Double, double, toil and trouble…


The cauldron is rooted in magic and mystery.  It is a vessel of change: whatever is put into a cauldron transforms. It could be the simple alchemy of stew ingredients blending together and going from raw roots and vegetables to something edible and nutritious.

It could be the magical brew of a Wise Woman creating a mixture to ensure health or fertility or create a wash to cure skin lesions and sores.

It could be the Cauldron of Cerridwen, source of knowledge and inspiration, or the Cauldron of Dagda, from which no one ever went away unsatisfied.

It might be the leprechaun’s pot of gold resting at the end of a rainbow.

Witches of old and modern Witches are herbalists and folk-healers. Of course, in ancient times and up through much of the medieval period, medicine and magic were practically one-in-the-same. A plant was harvested and a prayer was said or a charm invoked to increase its potency and ask for help from the spirit of the green to aid in the working. As Christianity spread, the prayers would invoke Mary, Jesus, or any number of Catholic saints, but the idea was still the same.

One could never be totally certain of just what it was Witches concocted in those deep, dark, bubbling magical pots and images of the Witch standing around and stirring a bubbling cauldron are one of our culture’s most potent images.

Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,–
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

-Macbeth Act 4 – Scene 1

Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters helped put this picture of witches surrounding a cauldron with their array of creepy and dangerous ingredients into popular imagination. What’s interesting to note, though, is that all those weird-sounding ingredients were folk names of plants and herbs.

Raymond Buckland said it is important to learn the Latin names of plants because there are so many variances among folk names. I managed  to put this together from various sources and started putting in the Latin/official name for the plants but that took a lot of time, so that part is incomplete for now.

Adder’s Tongue: Dogstooth Violet – Erythronium Americanum

Titan’s Blood: Wild Lettuce

Lion’s Hairs: Tongue of a Turnip (the leaves of the taproot)

