Capturing the world with Photography, Painting and Drawing

Plants and herbs

December , the Pagan Meaning of Evergreen & Holly

Evergreen Holly  Pagan Nature

Evergreen Holly
Pagan Nature

Evergreens and holly (genus Ilex) are traditionally used to decorate during the holidays. Although many simply enjoy the plants for their fragrance and holiday colors, the meaning of these plants goes deeper for others, including pagans. Historically, pagans had — and still have — specific beliefs about the power and symbolism of both evergreens and holly, and some still use the plants as decor in accordance with those beliefs.

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Evergreen — Always Green

Evergreens are loosely defined as plants that retain their foliage and remain green year-round. Usually, the term refers to coniferous trees — trees that have needles or needle-like foliage, but it can refer to any plant that stays green all winter long, including holly. Today, evergreens are valued for their practical uses — as windbreaks, hedges and for use as Christmas trees. Pagans used them for more spiritual reasons.

Pagan Meaning of Evergreen

In some countries, it was believed that evergreens would keep evil out of the home — evil spirits and ghosts, and evil in the form of illnesses. For this reason, evergreen boughs were often cut down and hung over doorways and inside the home. Pagans also believed that the green branches represented everlasting life. Druids used evergreen branches to decorate their temples for this very reason, according to History.com. The green of the branches helped people to get through the long winter by having hope in the warmth and food that would come in the spring.

Holly — Pretty and Prickly

Holly plants
vary widely in leaf shape and appearance. Although there are over 400 species (Ilex opaca is the scientific name of American holly), the most popular for use during the holidays are those that produce bright red berries, which historically were seen by pagans as masculine plants even though it is the female plants that produce the fruit. Holly plants are generally hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 9, although this can vary by species. Most popular hollies are hardy in USDA zones 7 through 9.

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Pagan Meaning of Holly

Holly has a more specific meaning for pagans. Historically, pagans believed that like evergreens, holly wards off evil spirits. They also believed that holly increased fertility. In addition to bringing in holly boughs to decorate the home and increase fertility, holly was also often planted outdoors around the house to keep out evil spirits.

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Zooming in close , Devil’s-Bit Scabious ,Scientific Name(Succisa pratensis)

 	Sheep's-bit Scientific Name: 	Jasione montana Nature Photography Nigel Borrington

Devil’s-Bit Scabious ,Scientific Name(Succisa pratensis)
Nature Photography
Nigel Borrington

Devil’s-Bit Scabious ,Scientific Name(Succisa pratensis)

Abundant in marshes, pastures, and hedgerows, this little plant is quite unfussy about where it grows and even brightens up many a bog when it flowers from June to October. It’s a medium sized perennial with untoothed, deep green, blotchy, oval shaped leaves. Its pretty hemispherical flowerheads are blue-violet, 25mm across with prominent magenta anthers and on long slender stalks. This is a native plant to Ireland belonging to the family Dipsaceae.

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Nature Photography : Hunting for Fungi , Kyleaduhir woods, Callan, Co Kilkenny

Lactarius blennius Beech milkcap  Kyleaduhir woods Callan , Co. Kilkenny

Lactarius blennius
Beech milkcap
Kyleaduhir woods Callan , Co. Kilkenny

Our local woodlands in September begin to fill with many kinds of fungi, its an almost magical sight, they make great subjects for Macro photography. You need to be happy getting down into the damp and muddy forest floor but the results can be well worth the effort.

Here are some basic facts about Fungi …..

Mushroom Magic and Folklore

Go for a walk in the woods on any given summer day, and you’ll see fungi galore popping up, nestled in amongst the ferns and trees. After a rainstorm, peek out in your backyard and you may see tiny spores beginning to sprout in the grass, forming what’s known as a fairy ring. Mushrooms grow in all shapes and sizes and colors, and – depending on where you live – you might find some that are conducive to magical practice.

It is important to note that unless you are absolutely positive about the type of mushroom you have picked, you should never ingest it or take it internally. There are many toxic mushrooms which look similar to edible ones – if you’re unsure about what you have found, check with a naturalist or other mushroom expert.

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That having been said, there are a number of folk magic uses for mushrooms, and you can incorporate these at a symbolic level, rather than actually ingesting them. Let’s take a look at some of the legends and myths about mushrooms from around the world.

In many areas, the appearance of a ring of mushrooms on the ground is cause for either rejoicing or alarm. In Great Britain, these circles are known as fairy rings – and they are where the Fae come to dance and frolic after a rainstorm. However, like many other locations associated with faeries, humans who dare to enter such a ring may find themselves asleep for a hundred years, or worse yet, whisked off to the land of the wee folk, never to return.

