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Occult Names For Ordinary Herbs

Double, double toil and trouble,
Fire burn, and cauldron, bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

These famous words from Shakespeare’s Macbeth are chanted by three old witches as they pour the contents of various bottles into a bubbling cauldron.

Herbalists, thought of as witches at the time, were said to use gruesome code words for the plants they worked with to keep their herbal remedies a secret.

By combining body parts and animals from lists like these as code, a witch or herbalist could sell their potions with the confidence that customers wouldn’t be able to steal their recipes.

Different parts of a plant had body part code names:

EYE - seed

GUTS - root

TONGUE - petal

HEART - bud

TAIL - stem

HEAD - blossom


HAIR - dried, stringy herbs



Herbs had animal code names, often based on similarities in morphology:

NEWT - mustard

CAT - catnip

DOG - couchgrass

FROG - buttercup

LAMB - lettuce

TOAD - sage

RAT - valerian

SNAKE - bistorta

EAGLE - wild garlic


So "eye of newt" is simply witch code for mustard seed, and "toe of frog" is code for buttercup leaf. Not so gruesome after all!


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