I was thinking over the weekend about witchcraft and herbalism. I do suspect a lot of shamanism and witchcraft (as in cunning folk) has nature cures and herbalism at its roots. Plants that have hallucinogenic properties no doubt played a large role in what is thought of as magic.
Beyond that, it was Hippocrates, generally credited as the father of medicine, who advised: "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." Who can say how much bad health could be avoided, and how much health could be restored, by simply eating well?
Hippocrates is generally acknowledged as the first physician to earnestly seek to separate superstition from the art of healing - not an easy task considering how superstitious humans tend to be. But he didn't seem to think the gods had anything to do with human illnesses.
Of course there is a healthy dose of superstition involved in being a medicine men, witch, and various healers. I tend to think of such things in a metaphorical or symbolic way.
But we do know plants can do a lot more than provide nutritious food and treat various health problems. The humble bay leaf is one of many plants that can repel certain insects, for example. Other fruits and plants are good beauty treatments and make helpful toiletries. If this be magic, it is natural magic.
Now I've thought about all this over time. And it was on my mind Saturday night when I fell asleep, producing a wonderful dream. In this particular episode of my Theater of the Mind I was a farmer. I had cultivated a garden with loving care, enriching the soil and providing plenty of water in order to produce fruits and vegetables that had magical properties, that literally did not have to be picked because they emerged from the ground fully formed and ready to be eaten and used in the restoration and maintenance of health.
Once I did grow my own delicious tomatoes. And I later added okra. Of course, I used to grow my own mint and other food herbs. Somewhere along the way I got too busy to do this. Deep down, obviously, I miss it. As anyone who has done it can testify, there is nothing like the pleasure of eating your own produce. There is something hard to describe about working with Mother Earth to produce something wonderful. It has to be experienced.
In case you're wondering, I did always talk to my plants and produce. Is that being superstitious? Maybe. I have recently started praying again. I'm verbalizing my thoughts, my feelings, my deepest desires, my fondest wishes. And I've quit wondering or worrying about how logical all that is. It makes me feel connected to the cosmos.
Maybe one day, when I am retired, I will have the time to return to the soil the way I used to; no, the way I always wanted to but never had the time.