Our beautiful Yew Tree lit up at night with Christmas lights, photo by PH Morton
The Yew Tree
We have got a lovely yew tree in our front garden which we dress up with lights on Christmas. It is now about 8 feet tall and still growing.
But did you know that the yew tree has a not quite a nice superstition attached to it?!!!
Yew (Taxus baccata) is a characteristic tree of churchyards, where some are estimated to be well over 1,000 years old.:
It is believed that ever since people arrived upon UK shores, they planted yew trees in acts of sanctification, close to where they eventually hoped to be laid to rest.
And, according to a label on a yew tree at Kew Gardens in 1993:
The Druids regarded yew as sacred and planted it close to their temples. As early Christians often built their churches on these consecrated sites, the association of yew trees with churchyards was perpetuated
Apparently, if you bring in a yew (as part of a bundle of greenery for decoration) inside the house at Christmas, there will be a death in the family before the year out. It is also advised not to take yew inside the house because it is very unlucky!!!
Oh no, our yew tree is so beautiful to be a source of such malevolent superstition.
And all parts of the yew tree are poisonous, the hidden seeds inside the berries are extremely poisonous.
Today is shrove Tuesday, which has now become better known as Pancake Day.
What is Shrove Tuesday about? Has it become just a day of cooking and tossing pancakes?
Shrove Tuesday is the last day of merriment and feasting before Lent begins in earnest.
But in truth and in its history, today is about penitence. Shrove Tuesday got its name from the ritual of shriving, which early Christians used to do.
The act of shriving meant that Christians would confess their sins and their shortcomings and in so doing will receive absolutions.
Absolution means the person will be forgiven of his sins and released from his guilt and pain that he had caused.
This tradition is very old.
It was a custom and tradition of the early Christians to confess their sins a week before the start of Lent to their priest/confessor, who shall so shrive them.
Today is not only about pancake but a time to think about the wrong deeds that we have done or have continued doing. We must be penitent of them.
On the happier side, Shrove Tuesday is also about partying and feasting. Time to cook and serve all the foods that may have to be given up for the sober Lent to come. Barbecue the meat and fish and make pastas so no food are wasted for the coming Lent. Today is like a Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday.
Pancake became the ideal food for Tuesday because it uses up all the fats, milk and eggs with the addition of flour.
‘Tis the night — the night
Of the grave’s delight,
And the warlocks are at their play;
Ye think that without
The wild winds shout,
But no, it is they — it is they.
~Arthur Cleveland Coxe
Happy Halloween to our visitors.
Here in London we enjoy Halloween. On 31 October, millions around the world celebrate a festival that has evolved from nature rituals of ancient times.
Halloween, or it’s proper name Hallowe’en (Hallows evening)contracted from the Christian ‘All Hallows Evening’ or ‘Eve’, is thought to have pagan roots and from a festival name of ‘Samhain’.
Halloween is supposed to be the time when the earthly and spirit worlds meet allowing spirits of those departed and fairies to dwell for one night on earth and commune with us mere mortals. It is an important date for pagans, witches etc. The festival predates Christianity by thousands of years.
Wiccans hold one of their seasonal Sabbats (festivals) every 31 October. Witchcraft & witches are derived from the old English words, wiccecræft & wicce.
To try and suppress such pagan non-Christian beliefs, the Church hierarchy then later added All Saints Day (to commemorate all Christian Saints) on the 1st November, followed by All Souls Day on 2nd November, when the deceased family, relatives, friends etc., are remembered and commemorated with Church services.
Halloween is thought to mainly originate from ancient Celtic festivals in Scotland, Ireland, Wales and northern Europe. These Celtic festivals and rituals marked the end of summer and the coming of winter after autumn and the unwelcome arrival of longer darker & colder nights. Bonfires were lit to keep the dark at bay and rituals performed to banish ghosts, evil spirits, fairies from coming with the winter darkness. Candle lit turnip lanterns carved with scary faces were made which later evolved into the pumpkin lanterns we see now.
Halloween spread to North America in the 1800s with the arrival of Irish & Celtic immigrants. It quickly became a big festival which, evolved over the years into what takes place today. Children dressing up as ghosts, witches etc., touring around the neighbourhood with patient parents on Halloween, trick or treating. Halloween themed parties are de riguer .
Before pumpkins became the favourite of Halloween lantern makers (they are easier to carve), turnips and swedes were and still are used. Some of these carved pumpkins are minor works of art.
The Irish settlers arriving in America found no turnips so used the native grown pumpkins as lanterns as are used to this day.
When I was a child on Halloween, my mother and I would carve two lanterns out of smaller root vegetable swedes (Swedish turnip), as pumpkins were rare here then. The swedes are harder to carve, but worth the effort to an imaginative young mind. We would put a lantern in our living or bedroom window
We would keep the lantern swedes until Guy Fawkes Night on each 5th November. We would re use them if they were still fresh as lanterns then burn them on the bonfire we had in our garden as we set off fireworks, so much fun and happy memories ?
This early evening, like the last few Halloweens’, we will take our grandsons around the local roads. We meet other families too and exchange laughs. A lot of neighbours get into the spirit (pardon the pun!) and have pumpkin lanterns like us by their front garden gates. Some open their doors dressed up in scary costumes, a good fun evening.