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HEATHER.-Included under the term Heather are the six English species of Heath (Erica) and the Ling (Calluna). Although, in the Scriptures, the Prophet Jeremiah exclaims, “And he shall be like the Heath in the desert,” it is probable that the Juniper is really referred to.- In Germany, the Heath is believed to owe its colour to the blood of the slain heathen, for in that country the inhabitants of the uncultivated fields, where the Heath (heide) grew, came in time to be known as heathen, or heiden. -Heather was the badge of “ Conn of a hundred fights.” The Highlanders consider it exceedingly lucky to find white Heather, the badge of the captain of Clanronald.The Picts made beer from Heather.
“For once thy mantling juice was seen to laugh
On Teviot's hills beneath the Pictish sway.”—Leyden. The secret of the manufacture of Heather beer was lost when the Picts were exterminated, as they never divulged it to strangers. Tradition says that after the slaughter by Kenneth, a father and son, the sole survivors, were brought before the conqueror, who offered the father his life, provided that he would divulge the secret of making this liquor, and the son was put to death before the old man's eyes, in order to add emphasis to the request. Disgusted with such barbarity, the old warrior said: “Your threats might, perhaps, have influenced my son, but they have no effect on me. Kenneth then suffered the Pict to live, and he carried his secret with him to the grave. At the present time, the inhabitants of Isla, Jura, and other outlying districts, brew a very potable liquor by mixing two-thirds of the tops of Heath with one of malt.
HELENIUM.-The flower of the Helenium resemble small suns of a beautiful yellow. According to tradition, they sprang up from the tears shed by Helen of Troy. On this point Gerarde writes in his · Herbal':"Some report that this plant tooke the name of Helenium from Helena, wife to Menelaus, who had her hands full of it when Paris stole her away into Phrygia.”
HELIOTROPE.—The nymph Clytie, enamoured of Phæbus (the Sun), was forsaken by him for Leucothea. Maddened with jealousy, the discarded and love-sick Clytie accused Leucothea of unchastity before her father, who entombed his daughter, and thus killed her. Phoebus, enraged with Clytie for causing the death of his beloved Leucothea, heeded not her sighs and spurned her embraces. Abandoned thus by her inconstant lover, the wretched and despairing Clytie wandered half distraught, until at length
“She with distracted passion pines away,
For nine long days all sustenance forbears ;
And, being changed, yet changeth not her love."--Sandys' Ovid. Rapin, in error, alludes to the Sunflower (Helianthus) as owing its origin to Clytie. He says :
“ But see where Clytie, pale with vain desires,
And courts a glance from his enliv’ning eye." The flower into which the hapless Clytie was metamorphosed was not the scented Heliotrope, common to modern gardens, which does not turn with the Sun, and, being of Peruvian origin, was of course unknown to the ancients; neither was it the Helianthus, or Sunflower, for that plant also came to us from the new world, and was therefore equally unknown in the days when Ovid wrote the tragic story of Clytie's love and death. The Herba Clytia is identified in an old German herbal (Hortus Medicus Camerarii) with Heliotropium Tricoccon. Gerarde figures four Heliotropiums, , or “Tornesoles,” one of which he names Heliotropium Tricoccum; and in his remarks on the Heliotrope or Turnsole, he says: “Some think it to be Herba Clytiæ into which the poets feign Clytia to be metamorphosed; whence one writeth these verses:
• Herba velut Clitiæ semper petit obvia solem,
