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The magic of the alder tree

Alder tree

This month I have been designing around the alder tree - and it was fascinating looking into the history and folklore of it.

In some parts of Ireland it is allegedly still forbidden to cut down alder trees. The link to the supernatural is strong and to some extent the fear of repercussions must linger.

The tree has wood is white when cut but soon starts to turn rusty red, a symbolic bleeding that has linked the trees to supernatural life, folklore and superstition for millennia.

This magic, coupled with the prevalence of alders in the damp west, leads to Alders being an important sign in Celtic astrology.

In Celtic Astrology - an ancient Druid belief system - the year is divided into 13 lunar cycles, each symbolised by a tree.

The Alder symbolises the 18th March - 14th April and those born during this period are said to be path finders, adventurers, creators - with the tenacity needed to solve problems.

Anything with an alder on it would be a great unusual gift for someone whose birthday falls in the second half of March or first half of April (it bridges Pisces and Aries in the better known zodiac).

We have alders growing along the bank of the stream that borders our garden - they relish the wet conditions - the seeds require saturated ground to germinate, and seem to resist deer attack better than any other species.

Alongside from its magical colour changing trick, the wood has a couple of really interesting properties which have led to its importance.

Though the wood rots quickly above ground, it becomes hard as stone in water. The crannogs which peppered Scotland in the Iron Age were built on alder piles, as, more recently, was much of Venice.

The wood also has an incredibly high burning temperature - the highest of any wood which would have been readily available within the British Isles or Ireland. This meant that it was highly prized for forging metal - the amazing Celtic jewellery and swords would probably have been created in an alder fire.

This video from The British Museum shows how a Celtic torc would be made - the laborious hammering of the gold alloy bars into smooth wires would have needed good high burning charcoal.

I know that they aren't 100% sure what much Celtic metalwork was used for, but there is a feeling that much was for rituals - I now have a vivid picture in my imagination of an iron age scene, the reverence in cutting of the alder trees, the making of the charcoal, the forging of the torcs.

All that from a few twigs of alder catkins and google.

You can see the Alder collection here

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Comments: 1 (Add)

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Helen Outen

Hi Jane,
Saved this the other day to read when I had time. Very interesting. I have a little booklet about amny types of tree....lots of info. It's put away safe......if and when I can find it I will send it to you.
Helen

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This week’s Friday film is about a trip to London, a tour of the Chelsea Physic garden and filling my home with flowers when I got home. 
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If you are interested you know where to find it 🎥
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These snowdrops are temporarily holidaying in a cup on my bedroom windowsill - looking out at their rather battered friends outside. 
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I’m planning a new part of the garden at the moment and these will be part of a spreading about of the spring bulbs.

Pioneers.
There is a point when the sun slants in and all the dried seed heads which have decorated the house over winter suddenly look dusty and dull.
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I have a visceral need to be surrounded by things that are growing and green.
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There is a video over on YouTube about planting up winter aconites and spring bulbs - I have these on my desk at the moment and every now and again there is a wonderful waft of scent reaches me.
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For Studio Clubbers there is now a whole module on planting up bulbs indoors in the Fire and Frost course.  What varieties are best, where to get them, how to treat them and answers to a whole load of questions.
When my daughters were tiny I made their clothes - bright colourwork jumpers, patchwork dungarees, layer upon layer of pattern. 
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Then - ridiculously early it seemed to me - they wanted to choose their own outfits and quickly favoured whatever was fashionable, only available from mainstream shops and my needles were no longer needed. 
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I’m now delighted that two decades on I’m back in action. This is the start of a mend - on my eldest daughter's denim jumpsuit.  The under arm seam was ripped so I'm transforming it with linen flowers.
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You can see more of it in last week's Studio Vlog on YouTube . . 
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I love the idea that the mending will make the jumpsuit into something completely different. That it is as bright and clashing as her toddler clothes. 
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I’ve also been asked for mittens . . .
Today’s Friday letter is all about two steps I took last year which really helped with feelings of being overwhelmed. 
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Today’s Friday film is about a walk by Loch Lomond and just sitting and taking it all in and how that helps manage symptoms of my autoimmune disease. 
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If you want to know more about either (or both) you can find the details up in my link.

I’ve been in London for a couple of days - to see @thenotgodcomplex perform at The Vaults - now heading back North to see @marychapincarpenter and @karinepolwart at Celtic Connections. 💚
This photo is from last year - we are still a week or two away from full blooms.
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But yesterday, lying on my front in the sodden grass and filming snowdrops, the soundtrack was birds in the birch tree above me.
I still have no water in the Studio. 

On Thursday when I walked up to the kitchen to make a coffee, the sun was streaming into the kitchen.
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I can't properly express how happy that makes me. 
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Beauty in the every day. 
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Obviously I'm well past tidying up for photos.
I wonder if it is just when the light is least that I notice it most.  The shadow of birch leaves on our bed as I passed to top up the bird feeders.
Loch Lomond is high at the moment - the beaches gone, the stepping stones to cross burns under water. 
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Sitting, well wrapped up, leaning against a tree on the top path - listening to the waves and watching a cormorant dive - it felt like the sea.

#lochlomond
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At Snapdragon Life I help bring the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

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