Sonnet to Collecting Seashells
During youth I was quite the collector
of ocean cretin’s annealed sandcastles
Though the hosts inside could not be cheaper,
their fleshy coats were worth all the hassles
Content I was amassing worn seashells;
daily did this fine collection accrue
Though furnished, barren felt those wooden shelves,
as even pearls are lesser than a jewel
Still, the sand was warm; the waves were soothful
and regardless of what hollowness struck,
the beach granted a chance to feel fruitful
so long as one had either skill or luck
Alone was I, but daresay not lonely,
but I was not happy until married.
Blackthorn is the 12th letter of the Gaelic tree alphabet, representing P, yet another controversial letter. There was no P in the Gaelic alphabet until recently, so some tree has had to stand in. As Blackthorn was in the original alphabet (for St, as its old Gaelic name is Straiph, but St is no longer considered a letter in its own right). As Blackthorn’s latin name is Prunus spinosa, it fits the bill. Its modern Gaelic name is Draighneag or Airne (sloe) or Sgitheach dubh (black hawthorn).
Snippets of Lore
Blackthorn is the 12th letter of the Gaelic tree alphabet representing P, controversially, as there was no P in the alphabet until recently
For my explanation of why Blackthorn stands for P see http://mandyhaggith.worldforests.org/index.asp?pageid=359149
Blackthorn’s latin name is Prunus spinosa. In modern Gaelic, draighneag (pierce), airne (sloe) or sgitheach dubh (black hawthorn).
Blackthorn’s fruit is called sloe. They are very high in Vitamin C.
To get a taste of the bitterness of sloes, nowhere better to start than Vicki Feaver. http://www.spl.org.uk/best-poems_2006/feaver.htm
Too much sloe gin may be too much of a good thing.
Sloe gin infused with pennyroyal and valerian was the original ‘Mother’s Ruin’.
Blackthorn is the ancestor of all plum trees.
Sloe stones have been found in Neolithic cairns and crannogs.
The Ice Man was carrying a sloe, presumably to eat.
Sloes are better flavored if frosted, or dried then rehydrated.
Sloe jelly is best made with apples.
Sloes are good for the bladder, kidneys, stomach and lung complaints.
Sloe juice and bark gives indelible ink.
Sloes gives a pinky purple dye, and blackthorn bark produces a red or orange dye.
Blackthorn bark can be used to reduce fever.
Use blackthorn leaves for tea. It’s good for tonsils and larynx.
Have another sloe gin (by Seamus Heaney) http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/IrelandGenWeb/2003-11/1069876152
Responding to Heaney, Tom Rawling’s Sloe Gin: http://www.xen19.dial.pipex.com/dec_2.htm
And another moody blackthorn poem, this one by Louis McKee, coming into blossom. http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/the-blackthorn/
Blackthorn produces beautiful snow white blossoms early and before the leaves come.
Blackthorn’s leafless stems, in flower, evoke a place between death and life.
Blackthorn blossom is unlucky indoors (maybe for the same reason as hawthorn?)
A tisane of blackthorn blossom ‘purges to the depths’.
Rough weather in March is called a Blackthorn Winter.
Blackthorn is the sister of Hawthorn: Blackthorn governs Nov-April, Hawthorn governs May-Oct.
Blackthorn wood is hard and good for walking sticks and weapons. Best walking sticks are blackthorn entwined by honeysuckle.
Irish sheleilaigh sticks are made with blackthorn wood.
Blackthorn trees give good shelter for birds to nest in. It makes excellent hedges.
Blackthorn is supposed to never exceed 13 feet.
Proverb: Better the bramble than the blackthorn, but better the blackthorn than the devil.
Blackthorn helps you see beyond negatives to opportunity.
A hero fleeing from giants needs a magical blackthorn twig which will sprout into a thicket!
Blackthorns were believed to spring from the blood of Norse invaders.
A blackthorn thorn tipped with poison is a subtle weapon known as ‘a pin of slumber’.
Blackthorn is associated with Sleeping Beauty – after pricking her finger, the castle was thorn-bound until love came.
Witches stick blackthorns into wax effigies of their enemies.
Blackthorn was used for pyres when burning witches.
Blackthorn was believed to have been used for Christ’s Crown of Thorns, hence unlucky.
For fertile fields, make, wear, then burn a blackthorn crown and spread its ash.
Blackthorn represents the inevitability of death, and of dark secrets.
Evil fairy-folk stole babies – and hid them in blackthorn bushes.
‘Many sloes, many cold toes’ – presage of bad winter ahead.
The Secrets of a Tree
Because they are primeval, because they outlive us, because they are fixed, trees seem to emanate a sense of permanence. And though rooted in earth, they seem to touch the sky. For these reasons it is natural to feel we might learn wisdom from them, to haunt about them with the idea that if we could only read their silent riddle rightly we should learn some secret vital to our own lives; or even, more specifically, some secret vital to our real, our lasting and spiritual existence. (Kim Taplin)
Today the 24th Christmas eve marks the first day since the 21st that the Sun can be recorded as having moved its position when it setting, on the Horizon. The word Solstice itself means “standing still” and it is an amazing fact of nature that for the three days that follow the shortest day of the year in the North, the Sun does not change the position that it falls below the horizon at in the evenings.
Here are some more details about the Solstice on the web site Space.com : The Sun Stands Still
To mark this event here are some of my sunset images posted here on my blog over the last two years ….
Galley of sunsets
F: Géranium Herbe à Robert
Geranium robertianum grows spontaneous and abundantly in many gardens. Some people keep wondering about its edibility, since there is not much to be found about it in books on edible wild plants. Its less than appealing taste seems to be at least partly responsible for its absence in culinary creations. In survival situations, where one would need to live on what’s available, this plant could be a real asset, since it is rich in essential nutrients such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamins A, C, etc. It is also rich in the element germanium, which has antioxidant activity, helps to strengthen the immune system and is essential to providing energy and oxygen to the cells.