Latest entry: 26th July

Welcome to the Eightfold Year. Every day a different painting will appear, along with moon phases, saints days, seasonal plants and other festive celebrations.

You can find out more about the concept of the Eightfold Year here.

We hope you enjoy this website. We will be adding content as we go through the year and welcoming your feedback and suggestions.

Onwards and Upwards!

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Cirrus over Toxteth, Summer 2008: Jamie Reid

Moon Phases, July 2014:
First Quarter – July 5, 11:59
Full Moon – July 12, 11:25
Last Quarter – July 19, 2:08
New Moon – July 26, 22:42

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CURRENT MOON

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Peeping, Liverpool, Summer 2011: Saul Hughes

Saint's Day:
Anne
Bartolomeo Capitanio
Blessed Andrew of Phu Yen
Joachim
Paraskevi of Rome

Festival:
Day of the National Rebelllion (Cuba)
Independence Day, celebrates the independence of Liberia from the United States in 1847
Independence Day, celebrates the independence of Maldives from the United Kingdom in 1965
Kargil Victory Day or Kargil Vijay Diwas (India)

Flowering Now by Saul Hughes: Hemlock
Conium Maculatum.
Family: Umbelliferae. Apiaceae.
Gaelic Name: Minmhear and Iteodha.
Also known as Poison Hemlock, Poison Parsley, Herb Bennet, Keckies, Kex, Spotted Corobane, Lady’s Lace, Devil’s Blossom and Cicuta Prevalas.

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This baneful herb of the meadows and roadsides is quite often these days extirpated on sight, because of its poisonous nature to both humans and beasts, sadly making this once very common herb, a not to frequent sight. This plant when come across in the wild is very beautiful, with its fernlike feather leaves and elegant tall growth topped with delightful umbels of tiny white flowers. Hemlock is very often confused with other members of the great family order of plants it belongs to known as Umbelliferae or the Carrot family, being very similar to Bur Chervil (Anthriscus Caucalis), Cow Parsley (Anthriscus Sylvestris,) and the true Parsley (Petroselinium Crispum), it being confused for the latter that has led to most modern cases of acute Hemlock poisoning. The plant is easily distinguished from other members of the Umbelliferae family by this species having perfectly smooth stems marked with red spots/blotches and powdered with a white bloom that wipes off most easily with the finger; the whole plant has the disagreeable smell of a mouse when bruised.
The name Hemlock is of Anglo-Saxon origin being derived from the root words ‘Hem’ (Border/Shore) and ‘Ledc’ (Leek or Plant), another possible source for the name as quoted by Mrs M. Grieve (1858-1941) in her ‘Modern Herbal’ (Published 1931) is that the name Hemlock stems From the Anglo-Saxon word ‘Healm’ (straw), from which the word ‘Haulm’) is derived.

