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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 a body part and an animal from lists like these as code, a witch or herbalist could sell her preparations with the confidence that customers wouldn’t be able to make their own.

Different parts of a plant had body part code names:

EYE - seed

GUTS - root

TONGUE - petal

HEART - bud

TAIL - stem

HEAD - blossom

BLOOD OR SEMEN - sap

HAIR - dried, stringy herbs

TOE, PAW, WING, OR FOOT - leaf

 

And herbs had animal code names, often based on similar visual appearance:

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! Much more innocuous than it sounds.

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