Two for the price of one this time.
Thyme and fennel, * all-powerful both
The Lord wisely * shaped these herbs
Holy in heaven * where he hung
Established and sent them * into the seven kingdoms
To heal the rich * and the poor alike
They will stand against pain, * they will combat the plague
Fight against three * and against thirty
Against the devil * and the terror
against the wiles * of evil creatures.
There is some argument that the eighth herb should be chervil rather than thyme, but I am not convinced. Chervil is negligible medicinally, whereas thyme is seen as very powerful to this day. Fennel is used as a digestive herb, soothing cramps, and easing the liver. Historically it has always been associated especially with fish, counteracting the oiliness of salmon, and perhaps mellowing the tang of salted cod or herring. It was used against witchcraft, and said to improve eyesight.
Thyme is still used as a decongestant – thymol is an ingredient of all those chest rubs for coughs and colds – and a disinfectant. Recent research suggested that it is even effective against MRSA and clostridium difficile, but I have not heard the outcome. Interestingly, however, I discovered that at one time it was used for stress, for nightmares, and against ‘phrensie and lethargy’ – an Elizabethan phrase, I imagine, for bipolar disorder.
The rest of the charm consists of instructions for the administration of the herbs. These are pretty difficult, some of them magical incantations and/or Christian prayers, some of them practical. I will be posting them next week.