Langley gardening: Halloween history includes interesting plants

 

As Halloween draws near, children and adults in costumes of witches, ghosts, zombies and bloodier characters roam the streets and our homes and the magic of play-acting is all around.

But in the long-ago roots of Halloween when people lived with the belief that spirits surrounded their lives and could wreak harm if they wished, there was another kind of magic and at times real fear. That’s because Halloween (then called Samhain) was the one night when the gates of death stood open and spirits were said to move freely and unobstructed in both directions.

That’s why people relied on the magic of certain plants to protect them against any harm which might come from the unseen world. Often the magic of these plants was proved to them by their use in healing. Many of these plants are widely used today.

Planted near a door, rosemary could bar evil spirits from your dwelling, protect you from bad dreams and stop you from catching the plague. Ivy could also stop evil spirits from entering but it had to grow on the walls of your house.

Garlic was even more use because it was thought to evict evil spirits once they got in and ward off vampires as well. Holly planted near a house was believed to be yet another protection as were hawthorn and rowan (Mountain Ash).

One of the beliefs of the time was that on Halloween, witches held ceremonies in which they flew broomsticks with the aid of flying ointment. The reported plant ingredients are interesting since some are poisons/pain relievers/tranquilisers while others are hallucinogenic.

These include: foxglove (digitalis), hemp (marijuana), Aconitum napellus (Wolfsbane), Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), hellebore and also poppy juice made from Papaver somniferum (source of opium).

All have immense power, but the sad truth is the healing record was not good. Patients tended to die from the medicine.

Most are beautiful-looking plants but none should be planted anywhere near edible-leaf plants that might be harvested by an inexperienced gardener. 

Deadly nightshade sometimes volunteers from the wild. It’s attractive with red, shiny berries and purple petals with a yellow pointed beak – but so deadly in all its parts that it should be removed (with gloves) from any garden where it appears.

The tall, blue-flowered garden perennial named Aconitum is so poisonous, it can burn unprotected skin on susceptible people (I was susceptible). Hellebore seeds blister fingers if you collect them too slowly and growing hemp frequently causes difficulties with authorities.

Papaver somniferum seed is used by some cooks for baked goods. The decorative, pink double form is the one usually grown and seeds, and plants are easily available. But it can get out of hand since it’s a prodigous seeder.

One of the magical trees associated with Halloween is willow. In fact, the words ‘witch’, ‘wicked’ and ‘wicker’ all come from the same ancient word for willow. The belief was that a witch’s broom had an ash handle and birch twigs while willow stems formed the binding.

Another magical plant is the hazel tree. This was believed to supply the wood for witches wands. Today a forked hazel branch is sometimes used for water divining.

Just Posted

Championship action kicks off tonight at Langley Events Centre

Giants prepare to do battle in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals Friday on home ice

PHOTOS: Langley RCMP volunteers ‘represent the best of our community’

Dozens were honoured Thursday night during the 27th annual Langley RCMP’s volunteer dinner

Langley MP describes most recent diagnosis as a ‘miracle’

Tory Member of Parliament Mark Warawa doesn’t have pancreatic cancer, but operable colon cancer

Langley Advance Times Community Calendar: April 18, 2019, edition

• Submit Langley events to: news@langleyadvancetimes.com (Subject: Community Calendar)

Langley runner George Ellenwood gets major sponsorship

Agreement with Under Armour will provide heptathlete star with precisely-engineered athletic shoes.

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Crews battle Burnaby blaze; 2 people sent to hospital

Emergency Support Services helping residents displaced by fire

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Notre Dame rector: “Computer glitch” possible fire culprit

The fire burned through the lattice of oak beams supporting the monument’s vaulted stone ceiling

Most Read