Sic pia mens Christum, quo prece spectat, habet.'” Parkinson calls the same plant the Turnesole Scorpion Tayle. Theophrastus alludes to the same Heliotropium under the name of Herba Solaris. But we do not find that the flowers of this common European species of Heliotrope answer the description given by Ovid—“A flower most like a Violet"-or by Pliny, who says of it: “The Heliotrope turns with the Sun, in cloudy weather even, so great is its sympathy with that luminary: at night, as though in regret, it closes its blue flowers.” The insignificant Heliotropium or Turnsole, with its diminutive whitish blossom, cannot be the flower depicted by Ovid, or the plant with “ blue flowers " referred to by Pliny. Moreover, Gerarde tells us that the European Turnsole he figures " is named Heliotropium, not because it is turned about at the daily motion of the sunne, but by reason it flowereth in the Summer solstice, at which time the sunne being farthest gone from the equinoctial circle, returneth to the same. In Mentzel's • Index Nominum Plantarum Multilinguis' (1682) we find that the old Italian name of the Turnsole was Verrucaria (Wart-wort), and Gerarde, in the index to his · Herbal,' states that Verrucaria is Tithymalus (Spurge), or Heliotropium minus. Referring to his description of the Spurges, we note that he figures twenty-three varieties, the first of which is called Wart-wort; and the second, Sun Spurge, which is thus described :-"The second kinde (called Helioscopius or Solisequius, and in English, according to his Greeke name, Sunne Spurge, or Time Tithymale, of turning or keeping time with the sunne) hath sundry reddish stalkes of a foot high; the leaves are like unto Purslane, not so great nor thicke, but snipt about the edges : the flowers are yellowish, and growing in little platters.” Here, then, we have perhaps a sufficiently near approach to the pale flower of Ovid; but nothing like the blue flower of Pliny: Among the Spurges described by Gerarde, however, is one which he calls the Venetian Sea Spurge, and this plant is stated to have bell-shaped flowers of a dark or blackish purple colour, so that possibly this was the flower indicated by Pliny. -De Gubernatis, in his Mythologie des Plantes, states that the flower into which Clytia was transformed is the Helianthemum roseum of Decandolle. The author of • Flower Lore' says, "The classic Sunflower is an annual of an insignificant appearance, having many fabulous properties assigned to it. The Heliotrope belongs to the natural order Boragina, and is a native of the south-west of Europe.” The late Mr. H. A. Bright, in: A Year in a Lancashire Garden,' tells us that one of our very best living authorities on such a subject sent him “the suggestion that the common Salsafy, or possibly the Anagallis, may be the flower." Turner, in his · Brittish Physician' (1687), calls the yellow-flowered Elecampane, the Sunflower. Other botanists suggest an Aster or Calendula (Marigold): if this last suggestion be correct, the flower called by Parkinson, in his · Paradisus,' the Purple Marigold, and by Gerarde Italian Starwort (Aster Italorum), comes nearest to Pliny's description. This flower is stated by Gerarde to have been called by some the Blue Marigold, whose yellow European brother Shakspeare describes as
“ The Marygold, that goes to bed with the sun,
And with it rises weeping." We may include the blue or purple Marigold among those flowers of which Bacon writes: "For the bowing and inclining the head, it is found in the great Flower of the Sunne, in Marigolds, Wart Wort, Mallow Flowers, and others.”—Albertus Magnus accords to the Heliotrope the following wonderful properties : “Gather in August the Heliotropon, wrap it in a Bay-leaf with a wolf's tooth, and it will, if placed under the pillow, show a man who has been robbed where are his goods, and who has taken them. Also, if placed in a church, it will keep fixed in their places all the women present who have broken their marriage vow. This last is most tried and most true.” According to another version, in order to work this last charm, the Heliotrope-flower must be gathered in August when the sun is in Leo, and be wrapped in a Laurel-leaf before being deposited in the church.
