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.
Blackbirds are, for some people, considered a good omen. Others believe that the Blackbird brings the lessons learned in meditation. It is also associated with travel to the Otherworld and the mysteries found there. Blackbird people are good to call upon when spiritual matters are at hand, and often, while rare, they are the best people to have when in a group.
The blackbirds iridescent black plumage holds the energies of mysticism and magic. Druid legends say that the birds of Rhiannan are 3 blackbirds which sit and sing in the World tree of other worlds. Their singing puts the listener into a sleep or a trance which enables him or her to travel to the otherworld. It was said to impart mystic secrets.
Those with this medicine often have a hypnotic influence on others as well as an uncanny ability to move between the seen and unseen worlds with clarity. They make excellent shamans and trance channellers.
Blackbirds are timid and prefer their own company over the company of others. In humans shyness and insecurity in group settings is common. Vulnerable to outside influences those with this totem need to remember to clear accumulated influences from their energy field on a regular basis. The male’s distinctive song during breeding season is loud and melodious with flute like qualities. Males often sing from high perches and both sexes produce a variety of sounds which include mimicking other birds.
Blackbird medicine people love to sing and have the ability use their voice to heal and inform. They are also good ventriloquists.
Blackbirds spend much of their time on the ground. Its locomotion includes walking, climbing and hopping forward and backwards. They forage for food in open spaces although cover is always near by. When foraging in leaf litter under trees they sound like people walking . In humans this suggests an ability to remain grounded in the earth energies while walking a spiritual path.
When resting the blackbird is frequently seen stretching, legs extended back, side wings in full extension, tail spread, and the head tilted to one side as if listening. Yoga and movement therapy are beneficial for those that hold this totem. The blackbirds flights are low, short and undulating but fast and direct over open country. They move with determination and focus and can teach us how to do the same.
When blackbird flies into your life your connection with nature and the forces of creation increase. The magic of the underworld surfaces in your life. Awareness is heightened and change on a cellular level begins. The blackbird teaches you how to acknowledge your power and use it to its fullest
The above board located at the Anne Valley Walk, county Waterford reads as follows :
Watch with glittering eyes
The whole world around you
because the greatest secrets
are hidden in the most unlikely places
Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it !!!
Finding Nature ……
Callan county Kilkenny
3 Times and You Lose
I had a nightmare
I lived in a little town
Where little dreams were broken
And words were seldom spoken
I tried to reach you
But all the lines were down
And so the rain began to fall
On this little town
… On this little town
The little people
Had very little left to say
Their words had all been shortened
It didn’t really seem important
And I had a feeling
That you were very far away
But then a little voice inside me said
“you’ll never get away from here”
And it’s 1, 2,
3 Times and you lose
Of course it doesn’t matter how you say it
I’m all out of luck
So there’s nothing really more to say
I’m throwing it all away
Well we had opinions
But now we all think the same
We never look at one another
Only when the other suffers
And I thought I saw you
Loop Head Lighthouse, county Clare, Ireland
I have just spent a few days visiting County Clare, west Ireland, finishing with a visit to the great Loophead lighhouse. As you can see the day was very typical for a Septembers day here in Ireland, wet and windy.
It was still possible to visit the top of the lighthouse however which was great fun in the strong breeze.
I have very much enjoyed visiting some of Ireland’s lighthouses over the years from the north coast down to Hookhead, on the south coast, these remote location with their lighthouse keepers buildings that would have been both a place of work and a home, all year around and in all weather conditions, are a great reminder of the past.
A past that has almost gone but can in places like these still be felt very strongly.
Sometime back I found this video and have shared it before with other lighthouse posts, its still very much worth sharing again however as it reflects on the family life’s of Ireland’s lighthouse keepers …..
Here is a little history of the Loophead lighthouse
The first lighthouse on Loophead was one of four known Irish stone vaulted cottage type lights built about 1670. These cottages accommodated the lightkeeper and his family in two or three rooms and had an internal stone stairway between two of the rooms leading up to a platform on the roof where a coal burning brazier or chauffer was positioned. Part of the old cottage with its battered outside wall can still be seen near the lightkeepers’ dwellings.
The light must have fallen into disuse towards the end of the 17th century because it was re-established in 1720 after aldermen and merchants of Limerick petitioned the Irish Parliament in 1717 for a light on the Head.
