The Everyday Lore Project

17 June 2020 – St Nectan’s Day

17 June 2020 – St Nectan’s Day

Today I’ve been planting foxgloves. It’s St Nectan’s Day, St Nectan being Devon’s answer to Medusa, but without the snakes, petrifying gaze or Gorgon ancestry. It’s said that after his unfortunate beheading by thieves, St Nectan was particular about where he wanted his head to end up. So refusing to die, he schlepped his noggin to Hartland Point where he threw it into the well. However, on the way, as the blood dripped from his severed neck, new life sprung up wherever it touched the ground. But unlike Medusa’s bloody offspring of Pegasus and Chrysaor, St Nectan begat foxgloves.

Foxglove (goose-flops, wild mercury, pop-bladders, dragon’s mouth) seeds are very small. Not as small as the thyme seeds were, but tiny enough for me to have to stick them to my finger in order to transfer them to the soil. I planted four digitalis red, roughly an inch apart in the pot. I was going to reuse the potato soil, but small flies had started circling it, and the mint spray wasn’t working, so that’s all been recycled elsewhere. And now the pot is sitting next to my very healthy parsley. Which is probably a sign due to the suspicion that bringing foxgloves into the house allows witches entry and the belief that only witches (or rogues) are successful at planting parsley. Or something.


Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Vickery, R. (2019) Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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