Sunday, November 22, 2015

Angelica - Engelwatzel

Angelica (pdc: die Engelwatzel, die Engelwarzel, die Angelige; tax: Angelica archangelica) is a very pretty herb. It has a history among the Deitsch as a culinary herb, used frequently as candied stems or jellies in pastries and other confections. The seeds were used to flavor cordials and gin. It can also be used as a seasoning much like ground fennel. It has an association with breaking hexes and is an ingredient in an old Deitsch remedy for hysterics. Historically it is used to combat colic (pdc: der Kollick), indigestion, gas, poor circulation, and respiratory conditions. 


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. Feverfew may thin the blood, so people on blood thinners should be careful with its use. Also, as the herb is used in inducing menstruation, pregnant women should avoid using this herb. As always, your health is your responsibility. Consult with a doctor before using any herbal remedy or preventative.

One of Sauer's (pp. 41-42) recipes from America's first book of botanic healing:

"Take a loth each of anglica root, avens root, root of butter burr, holy thistle, the leaves of betony, and juniper berries, and half a loth of wormwood, and chop it all up very fine. Put this in a large vessel and pour double-rectified brandy over it until it covers the mass by the breadth of a finger. Stop it up carefully and let it infuse fourteen days. Then pour off the brandy and wring out the herb mixture in a cloth to extract all the remaining juices. Keep this infusion for future use in a well-sealed glass container. Take one-half or a full teaspoonful in the morning before breakfast. This is excellent for all manner of cold disorders of the stomach, and for gripes brought on by chills. It also drives for worms and protects against contagion and pestilential fevers."

Avens: es Flaxneggeli,es Hechelgraut, Geum urbanum
Butterbur:  Peschtwatzel, Petasites vulgaris
Holy Thistle: Gaardedistel, Gsegendi Dischdel, der Gaardebenedikt, Cnicus benedictus
Wood Betony: Lewesgraut, Betonie, Stachys officinalis
Juniper Berry: die Wachhollerbeer, Juniperus communis
Wormwood: der Warmet, Artemisia absinthium

Loth.... There is one of those old measurements... Known as "Lood" (said similarly to "load") in Deitsch, it is roughly equivalent to 16 grams.

Blanzeschwetzerei

There is plenty of lore around Angelica's ability to break hexes. The most common method is adding the herb, fresh or dried, to one's bath. Sprinkling the herb along the perimeter of one's property is said to eject unwanted energies. Appealing to the spirit of the plant can result not only in the removal of curses but in protection against the future words of the one casting the curse.



Interestingly, Sauer (41) also provides a recipe for breaking injuries caused by witchcraft:

"It has been discovered through everyday use that angelica provides a particularly good remedy for injuries brought about by witchcraft. When a person is a victim of such unnatural afflictions, the following potion has proved especially effective. Take half a handful each of the leaves of angelica, devil's bit, the topmost sprigs of Saint-John's-wort, periwinkle, Venus's goldilocks, and mugwort. These herbs should be chopped fine and put into a large pewter flask with two quarts of fresh springwater and a quart of white wine. Bring this to a boil in a kettle of hot water. Once the infusion has boiled up, let it cool. When cold, open the flask, but not before, lest the properties of the herbs disperse into the air. Strain this through a cloth and administer it warm to the victim, six loths per dose, morning and evening."

Devil's Bit (en): pdc: die Schpellekisseblumm, der Deiwelbiss, tax: Scabiosa succisa
St. John's Wort: pdc: es Hexegraut, es Geesgraut, es Hannesgraut, tax: Hypericum perforatum
Periwinkle: pdc: die Sinnebledder, tax: Vinca minor
Venus's Goldilocks: pdc: es Goldlockichmoos, tax: Polytrichum juniperum
Mugwort: pdc: Aldi Fraa, tax: Artemisia vulgaris

------------------------------
Weaver, William Woys. "Sauer's Herbal Cures: America's First Book of Botanic Healing." New York: Routledge, 2001.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Harvest Festivals

As mentioned in the last post, this time of year is when we observe the Erntfescht or Erntdankfescht, which is the original Deitsch thanksgiving celebration. It is important to note, though, that traditional cultures often would have smaller harvest festivals or observances throughout the growing seaason, and the Deitsch culture is no different. In the larger culture, folks are familiar with strawberry festivals, blueberry festivals, etc., but there are many other opportunities to build the relationship with the land around us and to celebrate on a more intimate scale the plants and crops we grow ourselves.

