Monday, 4 November 2013

Fabulous Folklore

Although Halloween, with it's trick-or-treat parties and pumpkin carving is not a traditionally British festival, All Soul's Day (2nd Nov) and All Saint's Day (1st Nov) are old Christian feast days that have become collectively entwined with All Hallow's Eve and it's associated folklore. Plants traditionally play an integral part in folklore and I have found it quite an eye-opener to find out what the scribes say about my latest subject, the blackberry or bramble.

Interestingly, according to some English folklore, passing under the archway formed by a bramble branch will cure (or prevent) all manner of afflictions including boils (of course). In Greek mythology, the hero Belleraphon was thrown into brambles when he dared to ride Pegasus to Mount Olympus, and was blinded by the thorns and wandered outcast and alone thereafter. Another tale says that Lucifer landed in brambles when he was cast down from heaven and thus cursed them so that they would be an ugly plant, (that's a bit harsh). It is said that he hates them so much, he stamps about on them on Michaelmas Day and after that, it's unlucky to harvest them. Other folklore says this happens on Halloween (ah there's the link).

The thorns on the blackberry are extremely sharp and can be found on
every part of the plant.
Tiny 'hook-like' barbs can even be found under the leaves, along the main ribs.
I may add a few more thorns here.

The thorns develop right to the very tip of the plant.
Just peeking in from the left is the new addition to the piece.
You can also see the grey wash.

Even so, blackberries were considered protective against earthbound spirits and vampires. If planted near a home, a vampire couldn't enter because he would obsessively count the berries and forget what he was doing. Spooky!

Not quite finished after all.
Adding a stem of berries to the top left corner may balance
the composition and fill that gap.

Keeping the stem separate from the rest of the plant
demonstrates that flowers and berries would not generally
appear together.

Less spooky is the fab news that my good friend Shevaun has just started her excellent blog. Shevaun has great knowledge and techniques that we can all learn from, and I am so delighted that she is now sharing her exquisitely observed studies with us. Do pay a visit to Botanical Sketches, you can see some beautiful work in progress just now. 


Claire said...

Interesting Jarnie and it will look better with the berries for sure. I'm trying to get the letter right, it's challenging!! Xxx

shevaun said...

Jarnie! I'm blushing!! The brambles look fantastic... I love how you have handled the leaves and those thorns look dangerous.Great story on how to confuse a vampire!! :) Anyway you're nearly finished, so well done!

Janene said...

Interesting folklore about the brambles--I didn't realize that there were so many stories about them. I have mixed feelings about them because they are so invasive where I live, but on the other hand, I have fond memories of picking berries for blackberry pie with my family. You have done a lovely job depicting this historic plant.

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Thanks Claire, it was a last minute decision to put berries in, so I just hope I don't rush them.

Ah Shevaun, of course you're going to get a plug. brambles are everywhere in our garden, so we're safe! ;)

There are loads of great stories Janene, I had to select my favourites. Glad you enjoyed it. :)

J R Shepherd said...

LOL! I have an image in my head of a vampire that resembles something like Count Dracula in Sesame Street, standing on the neighbours porch, hunched over and busily counting away in a rather theatrical way....

One-r, Tow-r, Three-r!

Great post Jarnie - as always.

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Ha, ha, ha, that's great. Do you know, that's exactly how 'Husband' saw it too! Imagine poor old Count D, stuck in our brambles but entranced by counting them, and then having to start all over again.