F: Géranium Herbe à Robert
Geranium robertianum grows spontaneous and abundantly in many gardens. Some people keep wondering about its edibility, since there is not much to be found about it in books on edible wild plants. Its less than appealing taste seems to be at least partly responsible for its absence in culinary creations. In survival situations, where one would need to live on what’s available, this plant could be a real asset, since it is rich in essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamins A, C, etc. It is also rich in the element germanium, which has antioxidant activity, helps to strengthen the immune system and is essential to providing energy and oxygen to the cells.
Wild woodbine was beyond my reach
in the thick hedges round Lough Gill.
The heavy scent filled the house for days
when my father brought it in
and it stayed fresh far longer
Because I loved the delicate
pink and white wild rose
he picked it too, cursing the thorns, muttering
“it dies too soon,
you’d be better leaving it alone”.
Yet once, when my mother
swept its petals from the floor
I saw him rescue one
and place it carefully
in the small wallet
where he kept her photograph.
Flowering May-July. Tuberous perennial. Native.
Flowers usually white, pink or purple. (Ssp. coccinea has reddish flowers.)
Narrow, cylindrical flower-spike, lower bracts longer than flowers. Sides of lip strongly reflexed, weakly 3-lobed, 2 U-shaped loops enclosing dotted patches. Leaves erect, keeled, usually unspotted. (Ssp. cruenta, leaves spotted both sides) Hollow stem. Very variable, links to subspecies below. Identifications by Ian Denholm
Damp calcareous soils, meadows, fens, marshes, dune-slacks. Also slightly acidic bogs, damp heaths. Declining due to habitat loss.
Familiar little pink flower from April to November, Herb-Robert is a hairy, unpleasant-smelling plant which grows on banks, bases of walls, shingle and shady places throughout the country. Its pink flowers (8-15mm across) have five un-notched petals and in the centre of the flower are orange anthers. Each petal is marked by small lighter-pink lines running into the centre of the flower. The hairy, stalked leaves are often tinged red and have three to five deeply cut lobes. The fruit is hairy and beak-like. This is a native plant belonging to the family Geraniaceae.
This plant has been introduced into North and South America from Europe and Asia. In traditional medicine in the Americas it has been used to stop nosebleeds. Its leaves are also made into a herbal tea which is recommended as a gargle and an eyewash.
One wonders who is the ‘Robert’ of this plant. Maybe the name comes from the Latin word ‘ruber’ meaning red which may have referred to the colouring of the leaves and stems.
Primrose – Poem by Patrick Kavanagh
Upon a bank I sat, a child made seer
Of one small primrose flowering in my mind.
Better than wealth it is, I said, to find
One small page of Truth’s manuscript made clear.
I looked at Christ transfigured without fear–
The light was very beautiful and kind,
And where the Holy Ghost in flame had signed
I read it through the lenses of a tear.
And then my sight grew dim, I could not see
The primrose that had lighted me to Heaven,
And there was but the shadow of a tree
Ghostly among the stars. The years that pass
Like tired soldiers nevermore have given
Moments to see wonders in the grass.
Evergreens and holly (genus Ilex) are traditionally used to decorate during the holidays. Although many simply enjoy the plants for their fragrance and holiday colors, the meaning of these plants goes deeper for others, including pagans. Historically, pagans had — and still have — specific beliefs about the power and symbolism of both evergreens and holly, and some still use the plants as decor in accordance with those beliefs.
Evergreen — Always Green
Evergreens are loosely defined as plants that retain their foliage and remain green year-round. Usually, the term refers to coniferous trees — trees that have needles or needle-like foliage, but it can refer to any plant that stays green all winter long, including holly. Today, evergreens are valued for their practical uses — as windbreaks, hedges and for use as Christmas trees. Pagans used them for more spiritual reasons.
Pagan Meaning of Evergreen
In some countries, it was believed that evergreens would keep evil out of the home — evil spirits and ghosts, and evil in the form of illnesses. For this reason, evergreen boughs were often cut down and hung over doorways and inside the home. Pagans also believed that the green branches represented everlasting life. Druids used evergreen branches to decorate their temples for this very reason, according to History.com. The green of the branches helped people to get through the long winter by having hope in the warmth and food that would come in the spring.
Holly — Pretty and Prickly
vary widely in leaf shape and appearance. Although there are over 400 species (Ilex opaca is the scientific name of American holly), the most popular for use during the holidays are those that produce bright red berries, which historically were seen by pagans as masculine plants even though it is the female plants that produce the fruit. Holly plants are generally hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, although this can vary by species. Most popular hollies are hardy in USDA zones 7 through 9.
