The Everyday Lore Project

27 July 2020 – The Grete Herball

27 July 2020 – The Grete Herball

Today did not go as planned. On this day in 1526, The grete herball whiche geueth parfyt knowledge and vnderstanding of all maner of herbes [and] there gracyous vertues whiche god hath ordeyned for our prosperous welfare and helth, for they hele [and] cure all maner of dyseases and sekenesses that fall or mysfortune to all maner of creatures of god created, practysed by many expert and wyse maysters, as Auicenna [and] other. [et]c. Also it geueth full paryte vnderstandinge of the booke lakely pretnyd by me (Peter treuveris) named the noble experiens of the vertuous handwarke of surgery was published. They had ever such long titles in those days. 

The Grete Herball, to give it it’s abbreviated title, was a bit of a winner back in the day and provided a grete many remedies and ways for living (cold baths bad, else the Grim Reaper will be holding your towel). So to celebrate the anniversary of its publication, I thought I would act on some of its advice, for it says that should you lie mugwort under the door of your house, “man nor womann can not anoy in that hous'” and my neighbours have been exceedingly annoying recently.

Plus I’ve noticed rather a lot of worts around where I live. But none as it turns out, are mugworts, or artemisia. I thought I’d hit jackpot five feet from my door, but that turned out to be either fleabane or horse weed or neither, it’s so hard to tell.

I went out again after work to a different patch. But still none. Just lots of common ragworts, dusty millers, purple toadflax, marshmallow, hollyhocks, lavender and thistles. I think. I’m really not very good at identifying plants. But I did taste my first blackberry, and I did find a stash of sloes (or heg pegs), and an overhanging pear tree that will be perfect in a couple of weeks. So all was not lost. Especially as I finally found some vervain

The Grete Herball has a lot to say about vervain or verbena, all of which I found virtually impossible to read. For example:

But someone has deciphered it and says that added to wine and sprinkled around the house during a dinner party, it will cause great merriment. So, I shall keep that one up my sleeve. Not literally as I broke my ‘not below a cocked dog’s leg height’ foraging rule to pick it. 

Anyhow, in other news it’s Bugs Bunny’s 80th birthday. I watched his first proper outing in The Wild Hare as I ate my tea. So for today, as the story goes

Thats All Folks GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Of course, I might have misidentified my vervain. Feel free to weigh in in the comments.

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

Treveris, P. (1526) The Grete Herball, London, Peter Treveris

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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