Sunday, April 14, 2013


Fimffingergraut - Potentilla canadensis

Es Fimffingergraut (also called es Gansgraut) is known by many names in English, including Five Finger Herb, Goose Tansy, Helping Hand, and Cinquefoil. The taxonomic name for the genus is Potentilla. While Potentilla canadensis and Potentilla reptans are the species most commonly referred to in Deitsch lore, other species, including es Tormentill (en: Tormentil; Potentilla tormentilla or Potentilla erecta) could also be included. Tormentill is also considered a form of Fimffingergraut in Deitsch.

Tradition holds that the herb is to be collected on or after May 15 (or, in Christian lore, on Ascension Day, which is a bad day for things descending) and used as an astringent to combat dysentery or diarrhea.

Disclaimer: This information is for educational and discussion purposes only. Nothing in these posts is intended to constitute, or should be considered, medical advice or to serve as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider. 

This is as good a time as any to introduce some of the Deitsch terms for bowel afflictions. Some of these terms present rather graphic imagery.

der Darrichfall or der Darrichlaaf (General terms)
die Schgidders ("the skids")
die Schpringers ("the trots")
die Dapperschpring ("the runs")

die Ruhr (General term; how this term relates to the Ruhr River in Germany, I can only guess)
die Flutter (Flux)
die Rotruhr ("red runs")
der Rotlaaf (rare term for extreme dysentery)

There are actually quite a few additional terms that present additional connotations, but these will suffice for now. Also, there are many, many other herbs that are used as remedies for these afflictions, but Fimffingergraut is an herb that is commonly available already this early in the year.

Early Deitsch botanist, Christopher Sauer, provides some other uses for Fimffingergraut, including chewing the root daily to prevent tooth decay (pdc: die Zaahfaulnis) and combining the juice of the plant with honey and  butter to alleviate consumption (pdc: die Auszehring or der Verbrauch). See Weaver, William Woys. Sauer's Herbal Cures. New York: Routledge, 2001, pp. 102-103.

Applied topically as a lotion or salve, Fimffingergraut can help to relieve hemorrhoids and to protect areas of damaged or burned skin. It may also be used as a remedy for throat infections, canker sores, irritable bowel syndrome (pdc: der Reissesdarrem, and colitis (pdc: der Grimmdarremfluss). See Chevallier, Andrew. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2000, p. 255. 

The use of Fimffingergraut as a remedy for a sore throat  is also reflected in Sauer's recipe (103) for a mouthwash to cure scurvy of the mouth (pdc: der Maulscharbock) and bad breath (pdc: der Maulgeruch). 

There is also a Deitsch myth that states that carrying Fimffingergraut on the person will prevent forgetfulness. This myth is supported by Sauer's (102) reference to repeatedly imbibing a decoction of the root (see below) to strengthen a weak head (forgetfulness; pdc: die Vergesslichkeet).

Regarding more esoteric traditions and uses, Fimffingergraut has a great many uses and associations. Many see this as a masculine herb associated with the god Ziu (Tyr). This relationship is due, most likely, to the myth that possessing the herb on one's person gives one the ability to stand before authorities and win one's just cases. Another reason for the association could be that the "five fingers" represent the hand Tyr sacrificed to bind the wolf Fenris.

There is a perhaps even stronger case for a feminine association with the goddesses Berchta and Holle. The clues are in the alternate names "Gansgraut" and "Goose Tansy" and in the date of May 15 for collection.

Both Holle and Berchta serve as the origin of Mother Goose and of the typical Church depictions of witches. Berchta is said to have one leg that looks like that of a goose, most likely due to a splay resulting from Her association with spinning. 

The traditional date to begin collection is also important on the Urglaawe calendar. The night of 15. Wonnet (May 14 into May 15) is the night in which the army of the Butzemenner defeat the Frost Giant  Fuffzehfux, thus allowing for the safe planting of all outdoor crops.  Fuffzehfux's arrival is due to the restoration of order in the land brought about by Holle's return to Hexenkopf. 

Holle and Berchta are seen as sister goddesses or as two aspects of the same goddess. Thus, Fimffingergraut is considered sacred to both.

Another aspect of Fimffingergraut is that of the Helping Hand. It is said that it can heal wounds when combined with salt and honey. It also is frequently set upon the menstruum of soaking herbal extracts to provide protective energies.

Akin to the uses for forgetfulness, there is a Deitsch tradition that says that rinsing an infusion of the herb over the head nine times will break hexes on the memory or the mind.

If only three fingers grow on the leaves of Fimffingergraut, then that serves as a warning from the plant that something is wrong with the soil and the crops may experience problems if the conditions are not corrected.

There are numerous Braucherei incantations that may be used with the afflictions that Fimffingergraut is used to remedy. Those will, over time, be posted on

Fimfingergraut Root Decoction


1 Loth (approximately 16 grams) of Fimffingergraut root
1/2 gallon of cool water

Insert the root into the water. Bring the water to a boil for "a short time" (typically about 2 minutes). Strain the root.

Sauer's Fimffingergraut Mouthwash


A handful of Fimffingergraut, including the roots

Half a handful of Scabious (pdc: die Schpellekisseblumm; Scabiosa columbaria)

Half a handful of Plantain (pdc: der Wegdredder or die Seiohre; Plantago major. pdc: der Wegerich Plantago lanceolata)

Half a handful of Rose Petals (pdc: die Ros; Rosa gallica)

Quarter-pound of Rose Honey

Half-Loth (approximately 8 grams) of Alum (pdc: der Allau)

Boil these herbs in two quarts of spring water until one quart evaporates. Then strain out the herbs using cheesecloth. Dissolve into the tea the quarter-pound of Rose Honey and the Half-Loth of Alum. 

Sauer's use included gargling and washing the mouth and gums frequently with this concoction.

Once again, the Disclaimer: This information is for educational and discussion purposes only. Nothing in these posts is intended to constitute, or should be considered, medical advice or to serve as a substitute for the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider. 

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