The Bluebell Wood

This morning I took a trip to a nearby ‘bluebell wood’. We drove past it last night, but it was getting a bit dark, so I promised myself I would return this morning.

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In folklore, it was said to be bad luck to walk through a wood of bluebells, because it was full of spells. I can well understand why people believed this, as it is one of the most magical places I have ever experienced! It was considered to be the house of the flower goblin, and was also said to have fairies living inside the bells. It was said to be bad luck to pick bluebells…oops! I just picked a few to go into my dye pot, but was careful not to uproot any.

If worn as a wreath,  the wearer would be compelled to speak only the truth. This may be the origin of the “…something blue” which a bride should wear on her wedding day, as it is also a symbol of constancy.

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 The Latin name for the bluebell is Endymion, the lover of the moon Goddess, Selene. The goddess put Endymion into an eternal sleep, so she could enjoy his beauty all to herself.

It is an extremely poisonous plant, especially the bulb, but at present is being researched as a potential from which to develop medicine to fight cancer.

There was something extremely surreal about walking through this wood… Alone… peaceful… unspoilt…I almost expected to meet the white rabbit or some other magical creature, it was like being in a dream.

20140509_105720Lush, velvet mosses adorned the trees, and a variety of lichens, which indicate just how good the air quality is here.

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 Above : One of the many oak trees dripping with Oakmoss lichen

The trees in the wood are predominantly beech (below), oak and birch. Some of these trees must be at least 150 years old.

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This impressive beech tree (above) was starting to show some damage from fungus and storms. Near this tree, there were some fallen branches, and I noticed amazing gnarled textures on them, which I later confirmed had been caused by Tinder Fungus ( a type of fungus named after its use in kindling fires).

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Tinder fungus creates these amazing gnarled textures on beech trunks and branches

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I found a small piece of branch covered in tinder fungus which I put into my bag…I think it may make a really great sculpture, if I can take a mould or cast of it somehow.

Walking on a bit further, I encountered some bracket fungi. These are called false tinder fungus, or  hoof fungus, as they do resemble the hooves of a horse somewhat. These strange parasitic entities actually suck the life out of the trees which they are attached to, becoming so hard that they begin to grow as part of the trunk and are almost impossible to remove.

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The substance found just under the skin has its uses, and is known as Amadou. When soaked, it swells, and can be flattened out to use for fuel for fires, but more bizarrely it has also been used to make hats in Eastern Europe!

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I couldn’t help myself from “liberating” one of the fallen trunks from these suckers…I managed to break a younger hoof off the trunk, and have plans for it when I get home!

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Finally I picked some nettles. Some of the leaves on these were the biggest that I had ever encountered. I’m guessing that their sting may be even more powerful, given their size, so I was very careful to use scissors when picking them.

It was certainly an amazing experience here today, and I feel that I have found a few more inspirations and materials to keep me going for another few weeks.

 

The Beltane Fire Festival

Some  pictures I took last night at the Beltane Fire Festival. Unfortunately, I forgot to put my camera phone on Night settings, and ended up with poor quality images  😦

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 We were greeted on arrival by this “Queen of Hearts” and given a rose

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This exciting performance has prompted me to consider doing some performance or relational art myself, perhaps linked with my own art, or the ritual of dyeing, as Angela suggested. The costumes were also very inspirational, and I feel that I want to make myself a large crown of twigs and flowers to wear!

The Beltane Fayre at St. Andrews

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I went to the Beltane Fayre at St Andrews today, as I heard there would be a maypole there….something which is practically non-existant in Scotland. Although rain was forecast, it turned out to be quite bright and dry the further east I drove, and was a lovely sunny day when I reached St Andrews.

It was a mediaeval style event, with re-enactment groups battling with swords, small tents selling mead, traditional silversmithing and copper jewellery, and mediaeval music playing. All the participants wore mediaeval costumes, and many even spoke in  “olde worlde language”…which was a bit embarrassing when being asked “Fair maiden…wouldst thou care to sample my mead ?”

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On one of the stalls I met a lady who had samples of dyed wool, and we had a good chat about plants and dyeing techniques. She had some beautiful samples and it was interesting to compare some of the colours she had achieved to the differing results which had occurred on the muslin I had dyed. Wool takes colour much more easily apparently, and this got me thinking that perhaps I should dye some wool, then maybe felt it as part of a larger piece or hanging.

20140426_120738#1 Beautiful samples of dyed wool

20140426_120725After wandering around the stalls for a bit longer I went to watch the maypole dancing. It was being run by the St Andrews Pagan Society, who also had a stall at the fayre. Spectators were offered to participate, but I chose to take photos instead!

IMG_20140426_183623IMG_20140426_182554The custom of dancing around the maypole is an ancient fertility rite, which was usually performed on May 1st (May Day). The custom dates back to ancient times when tree worship was practised, and most of the original maypoles were made from birch trees, which were tall and slim. The maypoles were banned by Puritans in 1644, but erected again in 1660 when Charles II was in power. 
Maypole dances vary slightly from region to region, but the weaving of the two ribbons together to make a third is thought to symbolise the union of two people creating a third.

It was interesting to have seen this custom take place, and the way that the dance performed wove the pattern around the pole, like weaving with a human loom.

Before leaving St Andrews I took a trip to the beach, and found some seaweed to take some prints from. Driving home through Newburgh, I stopped at the Twist Fibre Craft studio where I purchased some wool, having been inspired by the lady at the fayre.

