer, when he is mad, he shal be hole.” Topsell also tells us in his ‘Natural History,’ p. 209, that “when Hares are overcome with heat, they eat of an herb called Lactuca leporina, that is, the Hare’s-lettuce, Hare’s-house, Hare’s-palace; and there is no disease in this beast, the cure whereof she does not seek for in this herb.” This plant is sometimes called Hare’s Thistle. Bupleurum rotundifolium is termed Hare’s Ear, from the shape of its leaves, as is also Erysimum orientale. Trifolium arvense is Hare’s Foot, from the soft grey down which surrounds the blossoms resembling the delicate fur of the Hare’s foot. Both Lagurus oratus, and the flowering Rush, Eriophorum vaginatum, are called Hare’s Tail, from the soft downy inflorescence.

Melilotus officinalis is Hart’s Clover; Scolopendrium vulgare, Hart’s Tongue; Plantago Coronopus, Hart’s Horn; Scirpus cæspitosus, Deer’s or Hart’s Hair; Rhamnus catharticus, Hart’s or Buck Thorn (Spina cervina); and Tordylium maximum, Hart Wort, so called because, as Dioscorides tells us, the juice of the leaves was given to Roes in order that they might speedily be delivered of their young. According to Pliny, the Roman matrons used to employ it for the same purpose, having been “taught by Hindes that eate it to speade their delivery, as Aristotle did declare it before.” The Raspberry is still sometimes called by its ancient name of Hindberry; and the Teucrium Scorodonia is known as Hind-heal, from an old tradition that it cures Deer when bitten by venomous serpents. The Dittany is said to have the same extraordinary effect on wounded Harts as upon Goats (see Dittany, Part II.).

Numerous indeed are the plants named after the Horse, either on account of the use they are put to, the shape of their foliage., their large size, or the coarseness of their texture. Inula Helenium is Horse-heal, a name attached to the plant by a double blunder of Inula for hinnula, a Colt, and Helenium, for heal or heel; employed to heal Horses of sore heels. Vicia Faba is the Horse Bean; Teucrium Chamædrys, the Germander, is called Horse Chire, from its springing up after Horse-droppings. Melampyrum sylvaticum is the Horse Flower, so called from a verbal error. The Alexandrian Laurel was formerly called Horse Tongue. Tussilago Farfara, from the shape of its leaf, is termed Horse Hoof. Centaurea nigra is Horse Knob. Another name for Colt’s Foot is Horse Foot; and we have Horse Thistle, Mint, Mushroom, Parsley, Thyme, and Radish. The Dutch Rush, Equisetum, is called Horse Tail, a name descriptive of its shape; Hippocrepis comosa is known as the Horse-shoe Vetch, from the shape of the legumes; and, lastly, the Œnanthe Phellandrium is the Horse Bane, because, in Sweden, it is supposed to give Horses the palsy. In Mexico, the Rattle Grass is said to instantly kill Horses who unfortunately eat it. The Indians call the Oleander Horse’s Death, and they name several plants after different parts of the Horse. In connection with Horses, we must not forget to mention the Moonwort, which draws the nails out of the Horses’ shoes, and of which Culpeper writes: “Moonwort is an herb which they say will open locks and unshoe such Horses as tread upon it; this some laugh to scorn, and those no small fools neither; but country people that I know, call it Unshoe-the-Horse. Besides, I have heard commanders say that, on White Down, in Devonshire, near Tiverton, there were found thirty horse-shoes, pulled off from the Earl of Essex’s horses, being then drawn up in a body, many of them being newly shod, and no reason known, which caused much admiration, and the herb described usually grows upon heaths.” In Italy, the herb Sferracavallo is deemed to have the power of unshoeing Horses out at pasture. The Mouse-ear, or Herba clavorum, is reputed to prevent blacksmiths hurting horses when being shod. The Scythians are said to have known a plant, called Hippice, which, when given to a Horse, would enable him to travel for some considerable time without suffering either from hunger or thirst. Perhaps this is the Water Pepper, which, according to English tradition, has the same effect if placed under the saddle.

The humble Hedgehog has suggested the name of Hedgehog Parsley for Caucalis daucoides, on account of its prickly burs.

In a previous chapter, a full description has been given of the Barometz, that mysterious plant of Tartary, immortalised by Darwin as the Vegetable Lamb. From the shape of its leaf, the Plantago media has gained the name of Lamb’s Tongue; from its downy flowers, the Anthyllis vulneraria is called Lamb’s Toe; either from its being a favourite food of Lambs, or because it appears at the lambing season, the Valerianella olitoria is known as Lamb’s Lettuce; and the Atriplex patula is called Lamb’s Quarters.

The Leopard has given its name to the deadly Doronicum Pardalianches (from the Greek Pardalis, a Leopard, and ancho, to strangle); hence our name of Leopard’s Bane, because it was reputed to cause the death of any animal that ate it, and it was therefore formerly mixed with flesh to destroy Leopards.

The Lion, according to Gerarde, claimed several plants. The Alchemilla vulgaris, from its leaf resembling his foot, was called Lion’s Foot or Paw; a plant, called Leontopetalon by the Greeks, was known in England as Lion’s Turnip or Lion’s Leaf; and two kinds of Cudweed, Leontopodium and L. parvum, bore the name of Lion’s Cudweed, from their flower-heads resembling a Lion’s foot. The Leontopodium has been identified with the Gnaphalium Alpinum, the Filago stellata, the Edelweiss of the Germans, and the Perlière des Alpes of the French. De Gubernatis points out that, inasmuch as the Lion represents the Sun, the plants bearing the Lion’s name are essentially plants of the Sun. This is particularly noticeable in the case of the Dandelion (Dent de Lion) or Lion’s Tooth. In Geneva, Switzerland, children form a chain of these flowers, and holding it in their hands, dance in a circle; a German name for it is Sonneswirbel (Solstice), as well as Solsequium heliotropium. The Romans saw in the flower of the Helianthus a resemblance to a Lion’s mouth. In the Orobanche or Broom Rape (the Sonnenwurz, Root of the Sun, of the Germans) some have seen the resemblance to a Lion’s mouth and foot; it was called the Lion’s Pulse or Lion’s Herb, and was considered an antidote to poison.

The tiny Mouse, like the majestic Lion, is represented in the vegetable kingdom by several plants. From the shape of the leaves, Hieracium Pilosella is known as Mouse Ear, Cerastium vulgare, Mouse Ear Chickweed, and Myosotis palustris, or Forget-Me-Not, Mouse Ear Scorpion Grass. Myosurus minimus, from the shape of its slender seed-spike, is called Mouse Tail; and Alopecurus agrestis, Mouse Tail Grass. Hordeum marinum is Mouse Barley.

Swine plants are numerous. We have the Swine Bane, Sow Bane, or Pig Weed (Chenopodium rubrum), a herb which, according to Parkinson, was “found certain to kill Swine.” The Pig Nut (Bunium flexuosum) is so called from its tubers being a favourite food of Pigs. Sow Bread (Cyclamen Europæum) has obtained its name for a similar reason; and Swine’s Grass (Polygonum aviculare) is so called because Swine are believed to be fond of it. Hyoseris minima is Swine Succory, and Senebiera Coronopus, Swine’s Cress. For possession of the Dandelion, the Pig enters the lists with the Lion, and claims the flower as the Swine’s Snout, on account of the form of its receptacle. According to Du Bartas, Swine, when affected with the spleen, seek relief by eating the Spleenwort or Miltwaste (Asplenium Ceterach),

“The Finger-Fern, which being given to Swine,
It makes their milt to melt away in fine.”

De Gubernatis states that the god Indra is thought to have taken the form of a Goat, and he gives a long list of Indian plants named after Sheep and Goats. The Ram, He-Goat, and Lamb, called Mesha, also give their names, in Sanscrit, to different plants. In England, Rumex Acetosella is Sheep’s Sorrel, Chærophyllum temulum Sheep’s Parsley, Jasione montana Sheep’s-Bit-Scabious, and Hydrocotyle vulgaris, or White Rot, Sheep’s Bane, from its character of poisoning Sheep.

The Squirrel, although a denizen of the woods, only claims one plant, Hordeum maritimum, which, from the shape of its flower-spike, has obtained the name of Squirrel Tail.

The Elephant has a whole series of Indian trees and plants dedicated to him, which are enumerated by De Gubernatis; the Bignonia suaveolens is called the Elephant’s Tree; and certain Cucumbers, Pumpkins, and Gourds are named after him.

The Wolf, in India, gives its name to the Colypea hernandifolia, and Wolf’s Eye is a designation given to the Ipomœa Turpethum. Among the Germans, the Wolf becomes, under the several names of Graswolf, Kornwolf, Roggenwolf, and Kartoffelwolf, a demon haunting fields and crops. In our own country, the Euphorbia, from its acrid, milky juice, is called Wolf’s Milk; the Lycopodium clavatum is the Wolf’s Claw, and the Aconitum Lycoctonum is Wolf’s Bane, a name it obtained in olden times when hunters were in the habit of poisoning with the juice of this plant the baits of flesh they laid for Wolves.

There are several plants bearing, in some form or other, the appellation of Dragon. The common Dragon (Arum Dracunculus) is, as its name implies, a species of Arum, which sends up a straight stalk about three feet high, curiously spotted like the belly of a serpent. The flower of the Dragon plant has such a strong scent of carrion, that few persons can endure it, and it is consequently usually banished from gardens. Gerarde describes three kinds of Dragons, under the names of Great Dragon, Small Dragon, and Water Dragon: these plants all have homœopathic qualities, inasmuch as although they are by name at least vegetable reptiles, yet, according to Dioscorides, all who have rubbed the leaves or roots upon their hands, will not be bitten by Vipers. Pliny also says that Serpents will not come near anyone who carries a portion of a Dragon plant with him, and that it was a common practice in his day to keep about the person a piece of the root of this herb. Gerarde tells us that “the distilled water has vertue against the pestilence or any pestilentiall fever or poyson, being drunke bloud warme with the best treacle or mithridate.” He also says that the smell of the flowers is injurious to women who are about to become mothers. The Green Dragon (Arum Dracontium), a native of China, Japan, and America, possesses a root which is prescribed as a very strong emmenagogue. There is a species of Dragon which grows in the morasses about Magellan’s Strait, whose flowers exhibit the appearance of an ulcer, and exhale so strong an odour of putrid flesh, that flesh-flies resort to it to deposit their eggs. Another Dragon plant is the Dracontium polyphyllum, a native of Surinam and Japan, where they prepare a medicine from the acrid roots, which they call Konjakf, and esteem as a great emmenagogue: it is used there to procure abortion. Dracontium fœtidum, Fetid Dragon, or Skunk-weed, flourishes in the swamps of North America, and has obtained its nickname from its rank smell, resembling that of a Skunk or Pole-cat. Dragon’s Head (Dracocephalum) is a name applied to several plants. The Moldavian Dragon’s Head is often called Moldavian or Turk’s Balm. The Virginian Dragon’s Head is named by the French, La Cataleptique, from its use in palsy and kindred diseases. The Canary Dragon’s Head, a native of the Canary Islands, is called (improperly) Balm of Gilead, from its fine odour when rubbed. The old writers called it Camphorosma and Cedronella, and ascribed to it, as to other Dragon plants, the faculty of being a remedy for the bites and stings of venomous beasts, as well as for the bites of mad Dogs. The Tarragon (Artemisia Dracunculus), “the little Dragon,” is the Dragon plant of Germany and the northern nations, and the Herbe au Dragon of the French. The ancient herbalists affirmed that the seed of the Flax put into a Radish-root or Sea Onion, and so set, would bring forth the herb Tarragon. The Snake Weed was called by the ancients, Dragon and Little Dragon, and the Sneezewort, Dragon of the Woods. The Snap-dragon appears to have been so named merely from the shape of its corolla, but in many places it is said to have a supernatural influence, and to possess the power of destroying charms.

Snakes are represented by the Fritillaria Meleagris, which is called Snake’s Head, on account of its petals being marked like Snakes’ scales. The Sea Grass (Ophiurus incurvatus) is known as Snake’s Tail, and the Bistort (Polygonum Bistorta) is Snake Weed.

Vipers have the Echium vulgare dedicated to them under the name of Viper’s Bugloss, a plant supposed to cure the bite of these reptiles; and the Scorzonera edulis, or Viper’s Grass, a herb also considered good for healing wounds caused by Vipers.

The Scorpion finds a vegetable representative in the Myosotis, or Scorpion Grass, so named from its spike resembling a Scorpion’s Tail.

It is not surprising to find that Toads and Frogs, living as they do among the herbage, should have several plants named after them. The Toad, according to popular superstition, was the impersonation of the Devil, and therefore it was only fit that poisonous and unwholesome Fungi should be called Toad Stools, the more so as there was a very general belief that Toads were in the habit of sitting on them:—

“The griesly Todestol grown there mought I see,
And loathed paddocks lording on the same.”—Spenser.

Growing in damp places, haunted by Toads croaking and piping to one another, the Equisetum limosum, with its straight, fistulous stalks, has obtained the name of Toad Pipe. The Linaria vulgaris, from its narrow Flax-like leaves, is known as Toad Flax, from a curious mistake of the old herbalists who confounded the Latin words bubo and bufo.

Frogs claim as their especial plants the Frog Bit (Morsus ranæ), so called because Frogs are supposed to eat it; Frog’s Lettuce (Potamogeton densus); Frog Grass (Salicornia herbacea); and Frog Foot, a name originally assigned to the Vervain (the leaf of which somewhat resembles a Frog’s foot); but now transferred to the Duck Meat, Lemna.

Bees are recognised in the Delphinium grandiflorum, or Bee Larkspur; the Galeopsis Tetrahit, or Bee Nettle; the Ophrys apifera, or Bee Orchis; and the Daucus Carota, or Bee’s Nest.

The Doctrine of Plant Signatures.

CHAPTER XIII.

The Doctrine of Plant Signatures.

William Coles, in his ‘Art of Simpling’ (a work published in the year 1656), abandoning for awhile practical instruction, moralises thus:—“Though sin and Sathan have plunged mankinde into an Ocean of Infirmities, yet the mercy of God, which is over all His workes, maketh Grasse to grow upon the Mountaines, and Herbes for the use of men; and hath not only stamped upon them a distinct forme, but also given them particular Signatures, whereby a man may read, even in legible characters, the use of them.” This ancient Doctrine of Signatures was an ingenious system elaborated for discovering from certain marks or appearances on the various portion of a plant’s structure, the supposed medicinal virtue attached to it. A good illustration is to be found in the following passage, translated from P. Lauremberg’s Apparatus Plantarum:—“The seed of Garlic is black; it obscures the eyes with blackness and darkness. This is to be understood of healthy eyes, but those which are dull through vicious humidity, from these Garlic drives this viciousness away. The tunic of Garlic is ruddy; it expels blood. It has a hollow stalk, and it helps affections of the wind-pipe.”

Many curious details of the system of Plant Signatures are to be found in the works of Porta, Grollius, Schröder, and Kircher: these authorities tell us that there are given, not only in animals, but also in vegetables, certain sure marks, signs, and indications from which their virtues and powers can be inferred by the sagacious and painstaking student. Kircher is of opinion that the Egyptians derived their first knowledge of the elements of medicine from these signs, which they had patiently and closely studied; and in one of his works he enunciates his views in the following passage:—“Since one and all of the members of the human body, under the wise arrangement of Nature, agree or differ with the several objects in the world of creation, by a certain sympathy or antipathy of nature, it follows that there has been implanted by the providence of Nature, both in the several members and in natural objects, a reciprocal instinct, which impels them to seek after those things which are similar and consequently beneficial to themselves, and to avoid and shun those things which are antagonistic or hurtful. Hence has emanated that more recondite part of medicine which compares the Signatures or Characterisms of natural things with the members of the human body, and by magnetically applying like to like produces marvellous effects in the preservation of human health. In this way, the occult properties of plants—first of those that are endowed with life, and secondly of those destitute of life—are indicated by resemblances; for all exhibit to man, by their Signatures and Characterisms, both their powers, by which they can heal, and the diseases in which they are useful. Not only by their parts (as the root, stem, leaf, flower, fruit, and seed), but also by their actions and qualities (such as their retaining or shedding their leaves, their offspring, number, beauty or deformity, form, and colour), they indicate what kind of service they can render to man, and what are the particular members of the human body to which they are specially appropriate.”

As examples of the practical working of the system of Plant Signatures, Kircher tells us that if the root of the Chelidonium be placed in white wine, it is rendered yellow, resembling bilious humour, and thus discloses a sure and infallible remedy against yellow jaundice. He remarks that he had learned this by personal experience, having advised some persons suffering from that malady to try Chelidonium as a cure; and that as a result they were freed from the disease. Persons liable to apoplexy are said to have a line resembling an anchor traced in their hands. The plant Acorus has a similar mark in its leaves, and is a highly-approved remedy for apoplexy. So again, a certain line or mark is to be found in the hands of persons suffering from colic, similar in character to an outline found traced in the foliage of the Malobathrum, a plant which will afford relief to patients suffering from the disorder. Hellebore, which emits a most disagreeable odour, possesses the property of absorbing offensive smells and expelling them. Dracontium, or Great Dragon, a plant which bears a resemblance to a dragon, is a most effectual preservation against serpents; Pliny averring that serpents will not come near anyone carrying this plant.

Other examples of the application of the Doctrine of Signatures are not difficult to be found among the quaintly-named plants enumerated in English herbals. The Lung-wort (Pulmonaria), spotted with tubercular scars, was a specific for consumption. The Bullock’s Lung-wort (Verbascum Thapsis), so called from the resemblance of its leaf to a dewlap, was employed as a cure for the pneumonia of bullocks. The Liver-wort (Marchantia polymorpha), liver-shaped in its green fructification, was a specific for bilious complaints. The Blood-root (Tormentilla), which derives its name from the red colour of its roots, was adopted as a cure for the bloody flux. The throat-like corolla of the Throat-wort (Campanula Trachelium), better known as the Canterbury Bell, caused it to be administered for bronchitis. Tutsan (Hypericum androsæmum) was used to stop bleeding, because the juice of its ripe capsule is of a claret colour. Brunella (now spelt Prunella) was called Brown-wort, having brownish leaves and purple-blue flowers, and was in consequence supposed to cure a kind of quinsy, called in German die braune. This plant has a corolla, the profile of which is suggestive of a bill-hook, and therefore it was called Carpenter’s-herb, and supposed to heal the wounds inflicted by edge-tools. Pimpinella Saxifraga, Alchemilla arvensis, and the genus Saxifraga, plants which split rocks by growing in their cracks, have been named “Breakstones,” and were administered in cases of calculus. Clary was transformed into Clear-eye, Godes-eie, Seebright, and Oculus Christi, and eye-salves were consequently made of it. Burstwort was thought efficacious in ruptures. The Scorpion-grass, or Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis), whose flower-spike is somewhat suggestive of a scorpion’s tail, was an antidote to the sting of that or other venomous creatures. The Briony, which bears in its root a mark significative of a dropsical man’s feet, was adopted as a cure for dropsy. The Moon-daisy averted lunacy; and the Birth-wort, Fig-wort, Kidney-vetch, Nipple-wort, and Spleen-wort were all appropriated as their names suggest, on account of fancied resemblances. The Toad-flax (Linaria), it may here be pointed out, owes its name to a curious mistake on the part of some believer in the Doctrine of Signatures. According to Dodoens, it was useful in the treatment of a complaint called buboes, and received its Latin name, Bubonium. A confusion between the words bubo and bufo (Latin for toad) gave rise to its present name of Toad-flax; and soon arose legends of sick or wounded toads seeking this plant and curing themselves with its leaves.

The general rules that guided the founders of the system of Plant Signatures, which were supposed to reveal the occult powers and virtues of vegetables, would seem to have been as under:—

Vegetables, as herbs and plants, or their fruit, seed, flowers., which resemble some human member in figure, colour, quality, and consistence, were considered to be most adapted to that member, and to possess medical properties specially applicable to it.

All herbs or plants that in flowers or juice bear a resemblance to one or other of the four humours, viz., blood, yellow bile, phlegm, and black bile, were deemed suitable for treating the same humour, by increasing or expelling it.

All yellow-hued plants, if they were eatable, were thought to increase yellow bile. In this category were included Orach, Melons, Crocus, yellow Turnips, and all other yellow plants which have a sweet flavour.

Plants or herbs of a dull blackish colour, or of a brownish or a spotted hue, were held to be serviceable in the treatment of black bile. Some of them had a tendency to increase it, while others assisted in carrying it off. Thus, Smilax, Mandragora, many kinds of Parsley, Nightshade, and Poppies, having partly black, ash-coloured, and spotted flowers, intermixed with pale tints, by causing bad dreams, excite giddiness, vertigo, and epilepsy. Napellus, also, indicates in a most marked manner its poisonous and virulent nature, for its flower represents the skull of a dead man.

Plants which bear white flowers and have thick juice, which often grow in moist and extremely humid places, and which resemble phlegm or rheum, were thought to increase the very humours they represented. Others of a drier temperament were thought to correct and purify the same. Milky plants, as Tithymallus, Polygala, Sonchus, and Britalzar Ægyptiaca, were supposed to increase and accumulate milk in nurses.

Some plants of a red colour were believed to increase blood; some to correct and purify it; and others to benefit hemorrhoidal and dysenteric affections from a similarity of colour.

Plants of a mixed colour, as they unite in themselves a diversity of temperaments, were thought to produce a diversity of effects; whence two-coloured herbs were believed to possess and exercise a double virtue. On this principle, diverse colours were said to cure diverse humours in the human body; for example, Tripolium, Panacæa, and Triphera were considered beneficial for all humours.

Plants whose decoction and infusion, as well as colour and consistence, were like some humour of the human body, were declared to be appropriate for the purpose of evacuating that humour by attraction, or increasing it by incorporation.

Certain plants were deemed to represent some disease or morbid condition, and were judged to be helpful in its cure. Thus those were administered in cases of calculus which represented stones, such as Milium solis, the root of the White Saxifrage, the shells of Nuts, and Nuts themselves. Spotted plants and herbs were thought to eradicate spots, and scaly plants to remove scales. Perforated herbs were selected for the cure of wounds and perforations of the body. Plants which exude gums and resins were considered available for the treatment of pus and matter. Swelling plants were thought good for tumours; those that permit the cutting or puncturing of the stem were employed for closing up wounds; and those that shed bark and skin were thought adapted for the cleansing of the skin.

Accordingly as plants and herbs exhibited peculiarities in their actions, so were they supposed to operate on man. Thus, sterile plants, such as Lettuce, Fern, Willow, Savin, and many others, were believed to conduce to the procuring of sterility in men; whilst salacious and fecund plants were considered to confer fecundity. On the same principle, long-lived and evergreen plants were said to procure vigour for the human body.

Helvetius has left a list of classified herbs and plants which in his time were considered by experts in herbcraft to exhibit peculiar marks and Signatures by which they could be identified with the several parts and members of the human body. This may be said to have formed the basis of the system embraced in the Doctrine of Plant Signatures, and as it epitomises the results of the protracted and laborious researches of the old herbalists, who may fairly be said to have laid the foundations of our present system of Botany, it has been thought worth while to give an abbreviation of it.

  • The Head. Antirrhinum, Crocus, Geranium, Walnuts, Lily of the Valley, Marjoram, Poppy, Violet, Rose, Lime-blossom, the genus Brassica.
  • The Hair. Asparagus, Goat’s-beard, Fennel, Nigella, Flax, Tree Musk, the Vine, and Vine-roots.
  • The Eyes. The flowers of Acacia, Euphrasy, Daisy, Bean, Hyacinth, Geranium, Mallow, Narcissus, Hyacinth, Ranunculus, Cornflower.
  • The Ears. Bear’s Ear (Auricula ursi), Mountain Bindweed, Cyclamen Doronicum, Gentian, rough Viper’s Bugloss, Hypericum, Organy, Egyptian Beans.
  • The Tongue. Horse-tongue (Hippoglossum), Adder’s-tongue (Ophioglossum), Hound’s-tongue (Cynoglossum), Hart’s-tongue, Frog-bit, Grass of Parnassus, Prunella, Salvia, Sempervivum.
  • The Teeth. The leaves of Fir and Juniper, Sunflower-seed, Toothed Moss (Muscus denticulatus), Toothed Violet (Dentaria), Dandelion (Dens Leonis).
  • The Heart. Borage, Motherwort (Cardiaca), Malaca Beans (Anacardium), Strawberries, Pomegranate-blossom, Hepatica, Violet, Peony, Rose, Iris, Egyptian Lotus.
  • The Lungs. Lung-wort, (Pulmonaria), Beet, the stalks of Anise, Garden Teasel, Cresses, Fennel, Curled Lettuce, Scabious, Rhubarb, Valerian, the Sea Moss Muscus marinus virens latifolius.
  • The Liver. Noble Liver-wort (Hepatica trifolia), Ground Liver-wort (Hepatica terrestris), Garden Endive, Portulaca, Aloe, Our Lady’s Thistle (Carduus Mariæ), Gentian, Lettuce, Alpine Sanicle.
  • The Bladder. Bladder-wort, Winter Cherry, Black Hellebore, Nasturtium, Persicaria, Leaves of Senna, root of True Rhubarb, broad-leaved Tithymallus, Botrys.
  • The Spleen. Spleenwort or Ceterach (Asplenium), Agrimony, Shepherd’s Purse, Dandelion, Devil’s Bit Scabious, Fern, Broom, Hawk-weed, Turnip, Treacle Mustard.
  • The Stomach. Roots of Acorus, Cyclamen, Elecampane, Iris, and Galingale, Earth-nut, Parsnip, Radish, Chives, Ginger.
  • The Kidneys. Kidney-wort, Agnus Castus, seeds of Broom, Bombax, Jasmine, and Lupine, Beans, Currants, Ground Ivy, root of Leopard’s Bane.
  • The Intestines. Navel-wort, Chickweed, Briony, Dodder, Bitter-sweet (Nightshade), Fenugreek, Nasturtium, Honeysuckle, Chamomile-flowers, Alpine Sanicle, roots of Polypody.
  • The Hands, Fingers, and Nerves. Agnus Castus, Garlick, Briony, Shepherd’s Purse, Fig, Geranium, Ash-bark, Cinquefoil (Heptaphyllum), Tormentilla, Water Hellebore, Lupine, Melon, Ophrys, Hoary Clover, Satyrion, Plantain, Currants, Sanicle, Soap-wort, Wolf’s Bane, Swallow-wort, Vitis Idæa, Asiatic Ranunculus, with gummy root.

The Doctrine of Signatures did not exclusively apply to the medicinal virtues of herbs and plants: for example, Hound’s-tongue Cynoglossum officinale, named from the shape and softness of its leaf, was (if we may believe William Coles) thought to “tye the tongues of hounds, so that they shall not bark at you, if it be laid under the bottom of your feet, as Miraldus writeth.” Garlic (from the Anglo-Saxon words gár, a spear, and leác, a plant) was, from its acute tapering leaves, marked out as the war plant of the warriors and poets of the North. The heavenly blue of the flower of the Germander Speedwell won for it the Welsh appellation of the Eye of Christ. Even abstract virtues were to be learnt by an attentive study of the Signatures of certain plants, according to the dictum of that loyal and godly herbalist Robert Turner, who naively tells us that “God hath imprinted upon the Plants, Herbs, and Flowers, as it were in Hieroglyphicks, the very Signature of their Vertues; as the learned Grollius and others well observe: as the Nutmeg, being cut, resembles the Brain; the Papaver erraticum, or red Poppy Flower, resembleth at its bottom the setling of the Blood in the Plurisie; and how excellent is that Flower in Diseases of the Plurisie, and Surfeits hath sufficiently been experienced.” In the Heliotrope and Marigold subjects may learn their duty to their Sovereign: which his Sacred Majesty King Charles the First mentions in his Princely Meditations, walking in a Garden in the Isle of Wight, in the following words, viz.:—

“‘The Marigold observes the Sun
More than my subjects me have done,”

That great naturalist, John Ray, whilst expressing his disbelief of the Doctrine of Plant Signatures as a whole, admitted that there were tangible grounds for the formation of the system. He wrote:—“Howbeit, I will not deny but that the noxious and malignant plants do, many of them, discover something of their nature by the sad and melancholick visage of their leaves, flowers, or fruits. And that I may not leave that head wholly untouched, one observation I shall add, relating to the virtues of plants, in which I think is something of truth; that is, that there are, by the wise dispensation of Providence, such species of plants produced in every country, as are made proper and convenient for the meat and medicine of the men and animals that are bred and inhabit therein. Insomuch that Solenander writes that, from the frequency of the plants that spring up naturally in any region, he could easily gather what endemical diseases the inhabitants thereof are subject to. So in Denmark, Friesland, and Holland, where the scurvy usually reigns, the proper remedy thereof, Scurvy-grass, doth plentifully grow.”

The Old Herbals and Herbalists.

It is impossible to make an attentive examination of the old Herbals without being astonished at the extraordinary number and nature of the ills which their authors professed to cure by means of plants and simples. Every conceivable disease and ailment appears to be enumerated, and each has a number of specifics allotted for its treatment and cure. The contents of these ancient works, indeed, are apt to heat the imagination, and to cause one to form a conception that the merrie England of our forefathers was a land swarming with wild beasts, so venomous in their nature, and ferocious in their proclivities, that the unfortunate inhabitants were constantly being grievously maimed and wounded by their malicious “bitings.” Be this as it may, however, it is evident that the old herbalists deemed themselves fully equal to any emergency. Leopards, Wolves, and venomous beasts of all kinds, as well as Dragons, Serpents, Vipers, and Scorpions, could all, by means of herbs, be driven away, kept at bay, or killed, and the venom of their bites be quickly and effectually cured. Such simple things as the stings of Hornets, Wasps, and Bees, were of course easily extracted by men who professed themselves able and willing to draw out arrow-heads from wounds, or remove broken bones, glue them together, and cover them when bare of flesh. They could provide counterpoisons against deadly medicines, poisoned arrows, noxious herbs, and the bitings and stingings of venomous creatures; they could cure the bites of sea Dragons and mad Dogs, and could keep Dogs from growing great. They could cause troublesome and dangerous dreams, and they could cure nightmare. They could drive away dulness and melancholy, and consume proud and superfluous flesh. They could preserve the eyesight, “helpe blacke eies comming by blowes,” and take away redness and yellowness. They could prevent the hair falling off, and restore it to the bald pate, and knew how to turn it yellow, red, or black. They could cause hens to lay plentifully, and refresh a weary horse. They could cure lunatics, relieve madness, and purge melancholy; to say nothing of counteracting witchcraft and the malignant influence of the mysterious Evil Eye. They could destroy warts, remove freckles, and beautify young wenches’ faces. In fine, the herbalist of old was one

“Who knew the cause of everie maladie,
Were it of colde or hote, or moist or drie.”

A remarkable characteristic of the herbarists (as they were called of yore) was a habit of ascribing extraordinary and fabulous properties to the herbs and plants whose merits they descanted upon. Just as the Druids taught the people of their time to call the sacred Mistletoe the “All-heal,” and to look upon it as a panacea for all bodily ailments, so did the herbalists, in the pages of their ponderous tomes, set forth the marvellous virtues of Betony, Agrimony, Angelica, Garlic, Fennel, Sage, Rue, and other favourite medicinal plants. Johannes de Mediolano, a doctor, of the Academy of Salerno, once wrote of Rue, that it diminishes the force of love in man, and, on the contrary, increases the flame in women. When eaten raw, it both clears the sight and the perceptions of the mind, and when cooked it destroys fleas. The English herbalists called it Herb Grace and Serving-men’s Joy, because of the multiplicity of ailments that it was warranted to cure; Mithridates used the herb as a counterpoison to preserve himself against infection; and Gerarde records that Serpents are driven away at the smell of Rue if it be burned, and that “when the Weesell is to fight with the Serpent, shee armeth herselfe by eating Rue against the might of the Serpent.” The virtues of Rue, however, are cast into the shade by those of Sage. Says witty Alphonse Karr—“Rue is nothing in comparison with Sage. Sage preserves the human race; and the whole school of Salerno, after a long enumeration of the virtues of Sage, seriously exclaims: ‘How can it happen that a man who has Sage in his garden yet ends by dying?’” Perhaps this exclamation was the foundation of the English proverb—

“He that eats Sage in May
Shall live for aye.”

Regarding the wondrous curative properties of Betony, Antonius Musa, physician to the Emperor Augustus, wrote a volume setting forth the excellencies of the herb, which he demonstrated would cure no less than forty-seven different disorders; and in England an old advice to the sufferer is, “Sell your coat, and buy Betony.” Agrimony is another herb whose praises were loudly proclaimed by the herbalists; it formed an ingredient in most of the old-fashioned herb teas, and Drayton speaks of it as “All-heal, and so named of right.” Of Angelica, or Holy Ghost, Parkinson writes that it is “so goode an herbe that there is no part thereof but is of much use.” Fennel, in addition to its uses as a medicine, was recommended by old writers, when boiled in wine, as a counterpoison for use by such as had been bitten by those terrible reptiles, serpents, and scorpions that seem to have so exercised the ancient herbalists. Treacle-Mustard, or Triacle, was also highly esteemed as a cure for “all those that were bitten or stung by venomous beasts, or had drunk poison, or were infected with pestilence: it formed one of seventy-three ingredients in making “Venice treacle”—a famous vermifuge and antipoison in the Middle Ages. The Vervain, or Holy Herb, was credited with almost supernatural healing powers. English Mercury was called All-good; and other herbs obtained the names of All-heal, Clown’s All-heal, Self-heal, Poor-man’s Treacle, Poor-man’s Parmacetty, the Blessed Herb, Grace of God, Master-Wort, Ploughman’s Spikenard., on account of the numerous virtues which the herbalists had discovered in them. One of these old worthies (the compiler of a Herbal, and a believer in astrology) has, indeed, stated in rhyme, his conviction that there was no disease but what would yield to the virtues of herbs and the skill of the herbalist. “In his book,” he confidently says—

“He hath a method plain devised,
All parts of it, so curiously comprised;
That vulgar men, which have but skill to read,
May be their own physicians at need;
The better sort are hereby taught, how all
Things springing from earth’s bowels safely shall
By love or hatred (as the Stars dispose)
Each sickness cure, that in the body grows.”

The poet Michael Drayton has drawn the portrait of an ancient simpler, and has given a list of the remedies of which he made the most frequent use; the lines are to be found in his ‘Polyolbion,’ and as they contain examples of herbs selected under the system of the Doctrine of Plant Signatures, they may be appropriately introduced at the conclusion of this chapter:—

“But, absolutely free,
His happy time he spends the works of God to see,
In those so sundry herbs which there in plenty grow,
Whose sundry strange effects he only seeks to know;
And in a little maund, being made of Osiers small,
Which serveth him to do full many a thing withal,
He very choicely sorts his simples, got abroad;
Here finds he on an Oak rheum-purging Polypode;
And in some open place that to the sun doth lie,
He Fumitory gets, and Eyebright for the eye;
The Yarrow wherewithal he stays the wound-made gore,
The healing Tutsan then, and Plantaine for a sore;
And hard by them, again, he holy Vervain finds,
Which he about his head that hath the megrim binds;
The wonder-working Dill he gets not far from these,
Which curious women use in many a nice disease;
For them that are with Newts, or Snakes, or Adders stung
He seeketh out a herb, that is called Adder’s-tongue;
As Nature it ordain’d its own like hurt to cure,
And sportive did herself to niceties inure.
Valerian then he crops, and purposely doth stamp
To apply unto the place that’s haled with the cramp;
The Chickweed cures the heat that in the face doth rise,
For physic some again he inwardly applies;
For comforting the spleen and liver, gets for juice
Pale Horehound, which he holds of most especial use.
And for the labouring wretch that’s troubled with a cough,
Or stopping of the breath by phlegm that’s hard and tough,
Campana here he crops, approved wondrous good;
Or Comfrey unto him that’s bruised, spitting blood;
And for the falling ill by Five-leafe doth restore,
And melancholy cures by sovereign Hellebore:
Of these most helpful herbs yet tell we but a few
To those unnumbered sort of simples here that grew,
What justly to set down even Dodon short doth fall,
Nor skilful Gerarde yet shall ever find them all.”

Plants and the Planets.

CHAPTER XIV.

Plants and the Planets.

Two centuries ago there existed a very general belief that every plant was under the direct influence of a particular Planet, and therefore that all the details connected with its cultivation and utilisation were to be conducted with a strict regard to this supposition. Aubrey has recorded his opinion, that if a plant “be not gathered according to the rules of astrology, it hath little or no virtue in it;” and the Jesuit Rapin, in his Latin poem on ‘Gardens,’ says, with respect to flowers—

“This frequent charge I give, whene’er you sow
The flow’ry kind, be studious first to know
The monthly tables, and with heedful eye
Survey the lofty volumes of the sky;
Observe the tokens of foreboding Stars,
What store of wind and rain the Moon prepares;
What weather Eurus or moist Auster blows,
What both in east and west the Sun foreshows;
What aid from Helice the trees obtain,
What from Boötes with his tardy wain;
Whether the wat’ry Pleiades with show’rs
Kindly refresh alone, or drown the flow’rs;
For Stars neglected fatal oft we find,
The Gods to their dominion have assign’d
The products of our earth and labours of mankind.”

Michael Drayton, in whose time the doctrine of planetary influence on plants was generally accepted, says, in reference to the longevity of antediluvian men:—

“Besides, in medicine simples had the power
That none need then the planetary hour
To helpe their working, they so juiceful were.”

Culpeper, who was a profound believer in astrology, has given at the commencement of his ‘British Herbal and Family Physician,’ a list of some five hundred plants, and the names of the Planets which govern them; and in his directions as to the plucking of leaves for medical purposes, the old herbalist and physician remarks:—“Such as are astrologers (and indeed none else are fit to make physicians) such I advise: let the planet that governs the herb be angular, and the stronger the better; if they can, in herbs of Saturn, let Saturn be in the ascendant; in the herb of Mars, let Mars be in the mid-heaven, for in those houses they delight; let the Moon apply to them by good aspect, and let her not be in the houses of her enemies; if you cannot well stay till she apply to them, let her apply to a Planet of the same triplicity; if you cannot meet that time neither, let her be with a fixed Star of their nature.”

The classification of Plants under the planets Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, the Sun, and the Moon, appears to have been made according to the Signatures or outward appearances of the plants themselves. The stalks, stems, branches, roots, foliage, flowers, odour, taste, native places, death, and medical virtues, were also considered; and, according to the character of the plant thus deduced, it was placed under the government of the particular Planet with which it was considered to be most in consonance.

Plants allotted to Saturn had their Leaves: hairy, hard, dry, parched, coarse, and of ill-favoured appearance. Flowers: Unprepossessing, gloomy, dull, greenish, faded or dirty white, pale red, invariably hirsute, prickly, and disagreeable. Roots: Spreading widely in the earth and rambling around in discursive fashion. Odour: Fœtid, putrid, muddy.

Jupiter.—Leaves: Smooth, even, slightly cut and pointed, the veins not prominent, and the lines not strongly marked. Colour, greyish blue-green. Flowers: Graceful, pleasing, bright, succulent, transparent, ruddy, flesh-colour, blue, yellow. Roots: Rather small, with short hairy filaments, spread about in the ground. Odour: Highly subtle, grateful to the brain; the kernels comforting; easily fermented.

Mars.—Leaves: Hard, long, somewhat heavy, pointed and pendulous, harsh and hot to the tongue, not of good appearance. Flowers: Of a colour between yellow, vermilion, or blue, green, purple, red, changing quickly, abundance of flowers and seeds. Roots: Highly fibrous and creeping underground. Odour: Oppressive to the brain, potent, sharp, acrid.

Venus.—Leaves: Large, handsome, bright, rich green or roseate, soft, plentiful. Flowers: Pleasing to the eyes, white, blue, rosy, charming, fine, abundant. Roots: Of early growth, but not deeply fixed. Quickly and freely produced. Odour: Subtle, delightful, pungent, refreshing to the brain.

Mercury.—Leaves: Different kinds, but pleasing to the eye. Flowers: Of various descriptions and colours, refreshing, agreeable, and pleasant. Roots: Abiding deep in the earth, and spreading far and wide. Odour: Highly subtle and penetrating, refreshing to the heart and brain.

The Sun.—Leaves: Succulent, with stout stalks, deeply veined, pleasant green or tawny, with reddish stalks. Flowers: Yellow and gold, or purple, handsome, glittering, and radiant. Roots: Strong, deeply fixed in the earth, but not laterally. Odour: Agreeable, acceptable, and pungent, strong, restorative to brain and eyes.

The Moon.—Leaves: Pale, highly succulent, pith thick, firm, strongly-developed veins, bottle-green. Flowers: Pale yellow or greenish, watery, mellifluous, but uninteresting and without beauty. Roots: Penetrating easily through water and earth, not durable, and easily decayed, spreading neither thickly nor deeply. Odour: Disagreeable, almost none, without pungency, redolent of the earth, rain, or soft savour of honey.

According to Indian mythology, herbs are placed under the special protection of Mitra, the Sun. De Gubernatis tells us that there are several Indian plants named after the great luminary. In the Grecian Pantheon, the Solar-god, Apollo, possessed a knowledge of all the herbs. It was to Phœbus, the Sun-god, that poor Clytie lost her heart, and, when changed into a flower, held firmly by the root, she still turned to the Sun she loved, “and, changed herself, still kept her love unchanged.” As to the particular Sunflower, Turnsole, Heliotrope, or Solsequium that is the floral embodiment of the love-sick nymph, readers must be referred to the disquisition under the heading “Sunflower.” De Gubernatis gives it as his opinion, that Clytie’s flower is the Helianthemum roseum of De Candolle. In a previous chapter, certain plants have been noticed which were supposed by the ancients to have been specially under the domination of the Sun and Moon. According to the dictum of wizards and wise folk, plants possessing magical properties must as a general rule be gathered, if not by moonlight, yet at any rate before sunrise, for the first appearance of the Sun’s rays immediately dispels all enchantment, and drives back the spirits to their subterranean abodes.

We are told in Deuteronomy xxxiii., 14, that precious things are put forth by the Moon, but precious fruits by the Sun; and it is certainly very remarkable that, although mankind in all ages have regarded, and even worshipped, the Sun as being the supreme and ruling luminary, from whose glorious life-giving rays, vegetation of all kinds drew its very existence, yet that an idea should have sprung up, and taken root widely and deeply, that the growth and decay of plants were associated intimately with the waxing and waning of the Moon. We have seen how the plant kingdom was parcelled out by the astrologers, and consigned to the care of different Planets; but, despite this, the Moon was held to have a singular and predominant influence over vegetation, and it was supposed that there existed a sympathy between growing and declining nature and the Moon’s wax and wane. Bacon seems to have considered that even the “braine of man waxeth moister and fuller upon the Full of the Moone;” and, therefore, he continues, “it were good for those that have moist braines, and are great drinkers, to take fume of Lignum, Aloes, Rose-Mary, Frankincense., about the Full of the Moone.” He also tells us, in his Natural History, that “the influences of the Moon are four: the drawing forth of heat, the inducing of putrefaction, the moisture, and the exciting of the motions of spirits.”

In respect to this last influence, he goes on to say, “You must note that the growth of hedges, herbs, haire., is caused from the Moone, by exciting of the spirits as well as by increase of the moisture. But for spirits in particular the great instance is lunacies.” This lunar influence which Bacon speaks of was, as already pointed out, fully recognised in olden times, and a belief was even current that the Moon specially watched over vegetation, and that when she was propitious—that is, during her growth—she produced medicinal herbs; when she was not propitious—that is to say, during her wane—she imbued herbs with poisons; her humidity being, perhaps, more injurious than otherwise.

In old almanacks we find the supremacy of the Moon over the plant kingdom fully admitted, albeit in a jargon which is rather puzzling. Thus, in the ‘Husbandman’s Practice or Prognostication for Ever,’ the reader is advised “to set, sow seeds, graft, and plant, the Moone being in Taurus, Virgo, or Capricorne, and all kinds of Corne in Cancer, to graft in March, at the Moone’s increase, she being in Taurus or Capricorne.” Again, in Mr. Wing’s Almanack for 1661, occurs the following passage:—“It is a common observation in astrology, and confirmed by experience, that what Corn or tree soever are set or sown when the Sun or Moon is eclipsed, and the infortunate planets predominate, seldom or never come to good. And again he saith thus:—It is a common and certain observation also, that if any corn, seed, or plant be either set or sown within six hours either before or after the full Moon in Summer, or before or after the new Moon in Winter, having joined with the cosmical rising of Arcturus and Orion, the Hædi and the Siculi, it is subject to blasting and canker.”

As an illustration of the predominance given to the Moon over the other planets in matters pertaining to plant culture, it is worth noticing that, although Culpeper, in his ‘Herbal,’ places the Apple under Venus, yet the Devonshire farmers have from time immemorial made it a rule to gather their Apples for storing at the wane of the Moon; the reason being that, during the Moon’s increase, it is thought that the Apples are full, and will not therefore keep. It is said that if timber be felled when the Moon is on the increase, it will decay; and that it should always be cut when the Moon is on the wane. No reason can be assigned for this; yet the belief is common in many countries, and what is still more strange, professional woodcutters, whose occupation is to fell timber, aver, as the actual result of their observation, that the belief is well founded. It was formerly interwoven in the Forest Code of France, and, unless expunged by recent alterations, is so still. The same opinion obtains in the German forests, and is said to be held in those of Brazil and Yucatan. The theory given to account for this supposed fact is, that as the Moon grows, the sap rises, and the wood is therefore less dense than when the Moon is waning, because at that time the sap declines. The belief in the Moon’s influence as regards timber extends to vegetables, and was at one time universal in England, although, at the present day, the theory is less generally entertained in our country than abroad, where they act upon the maxim that root crops should be planted when the Moon is decreasing, and plants such as Beans, Peas, and others, which bear the crops on their branches, between new and full Moon. Throughout Germany, the rule is that Rye should be sown as the Moon waxes; but Barley, Wheat, and Peas, when it wanes.

The wax and wane of the belief in lunar influence on plant-life among our own countrymen may be readily traced by reference to old books on husbandry and gardening.

In ‘The Boke of Husbandry,’ by Mayster Fitzherbarde, published in 1523, we read with respect to the sowing of Peas, that “moste generally to begyn sone after Candelmasse is good season, so that they be sowen ere the begynnynge of Marche, or sone upon. And specially let them be sowen in the olde of the Mone. For the opinion of old husbandes is, that they shoulde be better codde, and sooner be rype.”

Tusser, in his ‘Five Hundred Points of Husbandry,’ published in 1562, says, in his quaint verse—

“Sowe Peason and Beans in the wane of the Moone,
Who soweth them sooner, he soweth too soone;
That they with the planet may rest and rise,
And flourish with bearing, most plentiful wise.”

Commenting on that “Point,” the editor of an edition of Tusser’s poem printed in 1744, says: “It must be granted the Moon is an excellent clock, and if not the cause of many surprising accidents, gives a just indication of them, whereof this Pease and Beans may be one instance; for Pease and Beans sown during the increase do run more to hawm or straw, and during the declension more to cod, according to the common consent of countrymen.” Again, as regards grafting, old Tusser writes:—

“In March is good graffing, the skilful do know,
So long as the wind in the East do not blow,
From Moone being changed, til past be the prime,
For graffing and cropping is very good time.”

The editor remarks: “The Prime is the first three days after the New Moon, in which time, or at farthest during the first quarter, our author confines his graffing, probably because the first three days are usually attended with rain.” He confesses, however, he cannot explain the following couplet:—

“The Moone in the wane gather fruit for to last,
But winter fruit gather when Michel is past.”

In the ‘Garden of Eden,’ an old gardening book compiled and issued by Sir Hugh Plat, Knt., in the year 1600, constant allusions are made to the necessity of studying the Moon’s phases in gardening and grafting operations. The worthy knight considered that the Moon would exercise her powers in making single flowers double if only she were respectfully courted. His counsel on this point is as follows:—“Remove a plant of Stock Gilliflowers when it is a little woodded, and not too greene, and water it presently. Doe this three dayes after the full, and remove it twice more before the change. Doe this in barren ground; and likewise, three dayes after the next full Moone, remove again; and then remove once more before the change. Then at the third full Moon, viz., eight dayes after, remove againe, and set it in very rich ground, and this will make it to bring forth a double flower; but if your Stock Gilliflowers once spindle, then you may not remove them. Also you must make Tulippes double in this manner. Some think by cutting them at every full Moone before they beare to make them at length to beare double.”

In ‘The Countryman’s Recreation’ (1640) the author fully recognises the obligation of gardeners to study the Moon in all their principal operations. Says he: “From the first day of the new Moone unto the xiii. day thereof is good for to plant, or graffe, or sow, and for great need some doe take unto the xvii. or xviii. day thereof, and not after, neither graffe nor sow, but as is afore-mentioned, a day or two afore the change, the best signes are Taurus, Virgo, or Capricorne.” And as regards the treatment of fruit trees, he tells us that “trees which come of Nuttes” should be set in the Autumn “in the change or increase of the Moone;” certain grafting manipulations are to be executed “in the increase of the Moone and not lightly after;” fruit, if it is desired of good colour and untouched by frost, ought to be gathered “when the time is faire and dry, and the Moone in her decreasing;” whilst “if ye will cut or gather Grapes, to have them good, and to have good wine thereof, ye shall cut them in the full, or soone after the full, of the Moone, when she is in Cancer, in Leo, in Scorpio, and in Aquarius, the Moone being on the waine and under the earth.”

In ‘The Expert Gardener’ (1640)—a work stated to be “faithfully collected out of sundry Dutch and French authors”—a chapter is entirely devoted to the times and seasons which should be selected “to sow and replant all manner of seeds,” with special reference to the phases of the Moon. As showing how very general must have been the belief in the influence of the Moon on vegetation at that time, the following extract is given:—

A short Instruction very profitable and necessary for all those that delight in Gardening, to know the Times and Seasons when it is good to sow and replant all manner of Seeds.

Cabbages must be sowne in February, March, or April, at the waning of the Moone, and replanted also in the decrease thereof.

Cabbage Lettuce, in February, March, or July, in an old Moone.

Onions and Leeks must be sowne in February or March, at the waning of the Moone.

Beets must be sowne in February or March, in a full Moone.

Coleworts white and greene in February, or March, in an old Moone, it is good to replant them.

Parsneps must be sowne in February, April, or June, also in an old Moone.

Radish must be sowne in February, March, or June, in a new Moone.

Pompions must be sowne in February, March, or June, also in a new Moone.

Cucumbers and Mellons must be sowne in February, March, or June, in an old Moone.

Spinage must be sowne in February or March, in an old Moone.

Parsley must be sowne in February or March, in a full Moone.

Fennel and Annisseed must be sowne in February or March, in a full Moone.

White Cycory must be sowne in February, March, July, or August, in a full Moone.

Carduus Benedictus must be sowne in February, March, or May, when the Moone is old.

Basil must be sowne in March, when the Moone is old.

Purslane must be sowne in February or March, in a new Moone.

Margeram, Violets, and Time must be sowne in February, March, or April, in a new Moone.

Floure-gentle, Rosemary, and Lavender, must be sowne in February or April, in a new Moone.

Rocket and Garden Cresses must be sowne in February, in a new Moone.

Savell must be sowne in February or March, in a new Moone.

Saffron must be sowne in March, when the Moone is old.

Coriander and Borage must be sowne in February or March, in a new Moone.

Hartshorne and Samphire must be sowne in February, March, or April, when the Moone is old.

Gilly-floures, Harts-ease, and Wall-floures, must be sowne in March or April, when the Moone is old.

Cardons and Artochokes must be sowne in April or March, when the Moone is old.

Chickweed must be sowne in February or March, in the full of the Moone.

Burnet must be sowne in February or March, when the Moone is old.

Double Marigolds must be sowne in February or March, in a new Moone.

Isop and Savorie must be sowne in March when the Moone is old.

White Poppey must be sowne in February or March, in a new Moone.

Palma Christi must be sowne in February, in a new Moone.

Sparages and Sperage is to be sowne in February, when the Moone is old.

Larks-foot must be sowne in February, when the Moone is old.

Note that at all times and seasons, Lettuce, Raddish, Spinage and Parsneps may be sowne.

Note, also, from cold are to be kept Coleworts, Cabbage, Lettuce, Basill, Cardons, Artochokes, and Colefloures.

In ‘The English Gardener’ (1683) and ‘The Dutch Gardener’ (1703) many instructions are given as to the manner of treating plants with special regard to the phases of the Moon; and Rapin, in his poem on Gardens, has the following lines:—

“If you with flow’rs would stock the pregnant earth,
Mark well the Moon propitious to their birth:
For earth the silent midnight queen obeys,
And waits her course, who, clad in silver rays,
Th’ eternal round of times and seasons guides,
Controls the air, and o’er the winds presides.
Four days expir’d you have your time to sow,
Till to the full th’ increasing Moon shall grow;
This past, your labour you in vain bestow:
Nor let the gard’ner dare to plant a flow’r
While on his work the heav’ns ill-boding low’r;
When Moons forbid, forbidding Moons obey,
And hasten when the Stars inviting beams display.”

John Evelyn, in his ‘Sylva, or a Discourse on Forest Trees,’ first published in 1662, remarks on the attention paid by woodmen to the Moon’s influence on trees. He says: “Then for the age of the Moon, it has religiously been observed; and that Diana’s presidency in sylvis was not so much celebrated to credit the fictions of the poets, as for the dominion of that moist planet and her influence over timber. For my part, I am not so much inclined to these criticisms, that I should altogether govern a felling at the pleasure of this mutable lady; however, there is doubtless some regard to be had—

‘Nor is’t in vain signs’ fall and rise to note.’

The old rules are these: Fell in the decrease, or four days after the conjunction of the two great luminaries; sowe the last quarter of it; or (as Pliny) in the very article of the change, if possible; which hapning (saith he) in the last day of the Winter solstice, that timber will prove immortal. At least should it be from the twentieth to the thirtieth day, according to Columella; Cato, four days after the full, as far better for the growth; nay, Oak in the Summer: but all vimineous trees, silente lunâ, such as Sallows, Birch, Poplar. Vegetius, for ship timber, from the fifteenth to the twenty-fifth, the Moon as before.” In his ‘French Gardener,’ a translation from the French, Evelyn makes a few allusions to the Moon’s influence on gardening and grafting operations, and in his Kalendarium Hortense we find him acknowledging its supremacy more than once; but he had doubtless begun to lose faith in the scrupulous directions bequeathed by the Romans. In his introduction to the ‘Kalendar’ he says:—“We are yet far from imposing (by any thing we have here alledged concerning these menstrual periods) those nice and hypercritical punctillos which some astrologers, and such as pursue these rules, seem to oblige our gard’ners to; as if forsooth all were lost, and our pains to no purpose, unless the sowing and the planting, the cutting and the pruning, were performed in such and such an exact minute of the Moon: In hac autem ruris disciplina non desideratur ejusmodi scrupulositas. [Columella]. There are indeed some certain seasons and suspecta tempora, which the prudent gard’ner ought carefully (as much as in him lies) to prevent: but as to the rest, let it suffice that he diligently follow the observations which (by great industry) we have collected together, and here present him.”

The opinion of John Evelyn, thus expressed, doubtless shook the faith of gardeners in the efficacy of lunar influence on plants, and, as a rule, we find no mention of the Moon in the instructions contained in the gardening books published after his death. It is true that Charles Evelyn, in ‘The Pleasure and Profit of Gardening Improved’ (1717) directs that Stock Gilliflower seeds should be sown at the full of the Moon in April, and makes several other references to the influence of the Moon on these plants; but this is an exception to the general rule, and in ‘The Retired Gardener,’ a translation from the French of Louis Liger, printed in 1717, the ancient belief in the Moon’s supremacy in the plant kingdom received its death-blow. The work referred to was published under the direction of London and Wise, Court Nurserymen to Queen Anne, and in the first portion of it, which is arranged in the form of a conversation between a gentleman and his gardener, occurs the following passage:—

Gent.—“I have heard several old gardeners say that vigorous trees ought to be prun’d in the Wane, and those that are more sparing of their shoots in the Increase. Their reason is, that the pruning by no means promotes the fruit if it be not done in the Wane. They add that the reason why some trees are so long before they bear fruit is, because they were planted or grafted either in the Increase or Full of the Moon.”