Man’s Bile: Turnip Sap

Pig’s Tail: Leopard’s Bane

Hawk’s Heart: Heart of Wormwood

Eagle: Wild Garlic

Ass’s Ear: Comfrey – Symphytum officinale

Ass’s Foot or Bull’s Foot: Coltsfoot

Blood: Elder sap or another tree sap

Blood of Hephaistos: Wormwood

Bone of an Ibis: Buckthorn

Burning Bush: White Dittany

Bread and Cheese Tree: Hawthorne

Blood from a Head: Lupine

Bird’s Eye: False Hellebore (or germander) – Adonis vernalis

Bull’s Eyes: Marsh Marigold – Caltha palustris

Blood of Ares: Purslane

Blood of a Goose: Mulberry Tree’s Milk

Bloodwort: Yarrow

Blood of Hestia: Chamomile

Blood of an Eye: Tamarisk Gall

Blood from a Shoulder: Bear’s Breach

Bat’s Wings: Holly

Black Sampson: Echinacea

Bull’s Blood or Seed of Horus: Horehound

Bear’s Foot: Lady’s Mantle

Calf’s Snout: Snapdragon

Cat’s Foot: Canada Snake Root and/or Ground Ivy – Nepeta glechoma

Candelmas Maiden: Snowdrop

Capon’s Tail: Valerian

Christ’s Ladder: Centaury

Cheeses: Marsh Mallow

Chocolate Flower: Wild Geranium

Christ’s Eye: Vervain/Sage

Clear-eye: Clary Sage

Click: Goosegrass

Cucumber Tree: Magnolia

Clot: Great Mullein

Cock’s Comb: Amaranth/Yellow Rattle – Rhinanthus christagalli

Corpse Plant: Indian Pipe

Crowdy Kit: Figwort

Cuddy’s Lungs: Great Mullein

Crow Foot: Cranesbill

Cuckoo’s Bread: Common Plantain

Clear Eye: Clary Sage

Crow’s Foot: Wild Geranium – Geranium maculatum

Devil’s Dung: Asafoetida

Dragon’s Blood: Calamus

Dog’s Mouth: Snap Dragon

Dog’s Tongue: Borage – Conoglossum Officinale

Daphne: Laurel/Bay

Devil’s Plaything: Yarrow

Donkey’s Eyes: Cowage Plant Seed – Mucuna pruriens

Dove’s Foot: Wild Geranium

Dew of the Sea: Rosemary

Dragon’s Blood: Calamus Rotang

Dragon Wort: Bistort

Earth Smoke: Fumitory

Eye of Christ: Germander Speedwell

Elf’s Wort: Elecampane

Enchanter’s Plant: Vervain

Englishman’s Foot: Common Plantain

Erba Santa Maria: Spearmint

Everlasting Friendship: Goosegrass

Eye of the Day: Common Daisy

Eye of the Star: Horehound

Eye Root: Goldenseal Eyes, Aster, Daisy, Eyebright

Eye of Newt: Mustard seed

Frog’s Foot: Bulbous Buttercup – Ranunculus Bulbosus

From the Loins: Chamomile

Fat from a Head: Spurge

Fairy Smoke: Indian Pipe

Fairy Fingers: Foxglove – Digitalis purpure

Felon Herb: Mugwort

From the Belly: Earth-apple

From the Foot: Houseleek

Five Fingers: Cinquefoil

Flesh and Blood: Tormentil – Potentilla tormentilla

Fox’s Clote: Burdock

Graveyard Dust: Mullein

Goat’s Foot: Ash Weed

Goat’s Beard: Vegetable Oyster – Tragopogon porrofoloius

God’s Hair: Hart’s Tongue Fern

Golden Star: Avens

Gosling Wing: Goosegrass

Great Ox-eye: Ox-eye

Daisy Hairs of a Hamadryas Baboon: Dill Seed

Hair of Venus: Maidenhair Fern

Hag’s Taper: Great Mullein

Hagthorn: Hawthorn

Hare’s Beard: Great Mullein

Herb of Grace: Vervain

Hind’s Tongue: Hart’s Tongue Fern

Holy Herb: Yerba Santa

Holy Rope: Hemp

Agrimony Hook and Arn: Yerba Santa

Horse Tongue: Hart’s Tongue Fern

Horse Hoof: Coltsfoot

Hundred Eyes: Periwinkle

Innocence: Bluets

Jacob’s Staff: Great Mullein

Jew’s Ear: Elder or Elm Tree Fungus – Peziza auricula

Joy of the Mountain: Marjoram

Jupiter’s Staff: Great Mullein

King’s Crown: Black Haw

Knight’s Milfoil: Yarrow

Kronos’ Blood: sap of Cedar

Lady’s Glove: Foxglove (Witches’ Gloves)

Lion’s Tooth: Dandelion

Lad’s Love: Southernwood

Lamb’s Ears: Betony

Little Dragon: Tarragon

Lizard’s Tail: Breast Weed – Saururus cernuus

Love in Idleness: Pansy

Love Leaves: Burdock

Love Lies Bleeding: Amaranth/Anemone

Love Man: Goosegrass

Love Parsley: Lovage

Love Root: Orris Root

Man’s Health: Ginseng

Maiden’s Ruin: Southernwood

Master of the Woods: Woodruff

May: Black Haw

May Lily: Lily of the Valley

May Rose: Black Haw

Maypops: Passion Flower

Mistress of the Night: Tuberose

Mutton Chops: Goosegrass

Nose Bleed: Yarrow

Old-Maid’s-Nightcap: Wild Geranium

Old Man’s Flannel: Great Mullein

Old Man’s Beard: Fringe Tree – Chionanthus virginica

Old Man’s Pepper: Yarrow

Oliver: Olive

Password: Primrose

Pucha-pat: Patchouli

Peter’s Staff: Great Mullein

Priest’s Crown: Dandelion leaves

Poor Man’s Treacle: Garlic

Queen of the Night: Vanilla Cactus

Queen of the Meadow: Meadowsweet

Queen of the Meadow Root: Gravelroot

Ram’s Head: American Valerian

Red Cockscomb: Amaranth

Ring-o-bells: Bluebells

Robin-run-in-the-grass: Goosegrass

Semen of Helios: White Hellebore

Semen of Herakles: Mustard-rocket

Semen of Hermes: Dill

Semen of Hephaistos: Fleabane

Semen of Ammon: Houseleek

Semen of Ares: Clover

Seed of Horus: Horehound

Snake Milk: Blooming Spurge – Euphorbia corollata

Snake’s Tongue: Adder’s Tongue Fern – Ophioglossum vulgatum

Sparrow’s Tongue: Knotweed

Soapwort: Comfrey or Daisy

Shepherd’s Heart: Shepherd’s Purse – Cabella bursa pastoris

Swine’s Snout: Dandelion leaves

Shameface: Wild Geranium

See Bright: Clary Sage

Squirrel Ear: White Plantain – Goodyear repens

Swine Snout: Dandelion – Taraxacum dens leonis

Scaldhead: Blackberry

Seven Year’s Love: Yarrow

Silver Bells: Black Haw

Sorcerer’s Violet: Periwinkle

St. John’s Herb: Hemp Agrimony

St. John’s Plant: Mugwort

Star Flower: Borage

Star of the Earth: Avens

Starweed: Chickweed

Sweethearts: Goosegrass

Tarragon: Mugwort

Tartar Root: Ginseng

Toad: Toadflax – Linaria vulgaris

Thousand Weed: Yarrow

Thunder Plant: House Leek

Tanner’s Bark: Toadflax

Torches: Great Mullein

Tongue of dog: Houndstongue

Tears of a Hamadryas Baboon: Dill Juice

Unicorn Root: Ague Root

Unicorn’s Horn: False Unicorn – Helonias Dioica

Unicorn Horn: True Unicorn Root

Wax Dolls: Fumitory

Weasel Snout: Yellow Archangel

White: Ox-eye Daisy

White Wood: White Cinnamon

Witch’s Asprin: White Willow Bark

Witch’s Brier: Brier Hips

Wolf Foot: Bugle Weed

Wolf Claw: Club Moss

Wolf’s Milk: Euphorbia Weed

White Man’s Foot: Common Plantain

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One thought on “Double, double, toil and trouble…

  1. Very Good. It must have been with the rise of modern medicine that people got “lost in translation” and authors of children’s books in particular started to use what literally sounded like evil ingredients… perhaps to make the stories more fun, or just because of plain ignorance (not having a clue).
    In Northern Europe Old Man’s Beard and Witch’s Hair are Lichen growing on trees… The name is very descriptive of what it looks like. I think plant names still carry a lot of the old folk names in most languages, but it’s true that since the scientific Latin Names were introduced, many plants have lost their charm.
    Your blog is my favourite on the Vicca subject, so thank you for sharing!

    Like

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