Who would have thought that the lowly Fennel played a pivotal role in the evolution of human consciousness' According to mythology, Prometheus is said to have carried the sacred fire from Olympus back to earth, hiding the glimmering embers inside a Fennel stalk. Fennel is also associated with the rites of Dionysus and his magic staff. Known as 'Thyros-staff', it consisted of a Fennel stalk tipped with a pine cone, which served as a symbol of fertility at his sacred rites. Pliny was most impressed by the way snakes use Fennel to cure any injuries to their eyes and to help them shed their skins. Fennel was also imbued with magical powers of protection, and twigs of it were hung over doors to protect the inhabitants against witches and demons. Fennel is considered a traditional midsummer herb. Some ascribe aphrodisiac properties to it. The Roman army used Fennel seeds to curb hunger on long marches and to impart courage on their men. Fennel's reputation as a slimming herb that suppresses hunger pangs was still current in the 17th century, when William Coles wrote 'both the seeds, leaves and root of our Garden Fennel are much used in drinks and broths for those that are grown fat, to abate their unwieldiness and cause them to grow more gaunt and lank.'
Like all our culinary herbs, fennel is a great carminative. It soothes colic and indigestion and dispels flatulence. Chewing the seeds sweetens the breath. Fennel seed tea eases irritation from bronchitis and cough. Fennel is a great remedy for children and nursing mothers as it increases the flow of milk, while imparting the carminative and anti-spasmodic properties to the milk. It also suppresses appetite and may be used by those who wish to loose some weight. Externally it can be used as an eyewash to soothe conjunctivitis and inflammation of the eyelids.
Magically, Fennel is very versatile. It is well suited to initiation rites as it may help the initiate to shed his old skin and see with new eyes - and hopefully gleam the cosmic fire within. It also protects the novice and bestows courage. Fennel is great for students as it aids their memory. It is associated with longevity and fertility. It may be used in hand-fasting unions, not just as an aphrodisiac, but also as a reminder that a union undergoes constant renewal and that only by shedding our skins from time to time can we keep on growing and thus keeping our love young.