The Witch’s Bedtable

nigella-lawson-library-1

Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy by Barbara Ehrenreich

But compared to the danced religions of the past, today’s “faiths” are often pallid affairs — if only by virtue of the very fact that they are “faiths,” dependent on, and requiring belief as opposed to direct knowledge. The prehistoric ritual dancer, the maenad or practitioner of Vodou, did not believe in her god or gods; she knew them, because, at the height of group ecstasy, they filled her with their presence. Modern Christians may have similar experiences, but the primary requirement of their religion is belief, meaning an effort of the imagination. Dionysus, in contrast, did not ask his followers for their belief or faith; he called on them to apprehend him directly, to let him enter, in all his madness and glory, their bodies and their minds.

The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher

Do you remember how Claudine used to crouch by the fire, turning a hatpin just fast enough to keep the toasting nubbin of chocolate from dripping off? Sometimes she did it on a hairpin over a candle. But candles have a fat taste the would taint the burnt chocolate, so clean and blunt and hot. it would be like drinking a Martini from silver.

Hard bitter chocolate is best, in a lump not bigger than a big raisin. it matters very little about the shape, for if you’re nimble enough you’ll keep it rolling hot on the pin, as shapley as an opium bad.

When it is round and bubbling and giving out a dark blue smell, it is done. Then, without some blowing all about, you’ll burn your tongue. But it is delicious.

However, it is not my secret delight.

The New American Herbal by Stephen Orr

Mandrake is famous almost entirely for being infamous. Even its name sounds at once sinister and sexual. This humble-looking, low-growing plant has attracted a fascinating collection of myths and legends over the centuries: It screams when you pull it out of the ground and anyone who hears this cry will go insane; the root, an aphrodisiac, is actually a little homunculus (a miniature, but fully formed human); the plant sprouts in places where the semen from hanged men has fallen.

In Europe, [W]itches were said to celebrate their sabbath with potions and ointments made from the plant, whose psychoactive properties give a sensation of flying through the air. The list of fantastical tales is long and frequently repeated rom herb book to herb book. As a plant, it is strangely beautiful — like a sinister-looking gloxinia or nicotina with wide, pleated leaves and cup-shaped dark purple to white flowers clustered tightly at its center. Later in the season, pale greenish-yellow fruits that look like round eggplants appear at ground level as the leaves begin to wither.

***

Online reports concur that the plants’ severe emetic and laxative properties far outweigh any high that is obtained. Mandrake root should be approached with extreme caution if at all, evan as a low-dose botanical for homeopathy. I, for one, would be happy to grow it as a conversation piece to show dinner guests as we sip our relatively safe gin and tonics from a distance.

What’s in your Summer book bag?

Picture found here.

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