”Giftiga växter” is a 1980 Swedish translation of a Danish book, written by Harald Nielsen with really good illustrations made by Bente Sivertsen. Yes, it´s a relatively popularized book about poisonous plants, mostly European ones (plants as in “green” plants – no fungi in this one, the fungi not being plants scientifically speaking, sorry). The species presentations describe the plant itself and the exact effects of its poisonous substances (this is not light bed-time reading!). In addition, we also get information about the role of the various plants in mythology and history. It seems humans (who didn´t invent modern medicine until fairly recently) always knew exactly how to kill each other with noxious weeds! No problem there…
If not used for murder or execution, plants were good for suicide. Thus, an entire Iberian tribe surrounded by the legions of Augustus chose death by a last supper on European yew, rather than being killed or captured by the hated Romans. Yew was also used by a Belgian king who didn´t want to give himself over to Julius Caesar, at least if Caesar himself is to be believed. There is (or was in 1980) some debate on whether Socrates was executed by drinking hemlock (Conium) or water hemlock (Cicuta). Apparently, Conium was once known as Cicuta, adding to the confusion. The author thinks it was Conium mixed with wine and opium! Another, somewhat peculiar, usage for poisonous plants was as a method to suppress sexual urges – monks and nuns were admonished to use certain species for this reason. Less peculiar is the use of noxious weeds as a form of chemical warfare.
During the First Sacred War in Greece, Solon (otherwise mostly known as sagely, wise and bearded) supposedly poisoned the drinking water of the besieged town of Kirrha (misspelled “Kirrka” in the book – it took me ages to find the reference on the web) with optimal quantities of hellebore. Or maybe it wasn´t Solon. Earlier versions of the same legend claim that it was Cleisthenes of Sicyon who poisoned the water supplies on the advice of a certain Nebros, who was an ancestor of Hippocrates! Either way, Kirrha had it coming, mistreating pilgrims bound for Delphi. You.Don´t.Do.That.
Sometimes, the author conflates mythology and real history. At least twice, he mentions the legend that Aristotle instigated the murder of Alexander the Great by poison. Supposedly, Aristotle then committed suicide by drinking a potion made of wolf´s bane to avoid being executed (i.e. forced to drink hemlock…or water hemlock). The Druids make several guest-appearances in this little book, being fond of both mistletoe and ferns. But the most curious reference in “Giftiga växter” is the claim that the Hindu god Rama was the first personage to learn about the medical effects of mistletoe, by the help of which he saved the White race!
Nielsen clearly thinks this comes from an ancient myth, but it is obvious from context that it must be modern. “The White race” is a modern concept, no matter what your local unfriendly Twitter troll might have told you. It took me about five minutes to find the source by simply reaching for my Android phone from Huawei: “The Great Initiates”, a work from 1889 by French esotericist Édouard Schuré (who later worked with Rudolf Steiner). In this book, Rama is a Druid (sic) who indeed saves the White race from a deadly plague by medicine made from mistletoe. How a claim from a French esoteric writer ended up in a Danish book on botany is, of course, an interesting question!
“They” are clearly behind this one!