The Ogham Trees - Straif

The Ogham Trees – Straif


Authentic paintings © Ruby Clark 2011

Blackthorn  –  Straif

Ogham letter ST         The Darkish Half

from All Hallows Eve – Oct 31st  to earlier than Could Day -April 30th

Related pageant:  Samhain Oct 31st

Powers:          Overcoming Adversity,         Banishing Negativity,
Elevating Consciousness and Vitality,      Purification,       Safety,              Exorcism

sloe berries ©vcsinden2011

‘See even now, in hedge and thicket tangled,
One courageous and cheering sight:
The leafless branches of the blackthorn, spangled
With blossoms starry white!’

                       a verse from ‘The Blackthorn Fairy’ by Cicely Mary Barker – see her artwork work on the backside of the web page

     Prunus Spinosa – The Blackthorn – is a tree of profound magical  custom. It’s designated one of many Eight Chieftain Timber on the Ogham Tract, the place its title is Straif  (strife) and is claimed to be the ‘Increaser of Secrets and techniques.’

    It’s people names embrace sloe (after its fruit), sloe plum, snag, spiny plum.
wishing thorn, faery tree, (darkish) mom of the woods, pear hawthorn.   

blackthorn hedge - a lane in Charing, Kent ©vcsinden2011
A Blackthorn hedge in full fruit, within the area subsequent to Hurst Wooden, Charing, October 2011

        The Blackthorn, or Sloe Bush, is a small to medium sized deciduous shrub, rising to about four metres within the wild if left unpruned. The bushes develop in profusion on the sides of woods and amongst historical hedgerows or in waste floor, on cliff-tops and screes the place there isn’t a chalk. They’re typically planted as barrier hedges since their robust, lengthy thorns make a superb defence.  They will face up to repeated robust winds and can thrive in any soil so long as it isn’t full chalk or very acidic.

  blackthorn berries, sloes, Straif ©vcsinden2011In 1889, T.F.Thiselton-Dyer wrote ‘The Folks-lore of Vegetation’, chronicling reviews, reminiscences  and sayings from aged  nation staff. There have been two in regards to the Blackthorn, as follows –
“An eldern stake and a blackthorn ether,    Will make a hedge to final for ever”

and –   “When the sloe tree is as white as a sheet,     Sow your barley whether or not or not it’s dry or moist.”

    The timber are an historical, native pioneer species, the fruits eaten by early man. There’s proof that the Blackthorn was utilized in Iron Age communities (c3400 yrs in the past) as stays had been discovered, buried in a straw stuffed pit (thought for use for ripening and preserving the bitter sloes)  within the Lake Village close to Glastonbury and recorded in an unlimited catalogue of findings by the excavator Arthur Bulleid   ………

‘The one issues that name for particular comment within the above record are the cultivated crops, for although the sloe, blackberry, and haw had been eaten, they had been in all probability nothing however the wild types.’ 
from ‘The Glastonbury Lake Village  – a full description of the excavations and relics found 1892 – 1907’  by Arthur Bulleid and Harold St.George Grey

blackthorn hedge in blossom along a lane in Charing, Kent ©vcsinden2011

Blackthorn timber alongside the lane, nonetheless in blossom in early April 2011

     The small timber are bushy with darkish, nearly black stems and viciously thorny twigs, set at right-angles to the trunk and branches. The leaves are greyish-green, small  (3 – 5cm lengthy,  2cm broad), carried on brief stalks and elliptical in form. They unfold simply by underground suckers and the thickets can grow to be extraordinarily dense.

     Blackthorn blossom - unlucky for some ©vcsinden2011The tiny five-petalled flowers are uncommon in that they open very early in Spring, late February to March in a cloud of white blossom whereas the leaves are nothing however tiny buds. The clustered, white, starry flowers are very hanging in opposition to the black of the naked branches.

     From September on, the attribute deeply bloomed blue-black bitter fruits start to ripen.  Generally known as sloes, they resemble tiny damsons.  Contained in the flesh is a greenish-yellow and there’s a single stone  – they’re a a lot liked autumn-winter fruit for a lot of birds.
They are often ‘wild harvested’ in  October, or after the first frosts, to make a scrumptious ‘Sloe gin’, which is stored till the Yuletime celebrations- (see beneath).

A Nightingale Singing – © BBC Image Library 2010

Nightingale song from BBC Picture Library 2010

Click on above to pay attention to the gorgeous sound of the nightingale
Click on ¡ to go to Nick Penny’s web site to obtain.


Blackthorn is a crucial haven for wildlife, many birds will nest in the protecting thickets, together with the song-thrush and the now scarce nightingale. The leaves present meals for the caterpillars of hairstreak butterflies and an unlimited neighborhood of various moth species.