The cottage-lighthouse with its coal fire was replaced in 1802 by a more conventional lighthouse, built by Thomas Rogers, who was also the contractor. The tower was about the same height as the present tower with four rooms and a lantern. The ground floor room was an oil store and access to the first floor or entrance room by an outside staircase of 19 steps. An internal spiral staircase connected the other two rooms and lantern. The twelve-foot diameter lantern contained twelve oil lamps, each with its own concave parabolic reflector. The reflected light shone through a 22″ diameter convex lens of solid glass, not unlike the ‘bottle glass’ or “bulls-eye” fitted into windows of modern psuedo-Georgian houses.
By 1811 the keeper was living in an adjoining cottage, rather than in the tower.
Loop Head Lighthouse, county Clare, Ireland , Gallery
Often one sees sap coming out of an old tree, usually where it is healing up, but usually these “bleeding” areas heal up quite quickly. Recently I came across a most remarkable yew tree when I visited the ancient village of Nevern in Pembrokeshire. It has a 6th century church (St Brynach’s Church) and in the churchyard there are a number of ancient yew trees (Taxus baccata). One of these yews near to the gate is called the “Bleeding Yew” which is about 700 years old and here are some photos I took of it. It has a blood-red sap running out of it which has the consistency of blood – though it dries pink rather than brown. I dipped my finger in it and there wasn’t any distinctive smell or stain, but as people say that most parts of the yew tree are poisonous, I didn’t taste it.
There are many myths about why the Nevern yew tree bleeds: some say that as Jesus was crucified on a cross it is bleeding in sympathy and thoers say that it is reflective of the tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. But that wouldn’t explain why this yew tree in particular is bleeding. One myth says that a monk was hanged on this tree for a crime of which he was innocent and the tree is protesting his innocence. Some say, more politically, that it won’t stop bleeding until there is a Welsh Prince installed at Nevern or even that it will bleed until world peace is achieved.
The church at Nevern is well worth a visit for the bleeding yew, but also because the church has some stone carvings which are over a thousand years old, such as the “Braided Cross Stone” (pictured here) which, like the bleeding yew, has been ascribed many meanings with two cords apparently being woven together to make the cross. There is an even older carving, the Maglocunus stone, which throws light on the version of ancient Celtic once used in these parts of Wales, called Ogham. This stone wasn’t preserved for itself standing vertically but was incorporated horizontally into the church as a windowsill.
The Hills above Grange in County Killkenny, offer some of the most stunning landscape views in the county, here you are looking across the boarder into county Tipperary.
The day I took the following images I had been walking for a little while when I took a rest at a gate, there is that moment in the county when you see some cows resting on a sunny morning and they spot you from a distance. It only take a little time before they all stand and walk over to the gate, I think they are wondering if your the farmer and it time for their feed. Sadly for them I was not and all I could do for them was take some pictures of them to share on WordPress 🙂 🙂
In the Garden at eight am
I witness the end of Springtime
flowers of green, blue and purple
falling all over the table top
I place my cup of tea down
a moment frozen, soon moves on
as more of these blooms fall all around me
soon it will be summer time
clearly the flowers know, against all hope !
time moves on
never pausing for anyone ……
The Hand of Glory: The Nurse’s Story
Richard Harris Barham
On the lone bleak moor,
At the midnight hour,
Beneath the Gallows Tree,
Hand in hand
The Murderers stand
By one, by two, by three!
And the Moon that night
With a grey, cold light
Each baleful object tips;
One half of her form
Is seen through the storm,
The other half ‘s hid in Eclipse!
And the cold Wind howls,
And the Thunder growls,
And the Lightning is broad and bright;
It ‘s very bad weather,
And an unpleasant sort of a night!
‘Now mount who list,
And close by the wrist
Sever me quickly the Dead Man’s fist!—
Now climb who dare
Where he swings in air,
And pluck me five locks of the Dead Man’s hair!’
There ‘s an old woman dwells upon Tappington Moor,
She hath years on her back at the least fourscore,
And some people fancy a great many more;
Her nose it is hook’d,
Her back it is crook’d,
Her eyes blear and red:
On the top of her head
Is a mutch, and on that
A shocking bad hat,
Extinguisher-shaped, the brim narrow and flat!
Then,— My Gracious!— her beard!— it would sadly perplex
A spectator at first to distinguish her sex;
Nor, I’ll venture to say, without scrutiny could be
Pronounce her, off-handed, a Punch or a Judy.
Did you see her, in short, that mud-hovel within,
With her knees to her nose, and her nose to her chin,
Leering up with that queer, indescribable grin,
You’d lift up your hands in amazement, and cry,
‘— Well!— I never did see such a regular Guy!’
