Sunday 30 March 2008

Weeds & Wees

MEDIEVAL HERBALS are things that delight me .. old compendiums of collected folk knowledge about plants and how they can help us, filled with spidery words and strange drawings of plants both familiar and outlandish. Medieval ideas about our bodies and how to heal them were quite different to those of the modern medical profession, and the world's garden in those days was seen as an immense medicine cabinet full of mysteries to be written down and remembered ... thus leaving us with many beautiful books full of strange tales and magical imagery.

Some years ago I made a book inspired by these wonderful herbals... a collection of plant lore and superstition from A to Z ... illustrated with 23 woodcuts (no plant for U, X or Z!). I collected information from many books: old plant names, superstitions and stories surrounding each plant and beliefs about what they could do to benefit your health (or not!). And each plant was illustrated with a handmade wood engraving - carved on a very close-grained Japanese Maple wood and printed onto brown parchment-like paper. Below is a photo of the book itself and the woodblocks.

And here for those with patience and keen eyesight are the pages for Dandelion and Bramble ~ two so-called "weeds" with some humourous connections to weeing.

For more images like those shown, I recommend Medieval Herbals ~ The Illustrative Traditions by Minta Collins and the now out of print The Illustrated Herbal by Wilfred Blunt & Sandra Raphael.
Apologies for the post of epic proportions!


Lady Lavona said...

I'm botany obsessed! I wish you would offer prints of your woodcuts in your Etsy shop so I can collect them all!

Lady Lavona said...

Golden Age Libation
(Dandelion Wine)

2 quarts dandelion flowers
3 pounds sugar
1 ounce yeast
1 lemon
1 orange
1 gallon boiling water

Pick the dandelions on a sunny day. Pick just the heads until you have two quart jugs full. Wash flowers and put into a large bowl. Slice orange, lemon thinly and add to the flower heads. Pour boiling water on top of them, stir well. Cover bowl, leave for ten days, no more. Strain liquid into another bowl, stir in the 3 pounds sugar. Spread the yeast on a piece of toast, and float on top. Cover the bowl and leave for another 3 days. Remove the toast, strain again, and bottle. Cork loosely at first. The wine will be ready to drink in 3 months. Cheers!

Tess Kincaid said...

I love your epic proportions! It is always thrilling to see a new post from you. Yes, I agree, you should offer your woodcuts on Etsy...they are wonderful.

Unknown said...

This is wonderful, I especially like the devil and the brambles (ounds like a Grimm story...) Have you seen Marc Crasie's animation? It's very odd and compelling.

Crista Noel Smith said...

Ahh.. I love this! It is one of my dreams to have a proper physic garden. I found a massive old herbal in Oxfam the other day, which made me very pleased.

Happy April Fool's!

Karen Cole said...

Lovely illustrations and book, Rima.

I certainly learned more than I could ever hope to learn about dandelions and brambles.....whoa!

I'm partial to growing rosemary, basil, oregano and lavender. Have you ever had lavender cheese? Mix it in with goat cheese, it's delicious.

Ben Stables said...

I love the Pictures of the plant that is supposed to have a human body (I forget the name), you know the one in Harry Potter and that is said to deafen you if uprooted!

ArtPropelled said...

Lovely post. Your woodblocks are intriguing. My mum used to own a shop that sold herbs and potions which she imported from Culpepper in Britain. This lead to learning more about African folk knowledge and remedies (some of them very wierd and mysterious). There is quite a controversy going on about Hoodia Gordonii which the San Bushmen used as an appetite suppressant. A Pharmaceutical company has brought out capsules but they are not as effective as chewing the fresh hoodia. There's something magical about picking your own herbs!

Sherry said...

Thank you for sharing! I loved looking at it all.

Anonymous said...

Wow Rima! That's some feat making a book like that, was it ever published? What a wonderful piece of work that must be :)

G3T Films said...

I'd pee myself if I was confronted with lion's teeth too!

Very nice prints, I particularly like ol' Pan there.

Rima Staines said...

Thanks for the kind words and all the fascinating tidbits everyone :) It makes for a lovely collection of lore :)

G said...

This post (well, your whole blog) is a delightful source of creativity and magic. Wood is so organic and timeless and touchable and I love knowing your lovely images were cut from wood. I'm a big fan of woodcut - do you know the work of Gerard Brender a Brandis? A Canadian wood engraver. You artists are so inspiring!

Anonymous said...

Hey thanks for being here, there? Love your posts on herbals and all the fantastical dark and shining world yu share with us.Want to mention the illustrations of Trina Shart Hyman-so wonderfull and shes not on your list- check her childrens (not just for) books out. Hope you're keeping warm this winter. Spring's around the corner!
New England Louise