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---History---The down on the leaves and stem makes excellent tinder when quite dry, readily igniting on the slightest spark, and was, before the introduction of cotton, used for lamp wicks, hence another of the old names: 'Candlewick Plant.' An old superstition existed that witches in their incantations used lamps and candles provided with wicks of this sort, and another of the plant's many names, 'Hag's Taper', refers to this, though the word 'hag' is said to be derived from the Anglo-Saxon word Haege or Hage (a hedge) - the name 'Hedge Taper' also exists - and may imply that the sturdy spikes of this tall hedge plant, studded with pale yellow blossoms, suggested a tall candle growing in the hedge, another of its countryside names being, indeed, 'Our Lady's Candle.' Lyte (The Niewe Herball, 1578) tells us 'that the whole toppe, with its pleasant yellow floures sheweth like to a wax candle or taper cunningly wrought.'
'Torches' is another name for the plant, and Parkinson tells us:
'Verbascum is called of the Latines Candela regia, and Candelaria, because the elder age used the stalks dipped in suet to burne, whether at funeralls or otherwise.'
And Gerard (1597) also remarks that it is 'a plant whereof is made a manner of lynke (link) if it be talowed.' Dr. Prior, in The Popular Names of British Plants, states that the word Mullein was Moleyn in AngloSaxon, and Malen in Old French, derived from the Latin malandrium, i.e. the malanders or leprosy, and says:
'The term "malandre" became also applied to diseases of cattle, to lung diseases among the rest, and the plant being used as a remedy, acquired its name of "Mullein" and "Bullock's Lungwort." '
Coles, in 1657, in Adam in Eden, says that:
'Husbandmen of Kent do give it their cattle against the cough of the lungs, and I, therefore, mention it because cattle are also in some sort to be provided for in their diseases.'
The name 'Clown's Lung Wort refers to its use as a homely remedy. 'Ag-Leaf' and 'Ag-Paper' are other names for it. 'Wild Ice Leaf' perhaps refers to the white look of the leaves. Few English plants have so many local names.
The Latin name Verbascum is considered to be a corruption of barbascum, from the Latin barba (a beard), in allusion to the shaggy foliage, and was bestowed on the genus by Linnaeus.
Both in Europe and Asia the power of driving away evil spirits was ascribed to the Mullein. In India it has the reputation among the natives that the St. John's Wort once had here, being considered a sure safeguard against evil spirits and magic, and from the ancient classics we learn that it was this plant which Ulysses took to protect himself against the wiles of Circe.
The Cowslip and the Primrose are classed together by our old herbalists as Petty Mulleins, and are usually credited with much the same properties. Gerard recommends both the flowers and leaves of the primrose, boiled in wine, as a remedy for all diseases of the lungs and the juice of the root itself, snuffed up the nose, for megrim.
All the various species of Mullein found in Britain possess similar medicinal properties, but V. thapsus, the species of most common occurrence, is the one most employed.
For medicinal purposes it is generally collected from wild specimens, but is worthy of cultivation, not merely from its beauty as an ornamental plant, but also for its medicinal value, which is undoubted. In most parts of Ireland, besides growing wild, it is carefully cultivated in gardens, because of a steady demand for the plant by sufferers from pulmonary consumption.
Its cultivation is easy: being a hardy biennial, it only requires sowing in very ordinary soil and to be kept free from weeds. When growing in gardens, Mulleins will often be found to be infested with slugs, which can be caught wholesale by placing in borders slates and boards smeared with margarine on the underside. Examine in the morning and deposit the catch in a pail of lime and water.
Facts and Folklore:
'Verbascum' was likely derived from 'barbascum', which is Latin meaning bearded plant.
'Mullein' is from the Latin 'mollis' meaning soft.
Leaves of common mullein have been used as lamp wicks and Romans used plants dipped in fat as torches.
Leaves of common mullein were placed inside shoes for warmth.
Quaker women, forbidden to use makeup, rubbed the leaves on their cheeks to give the appearance of wearing rouge. The hairs on the leaf caused an allergic reaction to the skin, thus turning the skin red.
Common mullein leaves and flowers have been used medicinally to treat various ailments such as lung diseases, diarrhea, colic, migraines, earaches, coughs and colds.
Aristotle noted that fish were easier to catch after eating common mullein seeds, which contain a mild narcotic.
A yellow dye made from common mullein flowers was used by Roman women to color hair.
about Aaron's rod
A rod which, in the hands of Aaron, the high priest, was endowed with miraculous power during the several plagues that preceded the Exodus. In this function the rod of Moses was equally potent. Upon two occasions, however, the singular virtue of spontaneous power, when not in the grasp of its possessor, was exhibited by Aaron's Rod. At one time it swallowed the rods of the Egyptian magicians, and at another it blossomed and bore fruit in the Tabernacle, as an evidence of the exclusive right to the priesthood of the tribe of Levi. In commemoration of this decision it was commanded that the rod be put again "before the testimony" (Numbers 17:10). A later tradition asserts (Hebrews 9:4) that the rod was kept in the Ark of the Covenant. The main fact, however, is thus confirmed, that a rod was preserved in the Tabernacle as a relic of the institution of the Aaronic priesthood.