Gard.—“Most of the old gardeners were of that opinion, and there are some who continue still to be misled by the same error. But ’tis certain that they bear no ground for such an imagination, as I have observ’d, having succeeded in my gardening without such a superstitious observation of the Moon. However, I don’t urge this upon my own authority, but refer my self to M. de la Quintinie, who deserves more to be believed than my self. These are his words:—

‘I solemnly declare [saith he] that after a diligent observation of the Moon’s changes for thirty years together, and an enquiry whether they had any influence on gardening, the affirmation of which has been so long established among us, I perceiv’d that it was no weightier than old wives’ tales, and that it has been advanc’d by unexperienc’d gardeners.’

“And a little after: ‘I have therefore follow’d what appear’d most reasonable, and rejected what was otherwise. In short, graft in what time of the Moon you please, if your graft be good, and grafted in a proper stock, provided you do it like an artist, you will be sure to succeed.... In the same manner [continues he] sow what sorts of grain you please, and plant as you please, in any Quarter of the Moon, I’ll answer for your success; the first and last day of the Moon being equally favourable.’ This is the opinion of a man who must be allow’d to have been the most experienc’d in this age.”

Plants of the Moon.

The Germans call Mondveilchen (Violet of the Moon), the Lunaria annua, the Leucoion, also known as the Flower of the Cow, that is to say, of the cow Io, one of the names of the Moon. The old classic legend relates that this daughter of Inachus, because she was beloved by Jupiter, fell under the jealous displeasure of Juno, and was much persecuted by her. Jupiter therefore changed his beautiful mistress into the cow Io, and at his request, Tellus (the Earth) caused a certain herb (Salutaris, the herb of Isis) to spring up, in order to provide for the metamorphosed nymph suitable nourishment. In the Vedic writings, the Moon is represented as slaying monsters and serpents, and it is curious to note that the Moonwort (Lunaria), Southernwood (Artemisia), and Selenite (from Selene, a name of the Moon), are all supposed to have the power of repelling serpents. Plutarch, in his work on rivers, tells us that near the river Trachea grew a herb called Selenite, from the foliage of which trickled a frothy liquid with which the herdsmen anointed their feet in the Spring in order to render them impervious to the bites of serpents. This foam, says De Gubernatis, reminds one of the dew which is found in the morning sprinkled over herbs and plants, and which the ancient Greeks regarded as a gift of the nymphs who accompanied the goddess Artemis, or Diana, the lunar deity.

Numerous Indian plants are named after the Moon, the principal being the Cardamine; the Cocculus cordifolius (the Moon’s Laughter); a species of Solanum called the Flower of the Moon; the Asclepias acida, the Somalatâ, the plant that produces Soma; Sandal-wood (beloved of the Moon); Camphor (named after the Moon); the Convolvulus Turpethum, called the Half-Moon; and many other plants named after Soma, a lunar synonym.

In a Hindu poem, the Moon is called the fructifier of vegetation and the guardian of the celestial ambrosia, and it is not surprising therefore to find that in India the mystic Moon-tree, the Soma, the tree which produces the divine and immortalising ambrosia is worshipped as the lunar god. Soma, the moon-god, produces the revivifying dew of the early morn; Soma, the Moon-tree, the exhilarating ambrosia. The Moon is cold and humid: it is from her the plants receive their sap, says Prof. De Gubernatis, “and thanks to the Moon that they multiply, and that vegetation prospers. There is nothing very wonderful, therefore, if the movements of the Moon preside in a general way over agricultural operations, and if it exercises a special influence on the health and accouchements of women, who are said to represent Water, the humid element. The Roman goddess Lucina (the Moon) presided over accouchements, and had under her care the Dittany and the Mugwort [or Motherwort] (Artemisia, from Artemis, the lunar goddess), considered, like the Vedic Soma, to be the queen or mother of the herbs.”

Thus Macer says of it:—

“Herbarum matrem justum puto ponere primo;
Præcipue morbis muliebribus illa medetur.”

This influence of the Moon over the female portion of the human race has led to a class of plants being associated either directly with the luminary or with the goddesses who were formerly thought to impersonate or embody it. Thus we find the Chrysanthemum leucanthemum named the Moon Daisy, because its shape resembles the pictures of a full moon, the type of a class of plants which Dr. Prior points out, “on the Doctrine of Signatures, were exhibited in uterine complaints, and dedicated in pagan times to the goddess of the Moon and regulator of monthly periods, Artemis, whom Horsley (on Hosea ix., 10) would identify with Isis, the goddess of the Egyptians, with Juno Lucina, and with Eileithuia, a deity who had special charge over the functions of women—an office in Roman Catholic mythology assigned to Mary Magdalene and Margaret.” The Costmary, or Maudeline-wort (Balsamita vulgaris); the Maghet, or May-weed (Pyrethrum Parthenium); the Mather, or Maydweed (Anthemis Cotula); the Daisy, or Marguerite (Bellis perennis); the Achillea Matricaria., are all plants which come under the category of lunar herbs in their connection with feminine complaints.

The Man in the Moon.

Chaucer describes the Moon as Lady Cynthia:—

“Her gite was gray and full of spottis blake,
And on her brest a chorle paintid ful even
Bearing a bush of Thornis on his bake
Which for his theft might climb no ner the heven.”

Allusion is here made to the Man in the Moon, bearing a Thorn-bush on his shoulders—one of the most widely-diffused superstitions still extant. It is curious that, in several legends respecting this inhabitant of the Moon, he is represented as having been engaged, when on earth, in gardening operations. Kuhn relates a tradition in the Havel country. One Christmas Eve, a peasant felt a great desire to eat a Cabbage; and, having none himself, he slipped stealthily into his neighbour’s garden to cut some. Just as he had filled his basket, the Christ Child rode past on his white horse, and said: “Because thou hast stolen in the holy night, thou shalt immediately sit in the Moon with thy basket of Cabbage.” At Paderhorn, in Westphalia, the crime committed was not theft, but hindering people from attending church on Easter-Day, by placing a Thorn-bush in the field-gate through which they had to pass. In the neighbourhood of Wittingen, the man is said to have been exiled to the Moon because he tied up his brooms on Maunday Thursday; and at Deilinghofen, of having mown the Grass in his meadows on Sunday. A Swabian mother at Derendingen will tell her child that a man was once working in his vineyard on Sunday, and after having pruned all his Vines, he made a bundle of the shoots he had just cut off, laid it in his basket, and went home. According to one version, the Vine-shoots were stolen from a neighbour’s Vineyard. When taxed either with Sabbath-breaking or with the theft, the culprit loudly protested his innocence, and at length exclaimed: “If I have committed this crime, may I be sent to the Moon!” After his death this fate duly befell him, and there he remains to this day. The Black Forest peasants relate that a certain man stole a bundle of wood on Sunday because he thought on that day he should be unmolested by the foresters. However, on leaving the forest, he met a stranger, who was no other than the Almighty himself. After reproving the thief for not keeping the Sabbath-day holy, God said he must be punished, but he might choose whether he would be banished to the Sun or to the Moon. The man chose the latter, declaring he would rather freeze in the Moon than burn in the Sun; and so the Broom-man came into the Moon with his faggot on his back. At Hemer, in Westphalia, the legend runs that a man was engaged in fencing his garden on Good Friday, and had just poised a bundle of Thorns on his fork when he was at once transported to the Moon. Some of the Hemer peasants, however, declare that the Moon is not only inhabited by a man with a Thorn-bush and pitchfork, but also by his wife, who is churning, and was exiled to the Moon for using a churn on Sunday. According to other traditions, the figure in the Moon is that of Isaac bearing the faggot on his shoulders for his own sacrifice on Mount Moriah; or Cain with a bundle of Briars; or a tipsy man who for his audacity in threatening the Moon with a Bramble he held in his hand, was drawn up to this planet, and has remained there to the present day.

CHAPTER XV.

Plant Symbolism and Language.

The antiquity of floral emblems probably dates from the time when the human heart first beat with the gentle emotions of affection or throbbed with the wild pulsations of love. Then it was that man sought to express through the instrumentality of flowers his love of purity and beauty, or to typify through their aid the ardour of his passionate desires; for the symbolism of flowers, it has been conjectured, was first conceived as a parable speaking to the eye and thence teaching the heart.

Driven, in his struggle for existence, to learn the properties of plants in order to obtain wholesome food, man found that with the beauty of their form and colour they spoke lovingly to him. They could be touched, tasted, handled, planted, sown, and reaped: they were useful, easily converted into simple articles of clothing, or bent, twisted, and cut into weapons and tools. Flowers became a language to man very early, and according to their poisonous, soothing, or nutritious qualities, or on account of some peculiarities in their growth or shape which seemed to tell upon the mysteries of life, birth, and death, he gave them names which thenceforth became words and symbols to him of these phenomena.

Glimpses of the ancient poetical plant symbolism have been found amid the ruins of temples, graven on the sides of rocks, and inscribed on the walls of mighty caves where the early nations of India, Assyria, Chaldæa, and Egypt knelt in adoration. The Chinese from time immemorial have known a comprehensive system of floral signs and emblems, and the Japanese have ever possessed a mode of communicating by symbolic flowers. Persian literature abounds in chaste and poetical allegories, which demonstrate the antiquity of floral symbolism in that far Eastern land: thus we are told that Sadi the poet, when a slave, presented to his tyrant master a Rose accompanied with this pathetic appeal:—“Do good to thy servant whilst thou hast the power, for the season of power is often as transient as the duration of this beautiful flower.” The beauty of the symbol melted the heart of his lord, and the slave obtained his liberty.

The Hindu races are passionately fond of flowers, and their ancient Sanscrit books and poems are full of allusions to their beauty and symbolic character. With them, the flower of the field is venerated as a symbol of fecundity. In their mythology, at the beginning of all things there appeared in the waters the expanded Lotus-blossom, the emblematic flower of life and light; the Sun, Moon, and Stars are flowers in the celestial garden; the Sun’s ray is a full-blown Rose, which springs from the waters and feeds the sacrificial fire; the Lightning is a garland of flowers thrown by Narada. Pushpa (flower), or Pushpaka (flowery), is the epithet applied to the luminous car of the god Kuvera, which was seized by Râvana, the royal monster of Lankâ, and recaptured by the demi-god Râma, the incarnation of Vishnu. The bow of Kâma, the Indian Cupid, darts forth flowers in the guise of arrows. The Indian poetic lover gathers from the flowers a great number of chaste and beautiful symbols. The following description of a young maiden struck down by illness is a fair example of this:—“All of a sudden the blighting glance of unpropitious fortune having fallen on that Rose-cheeked Cypress, she laid her head on the pillow of sickness; and in the flower-garden of her beauty, in place of the Damask Rose, sprang up the branch of the Saffron. Her fresh Jasmine, from the violence of the burning illness, lost its moisture, and her Hyacinth, full of curls, lost all its endurance from the fever that consumed her.”

It was with the classic Greeks, however, that floral symbolism reached its zenith: not only did the Hellenic race entertain an extraordinary passion for flowers, but with consummate skill they devised a code of floral types and emblems adapted to all phases of public and private life. As Loudon writes, when speaking of the emblematic use made by the Greeks of flowers:—“Not only were they then, as now, the ornament of a beauty, and of the altars of the gods, but the youths crowned themselves with them in the fêtes, the priests in religious ceremonies, and the guests in convivial meetings. Garlands of flowers were suspended from the gates of the city in the times of rejoicing … the philosophers wore crowns of flowers, and the warriors ornamented their foreheads with them in times of triumph.” The Romans, although they adopted most of the floral symbolic lore of their Hellenic predecessors, and in the case of emblematic garlands were particularly refined, were still evidently not so passionately fond of floral symbolism as were the Greeks; and with the decadence of the Empire, the attractive art gradually fell into oblivion.

The science of plant symbolism may, if we accept the views of Miss Marshall, a writer on the subject,[16] be classified into five divisions. These are, firstly, plants which are symbols, pure and simple, of the Great Unknown God, or Heaven Father; and embrace those, the form, colour, or other peculiarities of which led the priests, the early thinkers to the community, the medicine-men, magicians, and others, to associate them with ideas of the far-distant, unknown, incomprehensible, and overwhelming—the destructive forces of Nature. Such plants were used as hieroglyphics for these ideas, and became symbols of the Deity or Supreme Power. To these visible symbols belong plants such as the Lily, Onion, flowers of heavenly blue colour (symbolising the blue sky), and leaves threefold or triangular, symbolising God the Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer.

Secondly, the plants symbolising or suggesting portions or organs of the human body, internal and external, which to the earliest of mankind, and certainly to the Egyptian embalmers, were organs of mystery and importance; such is the heart, the first to beat in the fœtal, and the last to cease pulsating in the adult organism. To this section belong heart-shaped leaves and petals; and where, as in the Shamrock, there is united the threefold emblem and the heart-shaped leaf, there is a doubly sacred idea united with the form. To this section belong also plants and fruits such as the Fig, Pomegranate.

The third section comprises plants that were consecrated or set apart as secret and sacred, because those who possessed the knowledge of their powers made use of them to awe the ignorant people of their race. These plants were supposed to be under the control of the good or evil powers. They were the narcotics, the stupefying or the exciting vegetable drugs. The sacred incense in all temples was compounded of these, and their use has been, and still is, common to all countries; and as some of these compounds produced extraordinary or deadly effects, as the very dust of the burnt incense, when mixed with water, and drunk, brought on a violent and agonising death, while the fumes might merely produce delightful and enticing ecstacy, making men and women eloquent and seemingly inspired, the knowledge was wisely kept secret from the people, and severe penalties—sometimes even death—awaited those who illegally imitated, compounded, or used these drugs. To this section belong the plants used to make the Chinese and Japanese joss, as well as Opium, Tobacco, Stramonium, and various opiates now well known.

The fourth section comprises those plants which in all countries have been observed to bear some resemblance to parts of the human body. Such plants were valued and utilised as heaven-sent guides in the treatment of the ills flesh is heir to; and they are the herbs whose popular names among the inhabitants of every land have become “familiar in their mouths as household words.” To such belong the Birth-wort, Kidney-wort, Lung-wort, Liver-wort, Pile-wort, Nit-grass, Tooth-cress, Heart-clover, and many others known to the ancient herbalists. It was their endeavours to find out whether or no the curious forms, spots, and markings of such plants really indicated their curative powers, that led to the properties of other herbs being discovered, and a suggestive nomenclature being adopted for them, such as is found in the names Eyebright, Flea-bane, Canker-weed, Hunger-grass, Stone-break.

Lastly, in the fifth section of symbolical plants we come to those which point to a time when symbols were expressed by letters, such as appear on the Martagon Lily—the true poetical Hyacinth of the Greeks—on the petals of which are traced the woeful AI, AI,—the expression of the grief of Phœbus at the death of the fair Adonis.

“In the flower he weaved
The sad impression of his sighs; which bears
Ai, Ai, displayed in funeral characters.”

In this section also are included plants which exhibit in some portion of their structure typical markings, such as the Astragalus, which in its root depicts the stars; the Banana, whose fruit, when cut, exhibits a representation of the Holy Cross; and the Bracken Fern, whose stem, when sliced, exhibits traces of letters which are sometimes used for the purposes of love divination. In Ireland, however, the Pteris aquilina is called the Fern of God, because the people imagine that if the stem be cut into three sections, on the first of these sections will be seen the letter G, on the second O, and on the third D—forming the sacred word God.

In the science of plant symbols, not only the names, but the forms, perfumes, and properties of plants have to be considered, as well as the numerical arrangements of their parts. Thus of all sacred symbolical plants, those consisting of petals or calyx-sepals, or leaves, divided into the number Five, were formerly held in peculiar reverence, because among the races of antiquity five was for ages a sacred number. The reason of this is thus explained by Bunsen:—“It is well known,” he says, “that the numeral one, the undivided, the eternal, is placed in antithesis to all other numerals. The figure four included the perfect ten, as 1+2+3+4=10. So four represents the All of the universe. Now if we put these together, 4+1 will be the sign of the whole God-Universe.” Three is a number sacred to the most ancient as well as modern worship. Pythagoras called it the perfect number, expressive of “beginning, middle, and end,” and therefore he made it a symbol of deity. Three therefore plays its rôle in plant symbology. Thus the Emblica officinalis, one of the sacred plants of India, was once the exclusive property of the priests, who kept its medicinal virtues secret: it was held in peculiar reverence because of its flowers possessing a six-parted calyx; three stamens, combined; three dichotomous styles; a fleshy fruit, tricoccous and six-seeded; these being all the sacred or double number of Three. In later days, the Shamrock or Trefoil, and the Pansy, or Herb Trinity, were regarded as symbolising the Trinity. Cruciform flowers are, at the present day, all regarded as of good omen, having been marked with the Sign of the Cross, and thus symbolising Redemption.

The presence of flowers as symbols and language on the monuments of Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, India, and other countries of the past, and the graceful floral adornments sculptured on the temples of the Græco-Roman period, demonstrate how great a part flower and plant symbolism played in the early history of mankind. The Jews, learning the art from the Egyptians, preserved it in their midst, and introduced plant emblems in their Tabernacle, in their Temple, and on the garments of the priests. Flowers with golden rays became symbols of the Sun; and as the Sun was the giver of life and warmth, the bringer of fertility, the symbolic flowers stood as symbol-words for these great gifts; and gradually all the mysterious phenomena connected with birth, reproduction, and fecundity, were represented in plant, flower, and fruit symbolism; for not only were flowers early used as a pictorial language, but the priests made use of fruits, herbs, shrubs, and trees to symbolise light, life, warmth, and generation. Let us take a few examples:—When in the Spring, church altars and fonts are piously adorned with white Lilies, which are, in some countries, carried about, worn, and presented by ladies to each other in the month of May, few of them, we may be sure, imagine that they are perpetuating the plant symbolism of the Sun-worship of ancient Egypt. Miss Marshall tells us that “in Catholic countries the yellow anthers are carefully removed; their white filaments alone are left, not, as folks think, that the flower may remain pure white, but that the fecundating or male organs being removed, the Lilies may be true flower symbols or visible words for pure virgins; for the white dawn as yet unwedded to the day—for the pure cold Spring as yet yielding no blossoms and Summer fruits.”

Of the flowers consecrated to their deities by the symbol-worshipper of India and Egypt, the most prominent is the sacred Lotus, whose leaf was the “emblem and cradle of creative might.” It was anciently revered in Egypt as it is now in Hindustan, Thibet, and Nepaul, where the people believe it was in the consecrated bosom of this plant that Brahma was born, and that Osiris delights to float. From its peculiar organisation the Lotus is virtually self-productive: hence it became the symbol of the reproductive power of all nature, and was worshipped as a symbol of the All-Creative Power. The same floral symbol occurs wherever in the northern hemisphere symbolic religion has prevailed. The sacred images of the Tartars, Japanese, and Indians are almost all represented as resting upon Lotus-leaves. The Chinese divinity, Puzza, is seated in a Lotus, and the Japanese god is represented sitting in a Water-Lily. The Onion was formerly held in the highest esteem as a religious symbol in the mysterious solemnities and divinations of the Egyptians and Hindus. In the first place, its delicate red veins and fibres rendered it an object of veneration, as typifying the blood, at the shedding of which the Hindu shudders. Secondly, it was regarded as an astronomical emblem, for on cutting through it, there appeared beneath the external coat a succession of orbs, one within another, in regular order, after the manner of revolving spheres. The Rose has been made a symbolic flower in every age. In the East, it is the emblem of virtue and loveliness. The Egyptians made it a symbol of silence; the Romans regarded it as typical of festivity. In modern times it is considered the appropriate symbol of beauty and love,—the half-expanded bud representing the first dawn of the sublime passion, and the full-blown flower the maturity of perfect love. The Asphodel, like the Hyacinth of the ancients, was regarded as an emblem of grief and sorrow. The Myrtle, from its being dedicated to Venus, was sacred as a symbol of love and beauty. White flowers were held to be typical of light and innocence, and were consecrated to virgins. Sombre and dark-foliaged plants were held to be typical of disaster and death.

The floral symbols of the Scriptures are worthy of notice. From the circumstance of Elijah having been sheltered from the persecutions of King Ahab by the Juniper, that tree has become a symbol of succour or an asylum. The Almond was an emblem of haste and vigilance to the Hebrew writers; with Eastern poets, however, it was regarded as a symbol of hope. Throughout the East, the Aloe is regarded as a religious symbol, and is greatly venerated. It is expressive of grief and bitterness, and is religiously planted by the Mahommedans at the extremity of every grave. Burckhardt says that they call it by the Arabic name Saber, signifying patience—a singularly appropriate name; for as the plant is evergreen, it whispers to those who mourn for the loved ones they have lost, patience in their affliction. The Clover is another sacred plant symbol. St. Patrick chose it as an emblem of the Trinity when engaged in converting the Irish, who have ever since, in the Shamrock, regarded it as a representative plant. The Druids thought very highly of the Trefoil because its leaf symbolised the three departments of nature—the earth, the sea, and the heaven.

But of all plant symbols, none can equal in beauty or sanctity the Passion Flower, the lovely blossom of which, when first met with by the Spanish conquerors of the New World, suggested to their enthusiastic imagination the story of our Saviour’s Passion. The Jesuits professed to find in the several parts of the Maracot the crown of thorns, the scourge, the pillar, the sponge, the nails, and the five wounds, and they issued drawings representing the flower with its inflorescence distorted to suit their statements regarding its almost miraculous character. John Parkinson, in his Paradisus Terrestris (1629), gives a good figure of the Virginian species of the plant, as well as an engraving of “The Jesuites Figure of the Maracoc—Granadillus Frutex Indicus Christi Passionis Imago.” But, as a good Protestant, he feels bound to enter his protest against the superstitious regard paid to the flower by the Roman Catholics, and so he writes: “Some superstitious Jesuites would fain make men believe that in the flower of this plant are to be seen all the markes of our Saviour’s Passion: and therefore call it Flos Passionis: and to that end have caused figures to be drawn and printed, with all the parts proportioned out, as thornes, nailes, spear, whip, pillar., in it, and as true as the sea burns, which you may well perceive by the true figure taken to the life of the plant, compared with the figure set forth by the Jesuites, which I have placed here likewise for everyone to see: but these be their advantageous lies (which with them are tolerable, or rather pious and meritorious) wherewith they use to instruct their people; but I dare say, God never willed His priests to instruct His people with lies: for they come from the Devill, the author of them.”

The Passion-flower of the Jesuits. From Parkinson’s Paradisus.
The Passion-flower of the Jesuits. From Parkinson’s Paradisus.

In early times, it was customary in Europe to employ particular colours for the purpose of indicating ideas and feelings, and in France where the symbolical meaning of colours was formed into a regular system, much importance was attached to the art of symbolising by the selection of particular colours for dresses, ornaments. In this way, flowers of various hues became the apt media of conveying ideas and feelings; and in the ages of chivalry the enamoured knight often indicated his passion by wearing a single blossom or posy of many-hued flowers. In the romance of Perceforet, a hat adorned with Roses is celebrated as a favourite gift of love; and in Amadis de Gaule, the captive Oriana is represented as throwing to her lover a Rose wet with tears, as the sweetest pledge of her unalterable faith. Red was recognised as the colour of love, and therefore the Rose, on account of its tint, was a favourite emblem. Of the various allegorical meanings which were in the Middle Ages attached to this lovely flower, a description will be found in the celebrated Romaunt de la Rose, which was commenced in the year 1620 by Guillaume de Lorris, and finished forty years later by Jean de Meung.

In France, during the Middle Ages, flowers were much employed as emblems of love and friendship. At the banquet given in celebration of the marriage of Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, with the English Princess, Margaret, several ingenious automata were introduced, one being a large unicorn, bearing on its back a leopard, which held in one claw the standard of England, and on the other a Daisy, or Marguerite. The unicorn having gone round all the tables, halted before the Duke; and one of the maîtres d’hôtel, taking the Daisy from the leopard’s claw, presented it, with a complimentary address, to the royal bridegroom.

In the same country, an act of homage, unique in its kind, was paid to a lady in the early part of the seventeenth century. The Duke of Montausier, on obtaining the promise of the hand of Mademoiselle de Rambouillet, sent to her, according to custom, every morning till that fixed for the nuptials, a bouquet composed of the finest flowers of the season. But this was not all: on the morning of New Year’s Day, 1634—the day appointed for the marriage—he laid upon her dressing-table a magnificently-bound folio volume, on the parchment leaves of which the most skilful artists of the day had painted from nature a series of the choicest flowers cultivated at that time in Europe. The first poets of Paris contributed the poetical illustrations, which were written by the cleverest penmen under the different flowers. The most celebrated of these madrigals, composed by Chapelain on the Crown Imperial, represented that superb flower as having sprung from the blood of Gustavus Adolphus, who fell in the battle of Lützen; and thus paid, in the name of the Swedish hero, a delicate compliment to the bride, who was a professed admirer of his character. According to a statement published some years since, this magnificent volume, which was called, after the name of the lady, the Garland of Julia, was disposed of, in 1784, at the sale of the Duke de la Vallière’s effects, for fifteen thousand five hundred and ten livres (about £650), and was brought to England.

The floral emblems of Shakspeare are evidence of the great poet’s fondness for flowers and his delicate appreciation of their uses and similitudes. In ‘A Winter’s Tale,’ Perdita is made to present appropriate flowers to her visitors, symbolical of their various ages; but the most remarkable of Shakspeare’s floral symbols occur where poor Ophelia is wearing, in her madness, “fantastic garlands of wild flowers”—denoting the bewildered state of her faculties.

The order of these flowers runs thus, with the meaning of each term beneath:—

Crow Flowers.
Fayre Mayde.

Nettles.
Stung to the Quick.

Daisies.
Her Virgin Bloom.

Long Purples.
Under the cold hand of Death.

“A fair maid, stung to the quick; her virgin bloom under the cold hand of death.”

Probably no wreath could have been selected more truly typifying the sorrows of this beautiful victim of disappointed love and filial sorrow.

The most noted code of floral signs, used as a language by the Turkish and Greek women in the Levant, and by the African females on the coast of Barbary, was introduced into Western Europe by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu and La Mortraie, the companion in exile of Charles XII., and obtained in France and England much popularity as the “Turkish Language of Flowers.” This language is said to be much employed in the Turkish harems, where the women practise it, either for the sake of mere diversion in their seclusion, or for carrying on secret communication.

In France and Germany, the language of flowers has taken deep root, and in our own country the poetic symbolisms of Shakspeare, Chaucer, Herrick, Drayton, and others of the earlier bards, laid the groundwork for the very complete system of floral emblemism, or language of flowers, which we now possess. A great many works have been published, containing floral codes, or dictionaries: most of these, however, possess but little merit as expositions of old symbols or traditions, and have been compiled principally from modern sources.

An ancient floral vocabulary, taken from Dierbach’s Flora Mythologica der Griechen und Römer, and an approved modern English ‘Dictionary of Flowers,’ are appended, in order to make this portion of our subject complete.

Ancient Floral Vocabulary.

  • Absinth The Bitterness and Torments of Love.
  • Acacia Love, pure and platonic.
  • Acanthus Love of Fine Arts.
  • Althea Exquisite Sweetness.
  • Amaranth Fidelity and Constancy.
  • Anemone Abandonment.
  • Angelica Gentle Melancholy.
  • Argentine Ingenuity.
  • Aster Elegance.
  • Balsam Impatience.
  • Basil Poverty.
  • Betony Emotion and Surprise.
  • Bindweed Coquetry.
  • Bluet Clearness and Light.
  • Box Firmness and Stoicism.
  • Bramble Injustice and Envy.
  • Burdock Importunity.
  • Buttercup Sarcasm.
  • Calendula Anxiety.
  • Camellia Constancy and Steadfastness.
  • Carrot Good Character.
  • Cinquefoil Maternal Love.
  • Colchicum Bad Character.
  • Cypress Mourning and Grief.
  • Dahlia Sterile Abundance.
  • Daisy (Easter) Candour and Innocence.
  • Dandelion Oracle.
  • Darnel Vice.
  • Digitalis Work.
  • Dittany Discretion.
  • Elder Humility.
  • Ephemeris Transient Happiness.
  • Everlasting Flwr. Constancy.
  • Fennel Merit.
  • Fern Confidence.
  • Forget-me-not Faithful Remembrance.
  • Foxglove Adulation.
  • Fuchsia Amiability.
  • Fumitory Hatred.
  • Geranium Folly.
  • Hawthorn Sweet Hope.
  • Heliotrope Eternal Love.
  • Hellebore Wit.
  • Hemlock Perfidy.
  • Holly Defence.
  • Honeysuckle Bond of Affection.
  • Hyacinth Amenity.
  • Hydrangea Coldness.
  • Iris Indifference.
  • Ivy Attachment.
  • Jasmine Amiability.
  • Jonquil Amorous Languor.
  • Jujube-tree Relief.
  • Larkspur Open Heart.
  • Laurel Victory and Glory.
  • Lavender Silence.
  • Lilac First Troubles of Love.
  • Lily Purity and Majesty.
  • Maidenhair Bond of Love.
  • Marjoram Consolation.
  • Marvel of Peru Flame of Love.
  • Mallow Maternal Tenderness.
  • Mint Wisdom and Virtue.
  • Milfoil Cure and Recovery.
  • Moonwort Bad Payment.
  • Myrtle Love.
  • Narcissus Self-esteem and Fatuity.
  • Nettle Cruelty.
  • Olive Peace.
  • Orange-tree Virginity, Generosity.
  • Peony Shame.
  • Periwinkle Unalterable Friendship.
  • Pineapple Perfection.
  • Pink Pure and Ardent Love.
  • Poppy Sleep.
  • Privet Youth.
  • Rose Beauty and Love.
  • Rosemary Power of Re-kindling extinct Energy.
  • Rue Fecundity of Fields.
  • Sage Esteem.
  • Sensitive-plant Modesty.
  • Solanum Prodigality.
  • Spindle-tree Ineffaceable Memory.
  • Strawberry Intoxication, Delight.
  • Thyme Spontaneous Emotion.
  • Trefoil Uncertainty.
  • Tulip Grandeur.
  • Valerian Readiness.
  • Vervain Pure Affection.
  • Viburnum Coolness.
  • Violet Modesty.
  • A Dictionary of Flowers.
  • Acacia Friendship.
  • —— Rose Elegance.
  • Acanthus The Arts.
  • Achillea millefolia War.
  • Adonis, Flos Painful Recollections.
  • Agrimony Thankfulness.
  • Almond-tree Indiscretion.
  • Aloe Grief.
  • Amaranth Immortality.
  • Amaryllis Pride.
  • Anemone Forsaken.
  • —— Field Sickness.
  • Angelica Inspiration.
  • Angrec Royalty.
  • Apple-blossom Preference.
  • Ash-tree Grandeur.
  • Asphodel My regrets follow you to the grave.
  • Aster, China Variety.
  • —— After-Thought.
  • Balm of Gilead Cure.
  • —— Gentle Joking.
  • Balsam Impatience.
  • Barberry Sourness of Temper.
  • Basil Hate.
  • Beech Prosperity.
  • Bilberry Treachery.
  • Bladder-nut Frivolous Amusement.
  • Borage Bluntness.
  • Box-tree Stoicism.
  • Bramble Envy.
  • Broom Humility and Neatness.
  • Buckbean Calm Repose.
  • Bugloss Falsehood.
  • Bulrush Indiscretion.
  • Burdock Touch me not.
  • Buttercup Ingratitude.
  • Cactus, Virginia Horror.
  • Canterbury Bell Constancy.
  • Catchfly Snare.
  • Champignon Suspicion.
  • Cherry-tree Good Education.
  • Chesnut-tree Do me Justice.
  • Chicory Frugality.
  • Cinquefoil Beloved Daughter.
  • Circæa Spell.
  • Clematis Artifice.
  • Clotbur Rudeness.
  • Clove-tree Dignity.
  • Columbine Folly.
  • Convolvulus (night) Night.
  • Coriander Hidden Merit.
  • Corn Riches.
  • Corn-bottle Delicacy.
  • Cornel Cherry Durability.
  • Cowslip, Amer. You are my Divinity.
  • Cress Resolution.
  • Crown Imperial Power.
  • Cuscuta Meanness.
  • Cypress Mourning.
  • Daffodil Self Love.
  • Daisy Innocence.
  • —— Garden I share your sentiments.
  • —— Wild I will think of it.
  • Dandelion The Rustic Oracle.
  • Day Lily, Yellow Coquetry.
  • Dittany Childbirth.
  • Dock Patience.
  • Dodder Meanness.
  • Ebony-tree Blackness.
  • Eglantine Poetry.
  • Fennel Strength.
  • Fig Longevity.
  • Fir-tree Elevations.
  • Flax I feel your kindness.
  • Flower-de-Luce Flame.
  • Forget-Me-Not Forget me not.
  • Fraxinella Fire.
  • Fuller’s Teasel Misanthropy.
  • Geranium Deceit.
  • —— Oak-leaved True Friendship.
  • —— Silver-leaved Recall.
  • —— Pencilled-leaf Ingenuity.
  • —— Rose-scented Preference.
  • —— Scarlet Stupidity.
  • —— Sorrowful Melancholy Mind.
  • —— Wild Steadfast Piety.
  • Grass Utility.
  • Hawthorn Hope.
  • Hazel Peace, Reconciliation.
  • Heart’s Ease Think of me.
  • Heath Solitude.
  • Heliotrope, Peruvian Devoted Attachment.
  • Hellenium Tears.
  • Hepatica Confidence.
  • Holly Foresight.
  • Hollyhock Ambition.
  • Honeysuckle Generous and Devoted Affection.
  • Hop Injustice.
  • Hornbeam Ornament.
  • Horse-Chesnut Luxury.
  • Hortensia You are cold.
  • Hyacinth Game, Play.
  • Ice-plant Your looks freeze me.
  • Ipomœa I attach myself to you.
  • Iris Message.
  • Ivy Friendship.
  • Jasmine Amiability.
  • —— Carolina Separation.
  • Jonquil Desire.
  • Juniper Protection.
  • Larch Boldness.
  • Larkspur Lightness.
  • Laurel Glory.
  • Laurustinus I die if neglected.
  • Lavender Mistrust.
  • Leaves, Dead Sadness, Melancholy.
  • Lilac First Emotions of Love.
  • —— White Youth.
  • Lily Majesty.
  • Lily of the Valley Return of Happiness.
  • Linden-tree Conjugal Love.
  • Liverwort Confidence.
  • London Pride Frivolity.
  • Lotus Eloquence.
  • Lucern Life.
  • Madder Calumny.
  • Maidenhair Secrecy.
  • Mallow Beneficence.
  • Manchineel-tree Falsehood.
  • Maple Reserve.
  • Mandrake Rarity.
  • Marigold Grief.
  • —— Prophetic Prediction.
  • —— and Cypress Despair.
  • Marvel of Peru Timidity.
  • Meadow Saffron My best days are past.
  • Mezereon Coquetry. Desire to please.
  • Mignonette Your qualities surpass your charms.
  • Milkwort Hermitage.
  • Mistletoe I surmount all difficulties.
  • Moonwort Forgetfulness.
  • Moss Maternal Love.
  • Mulberry-tree, Black I shall not survive you.
  • —— White Wisdom.
  • Musk-plant Weakness.
  • Myrobalan Privation.
  • Myrtle Love.
  • Narcissus Self Love.
  • Nettle Cruelty.
  • Nightshade, Bitter-sweet Truth.
  • —— Enchanter’s Spell.
  • Nosegay Gallantry.
  • Oak Hospitality.
  • Olive Peace.
  • Ophrys, Spider Skill.
  • Orange Flower Chastity.
  • —— Tree Generosity.
  • Orchis, Bee Error.
  • Palm Victory.
  • Parsley Festivity.
  • Passion Flower Faith.
  • Peony Shame, Bashfulness.
  • Peppermint Warmth of Feeling.
  • Periwinkle Tender Recollections.
  • Pineapple You are perfect.
  • Pink Pure Love.
  • —— Yellow Disdain.
  • Plane-tree Genius.
  • Plum-tree Keep your promises.
  • —— Wild Independence.
  • Poplar, black Courage.
  • —— White Time.
  • Poppy Consolation.
  • —— Sleep.
  • —— White My bane, my antidote.
  • Potato Beneficence.
  • Primrose Childhood.
  • —— Evening Inconstancy.
  • Privet Prohibition.
  • Quince Temptation.
  • Ranunculus You are radiant with charms.
  • Reeds Music.
  • Rose Love.
  • —— 100-leaved Grace.
  • —— Monthly Beauty ever new.
  • —— Musk Capricious Beauty.
  • —— Single Simplicity.
  • —— White Silence.
  • —— Withered Fleeting Beauty.
  • —— Yellow Infidelity.
  • Rosebud A Young Girl.
  • —— White A Heart unacquainted with Love.
  • Rosemary Your presence revives me.
  • Rue, Wild Morals.
  • Rush Docility.
  • Saffron Beware of excess.
  • Sage Esteem.
  • Sainfoin, Shaking Agitation.
  • St. John’s Wort Superstition.
  • Sardonia Irony.
  • Sensitive-plant Chastity.
  • Snapdragon Presumption.
  • Snowdrop Hope.
  • Sorrel, Wood Joy.
  • Speedwell Fidelity.
  • Spindle-tree Your charms are engraven on my heart.
  • Star of Bethlehem Purity.
  • Stock Lasting Beauty.
  • —— Ten Week Promptness.
  • Stone Crop Tranquillity.
  • Straw, Broken Rupture of a Contract.
  • —— Whole Union.
  • Strawberry Perfection.
  • Sunflower False Riches.
  • Sweet Sultan Happiness.
  • Sweet William Finesse.
  • Sycamore Curiosity.
  • Syringa Fraternal Love.
  • Tansy, Wild I declare war against you.
  • Tendrils of Creepers Ties.
  • Thistle Surliness.
  • Thorn Apple Deceitful Charms.
  • Thrift Sympathy.
  • Thyme Activity.
  • Tremella Nostoc Resistance.
  • Truffle Surprise.
  • Tuberose Dangerous Pleasures.
  • Tulip Declaration of Love.
  • Tussilage, Sweet-scented Justice shall be done to you.
  • Valerian An Accommodating Disposition.
  • Valerian, Greek Rupture.
  • Venus’ Looking-glass Flattery.
  • Veronica Fidelity.
  • Vervain Enchantment.
  • Vine Intoxication.
  • Violet Modesty.
  • Violet, White Innocence, Candour.
  • Wallflower Fidelity in Misfortune.
  • Walnut Stratagem.
  • Whortleberry Treachery.
  • Willow, Weeping Mourning.
  • Wormwood Absence.
  • Yew Sorrow.

In the chapter on Magic Plants will be found a list of plants used by maidens and their lovers for the purposes of divination; and in Part II., under the respective headings of the plants thus alluded to, will be found described the several modes of divination. This practice of love divination, it will be seen, is not altogether unconnected with the symbolical meaning or language of flowers, and therefore it is here again adverted to.

In many countries it is customary to pluck off the petals of the Marigold, or some other flower of a similar nature, while certain words are repeated, for the purpose of divining the character of an individual. Göthe, in his tragedy of ‘Faust,’ has touched upon this rustic superstition, and makes Margaret pluck off the leaves of a flower, at the same time alternately repeating the words—“He loves me,”—“He loves me not.” On coming to the last leaf, she joyously exclaims—“He love me!”—and Faust says: “Let this flower pronounce the decree of heaven!”

“And with scarlet Poppies around, like a bower,
The maiden found her mystic flower.
‘Now, gentle flower, I pray thee tell
If my lover loves me, and loves me well;
So may the fall of the morning dew
Keep the sun from fading thy tender blue.
Now must I number the leaves for my lot—
He loves me not—loves me—he loves me not—
He loves me—ah! yes, thou last leaf, yes—
I’ll pluck thee not for that last sweet guess!
He loves me!’—‘Yes,’ a dear voice sighed,
And her lover stands by Margaret’s side.”—Miss Landon.

In some places, the following mode of floral divination is resorted to. The lover, male or female, who wishes to ascertain the character of the beloved one, draws by lot one of the following flowers, the symbolical meaning attached to which will give the information desired:—

1.—Ranunculus Enterprising.
2.—Wild Pink Silly.
3.—Auricula Base.
4.—Blue Cornflower Loquacious.
5.—Wild Orach Lazy.
6.—Daisy Gentle.
7.—Tulip Ostentatious.
8.—Jonquil Obstinate.
9.—Orange-flower Hasty.
10.—Rose Submissive.
11.—Amaranth Arbitrary.
12.—Stock Avaricious.
13.—Spanish Passionate.
14.—Asphodel Languishing.
15.—Tricolour Selfish.
16.—Tuberose Ambitious.
17.—Jasmine Cheerful.
18.—Heart’s Ease Delicate.
19.—Lily Sincere.
20.—Fritillary Coquettish.
21.—Snapdragon Presumptuous.
22.—Carnation Capricious.
23.—Marigold Jealous.
24.—Everlasting Flower Constant.

Funeral Trees and Plants.

CHAPTER XVI.

Funeral Trees and Plants.

The association of certain trees and plants with death and its gloomy surroundings dates from a period remote and shadowy in its antiquity. Allusions to it are found in the most ancient writings and records, and through one of these (the Sanscrit Mahâbhârata) we learn that Pitâ Mahâ, the great Creator, after having created the world, reposed under the tree Salmalî, the leaves of which the winds cannot stir. One of the Sanscrit names applied to this tree is Kantakadruma, Tree of Thorns; and on account of the great size and strength of its spines, it is stated to have been placed as a tree of punishment in the infernal regions, and to have been known as the Tree of Yama (the Hindu god of death). Yama is also spoken of as the dispenser of the ambrosia of immortality, which flows from the fruit of the celestial tree in Paradise (Ficus Indica), and which is known in India as the tree dear to Yama. As king of the spirits of the departed, Yama dwells near the tree. Hel, the Scandinavian goddess of death, has her abode among the roots of Yggdrasill, by the side of one of the fountains. Mîmir, who, according to Scandinavian mythology, gives his name to the fountain of life, is also a king of the dead. The ancients entertained the belief that, on the road traversed by the souls of the departed, there grew a certain tree, the fruit of which was the symbol of eternal life. In the Elysian Fields, where dwelt the spirits of the virtuous in the gloomy regions reigned over by Pluto, whole plains were covered with Asphodel, flowers which were placed by the Greeks and Romans on the graves of the departed as symbolic of the future life. In France, at the beginning of the Christian era, the faithful, with some mystical idea, were wont to scatter on the bottom of coffins, beneath the corpses, seeds of various plants—probably to typify life from the dead.

The belief in a future existence doubtless led to the custom of planting trees on tombs, especially the Cypress, which was regarded as typical both of life and death. The tree growing over the grave, one can easily imagine, was looked upon by the ancient races as an emblem of the soul of the departed become immortal. Evelyn remarks, on this point, that trees and perennial plants are the most natural and instructive hieroglyphics of our expected resurrection and immortality, and that they conduce to the meditation of the living, and the removal of their cogitations from the sphere of vanity and worldliness. This observant writer descants upon the predilection exhibited by the early inhabitants of the world for burial beneath trees, and points out that the venerable Deborah was interred under an Oak at Bethel, and that the bones of Saul and his three sons were buried under the Oak at Jabesh-Gilead. He tells us also that one use made by the ancients of sacred groves was to place in their nemorous shades the bodies of their dead: and that he had read of some nations whose people were wont to hang, not only malefactors, but also their departed friends, and those whom they most esteemed, upon trees, as being so much nearer to heaven, and dedicated to God; believing it far more honourable than to be buried in the earth. He adds that “the same is affirmed of other septentrional people;” and points out that Propertius seems to allude to some such custom in the following lines:—

“The gods forbid my bones in the high road
Should lie, by every wand’ring vulgar trod;
Thus buried lovers are to scorn expos’d,
My tomb in some bye-arbor be inclos’d.”

The ancients were wont to hang their criminals either to barren trees, or to those dedicated to the infernal gods; and we find that in Maundevile’s time the practice of hanging corpses on trees existed in the Indies, or, at any rate, on an island which he describes as being called Caffolos. He gives a sketch of a tree, probably a Palm, with a man suspended from it, and remarks that “Men of that Contree, whan here Frendes ben seke, thei hangen hem upon Trees; and seyn, that it is bettre that briddes, that ben Angeles of God, eten hem, than the foul Wormes of the Erthe.”

The Tree of Death. From Maundevile’s Travels.
The Tree of Death. From Maundevile’s Travels.

We have, in a previous chapter, seen that among the Bengalese there still exists the practice of hanging sickly infants in baskets upon trees, and leaving them there to die. Certain of the wild tribes of India—the Puharris, for example—when burying their infants, place them in earthen pots, and strew leaves over them: these pots they deposit at the foot of trees, sometimes covering them over with brushwood. Similar burial is given to those who die of measles or small-pox: the corpse is placed at the foot of a tree, and left in the underwood or heather, covered with leaves and branches. In about a year the parents repair to the grave-tree, and there, beneath its boughs, take part in a funeral feast.

Grotius states that the Greeks and Romans believed that spirits and ghosts of men delighted to wander and appear in the sombre depths of groves devoted to the sepulture of the departed, and on this account Plato gave permission for trees to be planted over graves—as Evelyn states, “to obumbrate and refresh them.” Since then the custom of planting trees in places devoted to the burial of the dead has become universal, and the trees thus selected have in consequence come to be regarded as funereal.

As a general rule, the trees to which this funereal signification has been attached are those of a pendent or weeping character, and those which are distinguished by their dark and sombre foliage, black berries and fruits, and melancholy-looking blossoms. Others again have been planted in God’s acre on account of the symbolical meaning attached to their form or nature. Thus, whilst the Aloe, the Yew, and the Cypress are suggestive of life, from their perpetual verdure, they typify in floral symbology respectively grief, sorrow, and mourning. The Bay is an emblem of the resurrection, inasmuch as, according to Sir Thomas Browne, when to all outward appearance it is dead and withered, it will unexpectedly revive from the root, and its dry leaves resume their pristine vitality. Evergreen trees and shrubs, whose growth is like a pyramid or spire, the apex of which points heavenward, are deemed emblematic of eternity, and as such are fitly classed among funereal trees: the Arbor Vitæ and the Cypress are examples. The weeping Birch and Willow and the Australian Casuarina, with their foliage mournfully bending to the earth, fitly find their place in churchyards as personifications of woe.

The Yew-tree has been considered an emblem of mourning from a very early period. The Greeks adopted the idea from the Egyptians, the Romans from the Greeks, and the Britons from the Romans. From long habits of association, the Yew acquired a sacred character, and therefore was considered as the best and most appropriate ornament of consecrated ground. Hence in England it became the custom to plant Yews in churchyards, despite the ghastly superstition attached to these trees, that they prey upon the dead who lie beneath their sombre shade. Moreover our forefathers were particularly careful in preserving this funereal tree, whose branches it was at one time usual to carry in solemn procession to the grave, and afterwards to deposit therein under the bodies of departed friends. The custom of planting Yew trees singly in churchyards is also one of considerable antiquity. Statius, in his sixth Thebaid, calls it the solitary Yew. Leyden thus apostrophises this funeral tree:—

“Now more I love thee, melancholy Yew,
Whose still green leaves in silence wave
Above the peasant’s rude unhonoured grave,
Which oft thou moistenest with the morning dew.
To thee the sad, to thee the weary fly;
They rest in peace beneath thy sacred gloom,
Thou sole companion of the lonely tomb;
No leaves but thine in pity o’er them sigh:
Lo! now to fancy’s gaze thou seem’st to spread
Thy shadowy boughs to shroud me with the dead.”

The Mountain Ash is to be found in most Welsh churchyards, where it has been planted, not as a funeral tree, but as a defence against evil spirits. In Montgomeryshire, it is customary to rest the corpse on its way to the churchyard under one of these trees of good omen.

William Cullen Bryant, the American poet, has left us a graceful description of an English churchyard:—

“Erewhile on England’s pleasant shores, our sires
Left not their churchyards unadorned with shades
Or blossoms; and, indulgent to the strong
And natural dread of man’s last home—the grave!
Its frost and silence, they disposed around,
Too sadly on life’s close, the forms and hues
Of vegetable beauty. Then the Yew,
Green even amid the snows of Winter, told
Of immortality; and gracefully
The Willow, a perpetual mourner, drooped;
And there the gadding Woodbine crept about;
And there the ancient Ivy.”

The Walnut-tree, of which it is said that the shadow brings death, is in some countries considered a funeral tree. In India they call the Tamarisk, Yamadutika (Messenger of Yama, the Indian god of death), and the Bombax Heptaphyllum, Yamadruma, the tree of Yama.

The Elm and the Oak, although not strictly funeral trees, are connected with the grave by reason of their wood being used in the construction of coffins, at the present day, just as Cypress and Cedar wood used to be employed by the ancients.

“And well the abounding Elm may grow
In field and hedge so rife;
In forest, copse, and wooded park,
And ’mid the city’s strife;
For every hour that passes by
Shall end a human life.”—Hood.

Brambles are used to bind down graves. Ivy, as an evergreen and a symbol of friendship, is planted to run over the last resting-place of those we love.

In Persia, it is the Basil-tuft that waves its fragrant blossoms over tombs and graves. In Tripoli, Roses, Myrtle, Orange, and Jasmine are planted round tombs; and a large bouquet of flowers is usually fastened at the head of the coffins of females. Upon the death of a Moorish lady of quality every place is filled with fresh flowers and burning perfumes, and at the head of the body is placed a large bouquet. The mausoleum of the royal family is filled with immense wreaths of fresh flowers, and generally tombs are dressed with festoons of choice blossoms. The Chinese plant Roses, a species of Lycoris, and the Anemone on their graves. The Indians attribute a funereal character to the fragrant flowers of the sacred Champak (Michelia Champaca).

The ancients planted the Asphodel around the tombs of the deceased, in the belief that the seeds of this plant, and those of the Mallow, afforded nourishment to the dead.

The Greeks employed the Rose to decorate the tombs of the dead, and the floral decorations were frequently renewed, under the belief that this bush was potent to protect the remains of the departed one. Anacreon alludes to this practice in one of his odes:—

“When pain afflicts and sickness grieves,
Its juice the drooping heart relieves;
And after death its odours shed
A pleasing fragrance o’er the dead.”

The Romans, also, were so partial to the Rose, that we find, by old inscriptions at Ravenna and Milan, that codicils in the wills of the deceased directed that their tombs should be planted with the queen of flowers—a practice said to have been introduced by them into England. Camden speaks of the churchyards in his time as thickly planted with Rose-trees; Aubrey notices a custom at Ockley, in Surrey, of planting Roses on the graves of lovers; and Evelyn, who lived at Wotton Place, not far distant, mentions the same practice. In Wales, White Roses mark the graves of the young and of unmarried females; whilst Red Roses are placed over anyone distinguished for benevolence of character.

All nations at different periods seem to have delighted to deck the graves of their departed relatives with garlands of flowers—emblems at once of beauty and quick fading into death.

“With fairest flowers
While summer lasts, and I live here, Fidele,
I’ll sweeten thy sad grave. Thou shalt not lack
The flower that’s like thy face, pale Primrose; nor
The azured Hare-bell, like thy veins; no, nor
The leaf of Eglantine, which, not to slander,
Out-sweetened not thy breath.”
Shakspeare (Cymbeline, Act IV.).

The flowers strewed over graves by the Greeks were the Amaranth, Myrtle, and Polyanthus. The practice was reprobated by the primitive Christians; but in Prudentius’s time they had adopted it, and it is expressly mentioned both by St. Ambrose and St. Jerome. The flowers so used were deemed typical of the dead: to the young were assigned the blossoms of Spring and Summer: to middle-age, aromatic herbs and branches of primeval trees.

Amaranthus was employed by the Thessalians to decorate the grave of Achilles; and Electra is represented as uttering the complaint that the tomb of her father Agamemnon had not been adorned with Myrtle:—

“With no libations, nor with Myrtle boughs,
Were my dear father’s manes gratified.”

Virgil, when recounting the sorrow of Anchises at the loss of Marcellus, causes him to exclaim:—

“Full canisters of fragrant Lilies bring,
Mix’d with the purple Roses of the Spring.
Let me with fun’ral flowers his body strew.”

In Germany, and in the German Cantons of Switzerland, the custom of decking graves is very common. The Dianthus is a favourite flower for this purpose in Upper Germany. In the beautiful little churchyard at Schwytz, almost every grave is entirely covered with Pinks.

The cemetery of Père la Chaise, near Paris, exhibits proofs of the extent to which the custom of decking graves is preserved even by a metropolitan population and among persons of some rank. Numerous shops in the neighbourhood of this cemetery are filled with garlands of Immortelles or Everlasting Flowers, which are purchased on fête days and anniversaries, and placed on the graves. The branches of Box, or Bois béni, which are used in the place of Palms and Palm-leaves, are frequently stuck over graves in France.

“Fair flowers in sweet succession should arise
Through the long, blooming year, above the grave;
Spring breezes will breathe gentlier o’er the turf,
And summer glance with mildest, meekest beam,
To cherish piety’s dear offerings. There
Rich sounds of Autumn ever shall be heard,—
Mysterious, solemn music, waked by winds
To hymn the closing year! And when the touch
Of sullen Winter blights the last, last gem,
That bloomed around the tomb—O! there should be
The polished and enduring Laurel—there
The green and glittering Ivy, and all plants,
All hues and forms, delicious, that adorn
The brumal reign, and often waken hopes
Refreshing. Let eternal verdure clothe
The silent fields where rest the honoured dead,
While mute affection comes, and lingers round
With slow soft step, and pensive pause, and sigh,
All holy.”—Carrington.

In Egypt, Basil is scattered over the tombs by the women, who repair to the sepulchres of the dead twice or thrice every week, to pray and weep over the departed. In Italy, the Periwinkle, called by the peasantry fior di morto, or Death’s flower, is used to deck their children who die in infancy. In Norway, branchlets of Juniper and Fir are used at funerals, and exhibited in houses in order to protect the inhabitants from the visitation of evil spirits. The Freemasons of America scatter sprays of Acacia (Robinia) on the coffins of brethren. In Switzerland, a funeral wreath for a young maiden is composed of Hawthorn, Myrtle, and Orange-blossom. In the South of France, chaplets of white Roses and Orange-blossom are placed in the coffins of the young.

The Greeks and Romans crowned the dead with flowers, and the mourners wore them at the funeral ceremonies. It should be mentioned that the Romans did not generally bury their dead before the time of the Antonines. The bodies of the dead were burnt, and the ashes placed in an urn.

The funeral pyre of the ancients consisted of Cypress, Yew, Fir, and other trees and shrubs. The friends of the deceased stood by during the cremation, throwing incense on the fire and libations of wine. The bones and ashes were afterwards collected, cleansed, mixed with precious ointments, and enclosed in funeral urns. Agamemnon is described by Homer in the ‘Odyssey,’ as informing Achilles how this ceremony had been performed upon him:—

“But when the flames your body had consumed,
With oils and odours we your bones perfumed,
And wash’d with unmixed wine.”

Virgil, in describing the self-sacrifice, by fire, of Dido, speaks thus of the necessary preparations:—

“The fatal pile they rear
Within the secret court, exposed in air.
The cloven Holms and Pines are heaped on high;
And garlands in the hollow spaces lie.
Sad Cypress, Vervain, Yew, compose the wreath,
And every baleful flower denoting death.”

The repast set apart by custom for the dead consisted of Lettuces and Beans. It was customary among the ancients to offer Poppies as a propitiation to the manes of the dead. The Romans celebrated festivals in honour of the spirits of the departed, called Lemuria, where Beans were cast into the fire on the altar. The people also threw black Beans on the graves of the deceased, or burnt them, as the smell was supposed to be disagreeable to the manes. In Italy, at the present day, it is customary to eat Beans and to distribute them among the poor on the anniversary of a death.

The practice of embalming the bodies of their dead, which was universal among the ancient Egyptians, had its origin, according to Diodorus, in the desire of the wealthy to be able to contemplate, in the midst of luxurious appointments, the features of their ancestors. Several times a year the mummies were brought out of the splendid chambers where they were kept; incense was burnt over them, and sweet-scented oil was poured over their heads, and carefully wiped off by a priest called in expressly to officiate. Herodotus has given us a description of the Egyptian method of embalming:—The brains having first been extracted through the nostrils by means of a curved iron probe, the head was filled with drugs. Then, with a sharp Ethiopian stone, an incision was made in the side, through which the intestines were drawn out; and the cavity was filled with powdered Myrrh, Cassia, and other perfumes, Frankincense excepted. Thus prepared, the body was sewn up, kept in natron (sesquicarbonate of soda) for seventy days, and then swathed in fine linen, smeared with gum, and finally placed in a wooden case made in the shape of a man. This was the best and most expensive style of embalming. A cheaper mode consisted in injecting oil of Cedar into the body, without removing the intestines, whilst for the poorer classes the body was merely cleansed; subjecting it in both cases to a natron bath, which completely dried the flesh. The Jews borrowed the practice of embalming from the Egyptians; for St. Mark records that, after the death of our Saviour, Nicodemus “brought a mixture of Myrrh and Aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of Jews is to bury.”

