Thursday, July 21, 2022

Native American Plant Myths - Poisonous Wild Parsnips & Evil Spells

1590 North American Atlantic Coast Natives by John White (c1540 – c1593). The village of Pomeiooc (Pomeiock) was a Native America settlement, designated on de Bry’s map of Virginia, Americae Pars Nunc Virginia Dicta, between today’s Wyesocking Bay & Lake Landing, North Carolina. John White called the settlement Pomeyoo.

For thousands of years, Earth's indigenous people from separate  ethnic groups inhabiting a variety of the planet's climates & terrains have searched for; and created oral myths about plants & animals; & often have used nearby plants as medicine to control ailments afflicting them & their domestic animals. Many of these myths were passed down from generation to generation as oral tales before written language.

Extracted from:  Myths of the Cherokee.  Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau  of American Ethnology. Washington Government Printing Office 1902  Recorded by James Mooney (1861-1921) was an American ethnographer who lived for several years among the Cherokee.

Plant Lore

The poisonous wild parsnip (Peucedanum?) bears an unpleasant reputation on account of its frequent use in evil spells, especially those intended to destroy the life of the victim. 

In one of these conjurations seven pieces of  root are laid upon one hand and rubbed gently with the other, the omen being taken from the position of the pieces when the hand is removed. 

It is said also that poisoners mix it secretly with the food of their intended victim, when, if he eats, he soon becomes drowsy, and, unless kept in motion until the effect wears off, falls asleep, never to wake again. 

Suicides are said to eat it to procure death. 

Before starting on a journey a small piece of the root is sometimes chewed and blown upon the body to prevent sickness, but the remedy is almost as bad as the disease, for the snakes are said to resent the offensive smell by biting the one who carries it. 

In spite of its poisonous qualities, a decoction of the root is much used for steaming patients in the sweat bath, the idea seeming to be that the smell drives away the disease spirits.