Orpine

(Sedum telephium) Orpine is a strange name, deriving from Latin auripigmentum, pigment of gold, hardly appropriate for this plant. Perhaps it was originally applied to Yellow Stonecrop. In the Gironde region of France, it was said that orpine was sensitive to the presence of sorcery - if there was a witch around it would wither as soon as it was brought near her (Sebillot). In Massachusetts, they said that it brings prosperity if it grows around the house. Another superstition from Ohio says that it only blooms once in seven years (Bergen. 1899).

But Orpine, under the name Midsummer Men, is chiefly associated with divinations. Another name, Love-long, recalls its use by hanging up a piece after a girl's boy-friends. The piece that lives longest determines the successful suitor. "In Gander Lane we saw in the banks some of the 'Midsummer Men' plants which my Mother remembers the servant maids and cottage girls sticking up in their houses on Midsummer Eve, for the purpose of divining about their sweethearts" (Kilvert). Other divinations are by the bending of the leaves to the right or left, telling whether a lover were true or false (Leather), or, as in America, to tell from what quarter the lover will come (Bergen. 1899). Also, if gathered by two people on Midsummer Eve, and the slips planted, they would know their fortune by the growing or otherwise of the slips. If they leaned towards each other, the couple would marry; if one withered, the person it represented would die (Radford & Radford). Aubrey had noted the custom in 1686: "Also I remember, the mayds (especially the cooke mayds & Dayrymayds) would stick up in some Chinkes of the joists ... Midsummer-men, which are slips of orpins. They placed them by Paires: one for such a man, the other for such a mayd his sweet-heart, and accordingly as the Orpin did incline to, or recline from the other, that there would be love, or aversion; if either did wither, death". From a tract called Tawny Rachel (about 1800): "... she would never go to bed on Midsummer Eve without sticking up in her room the well-known plant called Midsummer men, as the bending of the leaves to the right or to the left, would never fail to tell her whether her lover was true or false". The belief travelled to America, too, albeit in an altered form. A record from New Brunswick advises "take a love-forever leaf, squeeze it to loosen the inner and outer skin. If it makes a balloon as you blow into it, you will be married and live a long time. If it does not, you will be an old maid" (Bergen. 1899).

In Iowa, they say that "a live-forever plant kept in the room will prevent cancer" (Stout). The shape of the root tubers "signal orpine with virtue against the King's Evil" (Grigson. 1955), or scrofula, and the plant was recommended for fevers, sterility in women and too profuse menstruation (Fluck). Coles advised that the leaves, "bruised and applied., to the throat cureth the Quinsy ...".

Oryza sativa > RICE

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