#86 Eye of Newt & Toe of Frog
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So, what’s for dinner?
Eye of newt, & toe of frog,
Wool of bat, & tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, & blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, & owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil & bubble.
Double, double toil & trouble;
Fire burn, & caldron bubble.
― William Shakespeare, Macbeth
This line, uttered by the three ugly witches in Macbeth as they stir their boiling cauldron*, is one of the most familiar phrases associated with traditional witchcraft.
About that newt—is there such a thing? Were there poor little critters hopping about without eyes?
Actually, all of the ingredients in the witches brew are ancient terms for herbs, flowers and plants. Some say witches gave these items gross & disturbing names to deter other people from practicing witchcraft.
Here’s the modern-day grocery list of what’s really in Shakespeare’s cauldron. You might have to seek out a real specialty shop for some of these items, but they do exist:
- Eye of newt—mustard seed
- Toe of frog—buttercup
- Wool of bat—holly leaves
- Tongue of dog—houndstongue
- Adders fork—adders tongue
- Blind-worm—an actual tiny snake thought to be venomous
- Tail of ampersand—a curly little friend of ours (You don’t mind, do you, Bill?)
When practicing black magic, mustard seeds (particularly the black seeds) cast a spell of strife, confusion, discord & disruption. Interestingly enough, though, other types of mustard seeds are thought to provide protection against witches. Legend goes that witches are predisposed to counting & picking up things, so if you scatter mustard seeds around your front door, bed & property, the witch will never have time to get to you as she will be busy counting mustard seeds.
It turns out “eye of newt” is simply the seeds for a popular hot dog mustard. However, the classic scene from Macbeth just wouldn’t be the same if his characters spoke of boiling mustard seeds, buttercups & holly leaves. Adapted from http://people.howstuffworks.com/is-eye-of-newt-real-thing.htm
*Speaking of spell, note the spelling of “caldron” in the work of Shakespeare, in contrast to the American English “cauldron.” Sans-“u” is also common among British. Earlier, however, there was no “l” either: in Middle English literature c. 1250-1300 you’ll read “cauderon.” Basically, it means “warm” from the Late Latin “caldāria.”
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If you missed AmperArt #88, Brats & Beer, drink up here.
Here’s a fun list of “18 Essential Words for Octoberfest“
from the Oxford Dictionaries website.
Check out the new “chaz sez” blog at DesimoneDesign.com, my commercial graphic design website. It’s mostly about design, typography, printing, publishing & marketing, but on occasion I’ll divert to a sideways topic that just can’t escape my ranting & raving.
Production notes for #86 Eye of Newt & Toe of Frog:
Original size: 20×30 inches
Program: Adobe Photoshop
Fonts: Wilhelm Klingspor Gotisch, Park Avenue, Arnold Böcklin
Ampersand: Arnold Böcklin
Images: dreamstime.com (manipulated)
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