Writing my way through the A-to-Z blogging challenge, I’m sharing my thoughts and reflections on a lexicon (vocabulary specific to a certain subject) of unusual, obscure, or simply charming-to-me words. Ludic is defined as “playful, in an aimless way” and that’s my plan for approaching this challenge – keeping my feet on the joy trail and meandering wherever the daily word takes me.
J is for…
juglandaceous – (adj) of, like, or pertaining to walnuts. From Latin juglans (walnut), which is derived from “ju” a shortened form of Jupiter the Greek god, and “glans” meaning acorn. Thus walnut is Jupiter’s acorn.
I happen to find this hilarious, and upon discovery of this word walnuts have been banished from my home. We now only have Jupiter’s acorns.
The Romans naturally made the association of walnuts with Jupiter’s wife, Juno, who was the goddess of women and marriage. Women often carried walnuts to ensure fertility, and there was actually a practice of throwing walnuts at brides and grooms.
I’ve always been rather fascinated by walnuts, with the nuts looking alternately like brains or lungs to me. In fact, the name for walnut in Afghanistan, charmarghz, means “four brains.”
According to the Doctrine of Signatures, because the shape of the walnut resembled the brain, the nut was thought to be beneficial for all ailments associated with the brain and head, including headaches.
According to my own juvenile thinking, because I thought walnuts looked like lungs, when I did a grade school science project on lungs, I made a clay model and used walnuts to “stamp” in a texture on the clay which I thought brilliantly demonstrated the organ’s “spongy” texture. It took a lot of effort, and alas the science teacher was no where near as impressed as I was. Sigh.
There are three main species of walnut: The Juglans regia originated in Persia and is now known as either the Persian or English walnut. It’s favored for nut production, and it’s the one most of us are probably familiar with. Juglans nigra, the black walnut, is a beautiful tree with highly scented leaves. It’s nut is higher in protein, crunchier, and notoriously difficult to remove from its shell. The butternut (Juglans cineria) is used for culinary purposes and traditionally makes the best dyes. Walnut dye has long been used to color cloth and used as ink.
Curiously there are several folklore tales involving magical walnuts containing fancy dresses that are used to either to bribe or impress.
I’m sometimes asked to create botanical talismans and/or altar pieces, and I have made boxes out of walnut shells. While great little containers, I find hinging the shell halves frustratingly labor intensive. Still opening them and finding a tiny treasure inside can be quite magical. I wouldn’t mind opening one and finding dresses though. I’ll have to keep hoping and cracking my share of Jupiter’s acorns.
What about you? Are you a fan of Jupiter – whether the god or the planet? Love walnuts or another kind of nut? Ever used walnut ink? Do tell – you know I want to hear.