Herbs and plants once played a key role in the traditional medicine of Brittany, being employed in a wide variety of remedies to treat all manner of diseases in humans and animals. Most proprietary recipes were tightly guarded, being handed down within the family from generation to generation. However, knowledge captured from the popular memory in the early 20th century and uncovered in the old pages of witch’s spell books and folklore, allow us to construct a Breton herbal pharmacopoeia.
A fascinating insight into the popular mentalities of 19th century Brittany as seen through the critical eyes of a remarkable man; sometime beggar, soldier, farmer, bar keeper, tobacconist and paranoid vagrant. This autobiography is an absorbing account of a “long lifetime of poverty, slavery and persecution” and one that I would recommend.
The history and folklore of Brittany contain many intriguing references to once flourishing cities that disappeared from the face of the earth, having left little or no trace of their ruins upon the land.
People are increasingly turning to natural remedies for their therapeutic virtues. In many cases, we are merely rediscovering what our ancestors had long known and sworn by as effective. Herb and plant extracts have long been traditionally used for medicinal purposes but, in times gone by, other natural products were routinely used.
Born into grinding poverty, Marie Tromel is remembered by history under the name of Marion du Faouët; a Breton Robin Hood who robbed the rich to aid the poor. A colourful character, she raised a family and commanded a notorious band of brigands for more than fifteen years. Arrested four times, having escaped from prison she was hanged in effigy before finally being publicly executed.
Home to about 70 per cent of the island bodies of metropolitan France, the 800 islands and islets that surround the coast of Brittany offer something for everyone.
In Brittany, Candlemas is celebrated on the second day of February. Announcing the end of winter, the festival was, for centuries, closely associated with traditions related to purification, fertility, prosperity and light and is popularly known here as le jour des crêpes or Pancake Day.
A handwritten book of spells set down in Brittany during the 18th century contains a varied collection of spells and enchantments to be used in order to gain good fortune, riches or love. These spells provide a fascinating insight into the popular mentality of the rural population of Brittany before the Revolution.
The Knights Templar were known, here in Brittany, as the Red Monks. Their evil deeds and cruel reputation survived in the popular imagination long after their medieval heyday; cruel ghosts, condemned to forever wander the lonely places to atone for their terrible crimes.
Sacred plant of the ancient druids, mistletoe has, for centuries, been highly prized for its supposed medicinal virtues. Here in Brittany, this pretty parasitic evergreen has traditionally been associated with love, luck and the promise of the New Year.