A Shakespearean recipe for Witch’s Brew

With ingredients found at the Wangensteen Historical Library

by Harriet Matzdorf

Pharmacy boxes from the Wangensteen artifact collection.
Pharmacy boxes from the Wangensteen artifact collection.

As Halloween nears, staff at the Wangensteen Historical Library are finding inspiration from a Witch’s Brew recipe written in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

“Fillet of a fenny snake, In the cauldron boil and bake; Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog, Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting, Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”

Ingredients from Wangensteen

While gathering ingredients to fill our cauldron, we quickly found that the eye of newt was not to be taken literally but in fact a common name for mustard seed. This was true for some of the other ingredients as well:

  • Toe of frog = Buttercup (Ranunculus acris L.)
  • Wool of bat = Holly Leaves (Ilex aquifolium)
  • Tongue of dog = Gypsyflower from the Genus Hound’s Tounge (Cynoglossum officinale L.)
  • Adders fork = Least Adder’s-tongue (Ophioglossum lusitanicum L.)
  • Blind-worm = Slowworm (Anguis fragilis)

If you have any intentions of trying your luck at this brew, don’t be fooled, it’s much easier to gather holly leaves than the wool of a bat, as we have learned from experience. 


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