The Flann-Leaithín is a rare flower, found amongst its yellow-centered kin1, in the crags and crevices of Boireann. It can be easily identified; in appearance, it is nearly identical to the more common yellow-centered specimens, but posessing a blood-red center instead.
There are those many who would say that it is a wicked flower of pagan virtue. My brothers here at the monastery would consider it heresy to actively search for this flower, but I believe this misguided reluctance is fueled by illogical thinking and belief in the pagan's "black magic"; it is surely worse to validate the pagan beliefs by such a reaction.
The tales say that the flower grows only found near the Poll na Brón2 after the completion of certain forbidden blood rites to heathen idols for the purpose of foul magics, but I know this at least to be mere superstition.
Though the flower blooms are exceedingly rare, finding where the Flann-Leaithín may come to bloom is not difficult; I believe they can appear anywhere normal leaithín grow and flourish. I had originally dismissed stories that the Flann-Leaithín never grew in direct sunlight as more of the vast superstition that surrounds this marvelous flower, but there may some truth to this particular part of the tales, as I have never found the Flann-Leaithín in direct contact of the sun's caress.
That the Flann-Leaithín is no normal flower I have no doubt. In my long career, I have only twice found the Flann-Leaithín myself, each time on the bed of a drying turlach, not a hand's width from the head of a dead widgeon. Perhaps it is this nutrition of blood from which it derives its properties, and perhaps the cause for the paganish superstition of death and misfortune that surround this flower.
Unlike its more common ilk, which possess no particular qualities worth mention, the Flann-Leaithín has several uses which make the time and effort involved in finding this rare flower worth the trouble.
The untreated and raw elements of this plant are deadly. The stem and leaves of the Flann-Leaithín contain powerful poisons, that cause death in those who ingest it. Their minds seemingly go blank, and become slow to move. Old tales say this poison steals the soul, so the mind goes quiet and body has no choice but to lie down and breathe slower, and slower, until they can breathe no more. Whether it is a poison of both soul and body or body alone, undoubtedly it is a potent poison best avoided.
Those unlucky enough to ingest or chew on the blood-red centers of the petals are not granted such a relatively quick and peaceful death as that granted by the leaves and stems. The petals cause the onset of a deep and incurable madness, causing the unlucky soul to quickly go blind. In their madness, they claim to be able to see both the creatures of this world, and that of another. They tend to either ramble endlessly, or become dumb and never speak again. The poor souls have ingested the Flann-Leaithín inevitably die within a year, weakened by madness and pain. The superstition and legends that surround the Flann-Leaithín are deep; it is said that in the olden times, powerful witches would willingly ingest the petals to consort with demons and the spirits of the dead, performing favors for these beings in exchange for insight into the past and future and magical power.
This use of this precious plant's petals however, misuse its potential. A carefully boiled infusion of the flower can be a powerful curative agent, that can aid the healing of mind, body, and soul. It can be applied to wounds, which will begin healing quickly and regain their normal coloration. Taken orally, it is a superb cure for nerves, as even a few drops cause a great sense of ease and awareness. Taken as a daily tonic, it promotes great physical well being, but should only be taken during injury or illness, as continued exposure is said to addle the mind.
However, it may be worth foregoing these petals and risk loss of the flower to attain the most precious component the Flann-Leaithín can offer; the seed head of the Flann-Leaithín. It is not indistinguishable from the seed-head of a normal Leaithín, so the plant must be found while it is still flowering, then marked in some manner and allowed to mature. The many tales say it is this part which, when boiled with a mixture of turlach water and human blood, will invite a certain type of demon or spirit, The Red Women, they call them. These "Red Women" will become one with the body they are invited into, destroying or forever changing the mind and body of its consumer, granting powerful magicks, a voice and body with the power over men, and the ability to talk with all trees and plants.
I do not know of this, as I have never been able to find a Flann-Leaithín seed-head myself, but I do possess a few banned scholarly texts which offer more pragmatic uses for this flower organ: when prepared with an infusion of foxglove and betony, it can serve as a restorative of the mind and body so powerful it will destroy even demons within the possessed; however, this infusion causes those who drink it to enter a blissful sleep soon after, followed by an equally blissful death.
- Translation and footnotes by L.S.