This Week’s Topic…

Best viewed in
Internet Explorer


Back to

Updated 10/23/2017


It's Witchcraft

"Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
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."

They're famous words from Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' but the list of grizzly ingredients is said to be a real witches brew, but does that really mean that ingredients such as eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog were actually used in witchcraft?

The witches certainly were angry at the inclusion of the list of ingredients in the Scottish play, in fact they were so enraged that they placed a curse on the play, but not just the play, they also cursed the Bard himself and anyone who ever utters the word "Macbeth."  Even to this day there are actors, producers, directors and stage hands who won't dare use the word in a theatre and certainly not on stage. So it seems like the witches wanted to hide something.

Witches were proud of their connection with nature, they were herbalists and many of their potions were in fact natural remedies which used herbs and botanicals, so was it really likely that they would take a dead newt and cut out its eyes to drop into their bubbling concoction?  Well, no. Ingredients like eye of newt were a real thing, but not literally. Witches used different names for ingredients, basically codenames designed to keep magic within the magic circle. These disturbing names stopped muggles from replicating their brews.  Calling the ingredients things like bat's wings and cat's foot, rather than holly and ivy, would certainly deter the no-maj community from drinking any of these disgusting sounding recipes.

So when the three witches in Macbeth add eye of newt to their cauldron, they're actually just using nothing more than mustard seeds, something you can pick up in Walmart.  The rest of the ingredients mentioned in the play are pretty innocuous too. Toe of frog is just a buttercup, wool of bat is holly leaves, and tongue of dog is hounds tongue which is an herbaceous plant of the Boraginaceae family.  That just leaves adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, well it seems there's always an exception to the rule, as these represent an adder's tongue and a blindworm is actually a slow worm.

If you're thinking of taking up magic and the art of brewing any time soon, then here are a few more ingredients and their translations as used by witches...

Absinthe - wormwood

African ginger - ginger

Aftator pear - avocado

American dittany - basil

Aneton - dill

Bairnwort - daisy

Bee balm - lemon balm

Bird's foot - feunugreek

Blind buff - poppy

Blue eyes - potatoes

Blood of Hestia - chamomile

Calf's snout - snapdragon

Chinese parsley - coriander

Chocolate flower - geranium

Devil's dung - asafoetida

Eagle - wild garlic

Elf leaf - lavender

Fairy fingers - foxglove

Gallows grass - hemp

Gin plant - juniper

Giver of life - corn

Goat's leaf - honeysuckle

Golden bough - mistletoe

Honey stalks - clove

Kronos' blood - cedar sap

Lamb mint - spearmint

Rabbits - toadflax

Ring-o-bells - bluebells

Scaldhead - blackberry

Semen of Hermes - dill

Titan's blood - wild lettuce

White wood - cinnamon

So what does eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog make?  Blind newts, lame frogs, cold bats, and a cocker spaniel who makes a god-awful sucking sound when he’s trying to drink from his dish.