Vampire’s Garden: Yarrow

white cluster flowers in bloom
Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

Love Lies Bleeding‘s readers know that main character Mara is both a vampire and a botanist. Trained in botany and herbalism, she still has a garden and studies plants. This post is sixth in a series exploring Mara’s plants. Are you interested in botany, gardening, or plant lore? So are some vampires…

Please note: Medicinal uses are given for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before diagnosing or treating yourself or anyone else.

Botanical Name: Achillea millefolium

Common Names: Common yarrow, sanguinary, bloodwort, plumajillo (“little feather”). nosebleed plant, old man’s pepper, devil’s nettle, milfoil, soldier’s woundwort, thousand-leaf, staunchweed, arrowroot, field hops, woundwort. An old name for Yarrow is herba militaris.

History: Native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, yarrow has now spread around the world, growing freely along roadsides and coastal areas and in fields and meadows. It’s been used medicinally since prehistoric times, including by Neanderthals. Ancient Hellenes (Greeks) used it to stop bleeding from wounds (the name Achillea comes from the hero Achilles, who supposedly took yarrow into battle to treat his soldiers). Indigenous tribes throughout North America used the herb medicinally for pain relief, fever reduction, and as a sleep aid, among other things. In the Middle Ages it was used along with other herbs to flavour beer before hops became prevalent (it’s still used in beer-making in Sweden). In the Hebrides it was believed that holding a leaf against the eyes would bestow second sight. In China the dried stalks have been used for centuries in divination.

Victorian Language of Flowers Meaning: Healing, protection

Cultivation: Perennial in Zones 2 to 8. Yarrow is ideal for native plant gardens, drought tolerant gardens, and wildlife gardens. Prefers full sun and well-drained soil, but is tolerant of many conditions. Can grow up to 1 metre (approx. 3 feet). Seeds require light, a moist environment, and cool temperatures to germinate, so sow outdoors, barely covered by soil, after the last frost date; or start indoors 6 to 8 weeks before last frost date and keep moist but not wet (it might be easier simply to buy plants or propagate by division). Spreads via rhizomes and can become invasive. Plant (or thin seedlings to) 30 to 46 cm (12 to 18″) apart. Once plants are established they need little watering and no fertilizing, although they can be prone to powdery mildew (giving plants adequate space around them for good air circulation will help prevent this). Flowers from May to July, and sometimes into autumn. Divide plants every other year in spring. Yarrow is considered an excellent companion plant, repelling pest insects while attracting beneficial insects, like predatory wasps, lacewings, and hoverflies.

Uses:

Medicinal: Astringent, anti-microbial, and anodyne. Drink tea made from the flowers to stop bleeding, for muscle aches and cramps, to reduce fever, for an upset stomach, or to help you sleep. Cooled tea makes an astringent facial wash (good for oily skin and skin infections/irritations). A salve or balm made from yarrow is useful on wounds, bruises, swelling, and various skin problems.

Fresh leaves can be crushed or bruised and applied directly to wounds. For nosebleeds, pick a few leaves, rub between your hands to bruise slightly, roll into a plug, and insert gently into the bleeding nostril. Leave in place until bleeding stops.

Culinary: Yarrow leaves and flowers have a flavour reminiscent of anise or licorice, and are somewhat bitter. Use fresh or dried as a herbal seasoning for food, or mix with other culinary herbs like tarragon and parsley. Can eat the greens fresh (use like sprouts or baby salad greens). Steam or blanch leaves and enjoy like other cooked greens. Don’t cook yarrow for long or at a high heat, as cooking destroys its delicate flavour and brings out the bitterness (especially when boiled). Yarrow is a nice addition to desserts, in sorbet and ice cream, or sprinkled over fresh fruit. Yarrow is also used to make some liquors and bitters.

Environmental: Can be planted to combat soil erosion.

Caution: Yarrow is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. Do not let them consume the plant in any form. In humans, yarrow can cause allergic skin reactions and photosensitivity (avoid sun exposure when using yarrow). Avoid if you’re pregnant or breast feeding.

Wildlife: Many insects feed on yarrow, including nearly 50 species of moths. Several species of cavity-nesting birds use yarrow to line their nests (possibly because it inhibits the growth of parasites).