This is a starter list of suggested times for various harvests throughout the growing season. Typically, an individual or a community would celebrate their larger or specialty harvests. This list originates in the context of Pennsylvania. The various Urglaawe communities are encouraged to adjust the calendar to their growing season and to add in their regional crops.

Celebrations can be as simple as incorporating the seasonal food into the meals of the time. Other celebrations can include bringing a community together to process the harvest, such as the traditional Deitsch Schnitzing party, which brings families and friends together to cut apples as part of processing the fruit for apple cider. As is the case with all Urglaawe observances, a respect for the land, the land spirits, and the spirits of the plants that sustain us is a fundamental part of any harvest festival.

Depiction of a Schnitzing Party
from the cover of Pennsylvania Folklife, Winter 1966

This list currently consists mostly of food plants. Herbs are often cut multiple times throughout a season, but more herbs and food crops will be added over time.

APRIL

Chickweed
Cuckooflower
Dandelion
Fiddleheads
Nettles

MAY

Clover
Asparagus
Chard
Morels
Parsnips (first harvest)
Dogwood (Bracts/Flowers, not fruit)

JUNE

Blueberries
Rhubarb
Strawberries
Mints (Midsummer)
Spinach

JULY

Apricots
Cherries
Blueberries
Peaches
Peas
Snap Beans

AUGUST

Blackberries
Corn
Cucumbers
Currants
Grains (First; Hoietfescht)
Lima Beans
Mushrooms
Sunflower

SEPTEMBER

Apples (Schnitzing parties for cider)
Cantaloupe
Carrots
Eggplant
Grains (Second; Erntfescht)
Grapes
Green Beans
Green Onions, Scallions
Lettuce
Melons
Monarda punctuate (spotted bee balm)
Nectarines
Okra
Onions
Oregano (usually second or even third harvest)
Parsley
Peaches
Peppers
Plums
Potatoes
Radishes
Raspberries
Spinach
Squash (summer)
Tomatoes
Watermelon
Zucchini

OCTOBER

Brussels Sprouts
Cabbage
Celery
Cucumbers
Fennell
Garlic
Passionfruit
Pears
Pumpkins
Rutabaga
Turnips

NOVEMBER

Broccoli
Cauliflower
Collards
Leeks
Parsnips (second harvest)
Squash (winter)

DECEMBER

Beets
Cranberries


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Harvest Season and Erntfescht

It has been a busy summer, which, of course, makes it a little less difficult to make regular posts to this site!



Many of us are currently in the midst of the harvest. After a slow start, things like the passionflower are growing like crazy and are beginning to produce fruit. 


There are many other herbs that are ready for a first, second, or even third harvest. This coming weekend, Urglaawer and many practitioners of Braucherei and Hexerei will observe the Erntfescht or Erntdankfescht, which is the original Deitsch day of thanksgiving for the bounty of the harvest. This observance was so deeply engrained in the Deitsch culture that many people resented the creation of the national Thankgiving holiday.

The national holiday is in danger of being eclipsed by the consumer frenzy of Black Friday, so perhaps we can take advantage of the historical roots of Erntfescht. Regardless of one's religious identity, ethnicity, or climate, we can all tap into the spirit of gratefulness for --- or at least appreciation of --- the bounty we have in our lives.

I want to encourage everyone to take part in this very important observance.

If you have folks nearby with whom to celebrate, then come together at or around the autumn equinox and have a feast. Give offerings of the land to the deity of deities of your choice, share and swap harvested food (store purchases are fine) or seeds, and take up a food drive, no matter how large or small.

If observing alone, a donation of any sort to a food pantry or an animal shelter would be appropriate.
All of us should recount the blessings we have in our lives and to share in those blessings with others.

Hail to the Harvest!

---------
Parsons, William T. Pennsylvania Germans – A Persistent Minority. Collegeville, PA: Keschte Bicher, 1976. 

