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D&D 5E What is a petrified eye of a Newt?

ECMO3

Hero
This is the spell component for Hex. Is this just a dried mustard seed?

Is it a mustard seed or is it the actual the eyeball of some creature called a "Newt". If it is actually the eyeball of said creature, how is it "petrified" and where can I find information about said Newt?
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Newts are real animals - they are amphibians, and look a bit like lizards in general shape.

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We classically get the idea that "eye of newt" is used in magic from the witches in Shakespeare's MacBeth, as they brew something in a cauldron:

"Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Fillet of a fenny snake, In the cauldron boil and bake; 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 owlet's wing, For a charm of powerful trouble, Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."

However texts on herbalism of the time apparently indicate all these as alternate names for various herbs and plants. Historically, "eye of newt" was mustard seed, not the literal eye of a newt, petrified or otherwise. Toe of frog was buttercup, there is an herb commonly called houndstongue, the wool of bat is moss, and so on.

However, most people who have seen or read MacBeth aren't herbalist historians. The common conception is that the witches are putting some seriously nasty things in that cauldron. I expect the game writers are also not herbalist historians. So, their intention was probably more literal.

Note, that as a game spell component, it is listed without a cost - so you don't actually have to worry about it. It is flavor text, and can be assumed to be in any spell component pouch.
 

However, most people who have seen or read MacBeth aren't herbalist historians. The common conception is that the witches are putting some seriously nasty things in that cauldron.
I think that was the author's intent. Part of the reason for writing Macbeth was to flatter notorious witch-hater King James I. So he portrayed common herbal remedies as seriously nasty. The audience at the time of writing weren't herbalists either.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
I think that was the author's intent. Part of the reason for writing Macbeth was to flatter notorious witch-hater King James I. So he portrayed common herbal remedies as seriously nasty. The audience at the time of writing weren't herbalists either.
Though Shakespeare - also probably not an herbalist - was either familiar with all these names, or by some tremendous coincidence happened to only pick animal parts that were also the names of herbs. I think the former is far more likely, and if his goal was to present witches as horrible, it seems an odd choice to only list nasty things that could also be read as herbs to have the witches list as ingredients.

I suspect that those were fairly common names used for those herbs at the time, not ones only herbalists would have known, and Shakespeare was deliberately using double-entendre.
 

Though Shakespeare - also probably not an herbalist - was either familiar with all these names, or by some tremendous coincidence happened to only pick animal parts that were also the names of herbs. I think the former is far more likely, and if his goal was to present witches as horrible, it seems an odd choice to only list nasty things that could also be read as herbs to have the witches list as ingredients.

I suspect that those were fairly common names used for those herbs at the time, not ones only herbalists would have known, and Shakespeare was deliberately using double-entendre.
Shakespeare did huge amounts of research. Most of his plays draw heavily on classical texts, many of which where obscure even at the time of writing. He no doubt read extensively on herbalism before writing those scenes.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
Shakespeare did huge amounts of research. Most of his plays draw heavily on classical texts, many of which where obscure even at the time of writing. He no doubt read extensively on herbalism before writing those scenes.
And so in pursuit of his goal to present witches as awful he did a ton of research to find actual herbs with names that could be read as nasty things instead of picking nasty sounding things that couldn’t also be read as the names of herbs? I dunno, seems like an odd choice. It seems more reasonable to me to suppose that he intended to present a double-meaning than to suppose that he intended to make witches look bad.

But hey, what do I know? I’m no Shakespeare scholar.
 

And so in pursuit of his goal to present witches as awful he did a ton of research to find actual herbs with names that could be read as nasty things instead of picking nasty sounding things that couldn’t also be read as the names of herbs? I dunno, seems like an odd choice. I think it’s more likely that he intended to present a double-meaning than that he intended to make witches look bad.
He was a perfectionist. Some authors do research for it's own sake. At that time names for herbs differed widely across the the country, and the urbanite Londoners who where his audience would have known little and cared less.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/They)
He was a perfectionist. Some authors do research for it's own sake. At that time names for herbs differed widely across the the country, and the urbanite Londoners who where his audience would have known little and cared less.
I don’t dispute that, I just question the idea that the motivation was to vilify witches, as it seems like using ingredients that were also the names of herbs ill-suits that goal. But, again, I’m no Shakespeare scholar. Just seems weird to me.
 

