Table of contents:
- Handwritten herbalists and healers
- Arcane herbs
- How to make evil spirits cry
- Magical herbs of the field
Historian Ivan Zabelin wrote that in ancient times pagans treated plants as living beings: according to legends, herbs could move from place to place, change their appearance and suddenly disappear, talk to each other, scream and cry. The ancestors also believed that each plant had its own character and disposition.
They picked up herbs at a certain time and in protected areas. Meadows, forest edges and swamps with the necessary plants were found by "knowledgeable" people. The plants were collected, observing the rituals: one should "fall on the ground and pray to the mother - to the earth, so that she would be pleased to take any medicine from herself." Before picking the flower, it was surrounded on four sides with silver coins, jewelry made of precious metals or expensive cloth. Not all plants were shown to an ordinary person, magic herbs were given into the hands of only healers, sorcerers and sorcerers.
The most valuable were the plants collected early in the morning, before sunrise, on the holiday of Ivan Kupala (July 7). They believed that it was on the Kupala night that magical flowers bloomed and magic herbs were shown. Village healers and sorcerers stored plants for a whole year, and brave young men went to the forest on the night of Ivan Kupala for the mythical fern flower. It was believed that the one who found the flower would acquire the ability to find treasures, become invisible, or be able to understand the language of animals. On the night of Kupala, they collected Adam's head, tear-grass, thistle and other medicinal herbs.
Other plants have the same extraordinary properties … Grass Mary-Magdalene helps from melancholy, Pansies from the evil eye, Ivan da Marya and sweet clover - from spoilage, robber-grass - from blood stagnation, Bogorodskaya grass - from spoilage of the sorcerer and brownie, when he falls on a sleeping person at night, worms or leaks, if girls wash them with infusion, it promotes hair growth.
Gabriel Popov. From the book "Russian Folk-Household Medicine"
Handwritten herbalists and healers
Initially, the sorcerers-greensmen kept the knowledge of magical herbs in secret and passed on from generation to generation only to the initiates. Over time, handwritten herbalists have emerged based on their experiences. The collections were used by healers, but then they spread among the peasant environment, and were popular among merchants and burghers. The medical books described where magical herbs and flowers grow, what they look like, when to collect them and how to use them. Not all recipes were used in practice, some of them were just entertaining reading.
The herb Bel Talentz, if you insist on it and drink it with other herbs of the same type, or just one, you will know all sorts of herbs and what you need; if you go anywhere, herbs and all sorts of things will speak to you and will affect you, but whatever is needed; with the same and other animals, reptiles and beasts voices you will recognize that they are talking among themselves, and you will know all the wise.
From the book by Ivan Zabelin "History of Russian life from ancient times"
Despite the detailed descriptions of flowers and herbs in these collections, it is quite difficult for folklorists to identify real plants in magic potions and somehow classify them. Herbs and flowers had many varieties, often the same plant was called differently depending on the region, and, conversely, up to a dozen herbs could bear one name.
The head of Adam was often mentioned in herbalists. It was believed that the plant served as an attribute of sorcerers and healers; it was harvested early in the morning on Ivan Kupala. According to legends, the root of Adam's head helped to see the hidden evil spirits, and the person who used the infusion “will see” on whom the damage lies. Many wonderful properties were attributed to the herb: it facilitated difficult childbirth, inspired courage in soldiers and helped to heal wounds. The carpenters took her with them to the high-rise construction of churches and chambers in order to overcome the fear of heights. Adam's head was sewn into clothing to protect against diseases or worn on a chain around his neck. The root of the herb was consecrated with holy water, placed in the church for 40 days, and then carried with them as a talisman.
Another magical herb is bad wind. The Russian ethnographer Ivan Sakharov wrote that a person who possessed this grass, according to legends, could stop the wind on the water, save himself and the ship from sinking and fish without a net. It grew in winter on the banks of rivers and lakes, they were looking for the plant on January 1 at midnight: it was believed that at this time the evil spirits walk along the lakes and rivers and throws magic grass to pacify the storm. Only people who were blind from birth could find grass. Ivan Sakharov assumed that this superstition was invented by wandering blind men who enjoyed the confidence of simple-minded peasants.