Yoder, Don. "Harvest Home." Pennsylvania Folklife v. 9 no. 4, pp. 2- 11. Lancaster, PA:The Pennsylvania Folklife Society, Fall 1958. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Wasserharrsgschenk and Wasserlilye

American Lotus
 (pdc: Wasserharrsgschenk, Wassermannsgschenk; tax: Nelumbo lutea)
and
Water Lily (pdc: 
Wasserlilye, Bachbledder, Wellebledder, Schillgrottbledder; tax: Nymphaea spp., Castalia odorata)

These plants are very distant relatives but are often mistaken for one another. In fact, they also share some common mythic aspects with one another, perhaps as a result of the similar appearance of their flowers.

Water Lily, Nymphaeae odorata
source: WikiMedia
Water lilies actually comprise a large family of many species, several of which grow in the Deitscherei. Add to them the “pond lilies” (en: Spatterdock, pdc: Gehlwasserlilye, tax:  Nuphar spp.) and you have a lot of plants that are commonly seen in lakes and ponds in Southeastern Pennsylvania. 

Far less common is the stunning American Lotus. Its flowers resemble those of the regional water lilies, but the seedpod in the center is distinctive. The leaves of American Lotus are round and complete in contast to the Water Lily, which is rounded but split into a V shape from the stem. 

American Lotus - Nelumbo lutea
source: WikiMedia
Both plants provide excellent cover for fish and attract insects, frogs, and other wildlife. As such, they  are seen as aiding in producing the bounty of the water.

That being said, though, the stems of both plants make net fishing difficult. While this is obviously a complicating factor for large fishing endeavors, we see a manifestation of the need for the Zusaagpflicht (see Hollerbeer Haven, issues 18 and 20) as it relates to aquatic ecosystems. Anecdotally speaking, there has been a tendency in the past to clear ponds and lakes of aquatic growth in order to ease the difficulty of obtaining large numbers of fish in a short period of time. This is a destructive act to the ecosystem, particularly when one considers the addition of pollutants from irresponsible industrial and agricultural practices. Interestingly, transplanting these plants outside of their natural habitats can result in the plants also being a nuisance.

Perhaps due in part to the points above, there is a Verbot (taboo) in Braucherei against the cutting of the stem of American Lotus or the digging up of the root except when it is to be used specifically as food. The stems can be consumed as greens, and the roots are starchy, so the portions of the plant can be parts of a salad. In short, one may fish around it, and one may remove it, but the removal must be done responsibly.

Regarding the Deitsch name of American Lotus, “Wassermann” translates both to “water man,” and “merman,” though the latter is usually covered under the term “Wassernix” (grammatically feminine but physically can be either gender.” “Wasserharr” translates to “Waterlord,” so the full name (Wasserharrsgschenk) of the plant translates to “Waterlord’s gift.” The "gift" is said to be to the "Earth Lady," who is also known in Hexerei lore as Erda. Thus, from the Urglaawe perspective, we may be looking at something that was seen to be related to a deity associated with water. For more on this theory, please see the article, Hoietfescht: A Festival of the Wane and Nature Spirits in Hollerbeer Hof 27 - Summer 2015.

It is important to note that there are only two species of lotus in the world. The other is Nelumbo nucifera, native to Asia and sacred in Hinduism and Buddhism. Thus, there is no lotus in Europe, so the sacred association likely arose after migration, and I suspect (but cannot prove) that some of the oral lore was influenced by earlier lore associated with water lilies.

Note: American lotus is endangered.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Nine Sacred Herbs of Braucherei

This is a topic that we periodically revisit because many people who are new to Blanzeheilkunscht find it interesting.

Among various bodies of Heathen lore, the Lacnunga of the Anglo-Saxons provides the best written record of a system of nine sacred herbs. The oral lore within Braucherei also has kept a record of nine sacred herbs, though the herbs within the Deitsch tradition differ from those of the Anglo-Saxons.

