II: Betony

There truly is one herb to rule them all.

duodi, the 12th of Prairial, Year CCXXXI
A bumblebee drinking deeply from betony. Photo by Karen Cann / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is duodi, the 12th of Prairial, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate la bétoine, a form of mint sometimes known as woundwort for its catch-all healing powers.

Most English translations of the calendar list today as woundwort, and that's not wrong. But this species – Stachys – is not the most common plant that's obtained the name. (In fact, regular old daisies have been called woundwort from time to time.) Prunella looks similar with a long stalk of flowers and also goes by names like "heals-everything" and "common self-heal," but the primary woundwort is probably Anthyllis, also known as kidney vetch. Since the French specified a species, I figured we should, too.

Betony is a venerable herb for casting and, even more importantly, countering spells. Such was its renown for dispelling evil thoughts and spirits that its very name originates with a word meaning "good for the head." In a sense, when you strip all the mystical language away from the arcane sources, betony was the primary mental health pharmaceutical, a sort of mystical Prozac.