Old English Funeral Customs.

In England, there long prevailed an old custom of carrying garlands before the bier of youthful beauty, which were afterwards strewed over her grave, In ‘Hamlet,’ the Queen, scattering flowers over the grave of Ophelia, says:—

“Sweets to the sweet. Farewell!
I hoped thy bride-bed to have decked, sweet maid,
And not have strewed thy grave.”

The practice of planting and scattering flowers over graves is noticed by Gay, who says:—

“Upon her grave the Rosemary they threw,
The Daisy, Butter-flower, and Endive blue.”

Rosemary was considered as an emblem of faithful remembrance. Thus Ophelia says: “There’s Rosemary for you, that’s for remembrance; pray you, love, remember.” Probably this was the reason that the plant was carried by the followers at a funeral in former days: a custom noticed by the poet in the following lines:—

“To show their love, the neighbours far and near
Follow’d with wistful look the damsel’s bier;
Sprigg’d Rosemary the lads and lasses bore,
While dismally the parson walked before.”

It is still customary in some parts of England to distribute Rosemary among the company at a funeral, who frequently throw sprigs of it into the grave.

Wordsworth introduces in one of his smaller poems an allusion to a practice which still prevails in the North of England:—

“The basin of Box-wood, just six months before,
Had stood on the table at Timothy’s door;
A coffin through Timothy’s threshold had passed,
One child did it bear, and that child was his last.”

It is stated in a note that—“In several parts of the North of England, when a funeral takes place, a basin full of sprigs of Box-wood is placed at the door of the house from which the coffin is taken up; and each person who attends the funeral ordinarily takes a sprig of this Box-wood, and throws it into the grave of the deceased.” Pepys mentions a churchyard near Southampton UK, where, in the year 1662, the graves were all sown with Sage.

Unfortunate lovers had garlands of Yew, Willow, and Rosemary laid on their biers; thus we read in the ‘Maid’s Tragedy’:—

“Lay a garland on my hearse
Of the dismal Yew;
Maidens, Willow branches bear;
Say that I died true.
My love was false, but I was firm
From my hour of birth.
Upon my buried body lie
Lightly gentle earth.”

It was an old English custom, at the funeral of a virgin, for a young woman to precede the coffin in the procession, carrying on her head a variegated garland of flowers and sweet herbs. Six young girls surrounded the bier, and strewed flowers along the streets to the place of burial. It was also formerly customary to carry garlands of sweet flowers at the funeral of dear friends and relatives, and not only to strew them on the coffin, but to plant them permanently on the grave. This pleasing practice, which gave the churchyard a picturesque appearance, owed its origin to the ancient belief that Paradise is planted with fragrant and beautiful flowers—a conception which is alluded to in the legend of Sir Owain, where the celestial Paradise, which is reached by the blessed after their passage through purgatory, is thus described:—

“Fair were her erbers with floures;
Rose and Lili divers colours,
Primros and Parvink,
Mint, Feverfoy, and Eglenterre,
Columbin and Mother-wer,
Than ani man may bithenke
It berth erbes of other maner,
Than ani in erth groweth here,
Though that is best of priis;
Evermore thai grene springeth,
For Winter no sooner it us cloyeth,
And sweeter than licorice.”

In South Wales, the custom of planting and ornamenting graves is noticed by Brand in his ‘Popular Antiquities,’ as being very common. He tells us that, in Glamorgan, many churchyards have something like the splendour of a rich and various parterre. Besides this, it is usual to strew the graves with flowers and evergreens (within the church as well as out of it) at least thrice a year, on the same principle of delicate respect as the stones are whitened. No flowers or evergreens are permitted to be planted on graves but such as are sweet-scented: the Pink and Polyanthus, Sweet Williams, Gilliflowers and Carnations, Mignonette, Thyme, Hyssop, Camomile, and Rosemary make up the pious decoration of this consecrated garden. Turnesoles, Peonies, the African Marigold, the Anemone, and some other flowers, though beautiful, should never be planted on graves, because they are not sweet-scented.

The prejudice against old maids and old bachelors subsists among the Welsh in a very marked degree, so that their graves have not unfrequently been planted, by some satirical neighbours, not only with Rue, but with Thistles, Nettles, Henbane, and other noxious weeds.

In Glamorganshire, the old custom is still retained of strewing the bed whereon a corpse rests with fragrant flowers. In the South of England a chaplet of white Roses is borne before the corpse of a maiden by a young girl nearest in age and resemblance to the deceased, and afterwards hung up over her accustomed seat at church.

Plants as Death Portents.

Though scarcely to be characterised as “funereal,” there are some plants which have obtained a sinister reputation as either predicting death themselves, or being associated in some manner with fatal portents. Mannhardt tells us of a gloomy Swiss tradition, dating from the fifteenth century, which relates that the three children of a bootmaker of Basle having each in their garden a favourite tree, carefully studied the inflorescence during Lent. As the result of their close observation, the two sisters, Adelaide and Catherine, saw from the characteristics of the blossoms that they were predestined to enter a convent; whilst the boy Jean attentively watched the development of a red Rose, which predicted his entry into the Church and his subsequent martyrdom: as a matter of fact, it is said he was martyred at Prague by the Hussites.

The Greeks regarded Parsley as a funereal herb, and were fond of strewing the tombs of their dead with it: hence it came in time to be thought a plant of evil augury, and those who were on the point of death were commonly spoken of as being in need of Parsley. Something of this association of Parsley with death is still to be found in Devonshire, where a belief exists that to transplant Parsley is an offence against the guardian spirit who watches over the Parsley-beds, surely to be punished, either by misfortune or death, on the offender himself or some member of his family within a year.

In the Siebenbürgen of Saxony, the belief exists that at the moment when an infant dies in the house, Death passes like a shadow into the garden, and there plucks a flower.

In Italy, the red Rose is considered to be an emblem of an early death, and it is thought to be an evil omen if its leaves are perchance scattered on the ground. An apt illustration of this belief is found in the tragic story of poor Miss Ray, who was murdered at the Piazza entrance of Covent Garden Theatre, by a man named Hackman, on April 7th, 1779. Just prior to starting with her friend Mrs. Lewis for the theatre, a beautiful Rose fell from her bosom to the ground. She stooped to regain it, but at her touch the red leaves scattered themselves on the carpet, leaving the bare stalk in her hand. The unfortunate girl, who had been depressed in spirits before, was evidently affected by the incident, and said nervously, “I trust I am not to consider this as an evil omen!” Soon rallying, however, she cheerfully asked Mrs. Lewis to be sure and meet her after the theatre—a request the fulfilment of which was prevented by her untimely fate.

Shakspeare has recorded that the withering of the Bay was looked upon as a certain omen of death; and it is an old fancy that if a Fir-tree be struck, withered, or burnt with lightning, the owner will soon after be seized with a mortal illness.

Herrick, in his ‘Hesperides,’ alludes to the Daffodil as being under certain circumstances a death portent.

“When a Daffodill I see
Hanging down her head t’wards me,
Guess I may what I must be:
First, I shall decline my head;
Secondly, I shall be dead;
Lastly, safely buried.”

In Northamptonshire, a belief exists that if an Apple-tree blooms after the fruit is ripe, it surely portends death:—

“A bloom upon the Apple-tree when the Apples are ripe,
Is a sure termination to somebody’s life.”

In Devonshire, it is considered very unlucky to plant a bed of Lilies of the Valley, as the person who does this will in all probability die before twelve months have expired; and in the same county, a plentiful season for Hazel-nuts is believed to portend unusual mortality: hence the saying—

“Many Nits [Nuts],
Many pits [graves].”

Sloes are also sometimes associated with this portent, as another version of the rhyme runs—

“Many Slones [Sloes], many groans,
Many Nits, many pits.”

It is thought very unlucky in Sussex to use green brooms in May, and an old saying is current in the same county that—

“If you sweep the house with Broom in May,
You’ll sweep the head of that house away.”

In West Sussex, there exists the strange idea that if anyone eats a Blackberry after Old Michaelmas Day (October 10th), death or disaster will alight either on the eater or his kinsfolk before the year is out.

In some parts of England a superstition exists that if in a row of Beans one should chance to come up white, instead of green, a death will occur in the family within the year.

In certain English counties there is a superstitious dread that if a drill go from one end of the field to the other without depositing any seed, some person on the farm will die either before the year is out or before the crop then sown is reaped.

There is a very ancient belief that if every vestige of the Christmas decorations is not removed from the church before Candlemas Day (February 2nd), there will be a death during the year in the family occupying the pew where perchance a leaf or a berry has been left. Herrick has alluded to this superstitious notion in his ‘Hesperides’:—

“Down with the Rosemary, and so
Down with the Baies and Mistletoe:
Down with the Holly, Ivy, all
Wherewith ye dress the Christmas hall;
That so the superstitious find
Not one least branch left thar behind
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see.”

ENCYCLOPÆDIA OF PLANTS.

ACACIA.—In the deserts of Arabia the finest tree is the Acacia Seyal, which is reputed to be the Shittah tree of the Old Testament. The timber of this tree was termed Shittim, translated by some as “incorruptible wood.” In Exodus xxv. it is recorded that the Ark of the Lord was made of Shittim wood, overlaid within and without with pure gold, and having a crown of gold round about it; and in chapter xxvi. we read that the staves were made of the same wood, as were also the boards of the Tabernacle and the woodwork of the Altar on which the offerings were presented. From this same Acacia is obtained a fragrant and highly-prized gum which is employed as incense in religious ceremonials.——Tradition affirms that this Acacia—the Nabkha of the Arabians—was the tree from which was fabricated the Saviour’s crown of thorns. It has many small sharp spines, and the leaves resemble those of the Ivy with which the Roman Emperors were crowned, thus making the mockery bitterly complete.——The Buddhists make use of the wood of the Sami (Acacia Suma) to light the fire on their altars: this is done by striking it with the Asvattha, or Peepul—the act symbolising generation. This Acacia is one of the sacred trees of India, and yields an astringent or preservative substance.——The tree usually known in England by the name of Acacia is the Robinia pseudo-Acacia, or Locust-tree of America, named by Linnæus after the two Robins, herbalists to Henri IV., who introduced it into France in 1640. This tree would appear to have somewhat of a funeral character, since we find the American Freemasons make a practice of dropping twigs of it on the coffins of brethren. A sprig of Acacia is one of the emblems specially revered by Freemasons.——“It is curious,” says Mr. Reade, in ‘The Veil of Isis,’ “that Houzza, which Mahomet esteemed an idol—Houzza so honoured in the Arabian works of Ghatfan, Koreisch, Renanâh, and Salem—should be simply the Acacia. Thence was derived the word Huzza! in our language, which was probably at first a religious exclamation like the Evoke! of the Bacchantes.”——The English newspapers lately gave an account of a singular species of American Acacia, stated to be growing at Virginia, Nevada, and exhibiting all the characteristics of a sensitive plant. At the commencement of 1883 the Acacia was reported to be about eight feet high, and growing rapidly. When the sun sets, its leaves fold together and the ends of the twigs coil up like a pig-tail; and if the latter are handled, there is evident uneasiness throughout the plant. Its highest state of agitation was reached when the tree was removed from the pot in which it was matured into a larger one. To use the gardener’s expression, it went very mad. It had scarcely been planted in its new quarters before the leaves began to stand up in all directions, like the hair on the tail of an angry cat, and soon the whole plant was in a quiver. At the same time it gave out a most sickening and pungent odour, resembling that of a rattlesnake when teased. The smell so filled the house, that it was necessary to open all the doors and windows, and it was a full hour before the plant calmed down and folded its leaves in peace.

ACANTHUS.—The Acanthus was a favourite plant amongst both the Greeks and Romans, who employed it for decorative purposes: its leaves form the principal adornment of the Corinthian capital, which was invented by Callimachus. How the idea was suggested to the architect is told us by Vitruvius. A young Corinthian damsel fell ill and died. After her interment, her nurse gathered her trinkets and ornaments into a basket, and lest they should be injured by the weather, she covered the basket with a tile, and placed it near her young mistress’s tomb over the root of an Acanthus, the stalks and leaves of which burst forth in the Spring, and spreading themselves on the outside of the basket, were bent back again at the top by the corner of the tile. Callimachus happening to pass by, was charmed with the beauty and novelty of this accidental arrangement, and took from it the idea of the Corinthian chapter. Both Greeks and Romans made use of the Acanthus mollis in the form of garlands, with which they adorned their buildings, their furniture, and even their clothing. Theocritus speaks of a prize cup as having “a crust of soft Acanthus.” Virgil narrates that the plant formed the basis of a design embroidered on the mantle of Helen of Troy; and tells us that the handles of Alcimedon’s cup were enwreathed with what he elsewhere terms “Smiling Acanthus.”——Old English names for this plant were Brank-ursine and Bear’s-breech.——Acanthus is stated by astrologers to be under the dominion of the Moon.

ACHYRANTHES.—The Apamarga, an Indian variety of this plant, has given the name to the sacrificial rite called Apâmârga Homa, because at daybreak they offer a handful of flour made from the seeds of the Apamarga (Achyranthes aspera). According to a legend quoted by De Gubernatis, Indra had slain Vriitra and other demons, when he encountered the demon Namuchi and wrestled with him. Vanquished, he made peace with Namuchi on the understanding that he should never kill anything with a solid body, nor with a liquid body, neither by night nor by day. So Indra gathered a vegetable, which is neither solid nor liquid, and comes during the daybreak, when the night is past, but the day has not yet come. Then with the vegetable he attacked the monster Namuchi, who complained of this treachery. From the head of Namuchi sprang the plant Apâmârga. Indra afterwards destroyed all the monsters by means of this plant. As may be supposed after such a marvellous origin, the plant was soon looked upon as a powerful talisman. According to the Atharvaveda, it should be held in the hand, and invoked against the malady Kshetriya, and against witches, monsters, and nightmares. They call it the Victor, having in itself the strength of a thousand, destroying the effects of maledictions, and especially of those inimical to generation, which produce hunger, thirst, and poverty. It is also called the Lord of salutary plants, son of Vibhindant, having received all its power from Indra himself. The Hindus believe that the plant is a security against the bites of scorpions.

Aconite.—See Monkshood.

ACORUS.—This aromatic Reed, or Sweet Flag, is absurdly said to have been called Acorus, from the Greek koré, pupil, because it was esteemed good for diseases of the eye. The sacred oil of the Jews—the “oil of holy ointment”—used to anoint the tabernacle, the ark of the testimony, the altar of burnt offerings, the altar of incense, the candlesticks, and all the sacred vessels, has the oil of Acorus as one of its ingredients. It is the “Sweet Calamus” mentioned in Exodus xxx.——The Acorus is a plant of the Moon.

ADDER’S TONGUE.—The Adder’s Tongue, or to give it its old Latin name, Christ’s Spear (Ophioglossum vulgatum), was formerly much prized as a remedy for wounds. Gerarde declared that boiled in olive oil it produced “a most excellent greene oyle, or rather a balsam for greene wounds comparable to oyle of St. John’s wort, if it doth not far surpasse it.” A preparation called the “green oil of charity” is still in request; and Adder’s Spear ointment (a compound of Adder’s Tongue Fern, Plantain, and sundry herbs) is well known in country places as a vulnerary. In olden times an Adder’s Tongue was reputed to be a wondrous cure for tumours, if plucked at the falling of the Moon, and applied with the accompaniment of an incantation.——Witches highly esteemed Adder’s Tongue as a plant to be employed in their spells. Astrologers class it as a herb of the Moon.

Affadyl.—See Narcissus.

AGNUS CASTUS.—The “Chaste Tree” (Vitex Agnus Castus), a species of Willow, derives its name from the Greek hagnos, and Latin castus, both meaning chaste. The name was given to it, according to Pliny, from the custom of the Athenian matrons to strew their beds with it during the festival of the Thesmophora, held in honour of Ceres, when the strictest chastity was enjoined. At the same festival young girls adorned themselves with blossoms of the shrub and slept on its leaves in order to guard their innocence and purity.——Agnus Castus was consecrated to Æsculapius, and also, in the isle of Samos, to Juno. Prometheus was crowned with it. At Grecian weddings, the bride and groom carried crowns of it. It was also employed as a preservative against poisoning.——The seed of this shrub in later years acquired the name of Piper Monachorum, and in explanation it is said that, following the example of the matrons of Athens, who had discovered that the odour of branches of Agnus Castus combatted unchaste thoughts and desires, certain Christian monks made themselves girdles of the flexible boughs of the tree, by wearing which they professed to expel from their hearts all passions that love could excite.——Some of the old herbalists affirm that the seeds of Agnus Castus had a very powerful effect in arresting generation. Gerarde says “Agnus Castus is a singular medicine and remedy for such as would willingly live chaste, for it withstandeth all uncleanness or desire to the flesh, consuming and drying up the seed of generation, in what sort soever it bee taken, whether in pouder onely, or the decoction drunke, or whether the leaves be carried about the body; for which cause it was called castus, that is to say, chaste, cleane, and pure.” The leaves, burnt or strewn about, were reputed to drive away serpents; and, according to Dioscorides, a branch of the shrub, carried in the hand, would keep wayfarers from weariness.——Agnus Castus is held to be under the dominion of Mars in Capricorn.

Albespyne.—See Hawthorn.

AGRIMONY.—The Agrimony or Egrimony (Agrimonia Eupatoria) was a herb much in vogue among the old herbalists, who attributed extraordinary virtues to it. Dioscorides prescribes it as a cure for the bitings and stingings of serpents. Gerarde says it is “good for them that have naughty livers,” and in fact it was at one time known as Liver-wort. Culpeper tells us that it will draw forth “thorns and splinters of wood, nails, or any other such thing gotten into the flesh,” and recommends it further as “a most admirable remedy for such whose lives are annoyed either by heat or cold.” Sore throat, gout, ague, colic, ear-ache, cancers, and ulcers are among the numerous complaints the herbalists professed to cure by means of syrups and salves made of Agrimony, a plant which has formed an ingredient in most of the herb teas which have been from time to time introduced.——The astrological government and virtues of Agrimony appear to the uninitiated somewhat complicated. If we may believe Culpeper, it is a herb under Jupiter and the sign Cancer, and strengthens those parts under the planet and sign, and removes diseases in them by sympathy; and those under Saturn, Mars, and Mercury by antipathy, if they happen in any part of the body governed by Jupiter, or under the signs Cancer, Sagittarius, or Pisces.——Michael Drayton, in his ‘Muse’s Elysium,’ thus refers to Agrimony, among other herbs dear to simplers:—

“Next these here Egrimony is,
That helps the serpent’s biting;
The blessed Betony by this,
Whose cures deserving writing.
“This All-heal, and so named of right,
New wounds so quickly healing;
A thousand more I could recite
Most worthy of revealing.”

ALDER.—The origin of the Alder is to be found in the following lines from Rapin’s poem on Gardens:—

“Of watery race Alders and Willows spread
O’er silver brooks their melancholy shade,
Which heretofore (thus tales have been believed)
Were two poor men, who by their fishing lived;
Till on a day when Pales’ feast was held,
And all the town with pious mirth was filled,
This impious pair alone her rites despised,
Pursued their care, till she their crime chastised:
While from the banks they gazed upon the flood,
The angry goddess fixed them where they stood,
Transformed to sets, and just examples made
To such as slight devotion for their trade.
At length, well watered by the bounteous stream,
They gained a root, and spreading trees became;
Yet pale their leaves, as conscious how they fell,
Which croaking frogs with vile reproaches tell.”

In Germany, Alders have often a funereal and almost diabolic character. It is a popular belief that they commence to weep, to supplicate, and to shed drops of blood if there is any talk of cutting them down.——A legend of the Tyrol narrates how a boy who had climbed a tree, overlooked the ghastly doings of certain witches beneath its boughs. They tore in pieces the corpse of a woman, and threw the portions in the air. The boy caught one, and kept it by him. The witches, on counting the pieces afterwards found that one was missing, and so replaced it by a scrap of Alder-wood, when instantaneously the dead came to life again.——Of the wood of the Alder, Virgil tells us, the first boats were made:—Tunc Alnos primum fluvii sensere cavatas.——The Alder, or Aller, is said to be a tree of Venus, under the celestial signs of either Cancer or Pisces.

Alecost.—See Costmary.

Alehoof, Ground-Ivy.—See Ivy.

ALMOND.—According to an ancient tradition mentioned by Servius, the origin of the Almond-tree is to be traced to Phyllis, a beautiful Thracian queen, who became enamoured of Demophoon, the son of Theseus and Phædra, and was wedded to him. Demophoon, who, whilst returning from the Trojan war, had been cast by a storm on the coast of Thrace soon after his marriage with the Queen, was recalled to Athens by his father’s death. He promised faithfully to return to his royal bride at the expiration of a month, but failed to do so, and Phyllis, distracted at his continued absence, after several futile visits to the sea-shore, expired of grief, and was transformed into an Almond-tree, which is called Phylla by the Greeks. Some time after this metamorphosis the truant consort returned, and upon hearing of the untimely fate of Phyllis, he ran and clasped the tree in remorseful embrace. Loving even in death, his beautiful queen seems to have acknowledged his repentance, for the Almond-tree into which she had been transformed, although at that time stripped of its leaves, suddenly shot forth and blossomed, as if eager to show how unchangeable was poor Phyllis’s love.——A second account of the origin of the Almond-tree states that it sprang from the blood of the monster Agdistis, the offspring of Jupiter. This fable further narrates that the daughter of the river Sangarius fell in love with the beautiful tree, and after gathering its fruit, gave birth to a son named Atys.——A third account relates how Io, daughter of King Midas, was forsaken by Atys, whom she loved; and how Agdistis, on the death of Atys, mutilated his body, from which sprang the bitter Almond-tree, the emblem of grief.——Virgil made the flowering of the Almond a presage of the crop of Wheat.

“With many a bud if flowering Almonds bloom,
And arch their gay festoons that breathe perfume,
So shall thy harvest like profusion yield,
And cloudless suns mature the fertile field.”

The Hebrew word Shakad, from which the Almond derives its name, means to make haste, or to awake early, given to the tree on account of its hasty growth and early maturity. Aaron’s rod, which budded and brought forth fruit in the Tabernacle during one day, was of an Almond-tree: “It budded and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded Almonds.” (Numbers xvii., 8). Among the Hebrews, the Almond-tree was regarded as the symbol of haste and vigilance, because of the suddenness of its blossoming, which announced the Spring. The Mahommedans consider its flowers typical of hope, because they bloom on the bare branches.——Romanists assign the blossoming Almond-tree to the Madonna, as Queen of Heaven.——In Tuscany, and other countries, a branch of the Almond-tree is employed to discover hidden treasures. It is carried to the place where the treasure is supposed to be concealed, and, according to popular superstition, its point will turn towards the exact spot. In the nuptial ceremonies of the Czechs, Almonds are distributed amongst the wedding guests.——Pliny considered Almonds a most powerful remedy against inebriation, and Plutarch relates an anecdote of a notorious wine-bibber, who, by his habitual use of bitter Almonds, used to escape being intoxicated.——The Almond-tree is under Jupiter. To dream of eating Almonds portends a journey: if they taste sweet, it will be a prosperous one; if bitter, the contrary.

ALOE.—The Hebrews appear to have entertained a great respect for the Aloe (Ahaloth). In the Bible it is frequently referred to in commendatory terms, and its use as a perfume is of very great antiquity. King David, in the Psalms, says: “All thy garments smell of Myrrh, and Aloes, and Cassia.” Solomon, in the Canticles, mentions Aloes as one of the chief spices; and in Proverbs (vii., 17) refers to it as a scent. Aloes is one of the spices mentioned by St. John as having been brought by Nicodemus to embalm the body of our Lord.——There are two trees which yield this fragrant wood, viz., Aloexylum Agallochum, a native of the mountains of Hindostan, and Aquilaria Malaccensis, which grows in Malacca: the wood of these aromatic trees forms the principal ingredient in the scented sticks burned by the Hindus and Chinese in their temples. The heart of the Chinese Aloe, or Wood Aloes, is called Calambac, or Tambac-wood, which is reckoned in the Indies more precious than gold itself: it is used as a perfume; as a specific for persons affected with fainting fits or with the palsy; and as a setting for the most costly jewels. Both the name and the plant of the aromatic Aloe are of Indian origin, and it must not be confounded with the common Aloes, most of which have an offensive smell and a bitter taste.——In Wood’s Zoography we read: “The Mahommedans respect the Aloe as a plant of a superior nature. In Egypt, it may be said to bear some share in their religious ceremonies, since whoever returns from a pilgrimage to Mecca hangs it over his street door as a proof of his having performed that holy journey. The superstitious Egyptians believe that this plant hinders evil spirits and apparitions from entering the house, and on this account whoever walks the streets in Cairo will find it over the doors of both Christians and Jews.”——The Arabic name of the Aloe, Saber, signifies patience, and in Mecca at the end of most graves, facing the epitaph, is planted an Aloe, as an allusion to the patience required by those awaiting the arrival of the great day of resurrection. Most Eastern poets, however, speak of the Aloe as the symbol of bitterness; and the Romans seem to have been well acquainted with this qualification, judging from the allusion to it in Juvenal:—“Plus Aloes quam mellis habere.” “As bitter as Aloes” is a proverbial saying of considerable antiquity, derived doubtless from the acrid taste of the medicines obtained from the plant, and made principally from the pulp of the fleshy leaf of the Succotrine Aloe, the leaves of which have a remarkable efficacy in curing scalds and burns.——Not only, however, for its medicinal properties is the Aloe esteemed, for in some countries, particularly Mexico, the poor derive from it almost every necessary of life. The ancient manuscripts of Mexico are chiefly inscribed upon paper made from the fibres of the pité, or pith. Of the points of the leaves of the Aloe are made nails, darts, and awls, and with these last the Indians pierce holes in their ears when they propose to honour the Devil with some peculiar testimonies of their devotion.

ALYSSUM.—This plant was regarded by the Neapolitans as possessing magic qualities, and was suspended in their houses as a charm against the Evil Eye. Its name Alyssum is derived from the Greek a, not, and lussa, madness. In England, the plant was called Alisson and Madwort, because, as Gerarde says, it is “a present remedie for them that are bitten of a mad dog.”

AMARANTH.—In Spenser’s ‘Fairy Queen’ is to be found the following allusion to the mythological origin of the Amaranth:—

“And all about grew every sort of flower,
To which sad lovers were transformed of yore;
Fresh Hyacinthus, Phœbus’ paramour,
Foolish Narciss, that likes the watery shore:
Sad Amaranthus, made a flower but late,
Sad Amaranthus, in whose purple gore
Me seems I see Aminta’s wretched fate,
To whom sweet poets’ verse hath given endless date.”

The Amaranth was a sacred plant among the Greeks and Romans: from the former it received its name, which means “never-fading,” on account of the lasting nature of its blossoms. Hence it is considered the emblem of immortality. The Amaranth was also classed among the funeral flowers. Homer describes the Thessalians as wearing crowns of Amaranth at the funeral of Achilles; and Thessalus decorated the tomb of the same hero with Amaranth-blossoms. Philostratus records the custom of adorning tombs with flowers, and Artemidorus tells us that the Greeks were accustomed to hang wreaths of Amaranth in most of the temples of their divinities: and they regarded the Amaranth as the symbol of friendship. Milton crowns with Amaranth the angelic host assembled before the Deity:—

“With solemn adorations down they cast
Their crowns, inwove with Amaranth and gold—
Immortal Amaranth, a flower which once
In Paradise, fast by the tree of life,
Began to bloom, but soon for man’s offence
To heaven removed, where first it grew.”

The same poet, as well as Spenser, classes the Amaranth amongst “those flowers that sad embroidery wear.”——In Sumatra, the people of the Batta country lead in times of peace a purely pastoral life, and are accustomed to play on a kind of flute crowned with garlands of Amaranth and other flowers.——At the Floral Games at Toulouse, a golden Amaranth was awarded for the best lyric composition.——In modern times, the Amaranth has given its name to an order instituted by Queen Christiana of Sweden, in the year 1633, at an entertainment given in honour of Don Antonio Pimentel, the Spanish Ambassador. On this occasion she appeared in a dress covered with diamonds, attended by a suite nobles and ladies. At the conclusion of the ball she stripped her attire of the diamonds, and distributed them among the company, at the same time presenting the new order of knighthood, consisting of a ribbon and medal, with an Amaranth in enamel, encircled with the motto Dolce nella memoria.——In Roman Catholic countries, more especially in Portugal, the species of the flower known as the Globe Amaranth, Prince’s Feathers, and Cock’s Comb, are much cultivated for church decoration at Christmas time and during the Winter. The Amaranth is also selected as one of the flowers peculiarly appropriate to Ascension Day.——The species of Amaranth which we know as Love-lies-bleeding, has, in France, the singular name of Discipline des religieuses, the Nun’s Scourge.——The Amaranth was formerly known as Flower Gentle, Flower Velure, Floramor, and Velvet Flower. It is said to be under Saturn, and to be an excellent qualifier of the unruly actions of Venus.

AMBROSIA.—The Ambrosia-tree, or tree bearing immortal food, is one of the most popular guises of the Hindu world-trees. The Paradise of Indra had five trees, under the refreshing shade of which the gods reclined and enjoyed life-inspiring draughts of Ambrosia or Amrita. The chief of these trees was the Pârijâta (usually identified with the Erythrina Indica), and this was deemed the Ambrosia-tree.——The Greeks knew a herb which they named Ambrosia, the food of immortals, and it was so called by the ancients because they believed that a continued use of it rendered men long-lived, just as the ambrosia of the gods preserved their immortality. The Moors to this day entertain a belief in the existence of such a plant. The old English name given to this herb was Ambrose, which was applied to the Chenopodium Botrys; but the ancients seem to have applied the name of Ambrosia to the Field Parsley, the Wild Sage, and the Chenopodium ambrosioides. The plant known as Ambrosia at the present day belongs to the Wormwood family.

AMELLUS.—This plant is believed to be a species of Starwort. Virgil, in the Fourth Book of his Georgics, states that at Rome it was employed to decorate the altars of the gods. Gerarde says that the Starwort having a blue or purple flower is that referred to by Virgil as the Amellus in the following lines:—
“In meads there is a flower Amello named,
By him that seeks it easy to be found,
For that it seems by many branches framed
Into a little wood: like gold the ground
Thereof appears; but leaves that it beset
Shine in the colour of the Violet.”

AMORPHOPHALLUS.—The gigantic Aroid, Amorphophallus campanulatus, or Carrion Plant of Java, is regarded with repugnance as a plant of ill-omen. Previous to the sudden bursting, about sunset, of the spathe containing the spadix, there is an accumulation of heat therein. When it opens, it exhales an offensive odour that is quite overpowering, and so much resembles that of carrion, that flies cover the club of the spadix with their eggs.

ANDHAS.—The luminous plant of the Vedic Soma. The plant is also called in general Arjunî, that is to say, Shining. From Andhas it is supposed the Greek word anthos was derived.

ANDROMEDA.—This shrub owes its classical appellation to Linnæus, who gave it the name of Andromeda after the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiope. Ovid, in his ‘Metamorphoses,’ has sung how, lashed to a rock, she was exposed to a sea monster, sent by Neptune to ravage her father’s country, and how she was at last rescued by Perseus, and became his bride. Linnæus thus explains why he gave the Marsh Cistus the name of the classical princess:—“As I contemplated it, I could not help thinking of Andromeda, as described by the poets—a virgin of most exquisite beauty and unrivalled charms. The plant is always fixed in some turfy hillock in the midst of the swamps, as Andromeda herself was chained to a rock in the sea, which bathed her feet as the fresh water does the root of the plant. As the distressed virgin cast down her blushing face through excessive affliction, so does the rosy-coloured flower hang its head, growing paler and paler till it withers away. At length comes Perseus, in the shape of Summer, dries up the surrounding waters, and destroys the monster.” The leaves of this family of plants have noxious properties, and the very honey is said to be poisonous.

ANEMONE.—The origin of the Anemone, according to Ovid, is to be found in the death of Adonis, the favourite of Venus. Desperately wounded by a boar to which he had given chase, the ill-fated youth lay expiring on the blood-stained grass, when he was found by Venus, who, overcome with grief, determined that her fallen lover should hereafter live as a flower.

“Then on the blood sweet nectar she bestows;
The scented blood in little bubbles rose;
Little as rainy drops, which flutt’ring fly,
Borne by the winds, along a lowering sky.
Short time ensued till where the blood was shed
A flower began to rear its purple head.
Such as on Punic Apples is revealed,
Or in the filmy rind but half concealed,
Still here the fate of lovely forms we see,
So sudden fades the sweet Anemone.
The feeble stems to stormy blasts a prey,
Their sickly beauties droop and pine away.
The winds forbid the flowers to flourish long,
Which owe to winds their names in Grecian song.”—Congreve.

The Greek poet, Bion, in his epitaph on Adonis, makes the Anemone the offspring of the tears of the sorrowing Venus.

“Alas the Paphian! fair Adonis slain!
Tears plenteous as his blood she pours amain,
But gentle flowers are born and bloom around
From every drop that falls upon the ground.
Where streams his blood, there blushing springs the Rose,
And where a tear has dropped, a Wind-flower blows.”

Rapin, in his poem, gives a somewhat similar version of the origin of the Anemone. He says:—

“For while what’s mortal from his blood she freed,
And showers of tears on the pale body shed,
Lovely Anemones in order rose,
And veiled with purple palls the cause of all her woes.”

In Wiffen’s translation of the Spanish poet Garcilaso, we find the red colour only of the Anemone attributed to the blood of Adonis:—

“His sunbeam-tinted tresses drooped unbound,
Sweeping the earth with negligence uncouth;
The white Anemones that near him blew
Felt his red blood, and red for ever grew.”

Rapin recounts another story, according to which the Anemone was originally a nymph beloved by Zephyr. This is, perhaps, an explanation of the name of the flower, which is derived from Anemos, the wind.

“Flora, with envy stung, as tales relate,
Condemned a virgin to this change of fate;
From Grecian nymphs her beauty bore the prize,
Beauty the worst of crimes in jealous eyes;
For as with careless steps she trod the plain,
Courting the winds to fill her flowing train,
Suspicious Flora feared she soon would prove
Her rival in her husband Zephyr’s love.
So the fair victim fell, whose beauty’s light
Had been more lasting, had it been less bright:
She, though transformed, as charming as before,
The fairest maid is now the fairest flower.”

The English name of Wind-flower seems to have been given to the Anemone because some of the species flourish in open places exposed to the wind, before the blasts of which they shiver and tremble in the early Spring. Pliny asserts that the flower never blooms except when the winds blow.——With the Egyptians, the Anemone was the emblem of sickness. According to Pliny, the magicians and wise men in olden times were wont to attribute extraordinary powers to the plant, and ordained that everyone should gather the first Anemone he or she saw in the year, the while repeating, with due solemnity—“I gather thee for a remedy against disease.” The flower was then reverently wrapped in scarlet cloth, and kept undisturbed, unless the gatherer became indisposed, when it was tied either around the neck or arm of the patient. This superstition extended to England, as is shown by the following lines in a ballad:—

“The first Spring-blown Anemone she in his doublet wove,
To keep him safe from pestilence wherever he should rove.”

The Anemone was held sacred to Venus, and the flower was highly esteemed by the Romans, who formed it into wreaths for the head.——In some countries, people have a strong prejudice against the flowers of the field Anemone: they believe the air to be so tainted by them, that those who inhale it often incur severe illness. Shakspeare has given to the Anemone the magical power of producing love. In ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (Act 2), Oberon bids Puck place an Anemone-flower on the eyes of Titania, who, on her awakening, will then fall in love with the first object she sees.——A once famed Parisian florist, named Bachelier, having procured some rare Anemones from the East, would not part with a root, either for love or money. For ten years he contrived to keep the treasures to himself, until a wily senator paid him a visit, and, walking round the garden, observed that the cherished Anemones were in seed. Letting his robe fall upon the plants as if by accident, he so swept off a number of the little feathery seeds, which his servant, following close upon his heels, brushed off his master’s robe and secretly appropriated; and before long the niggardly florist had the mortification of seeing his highly-prized “strain” in the possession of his neighbours and rivals.——The Anemone is held to be under the dominion of Mars.

ANGELICA.—The strong and widely-diffused belief in the manifold virtues of this plant is sufficient to account for its angelic name, although Fuchsius was of opinion that it was called Angelica either from the sweet scent of its root, or its value as a remedy against poisons and the plague. Its old German name of Root of the Holy Ghost is still retained in some northern countries. The Laplanders believe that the use of it strengthens life, and they therefore chew it as they would do Tobacco; they also employ it to crown their poets, who fancy themselves inspired by its odour.——Parkinson says that “it is so goode an herbe that there is no part thereof but is of much use.”——Du Bartas wrote—

“Contagious aire ingendering pestilence
Infects not those that in their mouths have ta’en
Angelica, that happy counterbane
Sent down from heav’n by some celestial scout,
As well the name and nature both avowt.”
Sylvester’s trans., 1641.

Angelica was popularly believed to remove the effects of intoxication; according to Fuchsius, its roots, worn suspended round the neck, would guard the wearer against the baneful power of witches and enchantments; and Gerarde tells us that a piece of the root held in the mouth, or chewed, will drive away pestilential air, and that the plant, besides being a singular remedy against poisons, the plague, and pestilent diseases in general, cures the biting of mad dogs and all other venomous beasts. Regarding its astrological government, Culpeper observes that it is a “herb of the Sun in Leo. Let it be gathered when he is there, the moon applying to his good aspect; let it be gathered either in his hour, or in the hour of Jupiter; let Sol be angular.”

ANTHYLLIS.—The English names of this plant are Kidney Vetch, Lamb Toe, Lady’s Fingers, Silver Bush, and Jupiter’s Beard (from the thick woolly down which covers the calyxes of a species growing in the South of Europe). It was formerly employed as a vulnerary, and was recommended by Gesner as useful in staunching the effusion of blood: hence its old English names of Staunch and Wound-Wort. Clare says of it:—

“The yellow Lambtoe I have often got
Sweet creeping o’er the banks in sunny time.”

ANTIRRHINUM.—Columella alludes to this flower as “the stern and furious lion’s gaping mouth.” Its English names are Snap Dragon, Lion’s Snap, Toad’s Mouth, Dog’s Mouth, and Calf’s Snout.——In many rural districts the Snap Dragon is believed to possess supernatural powers, and to be able to destroy charms. It was formerly supposed that when suspended about the person, this plant was a protection from witchcraft, and that it caused a maiden so wearing it to appear “gracious in the sight of people.”

APPLE.—Whether the Apple, the Orange, the Pomegranate, the Fig, the Banana, or the Grape was the actual fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, which tempted Eve in Paradise, will possibly never be settled; but it is certain that not only is the Apple mystical above all the fruits of the earth, but it is the supreme fruit. To it has been given the Latin name Pomona, which is the generic name of fruit, just as Pomona is the goddess of all the fruit trees.

The Scandinavian goddess Iduna is in a measure identified with the Tree of Immortality, which was an Apple-tree. Iduna religiously guarded in a box the Apples which the gods, when they felt old age approaching, had only to taste the juice of to become young again. The evil genius, Loki, having been instrumental in the abduction of Iduna and her renovating Apples, the gods became old and infirm, and were unable properly to govern the world; they, therefore, threatened Loki with condign punishment unless he succeeded in bringing back Iduna and her mystic Apples: this he fortunately succeeded in doing.

The golden Apples which Juno presented to Jupiter on the day of their nuptials were placed under the watchful care of a fearful dragon, in the garden of the Hesperides; and the obtaining of some of these Apples was one of the twelve labours of Hercules. By stooping to pick up three of these golden Apples presented by Venus to Hippomenes, Atalanta lost her race, but gained him as a husband. The fatal Apple—inscribed DETUR PULCHRIORI—thrown by the malevolent Discordia into the assembly of the gods, and which Paris adjudged to Venus, caused the ruin of Troy and infinite misfortune to the Greeks.

The Apple was sacred to Venus, who is often represented with the fruit in her hand. The Thebans worshipped Hercules, under the name of Melius, and offered Apples at his altar, the custom having, according to tradition, originated as follows:—The river Asopus being once so swollen as to prevent some youths from bringing across it a sheep destined to be sacrificed to Hercules, one of them recollected that the Apple was called by the same name—Mêlon. In this emergency, therefore, it was determined to offer an Apple, with four little sticks stuck in it to resemble legs, as a substitute for a sheep; and it being deemed that the sacrifice was acceptable, the Apple was thenceforth devoted to Hercules. The god Apollo was sometimes represented with an Apple in his hand.

The Celtic “Isle of the Blest,” the “fair Avalon,” is the “Island of Apples,”

“Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,
Nor ever wind blows loudly, but it lies
Deep-meadowed, happy, fair with orchard lawns,
And bowery hollows crowned with Summer sea.”

It has been attempted to localise the Island of Apples either at Glastonbury, in Somersetshire, or at Aiguilon, in Brittany. A Gaelic legend which asserts the claims of an island in Loch Awe to be identified as the Isle of the Blest, changes the mystic Apples into the fruit of the Pyrus cordata, a species of wild Pear, indigenous both to the Scotch island and to Aiguilon.

The Druids highly reverenced the Apple-tree, partly on account of its fruit, but chiefly because they believed that the Mistletoe thrived on it and on the Oak only. In consequence of its reputed sanctity, therefore, the Apple was largely cultivated by the early Britons, and Glastonbury was known as the “Apple Orchard,” from the quantity of fruit grown there previous to the Roman invasion. The Druids were wont to cut their divining-rods from the Apple-tree.

The Saxons highly prized the Apple, and in many towns established a separate market for the fruit. The following sentence from their Coronation Benediction shows with what importance it was regarded:—“May the Almighty bless thee with the blessing of heaven above, and the mountains and the valleys, with the blessings of the deep below, with the blessing of Grapes and Apples. Bless, O Lord, the courage of this Prince, and prosper the work of his hands; and by Thy blessing may this land be filled with Apples, with the fruit and dew of heaven, from the top of the ancient mountains, from the Apples of the eternal hills, from the fruits of the earth and its fulness.”

The old Saxon chronicles relate that before the battle of Senlac, King Harold pitched his camp beside the “hoar Apple-tree”—evidently a well-known object, that had doubtless preserved its quondam sacred character. Saint Serf, when on his way to Fife, threw his staff across the sea, from Inch Keith to Culross, and this staff, we are told, straightway took root and became the Apple-tree called Morglas.

Many ancient rites and ceremonies connected with this mystic tree are still practised in certain parts of the country, whilst others have of late become obsolete. In remote districts, the farmers and peasantry in Herefordshire, Devonshire, and Cornwall still preserve the ancient customs of saluting the Apple-trees on Christmas Eve. In some places, the parishioners walk in procession visiting the principal orchards in the parish. In each orchard one tree is selected as the representative of the rest; this is saluted with a certain form of words, which have in them the air of an incantation, and then the tree is either sprinkled with cider, or a bowl of cider is dashed against it, to ensure its bearing plentifully the ensuing year. In other places, the farmer and his servants only assemble on the occasion, and after immersing cakes in cider, they hang them on the Apple-trees. They then sprinkle the trees with cider, and encircling the largest, they chant the following toast three times:—

“Here’s to thee, old Apple-tree,
Whence thou may’st bud, and whence thou may’st blow;
And whence thou may’st bear Apples enow.
Hats full! caps full!
Bushel, bushel, sacks full!
And my pockets full, too!
Huzza! Huzza!”

After this the men dance round the tree, and retire to the farm-house to conclude, with copious draughts of cider, these solemn rites, which are undoubtedly relics of paganism.

In Sussex, the custom of “worsling” or wassailing Apple-trees still exists. Formerly it took place, according to the locality, some time between Christmas Eve and Twelfth Day. The most popular wassail rhyme was similar to the above, but others were sung by the “howlers.” At Chailey this verse is used:—

“Stand fast root, bear well top,
Pray that God send us a good howling crop.
Every twig, Apples big.
Every bough, Apples enow.
Hats full, caps full,
Full quarters, sacks full.”

In West Sussex, during Christmas, the farmers’ labourers assemble for the purpose of wassailing the Apple-trees. A trumpeter sounds blasts on a bullock’s horn, and the party proceed to the orchard, where they encircle a tree or group of trees, and chant sonorously—

“Stand fast at root, bear well top,
Every twig, bear Apple big,
Every bough, bear Apple enow.”

A loud shout completes the ceremony, which is repeated till all the trees in the orchard have been encircled; after which the men proceed to the homestead, and sing at the owner’s door a song common for the occasion. They are then admitted, and partake of his hospitality.

At West Wickham, in Kent, a curious custom used to prevail in Rogation week. The young men went into the orchards, and, encircling each tree, said:—

“Stand fast, root, bear well, top,
God send us a youling sop;
Every twig, Apple big;
Every bough, Apple enow.”

Cider was formerly not the only drink concocted from the Apple; another famous potation was called “Lambswool,” or more correctly, lamasool, the derivation of the word being the Celtic lámaesabhal—the day of Apple fruit. This appellation was given to the first day of November, dedicated in olden times to the titular saint of fruit and seeds. The Lambswool was composed of ale and roasted Apples, flavoured with sugar and spice; and a bowl of this beverage was drunk, with some ceremony, on the last night of October. Roasted Apples formed an important item in the composition of the famed wassail-bowl. Shakspeare probably alludes to this beverage in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ where we find the mischievous Puck saying,

“Sometimes I lurk in a gossip’s bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted Crab.”

In Sussex, the wassail-bowl was formerly made at Christmas time; it was compounded of ale, sugar, Nutmeg, and roasted Apples, the latter being called Lambswool. On St. Clement’s day, in East Sussex, the custom exists of going round from house to house asking for Apples and beer: this is called Clemmening. A similar custom prevails on St. Catherine’s Day, when the children sing a rhyme commencing—

“Cattern’ and Clemen’ be here, here, here,
Give us your Apples and give us your beer.”

In Lowland Scotland, there is an old charm still practised by village maidens on Hallow-e’en. It is to go alone into a room, and eat an Apple in front of a looking-glass, when the face of the future husband will appear looking over the maid’s shoulder.

In Scotland, on Hallow-e’en, Apples are thrown into a tub of water, and you endeavour to catch one in your mouth as they bob around in provoking fashion. When you have caught one, you peel it carefully, and pass the long strip of peel thrice sunwise round your head, after which you throw it over your shoulder, and it falls to the ground in the shape of the initial letter of your true love’s name.

In some places, on this mystic night, a stick is suspended horizontally from the ceiling, with a candle at one end and an Apple at the other. While it is made to revolve rapidly, the revellers successively leap up, and endeavour to grasp the Apple with their teeth (the hands must not be used); if they fail, the candle generally swings round in time to salute them disagreeably. Another amusement is to dive for Apples in a tub of water.

In Sussex, on this eve, every person present fastens an Apple on a string, and hangs and twirls it before the fire. The owner of the Apple that first falls off is declared to be upon the point of marriage; and as they fall successively, the order in which the rest of the party will attain to matrimonial honours is clearly indicated, single blessedness being the lot of the one whose Apple is the last to drop.

The custom of throwing the peel of an Apple over the head, marriage or celibacy being foretold by its remaining whole or breaking, is well known, as is also that of finding in a peel so cast the initial of the coming sweetheart.

Mr. Dyer, in his ‘English Folk-lore,’ details a form of divination by means of an Apple-pip. “In Lancashire,” he says, “in order to ascertain the abode of a lover, the anxious inquirer moves round in a circle, at the same time squeezing an Apple-pippin between his finger and thumb. This, on being subjected to pressure, flies from the rind, in the supposed direction of the lover’s residence. Meanwhile, the following rhyme is repeated:—

‘Pippin, pippin, paradise,
Tell me where my true love lies;
East, west, north, and south,
Pilling brig or Cocker mouth.’”

It was formerly customary for Apples to be blessed by priests on July 25th; and in the manual of the Church of Sarum is preserved an especial form for this purpose. In Derbyshire, there is a saying that if the sun shines through the trees on Christmas Day, it ensures a good crop. In Northamptonshire, if the Apple-tree should bloom after the fruit is ripe, it is regarded as a sure omen of death. In the Apple-growing districts, there is an old saying that if it rains on St. Swithin’s Day, it is the Saint christening the Apples.

De Gubernatis, in his Mythologie des Plantes, gives several curious customs connected with the Apple, which are still extant in foreign countries. In Serbia, when a maiden accepts from her lover an Apple, she is engaged. In Hungary, a betrothed maiden, after having received from her lover the “engaged” ring, presents him with an Apple, the special symbol of all nuptial gifts. Young Greek girls never cease to invoke, upon marriage, the golden Apple. In Sicily, when a young man is in love, he presents the object of his affections with a love Apple. At Mount San Giuliano, in Sicily, on St. John’s Day, every young girl throws from the window of her room an Apple into the street, and watches to see who picks it up: should a woman do so, it is a sign that the maiden will not be married during the year; if the Apple is only looked at and not touched, it signifies that the maiden, after her marriage, will soon become a widow: if the first person passing is a priest, the young girl will die a virgin. In Montenegro, the mother-in-law presents an Apple to the young bride, who must try and throw it on the roof of her husband’s house: if the Apple falls on the roof, the marriage will be blest, that is to say there will be children. At Taranto, in Southern Italy, at the wedding breakfast, when the Apples are introduced, each guest takes one, and having pierced it with a knife, places a piece of silver money in the incision: then all the Apples are offered to the young bride, who bites each, and takes out the money.

In a Roumanian legend, the infant Jesus, in the arms of the blessed Virgin, becomes restless, will not go to sleep, and begins to cry. The Virgin, to calm the Holy Child, gives Him two Apples. The infant throws one upwards, and it becomes the Moon; He then throws the second, and it becomes the Sun. After this exploit, the Virgin Mary addresses Him and foretells that He will become the Lord of Heaven.

In old pictures of St. Dorothea, the virgin martyr is represented with a basket containing Apples and Roses: this is in allusion to the legend of her death, which tells that as Dorothea was being led forth to martyrdom, Theophilus, a lawyer, mockingly bade her send him fruits and flowers from Paradise. Dorothea, inclining her head, said, “Thy request, O Theophilus, is granted!” Whereat he laughed aloud with his companions, but she went on cheerfully to death. Arrived at the place of execution, she knelt down and prayed; and suddenly there appeared at her side a beautiful boy, with hair bright as sunbeams. In his hand he held a basket containing three Apples and three fresh-gathered and fragrant Roses. She said to him, “Carry these to Theophilus, and say that Dorothea hath sent them, and that I go before him to the garden whence they came, and await him there.” With these words she bent her neck, and received the death-stroke. Meantime, the angelic boy sought Theophilus, and placed before him the basket of celestial fruit and flowers, saying, “Dorothea sends thee these,” and vanished. Struck by the marvellous incident, Theophilus tasted of the heavenly fruit, and commenced a new life, following in Dorothea’s footsteps, and eventually obtaining the crown of martyrdom.

Mr. Dyer quotes the following from ‘Notes and Queries’:—“In South-east Devon and the neighbourhood, a curious legend is, we learn, current among the farmers respecting St. Dunstan and the Apple-trees. It is said that he bought up a quantity of Barley, and therewith made beer. The Devil, knowing that the Saint would naturally desire to get a good sale for his beer, which he had just brewed, went to him and said, that if he would sell himself to him, then he (the Devil) would go and blight the Apple-trees, so that there should be no cider, and, consequently there would be a far greater demand for beer. St. Dunstan, naturally wishing to drive a brisk trade in his beer, accepted the offer at once; but stipulated that the trees should be blighted in three days, which days fell on the 17th, 18th, and 19th of May. In the almanacs, the 19th is marked as St. Dunstan’s Day, and, as about this time the Apple-trees are in blossom, many anxious allusions are generally made to St. Dunstan; and should, as is sometimes the case, a sharp frost nip the Apple-blossoms, they believe they know who has been at the bottom of the mischief. There seems to be several versions of this legendary superstition. According to some, on a certain night in June, three powerful witches pass through the air, and if they drop certain charms on the blossoming orchards, the crops will be blighted. In other parts of the country, this is known as ‘Frankum’s Night,’ and the story is, that long ago, on this night, one Frankum made ‘a sacrifice’ in his orchard, with the object of getting a specially fine crop. His spells were answered by a blight; and the night is thus regarded as most critical.”

In a Polish legend, derived doubtless from the myth of the Hesperides, the hawk takes the place of the dragon. A young princess, through magic, is shut up in a golden castle situated on a mountain of ice: before the castle she finds an Apple-tree bearing golden Apples. No one is able to come to this castle. Whenever a cavalier ascends the side of the ice mountain in order to release the princess, the hawk darts down and blinds his horse, and both horse and rider are precipitated down the abyss. At length the appointed hero arrives, slays the hawk, gathers the golden Apples, and delivers the princess.

According to a Hanoverian legend, a young girl descends to the infernal regions by means of a staircase, which she discovers under an Apple-tree growing at the back of the house. She sees a garden, where the sun seems to shine more brightly than on earth; the trees are blossoming or are loaded with fruit. The damsel fills her apron with Apples, which become golden when she returns to earth.

In the popular tales of all countries, the Apple is represented as the magical fruit par excellence. The Celtic priests held the Apple sacred, and in Gaelic, Norse, German, and Italian stories it is constantly introduced as a mysterious and enchanted fruit. Mr. Campbell, in the introduction to his Tales of the West Highlands, points out that when the hero wishes to pass from Islay to Ireland, he pulls out sixteen Apples and throws them into the sea one after another, and he steps from one to the other. When the giant’s daughter runs away with the king’s son, she cuts an Apple into a mystical number of small bits, and each bit talks. When she kills the giant, she puts an Apple under the hoof of the magic filly, and he dies, for his life is the Apple, and it is crushed. When the byre is cleansed, it is so clean, that a golden Apple would run from end to end and never raise a stain. There is a Gruagach who has a golden Apple, which is thrown at all comers, who, if they fail to catch it, die. When it is caught and thrown back by the hero, Gruagach an Ubhail, dies. There is a certain game called cluich an ubhail—the Apple play—which seems to have been a deadly game. When the king’s daughter transports the soldier to the green island on the magic table-cloth, he finds magic Apples which transform him, and others which cure him, and by which he transforms the cruel princess, and recovers his magic treasures. When the two eldest idle king’s sons go out to herd the giant’s cattle, they find an Apple-tree whose fruit moves up and down as they vainly strive to pluck it; in fact, in all Gaelic stories, the Apple when introduced has something marvellous about it.

So, in the German, in the ‘Man of Iron,’ a princess throws a golden Apple as a prize, which the hero catches three times, and carries off, and wins. In ‘Snow White,’ where the poisoned comb occurs, there is a poisoned magic Apple also. In the ‘Old Griffin,’ the rich princess is cured by rosy-cheeked Apples. In the ‘White Snake,’ a servant who understands the voice of birds, helps creatures in distress, gets them aid, and procures golden Apples from three ravens which fly over the sea to the end of the world, where stands the tree of life. When he had got the Apple, he and the princess eat it and marry. Again, in the ‘Wonderful Hares,’ a golden Apple is the gift for which the finder is to gain a princess; and that Apple grew on a tree, the sole one of its kind.

In Norse it is the same: the princess on the glass mountain held three golden Apples in her lap, and he who could ride up the hill and carry off the Apples was to win the prize; and the princess rolled them down to the hero, and they rolled into his shoe. The good girl plucked the Apples from the tree which spoke to her when she went down the well to the underground world; but the ill-tempered step-sister thrashed down the fruit; and when the time of trial came, the Apple-tree played its part and protected the poor girl.

In a French tale, a singing Apple is one of the marvels which Princess Belle Etoile and her brothers and her cousin bring from the end of the world. In an Italian story, a lady when she has lost her husband goes off to the Atlantic Ocean with three golden Apples; and the mermaid who has swallowed the husband shows first his head, then his body to the waist, and then to the knees, each time for a golden Apple. Then, finally, in the ‘Arabian Nights,’ there is a long story, called the Three Apples, which turns upon the theft of one, which was considered to have been of priceless value. The Apple-blossom is considered to be an emblem of preference. To dream of Apples betokens long life, success in trade, and a lover’s faithfulness.

