Collecting the folklore and uses of plants


Contributed by John Smith, the Devonshire Association’s Dialect and Folklore Reccorder, August 2011:
About 1970 an elderly informant from Churchingford in the Somerset part of the Blackdowns told me about ewe-macks (brambles, Rubus fruticosus) and witches. He said: ‘They reckon if you run a’der ’em and scratch ’em wi’ one o’ these yer ewe-macks an’ mak’ ’em blid, they couldn’t witch ‘ee.’
Drawing the blood of a witch was a well-known way of rendering her impotent.
Ewe-mack meaning bramble was for instance recorded for Oakford near Bampton in Devon in the Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 71: 136 (1939). A ewe-mack and a ewe-bramble or ewe-brimble appear to have been the same. According to Elworthy, quoted in the English Dialect Dictionary, in west Somerset brooms made of heath [Calluna vulgaris] were always bound round with a ewe-brimble.
According to a handwritten Devonshire word-list in my possession, a long coarse specimen would be thrust into a burrow to catch rabbits by entangling their fur.

Photo: bramble, Woodchurch, Kent, @ John Hunnex, August 2011.

Edited 5 September 2022.