Jimmy Fike Bugleweed, 2020
Photos: courtesy of the artist

“Waybroad” and Lessons in New Territories

Amanda Amour-Lynx
Chris Gismondi
“The Nine Herbs Prayer,” in the Saxon manuscript Lacnunga1 1 - Harley MS 585, ff 130r-193r, British Library digitized manuscripts,dating from the late tenth century, describes nine sacred plants during the period when European tribes were transitioning from the old pagan ways to new Christian beliefs. The poem singles out “Waybroad” as the mother of these healing herbs. Its more common name today is Broadleaf or Common Plantain (Plantago major L.), usually known as Plantain. This humble plant has made its mark across the entire northern hemisphere and has been adopted by Indigenous and non- Indigenous healers, herbalists, harvesters, and foragers across Turtle Island. Further, Plantain’s wide geographic range and its numerous nutritional and medicinal properties have not gone unnoticed in the art world.

What is most remarkable is how Plantain may act as a role model for other non-native species on how to conduct themselves on new territories and lands. It patiently offers us lessons on how to support original inhabitants, not disturb the existing balance, and conduct oneself as an uninvited guest in someone else’s home.

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This article also appears in the issue 99 - Plants

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