Anglo-Saxon herbs: 

Mugwort 
Cockspur Grass
Lambscress
Plantain
Mayweed
Nettle
Crabapple
Thyme
Fennel

The Deitsch herbs are broken into three groups of three. The first group are herbs that are taken from woody plants. The second group comes from herbs found wild in the fields, and the third group comes from the cultivated gardens.  

Deitsch herbs:

WOOD

Dogwood Flowers
Elder Blossoms
Wintergreen

FIELD

Cinquefoil
Catnip
Ground Ivy

GARDEN

Horehound
Sage
Thyme

There is a likelihood that wintergreen replaced another woody herb (indicators from some informants are that it was witch hazel) in the Colonial Era due to the value placed on the now easily-accessible wintergreen oil upon the founding of the Settlements. 

The most interesting thing to me is that the Anglo-Saxon list includes Mugwort while the Deitsch list does not. Mugwort is so heavily used in Braucherei that one would expect it to be on this list. Alas, its absence cannot be explained definitively, but it may relate to Elder and Mugwort both being sacred to Holle. 

The sacred uses of these herbs vary from the protective to the spiritual to the ritual to the medicinal. We will start to look at these herbs in more detail in upcoming articles.

You may want to have a look at Susan Hess' article Nine Sacred Herbs in Hollerbeer Haven issue 5.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Dauwegropp - Fumitory

Fumaria officinalis - Source: WikiMedia
This herb can probably come in handy for quite a few of us right now, given how itchy our skin is from the heat, salt, and general roughness of winter.

Fumitory (tax: Fumaria officinalis) is known in Deitsch as "der Dauwegropp," which translates literally to "dove's (or pigeon's) craw." 

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. Feverfew may thin the blood, so people on blood thinners should be careful with its use. Also, as the herb is used in inducing menstruation, pregnant women should avoid using this herb. As always, your health is your responsibility. Consult with a doctor before using any herbal remedy or preventative.

When taken internally (under a professional's care as it can be toxic when taken in excess), Fumitory has a bitter taste. Andrew Chevallier (213) states that an infusion of the aerial parts stimulates and detoxifies the liver and the gallbladder, and it is also diuretic and somewhat laxative. The most common uses are for chronic itchy skin and disorders such as eczema (Flecht). These uses Chevallier describes are consistent with Deitsch uses historically and currently.

NOTE: Excessive internal consumption of Fumitory can be toxic. Do not use internally without professional/medical supervision.

Sauer's Uses (Mostly impractical or not advised)

Deitsch botanist Johann Christopher Sauer (146-147) lists off quite a few uses for Fumitory, all related to skin disorders, such as scall (Schibbe), mange (Raede), itch (Gretz), bites (Bisse), a fear of leprosy (Aussatz), and the "French Pox" (syphilis). Several forms of venereal disease fell under the Deitsch name Franzos, including syphilis and gonorrhea. The current distinctions, though, are syphilis = Beesi Grankheet ("mad sickness") and gonorrhea = Wieschdi Grankheet ("cruel sickness").

As a general protective tonic to the heart, liver, and spleen, he states that one should "chop and infuse Fumitory in goat's mil and drink a tumblerful ever morning during the month of May" (146). This is said to cure itching. The milk of black goats would likely be preferred as it was not an uncommon custom to value particularly black goat milk during the Colonial Era. This factoid appears in quite a few traditions and remedies throughout our lore.

For the mange, itch, and bites, Sauer recommends distilled water (hydrosol) of Fumitory taken in six-Loth doses (1 Loth = approximately 16 g, so 6 Loths = approximately 96 g) before breakfast for several weeks in succession.

For scall and fear of leprosy, he recommends a Quint (1/5 of a US gallon) of Theriaca Andromachi (Venice Treacle) in six Loths of Fumitory water every month. They must also mix four Loths of Fumitory water with two Loths of Hops (Hoppe) water and consume each morning and evening for at least three weeks during the fall and spring.

Sauer also states that snuffing (snuff = Schnupf) the distilled water of Fumitory will "clean the brain of phlegm and restore smell" (147).
As for the "French Pox," the juice of Fumitory is to be pressed from the fresh herb, and four Loths are to be consumed each morning and evening daily for five to six weeks (146). Note: For this affliction, instead of consuming Fumitory juice, please see a doctor and get a shot!