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The name of the Genus ‘Conium’ is derived from the Greek word ‘Konas’ meaning to ‘Whirl About’ on account of when this plant is eaten the poisonous effects on the person is to cause within them the sensation of whirling around, a feeling of vertigo followed by death through asphyxiation of the respiratory system. The name of the species ‘Maculatum’ is of Latin origin meaning ‘Spotted’ in reference to the purple spots/blotches that run along the smooth stems.
The name of the family order it belongs to Umbelliferae (Carrot family) is derived the Latin ‘Umbella’ meaning parasol or umbrella on account of the many little flowers of this order being arranged into umbrella shaped heads, a characteristic of all plants in the carrot family. It is also grouped into the family order of Apiaceae (Celery Family) a family group of aromatic hollowed stemmed plants. The name Apiaceae is derived from the Latin ‘Apis’ meaning bee, as the plants of this order attract many bees to their beautiful florets. Either family name of Umbelliferae or Apiaceae can be used and are both valid under the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) which was started on May the first, 1753, with the publication of the Species Plantarum by Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778).
The names ‘Poison Hemlock’, ‘Poison Parsley’ and ‘Devil’s Blossom’ all arose because of the deadly nature of the plant; the name ‘Spotted Corobane’ is in reference to the spotted stems and ‘Corobane’ possibly stems from ‘Cora’ to encircle/circle, from the vertigo effects of the poison and the word ‘Bane’ meaning a poison.
The name of ‘Keckies’ and ‘Kex’ originate from County Kent and seem to refer to the dried hollow stalks of this plant. The name of ‘Lady’s Lace’ is in reference to the elegant lace like leaves of this species and its visual likeness to the plant called ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’ (Daucus Carota).
The name of Herb Bennet is named in honour of St Benedict of Nursia (Italy) because of the plant being used in medieval times to ward of witchcraft, poison and venomous creatures and these attributes were also part of the miracles attributed to St Benedict. Though the name of Herb Bennet was not just confined to the hemlock, it was also applied to various other plants which could lead to great confusion and often fatal events, especially if one was advised to have a drink of the plant called Herb Bennet (Geum Urbanum) a food flavouring herb and instead one used this Herb Bennet (Hemlock) then death would follow, it was this confusion of country names that led Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) to develop the modern scheme of binomial nomenclature wherein every species of plant was to be given its own unique name comprised of two parts, one name for the genus the other for the species. The old Roman name for the Hemlock ‘Cicuta’ meaning a ‘Pipe’ or a hollow reed was applied to this herb in the ancients of old, but herbalists in the 16th century began referring to the Water Hemlock (Cicuta Virosa) as Cicuta because of the herbal work of Conrad Gessner (1516-1565), the two plants are quite unrelated and the confusion of names led once again to Carl Linnaeus in 1773 to restore the classical Greek name and he called the plant Conium Maculatum, the old species name of ‘Prevalas’ refers to a region in Bulgaria, ancient Thrace were this plant was found growing in abundance and was used by the ancient Greeks most famously for administrating to condemned prisoners.

