- Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna):
- translation: Atropos (the Fate who cuts the thread of life); beautiful lady.
synonyms: Belladonna, Devil's Herb, Devil's Cherries, Naughty Man's Cherries, Black Cherry, Dwale, Divale, Dwayberry, Great Morel.
definition: dark thoughts; bitter truth; sorcery.
In Chaucer's days Deadly Nightshade was known as Dwale, perhaps from the Scandinavian dool, meaning delay or sleep, or from the French, deuil, grief, a reference to its fatal properties. According to legend, the plant belongs to the devil, who goes about trimming and tending it. He can only be diverted from its care one night in the year, on Walpurgis, when he is preparing for the witches' sabbath. Some hold that the apples of Sodom are the berries of Nightshade. The name Belladonna may have come from the old superstition that at times the plant would take on the appearance of an enchantress of exceeding loveliness. More generally it is said that the name came from the practice of Italian ladies to use its juice to give their eyes greater brilliancy, by dilating the pupil of the eye. Priests also used to drink an infusion of Belladonna when invoking the aid of Bellona, the Goddess of War, also it was referred to as the Wine of Circe. The generic name, Atropa, is derived from the Greek Atropos, the Fate who cut the thread of human life. Poisoning by Belladonna has symptoms of a complete loss of voice, frequent bending forward of the trunk and continual motion of the hands and fingers, and the pupils of the eyes becoming very dilated.
Deadly Nightshade is one of the four classic poisons, along with Aconite, Hemlock, and Hellebore.
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