It’s safe to say I’m a little partial to lavender. So far it’s featured in my incense, my birthday presents, my bedroom, my spells, my Pace-egging, my moth repellents, my Bridie dolls, my Lammas decorations, my insomnia cures. And today I added to my scented pantheon by turning it into a wand. Lavandula angustifolia!
Lavender wands, or fuseaux de lavande, are made from stalks of lavender folded back over the flowers and secured by ribbons woven in between them. They became popular in C17th France as a decorative way to display lavender while still using it to ward off insects. Nowadays, the debate is more about whether stalk numbers should be odd or even, rather than how best to utilise lavender’s purported plague ridding properties. So I went out first thing and cut 20 stems from my nearest scrubland bushes. Apparently, the best time to pick lavender is mid-morning post dew, which I only found out after, but a) I was on a schedule and couldn’t wait, and b) it was already roasting by 8.45am so nothing was dewy anyway.
And then I hopped on a video call to my friend Michaela in Australia. Michaela and I shared a flat over twenty years ago, and every couple of years we try and meet up somewhere in the world. The last time was in Florence and this weekend it was supposed to be Helsinki. Charlie, Michaela’s son has already made a guest appearance in the blog flying his paper plane.
Anyhow, Michaela had raided her garden for lavender, so when we sat down together, we started stripping our stalks. When ready, we decided on 13 stems as that’s meaningful for Michaela and I’m not that way superstitiously inclined (and it meant I had leftovers for another one if I cocked this one up). Next came the positioning of the flowers. If, as our instructions would have us believe, we lined them all up together, that would have produced lavender maracas. So Michaela very sensibly suggested we staggered them, so we got a long wand, not a fat one.
And then came the ribbon weaving. And even though this was a very simple ‘in and out the dusty bluebells’ scenario, I still had to start again, and then wove it a bit wrong. We both felt a little challenged. But it was lovely to sit and gossip and weave with the scent of lavender so strong.
All too soon we’d finished and Michaela had to go and sort dinner and I had to start work. Her wand is going in the wardrobe to mess with the moths, and mine is now hanging above the bed in another desperate attempt to find sleep. Apparently in Tuscany, lavender is pinned to lapels to repel evil, so it might even do away with my nightmares too. And it’s said if the smell starts to wane, all I need do to release its fragrance, is to give the wand a gentle squeeze.
Thank you to Yvonne Diment for her brilliant suggestion for today’s folklore (I feel a glut of handmade Christmas presents coming on, given August is the time to start drying lavender). Keep the ideas coming!
McVicar, J. (1994) Jekka’s Complete Herb Book, London, Kyle Cathie Limited