    Blackthorn Shillelaghs from'The Olde Shillelagh Stick Maker'The wooden itself isn’t a lot labored these days, it doesn’t get to any nice measurement but it surely does burn nicely!   Nonetheless used for extra ‘magical’ and conventional functions – it makes effective (if notoriously tough to handle) wands. It is rather laborious, will take a excessive polish and makes a robust, elegant and individually patterned strolling stick.

   In Eire it was usually used to make shillelaghs (a sort of membership as soon as utilized in sport). The base of the wooden on the root typically types a big knobbly lump which naturally types the pinnacle of the membership. The sticks on the fitting had been made byOlde Shillelagh Stick Makers & B & B in County Wicklow.
    Early manuscripts inform us that the sharp, lengthy thorn of the Blackthorn was used as an axe by leather-based staff to make holes.  Care is required when choosing the sloes, or harvesting the wooden for craftwork because the spines can arrange a nasty irritation if scratching happens.

from Robert Graves’ model of ‘Cad Goddeu’  -‘The Battle of the Timber’  See my Ogham Sacred Timber web page

    Blackthorn Therapeutic and Medication

     Fruits, leaves and flowers of the Blackthorn have been successfully utilized in people and natural medicines for hundreds of years. It seems that fashionable writers  and staff with natural medicines merely re-iterate the recommendation given by their two well-known forefathers.  Sloe Gin - Eco Enchantments ©vcsinden2010

 ‘Sloe Gin’, a liqueur comprised of ripe sloe berries steeped in gin with added sugar, is a well-liked drink to take by the fireplace at nighttime, winter evenings – as a panacea for winter ills or just for pleasure! (see my ‘sloe-gin’ recipe and directions right here).

       Each the herbalists, John Gerard, writing in 1597, and Nicholas Culpeper in 1653 sing the praises of Blackthorn of their work ….
    ‘The juice of sloes do cease the stomach, the laske and bloodie fluxe, the inordinate course of womens phrases, and all different problems with blood in man or girl.’
writes Gerard, (image of ‘The Sloe tree’ above). 
hilst Culpeper recommends a decoction of the powdered bark of the roots, or of the recent or dried berries as a treatment for ‘lask of the stomach , or abdomen, or the bloody flux, and to ease the pains within the sides or bowels.’

    Sloe berries ready for sloe gin ©vcsinden2010Additionally from Culpeper, excessive reward for the distilled liquid of recent blackthorn flowers steeped for an evening in sack (a sort of extremely honeyed mead or sherry). It’s   ‘A most sure treatment, tried and accepted, to ease all method of gnawing within the abdomen, sides and bowels, or any griping pains in any of them, to drink a small amount when the extremity of the ache is upon them.’

    Blackthorn blossom - tiny stars ©vcsinden2011 The herbalist doesn’t cease there!  A  distillation of the leaves, a condensation of the juice of the berries, each made into lotions or  ‘a easy distilled water of the flowers’ are all to be prescribed …..
              ‘to gargle, and wash the mouth and throat, whereby are swellings, sores, or kernels, or to remain the defluxions of rheum to the eyes and different components, and likewise to chill the warmth and irritation in them, and to ease scorching pains of the pinnacle by bathing the brow and temples therewith.’
    ‘It’s the juice of this berry that makes the well-known marking ink to put in writing upon linen; it being so robust an acid that no different acid recognized will discharge it.’

. The ‘Physicians of Myddvai’ advocate the next:
‘For ache within the chest (dyspepsia.) Take a big amount of black thorn berries, bruise briskly in a mortar, mixing very new ale therewith. Put this combination in a brand new earthen pot, over its edges within the earth, for 9 days and nights, giving it the affected person to drink the very first thing within the morning, and the very last thing at evening. ‘

Blackthorn Elixir online from Healthfoods UK     Used contemporarily, the sloes, picked in October and ripened over a couple of frosts are extraordinarily bitter and astringent, however wealthy in Vitamin C.  They may very well be used recent or dried, crushed and steeped in just a little boiling water for not less than every week. The ensuing drugs may very well be taken internally to cleanse the blood of issues and as a basic metabolic stimulant and tonic.
The flowers, once more recent or dried may be made right into a tisane with boiling water and drunk to assist with abdomen complaints.

The Blackthorn Elixir (left) may be purchased on-line from Healthfoods UK

    ‘Blackthorn Tree Essence’ may be purchased on-line from Inexperienced Man Essences the place all types of essences comprised of our native tree flowers may be present in 10 and 30ml bottles.

  Blackthorn Fable, Faith, Spirtuality and Folklore

     Component: Hearth                 Ruling Planet: Mars                     Gender: Masculine   

Lunantisidhe by Andrew Paciorek

‘Lunantisidhe’ by Andrew L Paciorek
See extra of his extraordinary artwork at his challenge web site


    In contrast to many of the nice mystic timber
, the Blackthorn seems to be peculiarly our personal. There may be little or no affiliation with the highly effective  legendary traditions of different civilizations, and the tales of previous with point out of the tree or fruit are Celtic, each Irish and Scottish.   

