A HISTORY OF FOOD AND HERBS
At first glance, this subject seems silly, but stop and think about it. Do animals do any cooking? Do they pick and choose and store foods? Do they season their foods with herbs and spices? Do they eat herbs when they are sick? They do a little of this, but not nearly to the extent that humans do. Many have speculated about the beginning of cooking, that it was an accident and that some piece of meat tasted better cooked. However, this does not match what we know about humans. Most of what humans eat is not meat, and to raw foodists, food that is burned, tastes, well, burned. It is the smell that makes people hungry, not the taste. For most ancient meat eaters, including animals, the warm organs of the fresh kill is what they crave, not burned or scorched flesh. It seems natural to us to eat a piece of fruit in the raw, but who has tried to eat a handful of wheat raw? A dandelion root? A piece of grass covered with termites? Do you say, "yum!" to any of these foods? Probably not, but people eat them and relish them.
What do we do when we are sick? Take some aspirin, go to the doctor? Take a liquid from a jar that tastes bad? Who came up with these formulas? Where did the doctors learn their knowledge of drugs? Where did the drug companies get their raw ingredients? How did they learn what works and what does not? When you go to the store, you may pick up a loaf of bread, soft, white, and carefully sliced and put into a plastic bag. Where did bread come from? We are told in Western Schools that civilization began with the growing of wheat and making of bread. Does this mean that the people who built Stonehenge had no civilization? Historians insist that they learned farming from the Middle East, but the people who painted the caves in France did not farm. Farming did not happen in Europe until about 2000 BCE, or did it? Was wheat the first crop? Rice?
The first thing I would ask of you is to sit down and stop thinking of food as meat and bread. If we do this, the transition between hunter-gatherer and farmer becomes much less of a jump of "civilization" and a long process that probably occurred over thousands of years. Anieth is very like the Coast of Western Europe about the time of Egypt and Babylon. Some people had gardens, but very few people had farms like we see today. They grew their own food to supplement what they gathered, but mostly they had vast herds of animals that they followed across a large territory. Other people moved from place to place for the salmon runs, the nut harvests, the berries and harvests of other wild foods. They often encouraged the foods they wanted to grow by burning down some of the trees and opening up the woods, or planting the seeds of trees and berries that they loved. Most of the people in Anieth did not have permanent homes, but had summer or winter homes and lived in tents for much of the year. They certainly did not have the structured serf/manager/owner society that we saw in Zelosia a country very like the Middle East, Troy or even Classical Rome. Trading was heavy between territories of people as they gathered or grew certain foods or processed local wild food into food that could be transported and traded.
What I saw in every garden in Anieth was not so much food enough to stock up for the winter
like we see in most peasant societies, but herbs. Medicinal herbs and herbs for flavoring were
the favorite plants of every local residence. We would not recognize most of these herbs,
considering them weeds and far from the drugs we know from the store. Whereas people can easily
adapt to eat whatever is in season and readily available, if there is one kind of medicine that
you found effective for your father's gout, you want that herb available. Just as children
still run to their mothers or grandmothers when they hurt themselves, so it was in ancient
times. Grandmother was a living herbal. She knew which plants did what and how they helped
which person. She usually was the one who knew who was related to whom and what complaints they
might have or which medicines would work because they worked on their father or uncle. Just
as the men usually remembered which stream had the best fish, the women usually remembered where
the aspirin was as well as the best berries. We still see in modern hunter-gatherer societies
that the women and children do most of the gathering and the men hunt.
So where did the jump occur between a group of people wandering around collecting and hunting and a group of people who lived in one place where the men were in charge of farming? Although around the world, women farm, we think of Western agriculture as men with tools and animals working the land. It seems very Third World to see a woman with a planting stick and a few rows of maize, and more normal there for the men to be guarding the cows. Europe and the West was no different from the Third World, so what happened?
This map of the Earth shows the climate change of our modern era since the last ice age. What the map does not show is that the white areas of the Sahara Desert and the Middle East were covered in open grasslands and steppe. Trees were common, but not the dense woodlands that you see in Europe. You can see that over the last 10,000 years since the beginning of agriculture, people have been pushed into smaller and smaller territories by climate change. Over the last four thousand years the Sahara and much of the Middle East has become a desert. This lush environment about 8,000 years ago followed a much more extreme dry spell under the last ice age. The warming, melting and raining caused an extremely rich environment for humans and pastoral animals until it started drying up again. Politics became an increasing pressure as neighboring territories tried to expand into each other and refugees from drying areas moved into more favorable climates, often coming with spear and knife to subjugate the locals. Anyone in a fixed region, growing food, was likely to become a victim of hungrier people coming in from the desert.
The history of agriculture is a history of a slowing starving humanity. As the "civilized" people continued to put pressure on their lands and push to the north and west, they brought with them a model of society that partially took. Most of Europe was still under the control of pastoral peoples until very recently. Even the blood type diet describes very different eating conditions between type O, or "caveman" blood, and type A and B which give people a better digestion for grains and legumes.