I don’t dispute that, I just question the idea that the motivation was to vilify witches, as it seems like using ingredients that were also the names of herbs ill-suits that goal. But, again, I’m no Shakespeare scholar. Just seems weird to me.
It's also an early example of an "in-joke". The new king, like Shakespeare, was widely read, and so would be expected to understand the reference, but most of the audience would not.

In understanding Macbeth, the context is important. James had just become king of England (he was already king of Scotland), and Shakespeare was trying to get in with the new monarch. Thus there is a scene directly connecting the line of "legitimate Scottish kings" to Banquo, one of James's ancestors. James was already established as a persecutor of witches, having written Daemonolgie.

To be fair to James, he mellowed a little as he got older, and eventually added a higher burden of proof to allegations of witchcraft.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The audience at the time of writing weren't herbalists either.

The audience at the time didn't have CVS - they used herbal remedies on a regular basis. I would expect them to have been aware in general. Some folks have the idea that people of earlier periods, being ignorant of today's known science, were just... generally ignorant of everything in their worlds, which seems unlikely.

Shakespeare liked wordplay and puns, so I expect that played into the scene.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
The claim that the names of the ingredients in Macbeth's witches brew, including Eye of Newt, represent common plants appears to be a modern falsification: Are the ingredients listed in "Macbeth" common plants?

That link questions, an gives the (appropriate) critique that people don't cite primary sources, but provides no information other than that.

Meanwhile:
Hounds tongue: Cynoglossum officinale - Wikipedia
Adder's (Fork) Tongue: Ophioglossum - Wikipedia

"Blind worm" may actually be a reference to "Slow worm" a legless lizard that can shed its tail to escape predators. Slow worm - Wikipedia

And saying that it is against witches actually argues that the language could be deliberately chosen to misrepresent the actuality of women who happen to know a bit about herbalism.
 


To find an actual petrified eye of newt would be like finding a mosquito, in sap, with dinosaur blood.

But maybe they just mean dehydrated eye of newt. One that has been out in the sun for a while.
Not necessarily, after all their is the petrification spell.

To me, I'd rather use the literal name for spell components (i.e. a petrified eyeball of a amphibian), more interesting than saying, oh, it's just an herb. But, regardless, no cost means it's not hard to come by and is included in a spell component pouch.
 

Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
To find an actual petrified eye of newt would be like finding a mosquito, in sap, with dinosaur blood.

But maybe they just mean dehydrated eye of newt. One that has been out in the sun for a while.

Or just cast Flesh to Stone on a newt. 11th level wizards usually pay back their students' loans by being the only known source of petrified eyes of newt, who are bought mainly by young and aspiring warlocking students (who take loans students to buy those components).


Idea for a Strixhaven side adventure: "help dismantle the effort of the Magical Animals student association who's intent to traffick a few cockatrices on campus (and non-magical newts of course) in order to derail the petrified eyes of newt cartel and make half the school of transmutation default on their student loans (savvy bankers do employ Inevitables)"
 


Galandris

Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
While this is true, it is a 6th level spell. How many people are burning a 6th level spell so the apprentice can cast their 1st level spell? I guess it depends on the setting.

True. That depends on the availability of 11th level spellcasters in the setting. If they are archmage/advisors-of-kings rarity, probably can't be counted upon. If they are "old wizard who feels he has reached the point in his career where he needs to pass his knowledge onto a bunch of apprentices" then he would: compared to the time and effort to grade a student's essay, casting a six-second 6th level spell with no costly component is a trade-off I can totally see anyone taking. The petrified eye of newt isn't consumed by the spell, so he only needs one for the whole apprentice's life.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Not necessarily, after all their is the petrification spell.

Flesh to stone is a 6th level spell, and it can target one creature. So, you get at most two eyes for each 6th level spell cast. That's not many. For a spell component that has no cost, that seems like a costly, bottleneck of a source.
 

Teemu

Adventurer
It’s definitely the eye of a beast in D&D. It says “eye of a newt”, and not “eye of newt”, and hex is a nasty warlock spell of death, so a nasty component makes perfect sense. Also, it’s not consumed, so it could be an heirloom that you’re carrying around. Now, the real question is how on earth the warlock can produce the eye from a spell component pouch and put in back inside in the span of a bonus action. I guess that’s magic.
 

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