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Twist Fibre Craft Studio have an amazing selection of wool!

I bought Cheviot, Merino, and some gorgeous Wensleydale Curls. Tomorrow morning I plan to prepare the wool, and then hopefully may be able to start dyeing it in the evening.  All in all, I had a very fruitful and interesting day.

Rashielea Wood

Recently a friend informed me of a local area, Rashielea Wood, where there was a lot of deforestation taking place. I had been discussing the fact that I wanted to find a slim tree trunk to cover in tissue paper, and he suggested I might find one here.

20140508_104213The site was very messy, as he had told me, and there were piles of trunks and branches being left to rot. He had “salvaged” some of this for his wood burning stove, but warned me to take care where I stepped, as there was much unsafe ground around the site.

I had a look around first, and (above) it looked like some kind of apocalyptic nightmare, however to the right of the site, there was a swathe of yellow of gorse bushes, a stark contrast to the devastation of the big tree graveyard.

20140508_105319I also came across some interesting fungi in this area: toadstools, bracket fungus and what I think may be evidence of tinder fungus.

20140508_105134A solitary specimen growing in the midst of bark chippings

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Tree fungus which I think may be sulphur polypore otherwise known as sulphur shelf or chicken mushroom

20140508_104327Some loose bark which appears to have had tinder fungus growing under it

I took the bark (above) away with me, and also found a couple of slim trunks (below) which I think I may be able to use. My next plan is to cover the trunks with tissue paper, to recreate them as a sort of installation. The bark has possibilities too, and I’m thinking that I may use it as a mould to fill with paper pulp, as it is very delicate and will probably break quite easily.

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A very dull (but not boring) stone circle!

I went on a mission to find more stone circles, and I’m really excited as there seems to be loads of them around Perthshire.  I have passed many single standing stones whilst driving around, but have never seen any circles until recently.

I read that there was a really good stone circle near Aberfeldy called Croft Moraig, so I decided to go and check it out. Unfortunately I didn’t have a map, so I drove up to the area       in hope that I would find someone to ask. I stopped in Aberfeldy, and was told to head towards Dull, and that the stones were in a field at the roadside.

Eventually I came across the sign for Dull, which incidently is twinned with Boring, Oregon.

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I headed up a track to the Highland Safari centre, where I found a couple of very helpful ladies who were stone enthusiasts themselves. They gave me a map on which they marked the nearby circles and informed me that there was a great example of a four poster circle about 200m down the road.

I managed to park in a nearby passing place, and crossed the road to crawl through a gap in a hedge to access the Carse Farm field. The stones were quite low, with one standing more prominent than the others.

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I found a bit more info about these stones when I got home at: http://www.stravaiging.com/history/ancient/site/carse-farm-i#sthash.L4DomKYT.dpuf

This four-poster circle is close to the edge of a field on the S side of the B846 Aberfeldy-Tummel Bridge road. When it was visited in 1907 by Coles, only 3 of the stones were standing, with the SW stone lying between the two N stones. An excavation in 1964 found the hole for the prostrate stone, and it was re-erected. Also discovered, by the NE stone, was a pit containing cremated bone, charcoal and blackened earth, and a collared urn with “incised geometric ornamentation.”

Having taken a few photos, I thought it was time to move on so I headed to the car to start the journey to the next site – Croft Moraig. I had to drive through Kenmore past the Crannog, and head past Taymouth Castle until I came upon Croft Moraig Farm on the Bolfrack Estate. Apparently the estate has some spectacular gardens, but it was getting late, so I thought I’d better just view the stones and come back another day when the weather was less wet.

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I have driven past this spot on a few occasions, and can’t believe I have never noticed the impressive circle in the field here. It really is a fine example, but I couldn’t help but wish it had been in a more secluded spot, as the nearby farm sheds and house did spoil the effect somewhat.

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Its easy to miss the impressive Croft Moraig circle from the road

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Some pretty amazing trees nearby 

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The stones are covered in lichens, mosses and markings

I couldn’t find any information about excavations on the site, however it states on the Megalithics website that Croft Moraig was built over three phases. Before the stones there were originally wooden posts marking the site, and that stones were later placed in a horseshoe, before an outer circle of twelve was added. Could the twelve signify anything to do with the calendar?

My final stop of the day was back towards home, past Aberfeldy to a spot called the Lagg. I was told by one of the ladies at the Highland Safari centre that there was a small circle here.

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I drove up the steep and very bumpy road, which was well worth the journey when I reached the prize at the top. The Lagg circle (otherwise known as the Lundin Farm circle) comprised of four large stones, with a small supporting stone and a few more smaller stones on the adjacent path. But the most amazing feature of this site was that the stones had been placed around a tree!

20140309_163755A mysterious site of great beauty and peace with a large oak at the centre

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This is a really beautiful circle,  a small but perfectly formed four-poster. And one whopping big majestic oak tree at the centre of it. I wonder what came first, the stone circle or the tree? Either way, one was placed near the other for sure. Perhaps this oak tree was worshipped or had a meaning in the ancient ceremonies which took place here. The link below shares a bit of information about this site, and it is interesting to note that yet again, cremated bone fragments were found, but again there is no mention of whether it is animal or human.                     http://www.stonepages.com/ancient_scotland/sites/lundin_f.htm

Discovering the stones has definitely opened my eyes to what is around me locally, and I aim to visit as many sacred sites as and when I can. Perthshire seems to be full of them!