APPLE OF SODOM.—The Solanum Sodomeum is a purple Egg-plant of which the fruit is naturally large and handsome. It is, however, subject to the attacks of an insect (a species of Cynips), which punctures the rind, and converts the interior of the fruit into a substance like ashes, while the outside remains fair and beautiful. It is found on the desolate shores of the Dead Sea, on the site of those cities of the plain the dreadful judgment on which is recorded in sacred history. Hence the fruit, called the Apple of Sodom, has acquired a sinister reputation, and is regarded as the symbol of sin. Its first appearance, it is said, is always attended with a bitter north-east wind, and therefore ships for the Black Sea take care to sail before the harbinger of bad weather comes forth. The fruit is reputed to be poisonous. Josephus, the Jewish historian, speaks of them as having “a fair colour, as if they were fit to be eaten; but if you pluck them with your hand, they vanish into smoke and ashes.” Milton, describing an Apple which added new torments to the fallen angels, compares it to the Apples of Sodom:—

“Greedily they pluck’d
The fruitage fair to sight, like that which grew
Near that bituminous lake where Sodom flamed.
This mere delusion, not the touch but taste
Deceived; they fondly thinking to allay
Their appetite with gust, instead of fruit
Chewed bitter ashes.”

Henry Teonge, who visited the country round the Dead Sea in 1675, describes it as being “all over full of stones which looke just like burnt syndurs, and on some low shrubbs there grow small round things which are called Apples, but no witt like them. They are somewhat fayre to looke at, but touch them and they smoulder all to black ashes, like soote both for looks and smell.”—The name Apple of Sodom is also given to a kind of Gall-nut, which is found growing on various species of dwarf Oaks on the banks of the Jordan.—Dead Sea Apples is a term applied to the Bussorah Gall-nut, which is formed on the Oak Quercus infectoria by an insect, and being of a bright ruddy purple, but filled with a gritty powder, they are suggestive of the deceptive Apple of Sodom.

“Dead Sea fruits, that tempt the eye,
But turn to ashes on the lips.”

Apple of Paradise, or Adam’s Apple.—See Banana.

Apple, Love.—See Solanum.

Apple, Mad.—See Solanum.

APRICOT.—According to Columella, the Persians sent the Peach to Egypt to poison the inhabitants; and a species of Apricot is called by the people of Barbary, Matza Franca, or the “Killer of Christians.” The Persians call the Apricot of Iran, the “Seed of the Sun.” The ancients appear to have regarded it as a prophetical or oracular tree.——It was in the solitude of a grove of Apricot-trees that Confucius, the venerated Chinese sage, completed his commentaries on the King or ancient books of China, and beneath this shade he erected an altar, and solemnly thanked Heaven for having permitted him to accomplish his cherished task.——The name has undergone curious transformations: it is traceable to the Latin præcoqua, early; the fruit being supposed by the Romans to be an early Peach. The Arabs (although living near the region of which the tree is a native) took the Latin name, and twisted it into al burquq; the Spaniards altered its Moorish name into albaricoque; the Italians reproduced it as albicoces; the French from them got abricot; and we, in England, although taking the name from the French, first called it Abricock, or Aprecock, and finally Apricot.——The Apricot is under the dominion of Venus. To dream of this fruit denotes health, a speedy marriage, and every success in life.

ARBOR VITÆ.—This tree, otherwise known as Thuja, is called by Pliny, Thya (from thyon, a sacrifice). The resin of the Eastern variety is, in certain localities, frequently used instead of incense at sacrifices. How the tree acquired the name of Arbor Vitæ is not known, unless from some supposed virtue of its berries. Gerarde, who had only seen the Canadian variety, says of it that, of all the trees from that country, the Arbor Vitæ, or Thya, was “the most principall, and best agreeing unto the nature of man, as an excellent cordial, and of a very pleasant smell.” He also tells us that it was sometimes called Cedrus Lycia, and that it is not to be confounded with the Tree of Life mentioned in Genesis.

ARBUTUS.—The Arbutus, or Strawberry-tree (Arbutus unedo), was held sacred by the Romans. It was one of the attributes of Cardea, a sister of Apollo, who was beloved by Janus, guardian of gates and avenues. With a rod of Arbutus—virga Janalis—Cardea drove away witches and protected little children when ill or bewitched. The Romans employed the Arbutus, with other symbolic trees and flowers, at the Palilia, a festival held in honour of the pastoral goddess Pales. It was a Roman custom to deposit branches of the Arbutus on coffins, and Virgil tells us that Arbutus rods and Oak twigs formed the bier of young Pallas, the son of Evander. Horace, in his Odes, has celebrated the shade afforded by the Arbutus. Ovid speaks of the tree as “the Arbutus heavy with its ruby fruit,” and tells us that, in the Golden Age, the fruit afforded food to man. This fruit is called unedo, and Pliny is stated to have given it that name became it was so bitter that he who ate one would eat no more.——The Oriental Arbutus, or Andrachne, bears fruit resembling a scarlet Strawberry in size and flavour. In Greece, it has the reputation of so affecting serpents who feed upon it, that they speedily cease to be venomous. The water distilled from the leaves and blossom of the Arbutus was accounted a very powerful agent against the plague and poisons.

ARCHANGEL.—The name of Archangel is applied to the Angelica archangelica; the Red Archangel, Stachys sylvatica; the White Archangel, Lamium album; and the Yellow Archangel, L. Galeobdolon. Nemnich says, the plant originally obtained its name from its having been revealed by an angel, in a dream. Parkinson considers it was so called on account of its heavenly virtues. Gerarde remarks of it, that “the flowers are baked with sugar, as Roses are, which is called Sugar Roset: as also the distilled water of them, which is used to make the heart merry, to make a good colour in the face, and to refresh the vitall spirits.”

ARECA.—The Areca Catechu is one of the sacred plants of India, producing the perfumed Areca Nuts, favourite masticatories of the Indian races. So highly is this nut esteemed by the natives, that they would rather forego meat and drink than their precious Areca Nuts, which they cut into narrow pieces, and roll up with a little lime in the leaves of the Pepper, and chew. The Areca Palm is known in Hindostan as Supyari, and in Japan as Jambi. The Hindus adorn their gods with these Nuts, and forbid respectable women to deck either their heads or bosoms with them. According to Indian tradition, Devadamani, subduer of the gods, once appeared at the court of King Vikramâditya, to play with him, clothed in a robe the colour of the sky, having in his hand and in his mouth an Areca Nut enveloped in a leaf of the Kalpa-tree. This probably explains the Indian custom of presenting an Areca Nut to guests, which is eaten with the leaf of the Betel. In China, a similar custom prevails, but the Nut given there is the Betel Nut.

ARISTOLOCHIA.—The old English name of this plant was Birth-wort, derived from its reputed remedial powers in parturition—probably first suggested by the shape of the corolla—whence also its Greek name, from aristos, best, and locheia, delivery. According to Pliny, if the expectant mother desired to have a son, she employed Aristolochia, with the flesh of an ox.——Certain of the species are renowned, in some European countries, for having a wonderful influence over fishes and serpents. A. Serpentaria is reputed to be so offensive to the serpent tribe, that they will not only shun the place where it grows, but will even flee from any traveller who carries a piece of the plant in his hand. The snake jugglers of Egypt are believed to stupefy these reptiles by means of a decoction distilled from the plant, and it is asserted that a few drops introduced into the mouth of a serpent will so intoxicate it as to render it insensible and harmless.——Apuleius recommends the use of Aristolochia against the Evil Eye.——The Birth-wort is under the dominion of Venus.

ARKA.—This is the Indian name of the Calotropis gigantea, also called Arkapatra and Arkaparna (the lightning-leaved), the leaves of which present the cuneiform symbols of lightning. Arka, says De Gubernatis, is also the name of the Sun, and this explains why the Brahmins employed the leaf of the Calotropis on the occasion of sacrificing to the Sun. In each part of the Arka it is stated that a portion of the human body can be distinguished. Notwithstanding its grand name, and its beautiful appearance, people have a dread of approaching it, lest it should strike them blind. The origin of this superstition is to be found in the word Arka, which means both the sun and the lightning.

ARTEMISIA.—The genus of plants known as Artemisia was so called after the goddess Artemis (who was regarded by the Romans as identical with Diana, or the Moon), by reason of some of its species being used in bringing on precocious puberty. On this account, also, it is one of the plants specially under the influence of the Moon.—(See Southernwood and Wormwood).

ARUNDHATI.—This is the Brahminical name of a climbing plant of good omen, and to which, according to De Gubernatis, the Atharvaveda attributes magical properties against diseases of the skin. It gives milk to sterile cows, it heals wounds, it delivers men from sickness, it protects those who drink its juices. It is the sister of the water and of the gods; the night is its mother; the mist, the horse of Yama, its father; Aryaman its grandfather. It descends from the mouth of the horse of Yama.

ARUM.—The Germans call the Arum Aronswurzel, and entertain the notion that where this flourishes, the spirits of the wood rejoice. The majestic Ethiopian species of the Arum (Calla Æthiopica) is commonly called the Horn-flower, from the shape of its large white calyx. In tropical climates, the plant is a deadly poison. The Arum of English hedgerows, a flower of a very much humbler character, is known by a variety of quaint names, viz., Aaron, Cuckoo-pint, Cuckoo-pintle, Wake Robin, Friar’s Cowl, Priest’s-pintle, Lords-and-Ladies, Cows-and-Calves, Ramp, Starchwort, and, in Worcestershire, Bloody Men’s Fingers (from the red berries that surround the spadix). These blood-red spots have caused the plant to received in Cheshire the name of Gethsemane, because it is said to have been growing at the foot of the Cross, and to have received some drops of our Saviour’s blood.

“Those deep inwrought marks,
The villagers will tell thee,
Are the flower’s portion from the atoning blood
On Calvary shed. Beneath the Cross it grew.”

This flower, the Arum maculatum, is the English Passion-flower: its berries are highly poisonous, and every part of the plant is acrid; yet the root contains a farinaceous substance, which, when properly prepared, and its acrid juice expressed, is good for food, and is indeed sold under the name of Portland Sago.——Starch has been made from the root, and the French use it in compounding the cosmetic known as Cypress powder. A drachm weight of the spotted Wake Robin, either fresh or dry, was formerly considered as a sure remedy for poison and the plague. The juice of the herb swallowed, to the quantity of a spoonful, had the same effect. Beaten up with Ox-dung, the berries or roots were believed to ease the pains of gout.——Arum is under the dominion of Mars.

ASOKA.—The Saraca Indica, or Jonesia Asoka, is one of the sacred plants of India, which has from remotest ages been consecrated to their temple decoration, probably on account of the beauty of its orange-red blossoms and the delicacy of its perfume, which in the months of March and April is exhaled throughout the night. The tree is the symbol of love, and dedicated to Kâma, the Indian god of love. Like the Agnus Castus, it is reported to have a certain charm in preserving chastity: thus Sîtâ, the wife of Râma, when abducted by the monster Râvana, escapes from the caresses of the monster and finds refuge in a grove of Asokas. In the legend of Buddha, when Mâyâ is conscious of having conceived the Bodhisattva, under the guise of an elephant, she retires to a wood of Asoka trees, and then sends for her husband. The Hindus entertain the superstition that a single touch of the foot of a pretty woman is sufficient to cause the Asoka to flourish. The word asoka signifies that which is deprived of grief, and Asoka, or the tree without grief, is also one of the names of the Bodhidruma, the sacred tree of Buddha.

ASPEN.—A legend referring to the tremulous motion of this tree (Populus tremula—see Poplar) is to the following effect:—“At the awful hour of the Passion, when the Saviour of the world felt deserted in His agony, when earth, shaken with horror, rang the parting knell for Deity, and universal nature groaned: then, from the loftiest tree to the lowliest flower, all felt a sudden thrill, and trembling bowed their heads, all save the Aspen, which said: ‘Why should we weep and tremble? The trees and flowers are pure and never sinned!’ Ere it ceased to speak, an involuntary trembling seized its every leaf, and the word went forth that it should never rest, but tremble on until the Day of Judgment.” An old saying affirmed that the leaves of the Aspen were made from women’s tongues, which never ceased wagging; and allusion is made to this in the following rhyme by Hannay, 1622:—

“The quaking Aspen, light and thin,
In the air quick passage gives;
Resembling still
The trembling ill
Of tempers of womankind,
Which never rest,
But still are prest
To wave with every wind.”

The Bretons have a legend that the Saviour’s cross was made of Aspen wood; and that the ceaseless trembling of the leaves of this tree marks the shuddering of sympathetic horror. The Germans preserve an ancient tradition that, during their flight into Egypt, the Holy Family came to a dense forest, in which, but for an angelic guide, they must have lost their way. As they entered this wilderness, all the trees bowed themselves down in reverence to the infant God; only the Aspen, in her exceeding pride and arrogance, refused to acknowledge Him, and stood upright. Then the Holy Child pronounced a curse against her, as He in after life cursed the barren Fig-tree; and at the sound of His words the Aspen began to tremble through all her leaves, and has not ceased to tremble to this day. Mr. Henderson, in his ‘Folk-lore of the Northern Counties,’ states that this tradition has been embodied in a little poem, which may be thus translated:—

“Once as our Saviour walked with men below,
His path of mercy through a forest lay;
And mark how all the drooping branches show,
What homage best a silent tree may pay!
“Only the Aspen stands erect and free,
Scorning to join the voiceless worship pure;
But see! He casts one look upon the tree,
Struck to the heart she trembles evermore!”

The Kirghises, who have become almost Mussulmans, have nevertheless preserved a profound veneration for the sacred Aspen.——Astrologers hold that the Aspen is a lunar tree.

ASPHODEL.—The Asphodel is the flower which flourished in the Elysian Fields. Orpheus, in Pope’s ‘Ode on St. Cecilia’s Day,’ conjures the infernal deities—

“By the streams that ever flow;
By the fragrant winds that blow
O’er the Elysian flowers;
By those happy souls who dwell
In yellow meads of Asphodel,
Or Amaranthine bowers.”

Homer tells us that, having crossed the Styx, the shades passed over a long prairie of Asphodel; and Lucian makes old Charon say:—“I know why Mercury keeps us waiting so long. Down here with us there is nothing to be had but Asphodel, and libations and oblations, and that in the midst of mist and darkness: but up in heaven it is all bright and clear, and plenty of ambrosia there, and nectar without stint.” The fine flowers of this plant of the infernal regions produced grains which were believed by the ancients to afford nourishment to the dead. Accordingly we find that the Greeks planted Asphodel and Mallows round graves. The edible roots of the Asphodel were also wont to be laid as offerings in the tombs of the departed, and, according to Hesiod, they served as food for the poor. The Asphodel was held sacred to Bacchus, probably because he visited the infernal regions, and rescued his mother Semele from the kingdom of the departed. Wreaths of the Asphodel were worn by Bacchus, Proserpine, Diana, and Semele. Asphodels were among the flowers forming the couch of Jupiter and Juno, and Milton has named them as put to the same use by Adam and Eve.

“Flowers were the couch,
Pansies, and Violets, and Asphodel,
And Hyacinth, earth’s freshest, softest lap.”

Dr. Prior says that the Asphodel root was, under the name of cibo regio (food for a king), highly esteemed in the middle ages, but, however improved by cultivation, it is likely to have been troublesome by its diuretic qualities, and has probably on that account gone out of fashion. Rapin, in his poem, refers to the Asphodel as forming an article of food—

“And rising Asphodel forsakes her bed,
On whose sweet root our rustic fathers fed.”

ASTER.—The old English name of the Aster is Star-wort. Rapin says of this flower—

“The Attic star, so named in Grecian use,
But called Amellus by the Mantuan Muse
In meadows reigns near some cool streamlet’s side,
Or marshy vales where winding currents glide.
Wreaths of this gilded flower the shepherds twine,
When grapes now ripe in clusters load the vine.”

The Aster is thus identified with the Amellus, of the Greek and Latin poets, and, according to Virgil, the altars of the gods were often adorned with wreaths of these flowers. In his Fourth Georgic the poet prescribes the root of the Italian Star-wort (Aster Amellus) for sickly bees. (See Amellus). The leaves of the Attic Star-wort (when burnt) had the reputation of driving away serpents. In Germany, the Star-wort is used by lovers as an oracle, to decide whether their love is returned or not. The person consulting it repeats the words—

“Er liebt mich von Herzen
Mit Schmerzen,
Ja—oder Nein.”

At the recurrence of the words ja and nein a leaf is pulled out, and the answer depends on which of these words is pronounced as the last of the leaves is plucked. Göthe introduces this rustic superstition in his tragedy of ‘Faust,’ where the luckless heroine consults the floral oracle as to the affection entertained for her by Faust. The French call the Italian Star-wort, or Amellus, l’Œil de Christ, and the China Aster la Reine Marguerite——The Aster is considered to be a herb of Venus.

ASH.—This tree (Fraxinus excelsior), called, on account of its elegance, the Venus of the forest, and from its utility, the husbandman’s tree, was regarded by the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Scandinavians as a sacred tree, and as one of good omen. In the Teutonic mythology, the Ash is the most venerated of trees, and the Scandinavian Edda, the sacred book of the Northmen, furnishes a detailed account of the mystic Ash Yggdrasill, or mundane tree, beneath whose shade was the chief or holiest seat of the gods, where they assembled every day in council. (See Yggdrasill.) According to the old Norse tradition, it was out of the wood of the Ash that man was first formed; and the Greeks entertained a similar belief, for we find Hesiod deriving his brazen race of men from it. The goddess Nemesis was sometimes represented with an Ashen wand. Cupid, before he learnt to use the more potent Cypress, employed Ash for the wood of his arrows. At the Nuptials of Peleus and Thetis, Chiron appeared with a branch of Ash, from which was made the lance of Peleus, which afterwards became the spear of Achilles. Rapin writes of this tree—

“But on fair levels and a gentle soil
The noble Ash rewards the planter’s toil.
Noble e’er since Achilles from her side
Took the dire spear by which brave Hector died;
Whose word resembling much the hero’s mind,
Will sooner break than bend—a stubborn kind.”

There exists an old superstition, that a serpent will rather creep into the fire than over a twig of the Ash-tree, founded upon the statements of Pliny with respect to the magical powers of the Ash against serpents. It was said that serpents always avoided the shade of the Ash; so that if a fire and a serpent were placed within a circle of Ash-leaves, the serpent, to avoid the Ash, would even run into the midst of the fire. Cowley, enumerating various prodigies, says:—

“On the wild Ash’s tops, the bats and owls,
With, all night, ominous and baleful fowls,
Sate brooding, while the screeches of these droves
Profaned and violated all the groves.


But that which gave more wonder than the rest,
Within an Ash a serpent built her nest,
And laid her eggs; when once to come beneath
The very shadow of an Ash was death.”

There exists a popular belief in Cornwall, that no kind of snake is ever found near the “Ashen-tree,” and that a branch of the Ash will prevent a snake from coming near a person. There is a legend that a child, who was in the habit of receiving its portion of bread and milk at the cottage door, was found to be in the habit of sharing its food with one of the poisonous adders. The reptile came regularly every morning, and the child, pleased with the beauty of his companion, encouraged the visits. So the babe and the adder thus became close friends. Eventually this became known to the mother (who, being a labourer in the fields, was compelled to leave her child all day), and she found it to be a matter of great difficulty to keep the snake from the child whenever it was left alone. She therefore adopted the precaution of binding an Ashen-twig about its body. The adder no longer came near the child; but, from that day forward, the poor little one pined away, and eventually died, as all around said, through grief at having lost the companion by whom it had been fascinated.

On the subject of the serpent’s antipathy to the Ash, we find Gerarde writing as follows:—“The leaves of this tree are of so great vertue against serpents, that they dare not so much as touch the morning and evening shadowes of the tree, but shun them afar off, as Pliny reports (lib. 16, c. 13). He also affirmeth that the serpent being penned in with boughes laid round about, will sooner run into the fire, if any be there, than come neare the boughes of the Ash; and that the Ash floureth before the serpents appeare, and doth not cast its leaves before they be gon againe. We write (saith he) upon experience, that if the serpent be set within a circle of fire and the branches, the serpent will sooner run into the fire than into the boughes. It is a wonderfull courtesie in nature, that the Ash should floure before the serpents appeare, and not cast his leaves before they be gon againe.” Other old writers affirm that the leaves, either taken inwardly, or applied outwardly, are singularly good against the biting of snakes or venomous beasts; and that the water distilled from them, and taken every morning fasting, is thought to abate corpulence. The ashes of the Ash and Juniper are stated to cure leprosy.

The pendent winged seeds, called spinners or keys, were believed to have the same effect as the leaves: in country places there is to this day an opinion current, that when these keys are abundant, a severe Winter will follow. A bunch of Ash-keys is still thought efficacious as a protection against witchcraft.

In marshy situations, the roots of the Ash will run a long way at a considerable depth, thus acting as sub-drains: hence the proverb, in some parts of the country, “May your foot-fall be by the root of the Ash.” In the Spring, when the Ash and Oak are coming into leaf, Kentish folk exclaim:—“Oak, smoke; Ash, squash.” If the Oak comes out first, they believe the Summer will prove hot; if the Ash, it will be wet.

“If the Oak’s before the Ash,
You will only get a splash;
If the Ash precedes the Oak,
You will surely have a soak.”

Gilbert White tells us of a superstitious custom, still extant, which he thinks was derived from the Saxons, who practised it before their conversion to Christianity. Ash-trees, when young and flexible, were severed, and held open by wedges, while ruptured children, stripped naked, were pushed through the apertures, under a persuasion that they would be cured of their infirmity. The operation over, the tree was plastered up with loam, and carefully swathed. If the severed parts coalesced in due course, the babe was sure to be cured; but if not, the operation would probably be ineffectual. The same writer relates another extraordinary custom among rustics: they bore a deep hole in an Ash-tree, and imprison a live shrew mouse therein: the tree then becomes a Shrew-Ash, whose twigs or branches, gently applied to the limbs of cattle, will immediately relieve the cramp, lameness, and pain supposed to attack the animal wherever a shrew mouse has crept over it.

Lightfoot says that, in the Highlands, at the birth of an infant, the nurse takes a green Ash stick, one end of which she puts into the fire; and, while it is burning, receives in a spoon the sap that oozes from the other, which she administers to the child as its first food: this custom is thought to be derived from the old Aryan practice of feeding young children with the honey-like juice of the Fraxinus Ornus. The sap of the Ash, tapped on certain days, is drunk in Germany as a remedy for the bites of serpents.

In Northumberland, there is a belief that if the first parings of an infant’s nails are buried under an Ash, the child will turn out a “top singer.” In Staffordshire, the common people believe that it is very dangerous to break a bough from the Ash. In Leicestershire, the Ash is employed as a charm for warts. In the month of April or May, the sufferer is taken to an Ash-tree: the operator (who is provided with a paper of new pins) takes a pin, and having first struck it through the bark, presses it through the wart until it produces pain; the pin is then taken out and stuck into the tree, where it is left. Each wart is similarly treated, a separate pin being used for each. The warts will disappear in a few weeks. It is a wide-spread custom to stroke with a twig from an Ash-tree, under the roots of which a horse-shoe has been buried, any animal which is supposed to have been bewitched.

An Ashen herding stick is preferred by Scotch boys to any other, because in throwing it at their cattle it is sure not to strike in a vital part, and so kill or injure the animal, a contingency which may occur, it seems, with other sticks. It is worthy of note that the lituus of the Roman Augur—a staff with a crook at one end—was formed of an Ash-tree bough, the crook being sometimes produced naturally, but more often by artificial means.

In many parts of England, the finding of an even Ash-leaf is considered to be an augury of good luck; hence the old saying, so dear to tender maids—

“If you find an even Ash or a four-leaved Clover,
Rest assured you’ll see your true-love ere the day is over.”

In Cornwall, this charm is frequently made use of for invoking good luck:—

“Even Ash I thee do pluck,
Hoping thus to meet good luck.
If no good luck I get from thee,
I shall wish thee on the tree.”

In Henderson’s ‘Northern Folk-lore,’ occur the following lines regarding the virtues of even Ash-leaves:—

“The even Ash-leaf in my left hand,
The first man I meet shall be my husband.
The even Ash-leaf in my glove,
The first I meet shall be my love.
The even Ash-leaf for my breast,
The first man I meet’s whom I love best.
The even Ash-leaf in my hand,
The first I meet shall be my man.”
“Even Ash, even Ash, I pluck thee,
This night my true love for to see;
Neither in his rick nor in his rear,
But in the clothes he does every day wear.”

It is a tradition among the gipsies that the cross our Saviour was crucified upon was made of Ash.

In Devonshire, it is customary to burn an Ashen faggot at Christmastide, in commemoration of the fact that the Divine Infant at Bethlehem was first washed and dressed by a fire of Ash-wood.

The Yule-clog or -log which ancient custom prescribes to be burnt on Christmas Eve, used to be of Ash: thus we read in an old poem:—

“Thy welcome Eve, loved Christmas, now arrived,
The parish bells their tuneful peals resound,
And mirth and gladness every breast pervade.
The ponderous Ashen-faggot, from the yard,
The jolly farmer to his crowded hall
Conveys with speed; where, on the rising flames
(Already fed with store of massy brands),
It blazes soon; nine bandages it bears,
And, as they each disjoin (so custom wills),
A mighty jug of sparkling cider’s brought
With brandy mixt, to elevate the guests.”

Spenser speaks of the Ash as being “for nothing ill,” but the tree has always been regarded as a special attractor of lightning, and there is a very old couplet, which says:—

“Avoid an Ash,
It courts the flash.”

Its character as an embodiment of fire is manifested in a remarkable Swedish legend given in Grimm’s ‘German Mythology.’ Some seafaring people, it is said, received an Ash-tree from a giant, with directions to set it upon the altar of a church he wished to destroy. Instead, however, of carrying out his instructions, they placed the Ash on the mound over a grave, which to their astonishment instantly burst into flames.

There is an old belief that to prevent pearls from being discoloured, it is sufficient to keep them shut up with a piece of Ash-root.

Astrologers appear to be divided in their opinions as to whether the Ash is under the dominion of the Sun or of Jupiter.

ASVATTHA.—The Indian Veda prescribes that for the purpose of kindling the sacred fire, the wood of an Asvattha (Ficus religiosa), growing upon a Sami (Mimosa Suma), should be employed. The idea of a marriage suggested by such a union of the two trees is also developed in the Vedas with much minuteness of detail. The process by which, in the Hindu temples, fire is obtained from wood resembles churning. It consists in drilling one piece of wood (the Asvattha, symbolising the male element) into another (the Sami, representing the female element). This is effected by pulling a string tied to it, with a jerk, with one hand, while the other is slackened, and so alternately until the wood takes fire. The fire is received on cotton or flax held in the hand of an assistant Brahman. This Indian fire-generator is known as the “chark.” (See also Sami and Peepul).

AURICULA.—The old Latin name of this plant was Auricula ursi, from the shape of the leaves resembling a bear’s ear. It is thought to be the Alisma of Dioscorides. Matthiolus and Pena call it Sanicula Alpina, from its potency in healing wounds. Old herbalists have also named it Paralytica on account of its being esteemed a remedy for the palsy. Gerarde calls it Bear’s-ear, or Mountain Cowslip, and tells us that the root was in great request among Alpine hunters, for the effect it produced in strengthening the head and preventing giddiness and swimming of the brain overtaking them on high elevations. The plant is reputed to be somewhat carnivorous, and cultivators place juicy pieces of meat about the roots, so that they may absorb the blood.——In Germany, the Auricula is considered emblematical of love of home.

AVAKA.—The Avaka or Sîpâla is an India aquatic plant, which plays an important part in their funeral ceremonies. It is placed in a cavity made, according to their custom, to the north-east of the sacred fire Ahavanîya, and it is believed that the soul of the deceased person passes into this cavity, and thence ascends with the smoke to heaven. The Avaka or Sîpâla forms the food of the Gandharvas, who preside over the India waters.

Avens.—See Herb Bennett.

AZALEA.—This handsome shrub is narcotic and poisonous in all its parts. Xenophon, in his narrative of the ‘Retreat of the Ten Thousand,’ in Asia, after the death of Cyrus, tells how his soldiers became temporarily stupefied and delirious, as if intoxicated, after partaking of the honey of Trebizond on the Black Sea. The baneful properties of this honey arose from the poisonous nature of the blossoms of the Azalea Pontica, from which the bees had collected it.

BACCHARIS.—This plant is the Inula Conyza, and was called Baccharis after the god Bacchus, to whom it was dedicated. Virgil speaks of Baccharis as being used for making garlands, and recommends it as a plant which is efficacious as a charm for repelling calumny—

“Bacchari frontem
Cingite, ne vati noceat mala lingua futuro.”

Its English name is the Ploughman’s Spikenard; and it was highly esteemed by the old herbalists on account of the sweet and aromatic qualities of its root, from which the ancients compounded an ointment which was also known as Baccharis.

Bachelor’s Buttons.—See Ranunculus.

BALBAGA.—The Indian Grass, Eleusine Indica, had, according to De Gubernatis, the Vedic name of Balbaja: and, as a sacred herb, was employed in Indian religious festivals for litter, in ceremonials connected with the worship of the sacred Cow.

BALDMONEY.—According to Gerarde, the Gentian was formerly called Baldmoyne and Baldmoney; but Dr. Prior considers that the name appertains to Meum athamanticum, and that it is a corruption of the Latin valde bona, very good. The Grete Herball, speaking of Sistra, he says, gives the following explanation:—“Sistra is Dyll, some call it Mew; but that is not so. Howbeit they be very like in properties and vertue, and be put eche for other; but Sistra is of more vertue then Mew, and the leaves be lyke an herbe called Valde Bona, and beareth smaller sprigges as Spiknarde. It groweth on hye hylles” (See Feldwode).

BALIS.—This herb was believed by the ancients to possess the property of restoring the dead to life. By its means Æsculapius himself was said to have been once resuscitated; and Pliny reports that, according to the Greek historian Xanthus, a little dog, killed by a serpent, was brought back to life by this wonderful herb Balis.

BALSAM.—The seed vessel of this plant contains five cells. When maturity approaches, each of these divisions curls up at the slightest touch, and darts out its seeds by a spontaneous movement: hence its generic name Impatiens, and its English appellation Noli me tangere—Touch me not. Gerarde calls it the Balsam Apple, or Apple of Jerusalem, and tells us that its old Latin name was Pomum Mirabile, or Marvellous Apple. He also states that the plant was highly esteemed for its property of alleviating the pains of maternity, and that it was considered a valuable agent to remove sterility—the patient first bathing and then anointing herself with an oil compounded with the fruit.——The Turks represent ardent love by this flower.——Balsam is under the planetary influence of Jupiter.

BALM.—The Melissa, or Garden Balm, was renowned among the Arabian physicians, by whom it was recommended for hypochondria and affections of the heart, and according to Paracelsus the primum ens Melissa promised a complete renovation of man. Drunk in wine, it was believed to be efficacious against the bitings of venomous beasts and mad dogs. A variety called Smith’s or Carpenter’s Balm, or Bawm, was noted as a vulnerary, and Pliny describes it of such magical virtue, that Gerarde remarks, “though it be but tied to his sword that hath given the wound, it stancheth the blood.” On account of its being a favourite plant of the bees, it was one of the herbs directed by the ancients to be placed in the hive, to render it agreeable to the swarm: hence it was called Apiastrum.——The astrologers claimed the herb both for Jupiter and the Sun.——In connection with the Garden Balm, Aubrey relates a legend of the Wandering Jew, the scene of which he places in the Staffordshire moors. When on the weary way to Golgotha, Jesus Christ, fainting and sinking beneath the burden of the cross, asked the Jew Ahasuerus for a cup of water to cool his parched throat, he spurned the supplication, and bade him speed on faster. “I go,” said the Saviour, “but thou shalt thirst and tarry till I come.” And ever since that hour, by day and night, through the long centuries, he has been doomed to wander about the earth, ever craving for water, and ever expecting the Day of Judgment, which alone shall end his frightful pilgrimage. One Whitsun evening, overcome with thirst, he knocked at the door of a Staffordshire cottager, and craved of him a cup of small beer. The cottager, who was wasted with a lingering consumption, asked him in and gave him the desired refreshment. After finishing the beer, Ahasuerus asked his host the nature of the disease he was suffering from, and being told that the doctors had given him up, said, “Friend, I will tell thee what thou shalt do; and by the help and power of Almighty God above, thou shalt be well. To-morrow, when thou risest up, go into thy garden, and gather there three Balm-leaves, and put them into a cup of thy small beer. Drink as often as you need, and when the cup is empty, fill it again, and put in fresh Balm-leaves every fourth day, and thou shalt see, through our Lord’s great goodness and mercy, that before twelve days shall be past, thy disease shall be cured and thy body altered.” So saying, and declining to eat, he departed and was never seen again. But the cottager gathered his Balm-leaves, followed the prescription of the Wandering Jew, and before twelve days were passed was a new man.

BALM OF GILEAD.—The mountains of Gilead, in the east of the Holy Land, were covered with fragrant shrubs, the most plentiful being the Amyris, which yielded the celebrated Balm of Gilead, a precious gum which, at a very early period, the Ishmaelites or Arabian carriers trafficked in. It was to a party of these merchants that Joseph was sold by his brethren as they came from Gilead, with their camels, bearing spicery, and Balm, and Myrrh, going to carry it down to Egypt (Gen. xxxvii., 25). There were three productions from this tree, all highly esteemed by the ancients, viz.: Xylobalsamum, a decoction of the new twigs; the Carpobalsamum, an expression of the native fruit; and the Opobalsum, or juice, the finest kind, composed of the greenish liquor found in the kernel of the fruit. The principal quantity of Balm has, however, always been produced by excision. The juice is received in a small earthen bottle, and every day’s produce is poured into a larger, which is kept closely corked. So marvellous were the properties of this Balm considered, that in order to test its quality, the operator dipped his finger in the juice, and then set fire to it, expecting fully to remain scathless if the Balm was of average strength. The Balm of Gilead has always had a wonderful reputation as a cosmetic among ladies. The manner of applying it in the East is thus given by a traveller in Abyssinia:—“You first go into the tepid bath, till the pores are sufficiently opened; you then anoint yourself with a small quantity, and as much as the vessels will absorb: never-fading youth and beauty are said to be the consequences.” By the Arabs, it is employed as a stomachic and antiseptic, and is believed by them to prevent any infection of the plague.——Tradition relates that there is an aspic that guards the Balm-tree, and will allow no one to approach. Fortunately, however, it has a weakness—it cannot endure the sound of a musical instrument. As soon as it hears the approaching torment, it thrusts its tail into one of its ears, and rubs the other against the ground, till it is filled with mud. While it is lying in this helpless condition, the Balm-gatherers go round to the other side of the tree, and hurry away with their spoil.——Maundevile says that the true Balm-trees only grew in Egypt (near Cairo), and in India. The Egyptian trees were tended solely by Christians, as they refused to bear if the husbandmen were Saracens. It was necessary, also, to cut the branches with a sharp flint-stone or bone, for if touched with iron, the Balm lost its incomparable virtue. The Indian Balm-trees grew “in that desert where the trees of the Sun and of the Moon spake to King Alexander,” and warned him of his death. The fruit of these Balm-trees possessed such marvellous properties, that the people of the country, who were in the habit of partaking of it, lived four or five hundred years in consequence.

BAMBOO.—The Bambusa Arundinaceæ is one of the sacred plants of India: it is the tree of shelter, audience, and friendship. As jungle fires were thought to be caused by the stems of Bamboos rubbing together, the tree derived from that fact a mystic and holy character, as an emblem of the sacred fire.——Indian anchorites carry a long Bamboo staff with seven nodes, as a mark of their calling. At Indian weddings, the bride and bridegroom, as part of the nuptial ceremony, get into two Bamboo baskets, placed side by side, and remain standing therein for some specified time. The savage Indian tribe called Garrows possess neither temples nor altars, but they set up a pillar of Bamboo before their huts, and decorate it with flowers and tufts of cotton, and sacrifice before it to their deity. In various parts of India there is a superstitious belief that the flowering and seeding of various species of Bamboo is a sure prognostication of an approaching famine.——Europeans have noticed, as an invariable rule, in Canara, that when the Bamboos flower and seed, fever prevails. At the foot of the Ghauts, and round Yellapûr, it has been observed that when the Bamboos flowered and seeded, fever made its appearance, few persons escaping it. During blossom, the fever closely resembles hay fever at home, but the type becomes more severe as the seeds fall.——The poor, homeless fishermen of China, to supply themselves with vegetables, have invented a system of culture which may move with them, and they thus transport their gardens wherever they may go. This they do by constructing rafts of Bamboo, which are well woven with weeds and strong grass, and then launched on the water and covered with earth. These floating gardens are made fast to the stern of their junks and boats, and towed after them.

BANANA.—The Banana (Musa sapientum) and the Plantain (M. paradisiaca) are so closely related, as to be generally spoken of together. The Banana has been well designated the king of all fruit, and the greatest boon bestowed by Providence on the inhabitants of hot countries. According to Gerarde, who calls it in his Herbal, Adam’s Apple Tree, it was supposed in his time by the Grecians and Christians inhabiting Syria, as well as by the Jews, to be that tree of whose fruit Adam partook at Eve’s solicitation—the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, planted by the Lord Himself in the midst of the Garden of Eden. It has also been supposed that the Grapes brought by the Israelites’ spies to Moses out of the Holy Land, were in reality the fruit of the Banana-tree.——In the Canary Islands, the Banana is never cut across with a knife because it then exhibits a representation of the Crucifixion. Gerarde refers to this mark, remarking that the fruit “pleaseth and entiseth a man to eate liberally thereof, by a certaine entising sweetnesse it yields; in which fruit, if it be cut according to the length, oblique, transverse, or any other way, whatsoever, may be seene the shape and forme of a crosse, with a man fastened thereto. My selfe have seene the fruit, and cut it in pieces, which was brought me from Aleppo, in pickle: the crosse, I might perceive, as the form of a spred-Egle in the root of Ferne; but the man I leave to be sought for by those which have better eies and judgement than my selfe.”——A certain sect of Brahmans, called Yogis, place all their food in the leaves of the Plantain, or Apple of Paradise, and other large leaves; these they use dry, never green, for they say that the green leaves have a soul in them; and so it would be sinful.

BANYAN TREE.—The Indian Fig-tree (Ficus Indica), of which one of the Sanscrit names is Bahupâda, or the Tree of Many Feet, is one of the sacred trees of India, and is remarkable for its vast size and the singularity of its growth: it throws out from its lateral branches shoots which, as soon as they reach the earth, take root, till, in course of time, a single tree extends itself to a considerable grove. Pliny described the Banyan with great accuracy, and Milton has rendered his description almost literally:

“Branching so broad along, that in the ground
The bending twigs take root, and daughters grow
About the mother tree; a pillared shade,
High over-arched, with echoing walks between.
There oft the Indian herdsman, shunning heat,
Shelters in cool, and tends his pasturing herds
At loop-holes cut through thickest shade.”

The Banyan rarely vegetates on the ground, but usually in the crown of Palms, where the seed has been deposited by birds. Roots are sent down to the ground, which embrace, and eventually kill, the Nurse-Palm. Hence, the Hindus have given the Banyan the name of Vaibâdha (the breaker), and invoke it in order that it may at the same time break the heads of enemies.——In the Indian mythology, the Banyan is often confounded with the Bo-tree, and hence it is given a place in heaven, where an enormous tree is said to grow on the summit of the mountain Supârsva, to the south of the celestial mountain Meru, where it occupies a vast space. Beneath the pillared shade of the Banyan, the god Vishnu was born. His mother had sought its shelter, but she was sad and fearful lest the terrible Kansa should put to death her seventh babe, Vishnu, as he had already done her first six. Yasodâ, to console the weeping mother, gave up her own infant daughter, who was at once killed by Kansa’s servants; but Vishnu was saved. It is, says De Gubernatis, at the foot of a gigantic Banyan, a Bhândîra, near Mount Govardhana, that the Buddhist Vishnu plays with his companions, and, by his presence, illuminates everything around him. The Banyan of the Vedas is represented as being peopled with Indian parroquets, who eat its fruit, which, however, does not exceed a Hazel-nut in size. The Chinese Buddhists represent that Buddha sits under a Banyan-tree, turned towards the East, to receive the homage of the god Brahma. Like the sacred Bo-tree, the Banyan is regarded not only as the Tree of Knowledge, but also as the tree of Indian seers and ascetic devotees. Wherever a Bo-tree or a Banyan has stood, the place where it formerly flourished is always held sacred.——There is in India a Banyan-tree that is the object of particular veneration. It grows on the banks of the Nerbudda, not far from Surat, and is the largest and oldest Banyan in the country. According to tradition, it was planted by the Seer Kabira, and is supposed to be three thousand years old. It is said to be the identical tree visited by Nearchus, one of the officers of Alexander the Great. The Hindus never cut it or touch it with steel, for fear of offending the god concealed in its sacred foliage. De Gubernatis quotes the following description of this sacred tree given by Pietro Della Valle at the commencement of the seventeenth century:—“On one side of the town, on a large open space, one sees towering a magnificent tree, similar to those which I had noticed near Hormuz, and which were called Lul, but here were known as Ber. The peasants of this country have a profound veneration for this tree, both on account of its grandeur and its antiquity: they make pilgrimages to it, and honour it with their superstitious ceremonies, believing that the goddess Pârvatî, the wife of Mahâdeva, to whom it is dedicated, has it under her protection. In the trunk of this tree, at a little distance from the ground, they have roughly carved what is supposed to be the head of an idol, but which no one can recognise as bearing any semblance to a human being; however, like the Romans, they paint the face of the idol red, and adorn it with flowers, and with leaves of a tree which they call here Pan, but in other parts of India Betel. These flowers and leaves ought to be always fresh, and so they are often changed. The pilgrims who come to visit the tree receive as a pious souvenir the dried leaves which have been replaced by fresh ones. The idol has eyes of gold and silver, and is decorated with jewellery offered by pious persons who have attributed to it the miraculous cure of ophthalmic complaints they have suffered from…. They take the greatest care of the tree, of every branch, nay, of every leaf, and will not permit either man or beast to damage or profane it. Other Banyan or Pagod trees have obtained great eminence. One near Mangee, near Patna, spread over a diameter of three hundred and seventy feet, and it required nine hundred and twenty feet to surround the fifty or sixty stems by which the tree was supported. Another covered an area of one thousand seven hundred square yards; and many of almost equal dimensions are found in different parts of India and Cochin-China.”——In the Atharvaveda mention is made of an all-powerful amulet, which is a reduction, on a small scale, of a Banyan-tree, possessing a thousand stems, to each of which is attributed a special magical property.

BAOBAB.—The leviathan Baobab (Adansonia) is an object of reverential worship to the negroes of Senegal, where it is asserted that some of these trees exist which are five thousand years old. It is reputed to be the largest tree in the world, and may readily be taken at a distance for a grove: its trunk is often one hundred feet in circumference; but its height is not so wonderful as its enormous lateral bulk. The central branch rises perpendicularly, the others spread out in all directions, and attain a length of sixty feet, touching the ground at their extremities, and equalling in bulk the noblest trees. The wood is spongy and soon decays, leaving the trunks hollow. In these hollow trunks the negroes suspend the dead bodies of those who are refused the honour of burial; and in this position the bodies are preserved without any process of embalming. The magnificent snowy blossoms are regarded with peculiar reverence at the instant they open into bloom. The leaves are used medicinally, and as a condiment; dried and powdered, they constitute Lalo, a favourite article with the Africans, who mix it daily with their food, to prevent undue perspiration; a fibre is obtained from the bark that is so strong as to have given rise in Bengal to the saying, “As secure as an elephant bound with a Baobab rope.” The gourd-like fruit, called Monkey-bread and Ethiopian Sour Gourd, is also eaten, and is prized for its febrifugal qualities.

BARBERRY.—The Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) was formerly called the Pipperidge-bush, and was regarded with superstitious dislike by farmers, who believed that it injured Wheat crops, even if growing a hundred yards off, by imparting to the Corn the fungus which causes rust.——In Italy, the Barberry is looked upon as the Holy Thorn, or the plant which furnished the crown of Thorns used at our Lord’s crucifixion: it seems to be so regarded because its Thorns grow together in sets of three at each joint of the branch.——The Barberry is under the dominion of Venus.

BARLEY.—Barley is a symbol of riches and abundance. The God Indra is called “He who ripens Barley,” and in many of their religious ceremonies the Indians introduce this cereal, viz., at the birth of an infant, at weddings, at funerals, and at certain of their sacrificial rites.——Barley is claimed by astrologers as a notable plant of Saturn.

BAROMETZ.—The Barometz, or Scythian Lamb (Polypodium Barometz), is a name given to a Fern growing in Tartary, the root of which, says Prof. Martyn, from the variety of its form, is easily made by art to take the form of a lamb (called by the Tartars Borametz), “or rather that of a rufous dog, which the common names in China and Cochin-China imply, namely, Cau-tich and Kew-tsie.” The description given of this strange Fern represents the root as rising above the ground in an oblong form, covered all over with hairs: towards one end it frequently becomes narrower and then thicker, so as to give somewhat of the shape of a head and neck, and it has sometimes two pendulous hairy excrescences resembling ears; at the other end a short shoot extends out into a tail. Four fronds are chosen in a suitable position, and are cut off to a proper length, to represent the legs: and thus a vegetable lamb is produced. Loureiro affirms that the root, when fresh cut, yields a juice closely resembling the blood of animals.——Kircher has given a figure of the Tartarian Lamb, in which the lamb is represented as the fruit of some plant on the top of a stalk.——Parkinson, in the frontispiece to his Paradisus Terrestris, has depicted this Lamb-plant as growing in the Garden of Eden, where it appears to be browsing on the surrounding herbage.——Scaliger has given a detailed account of the Barometz, which he calls “a wondrous plant indeed among the Tartars.” After remarking that Zavolha is the most considerable of the Tartar hordes, he proceeds:—“In that province they sow a seed not unlike the seed of a Melon, except that it is not so long. There comes from it a plant which they call Borametz, that is to say, a lamb; and, indeed, the fruit of that plant has exactly the shape of a lamb. We see distinctly all the exterior parts—the body, the feet, the hoofs, the head, and the ears; there wants, indeed, nothing but the horns, instead of which it has a sort of wool that imitates them not amiss. The Tartars fleece it, and make themselves caps of the skin. The pulp that is within the fruit is very much like the flesh of crabs. Cut it, and the blood gushes out, as from a wounded animal. This lamb feeds itself upon all the grass that grows around it, and when it has eaten it all up, it dries and dies away. But what perfects the similitude between the Borametz and a lamb is that the wolves are very greedy of this fruit, which no other animals ever care for.”——The elder Darwin, in his poem on ‘The Loves of the Plants,’ makes the following allusion to the Barometz:—

“Cradled in snow and fanned by Arctic air,
Shines, gentle Barometz! thy golden hair;
Rooted in earth, each cloven hoof descends,
And round and round her flexile neck she bends;
Crops the gray coral Moss and hoary Thyme,
Or laps with rosy tongue the melting rime,
Eyes with mute tenderness her distant dam,
Or seems to bleat, a vegetable Lamb.”

BASIL.—The English name of the Ocymum basilicum is derived from the Greek basilikon, royal, probably from its having been used in some royal unguent, bath, or medicine.——Holy Basil, or Tulasî (Ocymum sanctum), is by the Hindus regarded as a most sacred herb, and they have given one of its names to a sacred grove of their Parnassus, on the banks of the Yamuna. This holy herb is grown in pots near every temple and dwelling of devout Hindus. It is sacred to Vishnu, Kushna, and Lakshmi, but all the gods are interested in it. Narada, the celestial sage, has sung the praises of the immortal plant, which is perfection itself, and which, whilst protecting from every misfortune those who cultivate it, sanctifies and guides them to heaven. For this double sanctity it is reared in every Hindu house, where it is daily watered and worshipped by all the members of the household. Perhaps, also, it was on account of its virtues in disinfecting and vivifying malarious air that it first became inseparable from Hindu houses in India as the protecting spirit or Lar of the family. The pious Hindus invoke the divine herb for the protection of every part of the body, for life and for death, and in every action of life; but above all in its capacity of ensuring children to those who desire to have them. Among the appellations given to the Tulasî are—“propitious,” “perfumed,” “multi-leaved,” “devil-destroying,” &c. The root is made into beads, which are worn round the neck and arms of the votaries of Vishnu, who carry also a rosary made of the seeds of the Holy Basil or the Sacred Lotus. De Gubernatis has given some interesting details of the Tulasî cultus:—“Under the mystery of this herb,” he says, “created with ambrosia, is shrouded without doubt the god-creator himself. The worship of the herb Tulasî is strongly recommended in the last part of the Padmapurâna, consecrated to Vishnu; but it is, perhaps, no less adored by the votaries of Siva; Krishna, the popular incarnation of the god Vishnu, has also adopted this herb for his worship; from thence its names of Krishna and Krishnatulasî. Sîtâ, the epic personification of the goddess Lakshmî, was transformed, according to the Râmâyana, into the Tulasî, from whence the name of Sitâhvayâ given to the herb.” Because of the belief that the Tulasî opens the gates of heaven to the pious worshipper, Prof. De Gubernatis tells us that “when an Indian dies, they place on his breast a leaf of Tulasî; when he is dead, they wash the head of the corpse with water, in which have been dropped, during the prayer of the priest, some Flax seeds and Tulasî leaves. According to the Kriyâyogasâras (xxiii.), in religiously planting and cultivating the Tulasî, the Hindu obtains the privilege of ascending to the Palace of Vishnu, surrounded by ten millions of parents. It is a good omen for a house if it has been built on a spot where the Tulasî grows well. Vishnu renders unhappy for life and for eternity infidels who wilfully, or the imprudent who inadvertently, uproot the herb Tulasî: no happiness, no health, no children for such! This sacred plant cannot be gathered excepting with a good and pious intention, and above all, for the worship of Vishnu or of Krishna, at the same time offering up this prayer:—‘Mother Tulasî, be thou propitious. If I gather you with care, be merciful unto me, O Tulasî, mother of the world, I beseech you.’”——Like the Lotus, the Basil is not only venerated as a plant sacred to the gods, but it is also worshipped as a deity itself. Hence we find the herb specially invoked, as the goddess Tulasî, for the protection of every part of the human frame, from the head to the feet. It is also supposed that the heart of Vishnu, the husband of the Tulasî, is profoundly agitated and tormented whenever the least sprig is broken of a plant of Tulasî, his wife.——In Malabar, sweet Basil is cultivated as a sacred plant, under the name of Collo, and kept in a little shrine placed before the house.——In the Deccan villages, the fair Brahminee mother may be seen early every morning, after having first ground the corn for the day’s bread and performed her simple toilet, walking with glad steps and waving hands round and round the pot of Holy Basil, planted on the four-horned altar built up before each house, invoking the blessings of heaven on her husband and his children. The herb is planted largely on the river banks, where the natives bathe, as well as at the entrance to their temples. They believe that the deities love this herb, and that the god Ganavedi abides in it continually. When travelling, if they cannot obtain the herb, they draw the form of the plant on the ground with its root.——It is difficult to understand why so sacred and so fragrant a herb as Sweet Basil should have become the symbol of Hatred, unless it be because the ancients sometimes represented Poverty by the figure of a female clothed in rags, and seated by a plant of Basil. The ancient Greeks thought that when Basil was sown, the act should be accompanied by abuse, without which it would not flourish. Pliny also records that it throve best when sown with cursing and railing. This explains the French saying, “Semer le Basilic,” equivalent to slandering.——The plant has a decided funereal symbolism. In Persia, where it is called Rayhan,

“the Basil-tuft, that waves
Its fragrant blossom over graves,”

is usually found in cemeteries. In Egypt, the same plant is scattered over the tombs by the women who go twice or oftener a week to pray and weep at the sepulchres of the dead. In Crete, the Basil is considered a symbol of the Evil One, although it is to be found on every window-ledge. It is unfortunate to dream of Basil, for it is supposed to betoken grief and misfortune. It was probably these sinister and funereal associations of the plant that induced Boccaccio to make the unhappy Isabella conceal her murdered lover’s head by planting Basil in the pot that contained it; although it is surmised that the author of the ‘Decameron’ obtained the idea from Grecian sources.——It is, however, satisfactory to find that in Italy the Basil is utilised for other than funereal purposes. De Gubernatis tells us that in some districts pieces of Basil are worn by maidens in their bosoms or at their waists, and by married women in their hair: they believe also that the perfume of Basil engenders sympathy, from which comes its familiar name, Bacia-nicola—Kiss me, Nicholas! Rarely does the young peasant girl pay a visit to her sweetheart without affixing behind her ear a sprig of Basil, which she takes special care not to part with, as that would be a token of scorn. In Turkey, they call Basil, Amorino. In Moldavia, the Basil is regarded as an enchanted flower, whose spells can stop the wandering youth upon his way, and make him love the maiden from whose hand he shall accept a sprig.——In the East, Basil seeds are employed to counteract the poison of serpents: in India the leaves are used for the same purpose, as well as for the cure of several diseases. Gerarde says that “they of Africke do also affirme that they who are stung of the scorpion, and have eaten of it, shall feele no paine at all.” Orisabius likewise asserts that the plant is an antidote to the sting of those insects; but, on the other hand, Hollerius declares that it propagates scorpions, and that to his knowledge an acquaintance of his, through only smelling it, had a scorpion bred in his brain.——Lord Bacon, in his Natural History, states that if Basil is exposed too much to the sun, it changes into Wild Thyme, although the two herbs seem to have small affinity. Culpeper quaintly remarks: “Something is the matter; this herb and Rue will never grow together—no, nor near one another; and we know the Rue is as great an enemy to poison as any that grows.” Gerarde, however, tells us that the smell of Basil is good for the heart and for the head.——The plant is a paradox:—sacred and revered, yet dedicated to the Evil One; of happy augury, yet funereal; dear to women and lovers, yet emblem of hatred; propagator of scorpions, yet the antidote to their stings.——Astrologers rule that Basil is a herb of Mars, and under the Scorpion, and therefore called Basilicon.

BAUHINIA.—The leaves of the Bauhinia or Ebony-tree are two-lobed, or twin—a character, which suggested to Plumier the happy idea of naming the genus after the two famous brothers, John and Caspar Bauhin, botanists of the sixteenth century.

BEANS.—Among the ancients, there appears to have been a superstitious aversion to Beans as an article of food, arising from the resemblance of the fruit to a portion of the human body. The Egyptians, among whom the Sacred Bean was an object of actual worship, would not partake of it as food, probably on that account; because by so doing they would be fearful of eating what they considered was human, and of consuming a soul. By some nations the seed was consecrated to the gods.——The eating of Beans was interdicted to the Jewish High Priest on the Day of Atonement from its decided tendency to bring on sleep.——The goddess Ceres, when bestowing her gifts upon mankind, expressly excluded Beans. The unhappy Orpheus refused to eat them; Amphiaraus, the diviner, in order to preserve a clear vision, always abstained from them; the Flamines, Roman priests, instituted by Numa, would neither touch nor mention them; and the Grecian philosopher Pythagoras, who lived only on the purest and most innocuous food, invariably declined to partake of Beans of any description, giving as his reason that, in the Bean, he recognised blood, and consequently an animal, which, as a vegetarian, he could not consume. According to tradition, the great philosopher, being pursued by his enemies, was overtaken and killed, solely because, having in his flight reached a field of Beans, he would not cross it for fear of trampling upon living beings, the souls of the dead, who had entered temporarily, into the vegetable existence. Cicero considered that the antipathy to Beans as an article of food arose from their being considered impure, inasmuch as they corrupted the blood, distended the stomach, and excited the passions. Hippocrates considered them unwholesome and injurious to the eyesight. They were also believed to cause bad dreams, and, moreover, if seen in dreams, were deemed to portend evil.——One of the Greek words for Bean is Puanos, and at the festival of Puanepsia, held in the month of October, at Athens, in honour of Apollo, Beans and Pulse, we are told, were sodden. The Romans offered Beans to their goddess Carna on the occasion of her festival in the month of June.——The Lemures, or evil spirits of those who had lived bad lives, according to a Roman superstition, were in the habit, during the night-time, of approaching houses, and then throwing Beans against them. The Romans celebrated festivals in their honour in the month of May, when the people were accustomed to throw black Beans on the graves of the deceased, or to burn them, as the smell was supposed to be disagreeable to the manes. This association of Beans with the dead is still preserved in some parts of Italy, where, on the anniversary of a death, it is customary to eat Beans and to distribute them to the poor. Black Beans were considered to be male, and white female, the latter being the inferior.——De Gubernatis relates several curious customs connected with Beans. In Tuscany, the fire of St. John is lighted in a Bean-field, so that it shall burn quickly. In Sicily, on Midsummer Eve, Beans are eaten with some little ceremony, and the good St. John is thanked for having obtained the blessings of a bountiful harvest from God. At Modica, in Sicily, on October 1st, a maiden in love will sow two Beans in the same pot. The one represents herself, the other the youth she loves. If both Beans shoot forth before the feast of St. Raphael, then marriage will come to pass; but if only one of the Beans sprouts, there will be betrayal on the part of the other. In Sicily and Tuscany, girls who desire a husband learn their fate by means of Beans, in this fashion:—They put into a bag three Beans—one whole, another without the eye, a third without the rind. Then, after shaking them up, they draw one from the bag. The whole Bean signifies a rich husband; the Bean without an eye signifies a sickly husband; and the Bean without rind a husband without a penny.——The French have a legend, of one Pipette, who, like our Jack, reaches the sky by means of a Bean-stalk. In France, some parts of Italy, and Russia, on Twelfth Night, children eat a cake in which has been baked a white Bean and a black Bean. The children to whose lot fall the portions of cake containing the Beans become the King and Queen of the evening.——An old English charm to cure warts is to take the shell of a broad Bean, and rub the affected part with the inside thereof; the shell is then to be buried, and no one is to be told about the matter; then, as the shell withers away, so will the wart gradually disappear. It is a popular tradition that during the flowering of the Bean more cases of lunacy occur than at any other season. In Leap Year, it is a common notion that broad Beans grow the wrong way, i.e., the seed is set in the pods in quite the contrary way to what it is in other years. The reason given is that, because it is the ladies’ year, the Beans always lie the wrong way—in reference to the privilege possessed by the fair sex of courting in Leap Year. There is a saying in Leicestershire, that if you wish for awful dreams or desire to go crazy, you have only to sleep in a Bean-field all night.——Beans are under the dominion of Venus. To dream of them under any circumstances means trouble of some kind.

