Lesbian Palm Tree Bondage

Now that I have your attention, here is my translation of a horticultural text concerning how to cure palm trees of their undying infatuation with one another.  It’s quite a famous piece amongst my friends and associates, although this translation is fuller than the one I have previously supplied to them.  This is the second of my intermittent blogging translation series in which I translate bits of rather weird Classical Arabic for the general amusement of the kind of people who read my blog, the first being the bat text.

NABATAEAN AGRICULTURE
Ibn Wahshiyya, 960

Palm trees are similar to humans in love and affection.  This phenomenon was first noted and explored long ago by the magician Barr’ablā¹.  Although we are certain of this, there are people who claim this distinction for Dawānāy², and I do not know which of the two was truly first.  He said that palm trees fell in love with each other and longed for each other, although it is in a different manner from the way humans fall in love with one another, and has little in common with it except for sharing the name.
The reasons behind this affliction some people feel for others are not understood, but in palm trees it is caused by being planted opposite each other in a straight line, being of similar stature, and often being of a similar age.  When a palm tree becomes thin – which is as evident in palm trees as it is in humans – or it ceases to bear fruit, or blemishes on its heart and fronds appear, then this indicates that it is in love.  Most frequently, this will be of the male tree for the female tree, or the female tree for the male, but occasionally it is seen in the female tree for another of its kind; this is extremely rare.
This is one of the diseases of the palm tree which can prove fatal, but curing the tree of this disease is like curing a person of it.  Humans are cured by union with the one they love, and palm trees are cured by impregnating the female with a spadix from the male it loves³.  If a female tree loves another, take a spadix from the beloved and place it inside the spadix of the lover.  If the beloved does not produce spadices for one of the many reasons which prevent this, cut off a leafy frond from the lower part of the stem and tie it to the lover.  Sometimes four fronds may be taken from the beloved and tied around the sides of the lover, or some fibres may be stripped off and bound to her.
The most judicious thing to do is to take a long stick, drive one end of it into the base of one tree, and the other end into the base of the second; also, tie a coarse rope around the beloved’s trunk and the other end around the lover’s.  When combined, these two courses of action, the rope and the stick, will united the trees from base to base.  There are numerousother tricks to cure a palm tree of the lovesick weakness which has befallen it, and they are along the lines which have already been mentioned.
No-one can tell a lovesick palm tree from another to the extent that they can judge that the weakness which has befallen it has only love as its cause, except the old fellahin who are trained and experienced in the treatment of palm trees and the inspection of their illnesses.  This disease is obvious to them, so they are aware of it and they can treat it.  The wretches and others from the rank and file are ignorant of it and cannot distinguish the symptoms from mere emaciation.  Trees affected by this display blemishes and weakness and collapse, and this happens to them without love.  Wide experience and perspicacity are required to distinguish between the two, and to dispense treatment to each according to what is
Barr’ablā, in his book on palm tree horticulture, advises a cure which verges on magic.  In the chapter on palm tree diseases, he says:
“To treat lovesickness which has become evident, take a roughly-woven, thickly-embroidered cloak – if it is new it will be more effective – and wrap it around the beloved, whether it be male or female, for a day, that is to say twenty-four hours.  Then remove the cloak and wrap it around the lover tree for a day.  Remove it again, and wrap it around the trunk of the beloved, then wrap it around the lover again.  Repeat the treatment thus between seven and fourteen times, and if the cause of the illness is love then the ailing tree will recover.”

[1], [2]; names of Aramaic soothsayers; I have tried to find out more information about them but alas, I can’t yet read Persian.
[3] No mention is made here of how to cure a male tree which loves a female one.
[4] lit. “many faces of tricks”
[5] laysa is used here to negate a verb, which is ungrammatical in modern Arabic but permissible in the Classical language.

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