Historically, the pagan day of the dead known as Halloween comes from my own ancestors and the Celtic festival of Samhain, which marked the end of harvest season. In Shakespeare’s “Scottish play,” three witches cast a spell with that famous “double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble”:
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
These wild ingredients were names for medicinal plants and herbs. Knowing that “eye of newt” is a common name for mustard seed, while “toe of frog” is a common name for buttercup, “wool of bat” for holly leaves, and “tongue of dog” for gypsyflower makes filling Shakespeare’s cauldron quite a bit easier.
But today we’re far removed from the days of celebrating herbal plant medicines. Growing food in the modern world has become a leading cause of biodiversity loss.