Periwinkle

i.e., GREATER PERIWINKLE (Vinca major) and LESSER PERIWINKLE (Vinca minor) Periwinkle is the symbol of sincere friendship (Friend. 1883), and it is also said to typify excellence, as in an old ballad, a noble lady is called "the parwenke of prowesse". In Germany, it is a symbol of immortality, as befits an evergreen plant (Fernie).

There is a superstition that if the leaves are eaten by a man and wife, it will cause them to love each other. This is in Albertus Magnus, where it was said that houseleek had to be taken as well. A 14th century manuscript says that 'Pervinca' powdered with earthworms induces love between husband and wife, if they take it first in their food. Very similar to this is the Fenland belief that if a young married couple plant a patch of periwinkle in the garden of their first home, they would have a happy life together (Porter. 1969). In Gloucestershire the "something blue" that a bride wears is periwinkle. Some say that it must be worn in the garter for fertility (Vickery. 1995). It is one of the flowers believed by people in Cambridgeshire to wither quickly if worn as a buttonhole by a young flirt or an unchaste wife (Porter. 1969).

In Wales, it was said to be very unlucky to uproot one of these plants from a grave - you ran the risk of being haunted by the person buried there (M Baker. 1980), and to have terrible dreams for a year (Trev-elyan). There is a connection with death in Italy, too, for garlands of the plant were put on the coffins of dead children. These are "flowers of death" (Fiore di morte), and in medieval England, condemned men were forced to wear garlands of periwinkle on their way to the gallows (Emboden. 1974).

Periwinkle soothes nettle rash, they say in the Fen country (Porter. 1969), and an ointment made with it was used for bruises and persistent skin irritation in Scotland (Beith). The roots were a popular colic cure in the Fen country (Porter. 1969), and periwinkle used to be an Irish (County Cavan) treatment for diabetes (Maloney). The leaves laid on gatherings and boils is an Oxfordshire remedy (Oxfordshire and District Folklore Society. Annual Record. 1951). It was reckoned to be good for sore breasts in Lincolnshire, the leaves being crushed and applied to the part (Gutch & Peacock); a poultice of the roots applied to a cow's udder was said in Cambridgeshire to cure milk fever (Porter. 1969). It is said to be a good remedy for cramp, too (Grieve. 1931). People used to wear bands of green periwinkle about the calf of the leg to prevent it (Fernie), and in Lincolnshire a piece was put between the bed and mattress for the same purpose (Rudkin).

Lesser Periwinkle has been used as a vulnerary, that is, as a treatment for bleeding wounds (Grigson.1955), or for that matter, any issues of blood. Gerard, for instance, advised its use: "a handfull of the leaves stamped, and the juice given to drinke, in red wine, stoppeth the laske and bloudy flix, spitting of bloud, which never faileth; it likewise stops the inordinate course of the monethly sicknesse". Add nosebleed to that list (Coats. 1975). There is some suggestion that it is good for the eyes. It is called Old Woman's Eye in Dorset (Macmillan) (one of its Italian names is Centocchio), and, more interesting, another Dorset name is St Candida's Eyes. St Candida's well is at Morecombelake, in Dorset, and the water is said to be a certain cure for sore eyes; it is on Stonebarrow Hill, where the wild periwinkles are called St Candida's Eyes (Dacombe).

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