BEDSTRAW.—Our Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum) filled the manger on which the infant Jesus was laid. In a painting of the Nativity by N. Poussin, this straw is introduced. From its soft puffy stems and golden flowers, this grass was in bygone times used for bedding, even by ladies of rank,—whence the expression of their being “in the straw.”——Galium was formerly employed to curdle the milk in cheese-making, and was also used before the introduction of Annatto, to give a rich colour to Cheshire cheese. The old herbalists affirmed that the root stirred up amorous desires, if drunk in wine, and that the flowers would produce the same effect if smelt long enough. Robert Turner says: “It challenges the preheminence above Maywort, for preventing the sore weariness of travellers: the decoction of the herb and flowers, used warm, is excellent good to bath the surbated feet of footmen and lackies in hot weather, and also to lissome and mollifie the stiffness and weariness of their joynts and sinews.”——In France, Galium is considered to be a remedy in cases of epilepsy.——Lady’s Bedstraw is under the dominion of Venus.

BEECH.—Vieing with the Ash in stateliness and grandeur of outline, the Beech (Fagus) is worthily given by Rapin the second place among trees.

“Mixt with huge Oaks, as next in rank and state,
Their kindred Beech and Cerris claim a seat.”

According to Lucian, the oracles of Jupiter at Dodona were delivered not only through the medium of the sacred Oaks in the prophetic grove surrounding the temple, but also by Beeches which grew there. A large part, if not the whole, of the Greek ship Argo was built of Fagus, or Beech timber, and as certain beams in the vessel gave oracles to the Argonauts, and warned them against the approach of calamities, it is probable that some, at least, of these prophetic beams were hewn from the Dodonæan Beeches. It was from the top of two Beech-trees that Minerva and Apollo, in the form of vultures, selected to watch the fight between the Greeks and the Trojans.——The connection of the tree with the god Bacchus appears to have been confined to its employment in the manufacture of bowls for wine in the happy time when “No wars did men molest, and only Beechen bowls were in request.” Cowley alludes to this in the words—

“He sings the Bacchus, patron of the Vine,
The Beechen bowl foams with a flood of wine.”

Virgil notices the use of its smooth and green bark for receiving inscriptions from the “sylvan pen of lovers;” and Ovid, in his epistle from Œnone to Paris, refers to the same custom, gracefully noting that the name of the fair one would grow and spread with the growth of the tree:—

“The Beeches, faithful guardians of your flame,
Bear on their wounded trunks Œnone’s name,
And as their trunks, so still the letters grow;
Spread on, and fair aloft my titles show.”

According to a French tradition, a blacksmith, who was one day beating a bar of red-hot iron on his anvil, raised such a shower of sparks, that some of them reached the eyes of God himself, who forthwith, in His wrath, condemned the man to become a bear, with the condition that he might climb at his pleasure all the trees excepting the Beech. Changed into a bear, the man was for ever afterwards cogitating how to uproot the tree. In this legend, the Beech, which is generally considered a tree of good augury, becomes a specially favoured or privileged tree. Pliny wrote that it should not be cut for fuel. Gerarde says of it: “The wood is hard and firme, which being brought into the house there follows hard travail of child and miserable deaths, as it is reported; and therefore it is to be forborne, and not used as fire wood.” The Beech-tree is believed to be exempt from the action of lightning, and it is well known that Indians will seek its shelter during a thunderstorm. It is the Danish symbol.—Astrologers rule the Beech to be under the dominion of Saturn.

BELINUNCIA.—Under the appellation of Kêd, or Ceridwen, the Druids worshipped the Moon, who was believed to exercise a peculiar influence on storms, diseases, and certain plants. They consecrated a herb to her, called Belinuncia, in the poisonous sap of which they dipped their arrows, to render them as deadly as those malignant rays of the Moon which were deemed to shed both death and madness upon men.

BEL-TREE.—The Ægle Marmelos, Bilva (Sanscrit), or Bel-tree, is held sacred in India. Belonging to the same natural order as the Orange, its leaves, which are divided into three separate leaflets, are dedicated to the Hindu Trinity, and Indians are accustomed to carry one of them folded in the turban or sash, in order to propitiate Siva, and ensure safety from accidents. The wood is used to form the sacrificial pillars.——The Hindu women of the Punjab throw flowers into a sacred river, by means of which they can foretell whether or not they are to survive their husbands: but a much more ingenious rite is practised by the Newars of Nepaul. To obviate the terrible hardships to a young Hindu girl of becoming a widow, she is, in the first instance, married to a Bel-fruit, which is then cast into a sacred river. Should her future husband prove distasteful to her, this rite enables her to obtain a divorce; and should the husband die, she can still claim the title of wife to the sacred Bel-fruit, which is immortal; so that she is always a wife and never a widow.

Bell-flower.—See Blue-bell, and Campanula.

BETEL.—According to Indian traditions, the Betel was brought from heaven by Arjuna, who, during his journey to Paradise, stole a little bough of the sacred tree, which, upon his return to earth, he carefully planted. In remembrance of this celestial origin of the tree, and of the manner of its introduction to earth, Indians who desire to plant the Betel invariably steal a few young shoots.——The Betel, or Pepper-tree (Piper betle), is most highly esteemed by the Indian races, who attribute to its leaves no less than thirty properties or virtues, the possession of which, even by a plant of heavenly origin, can scarcely be credited. It is the leaf of the Betel which serves to enclose a few slices of the Areca Nut (sometimes erroneously called the Betel Nut); and these, together with a little Chunam or shell-lime, are what the natives universally chew to sweeten the breath and strengthen the stomach. The poor, indeed, employ it to keep off the pangs of hunger. In certain parts of the East, it is not considered polite to speak to a superior without some of the Betel and Areca compound in the mouth. At Indian marriage ceremonies, the bride and bridegroom exchange between themselves the same Areca Nut, with its accompanying Betel-leaf.——In Borneo, a favoured lover may enter the house of the loved one’s parents, at night, and awaken her, to sit and eat Betel Nut and the finest of Sirih-leaves from his garden.

BETONY.—The ‘Medicinal Betony,’ as Clare calls it, is Betonica officinalis, and of all the simples praised by old herbalists, both English and foreign, none (the Vervain excepted) was awarded a higher place than Wood Betony. Turner, in his ‘Brittish Physician’ (1687), writes:—“It would seem a miracle to tell what experience I have had of it. This herb is hot and dry, almost to the second degree, a plant of Jupiter in Aries, and is appropriated to the head and eyes, for the infirmities whereof it is excellent, as also for the breast and lungs; being boiled in milk, and drunk, it takes away pains in the head and eyes. Probatum. Some write it will cure those that are possessed with devils, or frantic, being stamped and applied to the forehead.” He gives a list of between twenty or thirty complaints which Betony will cure, and then says, “I shall conclude with the words I found in an old manuscript under the virtues of it: ‘More than all this have been proved of Betony.’” Gerarde gives a similar list, and adds, that Betony is “a remedy against the bitings of mad dogs and venomous serpents, being drunk, and also applied to the hurts, and is most singular against poyson.” There is an old saying that, when a person is ill, he should sell his coat, and buy Betony.——The Romans were well acquainted with the medicinal properties of this herb. Pliny wrote of the marvellous results obtained from its use, and also affirmed that serpents would kill one another if surrounded by a ring composed of Betonica. Antonius Musa, physician to Augustus, wrote a treatise on the excellencies of Betonica, which he affirmed would cure forty-seven different ailments. Franzius went so far as to assert that the wild beasts of the forest, aware of its surpassing virtues, availed themselves of its efficacy when they were wounded.——At a time when a belief in witchcraft was rife in England, it was generally understood that the house where Herba Betonica was sown, was free from all mischief. In Yorkshire, the Water Betony was formerly called Bishop’s Leaves. In Italy, at the present day, there are several proverbs relating to the virtues of Betony, one of which is, “May you have more virtues than Betony;” and another, “Known as well as Betony.”

BIGNONIA.—One of the native names of the Bignonia Indica, or Indian Trumpet-flower, is Kâmadûti, or the Messenger of Love. Under the name of Patala, the Bignonia suaveolens is specially consecrated by the Indians to the god Brahma. The name of Patala, however, is given in the Sanscrit to Durgâ, the wife of Siva, probably on account of the colour of her idols, which assimilate to the colour of the flowers of the Bignonia.

BILBERRY.—The origin of the Bilberry or Whortleberry (Vaccinium Myrtillus), according to the mythology of the ancients, is as follows:—Œnomaüs, father of the lovely Hippodamia, chose for his attendant the young Myrtillus, son of Mercury. Proud of his skill, he stipulated that all his daughter’s suitors should compete for the prize in a chariot race with him. Pelops, who was eager to obtain the beautiful Hippodamia, promised Myrtillus a large reward if he would take out the linch-pin of his master’s chariot. Myrtillus was not proof againt the offer: in consequence, the chariot was overturned, and Œnomaüs mortally injured; but as he expired, he implored Pelops to avenge him, which he did by throwing the treacherous attendant into the sea. The waters having borne back his body to the shore, Mercury changed it to the shrub called after his name, Myrtillus, a name formerly given to the plant producing the Myrtle-berry, a fruit largely imported in the middle ages, and used in medicine and cookery—of the same genus as the English Bilberry, which is often found growing on the sea-shore. The Scotch name of this shrub is Blaeberry, the praises of which are often sung in Northern ballads.

“Will ye go, lassie, go to the braes of Balquhidder,
Whare the Blaeberries grow ’mong the bonny blooming Heather?”

Bilberries are held by the astrologers to be under Jupiter. (See also Whortleberry.)

BIRCH.—According to Scandinavian mythology, the Birch (Betula alba) was consecrated to the god Thor, and symbolised the return of Spring. The Greeks and Romans had not much knowledge of the tree, but the latter seem to have regarded it with a feeling of dread in consequence of the fasces of the magistracy being composed of it, as now, says Evelyn, “are the gentler rods of our tyrannical pedagogues for lighter faults.” According to Pliny, the celebrated books which Numa Pompilius composed seven hundred years before Christ, and which were buried with him, were written on the bark of the Birch-tree.——It is in the northern countries of Europe that the Birch flourishes, and it is there the tree is held in the highest esteem. The Russians have a proverb that the Birch excels in four qualities:—It gives light to the world (with Birch-boughs torches are made); it stifles cries (from Birch they extract a lubricant which they apply to the wheels of carriages); it cleanses (in Russian baths, to promote perspiration, they scourge the body with branches of Birch); it cures diseases (by incision they obtain a liquor stated to have all the virtues of the spirit of salt, and from which a wine is distilled, excellent as a cordial and useful in cases of consumption). Moreover, in Russia, the oil of the Birch is used as a vermifuge and a balsam in the cure of wounds. In fact, to the peasants of the North, the Birch is as beneficent as is the Palm to the Indians. No wonder, then, that the Russians are very fond of the Birch, and surround their dwellings with it; believing, as they do, that this tree is never struck by lightning.——On the Day of Pentecost, it is a custom among young Russian maidens to suspend garlands on the trees they love best, and they are careful to tie round the stems of the Birch-trees a little red ribbon as a charm to cause them to flourish and to protect them from the Evil Eye. De Gubernatis quotes from a Russian author named Afanassief, who tells us of a Birch that showed its appreciation of the kindly attentions of a young girl in decking its stem, by protecting her from the persecutions of a witch, who had become her step-mother; and the same author makes mention of a certain white Birch, which grew in the island of Buian, on the topmost of whose branches it was currently believed the Mother of God might be seen sitting.——Grohmann, a German writer, recounts the legend of a young shepherdess, who was spinning in the midst of a forest of Birch-trees, when suddenly the Wild Woman of the forest accosted her. The Wild Woman was dressed in white, and had a garland of flowers upon her head: she persuaded the shepherdess to dance with her, and for three days kept up the dance until sunset, but so lightly that the grass under her feet was neither trampled upon nor bent. At the conclusion of the dance, all the yarn was spun, and the Wild Woman was so satisfied, that she filled the pocket of the little shepherdess with Birch-leaves, which soon turned into golden money.——Professor Mannhardt, says De Gubernatis, divulges to us the means employed by the Russian peasants to evoke the Lieschi, or Geni of the forest. They cut down some very young Birch-trees, and arrange them in a circle in such a manner that the points shall be turned towards the middle: they enter this circle, and then they call up the spirit, who forthwith makes his appearance. They place him on the stump of one of the felled trees, with his face turned towards the East. They kiss his hand, and, whilst looking between his legs, they utter these words:—“Uncle Lieschi, show yourself to us, not as a grey wolf, not as a fierce fire, but as I myself appear.” Then the leaves of the Aspen quiver and tremble, and the Lieschi shows himself in human form, and is quite disposed to render no matter what service to him who has conjured him—provided only that he will promise him his soul.——De Gubernatis relates one other anecdote respecting the Birch, which he says to the Esthonian is the living personification of his country. It is related that an Esthonian peasant noticed a stranger asleep beneath a tree at the moment when it was struck by lightning. He awoke him. The stranger, thanking him for his good offices, said: “When, far from your native country, and feeling sorrowful and home-sick, you shall see a crooked Birch, strike and ask of it: ‘Is the crooked one at home?’” One day the peasant, who had become a soldier, and was serving in Finland, felt dispirited and unhappy, for he could not help thinking of his home and the little ones he had left behind. Suddenly he sees the crooked Birch! He strikes it, and asks: “Is the crooked one at home?” Forthwith the mysterious stranger appears, and, calling to one of his spirits, bids him instantly transport the soldier to his native country, with his knapsack full of silver.——The Swedes have a superstition that our Saviour was scourged with a rod of the dwarf Birch, which was formerly a well-grown tree, but has ever since that day been doomed to hide its miserable and stunted head. It is called Láng Fredags Ris, or Good Friday rod.——In France, it was in mediæval times the custom to preserve a bough of the Birch as a sacred object. In the country districts around Valenciennes, it is an old custom for lovers to hang a bough of Birch or Hornbeam over the doorway of his lady-love. In Haute Bretagne, as a charm to strengthen a weakly infant, they place in its cot Birch-leaves, which have been previously dried in an oven. There is an old English proverb, “Birchen twigs break no bones,” which has reference to the exceedingly slender branches of the tree.——In former days, churches were decked with boughs of the Birch, and Gerarde tell us that “it serveth well to the decking up of houses and banqueting-rooms, for places of pleasure, and for beautifying of streets in the crosse and gang [procession] weeke, and such like.” According to Herrick, it was customary to use Birch and fresh flowers for decorative purposes at Whitsuntide:—

“When Yew is out, then Birch comes in,
And many flowers besides;
Both of a fresh and fragrant kinne,
To honour Whitsontide.”

The Scotch Highlanders think very highly of the Birch, and turn it to all sorts of uses. With Burns, the budding Birch was a prime favourite in the Spring-time. The Scotch proverb, which says of a very poor man that he is “Bare as a Birk at Yule e’en,” probably refers to an old custom of stripping the bark of the tree prior to converting it into the yule log. The tree known in the Highlands as the Drooping Birk is often grown in churchyards, where, as Scott says, “Weeps the Birch of silver bark with long dishevell’d hair.” In Scottish ballads, the Birch is associated with the dead, and more especially with the wraiths or spirits of those who appear to be living after death. The following is a good example:—

“I dreamed a dreary dream last nicht;
God keep us a’ frae sorrow!
I dreamed I pu’d the Birk sae green
Wi’ my true love on Yarrow.
“I’ll redde your dream, my sister dear,
I’ll tell you a’ your sorrow;
You pu’d the Birk wi’ your true love;
He’s killed, he’s killed on Yarrow.”

The Birch-tree is held to be under the dominion of Venus.

Bitter-Sweet.—See Solanum.

BITTER VETCH.—The Orobus, or Bitter Vetch, is supposed to represent the herb mentioned in a passage in Pulci, which relates how an enchanter preserves two knights from starvation, during a long journey, by giving them a herb which, being held in the mouth, answers all the purposes of food.——The Scotch Highlanders have a great esteem for the tubercles of the Orobus root (which they call Corr or Cormeille); they use them as masticatories, to flavour their liquor. They also affirm that by the use of them they are enabled to repel hunger and thirst for a considerable time. In times of scarcity, the roots have served as a substitute for bread, and many think that the Bitter Vetch is the Chara, mentioned by Cæsar, as affording food to his famished soldiers at the siege of Dyrrhachium. The seeds, ground and tempered with wine, were applied to heal the bitings of dogs and venomous beasts.

Black-Thorn.—See Thorn.

Blaeberry.—See Bilberry and Whortleberry.

BLUE-BELL.—The Blue-bells of Scotland have long since become household words. The flower (Campanula latifolia) is the finest and most stately of the species, and although common enough on its native hills, is scarce in England. It is associated with the feast of St. George. (See Campanula.)

Blue-Bottle and Bluet.—See Centaury.

Bo-Tree.—See Peepul.

BORAGE.—In former days, Borage (Borago officinalis) was noted as one of the four “cordial flowers” most deserving of esteem for cheering the spirits—the other three being the Rose, Violet, and Alkanet. Pliny called Borage Euphrosynum, because it made men merry and joyful: and to the same purport is the old Latin rhyme, “Ego Borago gaudia semper ago.” All the old herbalists praise the plant for its exhilarating effects, and agree with Pliny that when put into wine the leaves and flowers of Borage make men and women glad and merry, driving away all sadness, dulness, and melancholy. The “cool tankard” of our forefathers was a beverage composed of the young shoots and blossoms of Borage mingled with wine, water, lemon, and sugar. Lord Bacon was of opinion that “if in the must of wine or wort of beer, while it worketh, before it be tunned, the Burrage stay a short time, and be changed with fresh, it will make a sovereign drink for melancholy passion.”——Borage, astrologers tell us, is one of Jupiter’s cordials.

BOX.—The evergreen Box (Buxus semperviva) was specially consecrated by the Greeks to Pluto, the protector of all evergreen trees, as being symbolical of the life which continues through the winter in the infernal regions, and in the other world.——A curious superstition existed among the ancients in regard to the Box: although it very much resembles the Myrtle, which was held sacred to Venus, yet they carefully refrained from dedicating the Box to that goddess, because they were afraid that through such an offering they would lose their virility. They also, according to Bacon, entertained the belief that the Box produced honey, and that in Trebizonde the honey issuing from this tree was so noxious, that it drove men mad. Corsican honey was supposed to owe its ill repute to the fact that the bees fed upon Box. The Box is referred to by the Prophet Isaiah in his description of the glory of the latter days of the Church: “The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee, the Fir-tree, the Pine-tree, and the Box-tree together, to beautify the place of my sanctuary.” It is thought, also, to be the Ashur-wood of the Scriptures, and to be referred to by Ezekiel when, in describing the splendour of Tyre, he alludes to the benches of the rowers as made of Ashur wood, inlaid with ivory. That the ancients were accustomed to inlay Box-wood with ivory we know from Virgil and other writers, who allude to this practice.——The Jews employ branches of Box in erecting their tents at the Feast of Tabernacles.——Boughs of Box were used formerly for decorative purposes, instead of the Willow, on Palm Sundays. According to Herrick, it was once a time-honoured custom on Candlemas Day to replace the Christmas evergreens with sprigs of Box, which were kept up till Easter Eve, when they gave place to Yew.

“Down with the Rosemary and Bays,
Down with the Mistletoe;
Instead of Holly now upraise
The greener Box for show.”

Box-boughs were also in olden times regularly gathered at Whitsuntide for decking the large open fire-places then in vogue.——In several parts of the North of England, when a funeral takes place, a basin full of sprigs of Box is placed at the door of the house from which the coffin is taken up, and each mourner is expected to take a sprig, and afterwards cast it on the grave of the deceased.——In Turkey, it is a practice with widows, who go weekly to pray at their husbands’ tomb, to plant a sprig of Box at the head of the grave. The monastery of St. Christine, in the Pyrenees, assumes the arms of the Knights of St. Christine, viz., a white pigeon with a cross in its beak, to which is attached the following legend:—The workmen who were employed to build the monastery had the greatest difficulty in finding a suitable foundation. After several ineffectual attempts, they one morning perceived a white pigeon flying with a cross in its beak. They pursued the bird, which perched on a Box-tree, but though it flew away on their near approach, they found in the branches the cross which it had left: this they took as a good omen, and proceeded successfully to lay the foundation on the spot where the Box-tree had stood, and completed the edifice.——To dream of Box denotes long life and prosperity, also a happy marriage.

BRACKEN FERN.—There was formerly a proverb respecting the Pteris aquilina, or common Brake Fern, popular in the country:—

“When the Fern is as high as a spoon,
You may sleep an hour at noon;
When the Fern is as high as a ladle,
You may sleep as long as you’re able;
When the Fern begins to look red,
Then milk is good with brown bread.”

In Ireland, the Bracken Fern is called the Fern of God, from an old belief that if the stem be cut into three pieces, there will be seen on the first slice the letter G, on the second O, and on the third D,—the whole forming the sacred word God. There is still a superstition in England, probably derived from some holy father, that in the cut stem of the Bracken Fern may be traced the sacred letters I.H.S. In Kent, and some other counties, these letters are deciphered as J.C. In other parts of the country, the marks are supposed to delineate an Oak, and to have first grown there in memory of the tree in which King Charles sought shelter during his flight.——An old legend is yet told, that James, the unfortunate Duke of Monmouth, after the battle of Sedgemoor, was able to lie concealed for some days beneath the dense Bracken Ferns; but one day, emerging from his retreat, he sat down and began cutting some of the Fern-stems which had sheltered him. Whilst doing this, he was seen by some peasants, who noticed the flash of a diamond ring on one of his fingers. When, therefore, a reward was offered soon afterwards for the Duke’s capture, they recalled the circumstance, and sought for him where he lay concealed among the Brakes.——Connected with this figure of an Oak in the Bracken-stem, there is a saying, that if you cut the Bracken slantwise, you’ll see a picture of an Oak-tree; the more perfect, the luckier your chance will be. In Germany, the figure portrayed in the stem is popularly recognised as the Russian Double Eagle. Of still more ancient origin, however, is the opinion that the figure in the Brake Fern-stem is that of an eagle, from whence it derived its name of Eagle Fern. In Henderson’s ‘Folk Lore of the Northern Counties,’ we read that witches detest the Bracken Fern because it bears on its root the letter C, the initial of the holy name of Christ, which may be plainly seen on cutting the root horizontally. It has, however, been suggested that the letter intended is not the English C, but the Greek Χ, the initial letter of the word Christos, which resembles closely the marks on the root of the Bracken. These marks, however, have been also stated to represent Adam and Eve standing on either side of the Tree of Knowledge, and King Charles in the Oak. In some parts, lads and lasses try to discover in the Bracken-stem the initials of their future wife or husband.——Astrologers state that the Bracken Fern is under the dominion of Mercury.

BRAMBLE, or BLACKBERRY.—The Bramble or Blackberry-bush (Rubus fruticosus) is said to be the burning bush, in the midst of which Jehovah appeared to Moses. It is the subject of the oldest apologue extant. We read in Judges ix., 8–15, how Jotham, when bitterly reproaching the men of Shechem for their ingratitude to his father’s house, narrated to them, after the Oriental fashion, the parable of the trees choosing a king, in which their choice eventually fell upon the Bramble. According to some accounts, it was the Bramble that supplied the Thorns which were plaited into a crown, and worn by our Saviour just prior to the Crucifixion.——On St. Simon and St. Jude’s Day (October 28th) tradition avers that Satan sets his foot on the Bramble, after which day not a single edible Blackberry can be found. In Sussex, they say that, after Old Michaelmas Day (10th October), the Devil goes round the county and spits on the Blackberries. In Scotland, it is thought that, late in the Autumn, the Devil throws his cloak over the Blackberries, and renders them unwholesome. In Ireland, there is an old saying, that “at Michaelmas the Devil put his foot on the Blackberries;” and in some parts of that country the peasants will tell their children, after Michaelmas Day, not to eat the Grian-mhuine (Blackberries); and they attribute the decay in them, which about that time commences, to the operation of the Phooka, a mischievous goblin, sometimes assuming the form of a bat or bird, at other times appearing as a horse or goat.——The ancients deemed both the fruit and flowers of the Bramble efficacious against the bites of serpents; and it was at one time believed that so astringent were the qualities of this bush, that even its young shoots, when eaten as a salad, would fasten teeth that were loose. Gerarde, however, for that purpose recommends a decoction of the leaves, mixed with honey, alum, and a little wine, and adds that the leaves “heale the eies that hang out.”——In Cornwall, Bramble-leaves, wetted with spring water, are employed as a charm for a scald or burn. The moistened leaves are applied to the burn whilst the patient repeats the following formula:—

“There came three angels out of the East,
One brought fire, and two brought frost;
Out fire and in frost;
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
Amen.”

A similar incantation to the above is used as a charm for inflammatory disease. The formula is repeated three times to each one of nine Bramble-leaves immersed in spring water, passes being meanwhile made with the leaves from the diseased part. A cure for rheumatism is to crawl under a Bramble, which has formed a second root in the ground; and to charm away boils, the sufferer should pass nine times, against the Sun, under a Bramble-bush growing at both ends. In Devonshire, a curious charm for the cure of blackhead or pinsoles consisted in creeping under an arched Bramble. The person affected by this troublesome malady has to creep on hands and knees under or through a Bramble three times, with the Sun—that is, from east to west. The Bramble must be of peculiar growth, forming an arch rooting at both ends, and if possible reaching into two proprietors’ lands; so that a Bramble is by preference selected, of which the original root is in the hedge of one owner, and the end of the branch forming the arch is rooted in the meadow of another.——The Bramble has funereal associations, and its young shoots have long been used to bind down the sods on newly-made graves in village churchyards. Jeremy Taylor, when commenting on mortality, says, referring to this custom: “The Summer gives green turf and Brambles to bind upon our graves.”——The Moat of Moybolgue, in the County of Cavan, is a sacred place in Ireland, where St. Patrick ministered. According to a legend, Honor Garrigan, one Sunday during the saint’s lifetime, rode up the hill to church; but espying a bunch of ripe Blackberries, she dismounted in order to gather them. Her servant lad remonstrated upon the wickedness of her breaking her fast before receiving the Holy Communion, but in vain; his mistress ate the Blackberries, and then her hunger increased to famine pitch, and she ate the boy and then the horse. St. Patrick, alarmed by the cries of his congregation, who were afraid the wicked woman would devour them also, shot her with his bow and arrow—her body separating into four sections, which were buried in a field outside the churchyard; St. Patrick prophesying to the terrified crowd that she would lie quiet till nine times nine of the name of Garrigan should cross the stream which separated the roads from the churchyard. When that took place, she would rise again, and devour all before her; and that would be the way she would be destroyed. The water of the stream has ever since been held sacred, and effects miraculous cures.——The Bramble is said to be a plant of Mars. To dream of passing through places covered with Brambles, portends troubles; if they prick you, secret enemies will do you an injury with your friends; if they draw blood, expect heavy losses in trade. To dream of passing through Brambles unhurt, denotes a triumph over enemies.

Breakstone.—See Saxifrage.

BROOM.—The English royal line of Plantagenet undoubtedly derived its name from the Broom (Planta genista), the Gen of the Celts, the Genêt of the French, and from time immemorial the badge of Brittany. According to Skinner, the house of Anjou derived the name of Plantagenet from Fulke, the first earl of that name, who, it is said, having killed his brother in order that he might enjoy his principality, afterwards, touched by remorse, undertook a pilgrimage to Jerusalem as a work of atonement; and being there soundly scourged with Broom-twigs, which grew plentifully on the spot, he ever after took the surname of Plantagenet, and bore the Genêt as his personal cognisance, which was retained by his noble posterity. Another legend, however, relates that this badge was first adopted by Gefroi, Earl of Anjou, the father of Henry II., and husband of Matilda, Empress of Germany. Passing on his way to the battle-field through a rocky pathway, on either side of which bushes of yellow Broom clung firmly to the boulders, or upheld the crumbling earth, Gefroi broke off a branch and fixed it as a plume in his cap, saying, “Thus shall this golden plant ever be my cognisance—rooted firmly among rocks, and yet upholding that which is ready to fall.” He afterwards took the name of Plantagenet (Planta genista) and transmitted it to his princely posterity. His son Henry was called the Royal Sprig of Genista, and the Broom continued to be the family device down to the last of the Plantagenets, Richard III. It may be seen on the great seal of Richard I., its first official heraldic appearance.——In 1234, St. Louis of France established a new order of Knighthood, called l’Ordre du Genest, on the occasion of his marriage with Queen Marguerite. The Knights of the Genest wore a chain composed of blossoms of the Genêt (Broom) in gold alternately with white enamelled Fleurs de Lis, from which was suspended, a gold cross with the motto “Deus exaltat humiles.” One hundred Knights of the Order of the Genest acted as a body-guard to the King. The order was long held in high esteem, and one of its recipients was Richard II.——The Broom may well be symbolic of humility, for, according to a Sicilian legend, it was accursed for having made such a noise in the garden of Gethsemane during the time that Jesus Christ was praying there, that His persecutors were thus enabled to surprise Him. Hemmed in by His enemies, Jesus, turning towards the traitorous shrub, pronounced on it this malediction: “May you always make as much noise when you are being burnt.”——In England, the Broom has always been held as one of the plants beloved by witches. In Germany, the Broom is the plant selected for decorations on Whit-Sunday: it is also used as a charm. When a limb has been amputated, the charmer takes a twig from a Broom, and after pressing the wound together with it, wraps it in the bloody linen, and lays it in a dry place, saying:

“The wounds of our Lord Christ
They are not bound;
But these wounds they are bound
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

In Tuscany, on the day of the Fête-Dieu, it is often employed. In England, it is considered that if the Broom has plenty of blossoms, it is the sign of a plentiful grain harvest. In Suffolk and Sussex, there is a saying that—

“If you sweep the house with blossomed Broom in May,
You are sure to sweep the head of the house away.”

By the old herbalists the Broom was considered a panacea for a multiplicity of disorders, and Gerarde tells us that no less a personage than “that worthy Prince of famous memory, Henry VIII., of England, was wont to drink the distilled water of Broome-floures, against surfets and diseases thereof arising.”——Broom is under the planetary influence of Mars.

BRIONY.—The poisonous fruit or berries of the Black Briony (Tamus) are supposed to remove sunburns, freckles, bruises, black eyes, and other blemishes of the skin. Another name of this wild Vine is Our Lady’s Seal. The root of the White Briony may be made to grow in any shape by placing it when young in an earthenware mould. In olden times, designing people by this means obtained roots of frightful forms, which they exhibited as curiosities, or sold as charms. The anodyne necklace, which was a profitable affair for one Doctor Turner in the early part of the present century, consisted of beads made of white Briony-root: it was believed to assist in cutting the teeth of infants, around whose neck it was hung.——Briony is under the dominion of Mars.

BUCKTHORN.—Of one variety of Buckthorn (Rhamnus palinurus) it is said that Christ’s Crown of Thorns was composed. Of another variety (R. Frangula) the Mongols make their idols, selecting the wood on account of its rich hue.——The Buckthorn is under the dominion of Saturn.

BUGLOSS.—The Bugloss (Anchusa) has been made the emblem of Falsehood, because the roots of one of its species (A. tinctoria) are used in making rouge for the face. In the wilds of America, the Indians paint their bodies red with the root of a Bugloss (Anchusa Virginica) indigenous to their country. Galen notices the use of the Bugloss as a cosmetic in his time, and the rouge made from the roots of this plant is said to be the most ancient of all the paints prepared for the face.——Pliny says that the Anchusa was used by the Romans for colouring and dyeing; and adds, that if a person who has chewed this plant should spit in the mouth of a venomous creature, he would kill it.——The Viper’s Bugloss (Echium vulgare) derives its name from its seed being like the head of a viper, and, according to Matthiolus, was celebrated for curing its bites. Nicander also speaks of the Viper’s Bugloss as one of those plants which cure the biting of serpents, and especially of the viper, and that drive serpents away. Dioscorides, as quoted by Gerarde, writes, “The root drunk with wine is good for those that be bitten with serpents, and it keepeth such from being stung as have drunk of it before: the leaves and seeds do the same.”——Bugloss is reputed to be under the dominion of Jupiter.

BULRUSH.—King Midas, having preferred the singing of Marsyas, the satyr, to that of Apollo, the god clapped upon him a pair of ass’s ears. The king’s barber saw them, and, unable to keep the secret, buried it at the foot of a cluster of Bulrushes. These Reeds, shaken by the wind, continually murmured, “King Midas has ass’s ears.” Both the Scirpus lacustris and Typha latifolia (the Reed Mace) are popularly known as the Bulrush (a corruption of Pole Rush or Pool Rush). The Typha is depicted by Rubens, and the earlier Italian painters, as the Reed put into the hands of Jesus Christ upon His crucifixion. The same Reed is, on certain days, put into the hands of the Roman Catholic statues of our Saviour. Gerarde calls this Reed Cat’s-tail, and points out that Aristophanes makes mention of it in his ‘Comedy of Frogs,’ “where he bringeth them forth, one talking with another, being very glad that they had spent the whole day in skipping and leaping among Galingale and Cat’s-tail.”——The Bulrushes, among which the infant Moses was placed on the banks of the Nile, were Reeds not unlike the Typha. The ark in which he was laid was probably a small canoe constructed with the same Reed—the Papyrus Nilotica, which, according to Egyptian belief, was a protection from crocodiles. Gerarde says: “It is thought by men of great learning and understanding in the Scriptures, and set downe by them for truth, that this plant is the same Reed mentioned in the second chapter of Exodus, whereof was made that basket or cradle, which was daubed within and without with slime of that country, called Bitumen Judaicum, wherein Moses was put, being committed to the water, when Pharaoh gave commandment that all the male children of the Hebrews should be drowned.”——Boats and canoes formed of the Papyrus are common in Abyssinia. In South America, a similar kind of Bulrush is used for a like purpose.——The Bulrush is under the dominion of Saturn.

BURDOCK.—Everyone is acquainted with the prickly burs of the Arctium Lappa, or Burdock, which, by means of their hooks, are apt to cling so tenaciously to the passer-by. There exists an old belief among country lads, that they can catch bats by throwing these burs at them. The plant is also known by the names of Great-bur, Hur-bur, and Clot-bur, and has an ancient reputation for curing rheumatism.——It was under the great leaf of a Burdock that the original Hop-o’-my-Thumb, of nursery-rhyme celebrity, sought refuge from a storm, and was, unfortunately, swallowed, enclosed in the leaf, by a passing hungry cow.——In Albania, there is a superstitious belief that, if a man has been influenced by the demons of the forest, the evil spirit must be exorcised by the priest; a portion of the ceremony consisting of the steeping of bread in wine, and spreading it on the broad leaves of a Burdock.——Venus is the planet under whose rule astrologers place Burdock.

BURITI.—The Buriti Palm (Mauritia vinifera) attains, in Brazil, gigantic proportions, and its rich red and yellow fruit, “like quilted cannon balls,” hang in bunches five feet long. From it flour, wine, and butter are made, whilst the fibre of the leaves supplies thread for weaving. Another species, M. flexuosa, flourishes in the valleys and swamps of South America, where the native Indians regard it with great reverence, living almost entirely on its products; and, what is very remarkable, building their houses high up amongst its leaves, where they live during the floods.

BURNET.—The Burnet Saxifrage (Pimpinella Saxifraga) appears to be considered a magical plant in Hungary, where it is called Châbairje, or Chaba’s Salve, from an old tradition that King Chaba discovered it, and cured the wounds of fifteen thousand of his soldiers after a sanguinary battle fought against his brother.——In a work on astrology, purported to be written by King Solomon, and translated from the Hebrew by Iroé Grego, it is stated that the magician’s sword ought to be steeped in the blood of a mole and in the juice of Pimpinella.——In Piedmont, the Pimpinella is thought to possess the property of increasing the beauty of women.——Burnet is a herb of the Sun.

BUTCHER’S BROOM.—A species of Butcher’s Broom, Ruscus hypoglossum, was the Alexandrian Laurel of the Romans, who formed of this shrub the so-called Laurel crowns worn by distinguished personages. It is the Laurel generally depicted on busts, coins.——The name of Butcher’s Broom was given to this plant because in olden times butchers were in the habit of sweeping their blocks with hand brooms made of its green shoots. In Italy, branches of the plant, tied together, are commonly employed as besoms for sweeping houses; and hucksters place boughs of it round bacon and cheese to defend them from the mice. The Ruscus aculeatus, besides its ordinary name of Butcher’s Broom, is called Knee-holme, Knee-pulver, Knee-holly, Pettigree, and sometimes Jews’ Myrtle, because it is sold to the Jews for use during the Feast of the Tabernacles. In combination with Horse-radish, the plant, boiled for a decoction, is said to be serviceable in cases of dropsy; and its boughs are often used in this country for flogging chilblains.——Butcher’s Broom has been used and claimed by the Earls of Sutherland as the distinguishing badge of their followers and clan. The present Duke retains it, and every Sutherland volunteer still wears a sprig of Butcher’s Broom in his bonnet on field days.——Butcher’s Broom is under the dominion of Mars.

Buttercups.—See Ranunculus.

CABBAGE.—A Grecian legend recounts that the Cabbage (Brassica) sprang from the tears of Lycurgus, Prince of Thrace, whom Dionysus had bound to a Vine-stock as a punishment for the destruction of Vines of which the Prince had been guilty. Perhaps this ancient legend may account for the belief that the Cabbage, like the Laurel, is inimical to the Vine; and it may also have given rise to the employment by the Egyptians and the Greeks of this vegetable as a most powerful remedy for the intoxication produced by the fruit of the Vine. Bacon, in his Sylva Sylvarum, says: “So the Colewort (Cabbage) is not an enemy (though that were anciently received) to the Vine onely; but it is an enemy to any other plant, because it draweth strongly the fattest juyce of the earth.” He also tells us that “it is reported that the shrub called Our Ladie’s Seal (which is a kinde of Briony) and Coleworts, set neare together, one or both will die.” Gerarde says that the Greeks called the Cabbage Amethustos, “not onely because it driveth away drunkennesse, but also for that it is like in colour to the pretious stone called the Amethyst.”——The ancient Ionians, in their oaths, invoked the Cabbage. Nicander calls the Cabbage a sacred plant.——In Scotland, young women determine the figure and size of their future husbands by drawing Cabbages, blindfolded, on Hallowe’en.——In some country places, the housewife considers it a lucky omen if her Cabbages grow “double,” i.e., with two shoots from one root; or “lucker,” that is, with the leaves spreading open.——A Cabbage stalk or stump is a favourite steed upon which the “good people,” or fairies, are wont to travel in the air. Mr. Croker, in his ‘Fairy Legends of Ireland,’ relates that at Dundaniel, a village near Cork, in a pleasant outlet called Blackrock, there lived not many years ago a gardener named Crowley, who was considered by his neighbours as under fairy control, and suffered from what they termed “the falling sickness” resulting from the fatigue attendant on the journeys which he was compelled to take; being forced to travel night after night with the good people on one of his own Cabbage-stumps.——The Italian expressions, “Go among the Cabbages,” and “Go hide among the Cabbages,” mean to die. In the North, however, children are told that “Baby was fetched out of the Cabbage-bed.”——In Jersey, the Palm Cabbage is much cultivated, and reaches a considerable height. In La Vendée, the Cæsarean Cow Cabbage grows sixteen feet high. Possibly these gigantic Cabbages may have given rise to the nursery tales of some of the continental states, in which the young hero emulates the exploits of the English Jack and his Bean-stalk, by means of a little Cabbage, which grows larger and larger, and finally, becoming colossal, reaches the skies.——In England, there is a nursery legend which relates how the three daughters of a widow were one day sent into the kitchen garden to protect the Cabbages from the ravages of a grey horse which was continually stealing them. Watching their opportunity, they caught him by the mane and would not be shaken off; so the grey horse trotted away to a neighbouring hill, dragging the three girls after him. Arrived at the hill, he commanded it to open, and the widows’ daughters found themselves in an enchanted palace.——A tradition in the Havel country, North Germany, relates that one Christmas Eve a peasant felt a great desire to eat Cabbage, and having none himself, he slipped into a neighbour’s garden to cut some. Just as he had filled his basket, the Christ Child rode past on his white horse, and said: “Because thou hast stolen on the holy night, thou shalt immediately sit in the moon with thy basket of Cabbage.” The culprit was immediately wafted up to the moon, and there, as the man in the moon, he is still undergoing his penalty for stealing Cabbages on Christmas Eve.——To dream of cutting Cabbages denotes jealousy on the part of wife, husband, or lover, as the case may be. To dream of anyone else cutting them portends an attempt by some person to create jealousy in the loved one’s mind. To dream of eating Cabbage implies sickness to loved ones and loss of money.——Cabbages are plants of the Moon.

CACTUS.—The Cacti are for the most part natives of South America, where their weird and grotesque columns or stems, devoid of leaves, dot with green the arid plains of New Barcelona or the dark hillsides of Mexico and California. They often attain the height of fifty feet, and live to such an age as to have gained the name of “imperishable statues.” Standing for centuries, they have been selected to mark national boundaries, as for instance, between the English and French possessions in the Island of St. Christopher, West Indies, and they are also employed as hedges to lanes and roadways. In the arid plains of Mexico and Brazil, the Cacti serve as reservoirs of moisture, and not only the natives, by probing the fleshy stems with their long forest knives, supply themselves with a cool and refreshing juice, but even the parched cattle contrive to break through the skin with their hoofs, and then to suck the liquid they contain. The splendid colours of the Cactus flowers are in vivid contrast with the ugly and ungainly stems.——There are sundry local legends and superstitions about these plants of the desert. A certain one poisons every white spot on a horse, but not one of any other colour. Another, eaten by horses, makes them lazy and imbecile.——The number of known genera is eighteen, and there are six hundred species, two of which are specially cultivated, viz., Opuntia Cochinellifera (Nopal plant), largely grown in Mexico, as the food plant of the Cochineal insect (Coccus Cacti), which produces a beautiful crimson dye; and C. vulgaris, or Prickly Pear, which is cultivated for its grateful Gooseberry-like fruits in barren rocky parts of North Africa and Southern Europe.——Peruvian sorcerers make rag dolls, and stick the thorns of Cactus in them, or hide these thorns in holes under or about houses, or in the wool of beds and cushions, that those they wish to harm may be crippled, maddened, or suffocated.

Calf’s-snout.—See Antirrhinum.

CAMELLIA.—The flower of the beauteous Rose of Japan (Camellia Japonica) has been well described as—

“The chaste Camellia’s pure and spotless bloom,
That boasts no fragrance and conceals no Thorn.”

The tree was introduced into Europe in 1639, and is named after G. J. Kamel, or Camellus, a Moravian Jesuit, and traveller in Asia, who, returning to Spain from the Isle of Luzon, sought an audience of Queen Maria Theresa, and presented her with a mother-o’-pearl vase, in which grew a small shrub with glossy green leaves, bearing two flowers of dazzling whiteness. Plucking the fair bloom, she ran to the king’s chamber, which he was pacing in one of his periodical fits of melancholy. “Behold the new flower of the Philippines,” she cried, as her husband welcomed her with a fond embrace; “I have kept the best for you; the other you shall present to-night to Rosalez, who plays so well in Cinna, at the Theatre del Principe.” Ferdinand pronounced the flower of which his wife was so enraptured to be “beautiful but scentless,” but spite of the latter defect, the plant was assiduously cultivated in the hothouses of El Buen Retiro, and called after the giver, the Camellia.——In Japan, the Camellia is a large and lofty tree, greatly esteemed by the natives for the beauty of its flowers and evergreen foliage, and grown everywhere in their groves and gardens: it is also a native of China, and figures frequently in Chinese paintings. The Camellia Sasanqua, the Cha-Hwa of the Chinese, has fragrant flowers, and its dried leaves are prized for the scent obtained from them; a decoction is used by the ladies of China and Japan as a hair-wash.——This shrub so resembles the Tea-plant, both in leaf and blossom, that they are not readily distinguished: the leaves are mixed with Tea to render its odour more grateful.

CAMPANULA.—One of the chief favourites in the family of Campanulaceæ, or Bell-flowers, is Campanula Speculum, or Venus’s Looking-glass. The English name was given to this little plant probably because its brilliant corollas appear to reflect the sun’s rays, although some authorities state that it is so called from the glossiness of the seeds. Still another derivation is the resemblance of the flower’s round-shaped bloom to the form of the mirror of the ancients, which was always circular; and the plant being graceful and extremely pretty, it was appropriated to the Goddess of Beauty. The classics, however, ignore all these derivations, and give us the following account of the origin of the

“Floral bough that swingeth
And tolls its perfume on the passing air.”

In one of her rambles on earth, Venus accidentally dropped a certain mirror which she was carrying, and which possessed the quality of beautifying whatever it reflected. A shepherd picked it up; but no sooner had he gazed upon its wondrous reflecting surface, than he forgot forthwith his favourite nymph, and it is to be presumed himself as well; for, like another Narcissus, he became enamoured of his own visage, and could do nothing but admire his own charms. Cupid, who had discovered his mother’s loss, and found out how matters stood with the foolish shepherd, became fearful of the consequences of such a silly error; he, therefore, broke the magic mirror, and transformed the glittering fragments into those bright little flowers, which have ever since been called Venus’s Looking-glass.——Miller mentions seventy-eight kinds of Campanula, the best known of which are the Canterbury-bells, Coventry-bells, the Heath-bell, and the Giant Throat-wort, a flower mentioned by Sir Walter Scott in his poem of ‘Rokeby’:—

“He laid him down,
Where purple Heath profusely strown,
And Throat-wort, with its azure bell,
And Moss, and Thyme, his cushion swell.”

(See also Canterbury Bells).

CAMPHOR.—The Camphire or Camphor-tree (Laurus Camphora) is principally found in China and Japan. Camphor is obtained by boiling the wood of this tree, in which the gum exists, ready formed. The Arabians at a very early period were acquainted with the virtues of the Camphor-trees of Sumatra and Borneo, the produce of which is known as Native Camphor.

Campion.—See Lychnis, and Ragged Robin.

CANDY-TUFT.—The Iberis, or, as we call it in English, Candy-tuft (from Candia, whence we first received the plant), is singularly devoid of any poetical or traditional lore. Old Gerarde tells us that Lord Edward Zouche sent him some seeds which he sowed in his garden, and reared in due course. He calls it Candie Mustard, Thlaspi Candiæ, the latter being one of the names by which the plant was known in France. In that country, more importance seems to have been attached to the flower, or, at any rate, more notice was taken of it by poets and literati, for we find that one of the species was distinguished as being the emblem of architecture, from the fact that its flowers are disposed in stories from the base to the summit of the stalk, resembling in some little degree the open columns of one of the most delicate orders of architecture. Rapin, the French Jesuit poet, alludes to this flower in his poem on Gardens, and briefly gives the mythology of Thlaspis in the following lines:—

“Now, on high stems will Matricaria rear
Her silver blooms, and with her will appear
Thlaspis, a Cretan youth, who won the fair:
Happy if more auspicious Hymen’s rites
Had with pure flames adorned their nuptial lights.”

CANNA.—The Burmese esteem as sacred the Bohdda Tharanat (Canna Indica, or Indian Shot), so named from its seeds, which are used for the beads of the rosary. The flowers are red, or sometimes white. The Burman believes that it sprang from Buddha’s blood; and the legend relates that his evil-minded brother-in-law and cousin Dewadat, enraged that he was not allowed to have a separate assembly of his own, went to the top of a hill, and rolled down a huge stone, intending to destroy the most excellent payah. But the boulder burst into a thousand pieces, and only one little piece bruised Buddha’s toe, and drew a few drops of blood, whence sprang the sacred flower, the Bohdda Tharanat. The renowned physician Zaywaku healed the great teacher’s wound in a single day. The earth soon afterwards opened and swallowed up the sacrilegious Dewadat.

CANTERBURY BELLS.—The Nettle-leaved Bell-flower, Campanula Trachelium, was so called by Gerarde from growing plentifully in the low woods about Canterbury, and possibly in allusion to its resemblance to the hand-bells which were placed on poles, and rung by pilgrims when proceeding to the shrine of Thomas à Becket—St. Thomas, of England. There is, however, a tradition extant that the name of Canterbury Bells was given to the Campanula in memory of St. Augustine.

CARDAMINE.—The faint sweet Cuckoo-flower, common in meadows and by brook sides, is the Cardamine pratensis. It was so called, says Gerarde, because it flowers in April and May, “when the cuckoo doth begin to sing her pleasant notes without stammering.” The flower is also called Lady’s Smock, and Our Lady’s Smock, from the resemblance of its pale flowers to little smocks hung out to dry, as they used to be once a year, at that season especially. Shakspeare alludes to it in these lines:—

“When Daisies pied and Violets blue,
And Lady-smocks all silver white,
And Cuckoo-buds of yellow hue,
Do paint the meadows with delight.
When shepherd’s pipe on oaten straws,
And maidens bleach their Summer smocks,” &c.

The Cuckoo-buds here alluded to are supposed to be a species of Ranunculus; and, perhaps, as the Cardamine pratensis is rather a pale blue than a silver-white flower, Shakspeare alluded in these lines to C. amara, whose brilliantly-white blossoms might well be taken for linen laid out to bleach. The plant derives its name Cardamine from its taste of Cardamoms. It is also called Meadow Cress. For some reason, if this flower was found introduced into a May-day garland, it was torn to pieces immediately on discovery. Our Lady’s Smock is associated by the Catholics with the Day of the Annunciation.——The Cardamine is a herb of the Moon.

CARDINAL-FLOWER.—Of the extensive Lobelia family the L. Cardinalis, or Cardinal’s Flower, is, perhaps, the most beautiful. Its blossoms are of so brilliant a scarlet, as to have reminded the originator of its name of the scarlet cloth of Rome, while its shape is not altogether dissimilar to the hat of the Romish dignitary. Alphonse Karr, remarking on the vivid hue of the Cardinal’s Flower, says that even the Verbena will pale before it.

CARLINE THISTLE.—The white and red Carline Thistles (Carlina vulgaris) derive their name from Charlemagne, regarding whom the legend relates that once—“a horrible pestilence broke out in his army, and carried off many thousand men, which greatly troubled the pious Emperor. Wherefore, he prayed earnestly to God; and in his sleep there appeared to him an angel, who shot an arrow from the cross-bow, telling him to mark the plant upon which it fell, for that with that plant he might cure his army of the pestilence. And so it really happened.” The plant upon which the arrow alighted was the Carline Thistle, and, as Gerarde tells us, Charlemagne’s army was, through the benefit of the root delivered and preserved from the plague.—The Carline Thistle is under the dominion of Mars.

CARNATION.—The Carnation (Dianthus caryophyllus) is generally supposed to have obtained its name from the flesh-colour of its flowers; but it was more correctly spelt by old writers, Coronation, as representing the Vetonica coronaria of the early herbalists, and so called from its flowers being used in the classic coronæ or chaplets. Thus Spenser, in his ‘Shepherd’s Calendar’ says: “Bring Coronations and Sops-in-wine, worn of paramours.” From Chaucer we learn that the flower was formerly called the Clove Gilliflower, and that it was cultivated in English gardens in Edward the Third’s reign. In those days, it was used to give a spicy flavour to wine and ale, and from hence obtained its name of Sop-in-wine:—

“Her springen herbes, grete and smale,
The Licoris and the Setewales,
And many a Clove Gilofre,
————to put in ale,
Whether it be moist or stale.”

The name Gilliflower (formerly spelt Gyllofer and Gilofre) is a corruption of the Latin Caryophyllum, a Clove (Greek, Karuophullon); and has reference to the spicy odour of the flower, which was used as a substitute for the costly Indian Cloves in flavouring dainty dishes as well as liquors. The Gilliflower was also thought to possess medicinal properties. Gerarde assures us, that “The conserve made of the flowers of the Clove Gilloflower and sugar is exceeding cordiall, and woonderfully above measure doth comfort the heart, being eaten now and then.” It was, also, thought good against pestilential fevers.——A red Carnation distinguishes several of the Italian painters. Benvenuto Tisio was called “Il Garofalo,” from his having painted a Gilliflower in the corner of his pictures.——The Carnation is under the dominion of Jupiter. (See also Gilliflower).

CAROB.—The Carob-tree, or St. John’s Bread (Ceratonia Siliqua) flourishes in the East, and in Palestine (to quote from Gerarde) there is “such plenty of it, that it is left unto swine and other wilde beasts to feed upon, as our Acorns and Beech-mast.” Hence it has long been supposed by many that the shells of the Carob-pod were the husks which the Prodigal Son was fain to feed upon, although they were what “the swine did eat; and no man gave unto him’ (Luke xv., 16).——In Germany, as in England, the Carob obtained the name of St. John’s Bread, from the popular belief that the Baptist fed upon it whilst in the wilderness. Gerarde says: “This is of some called Saint John’s Bread, and thought to be that which is translated Locusts, whereon Saint John did feed when he was in the wildernesse, besides the wilde honey whereof he did also eat; but there is small certainty of this; but it is most certain that the people of that country doe feed on these pods.” By others it has been supposed that the Locusts on which John the Baptist fed were the tender shoots of plants, and that the wild honey was the pulp in the pod of the Carob, whence it derived the name of St. John’s Bread.——According to a Sicilian tradition, the Carob is a tree of ill-repute, because it was on one of this species that the traitor Judas Iscariot hung himself.——In Syria and Asia Minor, the Carob, venerated alike by Christian and Mussulman, is dedicated to St. George, whose shrines are always erected beneath the shadow of its boughs.

CARROT.—The wild Carrot (Daucus Carota) is also called Bird’s-nest or Bee’s-nest, because, in its seeding state, the umbel resembles a nest.——In the reign of James the First, ladies adorned their head-dresses with Carrot-leaves, the light feathery verdure of which was considered a pleasing substitute for the plumage of birds.——The ancient Greeks called the Carrot Phileon, because of its connection with amatory affairs. We read in Gerarde in what this consisted. He remarks that the Carrot “serveth for love matters; and Orpheus, as Pliny writeth, said that the use hereof winneth love; which things be written of wilde Carrot, the root whereof is more effectual than that of the garden.” According to Galen, the root of the wild Carrot possessed the power of exciting the passions. The seed was administered to women under the belief that it induced and helped conception.——To dream of Carrots signifies profit and strength to them that are at law for an inheritance, for we pluck them out of the ground with our hand, branches, strings, and veins.——Carrots are held to be under Mercury.

CASHEW.—The nuts of the Cashew (Anacardium occidentale) are supposed by the Indians to excite the passions. The negroes of the West Indies say a branch of the Cashew-tree supplied the crown of Thorns used at our Saviour’s crucifixion, and that, in consequence, one of the bright golden petals of the flower became black and blood-stained.

CASSAVA.—The South American Cassava (Jatropha Manihot) is also known as the edible-rooted physic-nut, and in Brazil it bears the name of Mandioc. There are two kinds of Cassavas—the bitter and the sweet. From the roots of both bread is made, the tubers being first peeled and then ground into farina, and a poisonous juice expressed. Should this juice be drunk by cattle or poultry, they will become speedily much swollen, and die in convulsions; but if the same liquid is boiled with meat, and seasoned, it forms a favourite soup, called by the Brazilians Casserepo. The juice is used by the Indians for the poisoning of arrows: it is sometimes fermented, and converted into an intoxicating liquor in great favour with the Indians and negroes. Tapioca is a kind of starch prepared from the farina of Cassava roots.

