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)
Some two weeks ago I took a part here on my blog in a seven day Black and White photography challenge, I loved these seven days with my camera with only light to work with, very much. However ever since I just wanted to get out and find as much of natures winter colours as I could find. At first this task looked a little harder than I thought it would be, so much of nature has died back as we slip into the early winter weeks, yet the more you look the more you find.
Like these strong reds of slowly rotting berries I found just sitting on a fallen Oak leaf.
Red has to be on of the strongest colours of autumn and early winter, it feels like the colour of the last signs of life as much vegetation turn red just days before its finally returns to the ground, the very place it took its first energy of life from.
Yesterday on my facebook page I was tagged by a great photo blogger and friend Sharon Walters Knight to take part in a seven day black and white photo challenge !
Day 1: Is this image from one of our local forests. Forest floor matting , When the forest workers finish clearing and area of woodland they save a lot of branches for matting, this matting is used to lay down tracks for their heavy machines to drive over , these roads of sticks save the environment along with many insects and plant life including seeds.
While not a stunning image as such, I felt it just captured a part of the processes involved in forestry
into the coppery halls
of beech and intricate oak
to be close to the trees
as they whisper together
let fall their leaves,
and we die for the winter
From Katherine Towers’ The Remedies
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.
Robert Louis Stevenson
In the other gardens
And all up in the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!
Pleasant summer over,
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.
Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Hairy Wood Ants (Formica lugubris) photographic project
Over the last few years I been involved working on a project around county Tipperary,Ireland involving photographing nests of Irish Wood Ants (Formica lugubris), this has been one of the most interesting photo project I have ever worked on.
The images in this post are captured between 2014 and 2017 ….
These Ants are on the international endangered species list and exist in locations that are kept reasonably private, just to find and get to see these nests themselves is a task and an amazing feeling.
When you get closer to the nests for the first time you will notice just how large they are (3 feet off the ground) and how many Ants that each colony contains, each nest can hold tens of thousands of Ants, the entire surface of the nest is on the move with Ants coming and going from small entrance holes. This flow of movement is 24 hours long during the months that the Ants are active.
They create a clear trail through the woods as they clear a path, traveling both outwards from the nest and returning again with food for the Queen Ant living deep in the ground under the nest itself.
It is thought she lives in a protected area some two meters underground.
In order to protect themselves and nest with its queen, they can shoot out acid some four feet from their bodies.
I will be working on this project most of this summer and look forward to each return, watching these wonderful Wood Ants is an amazing experience and working around them with a camera is great fun.
Light Between The Trees
Author: Henry Van Dyke
Long, long, long the trail
Through the brooding forest-gloom,
Down the shadowy, lonely vale
Into silence, like a room
Where the light of life has fled,
And the jealous curtains close
Round the passionless repose
Of the silent dead.
Plod, plod, plod away,
Step by step in mouldering moss;
Thick branches bar the day
Over languid streams that cross
Softly, slowly, with a sound
Like a smothered weeping,
In their aimless creeping
Through enchanted ground.
“Yield, yield, yield thy quest,”
Whispers through the woodland deep;
“Come to me and be at rest;
I am slumber, I am sleep.”
Then the weary feet would fail,
But the never-daunted will
Urges “Forward, forward still!
Press along the trail!”
Breast, breast, breast the slope
See, the path is growing steep.
Hark! a little song of hope
Where the stream begins to leap.
Though the forest, far and wide,
Still shuts out the bending blue,
We shall finally win through,
Cross the long divide.
On, on, on we tramp!
Will the journey never end?
Over yonder lies the camp;
Welcome waits us there, my friend.
Can we reach it ere the night?
Upward, upward, never fear!
Look, the summit must be near;
See the line of light!
Red, red, red the shine
Of the splendour in the west,