Asparagus

Aspidistra

Christmas. The faggot is made up entirely of ash timber, with green ash bands round it, and as big as possible. A quart of cider was served each time a hoop round the faggot burst, which it does usually with a loud bang, being green wood. The faggot used on Christmas Eve, 1952 at the inn at Northleigh, Devon, was described as weighing over a thousand kilos, was 7 meters long and about 22 centimeters thick. The largest stick of green ash was 7 centimeters diameter, and this example was bound with five strips of hazel rather than ash (Coxhead). Christmas Eve is still called Ashen Faggot Night in the next county, Somerset (Rogers), when divinations are made according to the bursting of the, in this case, willow bands round the log as the fire grows. (see also YULE LOG)

Asimina triloba > PAPAW ASPARAGUS

(Asparagus officinalis) Always leave at least one stem in the asparagus bed to blossom - for luck (Igglesden), though actually it is no more than common sense - that is the way to get seed for next year's sowing. Like parsley, asparagus must not be transplanted. Someone in the family would die if that were done. That, at least, was once the belief in Devonshire (Read). Another strange belief was that if asparagus root were worn as an amulet (for what purpose?) the wearer became barren (Simons) (then why wear it?). Dreaming of it, gathered and tied up in bundles, is an omen of tears. On the other hand, dreaming of it growing, is a sign of good fortune (Mackay). The roots were once used on the Continent for "falsifying sarsaparilla" (Lindley).

There have been some medicinal uses. It is diuretic, "a powerful diuretic", Hill (1754) would have it, and it is used in homeopathy for dropsy and rheumatism (Schauenberg & Paris), the latter complaint was also treated with this plant in Ireland, as was gout (Moloney). Indiana folk medicine also advised eating lots of asparagus, which, they claimed, brought relief in just a few days (Tyler). Thomas Hill (1577) listed the ailments to be treated with "sperage" as "the Palsie, King's Evil [scrofula], Strangurie, a hard Milt [spleen], and stopping of the Liver".

Asparagus officinalis > ASPARAGUS ASPEN

(Populus tremula) 'Tremula' describes it well. It is a shivering, quaking tree, the symbol of fear, and of scandal, the latter the result of comparing the constant motion of the leaves to the wagging of women's tongues. " ... it is the matter where of women's tongues were made. which seldome cease wagging" (Gerard). It was actually called Women's Tongues in some places, or Old Wives' Tongues (Lowsley, Grigson). That constant quivering of the leaves accounts for one of its medicinal uses. The doctrine of signatures claims its use for the ague - a shivering tree, to make a medicine for the shivering disease. In one region of France, such a fever could be transferred to the tree, simply by tying a ribbon to it (Sebillot).

In the Scottish Isles, aspen was a cursed tree, since it held up its head when other trees bowed down during the procession to Calvary, and also since the Cross was made of it. Curses and stones used to be flung at aspens, and crofters and fishermen would avoid using its wood for their gear (Grigson). In Somerset, too, they would say that the Cross was made from aspen wood, and that is why the tree shivers incessantly (Tongue), and Welsh folklore has the same belief. The belief spread to America, too. There it is the American Aspen (Populus tremuloides) that is at fault.The legend in Brittany was that not only did it refuse to bow, but declared that it was free of sin, and had no cause to tremble and weep, whereupon it immediately began to tremble, and will go on doing so until the last day (Grigson). All sorts of reason are given for this incessant quaking. In the Forez district of France, they confirm that it was the aspen's pride that causes it to shake now, but it was St Pardoux before whom it refused to bow (Sebillot). German legend has it that it was cursed by Jesus on the flight into Egypt, because it refused to help him, while in Russia the cause is stated to be that it was the tree of Judas. By a kind of inverted reasoning, teething rings used to be made of aspen wood in the Highlands. The argument was that since the Cross was made of it, far from being a cursed tree, it was a blessed one, and no harm could possibly come to the child (Rorie). Perhaps, too, this accounts for a traditional Russian use of the wood to pierce the buried body of a witch through the heart, or to lay on her grave, to prevent it rising to the surface again (Warner, J Mason).

Asperula cynanchica > SQUINANCYWORT

Asperula odorata> WOODRUFF

Asperula tinctoria > DYER'S WOODRUFF

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