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The Gaelic name ‘Minmhear’ means ‘smooth fingered or branched’ in reference to the leaves, the name ‘Iteodha’ means ‘feathers or plumage’ again in reference to the beautiful appearance of the leaves, the ancient Gaels being more pressed to name the plant in honour of its beautiful delicate appearance rather than its poisonous deadly nature. In the Welsh tongue it was known as a ‘Gwin Dillad’ (Painkiller).
Medicinally Hemlock contains the alkaloid Coniine which is a neurotoxin which affects the workings of the central nervous system. The herb acts as a Sedative (Lessens activity, anxiety and tension), Analgesic (Pain relieving), Antispasmodic (Suppresses muscle spasms), Emetic (Induces vomiting) and a Galactofuge (Reduces the flow of milk in women). It was used with great care by the ancients as a sedative and indeed was imported to America in great quantities prior to World War 1 for use a sedative and an anti-spasmodic. Galenus (AD 129-199/217) the father of surgery and physician to the emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 121-180) was famous in Roman society for his skilful employment of this plant as an analgesic. It was used for treating nervous disorders such as epilepsy, spasms in the larynx and gullet, the spasms associated with bronchitis and asthma, tetanus, the bite of a mad dog, scrofula, rabies and St Vitus dance. It acts as paralyser and is therefore antagonistic to strychnine and has been used as antidote to strychnine poisoning, strychnine being a terrible poison which causes severe convulsions and great pain, the effects of hemlock numb the pain and stop the convulsions.
The ancient Greek and Arabian physicians used the plant for treating indolent tumours, swellings, pains in the joints and skin affections. Nicholas Culpeper (1616-1654) says of the herb: ‘It is exceeding cold, and of a very dangerous quality, consequently must not be applied internally, it is good for inflammations, tumours and swellings of any part of the body, the privities excepted, also St Anthony’s fire, weals, pushes, and creeping ulcers, proceeding from hot sharp humours, good for those with red swelled eyes if laid upon the head and the root for the gout’.
Magically the plant is under the auspices of the planet Saturn. The plant because of it poisonous nature bringing about a relatively quick painless death was said to be used for ritual suicide and was held sacred to the Goddess Hel of Norse mythology who presides over the realm of the same name. Its use as a poison by the ancient Greeks is well testified in the case of the death of Socrates who was forced to drink a draught of hemlock for the crime of impiety, one remains clear of mind to the point of death and feels the sensation of vertigo before entering muscular paralysis and death through paralysis of the respiratory muscles. The emperor Nero (AD 37-68) is said to have killed his rival and step brother Brittanicus (AD 41-55) with juice of this herb just before his 14th birthday. The purple blotches on the stem were said to represent the brand that was put on Cain’s brow after he committed the first murder. It was said that Prometheus stole fire from the Gods and brought it to the mortals in a hemlock stalk, was punished by the Gods to eternal punishment and that this plant was doomed to kill all mortal creatures that consumed it. Its associations with witchcraft seem to have arose from the plants malodorous and poisonous nature, being seen as belonging to the devil and all is ilk, when in reality this plant would not serve no great a service to their old time beliefs and ways as would the more traditional so called witches plants, such as Henbane, Belladonna and Mandrake etc, as Hemlock cannot make one fly so to speak, but no doubt the plant would of been used by wise women in their arsenal of herbal remedies. The association with witchcraft and this plant owes more to the works of William Shakespeare who famously includes it in the list of ingredients used by the Scottish Witches in his play ‘Macbeth’ indeed the modern spelling of Hemlock is attributed to Shakespeare.
The plant is edible when cooked and has been ate as a vegetable, the poison being destroyed by cooking and is also destroyed by drying. It is poisonous to domestic animals though improbably goats are said to be immune from it, larks and quails are also said to eat it with impunity but that there flesh becomes poisonous as food for human consumption, William Cole in his ‘Art of Simpling’ (published 1656) relays a terrible tale wherein Asses that have fed on Hemlock fell so fast asleep that they have seemed dead, so much so that some owners have flayed off their skin, only for later on when the effects of the hemlock have worn off has the poor creature woke back up, to the horror and astonishment of the owner.
The plant is associated with the insect species of the following orders: Coleoptera (Beetle) order: a host for the Violet Tankbark Beetle Phymatodes Testaceus, the Leaf Beetle Chrysolina Oricalcia, Ceutorhynchus Terminatus and the Weevil Lixius Iridis Oliver. In the Diptera (Fly) order: a host for the Leaf Mining Fly Phytomyza Chaerophylli, Phytomyza Conii Hering, the Gall Midge lasioptera Carophila Loew and the Carrot Fly Psila Rosae. In the Hemiptera (True Bug) order: a host for the Carrot Aphid Cavariella Pastinacae, the Hawthorn Parsley Aphid Dysaphis Apiifolia and the Dysaphis Lauberti. In the Lepidoptera (Butterfly and Moth) order: a host for the Angle Shades Moth Phlogophora Meticulosa, the Bright-line Brown-eye Moth Lacanobia Oleracea, Agonopterix Alstromeriana, Agonopterix Ciliella, Depressaria Aegopodiella, Depressaria Sordidatella Tengstrom, Depressaria Weirella Stainton and finally the delightful Aethes Beatricella.*

Also on this day:

1745 – The first recorded women's cricket match takes place near Guildford, England

1822 – José de San Martín arrives in Guayaquil, Ecuador, to meet with Simon Bolivar.

1847 - Daniel O’ Connell’s body lies in state upon the river Mersey in Liverpool en route from London to Dublin.

1878 – In California, the poet and American West outlaw calling himself "Black Bart" makes his last clean getaway when he steals a safe box from a Wells Fargo stagecoach. The empty box will be found later with a taunting poem inside.

1887 – Publication of the Unua Libro, founding the Esperanto movement

1937 – End of the Battle of Brunete in the Spanish Civil War.

1945 – The Labour Party wins the United Kingdom general election of July 5 by a landslide, removing Winston Churchill from power.

1951 – Walt Disney's 13th animated film, Alice in Wonderland, premieres in London, United Kingdom.

1953 – Fidel Castro leads an unsuccessful attack on the Moncada Barracks, thus beginning the Cuban Revolution.

1971 – Apollo Program: launch of Apollo 15 on the first Apollo "J-Mission", and first use of a Lunar Roving Vehicle.

2005 – Mumbai, India receives 99.5cm of rain (39.17 inches) within 24 hours, bringing the city to a halt for over 2 days.


* All information regarding the uses of the plants is exactly for that informational purposes only, and that the author and owners of the web do not encourage anyone to be eating, or disturbing wild plants, but merely to admire them in their natural environment and to ponder on their rise and fall within human culture.

 

 

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