Mara’s Uses: Mara mentions Yarrow as a potential ingredient for her theoretical blood substitute: “Bloodwort, Sanguinary–that’s Achillea…” (Love Lies Bleeding, p. 156). Yarrow would also be included in the remedies she sells via her apothecary business.

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

Further Reading:

Wikipedia

Growing Yarrow

Language of Flowers

Yarrow: 60,000 Years of Awesome

Everyday Yarrow Uses for Natural Healing

HGTV: Yarrow Uses

Cooking with Yarrow

Yarrow, a delicious and nutritious panacea

Medicinal Yarrow First-Aid Salve (how to make)

 

 

Happy Canada Day!

photo of a person s hand holding a maple leaf
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Happy Canada Day to all Canadians, no matter where they find themselves on 1 July!

Did you know that Canada Day is not our independence day? It’s Canada’s birthday (happy 152nd!) July 1st marks the anniversary of Confederation, or the day the first four provinces officially joined to create the Dominion of Canada.

Long weekends are also the perfect time to catch up on your reading (how else are you going to digest all that BBQ?) Take advantage of Smashword’s sale and get Love Lies Bleeding for half price (and Blood Magic, as always, is free). Support Canadian indie writers and have a good day 🍁

If you want to learn more about Canada, watch this short video by a couple of resident experts:

Cheers,

Aspasía S. Bissas

5 Awesome Fictional Librarians

row of books in shelf
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Librarians are awesome. They’re not only keepers of the world’s knowledge, but they’re also highly trained information scientists and invaluable resources, both in the library and in the community. They can help you find a rare book, an obscure fact, your distant ancestors, or even a job–and if you’d rather just google it, well, they can help you with that too (find out more about what librarians do). They work hard helping people of all ages and backgrounds, while not-very-bright politicians try to save a few bucks in the budget by claiming libraries are obsolete (hint: no, they’re not). Luckily, there are many people who still appreciate libraries and librarians–some have even immortalized them in books and TV shows. Here’s a sample of some of the characters who pay homage to those most unsung of heroes, librarians…

(Fair warning: spoilers ahead)

 

librarians are heroes every day
Design by Gene Ha for the “Librarians Are Heroes Every Day!” poster to promote literacy.

Barbara Gordon AKA Batgirl/Oracle

Among all the related comic books, TV shows, movies, and reboots, one of Batgirl’s incarnations is as head librarian at the Gotham City Public Library. Batman may have a cave, but Batgirl has the whole damn library (bonus: no pesky stalagmites to trip over). After The Killing Joke, where the Joker shoots and paralyzes Barbara (among other things sensitive readers will want to avoid), she goes from librarian-as-secret-identity to full on librarian-as-superhero, adopting a new persona, Oracle, and becoming a crime-fighting information broker. Batgirl might not currently be a librarian (although her past as Oracle is alluded to in the DC Rebirth), but anything can happen, and I hope they’ll bring that part of her story back.

 

rupert
Rupert Giles, Watcher and Sunnydale High librarian

 

Rupert Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Destined to watch over a vampire Slayer, and denied his preferred professions of fighter pilot or grocer, Giles follows youthful dabbling in dark magic with a job as a museum curator (as one does) before eventually becoming a high school librarian in anticipation of The Chosen One’s arrival. Multi-talented, Giles can explain (in several languages) why books are better than computers; research (or summon) demons; oversee multiple Slayers, Potentials, and Scoobies; and help students find copies of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. When an ascending demon threatens the entire town, Giles takes time out of preparing for war and possible annihilation to get the books to safety. As one does.

 

mr ambrose
Mr. Ambrose, Bob’s Burgers

Mr. Ambrose, Bob’s Burgers

If you watch Bob’s Burgers, you’ll know Mr. Ambrose as the librarian (and cheerleading coach) at Wagstaff School. Although he doesn’t appear often, when he does it’s usually to start some drama or offer a revelation, like when he announced he’s a witch (supplying us with much-needed representation both for male witches and witch librarians). He’s also an aspiring scriptwriter working on a prequel to Mrs. Doubtfire. With not much screen time, Mr. Ambrose is still one of the more memorable, and interesting, characters on the show.