Most herbal knowledge was handed down in person until herbal systems came out of the East and caught the attention of Greek doctors. The Indian school of medicine, called Ayurvedic, is said to be about 5,000 years old. It was written about the same time that the Greeks had a great deal of contact with the East through the old Persian Empires. Just as the Code of Hammurabi may have inspired a code of written law in the Classical countries, Ayuvedic medicine seems to have heavily influenced doctrines in the West. In Asia, medical diagnosis was based on five elements, in India upon five elements and three higher compositions called doshas, which were body personalities or types. This system reached the West in the system of the four elements causing humors or body types or the three spiritual types that also had some bearing on body personality. The four humor diagnostic persisted into the late Middle Ages.
The reason I bring up these other systems is that these are examples of tools used for two reasons. The first was to systemize and understand illness and health across humanity. The second was to make it easier to memorize the great body of oral tradition concerning plant medicine. Already, humans knew so much about plants and illness that it was difficult for any one person to memorize in a short period of time. These systems were attempts to aid the student and make the knowledge easier for the practitioner. Because of the nature of these systems, they were learned in schools. In the East, most of these schools were dominated by men. When the Humor system passed into the West, it came with a "box of ideas about medicine" which included the idea that the subject should be studied and controlled by men. In the West, the Church was trying to take over any schools of study and a idealogical war was going on among the learned and religious sects. The Humors school of medicine, the books, and the learning became controlled by Latin speaking scholars who were usually priests.
Why did this impact the West in a different way than the East? The West was still greatly nomadic and pastoral. Among pastoral peoples, women and slaves had many more freedoms than they do in centralized communities. The caste system and gender was not much of a factor in the study of subjects or religious schools or in medicine. Most scholars were not men, but old people of both genders and all walks of life. In Classical Greece, only ten percent of the population was able to vote or hold property. About five percent more were freemen who were scholars. Most men and women were of the lower classes, as was the case in India and China. These people might have had folklore which was scorned by scholars and usually not written down or transmitted in historical documents.
In the West, rivalry between schools of learning was bitter and often ended up in summoning in the Church to declare some group of rivals "of the Devil" and thus open to be destroyed. This happened among the landed classes, certainly among the kings, and also among scholars. However, because these rivalries happened so late in our history, more of the knowledge possessed by rival schools was either stolen, written down as folklore, handed down as superstition and old wives' tales or passed along in secret. Legends abound of every village having its local herbalist/witch.
Not until Linneas and his way of organizing plants by flower, was a rival system put forth that would help herbalists learn the names and properties of plants. Most herbalists were local, knowing only those plants in their area and how they would help sick people. They learned this over a long apprenticeship to a master herbalist. Cooks had more freedom, but professional cooks also studied with masters. In Europe, cooking and medicine did not overlap as much as it did in the East. Only recently have people in the West been introduced to the idea that what they ate influenced their health long term. Poisons were familiar, but the idea that eating meat over a long time might cause gout was not widely known. Most disease was lumped into "aging" and treated with contempt. This led to a fear of doctors and a demand for instant cures and a vulnerability to snake oils and potions. Any doctor saying "cut back on the salt" to a Renaissance man would have been laughed out of his profession. So the Humor system persisted, for a doctor could say, "you have an imbalance of choler, let me give you a medicine" and he would have been paid. Survival in the West depended on a knowledge of some medicines and a great deal of magic mumbo jumbo. Surgeons were not consider doctors, but uneducated itinerants. Dentists, too, were in the lower class of "tinkers." Nurses were of the lowest classes and, not until Florence Nightingale, were in any way educated about basic hygiene, let alone health.
Despite the failing in the medical profession, herbalists were held in more respect, for the growing and tending of plants, both culinary and medicinal was essential to every Monastery and Nunnery. Herbals had always competed with the Humors school of medicine, yet also complemented it. In the 20th Century the rise of herbalism as a study worthy of attention made it possible for an individual to grow and use herbal medicines and treat themselves. To this day, rivalry between the medical profession ,who swallowed up surgery and dentistry, and the herbalists, nutritionists, and practitioners of Eastern medicine, confuses patients and puts midwives in prison for "practicing medicine without a license."
Be aware of this history when you read these pages. The rivalry continues. Do NOT treat your friends. You may offer them advice and pass on knowledge, but there are serious consequences if you claim to be able to "cure" your friend. The establishment is extremely jealous, for they have spent years and thousands of dollars becoming professionals. Holistic medicine and the idea of eating to keep fit are still new ideas and may be met with hostility. However, using the hundreds of books on herbs now available can help you to learn more about your own body and the bodies of those you know. Be wise, be patient, and be responsible.
Here is how the Game played out after Lucia changed events and then broke the Gate. The green highlight is the original game event that was changed.