Wise Woman Ezine with herbalist Susun Weed
February 2007
Volume 7 Number 2
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Blackberry
Excerpt from "A City Herbal"
by Maida Silverman

Blackberry (Rubus species)
Excerpt from "A City Herbal"
by Maida Silverman

Excerpt 1.4 , continued from last month

BLACKBERRY (Rubus species)

In many parts of England there was a widespread belief among country people that it was unlucky to gather or eat Blackberries after Old Michealmas Day (October 11). the ART of Dana LeggettLegend had it that Satan was thrown out of heaven on that day, and fell into the bramble bush, whose thorns caused him great pain. Ever since that time, on the yearly anniversary of his fall, he “spoils” the berries by spitting or breathing on them. Anyone foolish enough to eat any after that day will have bad luck, become ill, or perhaps even die. In one district, Blackberries were not eaten at all until quite recently, it being believed that “the trail of the Serpent” was upon them.

Blackberries were ruled by the planet Mars, and to dream of them foretold the future. It was generally a bad omen if you dreamed you walked through a bramble patch. If the thorns pricked you, secret enemies would do you harm through a trusted friend; if the thorns drew blood, you were to expect serious business reverses. If you passed through unharmed, however, you would triumph over your enemies.

In Cornwall, Blackberry leaves were employed to heal burns in a magical ritual of ancient origin. Water from a holy well was poured into a basin, and nine Blackberry leaves were floated on the surface. One at a time, each leaf was passed over and away from the afflicted area, the operator saying three times over each leaf:

There came three angels out of the East.
One brought fire and two brought frost.
Out of fire and in frost,
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

A variant of this charm was to lay the leaves on the skin; as they fell off, so would the burns heal.

Perhaps the most fascinating belief of all is the legendary efficacy attributed to the “bramble arch.” One sixteenth-century writer noted that “every one that hath seen it is able to say that it {Blackberry} shoots forth many long, ribbed branches, which by reason of their length and weakness bend down to the ground again, there many times taking root.” It was widely held that certain diseases could be cured by having the patient creep or be passed through this natural arch. The belief in this cure extended to animals as well as humans. In Normandy, until the latter part of the nineteenth century, cattle were regularly herded through these natural arches to cure them of lameness.

the ART of Dana LeggettThe bramble arch was considered even more powerful if the original plant was growing on one person’s land and the tip of the cane had rooted on the property of another. It was very bad luck to destroy one of these arches or deny sick persons access to them. In Essex, a person (usually a child) suffering from whooping cough would be made to crawl under the arch seven times from east to west, saying each time; “In bramble, out cough, here I leave the whooping cough.” A small cross fashioned from the thorny stems was worn on the person to ward off the disease, or aid in the cure if one was already ill.

Children were passed through the bramble arch to cure rickets and skin diseases as well. Along the Welsh border, after the child had crawled or been passed through, he was given a slice of bread and butter. The child consumed half the slice, and the other half was left under the arch. It was hoped that a bird or animal would eat this remaining piece and take the disease unto itself; the animal would then eventually die and the child would recover. Minor complaints such as rashes and boils could also be cured by crawling under the bramble arch three times from east to west.

All these rituals were meant to strengthen the cure. The healing powers of Christianity, the magic force of certain numbers such as 3, 7, and 9 as well as the life-giving force of the east-to-west “sunrise turn” would, it was hoped, enhance the recognized healing virtues of the Blackberry.

Suggested Uses: A modern writer suggests rubbing crushed fresh leaves on insect bites and scratches to relieve them, especially those received from the thorns of Blackberry bushes!

An infusion of the leaves is said to be useful for soothing sunburn, and other minor burns. I have used a syrup of the ripe berries to relieve upset stomachs and nausea, and to soothe sore throats and coughs.

 

BLACKBERRY SYRUP

Put ripe berries into a large pot and mash very gently with a potato masher. Add water to barely cover the berries, and cook over low heat until the steam rises and they start to give up their juice. Remove from heat and strain to remove seeds. Measure ½ cup of white sugar or mild-flavored honey (such as clover) for each cup of Blackberry juice, mix together the sweetening and juice, and reheat slowly only until sweetening is dissolved. Try not to let the juice or syrup boil, since this tends to destroy the appealing fresh-berry flavor. Keep syrup refrigerated in jars. (It may also be frozen, and keeps very well both ways.)

Blackberry syrup may be poured over cake, pancakes, or ice cream, and stirred into fresh fruit compotes. A few spoonfuls may be added to hot tea, and a pleasant drink may be prepared by adding 1 cup of boiling water to about an ounce of Blackberry syrup, along with a slice of lemon and sugar or honey to taste. This is especially welcome on a cold day, or before retiring.



Excerpt from "A City Herbal"
by Maida Silverman


A City Herbal
by Maida Silverman. The wild plants of the city are potent herbal medicines and nutritious wild edibles, as well as sources of comfort, fiber, and dyes. Learn to recognize and use 34 of them. 192 pages, index, illustrations.
Read a review


Retails for $13.95

“A City Herbal by Maida Silverman is a delightful way to get acquainted with wild herbs that you have no doubt walked on or over without ever dreaming how useful they can be. It has increased my interest and curiosity a hundredfold and I’m sure it will do the same for you.”  -James Beard

Order A City Herbal in our Bookshop

 


Botany and Wildcrafting for Herbalists DVD

Botany for Herbalists DVD

Susun Weed takes you on a walk with her apprentices and her goats across her land at the Wise Woman Center. In this DVD she explains the Latin naming system devised by Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in the 1700's. Each herb has a family and a genus that it belongs to and a species that is its name. She explains the Tree of Life, flowering and non-flowering plants, and the reproductive cycle of flowering plants and herbs. She also teaches you about indentifying and harvesting herbs; and differentiates between annuals, biennials and perennials. As Susun says: “Weave yourself into the Wise Woman web. Join me in reclaiming herbal medicine as people’s medicine. Loving green blessings from me to you.”

Time: 1 hr, 12 min, 43 sec.
Produced in 2009 by HerbTV Studio

Price: $19.95

Order Botany for Herbalists DVD in our Bookshop

 

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