RDP Thursday: CRUSE
In noodling around for the definition of Cruse at Dictionary . Com I learned that a cruse is a a cauldron and from there Dictionary took me to what went into the Three Witches cauldron in Macbeth and what those ingredients may have been based on in real life.
It was like magic how this stuff came up.
When I saw cauldron I thought of Macbeth and I went there like a shot because for the most part I always go sideways on these prompts.
So I hope you enjoy this little trip into Macbeth’s dark garden – at the end of this post is a mindbending scene from Macbeth featuring Patrick Stewart as Macbeth and the scariest version of the Three Witches EVER.
Round about the cauldron go:
In the poison’d entrails throw.(5)
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
Double, double, toil and trouble;(10)
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,(15)
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
Double, double, toil and trouble;(20)
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witch’s mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,(25)
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe(30)
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab.
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.
Double, double, toil and trouble;(35)
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Some of these ingredients, such as “eye of newt” and “toe of frog,” have become staples of witches everywhere. But what are those ingredients really referring to?
Ingredients and their meanings- from dictionary.com
eye of newt
Let’s start with one of the most popular (and memorable) items on the list. Surprisingly, most people agree that “eye of newt” refers to a mustard seed. Herbalists would often reference body parts when describing parts of plants. An “eye” is a seed, and mustard seeds are dark yellow, like the eyes of some newts.
fillet of a fenny snake
However, “fillet of a fenny snake” is the first item on the list—and source of much debate. It’s possible that this ingredient could be referring to a member of the Arum family, which includes plants with nicknames like jack-in-the-pulpit and Snake’s Meat, which would fit with the idea of a fillet. Some other speculated identities of this ingredient include a leech (fenny means “marshy” or “swampy,” and leeches are snakelike swamp-dwellers) or snakeroot, based on the name.
toe of frog
Most agree this warty foot refers to the bulbous buttercup. This yellow flower resembles most other buttercups but it has a fat, green, bulbous stem. The froggy connection doesn’t seem like too big of a leap (or a hop).
wool of bat
The two most commonly speculated identities of this ingredient are moss and holly leaves. Moss is a general name for clumpy plants that grow on and cover trees and rocks (like wool). Mosses, like bats, also tend to be found in dark, sunless areas. Holly trees and shrubs can be found all over the world and have wing-like leaves on which red berries grow. Holly leaves and berries are often seen during Christmastime.
tongue of dog
This ingredient refers to hounds tongue, a highly toxic plant that features long, hairy stalks that can grow up to four feet tall. Clumps of purplish flowers can be found at the ends of the stems.
This snaky ingredient refers to the dogtooth violet, which isn’t technically a violet. Erythronium americanum, commonly called the trout lily, is a small plant with delicate purple or yellow flowers that is beloved by honeybees and other pollinators.
This ingredient is a source of speculation. It may be a poppy seed, knotwood, or wormwood. Poppies are sometimes referred to as “blind eyes,” and all poppies are poisonous, which would explain the “sting.” Knotwoods are bamboo-like weeds with small flowers that often invade other plants’ territory. Wormwood is a plant with white or green stems and bulbous yellow flowers. Besides having a name that fits, wormwood has been used in traditional medicines for a long time. There’s also another distinct possibility: a blindworm is a legless lizard with tiny eyes.
This ingredient is thought to refer to ivy. Ivy is a general name for plants that grow up walls or trees as long green vines, often with many leaves, flowers, and berries.
The identity of this ingredient is less clear. It’s possible that it could refer to either garlic or ginger plants. Garlic is an herb related to onions that features a long stalk growing out of a white bulb located underground. Ginger is a plant with a long reedy stem and a banded, tasty root underground. Both of these smelly plants are often used in cooking.
scale of dragon
This draconic ingredient could refer to Alacosia Baginda, commonly known as the dragon scale plant. True to its name, the leaves of this plant resemble large green dragon scales. Another possible plant that fits the bill is tarragon, a leafy green herb found worldwide that is often referred to as “dragon” or is known by many dragon-themed nicknames.
tooth of wolf
This ingredient is speculated to be either wolfsbane or club moss. Wolfsbane, actually named Aconitum napellus, is a plant native to Europe that has distinct purple flowers. Its nickname comes from the fact that it is highly poisonous, and it was often used to kill feared predators, such as wolves. Club moss, also called wolf’s foot or wolf’s claw, are herbs that have many spiny leaves.
This ingredient is often assumed to be literally what it says: the parts or entire body of a mummy belonging to the witches. People used to ingest mummy powders (yes, human remains) as a medicine during the 1600s, when Macbeth was written. Spooky!
maw and gulf of the ravin’d salt-sea shark
As far as we know, there is no plant that seems to match this ingredient. It’s possible that Shakespeare made up this plant nickname or it could be referring literally to the body parts of a shark. While not all sharks are predators, many of them are known for their teeth and fierce bite. It would make sense for this spooky mixture to include the terrifying teeth and throat of a shark—especially one that is “ravin’d” or ravenous.
root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark
Hemlock is an infamously poisonous plant that has clumps of white flowers growing on spotted stems. Famously, hemlock is supposedly the plant that killed the philosopher Socrates. This concoction just keeps getting worse and worse.
liver of blaspheming Jew, nose of Turk, Tartar’s lips
Suddenly, things take a strange(r) turn. As far as we know, these three ingredients don’t refer to any plants or animals. As taken literally, these three ingredients are body parts of people who (for the most part) were not Christians. Jews practice Judaism. The “Turks,” here referring to the people of the Ottoman Empire, were followers of Islam. The term Tartars was used to refer to the peoples of the Eurasian steppe, who mostly followed Islam although some practiced Orthodox Christianity.
During Shakespeare’s time, religious tension was the norm even among Christians. Shakespeare himself was publicly a follower of the Church of England, but he came from a Roman Catholic family. During Shakespeare’s time, there was constant mistrust and violence even between different Christian denominations. Needless to say, Elizabethan England would not have been at all tolerant of non-Christians. It’s possible Shakespeare is mentioning non-Christian people (who would have been seen by his Christian audiences as heathens and heretics) because they would be alien, mysterious, or scary to the people of England.