 

LIBRARIANS, THE
The Librarians

The Librarians

The Librarians TV series is based on The Librarian, another series of TV movies. The original Librarian, Flynn Carson, also makes appearances on The Librarians, which features four new Librarians and is set in the Metropolitan Public Library (or the Library), a library that exists outside of time and space but is also lost. Got it? Well, all you really need to know is that these Librarians kick ass, solving mysteries and fighting supernatural threats with their giant librarian brains. Finally, superheroes we can all aspire to be.

 

dewey denouement
Dewey Denouement, A Series of Unfortunate Events

Dewey Denouement, A Series of Unfortunate Events

Lemony Snicket’s works are rife with libraries and librarians, but for now we’re focusing on Dewey Denouement, who made an appearance in The Penultimate Peril (Book 12 of A Series of Unfortunate Events), as well as the TV show A Series of Unfortunate Events. Dewey is technically a “sub- sub-librarian,” who also manages the family business, the Hotel Denouement. His secret library is located under the hotel’s pond and he made it his life’s work to catalogue evidence against every villain. The hotel itself is organized along the Dewey Decimal system, and in the show Mr. Denouement insists the entire building is a library. As with many of the sympathetic characters in A Series of Unfortunate Events, our time getting to know Dewey is cut short, but as with all librarians everywhere, he is a force for good.

Who’s your favourite fictional librarian? Let me know in the comments…

-Aspasía S. Bissas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Notre Dame

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, 2016
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas

By now you’ve likely heard about the devastating fire that gutted Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, collapsing the roof and spire and destroying much of the interior (but thankfully not killing anyone). If you haven’t, you can read about it here, here, or here.

Notre Dame Cathedral devastation
Photograph: François Guillot/AFP/Getty Images

Notre Dame is an icon of Paris, and as some locals described it “the heart of France.” It’s also an international icon, a place many people wished to see in their lifetime, and an unparalleled historic monument. What was lost in that fire is far more than just a building. We can take heart in the fact that the bell towers, the rose window, and even the rooster from the top of the spire were saved; that much of the artwork was removed in time; and that Notre Dame will be rebuilt. But it will never be the same.

The first time I saw Notre Dame, I was in a cab heading from Charles de Gaulle airport to my hotel. We approached the Cathedral from the back, alongside the Seine, and as I caught my first glimpse I realized I was looking at Notre Dame. The Notre Dame. The next thing that went through my mind was “I thought I knew Gothic architecture. I had no idea what it was until now.” This wasn’t the neo-Gothic Victoriana I was used to seeing at home in Canada– this was a 900-year-old Gothic masterpiece. You know what else? Flying buttresses are awesome.

When I’d booked it, I didn’t realize my hotel was so close to Notre Dame–just around the corner. I ended up spending time in and around the Cathedral every day while I was there. When I left, I expected I would see it again one day (hopefully when the cherry trees were blooming this time). I’m not sure what will be waiting for me the next time I go, but in honour of what has been lost, I thought I’d share some of the pictures I took on the trip when I got to know Notre Dame.

Notre Dame Cathedral, front
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Copper statues in front of the base of Notre Dame’s spire. The statues were removed before the fire as part of the restoration that was taking place. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Notre Dame gargoyle
Gargoyle, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Notre Dame gargoyles
Gargoyles at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Side entrace, Notre Dame, Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris (side facing the Seine). Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Inside Notre Dame
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
My photos don’t do the windows justice. Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
Stained glass detail, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.

 

Inside Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass rose window, Notre Dame, Paris
Rose window, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass and woodwork, Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Inside Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. The fire extinguisher at the bottom right of the photo takes on new significance now. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Inside Notre Dame, Paris
Interior, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Painted column, Notre Dame, Paris
Beautiful painted column inside Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
Vivid colours, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass, Notre Dame, Paris
Stained glass, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.
Stained glass window, Notre Dame, Paris
Stained glass, Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.

 

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral taken from my hotel roof. Photo by Aspasía S. Bissas.

 

Did you get a chance to see Notre Dame? Do you have any special memories of it? Please share in the comments.