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Outdoors: Halloween

Mabeth Poem Header Cauldron.jpg

What plants are in that cauldron anyway?

Halloween is not mentioned in any of Shakespeare’s plays. However, The Bard certainly included ghosts and potions in a number of historical tragedies, and the Scottish play,…I guess outside of a theatre I can call it Macbeth, is cursed with witches.

But curiously, at least according to an article called “ The Witches' Brew From Macbeth Is More Accessible Than You Think” by Jessica Mason, the creepy ingredients the weird sisters were dropping into their bubbling cauldron may not not be quite as revolting as they sound.

Just as we a have common names for some of the flowers that we grow here, the common folk of Elizabethan England  had common names for the plants that they grew or gathered  for seasoning or for medicine.  Many slag terms for herbs…or as the Brits would say Herbs--are fanciful.

And some of the plants on the sisters' list grow right here in the Great Lakes regions.

For example, the “eye of the newt” is black mustard seed—a nasty invasive.

“Wool of a bat” is holly, though not Michigan holly. The introduced one…you know: the holiday decoration with the red berries that are poisonous to people and pets.

“Tongue of dog” is a weed we called hound’s tongue, which is a toxic invasive species which can harm wild and domestic animals and which also has bur-like seeds that stick to unsuspecting hikers.

“Root of hemlock” is not from the tree, but rather water hemlock which grows in wetlands and is probably the most toxic plant in North America.

“Bloody finger” was a name for Foxglove which, yes, also is poisonous. 

The more I think about it, I realize that the  three witches knew what they were doing. Their herbal potion would be lethal.

Bubble bubble, toil and trouble. 

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.