Wind, Water and Willows

The Darling Buds of May

Today is the first day of ‘Hawthorn’ on our Ogham ‘Tree Calendar’ – ‘May’ being an alternative folk name for the Hawthorn.   The phrase was coined by William Shakespeare in his Sonnet 18 ..

‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date ..’

 

For the full poem along with a modern translation and analysis see  ..

http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/18detail.html

“Sonnet 18 is the best known and most well-loved of all 154 sonnets.”

I think of the Hawthorn as a very feminine tree; the beautiful white blossoms, red berries in autumn and bare thorny branches in winter I see as the 3 stages of Womanhood – the blossoms the white lace of a wedding dress, the berries the ‘ripeness’ of pregnancy and motherhood, the thorns the prickly wisdom of an elderly lady – as with Maiden, Mother and Crone, the 3 aspects of the Goddess 🌒🌕🌘

When getting to know the trees whilst studying the Ogham this was my impression of the May ..

I really love the hedges which line a road nearby to where I live. The smell of the blossom and foliage in springtime, the pretty berries in autumn 🥰 They are wildlife corridors – on approaching them there are always birds to be seen flying in and out and they must give protection to a lot of small animals from the open fields. I think of them as a row of merry maidens – sturdy, strong country girls with pretty rosy cheeked faces who make you feel welcome and inspire confidence – kindly but knowing 😉 Because there is also something mysterious about them, you peer in but you still get a sense that there is more beyond what you can see – where do those birds and small animals really go? 🤔

There really is something quite mysterious about the Hawthorn, the ancient Celts saw this tree as a portal to the ‘Otherworld’ – a fairy tree that must never be cut down.  Even to this day in Ireland roads have been re-routed to avoid cutting down a May tree. 

Also several workers at John DeLorean’s car factory in Northern Ireland in 1982 blamed the failure of the company on the cutting down of an old Hawthorn tree during the factory’s construction!

Of course the most famous May tree of all has to be the ‘Glastonbury Thorn’ on Wearyall Hill near Glastonbury, Somerset.  Legend tells us that the original tree sprouted from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea after he thrust it into the ground on top of the hill whilst visiting the area – very similar to the story about St Patrick in Aspatria, Cumbria. Miraculously the staff burst into leaf and blossom as a sign perhaps that his mission to spread the Gospel in Britain would bear fruit.  It soon became a site of pilgrimage for early Christians until it was chopped down and burned during the English Civil War. A replacement tree was planted in 1951 but was sadly very badly vandalised again in 2010 – in March 2011 it was reported that a new shoot had appeared on the remaining stumps of the tree.💖

The ‘Glastonbury Thorn’ is a special variety of Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna‘Biflora’ which flowers twice a year – midwinter and May-time.  A spray from the Glastonbury Thorn is sent to the Queen each Christmas.

There is a real wealth of folklore to be found regarding May trees as any search for it on the internet will show you – here is some more particularly interesting information .. https://treesforlife.org.uk/into-the-forest/trees-plants-animals/trees/hawthorn/

‘It was at the dawn of day in the merry Maytime, when hedgerows are green and flowers bedeck the meadows; daisies pied and yellow cuckoo buds and fair primroses all along the briery hedges; when apple buds blossom and sweet birds sing, the lark at dawn of day, the throstle cock and cuckoo; when lads and lasses look upon each other with sweet thoughts; when busy housewives spread their linen to bleach upon the bright green grass.’

from The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle.

Wishing you all a very “Merry May!”

Kim x

Blessed Beltane!

Yes I am a bit late .. but only by a few hours actually! 😉 Astrologically speaking, Beltane occurs when the sun is at 15 degrees Taurus, that’s roughly in the middle of the dates for the star-sign of Taurus which fall between April 19th and May 20th each year.☀️🐂 So for those of us in the UK, that happened at 06:36 this morning – for other time zones see this website where you can also find a lot of other really interesting information re: the equinoxes, solstices and cross-quarter days. 💫

So, we can choose to celebrate these old festivals using the fixed traditional calendar dates or the movable astrological dates .. or even both! Really handy if one or the other falls on a weekend! 😉

When learning about the trees of the Ogham, I noticed in my course notes that there did not seem to be a tree connected with Beltane although every other festival was covered? Going by the Robert Graves ‘Tree Calendar’ dates we are now in the time of Willow/Saille .. although Hawthorn/Huathe – the May Tree – would seem to make more sense.🤔 I did learn that Blackthorn/Straif was said to be the ‘sister’ of Hawthorn and that as with the ‘Oak and the Holly Kings’, Hawthorn rules the ‘light half’ of the year and Blackthorn the ‘dark half’ .. BUT, I have also seen Apple/Quert assigned as Blackthorn’s counterpart on other websites about Ogham .. curiouser and curiouser? 🧐🍏🐇

I know that a later ‘tree calendar’ was made by Colin and Liz Murray who also produced a beautiful oracle card set – their calendar starts with Birch/Beith at November 1st rather than December 24th but with Apple falling in September on Graves’ calendar I am still not sure how this would fit with the Murray’s ‘pulling it all back (or is it forward) a bit’? 🍏😕🍏

Whatever, Apple/Quert is a lovely tree to celebrate Beltane with as it symbolises health, healing and love, the beginning of a better, restorative phase! 😊💖 I know it is now late in the day but I hope that you have all had a really nice day and will finish by posting a couple of photos of a lovely old apple tree (which was once part of an orchard) still growing and producing delicious cooking apples in my mother-in-law’s garden in Jersey, C.I.☀️

Here’s to brighter days ahead! 😉🌳🌞💕 Xx

Blogham

Wind, Water and Willows ..

