Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

Fennel, a member of the onion family that has a distinctive, licorice-like taste, is very popular in European and North African cooking.  It also has a long history as a magickal plant, with the stalks and seeds being particularly prized.

Old wives have for centuries grown fennel around their homes as a plant-based form of protection.  A sprig of fennel, usually taken from the lacy tufts at the ends, was used to ward off ticks; for this purpose, it was worn in the left shoe.  Modern research has shown that the smell of crushed fennel does indeed hinder, if not entirely impede, the burrowing tendencies of chiggers and ticks.  In Europe, fennel fronds were hung over doors and in windows to keep evil spirits at bay.  This habit of wise women went by the board in some areas with the onset of the witch craze.  Women with fennel hung in their homes were accused of witchcraft.

Scott Cunningham notes that fennel stalks with pine cones attached to the ends were carried in the Dionysian mysteries of Ancient Greece.  Likewise, in his book The Night Battles, Carlo Ginzberg writes of a 16th century group of men and women in the Italian town of Friuli used fennel stalks to battle the crop-destroying magick of evil witches.  These chosen few, known as the benandanti (do-gooders) ventured into the night in dreams to keep their neighbors safe from the depredations of maleficium.  It probably goes without saying that they were in turn accused of witchcraft and punished for their beliefs.

In hoodoo, the focus of magick is more on the seeds of the fennel plant.  These are scattered around homes, on porches and on windowsills to turn away the evil eye and – most especially – to keep the nosey neighbor and questioning policeman out of family business.  A mojo bag to ensure that government and other authorities will turn a blind eye to one’s personal pursuits is made by combining fennel seeds, oregano, mustard seeds and three chips of cascara sagrada bark in a blue flannel bag.  For extra oomph, the mojo should be dressed regularly with Van Van Oil.  Bonne chance ~

Header: La Danse (or Les Bacchantes) by Bougeureau


Timmy! said...

I had no idea that fennel works to stop ticks, Pauline. Interesting. And if it works for other stuff too, so much the better.

Pauline said...

I don't know that it is as effective as bug spray, but it might come in handy in a "Dual Survivor" kind of situation... "Dave, these are fennel fronds..."