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Gorse flowers – in mythology

Irish Gorse flowers Nigel Borringtpn

Irish Gorse flowers
Nigel Borringtpn

Gorse flowers – in mythology

Gorse, also known as furze, is a sweet scented, yellow flowered, spiny evergreen shrub that flowers all year round.

In fact, there are several species of gorse that flower at different times of the year making it a much-loved plant for the bees and giving it the appearance of being in bloom all year long. There is an old saying that goes, β€œWhen the gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season.”
Gorse Tree copyright Ireland Calling

Gorse is often associated with love and fertility. It was for this reason that a sprig of gorse was traditionally added to a bride’s bouquet and gorse torches were ritually burned around livestock to protect against sterility. However, one should never give gorse flowers to another as a gift for it is unlucky for both the giver and receiver.

Monday Mornings in Kilkenny 02

Beltane bonfires

Gorse wood was used as very effective tinder. It has a high oil content which means it burns at a similar high temperature to charcoal. The ashes of the burnt gorse were high in alkali and used to make soap when mixed with animal fat.

Onn, meaning gorse, is the 17th letter of the ogham alphabet. It equates to the English letter O.

In Celtic tradition, gorse was one of the sacred woods burned on the Beltane bonfires, probably the one that got them started. It was a shrub associated with the spring equinox and the Celtic god of light, Lugh, doubtlessly because of its ever blooming vibrant yellow flowers.

In Brittany, the Celtic summer festival of Lughnastdagh, named after the god, was known as the Festival of Golden Gorse.

Flowers used in wine and whiskey

The flowers have a distinct vanilla-coconut aroma and are edible with an almond-like taste. They can be eaten raw on salads or pickled like capers. They have also been used to make wine and to add colour and flavour to Irish whiskey. However, consuming the flowers in great numbers can cause an upset stomach due to the alkalis they contain.

The prickly nature of gorse gave it a protective reputation, specifically around livestock. As well as providing an effective hedgerow, gorse made an acceptable flea repellent and the plant was often milled to make animal fodder.

10 responses

  1. I had no idea they could be used in wine (or whiskey) Who might have known the humble Gorse has such appeal πŸ™‚ I reminder, I suppose not to take anything at face value . Lovely Post Nigel!

    January 19, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    • Hello Morgan πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      Thank you, I love getting details like this for a post πŸ™‚ its amazing what can be used just growing around us for free πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      January 20, 2015 at 2:25 pm

  2. What gorgeous lighting!!

    January 19, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    • Hello Rene πŸ™‚

      Thank you , I really enjoyed getting these so I am Very pleased that you liked the post and the images πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      January 20, 2015 at 2:21 pm

  3. Great article Nigel. Whins, they are called up here in Tyrone, and the colour and coconut aroma are a great addition to the landscape.

    January 21, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    • Hello Aidy πŸ™‚

      Thank you and I am very pleased you enjoyed the post πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      January 22, 2015 at 1:49 pm

  4. May the Gorse be with you! πŸ˜€ Stunner of an image.

    January 22, 2015 at 12:52 am

    • Hello Elen πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      HAHAHA!! – Thank you πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

      January 22, 2015 at 1:50 pm

  5. vera ersilia

    Wonderful wonderful story about a plant I knew nothing of – and IT IS beautiful too.

    January 30, 2015 at 11:36 am

  6. Is your gravatar gorse?

    March 2, 2015 at 4:57 am

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