Sunday, 25 May 2014

Documentary: The Tribe that Hides From Man

Documentary: Ways of Seeing in Publicity, Advertising and Media

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

True oxlip and other ancient woodland flowers

Friday, 2 May 2014

Folk Use of Agrimony - Digestive Remedy with Yellow Flowers

Following on from my previous post about old English folk remedies. Agrimony is another plant you should know about. Agrimony flowers are said to represent gratitude. Their bright yellow petals appear from June to August and produce a sweet, spicy odour like apricots. The perennial herb is related to the rose and can be found along the margins of woodlands, in meadows, pastures and banks.
The earliest mention of Agrimony as a folk medicine in Britain comes from Bald’s leechbook, written in the 9th century. It recommends that Agrimony be used as a medieval form of Viagra. The recipe states that the plant must be boiled in milk before being administered to a man who is “insufficiently virile". Strangely, it was said to have the exact opposite effect when you replaced the milk with Welsh beer, but I suspect this may have nothing to do with the Agrimony and a lot more to do with the strength of the beer! As time passed, Agrimony was no longer used as a cure for impotence, but was still employed in numerous other folk remedies. 

Later folkish beliefs held that the pretty yellow flower was capable of healing musket wounds and warding off witchcraft. In Finland the plant was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, probably because it had previously been used in pagan rituals and therefore needed to be cleansed of its un-Christian cultural associations. 

While the flowers brighten gardens and bouquets, the leaves can be added to teas in order to aid digestion. It has also been used to treat liver and bile duct troubles. Its tannins tone the mucus membranes in the gut, helping them to secrete and absorb. Being a mild herb, it works well for the treatment of digestive irritation in children. Colitis sufferers and people with peptic ulcers have also found it helpful. The bitter tasting plant can aid the proper functioning of the liver and gall bladder; the Germans still use it to treat gallstones. There are some simple external uses too. You can apply it to wounds as a salve, or mix it with water and use it as a mouthwash to help heal sore throats and inflamed gums. 

The slender spikes of flowers have earned them the nickname of church steeples and the plant itself can grow as high as 60cm tall. You can easily find Agrimony growing in the English countryside and in other parts of the world with similar climates, but it is scarcely found in the barren hills of Scotland.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

May Day and Hal an Tow

Today is May Day! a very important day in the English calendar. It was three years ago that I wrote an article about the threat posed to May Day by squabbling political groups. Well May day hasn't been lost yet! Whatever Cameron and the Communists might be doing, sensible folk should be joyfully celebrating the coming of Spring.

As well as the famous Maypole, based on pagan fertility cults, there are many other folk traditions in England which welcome in the May. One such tradition is found in the ancient Cornish song "Hal an Tow" It has been sung on May Day as a part of the May celebration in Helston, Cornwall for centuries. The Watersons sang Hal-an-Tow in 1965 on a BBC TV documentary called Travelling for a Living. See the video below.

 The video below shows how the song is integrated into the May Day celebrations in Helston.

The lyrics vary and are sung differently by various groups. Here are the lyrics to the Waterson's version sung in the video.

 Since man was first created
 His works have been debated
 We have celebrated
The coming of the Spring  


Hal-an-tow, jolly rumbalow
We were up long before the day-O
To welcome in the summer,
 To welcome in the May-O
The summer is a-coming in And winter's gone away-O

What happened to the Spaniards
That made so great a boast-O?
 Why they shall eat the feathered goose
And we shall eat the roast-O

Take no scorn to wear the horn
It was the crest when you was born
 Your father's father wore it
And your father wore it too

 Robin Hood and Little John
 Have both gone to the fair-O
And we will to the merry green wood
To hunt the buck and hare-O

God bless Aunt Mary Moyses
 And all her power and might-O
And send us peace to England
Send peace by day and night-O