My final herbal hero…

Is a bit different from the rest of them, in that he is not an actual person.  He is, in fact, a fictional character.


The first thing you need to know is that I love reading mysteries.  Any mysteries will do, but I particularly love historical ones.  Some of the first historical mysteries I ever read were those written by Ellis Peters.  My final herbal hero is her heroic detective monk, Brother Cadfael.  Actually, how interesting… he is written as being a Benedictine, just like Hildegard of Bingen who started this whole week off.

brother cadfael

If you do not know the stories, Brother Cadfael is the Herbalist of Shrewsbury Abbey, in Shropshire, and the stories are based against the backdrop of a civil war between two possible heirs to the British throne, Empress Maud and King Stephen between 1135 and 1145.  Shropshire is quite a lively county, not just being part of the disputed territory but also being on the Welsh borders.  Cadfael is Welsh himself, but he has learned the skills to heal with plants during his previous life as a soldier in the Crusades in the Holy Land, and he is often called upon by his monastic superiors to be medical examiner, detective, doctor and diplomat.  (The picture is of Derek Jacobi who played Cadfael in the TV series of the mysteries).


I love Cadfael because he is a skilled observer of people, he is downright nosey about things (inquisitive might be a nicer term!), he is endlessly energetic, is a talented healer and he has a strong sense of justice.  He is often the moral compass to the Sheriff of Shrewsbury, and often preaches mercy to those who are much more dogmatic or doctrinal kind of characters.

cadfael books

Often Ellis Peter’s descriptions of the Herb garden which Cadfael keeps stopped me in my tracks.  I would imagine what they would look like, and even on some occasions tried to visualise life in a Benedictine Abbey of the time.  To be honest, I don’t think I could have cut it.  Back then, Christian life was hard work.  Church 6 times a day, periods of no talking, no eating, hard and back breaking work, early rises, rubbish food and serfdom.  I soon snapped back to reality!

old fashioned herbal

I suspect that my own herb garden will have to compare favourably to Cadfael’s in my mind.  I am not sure I will ever get to that stage, if I am honest, but it will be fun to try!




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