Saturday, December 21, 2013

Two bits of poetry for Solstice

Sweet Rowan tree
Grace my land and grow
Ward of evil spirits
And remind me of my heritage of long ago.

Patricia Gale


The lady of the moon is in travail,
her white face waxen as the missel-fruit.
The gravelled path gives way to broken angles,
burials of water. Follow it.
Creep into the hospice of the yew,
its pale lying-place. Curl up there. Wait.

Helen Tookey

This is what Helen Tookey wrote about mistletoe........

 "found a link to a 17th century herbarium – a missel-child is a mysterious being found beneath a mistletoe-covered tree – a changeling “whereof many strange things are conceived”. 

But of course, it was the Roman writer Pliny who linked it to druids, oaks and the golden sickle to cut its bough.  This parasitical plant is of course to be spied around our own country but it has its own separate independent stories to tell. Its seed is sown on different trees, oak is pretty difficult, but the apple tree is considered lucky.

But it was William Stukeley (1687-1765) and those foolish vicars of the 19th century who grew the myth of mistletoe and druidism, these were "the people Avebury and Stonehenge with these shadowy priests whom he made into patriacharl forerunners of Christianity"  The Englishman's Flora - Geoffrey Grigson

Stukeley created a 'Druidical Temple' in his orchard at Grantham, an imitation of two circles, one of pyramidal evergreens, one of nut trees. In the middle was an old apple tree overgrown with mistletoe.  I have written of this story before, he also buried his baby daughter in front of a mock roman temple.  He reckoned that every prehistoric Bronze Age axe found was used for cutting this plant...... Such imaginings

But the book I am choosing to take to Whitby tomorrow to read will be Ronald Hutton's ' Mistletoe and Blood, which gives an outstanding history of this cult of Druidism that washed out the other day at the Stonehenge new Visitor Centre. All I can say is there was a much better disciplined group of white cloaked druids  appearing at the stones in 1950!

The Druid Sacrifice of Yule-Tide by William Stukeley (inset). Note Avebury and Silbury in the background.
Taken from Manga Cartoons by LS

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