There is a certain sense of ancient grace present at Pentre Ifan. Allied with its brooding air of myth and magic, it is unsuprising to discover that this is the most popular megalithic site in Wales.
The tomb’s incredibly massive five metre long capstone weighs in at over sixteen tons but appears almost delicately held, eight feet clear of the ground, upon three gnarled and tapered supports. Appearing to all that the whole monument might collapse at any moment, it is easy for the visitor to wonder upon what supernatural intervention might be at work preventing it from all crashing to the ground. Such stirrings of the imagination are easily raised at Pentre Ifan.
It is believed that Pentre Ifan was an important site for Druid worship in the past and evidence of more recent occult practices were discovered here during this author’s 2007 visit to the dolmen.
Blackthorn flowers have an ethereal glow to them. They almost light up a woodland, blossoming as they do at a time when few other trees, itself included, have even come into leaf. The effect is made all the more dramatic as it's white petals erupt from the darkest of leafless wood.
Blackthorn wood is the favoured wood for making walking sticks and Irish shillelaghs. In the making of shillelaghs, the Blackthorn's dark colour was often enhanced by smothering the wood in butter then placing it inside a chimney to cure. This contrast between the darkness of the Blackthorn and the vivid white of its blossom is not the only yin/yang aspect of this remarkable small tree. Whilst the flowers draw passers-by close to admire their beauty, its cruelly sharp thorns repel. These fierce looking thorns are associated both with the crown of thorns which Jesus bore at his crucifixion and the razor sharp thicket the fairy tale prince needed to cut through to save Sleeping Beauty from the evil spell cast upon her.
St. John's Wort, Mumbles Hill
St. John's Wort is most commonly known today for being a herbal remedy for depression. But the plant's medicinal, and believed magickal properties, have been used throughout history as a prescription to improve a wide variety of physical, mental and spiritual conditions.
The flowering of a Bluebell wood is one of Britain's greatest natural displays. There really is something bewitching about the way a Bluebell wood comes to life after its winter slumber each year. This magical quality was not lost on our ancestors who believed numerous superstitions and folklore concerning Bluebell woods.
Such was the beauty of an ancient woodland decorated with a sweeping carpet of Bluebells, that it was considered by many to be of unearthly origin. Bluebell woods were considered very dangerous places by folklore. Faeries were said to live in these places and to walk into a Bluebell wood was to risk being whisked away into their Nether World!
Harebells, Mumbles Hill
During one of my regular walks on the Gower Peninsula, I was delighted to stumble across a patch of dainty Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia) in full bloom. These delicate flowers, which are amongst the most gorgeous wildflowers you can hope to discover along the whole of Gower Peninsula, are as rich in folklore are they are in beauty:
Witch's Butter (Tremella mesenterica), Broughton - January 2010
Witch's Butter (Tremella mesenterica) is a strange fungi that feeds on other species of fungi. It is usually found on rotting wood which other species of fungi have long colonated. Witch's Butter is a decidedly odd looking fungi and is known by a vareity of names, including Faery Butter, Yellow Brains, Star Jelly and Sun Clumps.