April 25, 2024

Magical Botany V

         Welcome to the April A to Z Blog Challenge!  My theme this year is the Botany of the Realms of Imagination, in which I share a selection of the magical plants of folklore, fairy tale, and fantasy.  You can find out about the A to Z Challenge here.
        One of my very favorite plants in all of fantasy is the vegetable lamb, but since I’ve mentioned it several times in this blog already, I’ll just direct you to go reread the prior posts on The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary and The Vegetable Lambs are Back.  (Today’s illustration is a little one from my book On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination, but you can see my whole big detailed block print in that second post.)
        Moving into new territory, V is also for vampire pumpkins and melons.  These can be found in the Balkans, and are transformed from ordinary produce that’s been kept for more than ten days, and exposed to a full moon.  When this happens, the pumpkins begin to shake themselves and growl.  Sometimes you can see a spot of blood appearing on the rind of a vampire pumpkin.  When pumpkins go to the dark side, you must boil them, and throw away not only the gourd and the water, but the brush used to scrub it.  If you fail to do this, the vampire pumpkins will go around stables and houses
and suck the blood of humans and livestock.  Luckily, however, they can’t do as much damage as regular humanoid vampires.  (Presumably it’s the lack of teeth?)
        There are vampire pumpkins on Discworld as well as Earth, but Discworld is the only place to find vul nut vines.  This is a species of re-annual plant, which grows before being planted.  Vul nut vines can flourish as many as eight years prior to their seeds actually being sown, and vul nut wine is supposed to give drinkers insight into the future, which is - from the nut’s point of view - the past.
        Finally, here’s another indecipherable herbal collection in which we’ll never know the names of the individual plants - but we’re filing them all under V for Voynich Manuscript.  This is another for which you can find out all about it by going back to a prior post: Mystery Manuscript.  The illustrations in this codex are fairly crude, but they’re detailed
enough to make it clear that these are no ordinary everyday plants.  No doubt their fantastical properties and magical uses are thoroughly described in the arcane text that no one will ever be able to read.
        The moral of the plants at V is eat or be eaten.  Also, better to write all your arcane secrets in an indecipherable text and be thought a fool than to write in a commonly known language and remove all doubt.
        Gardening tip for farmers of vul nut vines and other re-annual plants: keep good records and set clear reminders on next year’s calendar; if you forget to plant your crops after you’ve already harvested them, you might rip the entire fabric of causality.  What’s your best tip for reminders?  Strings tied around fingers?  Electronic beepings?  Pocket diaries?  Tattoos?  Scraps of paper pinned to your shirt?

[Pictures: Vegetable Lamb, illustration from On the Virtues of Beasts of the Realms of Imagination by AEGNydam, 2019 (find out about the book at Nydamprints.com);

Vampire Pumpkins (actually The great round Pompion with tweaks), wood block print from The Herball by John Gerarde, 1597 (Image from Missouri Botanical Garden);

Vul Nut Vine (actually bryony with tweaks), hand-colored wood block print from Ortis Sanitatis, 1485 (Image from University of Cambridge);

Voynich Manuscript herbal pages, anonymous illustrations, early 15th century (Images from Yale University).]


Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

I followed your links and looked at the mystery manuscript. This sure is really cool. It is interesting that nobody has ever been able to crack the code. Using vellum, ink AND the time needed to write and draw these pages just for a hoax boggles my mind. But looking at the text it looke repetitive, like some kind of Lorem ipsum.
Now I would really like to be able to do magic, and use my Language spell on this tome!

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Charlotte, it would be fun to cast a language or decipherment spell on it! But for now it remains a mystery -- and that's kind of cool, too!