And now before
That old Woman’s door,
Where nought that ‘s good may be,
Hand in hand
The Murderers stand
By one, by two, by three!
Oh! ‘tis a horrible sight to view,
In that horrible hovel, that horrible crew,
By the pale blue glare of that flickering flame,
Doing the deed that hath never a name!
‘Tis awful to hear
Those words of fear!
The prayer mutter’d backwards, and said with a sneer!
(Matthew Hopkins himself has assured us that when
A witch says her prayers, she begins with ‘Amen.’) —
—’ Tis awful to see
On that Old Woman’s knee
The dead, shrivell’d hand, as she clasps it with glee!—
And now, with care,
The five locks of hair
From the skull of the Gentleman dangling up there,
With the grease and the fat
Of a black Tom Cat
She hastens to mix,
And to twist into wicks,
And one on the thumb, and each finger to fix.—
(For another receipt the same charm to prepare,
Consult Mr Ainsworth and Petit Albert.)
‘Now open lock
To the Dead Man’s knock!
Fly bolt, and bar, and band!
— Nor move, nor swerve
Joint, muscle, or nerve,
At the spell of the Dead Man’s hand!
Sleep all who sleep!— Wake all who wake!—
But be as the Dead for the Dead Man’s sake!!’
All is silent! all is still,
Save the ceaseless moan of the bubbling rill
As it wells from the bosom of Tappington Hill.
And in Tappington Hall
Great and Small,
Gentle and Simple, Squire and Groom,
Each one hath sought his separate room,
And sleep her dark mantle hath o’er them cast,
For the midnight hour hath long been past!
All is darksome in earth and sky,
Save, from yon casement, narrow and high,
A quivering beam
On the tiny stream
Plays, like some taper’s fitful gleam
By one that is watching wearily.
Within that casement, narrow and high,
In his secret lair, where none may spy,
Sits one whose brow is wrinkled with care,
And the thin grey locks of his failing hair
Have left his little bald pate all bare;
For his full-bottom’d wig
Hangs, bushy and big,
On the top of his old-fashion’d, high-back’d chair.
Unbraced are his clothes,
Ungarter’d his hose,
His gown is bedizen’d with tulip and rose,
Flowers of remarkable size and hue,
Flowers such as Eden never knew;
— And there, by many a sparkling heap
Of the good red gold,
The tale is told
What powerful spell avails to keep
That careworn man from his needful sleep!
Haply, he deems no eye can see
As he gloats on his treasure greedily,—
The shining store
Of glittering ore,
The fair Rose-Noble, the bright Moidore,
And the broad Double-Joe from beyond the sea,—
But there’s one that watches as well as he;
For, wakeful and sly,
In a closet hard by
On his truckle bed lieth a little Foot-page,
A boy who ‘s uncommonly sharp of his age,
Like young Master Horner,
Who erst in a corner
Sat eating a Christmas pie:
And, while that Old Gentleman’s counting his hoards,
Little Hugh peeps through a crack in the boards!
There ‘s a voice in the air,
There ‘s a step on the stair,
The old man starts in his cane-back’d chair;
At the first faint sound
He gazes around,
And holds up his dip of sixteen to the pound.
Then half arose
From beside his toes
His little pug-dog with his little pug nose,
But, ere he can vent one inquisitive sniff,
That little pug-dog stands stark and stiff,
For low, yet clear,
Now fall on the ear,
— Where once pronounced for ever they dwell,—
The unholy words of the Dead Man’s spell!
To the Dead Man’s knock!
Fly bolt, and bar, and band!—
Nor move, nor swerve,
Joint, muscle, or nerve,
At the spell of the Dead Man’s hand!
Sleep all who sleep!— Wake all who wake!—
But be as the Dead for the Dead Man’s sake!‘Now lock, nor bolt, nor bar avails,
Nor stout oak panel thick-studded with nails.
Heavy and harsh the hinges creak,
Though they had been oil’d in the course of the week,
The door opens wide as wide may be,
And there they stand,
That murderous band,
Lit by the light of the GLORIOUS HAND,
By one!— by two!— by three!
They have pass’d through the porch, they have pass’d through the hall,
Where the Porter sat snoring against the wall;
The very snore froze,
In his very snub nose,
You’d have verily deem’d he had snored his last
When the Glorious HAND by the side of him pass’d!