Pagan Meaning of Holly
Holly has a more specific meaning for pagans. Historically, pagans believed that like evergreens, holly wards off evil spirits. They also believed that holly increased fertility. In addition to bringing in holly boughs to decorate the home and increase fertility, holly was also often planted outdoors around the house to keep out evil spirits.
Devil’s-Bit Scabious ,Scientific Name(Succisa pratensis)
Abundant in marshes, pastures, and hedgerows, this little plant is quite unfussy about where it grows and even brightens up many a bog when it flowers from June to October. It’s a medium sized perennial with untoothed, deep green, blotchy, oval shaped leaves. Its pretty hemispherical flowerheads are blue-violet, 25mm across with prominent magenta anthers and on long slender stalks. This is a native plant to Ireland belonging to the family Dipsaceae.
Our local woodlands in September begin to fill with many kinds of fungi, its an almost magical sight, they make great subjects for Macro photography. You need to be happy getting down into the damp and muddy forest floor but the results can be well worth the effort.
Here are some basic facts about Fungi …..
Mushroom Magic and Folklore
Go for a walk in the woods on any given summer day, and you’ll see fungi galore popping up, nestled in amongst the ferns and trees. After a rainstorm, peek out in your backyard and you may see tiny spores beginning to sprout in the grass, forming what’s known as a fairy ring. Mushrooms grow in all shapes and sizes and colors, and – depending on where you live – you might find some that are conducive to magical practice.
It is important to note that unless you are absolutely positive about the type of mushroom you have picked, you should never ingest it or take it internally. There are many toxic mushrooms which look similar to edible ones – if you’re unsure about what you have found, check with a naturalist or other mushroom expert.
That having been said, there are a number of folk magic uses for mushrooms, and you can incorporate these at a symbolic level, rather than actually ingesting them. Let’s take a look at some of the legends and myths about mushrooms from around the world.
In many areas, the appearance of a ring of mushrooms on the ground is cause for either rejoicing or alarm. In Great Britain, these circles are known as fairy rings – and they are where the Fae come to dance and frolic after a rainstorm. However, like many other locations associated with faeries, humans who dare to enter such a ring may find themselves asleep for a hundred years, or worse yet, whisked off to the land of the wee folk, never to return.
In Holland, these rings are believed to be left when the Devil sets down his milk churn – once he picks it up, there’s a big circle left in the grass. In some countries, such as France and Austria, these rings are associated with sorcery and malevolent magic, and travelers are well-advised to steer clear of them.
Vance Randolph says in his book Ozark Magic and Folklore that in many parts of the Ozarks, it is believed that “mushrooms must be gathered when the moon is full – gather ’em at any other time and they will be unpalatable, or perhaps even poisonous.” He adds that it is said that mushrooms growing in an orchard where apple trees are in bloom are always edible.
One of the best known mushrooms, at least in European culture, is the red-and-white Fly Agaric. This mushroom appears often in illustrations of fairy tales – you might see a gnome or a fairy perched on top of one. Experts believe that the Fly Agaric was used as a hallucinogenic by northern European shamans and religious leaders. Interestingly, it contains two toxins that reduce the body’s response to fear stimulus, so it may have been ingested by warriors prior to battle. In central Europe, the Fly Agaric is associated with the Yule season, and there is a theory that Santa Claus’ red and white suit originated in the colors of this magical mushroom.
In ancient Egypt, mushrooms were a rare delicacy indeed. They were associated with immortality, and as such, only royalty could consume them – because, after all, royal persons were descended from the Egyptian gods themselves. Hieroglyphs found in Egypt indicate that mushrooms were being consumed with meals as long as 4,500 years ago.
In China and Japan, mushrooms were associated with longevity and strength – partly because some of the most popular mushrooms that grew there were known for stimulating the immune system. Shiitake and maitake mushrooms, in particular, have been used in herbal remedies for centuries.
Mushrooms have been used by many cultures throughout time as part of ritual and religion. The toxin psilocybin is found in certain mushrooms, and the use of hallucinogenic fungi has been documented in rituals dating back thousands of years. Entheogen researcher Giorgio Samorini describes the discovery of rock art representing mushroom cults in Libya and Algeria from 7,000 – 9,000 years ago in his article The oldest Representations of Hallucinogenic Mushrooms in the world (Sahara Desert, 9000 – 7000 B.P.).