In Holland, these rings are believed to be left when the Devil sets down his milk churn – once he picks it up, there’s a big circle left in the grass. In some countries, such as France and Austria, these rings are associated with sorcery and malevolent magic, and travelers are well-advised to steer clear of them.

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Vance Randolph says in his book Ozark Magic and Folklore that in many parts of the Ozarks, it is believed that “mushrooms must be gathered when the moon is full – gather ’em at any other time and they will be unpalatable, or perhaps even poisonous.” He adds that it is said that mushrooms growing in an orchard where apple trees are in bloom are always edible.

One of the best known mushrooms, at least in European culture, is the red-and-white Fly Agaric. This mushroom appears often in illustrations of fairy tales – you might see a gnome or a fairy perched on top of one. Experts believe that the Fly Agaric was used as a hallucinogenic by northern European shamans and religious leaders. Interestingly, it contains two toxins that reduce the body’s response to fear stimulus, so it may have been ingested by warriors prior to battle. In central Europe, the Fly Agaric is associated with the Yule season, and there is a theory that Santa Claus’ red and white suit originated in the colors of this magical mushroom.

In ancient Egypt, mushrooms were a rare delicacy indeed. They were associated with immortality, and as such, only royalty could consume them – because, after all, royal persons were descended from the Egyptian gods themselves. Hieroglyphs found in Egypt indicate that mushrooms were being consumed with meals as long as 4,500 years ago.

In China and Japan, mushrooms were associated with longevity and strength – partly because some of the most popular mushrooms that grew there were known for stimulating the immune system. Shiitake and maitake mushrooms, in particular, have been used in herbal remedies for centuries.

Mushrooms have been used by many cultures throughout time as part of ritual and religion. The toxin psilocybin is found in certain mushrooms, and the use of hallucinogenic fungi has been documented in rituals dating back thousands of years. Entheogen researcher Giorgio Samorini describes the discovery of rock art representing mushroom cults in Libya and Algeria from 7,000 – 9,000 years ago in his article The oldest Representations of Hallucinogenic Mushrooms in the world (Sahara Desert, 9000 – 7000 B.P.).

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Wild Woodbine, a Poem by – Joan McBreen

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Wild Woodbine

Joan McBreen

Wild woodbine was beyond my reach
in the thick hedges round Lough Gill.
The heavy scent filled the house for days
when my father brought it in
and it stayed fresh far longer
then meadowsweet.

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Because I loved the delicate
pink and white wild rose
he picked it too, cursing the thorns, muttering
“it dies too soon,
you’d be better leaving it alone”.

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Yet once, when my mother
swept its petals from the floor
I saw him rescue one
and place it carefully
in the small wallet
where he kept her photograph.

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Irish wild plants , Wild Orange Crocosmia

Wild Orange Crocosmia Nigel Borrington 2016

This showy plant graces many country lanes from July to September with a wonderful display of spikes of bright reddish-orange flowers. A familiar sight in the west of Ireland particularly, it is taken by many to be one of our native plants, along with Fuchsia. However, like Fuchsia, this is an introduction to our shores and is a hybrid between two South African species.

Common Name: 	Montbretia Scientific Name: 	Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora Irish Name: Fealeastram dearg

Common Name: Montbretia
Scientific Name: Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora
Irish Name: Fealeastram dearg

Nevertheless it is a very attractive sight and seems to blend in to our landscape, particularly in places where it grows alongside our native Purple Loosetrife. The flowers (25-55mm) are in a one-sided loose panicle and have a corolla which is tubed with six lobes. The three stamens protrude. The grass-like leaves are long and narrow. This plant belongs to the family Iridaceae.

This plant was named after Coquebert de Montbret (1780-1801) who was a French botanist who accompanied Napoleon when he invaded Egypt in 1798 and who died there at the age of 20. However, horticulturists also refer to this plant as ‘Crocosmia’ which comes from the Greek ‘krokos’ – saffron – and ‘osme’ – smell. I am told that they smell of saffron when placed in water but honestly I cannot confirm that this is so.


County Kilkenny Landscapes and a Poem : Like Barley Bending, Sara Teasdale (1884 – 1933)

Barley Field County Kilkenny  Nigel Borrington

Barley Field
County Kilkenny
Nigel Borrington

Like Barley Bending

Like barley bending
In low fields by the sea,
Singing in hard wind
Ceaselessly;

Like barley bending
And rising again,
So would I, unbroken,
Rise from pain;

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So would I softly,
Day long, night long,
Change my sorrow
Into song.

