Borage - little blue flower of courage
Author Simon Acland chooses borage. The borage flower has been associated with courage and the lifting of spirits for many centuries. Borage flowers were embroidered on scarves for departing knights and a borage flower was sometimes given in the stirrup cup of those departing for the Crusades.
This square was inspired by an image of Godfrey de Bouillon, one of the leaders of the First Crusade in the 11th century, and the ruler of Jerusalem for twelve short months after its capture in 1099.
Simon Acland, a Trustee of Plantlife and a keen supporter of wild plant conservation, is also the author of two historical novels set at the time of the First Crusade. The first of these, The Waste Land, features Godfrey de Bouillon. Simon says, “It is a fascinating thought that borage may have been one of the many good things that the Crusaders brought back from Outremer, along with the technique for distilling brandy from wine (interesting that the technology originated in a Moslem country), and for making solid soap (in those days a speciality of Aleppo). Herbalists have always attributed to borage the power to raise the spirits. In The Herball of 1597, John Gerard says “The leaves and floures of Borrage put into wine make men and women glad and merry, driving away all sadness, dulnesse, and melancholy, as Dioscorides and Pliny affirm.” Maybe it is this quality that caused borage to be associated with courage, although personally I’d have needed something a bit stronger to get through the First Crusade and the Siege of Jerusalem. My second Crusader novel, The Flowers of Evil, features one of these, the opium poppy, and one of my villains is an Assassin. The name of this sect is usually attributed to their use of hashish to put themselves into trances where they dreamt of Paradise, but I prefer to think that it comes from hashhash, the Turkish name for opium, which is more likely to produce the right effect.”