Periwinkle is Associated With Innocence
By Robert B. Thomas
JULY 21, MONDAY—Last Quarter Moon. Outlaw Jesse James's gang robbed its first train, 1873. Writer Ernest Hemingway born, 1899.
JULY 22, TUESDAY—Kennedy family matriarch, Rose Kennedy, born, 1890. Botanist Gregor Mendel born, 1822.
JULY 23, WEDNESDAY—Writer Henry David Thoreau arrested for refusing to pay poll tax, 1846. Pitcher Don Drysdale born, 1936.
JULY 24, THURSDAY—Religious leader Brigham Young and his followers arrived at Great Salt Lake Valley, Utah, 1847. Tennessee readmitted to the Union after the Civil War, 1866.
JULY 25, FRIDAY—Conjunction of Jupiter and Mercury. Coincidences are spiritual puns.
JULY 26, SATURDAY—Psychologist Carl Jung born, 1875. Playwright George Bernard Shaw born, 1856. Benjamin Franklin became the first Postmaster General, 1775.
JULY 27, SUNDAY—Skater Peggy Fleming born, 1948. Armistice at Panmunjom ended Korean War, 1953.
Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: I've heard that in Italy it is considered taboo to remove a periwinkle from a child's grave. What's the significance of the periwinkle? –A. F. S., Oklahoma City, Okla.
Answer: Well, first, it's the plant of the genus Vinca being considered, not the small edible snails that are also called periwinkles. Vinca is a trailing perennial plant with glossy, dark green leaves, woody stems, and bluish-purple flowers. You often see it growing in great clusters under trees and in other shaded spots, as a long-blooming ground cover. Because the blooms begin in the early spring, they have been associated with springtime and innocence. In fact, one theory is that the name derives from the Russian "pervi" for first.
Medieval herbalists considered periwinkle a magic cure for demonic possession and other evils. It was also considered an antidote to many poisons, or for fear or envy. If a healer wished to pick it, it had to be gathered at the proper phase of the Moon and only by a pure-minded individual with the right uses in mind. As for picking it from a child's grave, why would someone do that? No doubt any pruning of the plant from a gravesite was considered a diminishing of its magical protection from evil.
Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: Which came first, the shower or the bath? –L. S., Raleigh, N.C.
Answer: That's like asking which came first, rainwater or ground water. Would you count submerging oneself in a pond or stream as a bath? Or would you define bath as the Europeans did in the 18th century-a medical treatment to be endured? If your question is about bathtubs or shower stalls, the answer would have to be the tub, but even there the definitions are obscure. The first real baths may have been very large, communal ones, carried out in the company of fellow worshipers in the Roman temple or with athletes in the Greek gymnasium.
The palace of Knossos in Crete, about 1700 B.C., sported not only early, individual-size bathtubs, but also plumbing. Terra-cotta pipes carried the water supply, and both the baths and the latrines flushed into a central sewer.
The early Egyptians were fond of bathing in the Nile, particularly for religious purification. Bas-relief on tombs and scenes on painted vases, etc., often show Egyptian women pouring water from vases and bowls, an obvious precursor to the formal shower. The modern shower stall is a relatively new invention, designed for speed and convenience (and perhaps an extra degree of hygiene) rather than for the relaxation of a lingering bath, with fellow bathers at your side.
Ask The Old Farmer's Almanac: Was Henry Ford's "Peace Ship" an effective strategy? —B. P., Rocky Ford, Colo.
Answer: Well, he didn't think so, although it's always possible that it made some small inroads toward a peaceful outcome. The idea started after Henry Ford had read a tragic account of over 20,000 men being killed in the trenches of World War I in one day alone. The overwhelming senselessness of it spurred him into action and he claimed he'd be willing to commit half his fortune to end the war even one day sooner. Pacifists, especially Mme. Rosika Schwimmer and Jane Addams (founder of Chicago's Hull House and later a Nobel Peace Prize recipient), convinced Ford to sail for Norway and tour other neutral countries, in hopes of a chance to personally mediate a settlement.
The "Peace Ship" was a chartered ship called the Oscar II, which sailed from Hoboken, New Jersey, on December 4, 1915. A fleet of reporters, newsreel producers, and aids sailed with Ford's group, and by the time the ship landed in Norway, just over two weeks later, Ford found himself ill and discouraged. Evidently, the pacifists and reporters on board had had a near-mutiny over political issues. By Christmas Eve, Henry Ford secretly departed for home, seeking peace and quiet.