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by Alma Green

A common trope of the witch is the use of bizarre and dangerous-to-obtain items, like “lions heart” or “bulls horn,” in the creation of magical concoctions. The truth is, as this blog via Witches Lore explains, these ingredients are just “codes for very simple and attainable flowers and plants.” The gruesome moniker blood from a head refers to neither blood or a head, just lupine, a plant of the pea family. And while hundred eyes implies a daunting task, all it requires is some periwinkle.

This code effectively kept the knowledge esoteric, and also makes for great poetry:

Over the years the witches began to use codes in their workings, eye of newt and tongue of dog are codes for very simple and attainable flowers and plants. The witches would have a great laugh about the unsuspecting fool who stumbled upon their recipes and went out searching for the ingredients, battling for a lions hearts, a bulls horn, a mother’s milk and an Englishman’s foot. The most famous reference of using plants and codes is William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth

Fillet of a fenny snake
In the cauldron boil and bake
Eye of newt and toe of frog
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing
For a charm of powerful trouble
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble

Head over to Witches Lore for a full list of plants, their secret names, and their magical properties.

To learn more about the history behind witchcraft, we recommend checking out Witch: Unleashed. Untamed. Unapologetic, a book by third generation hereditary witch Lisa Lister that explores different schools of witchcraft, why identifying as a healer in past centuries led women to be burned at the stake, and why the witch is reawakening in women across the world today. We carry it at The Alchemist’s Kitchen — learn more here.

Image: M Ryan Taylor

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