In Brittany, the arrival of midsummer was traditionally celebrated by the lighting of massive communal bonfires and their attendant rituals; ancient practices that, despite the best efforts of the Church to suppress them, continued here well into living memory.
In the rural Brittany of yesteryear, where doctors were very rare, the populace were happy to utilise the healing power of plants and other natural remedies. Sometimes, the intervention of the local healer or witch was sought but often people were content to apply the ancient wisdom that had been transmitted within the family from generation to generation
The health and well-being of valuable livestock exercised the people of yesterday’s Brittany every bit as much as human health. Some of the popular remedies and traditional treatments for animal diseases used in Brittany during the 18th and 19th centuries have survived to us today even if their practice has long since died away.
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.
Scattered throughout the folklore of Brittany are references to secret, magical plants possessing extraordinary properties. Grasses that allow you to understand the languages of beasts or to find hidden treasures; grasses that cut iron and those that take you to oblivion!