The Secrets of the Trees
We hold our Mystic Magic in the Forest weekend retreats at Rosliston, in Rosliston National Forest, near Burton upon Trent, just south of Derby in the Midlands. Our retreats are themed, but often include an appreciation of nature, walks, the significance of trees in Spiritual and Pagan history, and their myths and legends. This blog charts the story, in instalments, of those trees, and all of those to be found at Rosliston, around forty species. Each tree is to be found at Rosliston,but may also be found more widely around Great Britain, Europe, North America and beyond.
In these blogs I describe each tree, explain where they are found, what their history is and how they have related to our history. I also explore the myths and legends surrounding the trees in different countries and from different traditions as well as how herbalists have used them to treat human conditions and how products from the trees have been used throughout history. I hope that you enjoy reading these tree blogs as much as I have enjoyed writing them for you. If you would like to come and see them in their natural habitat why not join us for one of our retreats?
Blackthorn or Sloe – prunus spinose
A deciduous shrub common in the UK, its branches are covered by sharp dark spines. It has white flowers in spring and bears small black fruit, which is used to produce a dye, in early autumn. The sloes themselves have an intense bitter taste, but the tree is very similar to the Cherry Plum. The sloes have been cultivated for millenia to make gin, medieval Irish monks were particularly adept at distilling it.
The blackthorn is very popular in hedges as its sharp spines deter animals and humans, a scratch is notorious for going septic quickly if untreated. Its strong wood is used for walking sticks and cudgels with officers in the Irish Regiment of the British army using them as swagger sticks.
Rich in tradition, it is used both as a garland in May Day celebrations as a fertility symbol, and as the traditional thorn crown put on Christ’s head. In Neolithic times it was used medicinally and as an hallucinogenic to cross into the Spirit World. The flowers appear before the leaves, and are drawn out by a cold snap after a warm spell, still known as “Blackthorn hatch”.
In some parts, bringing a branch indoors is regarded as being a harbinger of death.