CASSIA.—The Cassia mentioned by Moses in Exodus xxx., 24 (called in Hebrew Kidda, the bark), was a sweet spice commanded to be used in the composition of the holy oil employed in the consecration of the sacred vessels of the Tabernacle. It is supposed to have been the bark of an aromatic tree, known by the ancients as Costus, preparations of the bark and root of which were sometimes burnt on the pagan altars. There were three sorts of Costus—the Arabian, the Indian, and the Syrian; the root of the first of these was most esteemed for its aromatic properties: it had a fragrant smell similar to the perfume of Orris or Violets, and was called Costus dulcis or odoratus.

CASSIA-TREE.—The Cassia, or Senna-tree, belongs to a genus numerous in species, which are generally diffused in warm countries: among them is the Moon-tree of the Chinese, and this Cassia is considered by them to be the first of all medicaments. They have a saying, “The Cassia can be eaten, therefore it is cut down,” which probably explains their belief that in the middle of the Moon there grows a Cassia-tree, at the foot of which is a man who is endeavouring continually to fell it. This man is one Kang Wou, a native of Si-ho. Whilst under the tuition of a Geni, he committed a grave fault, for which he was condemned from henceforth to cut down the Cassia-tree. They call the Moon, therefore, the Kueïlan, or the disk of the Cassia. The Chinese give other reasons for associating the Cassia with the Moon. They say that it is the only tree producing flowers with four petals which are yellow—the colour of a metal, an element appertaining to the West, the region where the Moon appears to rise. Then the Cassia-flower opens in Autumn, a period when sacrifices are offered to the Moon; and it has, like the Moon, four phases of existence. During the seventh Moon (August) it blossoms. At the fourth Moon (May) its inflorescence ceases. During the fifth and sixth Moon (June and July) its buds are put forth, and after these have opened into leaf, the tree again bears flowers. Anglo-Indians call the Cassia Fistula, or Umultuss-tree, the Indian Laburnum: its long cylindrical pods are imported into England, and a sugary substance extracted from the pulp between the seeds is commonly used as a laxative. Gerarde says this pulp of Cassia Fistula, when extracted with Violet water, is a most sweet and pleasant medicine, and may be given without danger to all weak people of what age and sex soever. Lord Bacon writes in his Natural History:—“It is reported by one of the ancients, that Cassia, when it is gathered, is put into the skins of beasts, newly flayed, and that the skins corrupting, and breeding wormes, the wormes doe devoure the pith and marrow it, and so make of it hollow; but meddle not with the barke, because to them it is bitter.”

CATCH-FLY.—The Silene, or Catch-fly, received its English name from its glutinous stalk, from which flies, happening to light upon it, cannot disengage themselves. Gerarde gives the plant the additional name of Limewort, and adds, that in his time they were grown in London gardens, “rather for toies of pleasure than any virtues they are possessed with.”

CAT MINT.—Gerarde, probably copying from Dodoens, says of Cat Mint or Cat Nep, that “cats are very much delighted herewith, for the smell of it is so pleasant unto them, that they rub themselves upon it, and swallow or tumble in it, and also feed on the branches very greedily.” There is an old proverb respecting this herb—

“If you set it, the cats will eat it;
If you sow it, the cats won’t know it.”

According to Hoffman, the root of the Cat Mint, if chewed, will make the most gentle person fierce and quarrelsome; and there is a legend of a certain hangman who could never find courage to execute his task until he had chewed this aromatic root. Nep or Cat Mint is considered a herb of Venus.

CEDAR.—Numerous are the allusions made in the Bible to the Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus Libani), the tree which Josephus says was first planted in Judea by Solomon, who greatly admired this noble tree, and built himself a palace of Cedar on Lebanon itself. The celebrated Temple of Solomon was built of hewn stone, lined with Cedar, which was “carved with knops and open flowers; all was Cedar, there was no stone seen.” Since King Solomon’s time, the Cedar forest of Lebanon has become terribly reduced, but Dr. Hooker, in 1860, counted some four hundred trees, and Mr. Tristram, a more recent traveller in the Holy Land, discovered a new locality in the mountains of Lebanon, where the Cedar was more abundant. Twelve of the oldest of these Cedars of Lebanon bear the title of “Friends of Solomon,” or the “Twelve Apostles.” The Arabs call all the older trees, saints, and believe an evil fate will overtake anyone who injures them. Every year, at the feast of the Transfiguration, the Maronites, Greeks, and Armenians go up to the Cedars, and celebrate mass on a rough stone altar at their feet.——The Cedar is made the emblem of the righteous in the 92nd Psalm, and is likened to the countenance of the Son of God in the inspired Canticles of Solomon. Ezekiel (xxxi., 3–9) compares the mighty King of Assyria to a Cedar in Lebanon, with fair branches, and says, as a proof of his greatness and power, that “the Cedars in the garden of God could not hide him.” In the Romish Church, the Cedar of Lebanon, because of its height, its incorruptible substance, and the healing virtues attributed to it in the East, is a symbol of the Virgin, expressing her greatness, her beauty, and her goodness.——The Jews evidently regarded the Cedar as a sacred tree: hence it was used in the making of idols. According to a very old tradition, the Cedar was the tree from which Adam obtained the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. The ancient legend relating how the Cross of Christ was formed of a tree combining in itself the wood of the Cypress, Cedar, and Pine, will be found under the heading Cypress. Another tradition states that of the three woods of which the Cross was composed, and which symbolised the three persons of the Holy Trinity, the Cedar symbolised God the Father.——Pythagoras recommended the Cedar, the Laurel, the Cypress, the Oak, and the Myrtle, as the woods most befitting to honour the Divinity.——The Shittim wood of the Scriptures is considered by some to have been a species of Cedar, of which the most precious utensils were made: hence the expression Cedro digna signified “worthy of eternity.”——The Cedar is the emblem of immortality.——The ancients called the Cedar “life from the dead,” because the perfume of its wood drove away the insects and never-dying worms of the tombs. According to Evelyn, in the temple of Apollo at Utica, there was found Cedar-wood nearly two thousand years old; “and in Sagunti, of Spain, a beam, in a certain oratory consecrated to Diana, which had been brought from Zant two hundred years before the destruction of Troy. The statue of that goddess in the famous Ephesian Temple was of this material also, as was most of the timber-work in all their sacred edifices.” In a temple at Rome there was a statue of Apollo Sosianus in Cedar-wood originally brought from Seleucia. Virgil states that Cedar-wood was considered to be so durable, that it was employed for making images of the gods, and that the effigies of the ancestors of Latinus were carved out of an old Cedar. He also informs us that Cedar-wood was used for fragrant torches.——Sesostris, King of Egypt, is reported to have built a ship of Cedar timber, which, according to Evelyn, was “of 280 cubits, all gilded without and within.”——Gerarde says that the Egyptians used Cedar for the coffins of their dead, and Cedar-pitch in the process of embalming the bodies.——The books of Numa, recovered in Rome after a lapse of 535 years, are stated to have been perfumed with Cedar.——The Chinese have a legend which tells how a husband and wife were transformed into two Cedars, in order that their mutual love might be perpetuated. A certain King Kang, in the time of the Soungs, had as secretary one Hanpang, whose young and beautiful wife Ho the King unfortunately coveted. Both husband and wife were tenderly attached to one another, so the King threw Hanpang into prison, where he shortly died of grief. His wife, to escape the odious attentions of the King, threw herself from the summit of a high terrace. After her death, a letter was discovered in her bosom, addressed to the King, in which she asked, as a last favour, to be buried beside her dear husband. The King, however, terribly angered, would not accede to poor Ho’s request, but ordered her to be interred separately. The will of heaven was not long being revealed. That same night two Cedars sprang from the two graves, and in ten days had become so tall and vigorous in their growth, that they were able to interlace their branches and roots, although separated from one another. The people henceforth called these Cedars “The trees of faithful love.”——Tchihatcheff, a Russian traveller, speaks of vast Cedar forests on Mount Taurus in Asia Minor: the tree was not introduced into England till about Evelyn’s time, nor into France till 1737, when Bernard de Jussieu brought over from the Holy Land a little seedling of the plant from the forests of Mount Lebanon. A romantic account is given of the difficulty this naturalist experienced in conveying it to France, owing to the tempestuous weather and contrary winds he experienced, which drove his vessel out of its course, and so prolonged the voyage, that the water began to fail. All on board were consequently put on short allowance; the crew having to work, being allowed one glass of water a day, the passenger only half that quantity. Jussieu, from his attachment to botany, was reduced to abridge even this small daily allowance, by sharing it with his cherished plant, and by this act of self-sacrifice succeeded in keeping it alive till they reached Marseilles. Here, however, all his pains seemed likely to be thrown away, for as he had been driven, by want of a flower-pot, to plant his seedling in his hat, he excited on landing the suspicions of the Custom-house officers, who at first insisted on emptying the strange pot, to see whether any contraband goods were concealed therein. With much difficulty he prevailed upon them to spare his treasure, and succeeded in carrying it in triumph to Paris, where it flourished in the Jardin des Plantes, and grew until it reached one hundred years of age, and eighty feet in height. In 1837 it was cut down, to make room for a railway.——According to the ancient Chaldean magicians, the Cedar is a tree of good omen—protecting the good and overthrowing the machinations of evil spirits.——M. Lenormant has published an Egyptian legend concerning the Cedar, which De Gubernatis has quoted. This legend recites that Batou having consented to incorporate his heart with the Cedar, if the tree were cut the life of Batou would at the same time be jeopardised; but if he died his brother would seek his heart for seven years, and when he had found it, he would place it in a vase filled with divine essence, which was to impart to it animation, and so restore Batou to life…. Anpou, in a fit of rage, one day enters Batou’s house, and slays the shameless woman who had separated him from his brother. Meanwhile Batou proceeds to the valley of Cedars, and places, as he had announced, his heart in the fruit of the tree at the foot of which he fixes his abode. The gods, not desiring to leave him solitary, create a woman, endowed with extraordinary beauty, but carrying evil with her. Falling madly in love with her, Batou reveals to the woman the secret of his life being bound up with that of the Cedar. Meantime the river becomes enamoured of Batou’s wife; the tree, to pacify it, gives it a lock of the beauty’s hair. The river continues its course, carrying on the surface of its waters the tress, which diffuses a delicious odour. It reaches at last the king’s laundress, who carries it to his majesty. At the mere sight and perfume of the tress, the king falls in love with the woman to whom it belongs. He sends men to the vale of Cedars to carry her off; but Batou kills them all. Then the king despatches an army, who at last bring him the woman whom the gods themselves had fashioned. But while Batou lives she cannot become the wife of the king; so she reveals to him the secret of her husband’s twofold life. Immediately workmen are despatched, who cut down the Cedar. Batou expires directly. Soon Anpou, who had come to visit his brother, finds him stretched out dead beside the felled Cedar. Instantly he sets out to search for Batou’s heart; but for four years his search is fruitless. At the end of that period the soul of Batou yearns to be resuscitated: the time has arrived when, in its transmigrations, it should rejoin his body. Anpou discovers the heart of his brother in one of the cones of the tree. Taking the vase which contains the sacred fluid, he places the heart in it; and, during the day, it remains unaffected, but so soon as night arrives, the heart becomes imbued with the elixir. Batou regains all his members; but he is without vigour. Then Anpou gives to him the sacred fluid in which he had steeped the heart of his young brother, and bids him drink. The heart returns to its place, and Batou becomes himself again. The two brothers set out to punish the unfaithful one. Batou takes the form of a sacred bull. Arrived at the Court, Batou, metamorphosed into the bull, is welcomed and fêted. Egypt has found a new god. During one of the festivals he takes the opportunity of whispering into the ear of her who had formerly been his wife: “Behold, I am again alive—I am Batou! You plotted and persuaded the king to fell the Cedar, so that he might occupy my place at your side when I was dead. Behold, I am again alive—I have taken the form of a bull!” The queen faints away at hearing these words; but speedily recovering herself, she seeks the king and asks him to grant her a favour—that of eating the bull’s liver. After some hesitation, the king consents, and orders that a sacrifice shall be offered to the bull, and that then he shall be killed; but at the moment the bull’s throat is cut, two drops of blood spirt out: one falls to the ground, and forthwith two grand Perseas (the Egyptians’ tree of life) shoot forth. The king, accompanied by his wife, hastens to inspect the new prodigy, and one of the trees whispers in the queen’s ear that he is Batou, once more transformed. The queen, relying on the doting affection which the king entertains for her, asks him to have this tree cut down for the sake of the excellent timber it will afford. The king consents, and she hastens to superintend the execution of his orders. A chip struck from the tree whilst being felled, falls into the mouth of the queen. Shortly she perceives that she has become enceinte. In due course she gives birth to a male infant. It is Batou, once more entering the world by a novel incarnation!”

CELANDINE.—The Great or Major Celandine (Chelidonium major) is also called Swallow-wort and Tetter-wort, and is thought to be efficacious in the cure of warts and cutaneous disorders. It derives its name from the Greek Chelidon, a swallow—not, says Gerarde, “because it first springeth at the coming in of the swallowes, or dieth when they go away, for as we have saide, it may be founde all the yeare, but because some holde opinion that with this herbe the dams restore sight to their young ones, when their eies be put out.” This magical property of the Celandine was first propounded by Aristotle, and afterwards repeated by Pliny, Dodoens, Albert le Grand, Macer, and most of the old botanical writers. Coles fully believed the wonderful fact, and remarks: “It is known to such as have skill of nature, what wonderful care she hath of the smallest creatures, giving to them a knowledge of medicine to help themselves, if haply diseases annoy them. The swallow cureth her dim eyes with Celandine; the wesell knoweth well the virtue of Herb Grace; the dove the Verven; the dogge dischargeth his mawe with a kinde of grasse,” &c. Lyte also, in his ‘Herbal,’ fully supported the ancient rustic belief that the old swallows used Celandine to restore sight to their young. He says the plant was called Swallow-herb, because “it was the first found out by swallowes, and hath healed the eyes and restored sight to their young ones that have had harme in their eyes or have been blinde.” Celandine has long been popular among village simplers as a remedy when diluted with milk against thick spots in the eye.——It is said that the lack of medical knowledge among the ancients induced the belief in the magical properties of Celandine. They saw in the Chelidonium a Cœli donum, and hence were anxious to endow it with celestial properties.——The red and violet Celandines, or Horned Poppies, are mentioned by Ben Jonson among the plants used by witches in their incantations.

The Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus Ficaria) is perhaps better known as the Pile-wort, a name given to it in allusion to the small tubers on the roots, which, on the doctrine of plant signatures, indicated that the plant was a remedial agent in this complaint.——Astrologers assign Celandine to the Sun, and the Pile-wort to Mars.

CENTAURY.—This flower, the well known Blue-bottle of the cornfields, is fabled to have derived its name from Chiron, a centaur, who is stated to have taught mankind the use of plants and medicinal herbs. According to Pliny, Chiron cured himself with this plant from a wound he had accidentally received from an arrow poisoned with the blood of the hydra. M. Barthelemy writes how, when Anacharsis visited the cave of Chiron, the centaur, on Mount Pelion, he was shown a plant which grew near it, of which he was informed that the leaves were good for the eyes, but that the secret of preparing them was in the hands of only one family, to whom it had been lineally transmitted from Chiron himself.——Mythology has another origin for the Centaurea Cyanus. According to this account, the flower was called Cyanus, after a youth so named, who was so enamoured of Corn-flowers, that his favourite occupation was that of making garlands of them; and he would scarcely ever leave the fields, whilst his favourite blue flowers continued to bloom. So devoted was his admiration, that he always dressed himself in clothes of the same brilliant hue as the flower he loved best. Flora was his goddess, and of all the varied gifts, her Corn-flower was the one he most appreciated. At length he was one day found lying dead in a cornfield, surrounded with the blue Corn-flowers he had gathered: and soon after the catastrophe, the goddess Flora, out of gratitude for the veneration he had for her divinity, transformed his body into the Centaurea Cyanus, the Blue-bottle of English cornfields.——In Lucan’s ‘Pharsalia,’ the Centaury is one of the plants named as being burned with the object of driving away serpents.

“Beyond the farthest tents rich fires they build,
That healthy medicinal odours yield:
There foreign Galbanum dissolving fries,
And crackling flames from humble Wallwort rise;
There Tamarisk, which no green leaf adorns,
And there the spicy Syrian Costos burns:
There Centaury supplies the wholesome flame,
That from Thessalian Chiron takes its name;
The gummy Larch-tree, and the Thapsos there,
Woundwort and Maidenweed perfume the air:
There the long branches of the long-lived Hart,
With Southernwood their odours strong impart,
The monsters of the land, the serpents fell,
Fly far away, and shun the hostile swell.”

The Corn-flower is called in Russia Basilek (the flower of Basil), and attached to it is a legend that a handsome young man of this name was enticed away by a nymph named Russalka, allured into the fields, and transformed into the Corn-flower.——Plants have always been a favourite means of testing the faith of lovers; and the Centaury or Bluet of the cornfields was the flower selected by Margaret as the floral oracle from which to learn the truth respecting Faust.

“There is a flower, a purple flower,
Sown by the wind, nursed by the shower,
O’er which love breathed a powerful spell,
The truth of whispering hope to tell.
Now, gentle flower, I pray thee tell,
If my lover loves me, and loves me well:
So may the fall of the morning dew
Keep the sun from fading thy tender blue.”

The Centaury is known as the Hurt-sickle, because it turns the edges of the reapers’ sickles: its other familiar names are Blue-bottle, Blue-blow, Bluet, and Corn-flower.——It is held by astrologers to be under Saturn.

CEREUS.—The crimson-flowered Cereus (Cereus speciosissimus), belonging to the natural order Cactaceæ, is generally known in England as the Torch Thistle, and is fabled to have been the torch borne by Ceres in the daytime. Cereus flagelliformis is the pink-flowered creeping Cereus, the long round stems of which hang down like cords. Cereus grandiflorus is the night-blowing Cereus, which begins to open its sweet-scented flowers about eight o’clock in the evening; they are fully blown by eleven, and by four o’clock next morning they are faded and droop quite decayed. The Old Man’s Head, or Monkey Cactus, Cereus senilis, is another member of this family.

CHAMELÆA.—The Spurge-Olive or Chamelæa (Cneorum tricoccum) is a humble shrub, whose three-leaved pale-yellow flowers were consecrated to the god Janus. The month of January, placed under the protection of Janus, was represented in the guise of an old man, who held in his hand a flower of the Chamelæa. After flowering, the shrub produces three-cornered berries, which are at first green, then red, and finally brown. The plant in England was formerly called the Widow-wail, for what reason we know not, but Gerarde says, “quia facit viduas.”

CHAMOMILE.—According to Galen, the Egyptians held the Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) in such reverence, that they consecrated it to their deities: they had great faith in the plant as a remedy for agues. Gerarde tells us that Chamomile is a special help against wearisomeness, and that it derives its name from the Greek Chamaimelon, Earth-Apple, because the flowers have the smell of an Apple.——In Germany, Chamomile-flowers are called Heermännchen, and they are traditionally supposed to have once been soldiers, who for their sins died accursed.——The Romans supposed the Anthemis to be possessed of properties to cure the bites of serpents.——Chamomile is considered to be a herb of the Sun.

CHAMPAK.—The Champa or Champak (Michelia Champaca) is one of the sacred plants of India. The blue Champak-flower is of the greatest rarity, and is regarded as being the principal ornament of Brahma’s heaven. It is, in fact,

“That blue flower which Brahmins say
Blooms nowhere but in Paradise,”

for the earthly sort has yellow blossoms with which the Hindu maidens are fond of ornamenting their raven hair. The tree is sacred to Vishnu, and is, therefore, an object of reverential regard on the part of the Hindus, who cultivate it for the fragrance of its flowers, which is so strong that the bees, fearful of being overcome, will scarcely ever alight upon them. The Hindus apply to the Champak-flowers the most flattering appellations, which celebrate its wondrous delicacy and form, its glittering golden hue, and its voluptuous perfume.

CHERRY.—About the year 70 B.C., Lucullus, after his victory over Mithridates, brought from Cerasus, in Pontus, the Cherry-tree, and introduced it into Italy. It was planted in Britain a century later, but the cultivated sorts disappeared during the Saxon period. “Cherries on the ryse,” or on the twigs, was, however, one of the street cries of London in the fifteenth century. These Cherries were, perhaps, the fruit of the native wild Cherry, or Gean-tree, as the cultivated Cherry was not re-introduced till the reign of Henry VIII., whose fruiterer brought it from Flanders, and planted a Cherry orchard at Teynham.——An ancient legend records that, before the birth of our Saviour, the Virgin Mary longed extremely to taste of some tempting Cherries which hung upon a tree high above her head; so she requested Joseph to pluck them. Joseph, however, not caring to take the trouble, refused to gather the Cherries, saying sullenly, “Let the father of thy child present thee with the Cherries if he will!” No sooner had these words escaped his lips, than, as if in reproof, the branch of the Cherry-tree bowed spontaneously to the Virgin’s hand, and she gathered its fruit and ate it. Hence the Cherry is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. There is a tradition that our Saviour gave a Cherry to St. Peter, cautioning him at the same time not to despise little things.——The ancient Lithuanians believed that the demon Kirnis was the guardian of the Cherry. In Germany and Denmark there is a tradition that evil spirits often hide themselves in old Cherry-trees, and delight in doing harm to anyone who approaches them. The Albanians burn branches of the Cherry-tree on the nights of the 23rd and 24th of December, and the nights of the 1st and 6th of January—that is to say on the three nights consecrated to the new sun; and they preserve the ashes of these branches to fertilise their Vines. They say that in so doing they burn the evil spirits hidden in the trees, who are destructive to vegetation.——At Hamburg, there is an annual festival called the Feast of the Cherries, when children parade the streets, carrying boughs laden with the fruit. This observance dates from the year 1432, when the Hussites threatened the immediate destruction of Hamburg. The inhabitants, in despair, dressed all the children in black, and despatched them to the Hussite leader, P. Rasus, to plead with him. The warrior, touched at the sight of so many little helpless ones, promised that he would spare the city, and after feasting the children with Cherries, sent them back rejoicing and waving in their hands the Cherry-boughs.——There is an old proverb current in Germany, France, and Italy, that you should never eat Cherries with the rich, because they always choose the ripest, or, even worse, eat the luscious fruit, and throw the stones and stalks to their companions.——The gum which exudes from the Cherry-tree is considered equal in value to gum-arabic. Hasselquist relates that during a siege upwards of one hundred men were kept alive for nearly two months, without any other nutriment than that obtained by sucking this gum.——The Cherry is held by astrologers to be under the dominion of Venus.——To dream of Cherries denotes inconstancy and disappointment in life.

CHESNUT.—The Chesnut (Fagus Castanea) was classed by Pliny among the fruit trees, on account of the value of the nut as an article of food. He states that the tree was introduced from Sardis in Pontus, and hence was called the Sardian Acorn. The Chesnuts of Asia Minor supplied Xenophon’s whole army with food in their retreat along the borders of the Euxine. Once planted in Europe, the Chesnut soon spread all over the warm parts. It flourished in the mountains of Calabria, and is the tree with which Salvator Rosa delighted to adorn his bold and rugged landscapes.——The Castagno dei cento cavalli (Chesnut of the hundred horses) upon Mount Etna is probably the largest tree in Europe, being more than 200 feet in circumference.——Chesnuts are included in the list of funereal trees. In Tuscany, the fruit is eaten with solemnity on St. Simon’s Day. In Piedmont, they constitute the appointed food on the eve of All Souls’ Day, and in some houses they are left on the table under the belief that the dead poor will come during the night and feast on them. In Venice, it is customary to eat Chesnuts on St. Martin’s Day, and the poor women assemble beneath the windows and sing a long ballad, or, after expressing their good wishes towards the inmates of the house, ask for Chesnuts to appease their hunger. (See also Horse-Chesnut.)

CHOHOBBA.—The Mexicans regard with peculiar sanctity and reverence a herb which grows in their country, and which they call Chohobba. If they wish an abundant crop of Yucca or Maize, if they wish to know whether a sick chief will recover or die, if they desire to learn whether a war is likely to occur, or, in fact, if they desire any important information, one of their chiefs enters the building consecrated to their idols, where he prepares a liquid obtained from the herb Chohobba, which can be absorbed through the nose: this fluid has an intoxicating effect, and he soon loses all control over himself. After awhile, he partly recovers, and sits himself on the ground, with head abased, and hands beneath his knees, and so remains for some little time. Then he raises his eyes, as if awaking from a long sleep, and gazes upwards at the sky, at the same time muttering between his teeth some unintelligible words. No one but his relatives approaches the chief, for the people are not allowed to assist at the rite. When the relatives perceive that the chief is beginning to regain consciousness, they return thanks to the god for his recovery, and ask that he may be permitted to tell them what he has seen whilst in his trance. Then the half-dazed chief relates what the god has told him regarding the particular matters he had wished to enquire about.

CHOKE PEAR.—The fruit of the Wild Pear, Pyrus communis, is so hard and austere as to choke: hence the tree has been called the Choke Pear. It is supposed to have been a Pear of this description that caused the death of Drusus, a son of the Emperor Claudius. He caught in his mouth, and swallowed, a Pear thrown into the air, but owing to its extreme hardness, it stuck in his throat and choked him.

Christmas Rose.—See Hellebore.

CHRIST’S HERB.—The Black Hellebore is called Christ’s Herb or Christmas Herb (Christwurz), says Gerarde, “because it floureth about the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (See Hellebore.)

CHRIST’S LADDER.—In the fourteenth century, the Erythræa Centaurium was called Christ’s Ladder (Christi scala), from the name having been mistaken for Christ’s Cup (Christi schale), in allusion to the bitter draught offered to our Lord upon the Cross.

CHRIST’S PALM.—The Ricinus communis is commonly known as Palma Christi, or Christ’s Palm. The same plant is also reputed to have been Jonah’s Gourd.

CHRIST’S THORN.—Gerarde, in his Herbal, calls the Paliurus, Christ’s Thorn or Ram of Libya; and he writes: “Petrus Bellonius, who travelled over the Holy Land, saith, that this shrubby Thorne Paliurus, was the Thorne wherewith they crowned our Saviour Christ, his reason for the proofe hereof is this, That in Judea, there was not any Thorne so common, so pliant, or so fit for to make a crown or garland of, nor any so full of cruell sharpe prickles. It groweth throughout the whole countrey in such abundance, that it is there common fuell to burn; yea, so common with them there as our Gorse, Brakes, and Broome is here with us. Josephus (lib. 1, cap. 2 of his Antiquities) saith, That this Thorne hath the most sharp prickles of any other; wherefore that Christ might bee the more tormented, the Jews rather tooke this than any other.” The shrub still abounds in Judea, and has pliable branches armed with sharp spines. (See Thorn.)

CHRYSANTHEMUM.—The leaf and flower of the Chrysanthemum Indicum were long ago adopted as, and are still, the special emblem and blazon of Mikados of Japan. One of the most popular of the Japanese festivals is that held in honour of the golden Chrysanthemum, or Kiku. The Japanese florists display their Chrysanthemums built up into the forms of their gods or heroes; thus, in their exhibitions, are to be seen effigies of Benkei, the Hercules of Japan, gorgeously apparelled in white, purple, and yellow Pompons; the Sun Goddess, decked in golden blooms; Jimmu Tenno, a popular hero, and endless groups of gods and goddesses, and mythological heroes and heroines.——The Chrysanthemum was first introduced into England in 1764 by Miller, who received a Kok fa, or Chrysanthemum Indicum from Nîmpu, and cultivated it at the botanical garden at Chelsea. In the seventeenth century a Chrysanthemum was grown in Dantsic.——Three Chrysanthemums (the Corn Marigold, the Ox-eyed Daisy, and the Fever-few) are natives of England, but as they bloom in summer when flowers are plentiful, and not in November, as our garden varieties do, it has not been so well worth while to bestow care in raising and improving them. The Autumn Chrysanthemums are descended from either the Chinese or the Indian varieties, the former of which have white flowers and the latter yellow. The Pompon varieties are derived from the Chusan Daisy, introduced into England from China by Mr. Fortune in 1846. In their wild state they are all, indeed, even the Japanese forms of the Chinese flowers, much like Daisies, with a yellow disc surrounded by rays of florets, but by cultivation the disc-florets are assimilated to those of the ray, and the flower assumes a homogeneous appearance only faintly suffused with yellow towards the centre.

CINCHONA.—The Cinchona, or Jesuit’s Bark-tree (Cinchona officinalis), is a native of Peru. The famous bark was introduced into Europe through the medium of Ana de Osorio, Countess Cinchon, and Vice-Queen of Peru, after whom the powdered bark was called “Countess’s Powder.” The use of the bark was first learned from the following circumstances:—Some Cinchona-trees being thrown by the winds into a pool, lay there until the water became so bitter that everyone refused to drink it, till one of the inhabitants of the district being seized with violent fever, and finding no water wherewith to quench his thirst, was forced to drink of this, by which means he became perfectly cured; and afterwards, relating his cure to others, they made use of the same remedy.

CINNAMON.—Bacon, in his ‘Natural History,’ speaks thus of the Cinnamon (Laurus Cinnamomum):—“The ancient Cinnamon was of all other plants, while it grew, the dryest; and those things which are knowne to comfort other plants did make that more sterill: for, in showers, it prospered worst: it grew also amongst bushes of other kindes, where commonly plants doe not thrive; neither did it love the Sunne.” Solomon, in his Canticles, mentions Cinnamon among the precious spices; and Moses was commanded to use “sweet Cinnamon” in the preparation of the holy oil used to anoint the Tabernacle and the sacred vessels, and to consecrate Aaron and his sons to the priesthood. The Emperor Vespasian was the first to take chaplets of Cinnamon to Rome, wherewith to decorate the temples of the Capitol and of Peace. It is related, that Alexander the Great, whilst at sea, perceived he was near the coast of Arabia, from the scent of Cinnamon wafted from the still distant shore.——The Mahometans of India used to have a curious belief that the Cinnamon-tree is the bark, the Clove the flower, and the Nutmeg the fruit, of one and the same tree; and most of the writers of the Middle Ages thought that Cinnamon, Ginger, Cloves, and Nutmegs were the produce of one tree.——Gerarde tells us, that there was formerly much controversy concerning the true Cinnamon and Cassia of the ancients, but he considered the tree whose bark is Cassia to be a bastard kind of Cinnamon. The Cinnamon, he says, has pleasant leaves and fair white flowers, which turn into round black berries, the size of an Olive, “out of which is pressed an oile that hath no smell at all untill it be rubbed and chafed between the hands: the trunk or body, with the greater arms or boughs of the tree, are covered with a double or twofold barke, like that of the Corke-tree, the innermost whereof is the true and pleasant Cinnamon, which is taken from this tree and cast upon the ground in the heate of the sun, through whose heate it turneth and foldeth itselfe round together.” The tree thus peeled, recovered itself in three years, and was then ready to be disbarked again.——Tradition states that the ancient Arabian priests alone possessed the right of collecting the Cinnamon. The most patriarchal of them would then divide the precious bark, reserving the first bundle for the Sun. After the division had taken place, the priests left to the Sun itself the task of lighting the sacred fire on the altar where the high priest was to offer a sacrifice.——Theophrastus narrates that the Cinnamon flourished in the valleys frequented by venomous serpents; and that those who repaired thither to collect it were compelled to wear bandages on their hands and feet. After the Cinnamon was collected, it was divided into three portions, of which one was reserved for the Sun, which, with glowing rays, quickly came and carried it off.——Herodotus says, that Cinnamon was gathered from the nest of the Phœnix.——An old writer affirms that the distilled water of the flowers of the Cinnamon-tree excelled far in sweetness all the waters whatsoever. The leaves yield oil of Cloves; the fruit also yields an oil, which was formerly, in Ceylon, made into candles, for the sole use of the king; the root exudes an abundance of Camphor; and the bark of the root affords oil of Camphor, as well as a particularly pure species of Camphor.

CINQUEFOIL.—In former days, Cinquefoil (Potentilla) much prevailed as an heraldic device; the number of the leaves answering to the five senses of man. The right to bear Cinquefoil was considered an honourable distinction to him who had worthily conquered his affections and mastered his senses. In wet weather the leaves of the Cinquefoil contract and bend over the flower, forming, as it were, a little tent to cover it—an apt emblem of an affectionate mother protecting her child. Cinquefoil was formerly believed to be a cure for agues; four branches being prescribed for a quartan, three for a tertian, and one for a quotidian.——Cinquefoil is deemed a herb of Jupiter.

CISTUS.—The Cistus, according to Cassianus Bassus, derives its name from a Grecian youth named Kistos. Under this title is embraced a most extensive genus of plants celebrated all over the world for their beauty and fragility. Gerarde and Parkinson call them Holly Roses, a name which has become changed into Rock Roses.——From the Cistus Creticus (frequently called the Ladaniferous Cistus) is obtained the balsam called Ladanum, a kind of resin, prized for its tonic and stomachic properties, but more highly valued as a perfume, and extensively used in oriental countries in fumigations. This resin, which is secreted from the leaves and other parts of the shrub, is collected by means of a kind of rake, to which numerous leather thongs are appended instead of teeth. In olden times this resin was believed to have been gathered from the shrubs by goats who rubbed their beards against the leaves, and so collected the liquid gum; but Gerarde affirms this to have been a monkish tradition—a fable of the “Calohieros, that is to say, Greekish monkes, who, of very mockery, have foisted that fable among others extant in their workes.” Be this as it may, Bacon records the fact in his ‘Natural History,’ remarking: “There are some teares of trees, which are kembed from the beards of goats; for when the goats bite and crop them, especially in the morning, the dew being on, the teare cometh forth, and hangeth upon their beards: of this sort is some kinde of Ladanum.”

CITRON.—A native of all the warm regions of Asia, the Citron was introduced into Europe from Media, and hence obtained the name of Malus Medica. During the feast of the Tabernacles, the Jews in their synagogues carry a Citron in their left hand; and a conserve made of a particular variety of the fruit is in great demand by the Jews, who use it during the same feast. According to Athenæus, certain notorious criminals, who had been condemned to be destroyed by serpents, were miraculously preserved, and kept in health and safety by eating Citrons. Theophrastus says that Citrons were considered an antidote to poisons, for which purpose Virgil recommended them in his Georgics. Gerarde thus translates the passage:—

“The countrey Media beareth juices sad,
And dulling tastes of happy Citron fruit,
Than which no helpe more present can be had,
If any time stepmothers, worse than brute,
Have poyson’d pots, and mingled herbs of sute
With hurtful charmes: this Citron fruit doth chase
Black venome from the body in every place.
The tree itselfe in growth is large and big,
And very like in show to th’ Laurell-tree;
And would be thought a Laurell leafe and twig,
But that the smell it casts doth disagree:
The floure it holds as fast as floure may be:
Therewith the Medes a remedie do finde
For stinking breaths and mouthes, a cure most kinde,
And helpe old men which hardly fetch their winde.”

Della Valle, an Italian traveller of the seventeenth century, relates how, at Ikkeri, he saw an Indian widow, on her way to the funeral pyre, riding on horseback through the town, holding in one hand a mirror, in the other a Citron, and whilst gazing into the mirror she uttered loud lamentations. De Gubernatis thinks that perhaps the Citron was the symbol of the life become bitter since the death of her husband.——Rapin recommends the Citron for heart affections:—

“Into an oval form the Citrons rolled
Beneath thick coats their juicy pulp unfold:
From some the palate feels a poignant smart,
Which though they wound the tongue, yet heal the heart.”

CLAPPEDEPOUCH.—The Capsella Bursa pastoris, or Shepherd’s Purse, was so called from the resemblance of its numerous flat seed-pouches to a common leather purse. Dr. Prior says that the Irish name of Clappedepouch was applied to the plant in allusion to the licensed begging of lepers, who stood at the crossways with a bell and a clapper. Hoffmann von Fallersleben, in his Niederländische Volkslieder, says of them: “Separated from all the world, without house or home, the lepers were obliged to dwell in a solitary, wretched hut by the roadside; their clothing so scanty that they often had nothing to wear but a hat and a cloak, and a begging wallet. They would call the attention of the passers-by with a bell or a clapper, and received their alms in a cup or a bason at the end of a long pole. The bell was usually of brass. The clapper is described as an instrument made of two or three boards, by rattling which they excited people to relieve them.” The lepers, Dr. Prior thinks, would get the name of Rattle-pouches, and this be extended to the plant, in allusion to the little purses which it hangs out by the wayside. The plant was also known by the names of Poor Man’s Parmacetie, and St. James’s Weed—the former in allusion to its medicinal virtues. (See Shepherd’s Purse). It is considered a herb of Saturn.

CLEMATIS.—The Clematis vitalba, Gerarde informs us, was called Travellers’ Joy, “as decking and adorning waies and hedges when people travell.” It was also termed “Old Man’s Beard,” from the hoary appearance of its seeds; and Virgin’s Bower, out of compliment to Queen Elizabeth, and in allusion to its climbing habits. It became the emblem of Artifice because beggars, in order to excite compassion, were in the habit of making false ulcers in their flesh by means of its twigs, the result often being a real sore.——The Clematis flammula, or upright Virgin’s Bower, is an acrid plant, that inflames the skin. Miller says of it that if one leaf be cropped in a hot day in the summer season, and bruised, and presently put to the nostrils, it will cause a smell and pain like a flame.——Clematis integrifolia, or Hungarian Climber, is known in Little Russia as Tziganka (the Gipsy Plant). Prof. De Gubernatis has given in his Mythologie des Plantes the following legend connected with this plant:—The Cossacks were once at war with the Tartars. The latter having obtained the advantage, the Cossacks commenced to retreat. The Cossack hetman, indignant at the sight, struck his forehead with the handle of his lance. Instantly there arose a tempest, which whirled away the Cossack traitors and fugitives into the air, pounded them into a thousand fragments, and mingled their dust with the earth of the Tartars. From that earth springs the plant Tziganka. But the souls of the Cossacks, tormented by the thought of their bones being mixed with the accursed earth of the stranger, prayed to God that he would vouchsafe to disseminate it in the Ukraine, where the maidens were wont to pluck Clematis integrifolia to weave into garlands. God hearkened to their Christian prayers, and granted their patriotic desires. It is an old belief in Little Russia that if everybody would suspend Briony from his waistbelt behind, these unfortunate Cossacks would come to life again.

CLOVE.—The aromatic Clove-tree (Caryophyllatus aromaticus) is a native of the Moluccas, where its cultivation is carefully guarded by the Dutch. The islanders wear its white flowers as a mark of distinction. These flowers grow in bunches at the end of the branches, and are succeeded by oval berries, which are crowned with the calyx. It is these berries, beaten from the trees before they are half grown, and allowed to dry in the sun, which are the Cloves of commerce. The Clove is considered to be one of the hottest and most acrid of aromatics; its pungent oil (which is specifically heavier than water) has been administered in paralytic cases. Gerarde says, that the Portuguese women, resident in the East Indies, distilled from the Cloves, when still green, a certain liquor “of a most fragrant smell, which comforteth the heart, and is of all cordials the most effectual.”——There is an old superstition, still extant, that children can be preserved from evil influences and infantile disorders, by having a necklace of Cloves suspended as an amulet round the neck.

CLOVER.—The old English names for Clover were Trefoil and Honey-suckles.——The word Clover is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Clœfre. The club of Hercules was called by the Latins clava trinodis; and the “club” of our playing cards is so named from its resemblance to a Clover-leaf—a leaf with three leaflets (tria folia). Hence the herb’s generic name of Trifolium, or Trefoil.——Hope was depicted by the ancients as a little child standing on tiptoe, and holding a Clover-flower in his hand. Summer is also represented with the Trefoil.——In the Christian Church, the Trefoil is held to be the symbol of the Trinity; hence Clover is used for decorations on Trinity Sunday. It is often employed as an architectural emblem: the limbs of crosses are sometimes made to end in Trefoils, and church windows are frequently in the same form.——Clover possesses the power of vegetating after having existed in a dormant state for many years. If lime is powdered and thrown upon the soil, a crop of white Clover will sometimes arise where it had never been known to exist; this spontaneous coming-up of the flower is deemed an infallible indication of good soil.——Clover-grass is reputed always to feel rough to the touch when stormy weather is at hand; and its leaves are said to start and rise up, as if it were afraid of an assault.——The Druids held the Clover, or Trefoil, in great repute, and it is believed that they considered it a charm against evil spirits. Formerly the Clover was thought to be not only good for cattle, but noisome to witches, and so “the holy Trefoil’s charm,” was very generally prized as a protective.——A sprig of Clover with only two leaves on it is employed by the lads and lasses of Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, and Suffolk, as a charm to enable them to ascertain the names of their future wives and husbands:—

“A Clover, a Clover of two,
Put it on your right shoe;
The first young man [or woman] you meet,
In field street, or lane,
You’ll have him [or her] or one of his [or her] name.”

Gerarde says that the meadow Trefoil (especially that with the black half-moon upon the leaf), pounded with a little honey, “takes away the pin and web in the eies, ceasing the pain and inflammation thereof if it be strained and dropped therein.” The finding of a four-leaved Clover is considered especially fortunate, not only in England, but in France, Switzerland, and Italy. It is believed to almost ensure happiness, and in the case of young girls a husband very speedily. There is old couplet which records that—

“If you find an even Ash-leaf or a four-leaved Clover,
You’ll be bound to see your true love ere the day be over.”

In Scotland, the possessor of a piece of four-bladed Clover is reputed to have a prescience when witchcraft is attempted to be practised upon him; and in the North of England this lucky leaf is placed in dairies and stables, to preserve them from the spells of witches.——There is a Cornish fairy tale which is intimately associated with the four-leaved Clover:—One evening a maiden set out to milk the cows later than usual: indeed, the stars had begun to shine before she completed her task. “Daisy” (an enchanted cow), was the last to be milked, and the pail was so full that the milk-maid could hardly lift it to her head. So to relieve herself, she gathered some handfuls of Grass and Clover, and spread it on her head in order to carry the milk-pail more easily. But no sooner had the Clover touched her head, than suddenly hundreds of little people appeared surrounding Daisy, dipping their tiny hands into the milk, and gathering it with Clover-flowers, which they sucked with gusto. Daisy was standing in the long Grass and Clover, so some of these little creatures climbed up the stalks and held out Buttercups, Convolvuluses, and Foxgloves, to catch the milk which dropped from the cow’s udder. When the astonished milk-maid, upon reaching home, recounted her wonderful experiences to her mistress, the goodwife at once cried out: “Ah! you put a four-leaved Clover on your head.”——To dream of seeing a field of Clover is of happy augury, indicating health, prosperity, and much happiness. To the lover it foretells success, and that his intended wife will have great wealth.——Clover is under the dominion of Venus.

CLUB-MOSS.—The Stag’s-horn, Fox’s-tail, or Club-Moss (Lycopodium clavatum), is used in the North of England, Sweden, and Germany, in wreaths worn on festive occasions. The powder or dust which issues from its spore cases, is highly inflammable, and is collected for fireworks and for producing stage lightning. It is the Blitz-mehl, or lightning-meal of the Germans. The Fir Club-Moss (L. Selago) is made by the Highlanders into an eye ointment. In Cornwall, the Club-Moss is considered good against all diseases of the eyes, provided only it is gathered in the following manner:—On the third day of the moon, when it is seen for the first time, show it the knife with which the Moss is to be cut, repeating the while—

“As Christ healed the issue of blood,
Do thou cut what thou cuttest for good.”

Then, at sundown, the Club-Moss may be cut by the operator kneeling, and with carefully washed hands. The Moss is to be tenderly wrapped in a fair white cloth, and afterwards boiled in water procured from the spring nearest the spot where it grew. The liquor is to be applied as a fomentation. The Club-Moss may also be made into an ointment, with butter made from the milk of a new cow. These superstitious customs have probably a Druidic origin, and tend to identify the Selago or Golden Herb of the Druids with the Club-Moss, as the Selago was held sacred by them, and gathered with many mystic observances. (See Selago.)——In many parts of Germany, certain Fairy-folk, called Moss-women, are popularly believed to frequent the forests. In Thuringia, these little women of the wood are called Holzfrala, and in one of the legends of the Fichtelgebirge (a mountain-chain near the junction of Saxony, Bavaria, and Bohemia), we find it stated that there was a poor child whose mother lay sick of a fever. Going into the forest to gather Strawberries, the child saw a little woman entirely clothed with golden Moss—presumably Selago. The Moss-woman asked the child for some of the fruit, and her request having been readily acceded to, the Moss-woman ate her Strawberries and tripped away. When the child reached home, she found the fruit which she had carried in a jug was transformed to gold. The Moss dress of the little woman is described as being of a golden colour, which shone, when seen at a distance, like pure gold, but on close inspection lost all its lustre. It is thought that many of the stories about hidden treasure which are rife on the Fichtelgebirge are to be attributed to the presence there of this curious species of vegetation.

COCOA-NUT PALM.—The Cocos Nucifera (Sanscrit Nârikera), or Cocoa-Nut Palm is the most extensively-cultivated tree in the world, and its importance to myriads of the human race is almost beyond conception. George Herbert wrote truly of this Palm:—

“The Indian Nut alone
Is clothing, meat and trencher, drink and can,
Boat, cable, sail, mast, needle, all in one.”

A vigorous tree will grow one hundred feet high, and produce annually one hundred Nuts.——The Chinese call the Cocoa-Nut Yüe-wang-t’ou (head of Prince of Yüe) from a tradition that a certain Prince Lin-yi, who was at enmity with the Prince of Yüe, sent an assassin to cut off the head of his enemy. The deed was executed, and the severed head being caught in the branches of a Palm, it remained suspended there, and was transformed into a Cocoa-Nut, with two eyes in its shell.——The Portuguese are said to have given the name of Coco to the Nut because at one end of the Nut are three holes, resembling the head of a cat when mewing (Coca).——The Indians, when unable to recover the corpse of one of their people who has been slain, but whom they wish to honour, form an effigy of Reeds, and surmount it with a Cocoa-Nut, which is supposed to represent the head of the deceased. This sham corpse they cover with Dhak wood, after which they offer up prayers, and then burn it. The Cocoa-Nut is regarded by the natives of India as an oracle in cases of sickness. Thus, if an Indian has fallen ill, they spin a Cocoa-Nut on its end; if the Nut falls towards the west, he will die; if to the east, he will recover. The Deccan Indians never commence any building without first offering Cocoa-Nuts to their gods.——When a Fijian child is sick, and its friends want to know if it will live or die, they shake a bunch of dry Cocoa-Nuts: if all fall off, the little one will recover; if one remains, it will die. The Fijians also spin Cocoa-Nuts, and then prophecy of future events according to the direction in which the eye of the Nut lies when it rests still.

COCKLE.—The Corn Cockle, or Gith (Agrostemma Githago) is a troublesome weed, of which Gerarde says: “What hurt it doth among Corne, the spoile of bread, as well as in colour, taste, and unwholesomenesse, is better knowne than desired.” In the Book of Job, the Cockle coming up instead of the Barley is spoken of as a great misfortune; but it could not have been the Corn Cockle, which is unknown in Palestine and Arabia.——The plant is alluded to in an old English nursery rhyme, in which a garden allowed to run wild is said to be

“Full of weeds and Cockle seeds.”

COFFEE.—The Coffee-plant (Coffea Arabica) derives its name from the Kingdom of Caffa, in Africa, where it grows abundantly. The bloom of this tree is similar to the Jasmine in figure and fragrance, while its fruit has the appearance of a Cherry; the liquor prepared from the fruit or berry is said to have been drunk, in Ethiopia, from time immemorial. The Galla, a wandering nation of Africa, in their incursions in Abyssinia, being obliged to traverse immense deserts, and to travel swiftly, were accustomed to carry nothing with them to eat but Coffee roasted till it could be pulverised, and then mixed with butter into balls, and put into a leather bag. One of these, the size of a billiard ball, was said to keep them in strength and spirits during a whole day’s fatigue, better than bread or meat.——To dream of drinking coffee is a favourable omen, betokening riches and honour. To the lover it foretells a happy marriage.

COLCHICUM.—The Meadow Saffron, or Colchicum, derives its name from Colchis, a country on the eastern shore of the Euxine, where it once grew in such abundance as to have led Horace thus to allude to it:—

“Or tempered every baleful juice
Which poisonous Colchian glebes produce.”

Colchicum was one of the herbs highly prized and made use of by the enchantress Medea. It is poisonous, and, according to Dioscorides, kills by choking, as do poisonous Mushrooms. Gerarde recommends anyone who has eaten Colchicum, to “drinke the milke of a cow, or else death presently ensueth.”——Colchicum is a herb of the Sun.

COLTSFOOT.—The shape of its leaves has given the Tussilago Farfara its English name of Colt’s-foot, although, as Gerarde points out, it might more appropriately be termed Cough-wort. The plant has its Latin name from tussis, a cough, and for many centuries has been used in pulmonary complaints. It formed the basis of Coltsfoot lozenges, long celebrated as a cure for coughs.——The Bavarian peasants make garlands of the sweet-scented Colt’s-foot on Easter Day, and cast them into the fire.——Colt’s-foot, or Foal’s-foot, is a herb of Venus.

COLUMBINE.—The English name of the Aquilegia is derived from the Latin columba, a pigeon, from the resemblance of its nectaries to the heads of pigeons in a ring round a dish, a favourite device of ancient artists. The generic name comes from aquila, an eagle, from the fancied resemblance of the same parts of the flower to the claw of the king of birds.——The plant was formerly sometimes called Herba leonis, from a belief that it was the favourite herb of the lion.——The Columbine is held to be under the dominion of Venus.

CONJUGALIS HERBA.—This herb, De Gubernatis considers to be, in all probability, the same as is known in Piedmont as Concordia (according to Gerarde, a kind of wild Tansy), concerning which M. Bernadotti had sent him the following particulars:—“In the valleys of Lanzo, when two lovers wish to assure themselves that their marriage will take place, they proceed to search for the plant called Concordia. They say that this plant is exceedingly scarce, and hence very difficult to find. Its root is divided into two parts, each representing a hand with five fingers. On finding this plant, it is necessary to uproot it in order to see if the two hands are united—a certain sign that the union will take place. If, on the contrary, the two hands are separated, the marriage will be broken off.” (See Concordia.)

CORIANDER.—From a passage in the Book of Numbers, where Manna is likened to Coriander-seed, it would seem that “Coriander’s spicy seed” was commonly used by the Israelites. The bitter Coriander is one of the five plants mentioned by the Mishna as one of the “bitter herbs” ordained by God to be eaten by the Jews at the Feast of the Passover. It was esteemed as a spice by the Arabs, Egyptians, and Hindus. The plant’s foliage has a strong and offensive odour, but its little round fruit is pleasantly aromatic, and its seeds, when covered with sugar, form the well-known Coriander comfits. Robert Turner, in the ‘Brittish Physician,’ says that the powder of the seeds taken in wine, stimulate the passions; and Gerarde affirms that the juice of the green leaves, “taken in the quantity of four dragmes, killeth and poisoneth the body.”——Coriander is held to be under the planetary influence of Saturn.

CORN.—The generic name of Corn, which is applied to all kinds of grain, is one of several words, which being common to the widely-separated branches of the Indo-European race, prove the practice of tillage among our ancestors before they left their first home in Central Asia.——The Greeks worshipped Demeter, and the Romans Ceres, as the goddess of Corn, and she is supposed to have been the same deity as Rhea and Tellus, and the Cybele, Bona Dea, Berecynthia of the Phrygians, the Isis of the Egyptians, Atergates of the Syrians, and the Hera of the Arcadians. Ceres was generally represented as a beautiful woman, with a garland of ears of Corn on her head, a wheatsheaf by her side, and the cornucopia, or horn of plenty, in her hand. To commemorate the abduction of her daughter Proserpine by Pluto, a festival was held about the beginning of harvest, and another festival, lasting six days, was held in remembrance of the goddess’s search for her daughter, at the time that Corn is sown in the earth. During the quest for Proserpine, the earth was left untilled and became barren; but upon the return of Ceres, she instructed Triptolemus of Eleusis in all the arts appertaining to agriculture and the cultivation of Corn, and gave him her chariot, drawn by two dragons, wherein he might travel over the whole earth and distribute Corn to all its inhabitants. On his return to Eleusis, Triptolemus restored the chariot to Ceres, and established the famed Eleusinian festivals and mysteries in her honour. This festival, observed every fourth year, and dedicated to Demeter (Ceres) and Proserpine, was the most solemn of all the sacred feasts of Greece, and was so religiously observed, that anyone revealing its secret mysteries, or improperly taking part in the ceremonials, was put to an ignominious death. During the festival, the votaries walked in a solemn procession, in which the holy basket of Ceres was carried about in a consecrated cart, the people on all sides shouting Hail, Demeter!——In their sacrifices, the ancients usually offered Ceres a pregnant sow, as that animal often destroys the Corn and other crops. While the Corn was yet in grass they offered her a ram, after the victim had been thrice led round the fields.——Among the Romans, twelve priests named Arvales, supposed to have been descended from the nurse of Romulus, celebrated in April and July the festivals called Ambarvalia. These priests, who wore crowns composed of ears of Corn, conducted processions round the ploughed fields in honour of Ceres, and offered as sacrifices at her shrine a sow, a sheep, and a bull. The rites of the Arvales were founded specially on the worship of Corn.——It is believed that among the Greeks, the story of Proserpine brought back from the infernal regions by her mother Ceres, and finally adjudged to pass six months on earth, and six months in Hades, symbolises Corn as the seed of Wheat, and its condition during Winter and Summer.——De Gubernatis considers that the story of Proserpine has its Indian equivalent in the myth of the birth of Sîtâ, daughter of King Janaka, the Fecundator. Sîtâ was not born of a woman, but issued either from a furrow in the earth, or from the middle of an altar.——The Vishnupurâna mentions several species of grain which have been specially created by the gods; amongst them being Rice, Barley, Millet, and Sesamum. In the sacrifices of the Hindoos, they offer several sorts of Corn to ensure abundant harvests. Indra is the great husbandman of the heavens, which he renders fertile: he is also the divinity of the fields, and, like the Scandinavian god Thor, the presiding deity of Corn. It is he who fertilises the earth in his capacity of god of tempests and rain. The employment of Corn in sacrificial rites, was common in India of the Vedic period, in Greece, and in Rome; and in the same countries we find Corn used during nuptial ceremonies. Thus in Vedic India, it was customary to scatter two handfuls of Corn over the clasped hands of the bride and bridegroom, and a similar proceeding still takes place amongst the Parsees. An analogous custom existed amongst the Romans. At an Indian wedding, after the first night, the mother of the husband, with all the female relatives, come to the young bride, and place on her head a measure of Corn—emblem of fertility. The husband then comes forward and takes from his bride’s head some handfuls of the grain, which he scatters over himself. Similar usages exist at the present day in many parts of Italy, relics of the old Roman custom of offering Corn to the bride. In Gwalior, at one part of the marriage ceremony, the priests shout vociferously, only stopping now and then to cast over the bride and bridegroom showers of Corn, Millet, and Rice. In some parts of Central India, at the end of the rainy season, the people congregate on the banks of the lakes, and launch on the water, as an offering, pots of earth, containing sprouting Wheat.——On the banks of the Indus, there is believed to grow some miraculous Corn on the spot where formerly were burnt the remains of the Buddhist King Sivika, who sacrificed his life for a pigeon. The Chinese Buddhists made pilgrimages, during the middle ages, to the place where Sivika had lived and died; and here it was that the miraculous Wheat grew, which the sun had no power to scorch. A single grain of this Wheat kept its happy possessor from all ills proceeding from cold as well as from fever.——The Chinese, regarding Corn as a gift from heaven, celebrate with sacrifices, prayers, and religious rites, both seedtime and harvest. They also think that in the heavens there is a special constellation for Corn, composed of eight black stars, each of which has under its special protection one of the eight varieties of Corn, viz., Rice, Millet, Barley, Wheat, Beans, Peas, Maize, and Hemp. When this cereal constellation is clear, it is a sign that the eight kinds of Corn will ripen; but when, on the contrary, it is dim and obscured, a bad harvest is looked for. The Emperor Ven-ti, who reigned 179 years before Christ, is said to have incited his subjects to the more zealous cultivation of Corn, by ploughing with his own hands the land surrounding his palace.——The Chaldeans recognised a god of grain, called Sérakh; the Assyrians, a god of harvests, named Nirba; the Romans, a goddess, Segetia or Segesta, who was invoked by husbandmen, that their harvests might be plentiful. Among the Romans, indeed, the growth of Corn was under the special protection of different deities; hence the worship they paid to Seia, who protected Corn before it sprang up above the earth; to Occator, the god of harrowing; to Sarritor, the god of weeding; to Nodotus, the god who watched over the blade when it became knotty; and to Robigus, the god who protected the Corn from blights.——In the sepulchres of the Egyptian kings, which have of late years been opened, was discovered, carefully preserved in closed vessels, Corn, the grains of which retained both their pristine form and colour; when tested, this Corn was found, after several thousand years, still to retain its vitality. The matchless wealth of ancient Egypt was probably in great measure due to its Corn. The Bible history of Joseph, and the narrative of the ten plagues, set forth how famed the land of Egypt was in those days for its Wheat. The mode of culture in that country now is exceedingly simple: when the inundations of the Nile have subsided, the grain is thrown upon the mud; and if by chance it should be considered too hard, the seed is lightly ploughed in. No further care is bestowed until the ripening of the produce in the following April.——Corn was unknown among the Mexicans when their country was first visited by Europeans; the foundation of the vast Wheat harvests of Mexico is said to have been three or four grains, which a slave of Cortez discovered in 1530, accidentally mixed with some Rice.——Peru was indebted for the introduction of Corn to a Spanish lady, Maria de Escobar, who conveyed a few grains to Lima, cultivated them, and distributed the seed among the farmers. The first grains of Corn which reached Quito, were conveyed thither by Father Josse Rixi, a Fleming, who sowed them near the Monastery of St. Francis, where the monks still preserve and show, as a precious relic, the rude earthen vessel wherein the seeds first reached them.——Among the Arabs there is a tradition that when Adam was driven out of Paradise he took with him three plants,—an ear of Corn, chief of all kinds of food; a bunch of Dates, chief of fruits; and a slip of Myrtle, chief of sweet-scented flowers.——There is a curious custom which still survives in a few districts of Brittany, by which the good faith of lovers is sought to be proved. On St. John’s Eve, the men, wearing branches of green Wheat-ears, the women with Flax-blossoms, come to one of the pillar stones, or dolmens, still standing, dance around it, and then place their wreath upon it: if the wreath remain fresh for some time after, the lover is to be trusted; but should it shrivel up within a day or two, so will the love wither and fade away.——In some parts of Italy, there is a belief that on the night of the third of May the blessing of Heaven descends on the Corn in the form of a minute red insect, which remains on the Wheat only for two or three days.——In Piedmont, it is a custom in certain districts, on the last day of February, for the children to roam the meadows, crying, “March, March, arrive! and for every grain of Wheat let us receive a hundred.”——At Venice, on Midsummer Eve, young girls sow some Corn in a pot, which they then place in a position where the sun cannot enter; after eight days they remove the pot: the Corn has then sprouted; and if it is green and healthy, it is a token to the girl that she will have a rich and handsome husband; but if the sprout is yellow or white, it is a sign that the husband will be anything but a good one.——In Corsica, after a wedding, just before the feast, the men and children retire, and the women seat the bride on a measure full of Corn, from which they have each previously taken a handful. The women then commence saying an invocation, and during this each one scatters the handful of Corn over the bride’s head.——In English harvest-fields the prettiest girl present is chosen to cut the last handful of Corn.——In Sweden, if a grain of Corn be found under the table when sweeping on a New Year’s morn, it is believed to be a portent of an abundant crop that year.——A tuft of Corn or Grass was given by Eugène and Marlborough as a cockade to the German, Dutch, and English soldiers comprising the army. The faction of the Fronde opposed to Cardinal Mazarin wore stalks of Corn to distinguish them.——Corn and Grapes typify the Blessed Eucharist. An ear of Corn is a prominent emblem in Freemasonry, proving that the order did not originally confine their intellects or their labours to building operations, but also devoted themselves to agriculture.——Astrologers appear to be divided in their opinions as to whether Corn is under the dominion of Venus or the Sun.——In dreams, to pluck Corn-ears portends secret enemies; otherwise, dreams of Corn betoken good fortune, prosperity, and happiness.