HELLEBORE.-The Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) has also been called Black Hellebore, from the colour of its roots, and Melampodium, in honour of Melampus, a learned physician who flourished at Pylos, in Peloponnesus, 1530 years before the birth of Christ. Melampus travelled into Egypt, then the seat of science, in order to study the healing art, and there he became acquainted with the cathartic qualities of the Hellebore, by noticing the effect it had upon some goats which had fed upon the herb. He afterwards cured with Hellebore the mental derangement of the daughters of Præetus, King of Argos-ancient writers affirm by causing the princesses to bathe in a cold fountain after taking the drug; but according to Pliny, by prescribing the milk of goats which had eaten this vegetable. From this circumstance, Hellebore became celebrated as a medicine, and was speedily regarded with superstitious reverence by the ignorant populace. Thus, Black Hellebore was used to purify houses, and to hallow dwellings, and the ancients entertained the belief that by strewing or perfuming their apartments with this plant, they drove away evil spirits. This ceremony was performed with great devotion, and accompanied with the singing of solemn hymns. In similar manner, they blessed their cattle with Hellebore, to keep them free from the spells of the wicked: for these purposes it was dug up with certain attendant mystic rites; the devotee first drawing a circle round the plant with a sword, and then, turning to the east, offering a prayer to Apollo and Æsculapius, for leave to dig up the root. The flight of the eagle was anxiously watched during the performance of these rites, for if the bird approached the spot, it was considered so ominous as to predict the certain death of the persons who took up the plant, in the course of the year. In digging up the roots of certain species of Hellebore, it was thought necessary to eat Garlic previously, to counteract the poisonous effluvia of the plant. Yet the root was eventually dried and pounded to dust, in which state it was taken in the manner of snuff.
-R. Turner, writing in 1663, says that at that time Hellebore was thought to cure such as seemed to be possessed with the Devil, and therefore was by some called Fuga Dæmonum.-The ancient Gauls are said to have invariably rubbed the points of their arrows with Hellebore, believing that it rendered all the game killed with them more tender.Hellebore in ancient times was considered a certain antidote against madness. In his Anatomy of Melancholy,' Burton introduces the Hellebore among the emblematical figures of his frontispiece, with the following lines :
“Borage and Hellebore fill two scenes,
says of it:
Hellebore formerly grew in great abundance on the Island of Anticyra, in the Gulf of Corinth: hence Naviga ad Anticyram was a common proverb applied to hypochondriacal persons. Pausanias tells us that when the Cirrhæans besieged Athens, Solon recommended that Hellebore should be thrown in the river Plistus: this was done, and the Cirrhæans, from drinking the water, were so powerfully attacked with dysentery, that they were forced to abandon the siege. —The Hellebore has long been considered a plant of evil omen, growing in dark and lonely places. Thus Campbell
“By the witches' tower, Where Hellebore and Hemlock seem to weave Round its dark vaults a melancholy bower
For spirits of the dead at night's enchanted hour.” The plant, with certain accompanying exorcisms, was reputed to be efficacious in cases of deafness caused by witchcraft. In Tuscany, the peasantry divine the harvest from the appearance of the Hellebore-plant. If it has four tufts, it will be good ; if three, mediocre; if two, bad. Astrologers say that Hellebore is a herb of Saturn.
HELMET-FLOWER.-The Scutellaria,or Skull-cap flower, is generally known by the name of the Helmet-flower, the blossoms being shaped similar to those of the Snap-Dragon. It is used in curing the tertian ague.
HEMLOCK.—The common Hemlock (Conium maculatum) is described by Dioscorides as a very evil, dangerous, hurtful, and poisonous herb, “insomuch that whosoever taketh of it into his body dieth remediless, except the party drank some wine before the venom hath taken the heart." It is the Coneion of the ancients: that deadly poison distilled from the juices of the Hemlock, that was drunk by Socrates, Theramenes, and Phocion—the fatal drug given to him whom the Areopagus had condemned to death-the unfailing potion gulped down by ancient philosophers, who were weary of their lives, and dreaded the infirmities of old age. Resolved on their fate, these men crowned themselves with garlands, and with a smile upon their lips tossed off the fatal Concion—dying respected by their countrymen for their fortitude and heroism. - The Hemlock is one of the deadly poisons that kills by its cold quality. Hence Pliny tells us that serpents fly from its leaves, because they also chill to the death : on this account probably it has been called Herba benedicta, or Herb Bennett.—The Eleusinian priests, who were required to remain chaste all their lives, were wont to rub themselves with Hemlock.- - In Russia, the Hemlock under the name of Beh, is looked upon as a Satanic herb; and in Germany, it is regarded as a funereal plant, and as a representative of the vegetation of the infernal regions. In England, it was a favourite plant of the witches, gathered by them for use in their potions and hell-broths : it is still considered a plant of ill-omen, growing