E’en the little wee mouse, as it ran o’er the mat
At the top of its speed to escape from the cat,
Though half dead with affright,
Paused in its flight;
And the cat that was chasing that little wee thing
Lay crouch’d as a statue in act to spring!
And now they are there,
On the head of the stair,
And the long crooked whittle is gleaming and bare,
— I really don’t think any money would bribe
Me the horrible scene that ensued to describe,
Or the wild, wild glare
Of that old man’s eye,
His dumb despair,
And deep agony.
The kid from the pen, and the lamb from the fold,
Unmoved may the blade of the butcher behold;
They dream not — ah, happier they!— that the knife,
Though uplifted, can menace their innocent life;
It falls;— the frail thread of their being is riven,
They dread not, suspect not, the blow till ‘tis given.—
But, oh! what a thing ‘tis to see and to know
That the bare knife is raised in the hand of the foe,
Without hope to repel, or to ward off the blow!—
— Enough!— let ‘s pass over as fast as we can
The fate of that grey, that unhappy old man!
But fancy poor Hugh,
Aghast at the view,
Powerless alike to speak or to do!
In vain doth be try
To open the eye
That is shut, or close that which is clapt to the chink,
Though he’d give all the world to be able to wink!—
No!— for all that this world can give or refuse,
I would not be now in that little boy’s shoes,
Or indeed any garment at all that is Hugh’s!
—’ Tis lucky for him that the chink in the wall
He has peep’d through so long, is so narrow and small.
Wailing voices, sounds of woe
Such as follow departing friends,
That fatal night round Tappington go,
Its long-drawn roofs and its gable ends:
Ethereal Spirits, gentle and good,
Aye weep and lament o’er a deed of blood.
‘Tis early dawn — the morn is grey,
And the clouds and the tempest have pass’d away,
And all things betoken a very fine day;
But, while the lark her carol is singing,
Shrieks and screams are through Tappington ringing!
Great and small
Each one who ‘s found within Tappington Hall,
Gentle and Simple, Squire or Groom,
All seek at once that old Gentleman’s room;
And there, on the floor,
Drench’d in its gore,
A ghastly corpse lies exposed to the view,
Carotid and jugular both cut through!
And there, by its side,
‘Mid the crimson tide,
Kneels a little Foot-page of tenderest years;
Adown his pale cheek the fast-falling tears
Are coursing each other round and big,
And he ‘s staunching the blood with a full-bottom’d wig!
Alas! and alack for his staunching!—‘tis plain,
As anatomists tell us, that never again
Shall life revisit the foully slain,
When once they’ve been cut through the jugular vein.
There’s a hue and a cry through the County of Kent,
And in chase of the cut-throats a Constable’s sent,
But no one can tell the man which way they went:
There’s a little Foot-page with that Constable goes,
And a little pug-dog with a little pug nose.
In Rochester town,
At the sign of the Crown,
Three shabby-genteel men are just sitting down
To a fat stubble-goose, with potatoes done brown;
When a little Foot-page
Rushes in, in a rage,
Upsetting the apple-sauce, onions, and sage.
That little Foot-page takes the first by the throat,
And a little pug-dog takes the next by the coat,
And a Constable seizes the one more remote;
And fair rose-nobles and broad moidores,
The Waiter pulls out of their pockets by scores,
And the Boots and the Chambermaids run in and stare;
And the Constable says, with a dignified air,
‘You’re wanted, Gen’lemen, one and all,
For that ‘ere precious lark at Tappington Hall!’
There ‘a a black gibbet frowns upon Tappington Moor,
Where a former black gibbet has frown’d before:
It is as black as black may be,
And murderers there
Are dangling in air,
By one!— by two!— by three!
There ‘s a horrid old hag in a steeple-crown’d hat,
Round her neck they have tied to a hempen cravat
A Dead Man’s hand, and a dead Tom Cat!
They have tied up her thumbs, they have tied up her toes,
They have tied up her eyes, they have tied up her limbs!
Into Tappington mill-dam souse she goes,
With a whoop and a halloo!—‘She swims!— She swims!’
They have dragg’d her to land,
And every one’s hand
Is grasping a faggot, a billet, or brand,
When a queer-looking horseman, drest all in black,
Snatches up that old harridan just like a sack
To the crupper behind him, puts spurs to his hack,
Makes a dash through the crowd, and is off in a crack!
No one can tell,
Though they guess pretty well,
Which way that grim rider and old woman go,
For all see he ‘s a sort of infernal Ducrow;
And she scream’d so, and cried,
We may fairly decide
That the old woman did not much relish her ride!