“Eye of newt, and toe of frog …”
6th March 2012: What else is happening on the marsh this month, Mike, apart from badgers and foxes giving birth to their cubs? Well, there will be plenty of things happening on the marsh this month. One particularly spectacular event, I think so anyway, is the mating of common toads. There were a few toads in the North Pond last weekend, but shortly the pond will be overflowing with them; in fact, it will be bubbling with toads – it will be mayhem down there!
There are two types of toads native to the UK: Common and Natterjack. The Natterjack toad is found mainly in the coastal dunes of East Anglia and in the North West of England. It was formerly common on southern heathlands. Its numbers are declining, and it is now protected by law. The two species are easily distinguished by a prominent yellow line down the back of the Natterjack toad.
The toad is not the prettiest creature on the marsh, but it must be one of the ugliest. Now we all know that beauty is only skin deep and that beautiful people live amazing lives; well so do toads! I am not sure how they spend their days, but having warty skin, horizontally slit eyes, very strange legs and a bite-sized body, must make for an interesting life. Toads have jumped about for around 250 million years: they must be doing something right.
I believe that witches have developed an affinity with toads, and have done strange things with them – cruel things! If they are not pulling toes from toads, or eyes from newts, they are adopting them as familiars. I wonder if any of the blog followers are witches, and whether they can throw any light on the subject.
This blog’s resident wizard, Richard, says: One of the reasons witches may have favoured toads is the secretion they exhude from their warts when agitated – it is poisonous, and in low doses can be hallucinogenic, We know that witches made potions out of poisonous plants such as henbane and belladonna, to help induce shamanisic trances, and I think they may have used toad poison as well (the active ingredient is called bufotenin, I think.
“Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,–
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”
What are the differences between frogs and toads?
Frogs have slimy, wet, and smooth skin and spend most of their time in or around water. Toads usually have a dry, warty-looking skin and spend most of their time living on land. Their hind legs are shorter than frogs, and they crawl rather than hop. Toads have glands behind their eyes that secrete a poison.