Thank you, BraveHeart, for showing us woad’s unsubstantiated use in native Scotland. Hopefully, that paint you applied was not mixed with semen as a wild, I read it on the internet so it must be true, story goes…
But did you know-
Woad is a plant that flowers yellow and has beautiful full green leaves. When made into a tea you can extract its pigment which is blue. Of course, you knew that, but what about the fact that the plant was commonly used as an antiseptic and now is being used to help fight breast cancer?
Or that when used as a dye the plant is famous for fabrics, preventing colored cloth, not only its famed blue, from fading in direct light or by heavy washing. The seeds, de-winged, produce an oil that can be used for making soap. Hey, I thought everyone was dirty back in the early centuries. Not so.
Also, woad is perfect for using in magic rituals when you find yourself shape-shifting and or determining past lives. Chinese medicine hails its valor for curing throat ailments and the common cold. Although beyond goats, the plant is not edible for livestock.
In the 1500’s Queen Elizabeth issued a proclamation, “Against the sowing of Woade.” Too much land was being used to cultivate the crops and not being used for harvesting grains. The plant does grow wild but during the time of food shortages and famine, no one person could sow more than 20 pounds yearly. A single parish could have no more than 40-60 acres.
In case you’d like to try your hand at cultivating woad leaves let me give you a few pointers. Usually, by late-July your harvest will be ready. Your leaves must be cut close to the base and then bring them inside for a good wash. Tear this tender plant into pieces but don’t get too crazy and rip too small. You then steep your leaves.
If you are not going to prepare straight away, then tie off in a bag and store in a shady place.
Using rain water works best, and the process of steeping takes less than ten minutes never bringing to a full boil. When pulling your cauldron from the firepit to cool you must do so quickly or the woad will break down. You then strain your strong brew, pressing the leaves to extract all remaining liquid.
There is a need for alkalinity and, back in the day, it was found by using stale urine. Pee served a dual function, 1-its alkaline and 2-no oxygen, having been removed by the bacteria swimming boldly in its sea. The settling of the pigment took 2 weeks. Ewww! And I thought my childhood chore list was horrid.
Today you don’t have to use stale urine, substituting instead with soda ash. You add the ash to boiling water until dissolved, cool and then pour into your chilled woad tea.
After aerating your liquids, spoon off any froth and then pour into glass jars. Waiting for the mighty blue sediment to settle only takes a few hours, filtering and pouring the water above until it is clear. You can watch your beautiful sludge grow. If you cap tightly, it will store for up to a year, or you can pour off the water and pan dry the sediment.
Snap there is more – woad balls – You crush those freshly harvested leaves into a pulpy paste, using a stone or wood base, thus removing all its liquid and ball up to dry.
If you are thinking of using woad for a tattoo, it is more than not likely going to happen. Beyond the paste and its dying qualities, many have tried and failed I am sad to say. Here is a list of colors and their qualified proprietors…
Red: Iron Oxide
Blue: Copper Oxide
Orange: Iron Oxide+ Terracotta powder
Yellow: Certain yellow flower petals such as Sunflower, dandelion, or daisies.
Green: Combination of plant material mainly plains grass and cacti mixed with copper oxide.
Purple: Certain shells, and flowers
Black: Coal or Charcoal
White: White ash, or quartz powder
Brown: Black paint + Iron Oxide
Pink: Certain flowers
So if you have made it all the way to the end of this article, will my valiant warriors be painted in blue? Alas, handsome as ever, but tattooed in blue they are not. Shall a feisty hero or heroine find his or her hands stained while doing onerous work, well…one never knows. 🙂
Write On! ❤ Jessica