Women + Plants = Witchcraft?

Purdue University enthnobotanist Myrdene Anderson

From the Society of Ethnobiology website comes the saga of the battle between ethnobotanist Myrdene Anderson and the city of West Lafayette, Indiana.

Instead of a chemically treated and ritually mown lawn, she wanted plants and trees. And she ends up being accused of giving her neighbor cancer . . . through witchcraft!

To me, as an anthropologist, that assertion about my property being a fire hazard sounds close to wishful thinking, with more than a hint of witchcraft accusation. In evidence of my influence, a certain neighbor accused me of forcing him to exterminate 13 possums in a single evening, and another accused me of causing her cancer and its recurrence, although I guess not its interim remission. In 1996 a local conceptual artist depicted my yard in a gallery installation themed around “local notables”. I wrote an accompaniment: “sight on site; sight on sight”, underlining the fact that gaze is a voluntary act, rather different from most of the other senses.

 

By 1995 I was already deeply involved in searching out other cases of late 20th-century witchcraft accusation. Most cases around the U.S. involved women, anomalous in some way, often gardeners, and sometimes being attacked while they were perceived “down”. I mentioned my father’s 1988 death, but I could also have mentioned that of my stepmother in 1994, whom I had earlier brought to Indiana. Some of these women victims of neighborly hate had also just lost someone significant, one her own mother as a suicide in their joint home.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to petition drives and getting the right lawyer.

On the Science of How Plants Talk to Each Other

Imagine this, a kernal (heh) of truth:

Sound is so fundamental to life that some scientists now think there’s a kernel of truth to folklore that holds humans can commune with plants. And plants may use sound to communicate with one another.

Do beetles eavesdrop on drought-stressed pine trees? Maybe so.

Fairy Houses, Bee Houses, and Garden Products to Avoid

Some fairies are said to live in boulders, others perhaps in purpose-built housing.

In this blog post, a professional gardener in southern Colorado moves from greenhouses to fairy houses (with her dad as maintenance man) to bee houses.

And please scroll to the bottom — it’s a long post — for a list of bee-killing garden products to avoid.