Hemlock in the Honey

from Hemlock Honey and Crows by Leslie Hudson



Maybe something you don't know about me is I'm a bit obsessed with poisonous plants & mushrooms. My alter ego lives on the edge of the woods and is prone to fits of maniacal laughter while gardening. I sparkle for aconitum (aka aconite). I swoon for amanita (esp muscaria). I snuggle up to hedges of yew.

All the lovely flowers we don't think of as poisonous - daffodil, lily of the valley, hydrangea, delphinium, heather, foxglove - when I have gardens they are full of them. Beauty & death: my kind of combo.

I'm not saying poisons are good. Don't poison people. Poisoning people is bad. Just enjoy the potential shining through the veins of those graceful petals, hidden in that sweet scent. Ignore the twinkle in my alter ego's eyes.

Background (not light reading):

* Hemlock in honey is a recipe attributed to Canidia, an elderly woman of the Roman Empire who advised on poisoning. She was one of the big three female poisoners of the Roman Empire: Canidia, Martina, and Locusta

* La Toffana was Giulia Toffana, Naples, d 1723 (age 70), who made and sold professionally (along with her daughter) aqueta or Aqua Toffana (likely including arsenic and belladonna), which was packaged in bottles with the stamp of a saint and sold as magic secretions from said saint’s tomb. She admitted – under torture – to having helped more than 600 wives poison their husbands in her lifetime, but there’s no way to know for sure. La Toffana was known as a woman of great godliness, but was executed along with her daughter, and her body was thrown over the wall of the nunnery that had protected her

* La Voisin was Catherine Deshayes, Madame Montvoison, Paris, d 1680 (age 39), known particularly for her abortifacients and her nobility clientele, high priestess of Christian congregations whose powers she saw as a gift from God, convicted as a witch and serial poisoner. One of Louis XIV’s mistresses, the Marquise of Montespan, was likely one of her clients but La Voisin would not admit to it, even under torture. This potential threat to the monarchy jumpstarted the Chambre Ardente (the Burning Chamber), a court specifically commissioned to root out witchcraft and poisoners in Paris. La Voisin was burned at the stake

Further reading:

1) David Stuart's book, "Dangerous Garden: the quest for plants to change our lives" (London: 2004)

2) Benedetta Faedi Duramy’s article in the Chicago-Kent Law Review, “Women and Poisons in 17th Century France” (April 2012)

3) University of California's list of toxic garden plants ucanr.edu/sites/poisonous_safe_plants/Toxic_Plants_by_Scientific_Name_685/


Welcome to the temple of the shadow
Ladies, we have gathered here to learn
If you've got a mind to learn your poisons
Never fear: the tide’s about to turn

A tiny little taste of belladonna
Just a hint of henbane in the wine
All you acolytes of aconitum
Hemlock in the honey is divine

This elixir’s made by La Toffana
Women just like you have broken free
Microdosing soups in slow succession
Aqueta’s a lethal recipe

La Voisin will help if you’re in trouble
Tormentil will ease you out of pain
Peony may keep you from your madness
Cyclamen will wash away that stain
Hemlock in the honey is divine

Laudanum may have the means to cure you
Janus plants will heal until they kill
If you cannot give the proper dosage
All you’re gonna do is make them ill

Hearts will skip a beat for digitalis
Evening primrose causes blood to flow
Black cohosh will help you with your menses
Plant them in your garden, watch them grow

Trouble are you trouble are you madness
Welcome to the temple of the shadow
Hearts will skip a beat
Hemlock in the honey is divine

A tiny little taste of belladonna
Just a hint of henbane in the wine
All you acolytes of aconitum
Hemlock in the honey is divine
It's divine

Trouble are you trouble are you madness
Hemlock in the honey is divine

Welcome to the temple of the shadow
It's divine


from Hemlock Honey and Crows, released October 29, 2021
Leslie Hudson: piano, vocals
Sharon Knight: shakers
Winter: electric guitars, bass


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Leslie Hudson Stratford, Ontario

Leslie Hudson is a Canadian singer songwriter and pianist. Her albums range from storytelling styles to bluesy bar rock to dialed-up, full-band homages to pop culture. With lyrical piano skills and a voice that cuts through the crowd, her songs dive deep into archetype and folklore, modernizing ancient voices as she shines a spotlight on the shadowy paths we walk through life, myth and media. ... more

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