The Folk Lore of Trees:

 wistmans wood

The British Isles were once entirely covered by trees in the ancient Wild Wood! Every nook and cranny held examples of beautiful ancient trees twisted by time and the environment.

Trees have been a source of fuel, material for furniture, tools, instruments and a plethora of other things. Trees are fundamental to the existance of humans, producing oxygen, food, clothing, shelter and warmth.

So it stands to reason that our relationship to trees is as deep as the sky is wide and beyond. Tales of the trees have given us a link into their unseen world. Hidden amongst the branches of time are fantastic stories of Elder tree Witches, walking Willows, trees containing entire Worlds and Gateways, ghost stories and ancient legends all associated with trees.

The battle of the Trees is one such story of Ancient origin, taken from several stories and combined in the 14th century, in the Welsh Book of Taliesin, the poem tells of a battle between Gwydion and Arawn the Lord of Annwn, the fight broke out after a plowman stole a lapwing, a roe buck and a hound from Arawn.  As an enchanter Gwydion recruits the trees of the forest as his army and brings them into animation. Gwydion triumphs by guessing the name of one of Arawn's men: Bran.

 

Trees around the country have found their place in history by being key figures in our islands story, for example Charles I escaped his captors by hiding in an Oak tree, this story gave many a pub the name 'Royal oak'.  Bands of outlaws met in many a tree such as the Major Oak of Sherwood forest, possibly the best known tree in England!

Trees big enough to contain a group of people, or to hold a meeting in still exist today and are wonderful to visit, one such tree is the Bowthorpe Oak.

Bowthorpe Oak

The Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of agricultural labourers met at a now world famous Sycamore in Dorset to sign an oath, forming the first trades union, against the poor trreatment  they received from their employers, and it is still growing strong.

tolpuddle martyrs

 

 

 

 

Stone folk lore and myth:

 

I use stone as well as wood so here is a little bit of folk lore about some aspects of the stone I work with.

I often find Ammonites in stones and I use these fossils to bring an ancient beauty to some of my pieces.

 

Spirals are present in mesolithic rock art in europe, as well as in megalithic structures carved into rock, spirals naturally occuring must have held a fascinating appeal to our ancestors. Ammonites are an extinct group of sea creatures that have become fossilised over millions of years, they appear in the stone as intricate and sometimes colourful spirals. The ancestor of the Ammonite is the nautilus, still roaming the deep ocean.

A wealth of folk lore has grown around the Ammonite for example the stories of English saints turning snakes into stone, hence the name "Snakestones" .St Keyna performed this with a prayer not far from Glastonbury in Keynsham,

and in Whitby St Hilda performed the same, Walter Scott wrote...

 

When Whitby's nuns exalting told,
Of thousand snakes, each one
Was changed into a coil of stone,
When Holy Hilda pray'd:
Themselves, without their holy ground,
Their stony folds had often found.

St Hilda Holding a Snake Stone

 

That ammonites have been used medicinally was recorded by Richard Carew (1555-1620)  in his Survey of Cornwall that, '... the Snakes, by their breathing about a hazell wand, doe make a stone ring of blew colour, in which there appeareth the yellow figure of a Snake; and that beasts which are stung, being given to drink of the water wherein this stone has been soaked, will therethrough recover'.