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?
Hazel – Corylus
The hazel (Corylus) is a genus of deciduous trees and large shrubs native to the temperate Northern Hemisphere growing to around 6 metres. The fruit of the hazel is the hazelnut. Hazels have simple, rounded leaves with double-serrate margins.
The flowers are produced very early in spring before the leaves, and are monoecious, with single-sex catkins, the male catkins are pale yellow and 5–12 cm long, and the female ones are very small and largely concealed in the buds, with only the bright-red, 1-to-3 mm-long styles visible.
The pollen of hazel species, are often the cause for allergies in late winter or early spring. Corylus has 14–18 species. The nuts of all hazels are edible. The common hazel is the species most extensively grown for its nuts, followed in importance by the filbert. Nuts are also harvested from the other species, but apart from the filbert, none is of significant commercial importance.
A number of cultivars of the common hazel and filbert are grown as ornamental plants in gardens, including forms with contorted stems (C. avellana ‘Contorta’, popularly known as “Harry Lauder’s walking stick” from its gnarled appearance); with weeping branches (C. avellana ‘Pendula’); and with purple leaves (C. maxima ‘Purpurea’). Hazel is a traditional material used for making wattle, withy fencing, baskets, and, most famously, the frames of coracle boats. The tree can be coppiced, and regenerating shoots allow for harvests every few years.
Hazels are used as food plants by the larvae of various species of Lepidoptera.
The Celts believed hazelnuts gave one wisdom and inspiration. There are numerous variations on an ancient tale that nine hazel trees grew around a sacred pool, dropping into the water nuts that were eaten by salmon (a fish sacred to Druids), which absorbed the wisdom.
Hazel was also used for water divining sticks. A Druid teacher, in his bid to become omniscient, caught one of these special salmon and asked a student to cook the fish, but not to eat it. While he was cooking it, a blister formed and the pupil used his thumb to burst it, which he naturally sucked to cool, thereby absorbing the fish’s wisdom. This boy was called Fionn Mac Cumhail (Fin McCool) and went on to become one of the most heroic leaders in Gaelic mythology.