    The Blackthorn is such an influence for magick
, that in Irish folklore it has its personal faery tribe to protect it. They’re known as  Lunantisidhe or Lunantishee, spiky, indignant creatures who will curse it’s best to you be silly sufficient to attempt to minimize wooden from the timber on the day of previous new year- Samhain (Nov 11th) and the previous Could Day, Beltane (Could 11th ). 

    I can discover no file that the Lunantisidhe ever up to date their calendar, so do watch out to recollect the dates!   

The Morrighan by Emily Balivet

‘The Morrighan’ by Emily Balivet
used right here together with her variety permisssion.

See the artist’s enormous vary of mythological work right here at her web site


  Blackthorn has a status for being a pressure for cover and hope amongst devastation, while on the identical time being a supply of pure malevolence.

   It’s the latter perception which has survived and is acquainted even to this present day.  That is almost definitely as a result of there are such a lot of superstitions linked with age-old witchcraft and the wooden.

 Previous superstition tells that if a Whitethorn (Could or Hawthorn) is planted subsequent to a Blackthorn, the Blackthorn will die, and good may have triumphed over evil.

     The tree is sacred to the third part of the Triple Goddess, the Crone – recognized in differing guises as  Morrighan or Cailleach or Beira, Goddess of Winter – all asscociations with the waning of life, the waning 12 months and the waning moon. She is depicted at instances carrying a stang or employees of blackthorn wooden and sometimes accompanied by her pathfinder crow or raven.     

Blackthorn rune Thurisaz ©vcsinden2012   

    Early practitioners of darkish witchcraft
favoured the wooden minimize from Blackthorn and tipped with the thorns as a wand – and even as a ‘blasting rod’ or ‘black rod’, used apparently for cursing.  The rod would incessantly have the traditional Futhark rune for thorn ‘Thurisaz’ scratched or burned into it.    

The thorns have been discovered caught into witches ‘poppets’, used as pins. Superstition tells us that the satan pricked the fingers of his victims with a sloe thorn and sealed the offers he made within the ensuing blood.  As a result of a scratch from the sloe bush was apt to go septic if unattended, it was regarded as toxic.

     Witches burned as heretics had been generally accompanied into the hearth with their blackthorn wands or staffs, and branches of it had been thrown in to feed the flames. This can be the place the tree gained its status for purification, and even exorcism.

     The starry blossoms had been thought of unfortunate and never worn as a ornament or introduced into the home. They had been related to dying, in all probability as a result of they bloom on the naked, thorny black branches at winter’s finish.


  Blackthorn Magic, Charms and Beliefs   

The Blackthorn Fair by Cicely Mary Barker
‘The Blackthorn Fairy’
by Cicely Mary Barker


*    Use the dried wooden, thorns and berries in a natural incense to banish negativity and in ceremonies of purification. If the malicious influences are very robust, burn the incense for seven days at midday and midnight.

Do you have to occur to know of a kid who has been captured by the fairies, go to the highest of a fairy hill close by and burn a number of blackthorn thorns (seven could be good as seven is the faery quantity). The kid will probably be launched.

'The Sloe Fairy' by Cicely Mary Barker
‘The Sloe Fairy’
by Cicely Mary Barker

*    Pop a thorn or dried berry into your ‘appeal bag’ for added safety from destructive spirits and to draw optimistic powers.    

  *  To keep away from heartburn indigestion for the 12 months, eat the primary three open sloe-blossoms that you just discover in February.

  *   You could possibly summon The Wild Hunt at Samhain, All Hallows Eve, by taking a amount of small, thorny blackthorn twigs and sloe berries. Circle the balefire 3 times and throw them into the depths.  Fan the smoke, stare into it and ask to see the chase – in case you dare!

    Within the Phrase Ogham of Cuchulain, the Blackthorn is described in riddles as ‘smoke drifting up from the hearth’ and this may be taken as an indication of dying.

   Blackthorn and Apple Secrets Magic from Eco Enchantments ©vcsinden2012 *    Add blackthorn wooden to the Xmas fireplace to banish winter and hail the return of the solar and the lengthening of the times.

    *    Unburden your self of secrets and techniques by taking three sharp thorns from the tree for every secret you want to inform.  Bind them into bundles of three with just a little crimson thread. 

    Stick every bundle into a shiny, recent apple and whisper your secret shut as you do it.  (As rulers of the ‘Darkish and Gentle Aspect’ of the 12 months, Apple is commonly coupled with Blackthorn in Ogham and in magick).  Subsequent cling or stick the apple and its secrets and techniques onto the blackthorn tree and go away it there.

Faulkner Postcard. Artist GMC 1927

           1920’s artwork glassware by Daum of France


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