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The Tree a poem by Tom Splitt

The Tree  Nigel Borrington

The Tree
Nigel Borrington

The Tree

by Tom Splitt

The calm quiet strength of a tree
Anchored deep in the earth
Reaching high in the sky
The calm quiet strength of a tree

The calm quiet strength of a tree
Full of life from its roots
To the tiniest branch
The calm quiet strength of a tree

And oh, how it comforts me
How it teaches me
Without a sound
Then I realize at once
That this tree and I are one
In eternity

The calm quiet strength of a tree
From the weight of its trunk
To its delicate leaves
The calm quiet strength of a tree

The calm quiet strength of a tree
Showing anyone near
All the secrets of time
The calm quiet strength of a tree


Bog cotton on the red bog, A Poem CHARLOTTE GRACE O’BRIEN (1845 – 1909)

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BOG COTTON ON THE RED BOG

A Poem by
CHARLOTTE GRACE O’BRIEN (1845 –1909)
Foynes in June 1895

“ O STRONG-WINGED birds from over the moorland dark,
On this June day what have you seen?
Where have you been? ”

Where, oh! where
The golden yellow asphodel makes its boggy home,
And far and near, Spreading in broad bands of silvery silky foam
O’er the moorland drear, The slender stemmed bog cotton bends in waves of light,
Shaking out its shining tufts for its own delight,There, oh! there We have been.

“O sweet sky piercing, heaven mounting lark,
On this June day what have you seen?”

I have seen—I have seen
The dark red bog and the king fern green,
And the black
black pools lying dim between,–
The baby heather that blossoms so soon
In the splendid heat that comes after June–

———————–

Charlotte Grace O’Brien
was born in County Limerick, the daughter of
William Smith O’Brien who was a Conservative Member of Parliament for County Limerick; she championed the cause for better conditions for those emigrating to America.

Bog cotton on the red bog, images Gallery

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Three Poems about Orchid’s

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Faranani
Feb 23, 2014

Purple Orchid

“Purple Orchid”
A symbol of rare beauty
Exotic. Delicate. Mysterious
Precious, in every way
Lost in a tropical land of
Purple Haze,
I am there
Whispering with a tinge of
Innocence yet wild
With passionate dark desires.
A calm stability of blue and
The fierce energy of red
Stimulating mystery and thrill,
A darkened flower
Of refined passion
With strikingly lush petals,
Intoxicating.
In his mind,
I am
A
Purple Orchid

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Kayden Fittini
Apr 23, 2015

Petals of an Orchid

Graceful curve of the flower enriched with mystery
melting away any bubbling misery
walking towards the beauty.

(I’m looking to pull this special flower today.)

Wait shall I praise the wonderous bloom
with fragrant colors infused within me soon
something to admire on a daily
choosing between multiple types that look equally lovely.

(I just want to love you.)

The vanilla scent which never fades
you rose from a bed of vibrant shades
to hold and caress –
in your walk stems artistic introduction
keep me within your symmetrical seduction

And in your radiance glimmers across the horizon and seas
its in your nature to please while you tease –
but i cant lie, your approach continues with ease.
to compare your style with nature only makes sense.
how lucky can one be to build a connection that’s so intense!

I pluck the fascinating petals of an orchid.

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Colin Carpenter
Apr 12, 2013

Wild Orchids

Your colors diffuse in hushed streaks
across synapses,
as empty spaces also become orchids
and butterfly petals reach for a scent
their counterparts in rain.
A fringed April is actually an orchid.


Wild flowers and Woodland plants , Viola riviniana

Common Dog Violet Viola riviniana Nigel Borrington

Common Dog Violet
Viola riviniana
Nigel Borrington

At this time of the year our local woodlands here in county Kilkenny fill with new life and colours, one of the the wild flowers I love the most are the Violets.

They are a familiar little wildflower of the woodlands and grassy hedge-banks, this plant is quite similar to Early Dog-violet and is easily confused. The unscented, blue-violet flower is always solitary on the stem, and is open with five petals, the lower of which has a stout, blunt, pale, curved spur which is notched at the tip.

The mouth of the flower is absolutely wonderful to view through a hand-lens or magnifying glass. It has a pattern of deep purple lines which run into the throat over a paler violet patch, becoming white. The upper petals have a fringe which is over the opening. The dark-green, heart-shaped leaves are on long, slender stalks. This native plant which blooms from April until June is a larval foodplant of the Dark Green Fritillary. It belongs to the family Violaceae.

‘Look at us, said the violets blooming at her feet, all last winter we slept in the seeming death but at the right time God awakened us, and here we are to comfort you’.

Edward Payson Roe 1838-1888

‘I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.’

William Shakespeare 1564 -1616