Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Carmichael and herbal remedies

Mary Beith, author of Healing Threads; Traditional Medicines of the Highlands and Islands, sadly passed away last week. Her book is a comprehensive overview traditional medicine from charms to remedies and a great source of information. Today's blog highlights some of the various plants used for cures (human and animal), charms and enchantments in Carmichael's collection.
St John's Wort
Bog myrtle / Roid: good for worms. CW120/76

Burdock / Searan: used with horns [croic nam fiadh] to treat consumption.
CW89/203

Dog-carmillion / Braonan nan con: can be taken like tea as a cure for flux. CW117/55

Enchanter’s Nightshade /Lus an Tàlaidh: was administered to a lover without his knowledge, in order to entice him. CGvi, 102

Figword / Lus an torranain: was used for medicinal properties on the mainland, it was applied to cuts, bruises, sores and tumours. And on the islands it was used for its magical powers, primarily to ensure milk in the cows. CGii, 78

Fionn-faoilteach: 'is pulled and carried to the ceart court and which ensures victory'.
CW108/89

Golden Saxifrage / Lus nan Laogh: used to cure syphilis. CW120/303

Ivy: used in a charm with a rod, hoop, broken horseshoe nails and linen to protect cows and their milk. CW7/27
Enchanter's Nightshade
Juniper berries: are 'successful for epilepsy'. CW117/158

Marsh Chickweed / Fliodh Moire: the plant is heated on a flat stone facing the fire; a person with a festering hand or foot places the hand or foot on the stone and the heated plant over the sore. CGvi, 75

Oat-tree stalk / Craobh-chorc : can be used to tell fortunes about the number of children one will have. CW7/31

Pearlwort / Mòthan: used to protect the milk of cows. CGvi, 110

Sloes: wine made from sloes was a cure for diarrhoea. CW111/66

Spearwort / Lus Mòr: is good for blistering, lumbago and rheumatism. CGvi, 102

St John’s Wort / Achlasan Chaluim-Chille: was used to both ward away evil and promote prosperity and peace. The plant was only effective when accidentally found. CGii, 96

Yarrow / An Earr Thalmhainn: If when you go out in the morning the flowers are closed then your lover will spurn you and if not, then she will accept you. Also, if the petals are falling then you will not find the person or animal you are looking for. CW87/24

When you're out and about taking photos for Carmichael's centenary on 6 June, why not see if you can identify any the plants named above!
 
References
http://www.carmichaelwatson.lib.ed.ac.uk/
Carmichael, Alexander Carmina Gadelica, vol. II (Edinburgh, 1941)
Carmichael, Alexander Carmina Gadelica, vol. VI (Edinburgh, 1941)

Images
St John's Wort from wildseed.co.uk
Enchanter's Nighshade from luirig.altervista.org

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Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4

Stone whorls WHM 1992 13 2.4
Stone whorls collected by Alexander Carmichael, held by West Highland Museum (ref. WHM 1992 13 2.4). [© carstenflieger.com]