In Rabbinical literature
The Bible ascribes similar miraculous powers to the Rod of Aaron and to the staff of Moses (compare, for example, Exodus 4:2 et seq. and 7:9). The Haggadah goes a step further, and entirely identifies the Rod of Aaron with that of Moses. Thus the Midrash Yelamdenu states that:
"the staff with which Jacob crossed the Jordan is identical with that which Judah gave to his daughter-in-law, Tamar (Genesis 32:10, 38:18). It is likewise the holy rod with which Moses worked (Exodus 4:20, 21), with which Aaron performed wonders before Pharaoh (Exodus 7:10), and with which, finally, David slew the giant Goliath (I Samuel 17:40). David left it to his descendants, and the Davidic kings used it as a scepter until the destruction of the Temple, when it miraculously disappeared. When the Messiah comes it will be given to him for a scepter in token of his authority over the heathen."
That so wonderful a rod should bear external signs of its importance is easily to be understood. It was made of sapphire, weighed forty seahs (a seah = 10.70 pounds), and bore this inscription דצכ עדש באחמ, which is composed of the initials of the Hebrew names of the Ten Plagues (Tan., Waëra 8, ed. Buber).
From the Sarajevo Haggadah.Legend has still more to say concerning this rod. God created it in the twilight of the sixth day of Creation (Ab. v. 9, and Mek., Beshallaḥ, ed. Weiss, iv. 60), and delivered it to Adam when the latter was driven from paradise. After it had passed through the hands of Shem, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob successively, it came into the possession of Joseph. On Joseph's death the Egyptian nobles stole some of his belongings, and, among them, Jethro appropriated the staff. Jethro planted the staff in his garden, when its marvelous virtue was revealed by the fact that nobody could withdraw it from the ground; even to touch it was fraught with danger to life. This was because the Ineffable Name of God was engraved upon it. When Moses entered Jethro's household he read the Name, and by means of it was able to draw up the rod, for which service Zipporah, Jethro's daughter, was given to him in marriage. Her father had sworn that she should become the wife of the man who should be able to master the miraculous rod and of no other (Pirḳe R. El. 40; Sefer ha-Yashar; Yalḳ. Ex. 168, end). It must, however, be remarked that the Mishnah (Ab. v. 9) as yet knew nothing of the miraculous creation of Aaron's Rod, which is first mentioned by the Mekilta (l.c.) and Sifre on Deut. (Ber. xxxiii. 21; ed. Friedmann, p. 355). This supposed fact of the supernatural origin of the rod explains the statement in the New Testament (Hebrews 9:4) and Tosef., Yoma, iii. 7 (it is to be interpreted thus according to B. B. 14a), that Aaron's Rod, together with its blossoms and fruit, was preserved in the Ark. King Josiah, who foresaw the impending national catastrophe, concealed the Ark and its contents (Tosef., Soṭah, 13a); and their whereabouts will remain unknown until, in the Messianic age, the prophet Elijah shall reveal them (Mek. l.c.).
A later Midrash (Num. R. xviii. end) confuses the legends of the rod that blossomed with those of the rod that worked miracles, thus giving us contradictory statements. There exists a legend that Moses split a tree trunk into twelve portions, and gave one portion to each tribe. When the Rod of Aaron produced blossoms, the Israelites could not but acknowledge the significance of the token. The account of the blossoming of Aaron's Rod contained in Clement's first letter to the Corinthians (ep. 43) is quite in haggadic-midrashic style, and must probably be ascribed to Jewish or, more strictly speaking, Jewish-Hellenistic sources. According to that account, Moses placed upon each of the twelve staffs the corresponding seal of the head of a tribe. The doors of the sanctuary were similarly sealed, to prevent any one from having access to the rods at night. This legend of the rod as given by the Syrian Solomon in his "Book of the Bee" ("Anecdota Oxoniensia, Semitic Series," vol. i. part ii.) has Christian characteristics. According to it the staff is a fragment of the Tree of Knowledge, and was successively in the possession of Shem, of the three Patriarchs, and of Judah, just as in the Jewish legend. From Judah it descended to Pharez, ancestor of David and of the Messiah. After Pharez's death an angel carried it to the mountains of Moab and buried it there, where the pious Jethro found it. When Moses, at Jethro's request, went in search of it, the rod was brought to him by an angel. With this staff Aaron and Moses performed all the miracles related in Scripture, noteworthy among which was the swallowing up of the wonder-working rods of the Egyptian Posdi. Joshua received it from Moses and made use of it in his wars (Josh. viii. 18); and Joshua, in turn, delivered it to Phinehas, who buried it in Jerusalem. There it remained hidden until the birth of Jesus, when the place of its concealment was revealed to Joseph, who took it with him on the journey to Egypt. Judas Iscariot stole it from James, brother of Jesus, who had received it from Joseph. At Jesus' crucifixion the Jews had no wood for the transverse beam of the cross, so Judas produced the staff for that purpose ("Book of the Bee," Syr. ed., pp. 50-53; Eng. ed., pp. 50-52). This typological explanation of Moses' rod as the cross is not a novel one. Origen on Exodus (chap. vii.) says: "This rod of Moses, with which he subdued the Egyptians, is the symbol of the cross of Jesus, who conquered the world." Christian legend has preserved the Jewish accounts of the rod of the Messiah and made concrete fact of the idea. Other Western legends concerning the connection of the cross and the rod may be found in Seymour, "The Cross," 1898, p. 83