The Appendix

The Appendix found in this blog’s menu lists two groups of plants: one includes plants used as food, and the other includes plants used in ceremonies. Let’s face it, shamanic hunter gatherers are or were the definitive plant experts. They knew where specific plants could be found and in what season to harvest them, they knew what plants remedied which ailments, and how to prepare them as medicine. But the things lacking in our western traditions are the very things tribal people excel at, spirit handling and ritual magic. Medicine in their world is not limited to biology, and even when biology is impaired treatments most often took place in ritual settings, and still do. Tragically, the tribes included are only a handful of what had been thousands before the European invasion. Of the survivors only a few have memories of their ancestors’ pharmacology and diet. So what was once thousands of tribes handling tens of thousands of plants, the list is severely reduced to a few tribes and only several hundred plants.

In my years and years of study what I have found most intriguing is the Native willingness to examine new resources. Europeans introduced numerous foods to the American continents such as carrots, lettuce, kale, spinach, parsnip, turnip, pea, apricot, nectarine, peach, apple, cherry, lemon, orange, and quince. Europeans brought grains such as wheat, rye, oat, and millet. Introduced herbs include parsley, mint, thyme, marjoram, rosemary, dill, dandelion, plantain, and nettle to name a few. Europeans brought produce from every corner of the world: rice, bananas, and tea from Asia, coffee and yams from Africa, sugar from New Guinea, peanuts and cocoa from South America. It didn’t take long before Indigenous Americans found uses for some of these plants and incorporated them into their medicine and diets. I found several European introductions in the limited Iroquois list of ceremonial and witchcraft plants included in the Appendix. Both the Iroquois and the Cherokee pharmacologies are impressive so of course only a few ritual plants have been cataloged in the Appendix by comparison. As a means of understanding the pharmacology of the extinct Florida tribes I have drawn on the Seminole pharmacology for insight. It is huge as well and the entries are limited to ritual and witchcraft uses.

I am going to end this brief summary with a wonderful quote from Daniel Moerman, the ethnobotanist that compiled Native American Ethnobotany. It is the single most valuable book in my world and has provided all the plant information included in the Appendix that follows.

“But our deepest debt is to those predecessors of ours on the North American continent who, through glacial cold in a world populated by mammoths and saber-toothed tigers, seriously, deliberately, and thoughtfully studied the flora of a new world, learned its secrets, and encouraged the next generations to study closer and to learn more. Their diligence and energy, their insight and creativity, these are the marks of true scientists, dedicated to gaining meaningful and useful knowledge from a complex and confusing world. That I cannot list them individually by name in no way diminishes my sense of obligation to them.”

Thank you, Daniel Moerman, for your extraordinary work.

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Responses to “The Appendix”

  1. This is a lovely summary, Verda.
    Looking forward to reading about these plants.
    thank you