This is the first day of the month of Willow or Saille according to our Celtic Tree Calendar.. also sometimes known as Sallow or Osier – which are actually the broader and narrower leaved varieties respectively.

The element associated with Saille is Water which of course makes sense with its tendency for growing in watery places but I also think of it as an ‘airy’ type of a tree – birch and aspen certainly ‘shimmy’ in a breeze but Willow really knows how to dance!

Incidentally – by interspersing Willow with Rosa Rugosa you can have a really fast growing, salt tolerant, wind-breaking, hedge in the most exposed gardens.

The first couple of paragraphs of Algernon Blackwood’s ‘The Willows’ describes perfectly  … in fact just wonderfully, what I am trying to get across here – it’s one brilliantly crafted story – a favourite of H P Lovecraft  and really well worth the read!

Water of course connects with the Moon and thus Women’s mysteries such as psychic power, divination, dreams and witchcraft – Saille is therefore a Goddess tree corresponding especially to Cerridwen, the Celtic Goddess of inspiration, wisdom, fertility and magic.

Just as the Moon has beguiled with its mysterious ‘dark’ side so too have the Wise Women (and Men) down the ages by showing us glimpses of long hidden (but not entirely lost) universal truths and ancient wisdom – the ‘occult’ ..which simply means ‘hidden’ but still in this day and age unfortunately mostly translates as ‘evil’ (as in the ‘black arts’) rather than the ‘unknown’..

“People fear what they don’t understand and hate what they can’t conquer.”
Andrew Smith

Photo by Alena Koval on Pexels.com

In English folklore Willow trees were believed to be capable of uprooting themselves and following travellers

in ‘The Willows’ the author tells us .. “Most ominous are the masses of dense, desultory, menacing willows, which “moved of their own will as though alive, and they touched, by some incalculable method, my own keen sense of the horrible.

Again we have ‘fear of the unknown’ but here due to the isolation that travellers can feel as they journey through strange territory where Nature ‘takes over’ and provides little in the way of familiar ‘sign posts’.

 From Wikipedia ..

“The precise nature of the mysterious entities in “The Willows” is unclear, and they appear at times malevolent and treacherous, and at times simply mystical, almost divine: “a new order of experience, and in the true sense of the word unearthly,” and a world “where great things go on unceasingly…vast purposes…that deal directly with the soul, and not indirectly with more expressions of the soul.” These forces are also often contrasted with the fantastic natural beauty of the locale, itself a vigorous dynamic. In sum the story suggests that the landscape is an intersection, a point of contact with a “fourth dimension” — “on the frontier of another world, an alien world, a world tenanted by willows only and the souls of willows.”

In my Ogham divination studies I learned that Saille wants us to listen to our emotions so as to know how we really feel about the situation or issue at hand before we make any decisions.  Also that it is natural and healthy to use our intuition and dreams to help us in our lives – for the ancient Celts psychic powers were to be honed, consulted and respected – certainly nothing to be scared of!

Wishing you all a wonderful month ahead! 🌳💕

Kim Xx

Gorgeous Gorse!

As today is the Spring Equinox, I thought I would post a a little poem I wrote several years ago about Gorse, one of my Ogham favourites and the ‘tree’ associated with this time of the year ..

TIny guardian soldiers,

Your helmets deepest gold,

Thorn swords poised high in honeyed air,

As velvet cloaks unfold,

Defenders of the wildlife path, I see you,

Ogma told ..

wishing you all a wonderful day! 🌞

Blessed Alder

Today is the beginning of the month of ‘Fearn’ the Alder according to Robert Grave’s ‘Celtic Tree Calendar’ ~ extending from March 18th “when the alder first blooms” to April 14th which “marks the drying up of the winter floods by the Spring Sun.” ~ it also includes of course the Vernal Equinox or ‘Ostara’.

Alder trees can live both in and out of water and are often found growing in thickets along the banks of rivers, streams and other watery places – Alder wood being so water resilient that it was used to build the ‘crannogs’ (lake houses on stilts) in Scotland and Ireland ..

The Scottish Crannog Centre

Alder was also used to make the shields of Celtic Warriors who believed in the protective spiritual powers of this wood – for not only the physical battle but their mental and emotional well-being too.

Witham_Shield_cutout

The famous Witham Shield originally had a wooden backing.

The Alder is also associated with the God Bran the Blessed, ancient guardian of Britain who asked that his ‘talking head’ be buried at the White Mount in London, (upon which the Tower of London now stands), so that Britain would always be safe from invasion.

‘Bran’ comes from the old Welsh for ‘raven’ and these birds were indeed the totemic animal of Bran.  To this day six ravens are always kept at the Tower for the protection of it and the Kingdom.

‘During World War II, only one raven was able to survive the hardships of the bombing during the Blitz, so the Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, ordered more ravens to be brought in, in order to bring the flock up to the correct size.’  ~ Wikipedia

Two_ravens_and_the_Tower_of_London

Photo courtesy of A. Norppa 

So Fearn stands for strength, courage, protection, confidence, guidance, counsel and wisdom – so much needed for us all right now 

The elements associated are Water and Fire in equal balance which perfectly represents the desire of the Warriors who sought to blend the noble qualities of ‘generosity of spirit and compassion‘ in with their ‘ardency‘ for the fight.

With its long yellow male catkins, green and black female ‘mini-cones’ and wide almost shield-shaped glossy green leaves, this tree so often planted when fertility needs to be brought back to poor soil, is truly symbolic of the ‘generosity of the Gods’ and the ‘good health of the land‘.

Kim's Photos 974

Stay safe and blessings to you all .. Xx