Corn-flower. See Centaury.

Corn-Marigold. See Chrysanthemum.

CORNEL.—After Romulus had marked out the bounds of his rising city, he threw his javelin on the Mount Palatine. The weapon, made of the wood of the Cornel (Cornus mascula), stuck fast in the ground, took root, grew, threw out leaves and branches, and became a flourishing tree. This prodigy was considered as the happy presage of the power and duration of the infant empire.——According to some accounts, the Cornel, or Cornelian Cherry, is the tree which sprang from the grave of Prince Polydorus, who was assassinated by Polymnestor. The boughs of this tree dropped blood when Æneas, journeying to Italy, attempted to tear them from the tree.——The Greeks consecrated the Cornel to Apollo; and when, in order to construct the famed wooden horse during the siege of Troy, they felled, on Mount Ida, several Cornelian-trees in a grove, called Carnea, dedicated to the god, they provoked his anger and indignation: to expiate this sacrilege, the Greeks instituted the festival called Carnea.——The Cornel is under Venus.

Coronation-flower.—See Carnation.

COSTMARY.—This plant, the Balsamita vulgaris, owes its name of Costmary to the Greek Kostos, an unknown aromatic plant, and to the fact of its being dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. A variety of the plant is also called, after her, Maudlein, either in allusion to her box of scented ointment or to its use in the uterine affections over which, as the special patroness of unchaste women, she presided. In old times, the plant was known as Herba Sanctæ or Divæ Mariæ.——The Costmary is held to be under Jupiter.

COSTUS.—The Costus speciosus, an Indian swamp tree, celebrated for its sweet fruit, is a sacred tree, and in the Hindu mythology figures as Kushtha, one of the trees of heaven. It is a magical tree, curing fevers, and is looked upon as the first of medicinal plants. It is represented as the friend and companion of Soma, the god of Ambrosia. It is called the Revealer of Ambrosia, inasmuch as its fruit grew on the summit of Mount Himavant at the moment when the golden boat of the gods touched its summit, and by its illuminating powers enabled them to find the Ambrosia.

COTTON-PLANT.—The Cotton-plant (Gossypium) was first cultivated in the East, whence were procured the finest muslins (so named from Mosul, in Mesopotamia, where it was first made), calico (from Calicut, in India), and Nankeen (from Nankin, in China, where the yellow Cotton-plants grow). Now the Cotton-plant gives employment to millions of people, sends thousands of ships across the sea, and binds together the two great Anglo-Saxon nations. Although so useful, the Cotton is not one of the sacred plants of India: in an Indian poem, however, the plant is noticed favourably:—“We love the fruits of the Cotton because, although tasteless, they have the property of concealing that which ought to be concealed” (in allusion to the use of cotton as clothing). The Khonds, whenever founding a new settlement, always plant first a Cotton-plant, which they hold sacred and religiously preserve.——M. Agassiz, in his work on Brazil, recounts a strange legend respecting the Gossypium Brazilianum. Caro Sacaibu, the first of men, was a demi-god. His son, Rairu, an inferior being, obeyed the instructions of his father, who, however, did not love him. To get rid of him, Sacaibu constructed an armadillo, and buried it in the earth, leaving visible only the tail, rubbed with Mistletoe. Then he ordered his son to bring him the armadillo. Rairu obeyed, but scarcely had he touched the tail, when, aided by Sacaibu, it dragged Rairu to the bottom of the earth. But thanks to his wit, Rairu contrived to make his way to the surface again, and told Sacaibu that in the subterranean regions lived a race of men and women, who, if transported to earth, would cultivate it. Sacaibu allowed himself to be convinced of this, and accordingly descended in his turn to the bottom of the earth by the aid of a rope composed of Cotton, which he had sown for the first time on the occasion. The first men brought to earth by means of Sacaibu’s rope were small and ugly, but the more rope he pulled up, the handsomer became the men, until just as he was about to pull out the handsomest the Cotton rope broke, and the brightest specimens of humanity were doomed for ever to remain in the bowels of mother earth. That is the reason why, in this earth of ours, beauty is so scarce.

Coventry Bells.—See Campanula.

COWSLIP.—The familiar name, Cowslip, is presumed to be derived from the Anglo-Saxon Cú-slyppe: Skeat thinks because the plant was supposed to spring up where a patch of cow-dung had fallen. The flowers of the common Cowslip, Petty Mullein, or Paigle (Primula veris), are, in some parts of Kent, called Fairy Cups. The odour of Cowslips is said to calm the heart. A pleasant and wholesome wine is made from them, resembling Muscadel. It is said to induce sleep. Says Pope:—

“For want of rest,
Lettuce and Cowslip wine—probatum est.”

Cowslip-balls are made in the following manner:—The umbels or heads are picked off as close as possible to the top of the main stalks. From fifty to sixty of these are hung across a string stretched between the backs of two chairs. The flowers are then pressed carefully together, and the string tied tightly, so as to collect them into a ball. Care should be taken to have all the flowers open, so as to make the surface of the ball even.——Culpeper, the astrological herbalist, says that the Greeks gave the name of Paralysis to the Cowslip because the flowers strengthened the brain and nerves, and were a remedy for palsy. He adds, that Venus lays claims to this herb, and it is under the sign Aries.

COWSLIP OF JERUSALEM.—The Virginian Cowslip or Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis), is called Cowslip of Jerusalem, Sage of Jerusalem, Sage of Bethlehem, Wild Comfrey and Lung-wort, being supposed, from its spotted leaves, to be a remedy for diseased lungs. Linnæus christened the plant Dodecatheon, or Twelve Divinities, because, in April, it is crowned with twelve pink flowers reversed.——The Lung-wort is considered to be a herb of Jupiter.

COW-TREE.—The ancient inhabitants of Venezuela regarded as sacred the Chichiuhalquehuill, Tree of Milk, or Celestial Tree, that distilled milk from the extremity of its branches, and around which were seated infants who had expired a few days after their birth. A Mexican drawing of this Celestial Tree is preserved in the Vatican, and is noticed by Humboldt, who first heard of the Palo de Vaca, or Cow-tree, in the year 1800, and supposed it to be peculiar to the Cordillera of the coast. It was also found by Mr. Bridemeyer, a botanist, at a distance of three days’ journey to the east of Caraccas, in the valley of Caucagua, where it is known by the name of Arbol de Leche, or the Milk-tree; and where the inhabitants profess to recognise, from the thickness and colour of the foliage, the trunks that yield the most juice,—as the herdsman distinguishes, from external signs, a good milch cow. At Barbula, this vegetable fountain is more aptly termed the Palo de Vaca, or Cow-tree. It rises, as Humboldt informs us, like the broad-leaved Star-apple (Chrysophyllum Cainito), to a height of from thirty to forty feet, and is furnished with round branches, which, while young, are angular, and clothed with a fine heavy down. The trunk, on being wounded, yields its agreeable and nutritious fluid in the greatest profusion. Humboldt remarks that “a few drops of vegetable juice recall to our minds all the powerfulness and the fecundity of nature. On the barren flank of a rock grows a tree with coriaceous and dry leaves. Its large woody roots can scarcely penetrate into the stone. For several months of the year, not a single shower moistens its foliage. Its branches appear dead and dried; but when the trunk is pierced, there flows from it a sweet and nourishing milk. It is at the rising of the sun that this vegetable fountain is most abundant. The blacks and natives are then seen hastening from all quarters, furnished with large bowls to receive the milk, which grows yellow, and thickens at its surface. Some empty their bowls under the tree itself, others carry the juice home to their children. We seem to see the family of a shepherd who distributes the milk of his flock.”

CRANE’S BILL.—The Crane’s Bill, or English Geranium, derived its name from a fancied resemblance of the fruit to the beak of that bird. Another name for the plant is Dove’s Foot.——Astrologers say that it is under the dominion of Mars.

CRANBERRY.—The Cranberry (Vaccinium Oxycoccus) was formerly known as the Marsh-wort or Fen-berry. The Druids called the plant Samolus, and used great ceremonies in gathering it; these consisted in a previous fast, in not looking back during the time of their plucking it, and lastly in using their left hand only. This plant was considered to be particularly efficacious in curing the diseases incident to swine and cattle.

CRESS.—Chaucer calls the Cress by its old Saxon name of Kers, which may possibly have been the origin of the vulgar saying of not caring a “curse” for anything—meaning a Cress. Gerarde tells us that the Spartans were in the habit of eating Cresses with their bread; this they did no doubt on account of an opinion held very generally among the ancients that those who ate Cress became firm and decided, for which reason the plant was in great request. Water-Cresses, according to astrologers, are herbs of the Moon.

Cross-Flower.—See Milkwort.

CROCUS.—Legendary lore derives the name of this flower from a beautiful youth named Crocus, who was consumed by the ardency of his love for the shepherdess Smilax, and was afterwards metamorphosed into the flower which still preserves his name; Smilax being also transformed, some accounts say into a flower, others into a Yew.

“Crocus and Smilax may be turned to flowers,
And the Curetes spring from bounteous showers.”—Ovid.

Rapin says:—
“Crocus and Smilax, once a loving pair,
But now transformed, delightful blossoms bear.”

According to a Grecian legend, the Crocus sprang from the blood of the infant Crocus, who was accidentally struck by a metal disc thrown by Mercury whilst playing a game.——One of the Sanscrit names of the Crocus, or Saffron, is asrig, which signifies “blood.” The dawn is sometimes called by the classic poets, on account of its colour, crocea.——The ancients often used to adorn the nuptial couch with Crocus-flowers, perhaps because it is one of the flowers of which, according to Homer, the couch of Jove and Juno was composed.

“And sudden Hyacinths the turf bestrow,
And flowery Crocus made the mountains glow.”

The Egyptians, at their banquets, encircled their wine cups with garlands of Crocus and Saffron, and in their religious processions these flowers were carried with other blooms and aromatics.——The Jews made use of the Saffron Crocus (Crocus sativus) as an aromatic, and in the Song of Solomon it is referred to as highly appreciated:—“Thy plants are an orchard of Pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; Camphire, with Spikenard; Spikenard and Saffron,” &c.——The Greeks employed the Crocus in the composition of their perfumes. Thus Hipponax says:—

“I then my nose with baccaris anointed
Redolent of Crocus.”

The Romans were so fond of the Crocus, that they not only had their apartments and banqueting halls strewed with this plant, but they also composed with it unguents and essences which were highly prized. Some of the latter were often made to flow in small streams at their entertainments, or to descend in dewy showers over the audience. Lucan, in his ‘Pharsalia,’ describing how the blood runs out of the veins of a person bitten by a serpent, says that it spouts out in the same manner as the sweet-smelling essence of Saffron issues from the limbs of a statue. In both Greece and Rome, as in later years in this land, Crocus was a favourite addition to dishes of luxury, and Shakspeare speaks of Saffron to colour the warden pies.——In olden times, Crocus was held to be a great cordial and strengthener of the heart and lungs; it was also considered useful in the plague and similar pestilences; and was said to excite amatory passions.——Robert Turner states that the plant was sometimes called Filias ante Patrem, because it puts forth flowers before the leaves. This old herbalist, who lived in the reign of Charles II., would seem to have been a thorough Royalist, for after remarking that large crops of Saffron-flowers were grown at Saffron-Walden, he adds that the crop “must be gathered as soon as it is blown, or else it is lost; so that Jack Presbyter for covetousness of the profit can reach his Sabbatarian conscience to gather it on Sunday; and so he can do anything else that redounds to his profit, tho’ it destroy his brother.”——The Crocus or Saffron is a herb of the Sun, and under the Lion.

CUCKOO FLOWERS.—Various flowers are called after the “harbinger of Spring.” In old works, the name “Cuckoo Flower” was given to the Lychnis flos cuculi, but is now generally applied to the Lady’s Smock (Cardamine pratensis). Cuckoo Gilliflower was a name also given to the Lychnis flos cuculi, on account of its blooming at the time the Cuckoo’s song was heard. “Cuckoo’s Bread,” or “Cuckoo’s Meat” is the Wood Sorrel, Oxalis Acetosella. Shakspeare’s “Cuckoo Buds of yellow hue” are probably the buds of the Crowfoot. “Cuckoo Grass” is the Luzula Campestris, a grass-like Rush, flowering at the time of the Cuckoo. “Cuckoo Pint,” or “Pintle” is the Arum maculatum.

CUCUMBER.—In the East, the Cucumber (Cucumis sativa) has been cultivated from the earliest periods. When the Israelites complained to Moses in the wilderness, comparing their old Egyptian luxuries with the Manna of the wilderness, they exclaimed: “We remember the fish which we did eat in Egypt freely, the Cucumbers, and the Melons.” Isaiah, depicting the desolation of Judah, said: “The daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard—as a lodge in a garden of Cucumbers”—in allusion to the practise of cultivating Cucumbers in open fields.——Although, says De Gubernatis, the Buddhists derive the name of Ikshvâku from Ikshi (Sugar-cane), we must not forget that the wife of Sagara, to whom was promised sixty thousand children, first gave birth to an Ikshvâku, that is to say, to a Cucumber. Just as the Cucumber and the Pumpkin or Gourd are gifted with fecundity and the desire to climb, so Trisanku, one of the descendants of Ikshvâku, had the ambition to ascend to heaven, and he obtained that favour by the assistance of the sage Visvamitra.——There was formerly a superstitious belief in England that Cucumbers had the power of killing by their natural coldness. Gerarde says “they yield to the body a cold and moist nourishment, and that very little, and the same not good.”——To dream of Cucumbers denotes recovery to the sick, and that you will speedily fall in love; or if you are in love, that you will marry the object of your affection. It also denotes moderate success in trade; to a sailor a pleasant voyage.——Cucumbers are under the influence of the Moon.

CUMIN.—According to Theophrastus, the ancients were accustomed to sow the seed of Cumin (Cuminum Cyminum), with an accompaniment of oaths and maledictions, just as they were wont to do in the case of Basil: this singular custom was probably some form of incantation, to preserve this highly-reverenced plant from the dreaded effects of the Evil Eye, and to cause it to flourish well. Among the Greeks, Cumin symbolised meanness and cupidity: the people nicknamed Marcus Antoninus, Cumin, on account of his avarice; and misers were jokingly spoken of as persons who had eaten Cumin.——The plant appears to have been regarded as specially possessing the power of retention. Thus in Germany, in order to prevent newly-made bread from being stolen by Wood-demons, the loaves had Cumin put in them. In Italy, a similar custom prevails; and in some places it is supposed that the Cumin possesses the power of keeping the thief in the house along with the bread which he wished to steal. In some parts of Italy they give Cumin to pigeons in order to make them tame and fond of their home; and Cumin mixed with flour and water is given to fowls with the same object. Country lasses also endeavour to make their lovers swallow it, in order to ensure their continued attachment and fidelity. Or, if the lover is going to serve as a soldier, or has obtained work in a distant part of the country, his sweetheart gives him a newly-made loaf seasoned with Cumin, or, perhaps, a cup of wine in which Cumin has been previously powdered and mixed.——The ancients were acquainted with the power of Cumin to cause the human countenance to become pallid, and Pliny mentions two cases in which the herb was so employed.

CURRANT.—According to the Iranian legend of the Creation, the first human couple, Maschia and Maschiäna, issued from a Currant-bush. At first there was only one Currant-bush, but in process of time the one bush became separated into two. To these two plants Ormuzd, the Iranian supreme deity, imparted a soul, and thus from the Currant-bushes issued the first two human beings.——To dream of Currants denotes happiness in life, success in your undertakings, constancy in your sweetheart, and to the farmer and tradesman riches.——The Currant-tree is under the influence of Venus.

CYCLAMEN.—The Greeks had several names for the Cyclamen, and the Romans also distinguished it by a variety of titles, as Tuber terræ and Terræ rapum, from its Turnip-like root, Panis Porcinus, Orbicularis, Arthanita, and Cyclamen, on account of the roundness of its root. It was called Sow-bread and Swine-bread because, in countries where it is abundant, it forms the chief food of herds of swine.——This plant was formerly regarded as a most potent assistant by midwives, and it was recommended to them by the surgeons of the day. The peculiar shape of its root was in itself suggestive of its employment by these good women, and the virtues of the plant were regarded with superstitious reverence. Thus we find Gerarde stating, that the mere wearing of the root, “hanged about women,” had a salutary effect; and that he himself had instructed his wife to employ its leaves when tending divers women in their confinement. The old herbalist also tells us that he had Cyclamens growing in his garden, but that for fear any matrons should, accidentally, step over them, and by this means bring on miscarriage, he fenced them in with sticks, and laid others crossways over them, “lest any woman should, by lamentable experiment, find my words to be true, by their stepping over the same.” He further warns those who are about to become mothers not to touch or take this herb, or to come near unto it, on account of “the naturale attractive vertue therein contained.” According to Theophrastus, Cyclamen was employed by the ancients to excite love and voluptuous desires.——Placed in a dormitory, this plant was supposed to protect the inmate:—

“St. John’s Wort and fresh Cyclamen she in his chamber kept,
From the power of evil angels to guard him while he slept.”

The old English names of Cyclamen were Sow-bread and Swine-bread.——It was considered under the dominion of Mars.

CYPRESS.—Ovid tells us of the “taper Cypress,” that it is sacred to Apollo, and was once a fair youth, Cyparissus by name, who was a great favourite of the god. Cyparissus became much attached to a “mighty stag,” which grazed on the fertile fields of Cæa and was held sacred to Carthæan nymphs. His constant companion, this gentle stag was one day unwittingly pierced to the heart by a dart thrown by the luckless youth. Overcome with remorse, Cyparissus would fain have killed himself but for the intervention of Apollo, who bade him not mourn more than the loss of the animal required. Unable, however, to conquer his grief, Cyparissus at length prayed the superior powers, that as an expiation, he should be doomed to mourn to all succeeding time: the gods therefore turned him into a Cypress-tree. Ovid thus relates the tale:—

“And now of blood exhausted he appears,
Drained by a torrent of continual tears;
The fleshy colour in his body fades,
And a green tincture all his limbs invades;
From his fair head, where curling locks late hung,
A horrid bush with bristled branches sprung,
Which, stiff’ning by degrees, its stem extends,
Till to the starry skies the spire ascends.
Apollo sad looked on, and sighing cried,
Then be for ever what thy prayer implied;
Bemoaned by me, in others grief excite,
And still preside at every funeral rite.”—Congreve.

According to another account, Silvanus, god of the woods (who is sometimes represented holding a branch of Cypress in his hand), became enamoured of a handsome youth named Cyparissus, who was changed into the tree bearing his name. Rapin gives the following version of the story:—

“A lovely fawn there was—Sylvanus’ joy,
Nor less the fav’rite of the sportive boy,
Which on soft grass was in a secret shade,
Beneath a tree’s thick branches cooly laid;
A luckless dart rash Cyparissus threw,
And undesignedly the darling slew.
But soon he to his grief the error found,
Lamenting, when too late, the fatal wound:
Nor yet Sylvanus spared the guiltless child,
But the mischance with bitter words reviled,
This struck so deep in his relenting breast,
With grief and shame, and indignation prest,
That tired of life he melted down in tears,
From whence th’ impregnate earth a Cypress rears;
Ensigns of sorrow these at first were born,
Now their fair race the rural scenes adorn.”

In a legend current among the Greeks, the Cypress owes its origin to the daughters of Eteocles, King of Thebes. Carried away by the goddesses in a whirlwind, which kept revolving them in endless circles, they were at length precipitated into a pond, upon which Gæa took compassion on the young girls, and changed them into Cypress-trees.——Perhaps owing to its funereal and sorrowful character, the Cypress has been named as the tree which furnished the wood of the Saviour’s Cross.——An ancient legend referred to in the ‘Gospel of Nicodemus,’ Curzon’s ‘Monasteries of the Levant,’ and other works, carries the history of the Cross back as far as the time of Adam. In substance it is as follows:—Adam, one day, fell sick, and sent his son Seth to the Garden of Eden to ask the guardian angel for some drops of the oil of mercy, distilled from the Tree of Life. The angel replied that none could have that till five thousand years had passed, but gave him a slip of the tree, which was afterwards planted on Adam’s grave, and grew into a goodly tree with three branches. Another version states that the Angel in Paradise gave Seth three seeds, which he placed under Adam’s tongue before burial, from which they grew into the Cypress, the Cedar, and the Pine. These were subsequently carried away by Moses, who cut his rod from them, and King David transplanted them near a fountain at Jerusalem, where the three saplings combined and grew into one grand tree. Under its umbrageous shade he composed his Psalms and lamented his sins. His son Solomon afterwards cut it down for a pillar in his Temple, but no one was able to fix it there. Some say it was preserved in the Temple, while others aver that it formed a bridge across a marsh, which the Queen of Sheba refused to pass, being deterred by a vision of its future burden. It was afterwards buried in the Pool of Bethesda, thereby accounting for the healing properties possessed by its waters. At the Passion, it floated and was taken for the Cross, or, as some say, for the upright beam. Henry Maundrell speaks of a Greek convent, about half an hour’s distance from Jerusalem, where they showed him a hole in the ground under the high altar, where the stump of the tree stood. Sir John Maundevile also says that the spot where the tree grew at Jerusalem was pointed out to him; the wood, he states, formed a bridge over the brook Cedron.——Some versions of the legend of the wood of the Cross state it was made of Cypress, Cedar, Pine, and Box: one names Cypress for the body, Palm for the hands, Cedar for the support of the feet, and Olive for the superscription.——Another version states that the cross beam was of Cypress; the upright beam of “immortal Cedar;” the title of Olive; and the foot-rest of Palm: hence the line—

“Ligna crucis Palma, Cedrus, Cupressus, Oliva.”

In all countries, and from the earliest times, the Cypress has been deemed the emblem of woe. Gerarde tells us, that it had the reputation of being deadly, and that its shadow was unfortunate. Horace, Virgil, and Ovid all refer to it as a tree both gloomy and funereal. By the Greeks and Romans alike, the “sad” tree was consecrated to Pluto and Proserpine, as well as to the Fates and the Furies. The Greeks crowned with Cypress their tragic Muse Melpomene, and it became an accompaniment of Venus in the annual processions in which she was supposed to lament over Adonis.——The ancients planted the Cypress around graves, and in the event of a death, placed it either before the house or in the vestibule, so that no one about to perform a sacred rite might enter a place polluted with a dead body. The Cypress was probably selected for this purpose because of the belief that, when once cut down, it never springs up again.——But, in connection with its funereal associations, the Cypress has always been highly esteemed as an undying tree, ever verdant, flourishing (Cupressus sempervirens) and odorous, and a tree of which the wood, like the Cedar, is incorruptible. Theophrastus attributes great honour to the tree, and points out how the roofs of old temples became famous by reason of its wood, and that the timber of which the rafters were made was deemed everlasting, because it was unhurt by rotting, moth, worm, or corruption. Martial describes the Cypress as deathless. Gerarde identifies it with the Thya of Pliny and Homer: “He showeth that this is burned among the sweet smells which Circe was much delighted withall…. The verse is extant in the fifth booke of Odysses, where he mentioneth that Mercurie, by Jupiter’s commandment, went to Calypsus’ den, and that he did smell the burnt trees, Thya and Cedrus, a great way off.” Theocritus and Virgil both allude to the fragrance of the Cypress, and on account of the balsamic scent of its timber, chips of it were sometimes employed to flavour wine with. The Athenians buried their heroes in coffins of this wood, and the Egyptians made of it those apparently indestructible chests that contain the mummies of a bygone age.——Pausanias tells us, that the Greeks guarded scrupulously the Cypresses which grew over the Tomb of Alcmæon, and that these trees attained such a height, that they cast their shadows on the neighbouring mountain. The same writer mentions several groves of Cypress which were looked upon as sacred by the Greeks; for instance, those which surrounded the Temples of Bellerophon and Æsculapius, one of the shrines of Venus, the Tomb of Lais, near Corinth, and a dense wood of Cypress, where were to be seen statues of Apollo, Mercury, and Rhea. Diodorus Siculus, Plato, and Solinus speak of groves of Cypress which were held sacred in Crete, near the ruins of the reputed dwelling of Rhea, and in the vicinity of the Cavern of Zeus. Solinus also remarks on the peculiarity of the Cretan Cypresses in sprouting afresh after being cut down.——P. della Valla, a great traveller of Evelyn’s time, tells of a wonderful Cypress, then extant, near the tomb of Cyrus, to which pilgrimages were made. This tree was hollowed within, and fitted for an oratory, and was noted for a gummy transudation which it yielded, reputed by the Turks to turn, every Friday, into drops of blood.——Plato desired to have the laws engraved on tablets of Cypress, because he thought the wood more durable even than brass: the antique idol of Vejovis (or Vedius), in Cypress-wood, at the Capitol, corroborates this notion. Semiramis selected the timber of the Cypress for his bridge across the Euphrates; the valves, or doors, of the Ephesian temple were of this material, as were also the original gates of St. Peter’s, Rome. It has been thought that the Gopher, mentioned in Genesis (vi., 14), of which the Ark was built, was really Kupros, Cupar, or Cuper, the Cypress. Epiphanius relates that some relics of the Ark (circa campos Sennaar) lasted even to his days, and was judged to have been of Cypress. Certain it is that the Cretans employed it in ship-building, and that so frequent was the Cypress in those parts of Assyria where the Ark was supposed to have been built, that the vast armadas which Alexander the Great sent forth from Babylon were constructed of it. Of Cypress-wood were formed Cupid’s darts, Jove’s sceptre, and the club of Hercules used in recovering the cows stolen by the robber Cacus. Either of Fig- or Cypress-wood were fashioned the obscene statues of Priapus set up by the Romans in their gardens and orchards, which were presided over by this lascivious god, who exercised a peculiar faculty of detecting and punishing thieves. The thunderbolts of Indra possessed the like distinctive power. In Northern mythology, the club of Hercules and the thunderbolts of Indra are replaced by the mallet of Thor, which it is not difficult to recognise in the mallet of Cypress-wood that, in Germany, was formerly believed to impart the power of discovering thieves.——From its qualities, the Cypress acquired throughout the East a sacred character. This was more particularly the case in Persia. In the Zend-Avesta, it is accounted divine—consecrated to the pure light of Ormuzd, whose word was first carved on this noble tree. Parsi traditions tell of a Cypress planted by Zoroaster himself, which grew to wondrous dimensions, and beneath the branches of which he built himself a summer-house, forty yards high and forty yards broad. This tree is celebrated in the songs of Firdusi as having had its origin in Paradise. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Cypress, a tree of Paradise, rising in a pyramidal form, with its taper summit pointing to the skies, like the generating flame, should be planted at the gates of the most sacred fire-temples, and, bearing the law inscribed by Zoroaster, should stand in the forecourt of the royal palace and in the middle of pleasure gardens, as a reminiscence of the lost Paradise. This is the reason why sculptured images of the Cypress are found in the temples and palaces of Persepolis; for the Persian kings were servants of Ormuzd. Sacred Cypresses were also found in the very ancient temple of Armavir, in Atropatene, the home of Zoroaster and his light-worship. The Cypress, indeed, reverenced all over Persia, was transmitted as a sacred tree down from the ancient Magi to the Mussulmans of modern times.——From Asia, the Cypress passed to the island of Cyprus (which derived its name from the tree), and here the primitive inhabitants worshipped, under the Phœnician name Beroth, a goddess personified by the Cypress-tree.——According to Claudian, the Cypress was employed by the goddess Ceres as a torch, which she cast into the crater of Etna, in order to stay the eruption of the volcano, and to imprison there Vulcan himself.——An Italian tradition affirms that the Devil comes at midnight to carry off three Cypresses confided to the care of three brothers—a superstitious notion evidently derived from the fact that the tree was by the ancients consecrated to Pluto.——Like all the trees connected with the Phallica, the Cypress is at once a symbol of generation, of death, and of the immortal soul.——In Eastern legends, the Cypress often represents a young lover, and the Rose, his beloved. In a wedding song of the Isle of Crete, the bridegroom is compared to the Cypress, the bride to the scented Narcissus. In Miller’s Chrestomathie is a popular Russian song, in which a young girl tells her master that she has dreamed of a Cypress and of a Sugar-tree. The master tells her that the Cypress typifies a husband, and the Sugar-tree a wife; and that the branches are the children, who will gather around them.——At Rome, according to Pliny, they used to plant a Cypress at the birth of a girl, and called it the dotem of the daughter.——The oldest tree on record is the Cypress of Somma, in Lombardy. An ancient chronicle at Milan proves it was a tree in Julius Cæsar’s time, B.C. 42. It is 121 feet high, and 23 feet in circumference at one foot from the ground. Napoleon, when laying down the plan for his great road over the Simplon, diverged from a straight line to avoid injuring this tree.——To dream of a Cypress-tree denotes affliction and obstruction in business.

Daffodil, Daffodilly, or Daffadowndilly.—See Narcissus.

DAHLIA.—The Dahlia (Dahlia variabilis) is first mentioned in a History of Mexico, by Hernandez (1651): it was next noticed by Menonville, who was employed by the French Minister to steal the cochineal insect from the Spaniards in 1790. The Abbé Cavanilles first described the flower scientifically from a specimen which had bloomed in the Royal Garden of Madrid the previous year, and he named the plant after his friend Andrew Dahl, the Swedish botanist.——The Dahlia was introduced into England in 1789 by Lady Bute from Madrid, but this single plant speedily perished. Cavanilles sent specimens of the three varieties then known to the Jardin des Plantes in 1802, and the flower was very successfully cultivated in France, so that in 1814, on the return of peace, the improved varieties of the Dahlia created quite a sensation among English visitors to Paris. Meanwhile, Lady Holland had in July, 1804, sent Dahlia-seeds to England from Madrid, and ten years after we find her husband thus writing to her:—

“The Dahlia you brought to our isle
Your praises for ever shall speak;
Mid gardens as sweet as your smile,
And in colour as bright as your cheek.”

It is singular that this favourite flower should have been twice introduced to England through the ladies of two of her most noted statesmen, and that the first introduction should mark the year when France became revolutionized, and the second that which saw Napoleon made Emperor of the French nation: it is from these incidents that the Dahlia in floral language has been selected as the symbol of “instability.”——In Germany and Russia, the flower is called Georgina, after a St. Petersburg professor.

DAISY.—The legend connected with the Daisy, or Bellis, runs that this favourite little flower owes its origin to one of the Belides, who were grand-daughters of Danaus, and belonged to the race of Nymphs, called Dryads, presiding over woodlands, pastures, and meadows: she is said to have encouraged the suit of the rural divinity, Ephigeus, but whilst dancing on the sward with him, chanced to attract the admiration of Vertumnus, the guardian deity of orchards, and to enable her to escape from his amorous embrace, she was transformed into the humble flower named Bellis. Thus Rapin says:—

“When the bright ram, bedecked with stars and gold,
Displays his fleece, the Daisy will unfold
To nymphs a chaplet, and to beds a grace,
Who once herself had borne a virgin’s face.”

Chaucer, however, who appears to have been passionately fond of the Daisy, and never tired of singing its praises, tells us that the Queen Alceste was changed into the flower, and that she had as many virtues as there were florets in it.

“Hast thou not a book in thy cheste,
The great goodnesse of the Queene Alceste
That turned was into a Daisie?
She that for her husband chose to die,
And eke to gone to hell rather than lie.
And Hercules rescued her, parde,
And brought her out of hell again to bliss?
And I answered againe, and said ‘Yes,’
Now I knowe her, and this is good Alceste,
The Daisie, and mine own hertes rest?”

Ossian gives another origin. Malvina, weeping beside the tomb of Fingal, for Oscar and his infant son, is comforted by the maids of Morven, who narrate how they have seen the innocent infant borne on a light mist, pouring upon the fields a fresh harvest of flowers, amongst which rises one with golden disc, encircled with rays of silver, tipped with a delicate tint of crimson. “Dry thy tears, O Malvina,” cried the maidens; “the flower of thy bosom has given a new flower to the hills of Cromla.”——The ancient English name of the flower was Day’s Eye, in which way it was written by Ben Jonson; and Chaucer calls it the “ee of the daie.” Probably it received this designation from its habit of closing its petals at night and during rainy weather.——There is a popular superstition, that if you omit to put your foot on the first Daisy you see in Spring, Daisies will grow over you or someone dear to you ere the year be out; and in some English counties an old saying is current that Spring has not arrived until you can plant your foot upon twelve Daisies.——Alphonse Karr, speaking of the Paquerette, or Easter Daisy, says, “There is a plant that no insect, no animal attacks—that ornament of the field, with golden disc and rays of silver, spread in such profusion at our feet: nothing is so humble, nothing is so much respected.” (See Marguerite).——Daisy-roots worn about the person were formerly deemed to prove efficacious in the cure of certain maladies; and Bacon, in his Sylva Sylvarum, tells us “There is also a received tale, that boiling of Daisy-roots in milk (which it is certain are great driers) will make dogs little.”——An old writer (1696) says that they who wish to have pleasant dreams of the loved and absent should put Daisy-roots under their pillow.——It is considered lucky to dream of Daisies in Spring or Summer, but bad in the Autumn or Winter. Daisies are herbs of Venus, under Cancer.

DAMES’ VIOLET.—The species of Rocket called Hesperis matronalis, the Night-smelling Rocket, is much cultivated for the evening fragrance of its flowers: hence the ladies of Germany keep it in pots in their apartments, from which circumstance the flower is said to have obtained the name of Dames’ Violet. It is also called Damask Violet, a name derived from the Latin Viola Damascena, the Damascus Violet. In French this is Violette de Damas, which has probably been misunderstood as Violette des Dames, and has hence become, in English, Dames’ Violet. (See Rocket.)

DANDELION.—The Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) derives its name from the French Dent de lion, lion’s tooth. (Latin, Dens leonis). In nearly every European language the flower bears a similar name, given to it presumably either from the whiteness of its root, the auriferous hue of its flower, which recalls the golden teeth of the heraldic lion, or its jagged leaf, which was supposed to resemble a lion’s tooth. De Gubernatis connects the name with the Sun (Helios), and states that a lion was the animal-symbol of the Sun, and that all plants named after him are essentially plants of the Sun. Certainly the appearance of the Dandelion-flower is very suggestive of the ancient representations of the Sun.——In German Switzerland, the children form chains of the stalks of Dandelions, and holding the garland in their hands, they dance round and round in a circle.——The Dandelion is called the rustic oracle: its flowers always open about five a.m. and shut at eight p.m., serving the shepherd for a clock—

“Leontodons unfold
On the swart turf their ray-encircled gold,
With Sol’s expanding beam the flowers unclose,
And rising Hesper lights them to repose.”—Darwin.

As the flower is the shepherd’s clock, so are the feathery seed-tufts his barometer, predicting calm or storm. These downy seed-balls, which children blow off to find out the hour of the day, serve for other oracular purposes. Are you separated from the object of your love?—carefully pluck one of the feathery heads, charge each of the little feathers composing it with a tender thought; turn towards the spot where the loved one dwells; blow, and the seed-ball will convey your message faithfully. Do you wish to know if that dear one is thinking of you, blow again; and if there be left upon the stalk a single aigrette, it is a proof you are not forgotten. Similarly the Dandelion is consulted as to whether the lover lives east, west, north, or south, and whether he is coming or not.

“Will he come? I pluck the flower leaves off,
And at each, cry, yes—no—yes;
I blow the down from the dry Hawkweed,
Once, twice—hah! it flies amiss!”—Scott.

Old herbalists had great faith in the Dandelion as a wonderful help to consumptive people. More recently, in the county of Donegal, an old woman skilled in simples has treated her patients for “heart fever,” or dyspepsia, as follows:—She measures the sufferer three times round the waist with a ribbon, to the outer edge of which is fastened a green thread. If the patient be mistaken in supposing himself affected with heart fever, this green thread will remain in its place, but should he really have the disorder, it is found that the green thread has left the edge of the ribbon and lies curled up in the centre. At the third measuring, the simpler prays for a blessing. She next hands the patient nine leaves of “heart fever grass,” or Dandelion, gathered by herself, directing him to cut three leaves on three successive mornings.——Hurdis, in his poem of ‘The Village Curate,’ fantastically compares the sparkling undergraduate and the staid divine to the Dandelion in the two stages of its existence:—

“Dandelion this,
A college youth, that flashes for a day
All gold: anon he doffs his gaudy suit,
Touched by the magic hand of some grave bishop,
And all at once becomes a reverend divine—how sleek.


But let me tell you, in the pompous globe
Which rounds the Dandelion’s head, is couched
Divinity most rare.”

To dream of Dandelions betokens misfortune, enemies, and deceit on the part of loved ones. Astrologers claim the Dandelion as a plant of Jupiter.

DANEWORT.—The Dwarf Elder (Sambucus Ebulus) is said only to grow where blood has been shed, either in battle or in murder. A patch of it thrives on ground in Worcestershire, where the first blood was drawn in the civil war between the Royalists and the Parliament. The Welsh call it Llysan gwaed gwyr, or “Plant of the blood of men.” A name of similar import is its English one of Death-wort. It is chiefly in connection with the history of the Danes in England, that the superstition holds; wherever the Danes fought and bled, there did the Dwarf Elder, or Dane’s Wood, spring up and flourish. According to Aubrey, the plant obtained the name of Danewort, Daneweed, or Dane’s blood, because it grew plentifully in the neighbourhood of Slaughterford, Wilts, where there was once a stout battle fought with the Danes. Parkinson, however, thinks the plant obtained the name of Danewort because it would cause a flux called the Danes.

DAPHNE.—The generic name of Daphne has been given to a race of beautiful low shrubs, after the Nymph Daphne, who was changed by the gods into a Laurel, in order that she might escape the solicitations of Apollo (see Laurel); because many of the species have Laurel-like leaves. The sweet-scented Daphne Mezereon is very generally known as the Lady Laurel, and is also called Spurge Olive, Spurge Flax, Flowering Spurge, and Dwarf Bay. The name of Mezereon is probably derived from its Persian name, Madzaryoun, which signifies “destroyer of life,” in allusion to the poisonous nature of its bright red berries. Gerarde says, “If a drunkard doe eat one graine or berrie of it, he cannot be allowed to drinke at that time; such will be the heate of his mouth, and choking in the throte.” A decoction of this plant, mixed with other ingredients, is the Lisbon diet-drink, a well-known alterative.——The Russian ladies are reputed to rub their cheeks with the fruit of the Mezereon, in order, by the slight irritation, to heighten their colour.——The Spurge Laurel (Daphne Laureola) possess similar properties to the Mezereon. It is called Ty-ved in Denmark, and is sacred to Tyr, the Scandinavian god of war. It is the badge of the Highland Grahams.——The Flax-leaved Daphne, called by Gerarde the Mountain Widow-Wayle, is supposed to be the herb Casia, mentioned by Virgil and other Roman writers; the Cneoron of the Greeks.

DATE.—The Date Palm (Phœnix dactylifera) is the Palm of the Oases, and supplies not only food for man and beast, but a variety of useful commodities. This Palm has plume-like leaves, and grows from sixty to eighty feet high, living to a great age, and providing yearly a large crop of fruit. The male and female flowers are borne on separate trees, and it is remarkable that there is a difference in the fructification of the wild Date and the cultivated, though both are the same species. The wild Dates impregnate themselves, but the cultivated trees do not, without the assistance of art. Pontanus, an Italian poet of the fifteenth century, gives a glowing description of a female Date-tree which had stood lonely and barren, near Otranto, until at length a favouring wind wafted towards it the pollen of a male that grew at a distance of fifteen leagues. Father Labat has told of a Date-tree that grew in the island of Martinico, and produced fruit which was much esteemed; but when an increase of the number of Date-trees was wanted, not one could be reared from the seed, and they had to send to Africa for Dates, the stones of which grew readily and produced abundantly. The Date Palm is so abundant in the country between the States of Barbary and the desert (which produces no other kind of tree), that this region is designated as the Land of Dates (Biledulgerid).——The Palm of Palestine is the Date Palm. When the sacred writers wished to describe the majesty and beauty of rectitude, they appealed to the Palm as the fittest emblem which they could select. “He shall grow up and flourish like the Palm-tree” is the promise of David to the just. Mahomet, like the Psalmist of Israel, was wont to compare the virtuous and generous man to the Date-tree:—“He stands erect before his Lord; in every action he follows the impulse received from above; and his whole life is devoted to the welfare of his fellow-creatures.”——The inhabitants of Medina, who possess the most extensive plantations of Date-trees, say that their prophet caused a tree at once to spring from the kernel at his command, and to stand before his admiring followers in mature fruitfulness and beauty.——The Tamanaquas of South America have a tradition that the human race sprang again from the fruits of the Date Palm after the Mexican age of water.——The Arabs say that when Adam was driven out of Paradise, the Date, the chief of all fruits, was one of the three things which he took with him; the other two being the Myrtle and an ear of Wheat.——A popular legend concerning the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt, narrates how a Date Palm, at the command of the child Jesus, bowed down its branches to shade and refresh His mother. Sozomenos relates that, when the Holy Family reached the end of their journey, and approached the city of Heliopolis, in Egypt, a tree which grew before the gates of the city, and was regarded with great veneration as the seat of a god, bowed down its branches at the approach of the infant Christ.——Judæa was typified by the Date Palm upon the coins of Vespasian and Titus. With the Jews, the Date Palm has always been the symbol of triumph, and they carry branches of it in their right hands, in their synagogues, at the Feast of the Tabernacles, in commemoration of their forefathers having gained possession of the Promised Land. In the Christian Church, the remembrance of the Saviour’s ride into Jerusalem amid the hosannas of the people, is associated with the waving of the branches of the Date Palm by the joyous multitude.——An ardent spirit, distilled from Dates and water, is much used by Mahommedans, as it does not come within the prohibition of the Koran against wine. Palm wine is also made from the Date; it is the sap or juice of the tree, and can only be obtained by its destruction.——A curious folk-lore tale of the Chinese records how Wang Chih, a patriarch of the Taouist sect, when one day gathering fire-wood in the mountains of Ku Chow, entered a grotto where some old men were playing at chess. One of the old men handed him a Date-stone, telling him to put it into his mouth. This done, he ceased to feel hunger or thirst. By-and-bye, one of the players said: “It is long since you came here—return at once.” Wang Chih went to take up his axe, and found the handle had mouldered into dust. He went home, but found that centuries had elapsed since the day he set out to cut wood: thereupon he retired to a mountain cell, and devoting himself to religious exercises, finally attained immortality.

DEAD TONGUE.—The Water Hemlock (Œnanthe crocata) has received the name of Dead Tongue from its paralysing effects on the organs of voice. Threlkeld tells of eight lads who had eaten it, and of whom “five died before morning, not one of them having spoken a word.” Gerarde relates, that this plant having by mistake been eaten in a salad, “it did well nigh poyson those that ate of it, making them giddie in their heads, waxing very pale, staggering, and reeling like drunken men.”——The plant is described as “one of Saturn’s nosegays.”

Deadly Nightshade, or Death’s Herb.—See Nightshade.

DEODAR.—The sacred Indian Cedar (Cedrus Deodara) forms vast forests in the mountains of Northern India, where it grows to a height varying from fifty to a hundred feet and upwards. It is the Devadâru, or tree-god of the Shastras, which, in many of the ancient hymns of the Hindus, is the symbol of power and majesty. The tree is often mentioned by the Indian poets. It was introduced into this country in 1822.

DHAK.—The Dhak, or Bastard Teak (Butea frondosa), is one of the sacred trees of India, and one of the most striking of the Indian arboreous Leguminosæ. Both its wood and leaves are highly reverenced, and used in religious ceremonies. The natives, also, are fond of offering the beautiful scarlet flowers in their temples, and the females intertwine the blossoms in their hair.——The flowers yield a superb dye.

DILL.—The aromatic plant Dill (Anethum graveolens) is by some supposed to have derived its name from the old Norse word dilla, dull; the seeds being used as a carminative to cause infants to sleep. Boiled in wine, and drunk, the plant was reputed to excite the passions. Dill was formerly highly appreciated as a plant that counteracted the powers of witches and sorcerers:—

“The Vervain and the Dill,
That hindereth witches of their will.”

Astrologers assign Dill to the domination of Mercury.

DITTANY.—The ancients consecrated the Dittany of Crete (Origanum Dictamnus) to the goddess Lucina, who presided over the birth of children; and she was often represented wearing a crown of this Dittany. The root was particularly recommended by the oracle of Phthas. The Grecian and Roman women attributed to this plant the most extraordinary properties during childbirth, which, it was believed greatly to facilitate. It is reported, says Gerarde, “that the wilde goats or deere in Candy, when they be wounded with arrowes, do shake them out by eating of this plant, and heal their wounds.” According to Virgil, Venus healed the wounded Æneas with Dittany. Plutarch says that the women of Crete, seeing how the goats, by eating Dittany, cause the arrows to fall from their wounds, learnt to make use of the plant to aid them in childbirth. Gerarde recounts that the plant is most useful in drawing forth splinters of wood, bones., and in the healing of wounds, “especially those made with invenomed weapons, arrowes shot out of guns, or such like.” The juice, he says, is so powerful, that by its mere smell it “drives away venomous beasts, and doth astonish them.” When mixed with wine, the juice was also considered a remedy for the bites of serpents. According to Apuleius, however, the plant possessed the property of killing serpents.

The Dittany of Crete, it should be noted, is not to be confounded with the Dittany, Dittander, or Pepper-wort of the English Herbals. This plant, the Lepidium latifolium, from its being used by thrifty housewives to season dishes with, obtained the name of Poor Man’s Pepper. It was held to be under Mars.

DOCK.—In Cornwall, as a charm, the leaves of the common Dock, wetted with spring water, are applied to burns, and three angels are invoked to come out of the East. It is a common practice, in many parts of England, for anyone suffering from the stings of a Nettle to apply a cold Dock-leaf to the inflamed spot, the following well-known rhyme being thrice repeated:—

“Out Nettle, in Dock:
Dock shall have a new smock.”

Docks are said by astrologers to be under the dominion of Jupiter.

DRACÆNA.—The Dracæna, or Dragon-tree (Dracæna Draco), derives its name from the Greek Drakaina, a female dragon. This tree is found in the East India Islands, the Canaries, Cape Verde, and Sierra Leone. Gerarde thus describes it:—“This strange and admirable tree groweth very great, resembling the Pine-tree.” Among its leaves “come forth little mossie floures, of small moment, and turn into berries of the bignesse of Cherries, of a yellowish colour, round, light, and bitter, covered with a threefold skin, or film, wherein is to be seen, as Monardus and divers others report, the form of a dragon, having a long neck and gaping mouth, the ridge, or back, armed with sharp prickles like the porcupine, with a long taile and foure feet, very easie to be discerned…. The trunk, or body of the tree, is covered with a tough bark, very thin and easie to be opened or wounded with any small toole or instrument; which being so wounded in the dog days, bruised or bored, yields forth drops of a thick red liquor of the name of the tree called Dragon’s Tears, or Sanguis Draconis, Dragon’s Bloud.”——This Dragon’s Blood, or Gum Dragon, is well known in medicine as an astringent.——The tooth-brushes called Dragon’s-root, are made from the root of the Dragon-tree, cut into pieces about four inches long, each of which is beaten at one end with a wooden mallet to split it into fibres.——The venerable Dragon-tree of Orotava was for many centuries worshipped as a most sacred tree by the Guanches, or original inhabitants of the Canary Islands. It was considered the twin wonder of the Island of Teneriffe, dividing its interest with the mighty Peak. Humboldt saw it in 1799, when it was considered the oldest and largest of living trees (the giant trees of California being then unknown). The great traveller writes concerning it:—“Its trunk is divided into a great number of branches, which rise in the form of candelabra, and are terminated by tufts of leaves like the Yucca: it still bears every year both leaves and fruit: its aspect feelingly recalls to mind that ‘eternal youth of Nature,’ which is an inexhaustible source of motion and of life.” Since then this sacred tree has been entirely shattered and destroyed by successive storms.

Dream Plant.—See Pulsatilla.

DRYAS.—The pretty evergreen, Dryas, which blooms on the mountain summits, was so named by Linnæus after the Dryades, or nymphs of the Oaks,—the leaves bearing some resemblance to those of the Oak.

DURIAN.—The Durian (Durio Zibethinus) is a native of the East Indies. The fruit of this tree, which is about the size of a man’s head, is regarded by the Malays as the king of fruit, and is reputed to be the most delicious of all the fruits of India. The custard-like pulp in which the large seeds are imbedded, is the part eaten fresh, and resembles cream; yet it is accompanied by such an intolerable stench that, according to Rumphius and Valentyn, it is by law forbidden to throw them out near any public path in Amboyna. The smell is said to resemble certain putrid animal substances, yet all agree that if the first repugnance is once overcome, the fruit is most enjoyable. This fruit is employed as a bait to catch the civet cat; the outer covering is boiled down, and used as a wash for the skin. The seeds are converted into flour, and also used as vegetable ivory.

DURVA.—According to Wilson, Durva is the Sanscrit name of the Agrostis linearis, but Carey applies the name to Panicum Dactylon. This species of Millet, like the sacred Kusa grass, is held in much reverence by the Hindus. In De Gubernatis’ Mythologie des Plantes, the author states that in the Atharvaveda, they implore the Durva, which grows in the water (i.e., in marshy places), and which has a hundred roots and a hundred stems, to give absolution for a hundred faults, and to prolong for a hundred years the life of him who invokes it. The fact that this herb is the tenderest, the freshest, and the most substantial food for cattle, added to its beauty, has gained it respect; but the Indians think, besides, that a nymph is hidden in the plant. When they celebrate, in India, the festival of the god Indra, on the 14th day of the lunar month Bhadra, they sing and dance, and offer fourteen different kinds of fruit to the god. In that ceremony, the devotees wear, attached to the right arm, leaves of the Durva. At Indian weddings, the women bind together the right arm of the husband and the left arm of his bride with the leaves of Durva. In the Vedic age (and the custom still exists in certain parts of India), before building a house, it was customary to place on the four corner foundation stones some Durva. This plant figures, also, among the eight ingredients which compose the Arghya, that is to say, the symbolic offering of Indian hospitality. According to a stanza of the Panchatantra, the Durva sprang from the hair of the cow, as the blue Lotus arose from the cow’s evacuations. The leaf of the Durva is so highly esteemed, that it has passed into a proverb or familiar saying. This leaf is especially attractive to gazelles. The preceding stanza proclaims how happy are those gazelles who eat the herb Durva, for they will never gaze on the face of a man whom riches have made false.

EBONY.—The Diospyros Ebenaster is generally considered to be the true Ebony-tree. This Date-Plum is a native of Ceylon, Cochin China, and the East Indies. Bishop Heber describes the Ebony-tree of Ceylon as a magnificent forest tree, with a tall, black, slender stem, spotted with white. Some judges, however, consider that the real Ebony-tree is the Diospyrus Ebenus, a native of Jamaica.——In ancient times it was much more in use and esteem. Pluto, the sovereign of the infernal regions, is represented as seated on a throne of Ebony; the statues of the Egyptian gods were wrought in Ebony. According to Pausanias, the statue of the Pythian Apollo was formed of this wood; and that writer recounts that a Cyprian, well versed in plant lore, had told him that the true and veritable Ebony was a plant that produced neither leaf, flower, nor fruit; and, moreover, that it grew entirely underground in certain places known to the Æthiopians, who periodically visited those spots, and took away the wood.——Pulverised Ebony, mixed with the charcoal of a burnt snail, is recommended by Sidrach as an application to lessen the white of the eye.——There is an old saying, that a bad man’s heart is as black as Ebony. This, probably, originated from the fact, that while the alburnum of the Ebony-tree is white, its foliage soft and silvery, and its flowers brilliant, the heart alone is really black.——Among the many wonders described by Sir John Maundevile, as having been seen by him when on his Eastern travels, in the fourteenth century, was a certain table of Ebony, or black wood, “that once used to turn into flesh on certain occasions, but whence now drips only oil, which, if kept above a year, becomes good flesh and bone.”

