In the cauldron boil & bake...

The MOST wonderful time of the year is here! October may still be muggy and lush here in Florida, but it's always Samhain in my soul. 
I was born in the autumn and Midwestern fall was my season.
Perfectly cool days, cracking leaves underfoot, woodsmoke in the air and chilly nights. A Harvest or Blood Moon in the clear, twinkling autumn sky makes it easier to hear whispers through the veil.

  The one thing about Florida "fall" I'll give it, we can still plant and grow things. Gardening is my grounding go-to, so I'm okay with this trade off. These are crazy times. If I can't have a long walk in the cold, autumn air, I might as well be able to get down and dirty with muh plant babes.
 For my spooky autumnal Patreon project, this has worked out quite well.

Deciphering the Cauldron; Finger of birth-strangled babe; Foxglove. (It's only visible to the public for a limited time, so hurry over if you want a peek. It goes back to Patrons only this weekend.)
I go into what's actually behind all those weird and seemingly gross ingredients of the Weird Sisters witches brew in Macbeth. Hint- not really body parts. It's plants. Some are highly toxic. (Shocker!) Some are used in modern medicine, and a few are favorites of witchy types like Shakespeare (-cough--Francis Bacon-cough, sneeze, I have a cold, sorry) for astrological, folklore, and other various correspondences.

 I'll give you a taste of what's coming next, but fair warning- it's a toxic one. Even touching this ingredient can result in blistered skin. Most definitely don't eat it...

Fillet of a fenny snake, 
In the cauldron boil and bake

Macbeth, Act IV, S. I

Gross? Not exactly. As I've explained in the Foxglove post, most ingredients used in potions and brews by wise women were coded due to the secretive nature of their craft. This was for a few reasons, but the danger of laypersons fiddling about with potentially toxic plants was one of them. Also, King James hated witches, and Shakespeare really kicked up the nefarious a notch to pander to ol' Jimmy's disdain for the ladies of lore. 

Let's get down to it. 

Fillet = Filet = Meat
(Brits don't like to pronounce things the French way. Think Claret.)

Whenever an old Hedge Witch/herbalist/wise woman or even an alchemist  said to use the meat of a plant, they were referring to its fruit or berries.
We go over the corresponding secret code names for plant parts on the Patrons only post.

Arum Maculatum
 Okay, then...
Wtf is a fenny?

It's nothing more than an archaic term for a boggy, wetland-ish area. Fenny = bog

So, we know we're looking for a plant in a boggy area that looks like like a snake and we need its "meat". Oh, wait! There's totally a plant that already is called "snake's meat" colloquially. Dang, Shakespeare made that really easy.
Cuckoo Pint / Arum Maculatum
aka; Lord's & Ladies, Naked Boys and Naked Girls, Arum Lily, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Soldiers Diddies, Starch Root, Adder's Root, Adam and Eve, the list goes on and on but, hey one more Cheese and Toast because that one's great, and heeeeere we go-
Snake's Meat

The plant obviously has quite a few names, and most of them refer to couples and doin' the deed, because of the spadix and spathe formation. It's pretty. It's cool. It's a plant. Humans are weird.

The entire plant contains raphides, calcium oxalate crystals. 
(Raphides under 600x magnification)

This means that if disturbed, the plant will produce these crystals, which will get onto you if you touch the plant. They are a skin irritant, and if eaten, your throat and airways can close.
That's just the rest of the plant. We need the berries.

 berries of Cuckoo Pint

Cool tidbit about these plants, they are little tricksters. To get a pollinator, they disguise themselves with a fecal scent and higher temperature than the surrounding air. This attracts owl-midges in particular. We'll come back to the owl-midge flies!
The bottom ring of female flowers is topped by a ring of male flowers on the spadix. The male flowers are then surrounded by a ring of tiny hairs that act as an insect trap. This keeps the insect stuck inside for a while. They eventually figure out ho to escape through a tiny hole, and they repeat the process on surrounding Arum plants, this time covered in pollen. 

The roots of the plant are large and hold a great deal of starch. It was actually used to starch the collars and ruffs of nobility and was the only way to make communion linen. You can imagine how hard that was on the hands of the women that had to do the work.
This was written in 1597 by John Gerard, 

Right. All for stiff collars? Jeesh. The root could actually be used for medicinal use and flour if cooked properly, but it was risky. 

Okay. So now that we know what a fillet of a fenny snake was,
Well, what do you think?

Owl Midge photo from Cabinet of Curiosities
 We have the toxic aspect down, but keep in mind this is the first ingredient for the cauldron in this scene of Act IV. The sisters are kicking it up here for the visions/apparition prophesies.

I'm going to remind you that when they first said "Something wicked this way comes" at the beginning of the play, they certainly weren't talking about themselves. 
It was the overly ambitious and now murderous Macbeth. 
Macbeth who is represented within the play by an owl, Duncan by a falcon, and the Macduff family birds.
Macbeth the "obscure bird", or owl, that has killed, and plans to keep on killing. 

 If you want to see what's in the rest of Deciphering the Cauldron series, 
what's behind the printable line art page I came up with for Fenny Snake, or you want in on the upcoming potion bottle printables and  tutorial, head over to Patreon to pledge support and get access to more posts and free printables art & svg files.

 Thanks for stopping by, and be careful in your gardens. Always know your plants, and don't work with it if you aren't comfortable. See you pretties later!

I have to go catch a frog. Literally. There's tree frogs and toads all over the plants in the pool house. 
Frog poop everywhere. Tis the season!

 ~D. Renée

No comments :

Post a Comment

Artwork & Play. * BLOG TEMPLATE DESIGN BY Labinastudio.