Category Archives: Folklore

Beautiful Places – Whittington and its Castle

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An extract from the National Gazetteer 1868

“WHITTINGTON, a parish in the upper division of Oswestry hundred, county Salop, 2½ miles N.E. of Oswestry, and 5 W. of Ellesmere. It has stations on the Cambrian and on the Shrewsbury and Chester branch of the Great Western railways. There is likewise a branch line from Gobowen, in this parish, to Oswestry. The river Perry and the Ellesmere canal traverse the parish from N. to S.

It has the ruins of an ancient moated border castle, supposed to have been built in the 9th century by a British chieftain, whose descendants held it till the Norman conquest, when it was given to Peverel, the founder of the family of the Peverels of the Peak, but afterwards passed into the hands of Fulk Fitz-Guarine, or Warine, whose family kept it till 1419. The castle, before its demolition, was strongly fortified with five round towers, each 40 feet in diameter and 100 feet in height, and the walls were 12 feet in thickness.

The towers of the gatehouse are still entire, with some portions of the walls and towers of the castle. The parish includes the townships of Berghill, Daywell, Ebnall, Fernhill, Frankton, Henlle, Hindford, Old Marton, and Whittington, with the hamlets of Babies’ Wood and Gobowen, and contains at present a population of about 1,500. The village was once a market town, and now contains about 500 inhabitants. In the parish are Belmont, Ebnall Lodge, Fernhill, and Park Hall, the last of the time of Henry VIII., with a private chapel, said to have been consecrated by Archbishop Parker.

The Hulston estate also lies in the centre of the parish, but is now a separate parish. A portion of the eastern side of the parish was in 1865 formed into a separate district, embracing also a part of Ellesmere parish. The district church is called St. Andrew’s, and the new district Welsh Frankton. Another portion of the township of Daywell, to the N.W. of the parish, has also been severed, having been assigned to the Hengoed district, the church of which was built in, and the chief part of the district taken from, the parish of Selattyn.

The subsoil is principally gravel with traces of coal. The living is a rectory* in the diocese of St. Asaph, value £965, with 50 acres of glebe. The church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was rebuilt in 1806. The Independents, Wesleyans, and Primitive Methodists have chapels. There are National schools built at a cost of £1,000, which are partly supported by an endowment of £42 per annum. Mrs. Lloyd, of Aston Hall, is lady of the manor.”

Well worth a vist – my mother grew up here and my parents were married in the village church.  The castle is the only one in England to be owned and run by the local community.

Beautiful Crystals – the Mermaid’s Aquamarine

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Aquamarine, the gem of the sea, is named with the Greek word for sea water.  Aqua sparkles like the sea and its color is pale to medium blue, sometimes with a slight hint of green. Aquamarine is a member of the Beryl family (which includes emeralds). Its blue / blue-green color comes from ferrous iron – a double refraction of light from different angles within the stone causes it to reflect the two different colors.

Aquamarine is the birthstone for March and legends say that it is the treasure of mermaids coming from their tears; with the power to keep sailors safe at sea. Aquamarine is said to be a particularly strong charm when immersed in water – which is a good thing, since that is when its power is most needed! Aquamarine was also said to have a soothing influence on land, also on married couples. Its power is supposed to help husbands and wives work out their differences and ensure a long and happy marriage, which makes it a good anniversary gift. Traditionally, it has been held as the gem for the nineteenth wedding anniversary. Aquamarine is said also to protect  against the wiles of the devil.

Aquamarine, March’s birthstone, is the universal symbol of hope, health and youth. A traditional protection for travelers, it was said to prevent seasickness, quicken the intellect and enhance courage.Wearing this stone is to enhance one’s personal power and help to project an aura of strength.

Long used by royalty, Egyptian amulets of the XII Dynasty (circa 2000 BC) included Aquamarines carved into the forms of animals. 

Aquamarine is found in Brazil, Zambia, Mozambique, Angola, Nigeria, and other countries. However the majority of Aquamarine comes from Brazil, even though the finest Aquamarine is mined in Africa.

Beautiful Trees – The Wonderful Willow

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There around 400 forms of Salix – deciduous trees and shrubs found on  moist soils in cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere.  The leaves and bark of the willow tree have been mentioned in ancient texts from Assyria, Sumer and Egypt as a remedy for aches and fever, and the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about its medicinal properties in the 5th century BC.  Native Americans across the American continent relied on it as a staple of their medical treatments. This is because Willows contain salicylic acid, the precursor to aspirin.  Willows all have abundant watery sap; bark which is heavily charged with the salicylic acid; soft, usually pliant, tough wood; slender branches; and large, fibrous roots.

Willow wood is also used in the manufacture of all kinds of things – boxes, brooms and particularly cricket bats!  But, it is also used for wands – Willow is one of the nine sacred trees mentioned in Wicca and witchcraft, with several magical uses. In the Wiccan Rede, it is described as growing by water and guiding the dead into the “Summerland”, a commonly used term in Wicca to refer to the afterlife.

Willow has many uses in agriculture and has an emerging role in ecology.  But its the Willow’s role in religion, in  folklore and in fiction, including Shakespeare, that is fascinating! It is one of the “Four Species” used in a ceremony on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.    Hans Christian Andersen wrote a story called Under the Willow Tree (1853) in which children ask questions of a tree they call willow-father, paired with another entity called elder-mother. Green Willow is a Japanese ghost story in which a young samurai falls in love with a woman called Green Willow who has a close spiritual connection with a willow tree. And as we all know from Harry Potter, there is an old tree on the school grounds of Hogwarts called the “Whomping Willow”. It was planted in order to conceal a secret passageway that Professor Remus Lupin roamed through every full moon when he began his transformation into a werewolf.

Here’s to the wonderful Willow!

Beautiful Trees – The Rowan Tree

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The European rowan (S. aucuparia) has a long tradition in European mythology and folklore. It was thought to be a magical tree and protection against malevolent beings.

The name “rowan” is derived from the Old Norse name for the tree, raun. Linguists believe that the Norse name is ultimately derived from a proto-Germanic word *raudnian meaning “getting red” and which referred to the red foliage and red berries in the autumn. Rowan is one of the most familiar wild trees in the British Isles, and has acquired numerous English folk names, for example, Mountain ash, Quickbane, Whispering tree, Witch wood and Witchbane,   Many of these can be easily linked to the mythology and folklore surrounding the tree. In Gaelic, it is caoran, or Rudha-an (red one, pronounced quite similarly to English “rowan”).

The density of the rowan wood makes it very usable for walking sticks and magician’s staves. This is why druid staffs are said, for example, traditionally, to have  been made out of rowan wood, and its branches were often used in dowsing rods and magic wands.  Rowan was carried on vessels to avoid storms, kept in houses to guard against lightning, and even planted on graves to keep the deceased from haunting. It was also used to protect one from witches.

Often birds’ droppings contain rowan seeds, and if such droppings land in a fork or hole where old leaves have accumulated on a larger tree, such as an oak or a maple, they may result in a rowan growing as an epiphyte on the larger tree. Such a rowan is called a “flying rowan” and was thought of as especially potent against witches and their magic, and as a counter-charm.

In Finland and Sweden, the number of berries on the trees was used as a predictor of the snow cover during winter.

This tree carries a heavy load of folklore but above all it is a truly beautiful tree.