Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Yule Yew Holly n Ivy

I met with Herb lovers for a walk in the woods at the weekend. Focussing on the Yew and Holly trees and the climbing Ivy.

It was beautifully clear and freezing as I stood beneath the Yew sunshine in my eyes so that the folks listening tro me were shadows in my vision, my hands shook as my adrenaline kicked in hehe I love talking about plants...

 Yews are very special to me, one of the first ones that I connected with was near the Claremont rd Road Protest in a little park/ scrubland that was under attack, I remember crying my eyes out as she got chainsawed down. 

Apparently in the Jurassic age the Yew was far more prolific across our lands and the main tree of our forests. She now protects and provides safe passage for our dead in numerous graveyards often predating the churches.

I love the squishy bright red berries they are super sweet n have a bit of a snotty texture but the only part of the Yew that isn't toxic so a special treat -just make sure you spit out the black pips... Tamoxifen the breast cancer drug is made from the Yew.

The Silver birch was our next stop on the walk -the Queen of the woods, delicate feminine beauty, I recounted my time at a yoga retreat where the whole class had drunk some birch bark tea before a class and then each and every one of us had run out to pee numerous times -strong volumetic diuretic that one. Dieter talked about how he tapped the tree on the beginning of March and over night it yielded over a gallon of sap for his wine.

The Holly laden with berries stood proud above us all as I spoke of His lightening conductive abilities and white wood - we all picked a leaf tore it and placed it in a jar and then covered with Vodka -this tincture will have anti pyretic (lower fevers) and expectorant (dissolves and brings up think mucous) activities but we also spoke of the Hollies magical qualities of protection and uplifting moods.

Nicholas Culpeper in his “The Complete Herbal” (1653) say’s that:  “the bark and leaves are good used as fomentations for broken bones and such members as are out of joint”.  He also considered the berries to be curative of colic. 

For most of us the sight of holly leaves and berries is inextricably linked with Christmas, whether we celebrate this as a secular or a religious festivity. Christmas brings with it many traditions and it is probably the one time when many of us still practice at least a few old folklore customs today

Though holly doubtless was, and still is, brought into the house for its shiny green leaves and berries, which reflect the light and add colour to the dark days of Yule, it has another significance as well. Christian symbolism connected the prickly leaves with Jesus' crown of thorns and the berries with the drops of blood shed for humanity's salvation, as is related, for example, in the Christmas carol, 'The Holly and the Ivy'. 
Yet even here the reference to these two plants refers to a pre-Christian celebration, where a boy would be dressed in a suit of holly leaves and a girl similarly in ivy, to parade around the village, bringing Nature through the darkest part of the year to re-emerge for another year's fertility.

The Ivy with her porous branches and binding ways has been adopted in the past by various cults who believed in Liberation through intoxication - her connection to fidelity and wine made us all smile, whilst shivering slightly..... 

A preparation of the leaves was once used externally to treat conditions affecting the peripheral nerves such as rheumatism and neuralgia, as well as skin conditions such as impetigo and scabies. Taken internally as a tincture it is purported to be effective against whooping cough.

All in all a lush day in da woods

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this lovely post - I've always been interested in Yew, but a little scared of it cos of its being poisonous - didn't know about tamoxifen, will think of it as a woman's ally now :-)