It is a fact that witches used to use the same herbs that we enjoy today. Shakespeare called rosemary the herb of remembrance; the plant was thought to be beneficial in restoring a weakened memory by both witches and laymen. In medieval times, it was also a good-luck symbol and protection against spells. In England, it is still placed on graves of heroes, and everybody knows it will only grow in gardens of good people. Its Latin name means “the dew from the sea” because fragrant rosemary, a member of the mint family, originated and grew wild along the Mediterranean coast. Use a lot of rosemary in October and November. In Northern Europe, it is used to season sausage, and in Italy, it is a favorite in lamb and veal recipes. It is great with mushrooms, cauliflower and spinach, and a must in tomato sauces for fish. In Brazil we like it to season chicken, fish or pork dishes. Try sprinkling some into a barbecue fire for a memorable aroma.
Star anise was believed by witches to ward off the evil eye. It is the dried pod from a small evergreen tree and is native to China. Most star anise is still grown in China. Both the Chinese and Japanese originally used it in incense to aromatize their temples and homes. It pairs well with pork, chicken and duck if you suspect an evil eye is targeting you.
Fennel was also used to ward off the evil eye and nowadays we use it in coffee cakes, breads, and cookies and as a tranquilizer tea in Brazil. Fennel is a member of the carrot family and is native to the Mediterranean, although today it is cultivated mostly in Central Europe and Russia. Witches believed that it was a cure-all and held the powers to make people younger, stronger and healthier. Puritans nibbled the seed in church to quell their hunger during the long sermons. They had a saying that went: “He who walks by fennel and does not gather some is the devil.” If you would like to be younger, stronger, or healthier, use it to season fatty fish such as salmon, or soup, vegetable salads, and spicy meat dishes. The bulbs are delicious in salads.
Coriander, also called Chinese parsley, is also a member of the carrot family, is the most popular spice aroma in the world. Native to South Europe and the Middle East, ancient Romans used it in love potions, and witches traditionally used it to summon demons. It was also considered an aphrodisiac, especially by Arabs, and in old Egypt and China they believed that its seeds held the secret of immortality. There are records of coriander dating from 1552 B.C., and Moses compared the color of manna with coriander seed. Americans use fresh coriander in Mexican food, and call it by its Spanish name, cilantro. Brazilians also use it fresh, especially in Northeastern cuisine, but other countries usually use its seeds or leaves in powdered form. Use it to season fish, seafood, hors d’oeuvres, or soup, and also to summon a demon or make up a love potion.
Dill, still another member of the carrot family, was an herb used in casting spells, although it also served as protection against witch’s spells. Folklore says it will cure hiccups, and the ancient Romans believed it was a symbol of vitality. Babylonian and Assyrian doctors also used it to make up medications. It is native to Europe where its seeds are very popular in Germany and Scandinavia. International chefs use its feathery leaves in salads, or to season omelets, cold soups, any fish sauce or cheese dish. As a double-duty witch’s herb used for both protection and to cast spells, it cannot help but be useful in anyone’s life.
When knights were traditional, thyme was the symbol of courage; and witches encouraged ladies to embroider sprigs of thyme on the scarves they gave to their knights to protect them. In later days, they taught young girls to make nosegays of thyme, with mint and lavender in order to attract a sweetheart. Native to the Mediterranean and a member of the mint family, France is the biggest producer of thyme nowadays and it is the basis for the liquor, Bénédictine. But it was also used to flavor cheese and liquor by ancient people, as well as for a fumigant. Thyme is a must when preparing lobster and also good in poultry stuffing and seasonings, as well as in tomato and cheese dishes. But this month, used it for protection or to attract a new love interest.
And last but not least is sage, which witches always thought of as the herb of health, purifying, and as being helpful for aged people. It is a member of the mint family and is reputed to grow best for the wise. Its Latin name means “to save” and people used to say that a man who had sage in his garden needn’t fear death. It is native to the north coast of the Mediterranean and ancient people used it as a cure for snakebites. In China, sage tea is as well known as the famous green tea that has become so popular in Western countries. Sage is unusual in that its dried leaves have a stronger aroma than its fresh leaves. Use it to season poultry stuffing, or sausage. In Brazil, it is often used in soup or eggplant dishes. If you want to test your wisdom level, plant sage and see if it survives. And if you want to rid your home of negative energies, simply burn some.
Use lots of herbs in the witching month, and you will undoubtedly have a prosperous, healthy year, protected from the evilness of all big governments.
The word cliffhanger comes from cliffs. Duh. Cliffs are vertical, or nearly vertical, rocks that have been formed by erosion and weathering. There are lots of famous cliffs, but the first ones that come to my mind are the White Cliffs of Dover, probably because there was a popular World War II song about them that was part of my childhood, and also because they are on the historical English coastline.
When one thinks of cliffhangers, England and its gothic novels always come to mind. Cliffhangers are the kind of story, book or movie that uses suspense either at the end of an episode or a scene. A good example was the way the final episode of Game of Thrones, season 5, was done. Jon Snow was dead. Or was he? Those of us who sweated it out until season 6 was aired were never really sure. The writers used old-fashioned melodrama, suspense and uncertainty, and the audience was left as if hanging from a cliff in a state of tension and apprehension. And that’s a true cliffhanger.
This part of the blog will not be able to offer any nail-biting cliffhangers, but it will have classes in series, and I hope they will be interesting enough that you will want to come back and read what happens next, even if you don’t lose sleep anticipating the next chapter. Enjoy.