EDELWEISS.—The Edelweiss, or Alpine Cudweed (Leontopodium Alpinum or Gnaphalium), grows on the Swiss mountains on the line of perpetual snow, and from thence is brought down by travellers as a proof that they reached this altitude. As in many cantons it only grows in nearly inaccessible places, it is considered an act of daring to gather it, and the flower is therefore much valued by the Swiss maidens as a proof of the devotion of their lovers. Although hardy, this plant is delicate and fragile, enveloping itself in soft down, and only blooming on rocks exposed in full midday. Its bloom is surrounded by white velvety leaves; even the stem has a down upon it.——With the exception of the Alpenrose, no other mountain flower is so characteristic of the Alpine districts, so dear to the native heart, so celebrated by Alpine poets, or so popular among Swiss tourists. Indeed, its very popularity has threatened to lead to its extinction in the districts most frequented by visitors; and to prevent this, the German and Tyrolese Alpine Clubs have imposed fines for plucking the Edelweiss, and the Austrian Alpine Club has forbidden its members to continue the custom of wearing a sprig of Edelweiss in their hats.——The worst persecutors of the plant are the picturesque Bergano herdsmen and herdboys, who come up from the Italian side of the Alps at the beginning of the season, and remain on the mountains with their flocks until the snow begins to fall. They pluck up the Edelweiss mercilessly by the roots, which they endeavour to dispose of to passing travellers. The Communes of the Upper Engadine have taken the plant under their protection, and sellers of the plant in its living condition are subject to a fine. The Edelweiss, however, is plentiful still in tracts a little out of the orthodox tourists’ routes, and at Pontresina grows in such profusion as to be used as food for cattle. The Edelweiss is also known by the name of the Cotonnier, and is sometimes called Lion’s-foot, because of the resemblance of its woolly hairy flower to the foot of a lion.

EGG PLANT.—The Solanum Melongena has derived the name of Egg Plant from the shape of its fruit, which is formed like a hen’s egg, and varies in colour from white to pale yellow, pale red, and purple. In the East Indies, they broil this fruit, and eat it with pepper and salt, and the fruit is also relished in Batavia, Greece, Barbary, and Turkey. The inhabitants of the British isles in the West Indies call it Brown-John or Brown-jolly. Miller calls the plant the larger-fruited Nightshade, and says that in his time it was cultivated in the gardens of Spain by the title of Barenkeena. The Italians call it Melanzana, a corruption of the plant’s ancient Latin name of Mala insana, from whence also came its old English name of Raging Apple or Mad Apple. There does not appear to be any reason for these strange names, although Gerarde cautiously remarks that “doubtless these Apples have a mischievous qualitie, the use whereof is utterly to bee forsaken.”

EGLANTINE.—The Sweet Briar (Rosa rubiginosa) is generally understood to be the Eglantine of old English poets, although the name has given rise to much discussion, both as to its meaning, and as to the shrub to which it applies. Chaucer and more ancient poets spelt the word “Eglatere.”

“The hegge also, that yede in compas,
And closed in all the greene herbere,
With Sicamour was set and Eglatere.”

But it seems doubtful whether by Eglatere was meant the Yellow Rose (Eglanteria), the Sweetbriar, the Dog Rose, or some other species. According to Gerarde, it was a shrub with a white flower. Shakspeare, Spenser, Shenstone, Sir W. Scott, Keats, and other poets identify Eglantine with Sweetbriar; but Milton mistook it for the Honeysuckle or Woodbine, for he speaks of

“Sweetbriar or the Vine,
Or the twisted Eglantine.”

According to a superstition current in Schleswig, when Satan fell from heaven, he endeavoured, in order to reascend to the celestial regions, to make himself a ladder with the thorns of the Eglantine. God, however, would not permit the Eglantine to grow upwards, but only to extend itself as a bush. Then, out of spite, Satan turned its thorns downwards, pointing towards the earth.——Another legend records that Judas Iscariot hung himself on the Eglantine, and that since then it has been an accursed tree: hence to this day its berries are called Judas beeren (Judas berries).——The five graceful fringed leaflets, which form the special beauty of the Eglantine flower and bud, have given rise to the following rhymed riddle:—

“Of us five brothers at the same time born,
Two from our birthday ever beards have worn;
On other two none ever have appeared,
While the fifth brother wears but half a beard.”

ELDER.—The Elder or Ellan-tree (Sambucus), in Scandinavian mythology, was consecrated to Hulda, the goddess of love, and to Thor, the god of Thunder, and is connected with many ancient Northern superstitions.

The Danes believe that in the Elder there dwells a being known as the Hylde-moer (Elder-mother) or Hylde-qvinde (Elder-woman), by whom all injuries done to the Elder are avenged. In a small court in the Nybonder, a district of Copenhagen, there stands a weird tree, which at dusk is reputed to move up and down the passage, and sometimes to peep through the windows at the children. It is not deemed advisable to have furniture made of Elder-wood. Tradition says that a child having been laid in a cradle made of Elder-wood, the Hylde-moer came and pulled it by the legs, nor would she let it have any rest until it was taken out of the cradle. A peasant once heard his children crying in the night, and on inquiring the cause, was told that some one had been there and sucked them; and their breasts were found to be swollen. This annoyance was believed to have arisen, from the fact that the room was boarded with Elder. The Elder branches may not be cut until permission has been asked in the words, “Hylde-moer, Hylde-moer, allow me to cut thy branches.” Then, if no objection be made by the spirit of the tree, the hewer proceeds, taking care first to spit three times, as a precaution against molestation. In Denmark, it is believed that he who stands under an Elder-bush at twelve o’clock on Midsummer Eve, will see Toly, the king of the elves, go by with all his train. Perhaps on account of the supernatural halo surrounding it, the Elder was regarded as a cure for various diseases. A Danish formula prescribes the taking of an Elder-twig by a person afflicted with toothache, who must first put it in his mouth, and then stick it in the wall, saying, “Depart thou evil spirit.” Ague may be cured by taking a twig of Elder, and sticking it in the ground, without speaking a word; the disease will then pass into the twig, and attach itself to the first person who approaches the spot.

In Russia, there is a belief that Elder-trees drive away bad and malignant spirits, out of compassion to humanity, and that they promote long life.

In Sweden, women about to become mothers kiss the Elder; and it is thought that no one can damage the tree with impunity.

In Germany, the Elder is regarded with great respect. From its leaves a febrifuge is made: from its berries a sort of sour preserve, and a wonder-working electuary; the moon-shaped clusters of flowers are narcotic, and are used in baking small cakes. The smell of the leaves and blossoms has the reputation of causing giddiness, whence arises the saying that “he who goes to sleep under an Elder-tree will never wake.” The cross which is affixed to the rod on which the Easter Palms are fastened is made of Elder-wood, as well as the cross which is carried before the coffin in the funeral procession. Although essentially a tree of shade and of death, yet it and the funeral cross just mentioned are known by the name of “Livelong.” It is a favourite hiding-place for children when playing at “hide-and-seek.” The pith of the branches, when cut in round flat shapes, is dipped in oil, lighted, and then put to float in a glass of water; its light on Christmas Eve is thought to reveal to the owner all the witches and sorcerers in the neighbourhood. Since this tree drives away spirits, it is often planted by the side of manure sheds, keeping them damp by its shade, and also protecting from evil influences the cattle in the adjoining shed. It is commonly believed that he who injures an Elder-tree will suffer from its vengeance. “Holderstock” (Elderstock) is a name of endearment given by a lover to his beloved, and is derived from Hulda, the old goddess of love.

In Lower Saxony, it was customary to ask permission of the Elder-tree before cutting it, in the words, “Lady Elder, give me some of thy wood; then will I also give thee some of mine when it grows in the forest.” This was repeated three times, with folded hands and bended knees. Pusch Kait, the ancient Prussian god of the earth, was supposed to live under the Elder-tree.

In the Tyrol, an Elder-bush, trimmed into the form of a cross, is often planted on the new-made grave; and if it blooms, it is a sign that the soul of the dead person is in Paradise. The Tyroleans have such a regard for the tree, that, in passing it, they always raise their hat.

In Bohemia, three spoonfuls of the water which has been used to bathe an invalid are poured under an Elder, with “Elder, God sends me to thee, that thou may’st take my fever upon thee.” This must be repeated on three successive days, and if the patient has not meanwhile passed over water, he will recover.——The Serbs introduce a stick of Elder, to ensure good luck, during their wedding festivities.

In Savoy, branches of Elder are carried about on May-day. In Sicily, it is thought a bough of Elder will kill serpents, and drive away robbers better than any other stick. In Labruguière, France, if an animal is ill, or has a wound infested by vermin, they lead it to the foot of an Elder-tree, and twirling a bough in their hands, they bow to the tree, and address it as follows:—“Good-day, Mons. Yèble; if you do not drive away the vermin, I shall be compelled to cut both your limbs and your trunk.” This ceremony performed, a certain cure is confidently looked for. In the country districts round Valenciennes, if an Elder-bough is hung outside the door, it is indicative of a coquette inhabiting the house.

In England, the Elder has been regarded with superstition from very early times, and is looked upon as a tree of bad omen. Branches of Elder were formerly considered to be typical of disgrace and woe. In the Canones editi sub Edgaro Rege it is enacted that every priest forbid the vain practices that are carried on with Elder-sticks, and also with various other trees.

In Gloucestershire, and some other counties, the peasantry will on no account burn Elder or Ellan-wood, the reason being, that it was supposed to be one of the trees from which the wood of the Cross was formed. In a rare tract on Gloucestershire superstitions, a figure is given of an Elder-wood cross borne constantly about the person as a cure for rheumatism. This cross consisted of a small piece cut from a young shoot just above and below a joint, so as to leave the bud projecting at each end of it, after the fashion of a rude cross. To be efficient, the Elder must have grown in consecrated ground. In Tortworth and other Gloucestershire churchyards are to be found such trees, and applications for pieces of them are still made.

In Sussex, an Elder-stick, with three, four, or more knots upon it, is carried in the pocket as a charm against rheumatism.

In the Eastern counties, the Elder is popularly considered to be the tree of whose wood the Cross was made: it is therefore an unlucky tree, and one that should never be bound up in faggots. On this account, also, the Elder is considered safe from the effects of lightning. In some parts there is a vulgar prejudice that if boys be beaten with an Elder-stick, their growth is sure to be checked.

In Huntingdonshire, there exists the Danish belief in a being called the Elder-mother, so that it is not always safe to pluck the flowers. No household furniture should be made of Elder-wood, least of all a cradle, for some evil will certainly befall the child sleeping in it.

The Elder-tree has been credited with possessing a peculiar fascination for witches and elves, who love to lurk beneath the shadow of its branches, and who are wont to bury their offspring at its foot. On the other hand, the tree has been said to exercise a protective influence against the attacks of witches and wizards, and similar evil-disposed persons; and it has been suggested that this is the reason why the tree is so often found in the neighbourhood of cottages. It was thought that the tree was obnoxious to witches because their enemies use the green juice of its inner bark for anointing the eyes. Any baptised person whose eyes are touched with it can see what the witches are about in any part of the world. It was possible by magic art to render witches sensible of blows given to them with an Elder-stick, but this has to be managed by someone versed in the habits of witches. A cross made of the Elder, affixed to cow-houses and stables, was supposed to protect cattle from all possible harm.

Shakspeare, in ‘Love’s Labour Lost,’ says “Judas was hanged on an Elder,” and this belief was general among early writers, and is constantly alluded to by authors of the Elizabethan period; but the name Judas-tree was applied to the Cercis siliquastrum (which is the tree which still bears it), about the same period. Gerarde, indeed, definitely tells us of the Cercis, “This is the tree whereon Judas did hang himselfe, and not upon the Elder-tree, as is stated.” On the other hand, that old Eastern traveller, Sir John Maundevile, tells us that the very Elder-tree upon which Judas hanged himself was to be seen in his day close to the Pool of Siloe; whilst the legend which connects Judas with the Elder-tree is alluded to by Ben Jonson, and is thus referred to in ‘Piers Plowman’:—

“Judas, he japed
With Jewen silver
And sithen on an Eller
Hanged hymselve.”

But not only is the ill-omened Elder credited with being connected with the death of Judas, but there is a wide-spread belief that it was the “accursed tree” on which the Redeemer’s life was given up; therefore, although fuel may be scarce and these sticks plentiful, in some places the superstitious poor will not burn them.——In Scotland, according to a writer in the ‘Dublin Magazine,’ it is called the Bour-tree, and the following rhyme is indicative of the belief entertained in that country:—

“Bour-tree, Bour-tree, crooked rung,
Never straight and never strong,
Ever bush and never tree,
Since our Lord was nailed on thee.”

In Chambers’s ‘Book of Days’ is an instance of the belief that a person is perfectly safe under the shelter of an Elder-tree during a thunderstorm, as the lightning never strikes the tree of which the Cross was made. Experience has taught that this is a fallacy, although many curious exceptional instances are recorded. In Napier’s Folk-lore of the Northern Counties we read of a peculiar custom:—the Elder is planted in the form of a cross upon a newly-made grave, and if it blooms they take it as a sure sign that the soul of the dead person is happy.

It is not considered prudent to sleep under an Elder. Evelyn describes the narcotic smell of the tree as very noxious to the air, and narrates that a certain house in Spain, seated among Elder-trees, diseased and killed almost all the inhabitants, “which, when at last they were grubbed up, became a very wholesome and healthy place.” As regards the medical virtues of the tree, Evelyn exclaims:—“If the medicinal properties of the leaves, bark, berries., were thoroughly known, I cannot tell what our countryman could ail for which he might not fetch a remedy from every hedge, either for sickness or wound.” And he goes on to describe a variety of medicinal uses for the bark, buds, berries, leaves, and flowers; summing up the virtues of the Elder with the remark that “every part of the tree is useful, as may be seen at large in Blockwitzius’s anatomie thereof.” In this work is the following description of an amulet for the use of an epileptic subject, which is to be made of the Elder growing on a Sallow:—“If in the month of October, a little before the full moon, you pluck a twig of the Elder, and cut the cane that is betwixt two of its knees, or knots, in nine pieces, and these pieces, being bound in a piece of linen, be in a thread so hung about the neck that they touch the spoon of the heart, or the sword-formed cartilage; and, that they may stay more firmly in that place, they are to be bound thereon with a linen or leather roller wrapt about the body, till the thread break of itself. The thread being broken, and the roller removed, the amulet is not at all to be touched with bare hands, but it ought to be taken hold on by some instrument, and buried in a place that nobody may touch it.”

One mode of charming warts away is to take an Elder-shoot, and rub it on the part, then cut as many notches on the twig as you have warts, bury it in a place where it will soon decay, and as it rots away the warts will disappear. Another plan is to obtain a green Elder-stick, and rub the warts well with it, after which bury the stick to rot away in muck.

The black berries of the Elder are full of a deep violet-coloured juice, which, according to Virgil, the god Pan had his face smeared with, in compliance with the old Roman custom of painting their gods on solemn occasions.

To dream of Elder-berries denotes sickness. The tree is under the dominion of Venus.

ELECAMPANE.—Of the Elecampane (Inula Helenium), Rapin writes:—

“Elecampane, the beauteous Helen’s flower,
Mingles among the rest her silver store;
Helen, whose charms could royal breasts inspire
With such fierce flames as set the world on fire.”

When Paris carried off the celebrated Helen, the lovely wife of Menelaus was said to have had in her hand a nosegay of the bright yellow flowers of the Elecampane, which was thenceforth named Helenium, in her honour. The Romans employed the roots of Elecampane as an edible vegetable; the monks, who knew it as Inula campana, considered it capable of restoring health to the heart; and the herbalists deemed it marvellously good for many disorders, and admirable as a pectoral medicine. Elecampane lozenges have long been popular. Turner, in his ‘Brittish Physician,’ calls the Inula campana, the Sun-flower, and says that the root chewed fastens loose teeth, and preserves them from rotting, and that the distilled water of the green leaves makes the face fair. From its broad leaves, the Elecampane is sometimes called the Elf-dock.——It is held to be under Mercury.

ELICHRYSUM.—This species of everlasting flower derived its name, according to Themistagoras, from the nymph Elichrysa, who having adorned the goddess Diana with its blossoms, the plant was called after her, Elichryson. Its old English name was Golden Flower, or Golden Moth-wort, and Gerarde tells us that the blossoms, if cut before they are quite ripe, will remain beautiful a long time after. “For which cause of long lasting the images and carved gods were wont to weare garlands thereof: whereupon some have called it ‘God’s floure.’ For which purpose Ptolemy, King of Ægypt, did most diligently observe them, as Pliny writeth.”

ELM.—The ancients had a tradition that, at the first sound of the plaintive strains which proceeded from the lyre of Orpheus, when he was lamenting the death of Eurydice, there sprang up a forest of Elms; and it was beneath an Elm that the Thracian bard sought repose after his unavailing expedition to the infernal regions to recover his lost love. Rapin thus tells the tale:—

“When wretched Orpheus left the Stygian coast,
Now hopeless since again his spouse was lost,
Beneath the preferable shade he sate
Of a tall Elm, and mourned his cruel fate:
Where Rhodope rears high her steepy brow,
While Heber’s gentle current strays below.
On his sweet lyre the skilful artist played,
Whose all-commanding strings the woods obeyed;
And crowding round him formed a hasty shade.
There Cypress, Ilex, Willows, Planes unite,
And th’ Elm, ambitious of a greater height,
Presents before his view a married Vine,
Which round her husband, Elm, did circling twine,
And warned him to indulge a second flame;
But he neglects th’ advice, and slights the dame:
By fatal coldness still condemned to prove
A victim to the rage of female love.”

The “wedding of the Elm to the Vine,” alluded to in the above lines, was a very favourite topic among the old Roman poets; Virgil, indeed, selects the junction of the Elm and the Vine as the subject of one whole book of his ‘Georgics.’ The ancients twined their Vines round the trunks of the Elm; and the owner of a Vineyard tended his Elms as carefully as his Vines.——When Achilles killed the father of Andromache, he erected in his honour a tomb, around which nymphs came and planted Elms.——Perhaps on account of its longevity, or because it produces no fruit, the Greeks and Romans considered the Elm a funereal tree: in our own times, it is connected with burials, inasmuch as coffins are generally made of its wood.——The ancients called the Elm, the tree of Oneiros, or of Morpheus, the god of sleep. As a widespreading shady tree, it is selected by Virgil (Æn. vi.) as the roosting-place of dreams in gloomy Orcus:—

“Full in the midst a spreading Elm displayed
His aged arms, and cast a mighty shade;
Each trembling leaf with some light visions teems,
And heaves impregnated with airy dreams.”

It was in connection with the title of Tree of Dreams (Ulmus Somnorum), that the Elm became, like the Oak, a prophetic tree.——On the Continent, an Elm is often found on the village-green, beneath whose boughs justice used formerly to be administered, and meetings held: there was one at Gisors, on the frontier of Normandy, where the kings of France and Dukes of Normandy used to hold conference together, and which was large enough to shelter both their trains; this tree was upwards of two hundred years old when cut down by order of King Philippe Auguste, out of hatred to our Plantagenet kings. One of the oldest Elms in England is a stump at Richmond, now fenced in, and covered with Ivy, which was planted by Queen Elizabeth herself, and has on that account always been known as the Queen’s Elm.——Formerly the leafing of the Elm was made to regulate both field and garden work, as seen in the following rustic rhyme:—

“When the Elmen leaf is as big as a mouse’s ear,
Then to sow Barley never fear.
When the Elmen leaf is as big as an ox’s eye,
Then say I, ‘Hie, boys, hie!’”

In olden times, the falling of the leaves of an Elm was thought to prognosticate a murrain. In Sicily, they have a custom of binding the trunk of a Fig-tree with branches of Elm, from a belief that they would prevent the young Figs from falling before they became thoroughly ripe.——The Elm is held to be under the influence of Saturn.——“The Seven Sisters” was the name bestowed on seven Elm-trees at Tottenham, which gave the name to the road from thence to Upper Holloway. In Bedwell’s History of Tottenham, written in the year 1631, he describes Page Green by the side of the high road at that village, and a group of Elms in a circle, with a Walnut in the centre. He says: “This tree hath this many yeares stod there, and it is observed yearely to live and beare leavs, and yet to stand at a stay, that is, to growe neither greater or higher. This people do commonly tell the reason to bee, for that there was one burnt upon that place for the profession of the Gospell.” There was also a connecting link between the Walnut-tree and the Seven Sisters, by which it was surrounded. There were seven Elms planted by seven sisters respectively. The tree planted by the smallest of the sisters was always irregular and stunted in growth. There was an eighth sister who planted an Elm in the midst of the other seven, and the legend relates that it withered and died when she died, and that then a Walnut-tree grew in its place. The Walnut-tree has long since gone, and probably the Elms have now disappeared.

ENCHANTER’S NIGHTSHADE.—Formerly the Atropa Mandragora used to bear this name, but by some mistake it has been transferred to the Circæa Lutetiana, an insignificant plant named after Circe, the famed enchantress, probably because its fruit, being covered with hooked prickles, lays hold of the unwary passers-by, as Circe is said to have done by means of her enchantments. The Mandrake was called “Nightshade,” from having been classed with the Solanum tribe, and “Enchanter’s” from its Latin name Circæa, a name which it obtained, according to Dioscorides, because Circe, who was expert in herbal lore, used it as a tempting powder in amorous concerns.

ENDIVE.—The Endive or Succory (Cichorium) is, according to the oldest Greek Alexandrian translations of the Bible, one of the “bitter herbs” which the Almighty commanded the Israelites to eat with the lamb at the institution of the Feast of the Passover. The garden Endive (C. Endivia) is probably the plant celebrated by Horace as forming a part of his simple diet: its leaves are used in salads, and its root, under the name of Chicory, is extensively used to mingle with Coffee. Immense quantities of Endive were used by the ancient Egyptians, who called it Chicouryeh, and from this word is derived the generic name Cichorium.——The wild Succory (C. Intybus) opens its petals at 8 a.m., and closes them at 4 p.m.

“On upland slopes the shepherds mark
The hour when, to the dial true,
Cichorium to the towering lark
Lifts her soft eye, serenely blue.”

The Germans say that once upon a time the Endives were men under a ban. The blue flowers, which are plentiful, were good men; the white flowers, much rarer, were evil-doers.——The blue star-like blossom is a most popular flower in Germany: it is the Wegewarte—the watcher of the roads; the Wegeleuchte, or lighter of the road; the Sonnenwende, or Solstice; the Sonnenkraut, or herb of the sun; and the Verfluchte Jungfer, or accursed maiden. An ancient ballad of Austrian Silesia recounts the history of a young girl who for seven years mourned for her lover, fallen in the wars. When her friends wished to console her, and to procure for her another lover, she replied: “I shall cease to weep only when I become a wild flower by the wayside.”——Another version of the German legend is that a loving maiden anxiously expected the return of her betrothed from a voyage upon which he had long since set out. Every morning she paced the road where she had last bade adieu to him; every evening she returned. Thus she wearily passed her time during many a long month. At last, utterly worn out with watching and waiting, she sank exhausted by the wayside, and, broken-hearted, expired. On the spot where she breathed her last sigh sprang up a little pale flower which was the Wegewarte, the watcher of the road.——In Bavaria, the same legend is met with, differing only in details. A young and beautiful princess was abandoned by her husband, a young prince of extraordinary beauty. Grief exhausted her strength, and finding herself on the point of death, she exclaimed: “Ah, how willingly would I die if I could only be sure of seeing my loved one, wherever I may be. Her ladies-in-waiting, hearing her desire, solemnly added: “And we also would willingly die if only we were assured that he would always see us on every roadside.” The merciful God heard from heaven their heart-felt desires, and granted them. “Happily,” said He, “your wishes can be fulfilled; I will change you into flowers. You, Princess, you shall remain with your white mantle on every road traversed by your husband; you, young women, shall remain by the roadside, habited in blue, so that the prince must see you everywhere.” Hence the Germans call the wild Succory, Wegewarten.——Gerarde tells us that Placentinus and Crescentius termed the Endive, Sponsa solis, Spouse of the Sun (a name applied by Porta to the Heliotrope), and we find in De Gubernatis’ Mythologie des Plantes, the following passage:—“Professor Mannhardt quotes the charming Roumanian ballad, in which is recounted how the Sun asked in marriage a beautiful woman known as Domna Florilor, or the Lady of the Flowers; she refused him, whereupon the Sun, in revenge, transformed her into the Endive, condemned for ever to gaze on the Sun as soon as he appears on the horizon, and to close her petals in sadness as the luminary disappears. The name of Domna Florilor, a kind of Flora, given by the Roumanians to the woman loved by the Sun, reminds us somewhat of the name of Fioraliso, given in Italy to the Cornflower, and which I supposed to have represented the Sun. The Roumanian legend has, without doubt, been derived from an Italian source, in its turn a development of a Grecian myth—to wit, the amour of the Sun, Phœbus, with the lovely nymph Clytie.” (See Heliotrope).——There is a Silesian fairy tale which has reference to the Endive:—The magician Batu had a daughter named Czekanka, who loved the youthful Wrawanec; but a cruel rival slew the beloved one. In despair, Czekanka sought her lover’s tomb, and killed herself beside it. Whilst in her death throes, she was changed into the blue Succory, and gave the flower its Silesian name Czekanka. Wrawanec’s murderer, jealous of poor Czekanka, even after her death, threw on the plant a swarm of ants, in the hope that the little insects might destroy the Succory, but the ants, on the contrary, in their rage, set off in pursuit of the murderer, and so vigorously attacked him, that he was precipitated into a crevasse on the mountain Kotancz.——In Germany and in Rome, where a variety of estimable qualities are ascribed to the plant, they sell Endive-seed as a panacea, but especially as a love philtre. They would not uproot it with the hand, but with a bit of gold or a stag’s horn (which symbolise the disk and the rays of the Sun), on one of the days of the Apostles (June 29th and July 25th). A girl thus uprooting an Endive will be assured of the constancy of her lover.——Endive, carried on the person, is supposed to enable a lover to inspire the object of his affections with a belief that he possesses all the good qualities she could wish for. Endive-root breaks all bonds, removes thorns from the flesh, and even renders the owner invisible.——The herb is held to be under the rule of Venus.

ERAGROSTIS.—Among the Hindus, the Eragrostis cynosuroides is considered a sacred Grass, and is employed by them for strewing the floors of their temples. In England, it is known as Love Grass.

ERYSIMUM.—The Hedge Mustard, Bank Cress, or Jack-by-the-Hedge (Erysimum Barbarea) is called by the French St. Barbara’s Hedge Mustard and the Singer’s Plant (herbe au chantre), and up to the time of Louis XIV. was considered an infallible remedy in cases of loss of voice. Racine, writing to Boileau, recommended the syrup of Erysimum to him when visiting the waters of Bourbonne, in order to be cured of loss of voice. Boileau replied that he had heard the best accounts of the Erysimum, and that he meant to use it the following summer.——The plant is held to be under Mercury.

ERYNGO.—The Sea Eryngo (Eryngium maritimum) is, perhaps, better known by the name of Sea Holly, which has been given it on account of the striking resemblance of its foliage to the Holly. According to Rapin, Eryngo possessed magical properties, inasmuch as, if worn by young married women, it ensured the fidelity of their husbands. On this account, Sappho employed it to secure the love of Phaon, the handsome boatman of Mitylene, for whom the poetess had conceived so violent a passion, that at length, mortified at his coldness, she threw herself into the sea. Rapin says:—

“Grecian Eryngoes now commence their fame,
Which, worn by brides, will fix their husband’s flame,
And check the conquests of a rival dame.
Thus Sappho charmed her Phaon, and did prove
(If there be truth in verse) his faith in love.”

Plutarch records that, if one goat took the herb Sea Holly into her mouth, “it caused her first to stand still, and afterwards the whole flock, until such time as the shepherd took it from her mouth.” Eryngo-root was formerly much prized as a tonic, and in Queen Elizabeth’s time, when prepared with sugar, was called Kissing Comfits. Lord Bacon, recommending the yolks of eggs as very nourishing, when taken with Malmsey or sweet wine, says: “You shall doe well to put in some few slices of Eringium-roots, and a little Amber-grice, for by this meanes, besides the immediate facultie of nourishment, such drinke will strengthen the back.”

EUGENIA.—In Burmah, the Eugenia is regarded as a sacred plant. When a spray is cut, prayers and supplications for absent friends and relatives are offered up before it, and twigs and leaves of it are kept in consecrated water in almost every house, and occasionally the different apartments are sprinkled with it as a protective against ghosts, ogres, and evil spirits. The twigs of Eugenia are sometimes hung about the eaves, and in many cases a small plant is kept growing in a pot in the house, so that its benign influence may keep harm away.——In cases of cholera epidemic, the natives of the affected district betake themselves to a Buddhist monastery, carrying presents and a small pot partly filled with water, and containing leaves of a species of Eugenia (Tha-byay-bin), and some coarse yellow string wound round a small stick. These pots are blessed by the Buddhist abbot, and are then taken away by the people, who either hang up the yellow string in little bags round the eaves of their houses, or else wear it coiled round the left wrist. The pots of water and sprigs of Eugenia are kept in the house to guard it from infection.

EUPATORIUM.—Agrimony has derived its name of Eupatorium from Mithridates Eupator, King of Pontus, who was skilled in botany and physic, and used this plant as an antidote against the poison with which his enemies at court attempted to destroy him. E. Ayapana, a native of Brazil, has long been famed for curing the bites of serpents, and its leaves, when fresh bruised, are useful when applied to the face of ulcers.——In Italy and Russia, magical properties are attributed to this plant.

EUPHORBIA.—The Euphorbia or Medusa Head possesses the peculiar property of blooming in warm water after apparent death. The milky juice of Euphorbia Canariensis, and some other species of Spurge, produces the drug Euphorbium. The juice of E. heptagona furnishes the Ethiopians with a deadly poison for their arrows. At Bodo, in India, before the doorway of every house is cultivated a plant of the sacred Sidj, a species of Euphorbia, which is looked upon both as the domestic and national divinity, and to this plant the natives address their prayers and offer up hogs as sacrifices.

EVERLASTING FLOWERS.—Writing of the Gnaphalium Alpinum, Gerarde tells us that in his day English women called it “Live-long,” or “Live-for-ever.” From hence has originated the name Everlasting, applied to the genus Gnaphalium. The ancients crowned the images of their gods with garlands made of these flowers, and from this circumstance they were frequently called God’s flowers. In Spain and Portugal, they are still used to decorate the altars and the images of the saints. The French have named the Gnaphalium, Immortelle, and employ it in the manufacture of the garlands and devices which they place on their coffins and graves. Old writers call the plant Cudweed, Cottonweed, Gold-flower, Goldilocks, Golden Stœchas, and Golden-flower Gentle. One species has obtained the name of Herba Impia, because the later flowers grow higher, and, as Gerarde says, “overtop those that come first, as many wicked children do unto their parents.”

EYEBRIGHT.—The Eyebright or Euphrasy (Euphrasia officinalis) was formerly called Euphrosyne, after one of the Graces. This name became subsequently corrupted to Euphrasy. The plant was also known as Ocularis and Ophthalmica, on account of its use in the treatment of disorders of the eye. According to Coles, it obtained the name of Eyebright from its being employed by the linnet to clear its sight; other old authors also say that birds made use of it to repair their vision. Arnoldus affirms that the plant restored sight to people who had been blind a long while; and Gerarde says that, taken either alone or in any other way, it preserves the sight, and, “being feeble and lost, it restores the same: it is given most fitly being beaten into pouder; oftentimes a like quantitie of Fennell-seed is added thereto, and a little Mace, to the which is put so much sugar as the weight of them all commeth to.” It was also believed to comfort the memory, and assist a weak brain. Milton, Drayton, Shenstone, and other poets have celebrated the powers of Euphrasy, and we find Spenser writing:—

“Yet Euphrasie may not be left unsung,
That gives dim eyes to wander leagues around.”

Astrologers state that the Eyebright is under the sign of the Lion, and the Sun claims dominion over it.

FAIR MAIDS.—Fair Maids of February are Snowdrops, so called from their delicate white blossoms opening about the second of that month, when it was customary for maidens, dressed in white, to walk in procession at the Feast of the Purification. Fair Maids of France are double Crowfoots, or a particular variety, originally introduced from France, viz., Ranunculus aconitifolius.

FELDWODE.—Medea, the enchantress, is said by Gower to have employed a certain herb, Feldwode:—

“Tho toke she Feldwode and Verveine,
Of herbes ben nought better tweine.”

This herb is generally supposed to have been the yellow Gentian, or Baldmoney, Gentiana lutea. (See Gentian.)

FENNEL.—Fenckle, or Fennel (Fœniculum), was employed by the ancients in the composition of wreaths, to be worn by victors after the games in the arena. The gladiators mixed this plant with their food to increase their strength. The god Sylvanus was sometimes crowned with Fennel.——In later times, Fennel was strewn across the pathway of newly-married couples, and was generally liked for its odour; thus Ophelia says: “There’s Fennel for you, and Columbine.”——Pliny records that serpents are wonderfully fond of this plant, inasmuch as it restores them to youth by causing them to cast their old skin, and by its use they recover their sight if it becomes dim. Gerarde says, that the seed “drunke for certaine daies together, fasting, preserveth the eyesight, whereof was written this distichon following:—

“Fœniculum, Rosa, Verbena, Chelidonia, Ruta,
Ex his fit aqua quæ lumina reddit acuta.
“Of Fennell, Roses, Vervain, Rue, and Celandine,
Is made a water, good to cheere the sight of eine.”

The ancients believed that the use of Fennel gave strength to the constitution, and made fat people grow lean. The roots of Fennel, pounded with honey, were considered a remedy for the bites of mad dogs.——Fennel is one of the numerous plants dedicated to St. John, and was formerly hung over doors and windows on his vigil.——Astrologers state it is a herb of Mercury under Virgo.

FERN.—Among Celtic and Germanic nations the Fern was formerly considered a sacred and auspicious plant. Its luck-bringing power was not confined to one species, but belonged to the tribe in general, dwelling, however, in the fullest perfection in the seed, the possessor of which could wish what he would, and the Devil would be obliged to bring it to him. In Swabia, they say that Fern-seed brought by the Devil between eleven and twelve on Christmas night enables a man to do as much work as twenty or thirty ordinary men.

In medieval days, when sorcery flourished, it was thought the Fern-seed imparted to its owner the power of resisting magical charms and incantations. The ancients believed that the Fern had no seeds, but our ancestors thought it had seed which was invisible. Hence, after the fantastic doctrine of signatures, they concluded that those who possessed the secret of wearing this seed about them would become invisible. Thus, we find that, in Shakspeare’s ‘Henry IV.,’ Gadshill says: “We steal as in a castle, cock-sure: we have the receipt of Fern-seed, we walk invisible.”

The people of Westphalia are wont to relate how one of their countrymen chanced one Midsummer night to be looking for a foal he had lost, and passing through a meadow just as the Fern-seed was ripening, some of it fell into his shoes. In the morning he went home, walked into the sitting-room, and sat down, but thought it strange that neither his wife, nor indeed any of his family, took the slightest notice of him. “I have not found the foal,” said he. Everybody in the room started and gazed around with scared looks, for they had heard the man’s voice, but saw no one. Thinking that he was joking, and had hid himself, his wife called him by his name. Thereupon he stood up, planted himself in the middle of the floor, and said, “Why do you call me? Here I am right before you.” Then they were more frightened than ever, for they had heard him stand up and walk, and still they could not see him. The man now became aware that he was invisible, and a thought struck him that possibly he might have got Fern-seed in his shoes, for he felt as if there was sand in them. So he took them off, and shook out the Fern-seed, and as he did so he became visible again to everybody.

A belief in the mystic power of Fern-seed to make the gatherer walk invisible is still extant. The English tradition is, that the Fern blooms and seeds only at twelve o’clock on Midsummer night—St. John’s Eve—just at the precise moment at which the Saint was born—

“But on St. John’s mysterious night,
Sacred to many a wizard spell,
The hour when first to human sight
Confest, the mystic Fern-seed fell.”

In Dr. Jackson’s Works (1673) we read that he once questioned one of his parishioners as to what he saw or heard when he watched the falling of the Fern-seed, whereupon the man informed him that this good seed is in the keeping of Oberon (or Elberich), King of the Fairies, who would never harm anyone watching it. He then said to the worthy doctor, “Sir, you are a scholar, and I am none. Tell me, what said the angel to our Lady; or what conference had our Lady with her cousin Elizabeth, concerning the birth of St. John the Baptist?” Finding Doctor Jackson unable to answer him, he told him that “the angel did foretell John Baptist should be born at that very instant in which the Fern-seed—at other times invisible—did fall: intimating further that this saint of God had some extraordinary vertue from the time or circumstance of his birth.”

To catch the wonder-working seed, twelve pewter plates must be taken to the spot where the Fern grows: the seed, it is affirmed, will pass through eleven of the plates, and rest upon the twelfth. This is one account: another says that Midsummer night is the most propitious time to procure the mystic Fern-seed, but that the seeker must go bare-footed, and in his shirt, and be in a religious state of mind.

In ancient days it was thought the demons watched to convey away the Fern-seed as it fell ere anyone could possess themselves of it. A writer on Brittany states that he remembers to have heard recounted by one who had gathered Fern-seed, that whilst he was prosecuting his search the spirits grazed his ears, whistling past them like bullets, knocking off his hat, and hitting him with it all over his body. At last, when he thought that he had gathered enough of the mystic seed, he opened the case he had been putting it into, and lo! it was empty. The Devil had evidently had the best of it.

M. Marmier, in his Légendes des Plantes, writes:—“It is on Midsummer night that you should go and seek the Fern-seed: he who is fortunate enough to find it will indeed be happy. He will have the strength of twenty men, he will discover precious metals in the bowels of the earth, he will comprehend the present and the future. Up to the present time, however, no one has been able to secure this precious seed. It ripens but for a minute, and the Devil guards it with ferocious vigilance.”

De Gubernatis, in his Mythologie des Plantes, publishes a communication sent him by the Princess Marie Galitzin Prazorovskaïa, on the subject of the flowering of the Fern, the details of which she obtained from a Russian peasant. “On Midsummer night, before twelve o’clock, with a white napkin, a cross, a Testament, a glass of water, and a watch, one seeks in the forest the spot where the Fern grows; one traces with the cross a large circle; one spreads the napkin, placing on the cross the Testament and the glass of water. Then one attentively looks at one’s watch: at the precise midnight hour the Fern will bloom: one watches attentively; for he who shall see the Fern-seed drop shall at the same time see many other marvels; for example, three suns, and a full moon, which reveals every object, even the most hidden. One hears laughter; one is conscious of being called; if one remains quiet one will hear all that is happening in the world, and all that is going to happen.”

In a work by Markevic, the author says:—“The Fern flowers on Midsummer night at twelve o’clock, and drives away all unclean spirits. First of all it put forth buds, which afterwards expand, then open, and finally change into flowers of a dark red hue. At midnight, the flower opens to its fullest extent, and illuminates everything around. But at that precise moment a demon plucks it from its stalk. Whoever wishes to procure this flower must be in the forest before midnight, locate himself near the Fern, and trace a circle around it. When the Devil approaches and calls, feigning the voice of a parent, sweetheart., no attention must be paid, nor must the head be turned, for if it is, it will remain so. Whoever becomes the happy possessor of the flower has nothing to fear: by its means he can recover lost treasure, become invisible, rule on earth and under water, and defy the Devil. To discover hidden treasure, it is only necessary to throw the flower in the air: if it turns like a star above the Sun, so that it falls perpendicularly in the same spot, it is a sure indication that treasure is concealed there.”

A very ancient method prescribed for obtaining the mystic Fern-seed is given by Dr. Kuhn. At the Summer solstice, if you shoot at the Sun when it has attained its mid-day height, three drops of blood will fall: they must be gathered up and preserved, for that is the Fern-seed.

The Franche-Comté peasantry talk of a mysterious plant that misleads travellers. According to a German authority, this plant is no other than the Fern on Midsummer night. As we have seen, on that night the Fern is reputed to flower, and to let fall its seed: he who secures this seed, becomes invisible; but if the unsuspecting traveller passes by the Fern without noticing it, he will be assuredly misled, even although well acquainted with the road. This is the reason why, in Thuringia, they call the Fern Irrkraut, the misleading plant.

In Poland, there is a popular notion that the plucking of Fern produces a violent thunderstorm.

In Germany, they call the Fern Walpurgiskraut, the superstition being that, on the Walpurgisnacht, the witches procure this plant in order to render themselves invisible. In Lombardy, there exists a popular superstition akin to this. The witches, they say, are particularly fond of the Fern; they gathered it to rub in their hands during a hailstorm, turning it from the side where the hail falls the thickest.

The root of the common Male Fern (Filix mas), was an important ingredient in the love-philtres of former days. An old Gaelic bard sings:—

“’Twas the maiden’s matchless beauty
That drew my heart anigh;
Not the Fern-root potion,
But the glance of her blue eye.”

In olden times the young scroll-like fronds of this Fern were called Lucky Hands, or St. John’s Hands, and were believed to protect the possessor from sorcery, witches’ spells, and the Evil Eye. In Germany, the Male Fern was formerly called Johanniswurtzel; and both on the Continent, and in England, it was the custom, on Midsummer Eve, to gather this Fern, which was sold to the credulous, who wore it about their persons, and mingled it with the water drunk by their cows, as a protection against all evil spirits, and to ensure good luck. It is believed, in Thuringia, that if anyone carries Fern about him, he will be pursued by serpents until he throws it away. In Sweden, the plant is called Snake-bane.

An ancient notion prevailed, that the Male Fern had an antipathy to the Reed; and that where one grew, the other was sure to be absent. According to Dioscorides, “the root hereof is reported to be good for those that have ill spleens; and being stamped with swine’s grease and applied, it is a remedy against the pricking of the Reed.” Other old herbalists state, that the roots of the Male Fern, and the Lady Fern (Filix fœmina), boiled in oil, produced “very profitable ointments to heal wounds.” The Ophioglossum had, in olden times, the reputation of being a cure for the bite of serpents. (See also Bracken).

According to Cornish fairy mythology, the Fern was connected with the Small Folk, who are believed to be the spirits of the people who inhabited Cornwall thousands of years ago—long before the birth of Christ. In the legend of the Fairy Widower, a pretty girl, Jenny Permuen, a village coquette, one day set off to “look for a place.” At the junction of four cross roads, she sat down on a boulder of granite, and thoughtlessly began to break off the beautiful fronds of Ferns which grew all around. Suddenly a young man appeared before her, and addressing her by name, enquired what brought her there. Jenny replied that she wished to obtain a situation, and was on her road to the market town. The young man said he was a widower, and in want of a young woman to take care of his little son; and that as he liked Jenny’s good looks, he would engage her there and then for a year and a day, and pay her well; but that he should require her to swear his oath, which consisted in kissing a Fern-leaf, and repeating the formula:—

“For a year and a day,
I promise to stay.”

Jenny was charmed and flattered; all sorts of visions rose before her eyes, and, without hesitation, she took the oath and followed the stranger eastward. In silence the pair walked on, until the girl was quite weary; then they sat down on a bank, and the young man taking a bunch of leaves passed them rapidly over Jenny’s eyes: her weariness departed as if by magic, and she found herself in fairy-land, with her mysterious master. He led her to a splendid mansion, and introduced her to his little boy, who was so beautiful that he instantly won her love. The girl continued at her duties in fairy-land for the allotted time; then, one morning, upon awaking, she found herself sleeping in her own bed in her mother’s cottage; and the old gossips of the village, upon hearing her story, knew that she had been carried by the Small People to some of their countries under the hills.

FIG.—There are several mythological accounts of the origin of the Fig. According to one, Lyceus, one of the Titans, pursued by Jupiter, was metamorphosed into a Fig-tree by the goddess Rhea. Another story attributes to her husband, Saturn, the origin of the Fig-tree, and on this account the inhabitants of Cyrene deck the statue of the god with crowns of Figs. A third myth relates that the Fig-tree is the offspring of the loves of Oxylus, King of Elis, with a Hamadryad. Bacchus, however, was generally considered to have introduced the Fig to mortals: hence the tree was sacred to him, and he is often represented as crowned with Fig-leaves. On this account, also, it was customary to make an offering of the first Figs to the jovial god. At the Canephoria festivals at Athens, in honour of Bacchus, the female votaries wore round their necks collars composed of dried Figs; and at the Dionysian festivals, a basket of Figs formed a prominent feature in the procession.——At Rome, the Fig was carried next to the Vine in the processions in honour of Bacchus, as the patron of plenty and joy; and Bacchus was supposed to have derived his corpulence and vigour, not from the Vine, but from the Fig. Under the name of the Ficus ruminalis, the Romans jealously guarded the sacred wild Fig-tree, upon the roots of which stranded the cradle containing the infants Romulus and Remus, when the Tiber bore it to the foot of the Palatine. Fig-trees are seldom affected by lightning, but this celebrated Ruminal Fig-tree of Rome was once struck during a thunderstorm, and was ever afterwards held doubly sacred; the ancients considering that lightning purified every object it touched. The Romans bestowed upon Jupiter the surname of Ruminus, because he presided over the nourishment of mankind, and they had a goddess Rumina, who presided over the female breasts, and whose oblations were of milk only. These words are both derived from ruma, a teat; and hence the tree under which Romulus and Remus had been suckled by the she-wolf was the Rumina Ficus, a name most appropriate, because the Fig was the symbol of generation and fecundity. The Fig was consecrated to Juno, as the goddess presiding over marriages and at nuptial festivities. Figs were always carried in a mystic vase. The statues of Priapus, god of orchards, were often made of the wood of the Fig, and the tree was also dedicated to Mercury. Notwithstanding this reverence for the Ficus ruminalis, the Romans considered the Fig a tree at once impure and ill-omened. This is shown by the actions of the Arvales (twelve priests of Rome, descended from the nurse of Romulus), who made special expiations when the Fig-tree—the impure tree—sprang up by chance on the roof of the temple of the goddess Dia, where Vestals officiated. After they had uprooted the desecrating tree, they destroyed the temple as being defiled.——Pausanias relates that, according to an oracle, the Messenians were to be abandoned by heaven in their struggles with the Spartans, so soon as a goat (tragos) should drink the water of the Neda: the Messenians, therefore, drove out of their country all the goats. But in Messenia grew the wild Fig, which was also called tragos. One of these wild Figs having sprung up on the banks of the Neda, its branches soon dipped into the flowing waters of the river beneath it. The oracle was fulfilled—a tragos had drunk the water of the Neda: soon afterwards the Messenians were defeated.——The soothsayer Calchas, according to tradition, owed his death in a measure to the Fig-tree. Challenged by the seer Mopsus, of whom he was jealous, to a trial of their skill in divination, Calchas first asked his antagonist how many Figs a neighbouring tree bore. “Ten thousand except one,” was the reply of his rival, “and one single vessel can contain them all.” The Figs were carefully gathered, and his predictions were literally true. It was then the turn of Mopsus to try his adversary. Calchas failed to answer the question put to him, and Mopsus was adjudged victor. So mortified was Calchas at the result of this trial, that he pined away and died.——The ancient Egyptians held the Fig-leaf sacred to the goddess Isis.——The Fig is supposed to have been the first cultivated fruit tasted by man: beneath the boughs of the Fig-tree Adam hid himself after having eaten the forbidden fruit; with its leaves he endeavoured to hide his nakedness. Cakes of Figs were included in the presents of provisions by which the wife of Nabal appeased the wrath of David (1 Sam. xxv., 18). The want of blossom on the Fig-tree was considered as one of the most grievous calamities by the Jews; for, growing as it did in Palestine on the Vine, the tree became with the Israelites an emblem of peace and plenty, and that security which, in ancient times, was thought to be enjoyed by “every man under his own Fig-tree.” Near the city of On, there was shown for many centuries the sacred Fig-tree under which the Holy Family rested during the flight into Egypt.——St. Augustine tells us, in his Confessions, that while still unconverted and in deep communion with his friend Alypius on the subject of the Scriptures, the contest within his mind was so sharp, that he hastened from the presence of his friend and threw himself down beneath a Fig-tree, weeping and lamenting. Then he heard what seemed the voice of a child proceeding apparently from the tree, repeating again and again “Tolle, lege,” (Take and read); and returning to his friend, he took up the sacred volume, and opened it at St. Paul’s words: “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.” He was struck with the coincidence; and considering it a Divine call, he then and there resolved to take up the religious profession.——In India, the Fig-tree is greatly esteemed; one species, Ficus glomerata, is held sacred by the Hindus; and the Ficus Indica, or Banyan-tree, is one of the most highly venerated trees on the earth (see Banyan).——The Andalusians have a saying, “On this life depends,” in connection with the Fig-tree, the fruit of which they eat, fasting, in the morning. The Germans have a proverb, “Figs will not grow either on Brambles or Thistles.” Another proverb tells us that “He who has Figs has riches.”——In Sicily, the Fig-tree is looked upon as a tree of ill-omen. It is there thought to be the tree on which Judas hung himself, and never to have thrived well since that occurrance. There is an old superstition that in each leaf of a Fig-tree lurks an evil spirit; and certain blood-thirsty spectres, called Fauni Ficarii, are mentioned in legends.——At Avola, it is popularly believed to be unwise to sleep beneath the shade of a Fig-tree during the warmth of Summer; should, however, anyone be foolhardy enough to do so, there will appear before him the figure of a nun, holding a knife in her hand, who will compel him to say whether he will take it by the blade or by the handle; if he answer, by the blade, he will be forthwith slain; but should he select the handle, he will have all manner of good fortune in store for him.——In Palermo, they deck the Fig-tree with branches of the wild Fig woven into garlands, in order to ensure the fruit ripening.——A Fig-tree has something to do in the way of preventing hydrophobia, if we may believe the following ancient English superstition:—“For tear of mad hound, take the worms which be under a mad hound’s tongue, snip them away, lead them round about a Fig-tree, give them to him who hath been rent; he will soon be healed.”——To dream of Figs implies an accession of wealth, prosperity, and happiness, the realisation of wishes, and a happy old age.

FILBERT.—John Gower, in his Confessio Amantis, suggests that the origin of the word Filbert is to be sought in the metamorphosis of the Thracian princess Phyllis into a Nut-tree, or, more precisely, into the Almond; this view is strengthened by the fact that the old English names for both tree and nut was Fylberde, or Filberd; although another explanation of this word is that the tree was so called after a King Philibert. In olden times the distinction drawn between nuts of a good and those of the best quality, was by terming the former the short-bearded, and the latter the long-bearded, or full-bearded—whence, according to a popular belief, by corruption, Filbert.——Authorities in dream lore tell us that to dream of Filberts is a happy augury, a sign of good health and happy old age. It also denotes success in love, and happiness in the married state, with a numerous family, who will marry well, and occupy a high place in society.——Filbert-trees are held to be under the dominion of Mercury.

FIR.—The ancient Egyptians adopted the Fir-cone as the symbol of their goddess Isis.——The Fir is the Fire-tree, the most inflammable of woods. Gerarde writes of Firs in Cheshire, Staffordshire, and Lancashire, “where they grew in great plenty, as is reputed, before Noah’s floud; but then being overturned and overwhelmed, have lien since in the woods and waterie moorish grounds, very fresh and sound, untill this day; and so full of a resinous substance, that they burne like a torch or linke, and the inhabitants of those countries do call it Fir-wood and Fire-wood unto this day.”——In the traditions of northern countries, the Fir occupies a similar position to the Pine. He is king of the forest; and so, in Switzerland and the Tyrol, the Geni of the Forest is always represented with an uprooted Fir-tree in his hand. This Geni dwells by preference in the Fir, and especially loves old trees. When one of these trees is cut down, the Geni grieves, and pleads for its life. Old Firs, like old Oaks and Birches, are especially respected when standing solitary.——De Gubernatis relates an anecdote of a colossal Fir-tree which grew by itself, at Tarssok, in Russia. This tree had withstood several lightning-blasts, and was supposed to be several hundred years old, as shown by its barkless trunk and its bare branches. At last, in a gale of wind, it fell; but so great a respect had the country-people for the old tree, that they would not make any profit from the sale of the huge trunk, but presented the proceeds to the Church.——In Denmark, Sweden, Russia, and Germany, they use the Fir as the Christmas-tree, and this custom has now taken firm root in England.——Just as in many parts of Germany, on Christmas-night, they beat trees, so that they may bear fruit, so at Hildesheim in Hanover, at Shrove-tide, the peasantry solicit gifts from the women, whipping them meanwhile with branches of Fir or Rosemary. This curious custom is supposed to signify their desire to have children. In Northern Germany, newly-married couples often carry in their hands branches of Fir, with lighted candles affixed, perhaps in imitation of the Roman fasces. At Weimar, and other places, they plant Fir-trees before the house where a wedding has taken place. In Austrian Silesia, the May-pole is always of Fir. In the Harz, on Midsummer night, they decorate Fir-trees with flowers and coloured eggs, or, more generally, branches of Fir, which they stick in the ground, and dance around, singing the while some verses appropriate to the occasion. In Northern Germany, when they drive the cattle to pasture for the first time, they often decorate the last cow with small boughs of Firs, as showing their wish for a pasturage favourable to the fecundity of the cattle.——From wounds made in the Balm of Gilead Fir (Abies Balsamea), a very fine turpentine is obtained, which is sometimes sold as the true Balm of Gilead.——To dream you are in a forest of Fir-trees is a sign of suffering.——A Moldavian legend relates that, out of envy, the elder sister of a queen changed the two beautiful twin princes she had just given birth to, for two ugly black children, which she placed in their cradle instead. She then buried the young princes alive in the garden, and as soon as possible went to the king, and told him his queen had given birth to two odious black babies. The king in revenge shut up his wife in a dungeon, and made the elder sister his queen. Suddenly, among the flowers of the garden, there spring up two Fir-trees, who, in the evening, talk and confide to each other that they cannot rest whilst their mother is weeping in her lonely dungeon. Then they make themselves known to the poor ex-queen as her children, and tell her how much they love and pity her. Meanwhile the wicked queen awakes one night and listens. She is filled with dread, and makes the king promise that the two Fir-trees shall be cut down. Accordingly, the young trees are felled and thrown into the fire; when, immediately, two bright sparks fly out, and fall far away among the flowers: they are the two young princes, who have again escaped, and who are now determined to bring to light the crime of their detestable aunt. Some time after there is a grand festival at the king’s palace; and a great “claca” (assembly) is gathered there to string pearls for the queen. Among the guests appear two beautiful children, with golden hair, who seem to be twin brothers. Whilst the pearl-stringing goes on, stories are told by the guests, and at last it comes to the turn of the twin brothers, who relate the sad story of the imprisoned queen, and reveal the crime of her sister. As they speak, their pearls continue to string themselves in a miraculous manner, so that the king, observing this, knows that they are telling the truth. When their story is finished, he acknowledges them as his sons, restores their mother to her position as queen, and orders her wicked sister to be torn asunder by wild horses.

Flag.—See Acorus and Iris.

FLAME TREE.—The Nuytsia floribunda, called the Flame or Fire-tree, is a native of West Australia. This tree is most remarkable in many respects: it belongs to the same Natural Order as the Mistletoe—an order numerous in species, most of those inhabiting warm countries having brilliantly-coloured flowers, and, with two exceptions, strictly parasitical on the branches of other trees. One of these exceptions is the Flame-tree; but although Nuytsia floribunda is terrestrial, and has all the aspect of an independent tree, it is thought to be parasitical on the roots of some neighbouring tree or shrub, because all attempts to rear seedlings have proved unsuccessful. Its trunk is soft, like pith, yet it has a massive appearance. Its gorgeous fiery flowers are more brilliant than flames, for they are undimmed by smoke.

FLAX.—There are certain plants which, having been cultivated from time immemorial, are not now to be found in a wild state, and have no particular history. The common Flax (Linum usitatissimum) has been thought to be one of these. Flax is mentioned both in Genesis and Exodus: at least Joseph was clothed in linen, and the Flax was blighted in the fields. But modern research has shown that the Flax of the ancients was Linum angustifolium, the narrow-leaved Flax; and the same fact has been developed in regard to the Flax of the Lake-dwellers in Switzerland.——The fine linen of Egypt is frequently referred to in Scripture, and specimens of this fabric are to be seen in the linen in which the Egyptian mummies are enfolded. That Flax was also grown in ancient times in Palestine, may be inferred from the fact that Rahab hid the Hebrew spies among the Flax spread on her roof.——In the mythology of the North, Flax is supposed to be under the protection of the goddess Hulda, but the plant’s blue blossom is more especially the flower of Bertha, whose blue eyes shine in its calyx, and whose distaff is filled by its fibres.——Indian mysticism likens the grey dawn and the brightening daybreak to luminous linen and its weavers. The celestial bride, Aurora, weaves the nuptial garment—the robe of the celestial bridegroom, the Sun.——The gods attire themselves in luminous robes—white or red, silver or gold. Earthly priests have adopted the white robe in India, Egypt, Asia Minor, Rome, and in all Christian countries. The offspring of the Flax, according to a tradition, represent the rays of the Sun, and clothe the great luminary.——In Sicily, to cure headache produced by exposure to the Sun, they burn, with certain incantations, flaxen tow in a glass, from which they have poured out the water it contained: they then place the glass on a white plate, and the plate on the head of the patient: they contend that by this means they extract from his head, and impart to the Flax, all the virtue of the Sun.——Flax is the symbol of life and of prolific vegetation: on this ac