Perhaps the most practical of all of Sauer's listed uses for Fumitory is a tincture made using brandy. He recommends 25-40 drops each morning and evening for several weeks. This is more in line with the tinctures that are currently commercially available.

Ointments, Lotions, Shampoos

Probably the most common use for Fumitory currently is in the form of ointments. The most traditional application of the ointment is for cradle cap (Deitsch: die Millichgruscht) but can be extended to seborrhoic dermatitis elsewhere on the body. Thus, a Fumitory hydrosol or a drop or two of the essential oil can be added to lotions or shampoos. Fumitory-infused oils can serve as a base salve to which other anti-fungal essential oils can be added. Some folks have reported that 1/3 cup of Aloe Vera with four drops each of Lavender, Tea Tree, and Fumitory essential oils can help to ease itchiness when applied to the skin.

Blanzeschwetze

Fumitory has a long history of being used as a smudging herb or to chase away not only evil spirits and baneful wights but also many friendly spirits. It is one of very few herbs that is said to be able to prevent an Elfschuss (Elf-shot, which, in Deitsch lore is not necessarily actually from an Elf) by deterring the shooter from coming near its target. Although I have not tried this yet, it may be that Fumitory spirits could serve as a mediator between the shooter and the target.

The herb is warm, yet also rather stoic and businesslike in its personality, which may be related to the reasons that lore from neighboring cultures associates Fumitory with money.

-------------------------

Brendle, Thomas R. and Claude W. Unger. Folk Medicine of the Pennsylvania Germans. Proceedings of the Pennsylvania German Society 45. Norristown, PA, 1935.

Chevallier, Andrew.
 Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, p. 252. New York: Dorling and Kindersley, 2000.
Weaver, William Woys. Sauer's Herbal Cures: America's First Book of Botanic Healing. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lewesgraut - Herb of Life

One day a Landlaafer1 arrived at a farmhouse seeking food. The farmer, who was crippled by an old injury2 from a disease, invited the wanderer in and offered him food and drink. The farmer sat with the wanderer, and the two talked as if they were old friends.

When the wanderer finished his meal, he said, "You have been kind to me. In return for your hospitality, I will bring you a plant that will bring you strength." He left the farmhouse and returned later holding the plant.

"This is the Herb of Life.3  Use it to restore your health."
Pedicularis canadensis

The wanderer nodded to the farmer and departed.

------------------
1 "Land walker," wanderer, hobo. The English cognate of "Laafer" is "loafer."

2 "Gribbelschwer" is a debilitating injury to the body resulting from a disease.

3 Lewesgraut, commonly known as Lousewort in English. See discussion below.

Several versions of this tale exist, though the overarching theme of health given in exchange for hospitality runs through all of them.

From the Urglaawe perspective, we are looking at a tale of a visit by the god Wudan, who appears in some tales (explicitly or implicitly) as a wanderer seeking and rewarding hospitality and right action. His simple request for food was exceeded by the farmer's friendly engagement. Thus, Wudan's reward for the hospitality was the restoration of health.

The actual herb used is less clear because multiple names are used in the Deitsch various tales:

Widderkumm (Come Again) = Lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis) or Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

Lewesgraut (Life Herb) = Lousewort (Pedicularis canadensis) or Wood Betony (Stachys officinalis)

The names are complicated further by the English name "Wood Betony" being used for multiple plants, including both Stachys officinalis and Pedicularis canadensis, which are only very distant relatives within the Order Lamiales.

All of these herbs have medicinal value, but the most likely candidate in the context of this story seems to be Pedicularis canadensis, or Canadian Lousewort. Because this plant has parasitic qualities in its relations to other plants, it, at one time, had a unsubstantiated reputation for causing louse infestations in cattle.

Quite to the contrary, Canadian Lousewort has medicinal uses ranging from an aphrodisiac to an anti-tumor to a pot herb to a blood tonic and as a skeletal muscle relaxant... And a bath in a strong decoction can indeed kill lice and scabies.

Thus, we associate the medicinal plants in the Pedicularis family with Wudan as the Herb of Life or Lewesgraut.
Get to know this herb!