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Journal

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

Comments: 1 (Add)

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Helen Outen on January 22 2018 at 16:21

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

Snapdragon social

My Friday letter today is about trying to balance gardening and guardianship here - and about why I registered the land here as an ARK (Acts of Restorative Kindness) as a formal commitment.⁠⁠
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It is also about why I need the kitchen garden and community garden as an outlet for my obsessive growing of seedlings . . . .⁠⁠
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Smoking chimney and fireweed with a halo of haws - November studio.⁠⁠
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#wearetheark
#momentslikethese
#the_gentle_manifesto
#daysofsmallthings
#natureandnourish
#aseasonalway
#daysofsimpleandslow
#ournaturedays
#aquietmoment
#pocketsofslow
#thesweetlifeunscripted
#folkandstory
Teasel is the boss of the house. ⁠⁠
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I said that I was looking for a scruffy, badly behaved, short legged dog, and that is exactly what I found.⁠⁠
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He stamps in temper when I won't let him do whatever it is he has been stopped from doing.  He runs around manically, he torments poor patient Dixie until she plays and then, exhausted, he crawls up onto my knee for a cuddle and that wonderful soft puppy shudder of contentment.⁠⁠
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Off to the vet for jags today.

#yorkshireterriersofinstagram #yorkielove #yorkshireterrier #yorkshireterrierpuppy #takeyourdogtowork #studiodog #puppylove
It has been weirdly warm.⁠⁠
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Poppies and cornflowers are trying to bloom raggedly in the meadow and outside our bedroom window this rose has come to life again with heavy perfumed flowers.⁠⁠
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They seem smaller and deeper in colour than they were in June.⁠⁠
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Is anyone else finding unseasonal blooms at the moment?

#wildforflowers #awhisperedbeauty #cornersofmyworld #lifelivedbeautifully #raw_flowers #livesimple #simpleandstill #shared-joy #atmine #myeverydaymagic #slowfloralstyle #seekmoments #cornersofmygarden
One of things I chatted with @eva_nemeth about in Yorkshire a few weeks ago was mess and light.⁠⁠
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I said that I wanted to be able to show beauty without worrying about tidying up around it. Life is messy, time is short . . . .⁠⁠
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Eva said that all I needed to do was look for the light and the mess would be transformed.⁠⁠
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She was right, this was the kitchen a couple of mornings ago, coffee on the stove, light hitting the washing up and defrosting milk.⁠⁠
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Everyday beauty.

#howihueit #simpleandstill #capturequiet #beautyyouseek #calm_collected #aseasonalway #aseasonalshift #mystoryoflight #cornersofmyworld #slowlived #slowandsimpledays #quietchaotics #ihaveathingwithwindows #ofsimplethings #beautyinsimplicity #mystoryofautumn #slowfloralstyle #everydaybeauty #nestandflourish #livethelittlethings #thehappynow  #cornersofmyhome #aseasonalway #slowlivingforlife
Next year the vegetable garden will be free of hens - I'm determined of that because it is a complete waste of time to grow things when they break in and eat it all - but I think that this winter I shall let them wander.  I'm reframing it as slug patrol and fertilising.⁠⁠
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Though I shall harvest all the remaining sprouts first as, from the shredded state of some plants, they seem to be a favourite.

#myquietbeauty_autumn #upandautumn #simpleandseasonal #natureandnourish #shiftingseasons #quietinthewild #simplejoys #aseasonalway #snapdragonlife #calmversation #rurallifestrong #simplethings #growyourown #growyourownflowers #aseasonalshift #bantamsofinstagram #vegetablegarden
A couple of weeks ago I tried, and failed, to convince a friend that dahlias are often at their best when part frosted and on the way out.⁠⁠
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They stand bedraggled and desaturated, capturing perfectly that slightly melancholy mood of autumn.⁠⁠
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This year I have seen people who have previously loved autumn best, talking about how difficult they are finding it this year. ⁠⁠
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I think it may be that we are not in the mood for more melancholy. It is difficult to embrace the cosy slide into darkness when, for many, there hasn't been much light.

I know that I’ve been choosing more upbeat music to keep me company in the Studio. Steering away from the heartbreak and sadness. Seeking the light. 

#myquietbeauty_autumn #upandautumn #simpleandseasonal #natureandnourish #shiftingseasons #quietinthewild #simplejoys #aseasonalway #snapdragonlife #calmversation #rurallifestrong #simplethings  #aseasonalshift #flowersandotherstories #scotlandsgardens #simplethingsmadebeautiful #daysofsmallthings
Planting tulips in the vegetable garden - 12 of each in close rows so that I don’t feel guilty about picking them - and discovering that Yorkshire terriers come pre-programmed to dig. 

#yorkshireterrier #yorkie #yorkshireterriersofinstagram #yorkshireterrierpuppy
The hornbeam arch that leads through to the vegetable garden is always a thing of two halves. 

At this time of year half is bright autumn leaves, half bare imploring branches. 

Spent vegetables and fallen leaves, hens and hazel supports. 

November garden. It’s where you will find me today. 

#slowlived #hashtagauthentic #aseasonalway #gatherandcurate #mygarden #kitchengarden #distractionsandinspirations #stillswithstories #calmversation #novembergarden #cherishandrelish #aquietstyle #growyourown #searchwondercollect #alliseeispretty #seekinspirecreate #ofsimplethings #natureandnourish #myalmanacmoment
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing 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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