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The Astronomy of Herbs

Tomorrow I’m taking poems and songs to an Alzheimer’s Society group, something I do on a regular basis across the region. This one’s in Warwick. I’ve decided to have Spring flowers and gardening as a rough theme, and came across this poem I wrote in 2002. It was published by Poems In The Waiting Room an Arts in Health charity, registered in the U.K.. They “supply short collections of poems as cards for patients to read while waiting to see their doctor and to take away with them” and are open for submissions.

The Astronomy of Herbs
A found poem, after Nicholas Culpeper

Crowfoot and Pepper-wort,
Dodder of Thyme,
All-heal, Anemone,
Lesser Celandine,

Brooklime and Briony,
Wormwood, Butcher’s Broom
and Dove’s Foot are Martial plants.
Stone Crop, under Moon.

Walnut and Marigold,
governed by the Sun.
Mercury has Calamint,
Dill and Sauce-alone.

Amaranthus, Comfrey,
Heart’s-ease, Saturnine.
Dog’s Grass, under Jupiter.
Venus owns the Vine,

Self-heal and Sickle-wort,
Tansy and Thyme,
Foxglove and Featherfew,
Coltsfoot, Columbine.

© Heather Wastie

Culpeper’s best known and loved work is his herbal, called A Complete Herbal.  It gives the astrological indications of every herb in terms of planets and signs of the zodiac.  According to Culpeper, plants were able to channel and embody the subtle life energies of the planets, which were then consumed as food and medicine.  Through an elaborate system of planetary sympathies and antipathies, he found the right herb or formula to treat the patient’s illness.

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