A Recipe That Will Curl Your Hair, 11th century Anglo-Saxon Style

imageAt a recent Herbal Afterrnoon, we finally got around to trying a recipe I’ve been wanting to make for over a year.   I found two recipes which claim to curl the hair.  One is from the 11th century Anglo-Saxon text, The Leechbook of Bald, considered by many to be the holiest English herbal text.  The second is from one of my standbys, The Trotula.. Using 100% human hair extensions as our test pieces we made for the recipes and curled them as follows.  The picture above shows the results.  The two pieces on the left are from the Anglo-Saxon text and the ones on the right are from the Trotula.  Here are the two recipes;

Take  mustard seed and rue and make a paste.  This will make the hair wyrck (curl)–Leechbook of Bald, 11th century

This recipe concerned me from the beginning which is why we tested this on hair extensions.  Both of these herbs can cause a skin burn if left on too long.  Another concern about this recipe was whether the effect was temporary or permanent.  We took 2tbsp. Of ground mustard seed and 2tbsp of rue and ground them in a mortar.  We also added a bit of water to get a pasty concoction.  Next we combed the paste through each hair extension and used a fresh leaf as a curl paper for the end.  Once we had the end secure, we wound up the entire 10″ of hair and secured it in place with string.  Finally, we put these two extensions aside to dry overnight.

Take danewort and grind it well with oil.  Anoint the head all over with this oil and secure the                                  curls with leaves and string–The Trotula, 12th century

For this recipe, we took 2 tbsp of danewort (also called dwarf elder root) and ground it in the mortar.  We added just enough olive oil to make a paste.  Just as we did with the other recipe, we combed a bit of paste thought the extension and curled them using a fresh leaf and string.  Finally we put them aside to dry overnight.


Now for the results; neither recipe makes the hair fall out.  The Anglo-Saxon recipe makes the hair very curly, as you can see from the photo above.  Also neither recipes makes the hair permanently curly.  They work more like setting lotions do.  The curls come out smooth and shiny with just enough hold to last until they are shampooed out.  The second photo in this entry is the hair after it has been shampooed.  The top two pieces are the Anglo-Saxon curls and the bottom two are the Trotula curls.  


Bingen’ s Calming Water, an Original Composition

image  To finish off the end of the summer perfume series, I came up with an original composition based on the works of St. Hildegarde of Bingen.  For those not familiar with her, St. Hildegarde was a 12th century German mystic who wrote prolifically on a variety of subjects.  She also has musical works attributed to her.  Pope John Paul II named her a Father of the Church.  One of her books, Physica, recommends a potpourri of rose and sage to “calm and quiet a troubled mind and soul”.  You can just make a potpourri and keep it on your desk, (a recommendation from a friend of mine who swears it helps office tension) or you could wear this lovely fragrance.  I came up with this recipe.


I put two fresh roses from my garden (I grow knock-out roses) along with two fresh sage leaves in a clean glass jar.  I filled the jar with aqua vitae (cheap vodka is my choice).  I use 4oz. jelly jars for my perfume making by the way.   Next, I sealed up the jar and let it steep for two weeks (like most of my perfumes).  After two weeks, I strained out the solids, reserving the scented liquid.  To finish off this perfume, I added 3 parts of distilled water to the alcohol solution and stirred a bit.  I find the resulting scent to be a slightly spicy floral.  Like all of perfumes we’ve talked about this summer, you can use this to scent just about everything.


Hopefully, you have found the summer of perfume enjoyable, but with the changing of the seasons comes the changing of topics.  Next week, I will be trying a recipe from the 9th century Leechbook of Bald for “wyrcking” or curling the hair.