Different Slavic peoples had beliefs about a miraculous break-grass, also known as a rake. It was described as a short plant with sharp leaves, in herbalists it was compared to a saber or a needle. According to legends, the locksmith unlocked any locks and destroyed barriers, helped from the evil eye and damage. They believed that the grass grows in old settlements, in dark places in the forest and in secret meadows. It could only be found by people initiated into the mystery of the warlock, or by chthonic animals - snakes and turtles, crows and magpies. According to other beliefs, a gap-grass did not appear from the ground, it could be found by chance in the place where the scythe would suddenly break: it was believed that the grass destroyed metals. Another way is to throw the mown meadow grasses into the water, and only the magical tear-grass will float against the current.
If a shackled horse finds on that grass, the glands will fall; if a shod one comes, the horseshoe will rip out of the hoof … And to tear it like this: if where the plow is twisted or the horse loosened up, then at dawn line a cloth, or a caftan, or an epanchu, or something, just to be clean, in that place, and it will come out through".
From the book by Ivan Zabelin "History of Russian life from ancient times"
The Slavs believed that if you carry a loose-bar with you, you will be protected from any diseases. Ethnographer and researcher of folk medicine Gavriil Popov wrote about such a belief: "If a person, having made an incision, inserts it into his hand, he will be invincible in a fight and acquire such charm that even the boss will bow to him and will not offend him …" about the treasures: the robbers allegedly buried the stolen wealth in the ground and locked it with an iron lock, and the treasure was guarded by evil spirits. To get to the treasure, the burrowers were looking for a tear-grass: they believed that it tears apart any metal.
How to make evil spirits cry
Herbalists often mentioned plakun-grass and described it like this: "tall with an arrow, the color of crimson." A plakun grew, according to legends, near the lakes. He was considered a talisman against evil spirits, he helped to cope with demons and command them. Historian Mikhail Chulkov wrote that the grass "makes unclean spirits cry … It alone is able to drive out brownies, kikimor and others and open it to the sworn treasure, which is guarded by unclean spirits." After reading the conspiracies, the owner of the plakun-grass root could conclude an agreement with the brownie. The cross cut from the root of the weeping grass was carried with them from "black infirmity" - as in the old days they called epilepsy. Grass was placed at the head of the bed for restless children so that they slept well at night.
Thorny weeds were also protected from evil spirits. For example, a thistle could scare away devils, soothe those who grieve over the dead, and save people from anxiety. The plant helped in an interesting way: the grieving person was beaten sparingly with thorny grass. Thistle was also boiled with wax to obtain a "wax", which was put into an amulet and carried around as a talisman. The grass was placed in a crack above the gate or under the roof of a house to protect it from evil spirits, and to save livestock from diseases, they fumigated a barn with it.
The peasants believed that during Trinity Week at the beginning of summer, mermaids appeared in the forests and near water bodies. They could scare, tickle to death, lead deeper into the forest, or drown. Wormwood was considered a talisman against their pranks - its bitter taste and unpleasant smell should have scared away mythical characters. To protect against them, the bitter herb was added to bouquets of flowers and wreaths.
Magical herbs of the field
They also endowed field plants with magical properties. And, before the peasants, through trial and error, determined the healing properties of herbs, they superstitiously attributed mystical power to them.
In herbalists, sleep-grass was often mentioned: researchers assume that this was the name of the lumbago, today in Russia this flower is less and less common. Unlike many plants from medicinal herbs, lumbago really has healing properties: in folk medicine, it was used as a sedative and hypnotic. Lumbago is one of the first to bloom in spring. In folklore, there was a legend that the dream-grass was an orphan, and the stepmother-earth was the first to drive him out in cold weather. A purple or light purple flower with a yellow core began to be harvested as early as May. The herb was used as a powerful hypnotic, capable of plunging a person into deep sleep, tantamount to temporary death. According to one of the legends, the bear, which licked the root of the dream-grass, lay down for the whole winter in a den, and the man who followed his example slept from the beginning of winter until spring. The dream-grass awakened prophetic abilities, the peasants used it during fortune-telling: the girls hid the grass under the pillow, read the cherished words and waited for predictions in a dream, and then they interpreted what they saw.
The peasants also collected sow thistles, the herbalists described it as follows: "It grows red and light (grass), the leaves are round, like money, a span of money, and the color is pink." Sows were recommended to be kept by merchants and merchants, they believed that it multiplies money and brings honor and glory to the owner. And the plant of Peter's cross was called the tsar-grass and it was believed that it protects from damage. They took the grass with them on a long journey to protect them from dangers.
In a special, mythological relation to plants, the Slavs retained echoes of pagan worship of nature. The intricately arranged and perfect type of plants led the pagans to the idea that "a wise form must contain a wise power."