Thymeleaved Sandwort

(Arenaria serpyllifolia) Lewis Spence (Spence. 1945) suggested that this was the mystical herb known as Mothan or Moan in Scotland and Ireland. He described the Mothan as being given to cattle as a protective charm, and people who ate the cheese made from the milk of a cow that had eaten the plant were secure from witchcraft. It is said to be found where no quadruped had ever trodden, on the summit of a cliff, or mountain. The Mothan was to be picked on a Sunday as follows: three small tufts to be chosen, and one to be called by the name of the Father, one by that of the Son, and one by the Holy Ghost. The finder would then pull the tufts, saying (in translation):

I will pull the Mothan

The herb blessed by the Domnach;

So long as I preserve the Mothan

There lives not on earth

One who will take my cow's milk from me.

The three tufts were then pulled, taken home, rolled up in a piece of cloth, and hidden in a corner of the dairy.

Thymus vulgaris > THYME TI PLANT

(Cordyline terminalis) This is the source material of so-called grass skirts. They are made from its leaves, which also serve as plates and food wrappers at feasts in Polynesia (H G Baker). The burned leaves made the pigment for tattooing on Easter Island (Englert). But Ti Plant is at least as important for ritual reasons, for this is a protective shrub (hence presumably the English name Good Luck Plant). It is planted in graveyards in Malaysia, and occasionally at the four corners of a house, to drive away ghosts and demons (in keeping with its specific name, which must imply a celebration of boundaries - hence the West Indian name Boundary Mark (Howes) ). Its leaves are also used for the ceremonial brush used to sprinkle a paste made of rice-flour and water on objects like house posts, that need special protection (Skeat). In Hawaii, ti plants were grown round family altars, once set up to the god Kane (Beckwith. 1940). Hawaiians have always been afraid to disturb human bones, for the dead may enter any object, and especially bones. Similarly, they fear to talk of sacred things lest they anger these spirits of the dead, who will then work them mischief. In each case, ti leaves are a safeguard. Carrying food, especially at night, is very dangerous, and so they tie a green ti leaf to the container as a protective charm, which commands the ghost to fly away. This is called placing a law (kanawai) upon the food. But unless the leaves are fresh the law will not work. Similarly, women wear a ti leaf as protection when they approach particular places (Beckwith. 1940).

Tilia cordata > SMALL-LEAVED LIME Tilia x vulgaris > LIME

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