The Story Of The Blackthorn Tree: A Lesson In Respecting Nature

BLACKTHORN TREE

The grandfather clock ticked loudly in the hallway, and every quarter of an hour there would be a loud thud, and a few seconds later it would chime. The kitchen, a place chosen by my grandmother in all the cottage, was  where she spent most of her time, in her rocking chair, near an open hearth – it’s what country folk in this rugged part of north Wales did.

Now, This is some years back, and I was probably just wee lad of about five years of age.

A storm was raging outside – valley weather can change suddenly and be most severe, and being a young boy I couldn’t help but look out at the window. Rain lashed against the window panes, wind blew the trees about outside, especially the large one at the end of my grandmother’s garden, and thunder and lighting raged across the sky, intermittently. But, I was fairly warm and comfortable – as snug as a bug in a rug.

‘What type of tree is that, at the end of your garden?’, I asked my grandmother, still looking intently out of the window.

‘If you come here’, she said, ‘I’ll tell you, and I’ll tell you a little story about it, too’, she replied. My grandmother was a prolific story-teller, a seanchai, and everyone in the family loved her deep and profound stories.

I could never resist a good story, either, and still can’t, and so I stopped peering out of the window, ambled to the foot of her rocking chair, and sat on the floor – the floor consisted of paving stones in the kitchen, but warmed by the heat from the open fire. I was even more comfortably warm, in complete contrast to the coolness near the window and the storm outside.

She said, ‘In nature, everything is in equilibrium, in balance. Sometimes the weather is sunny and dry; sometimes it is cold and thundery, like now. Everything balances out.

In nature everything should be respected, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because life on this planet depends on it, even you and I. And that tree, the one you asked about, is a noble blackthorn tree.

Now the blackthorn tree is a canny tree. It produces lovely flowers and awesome berries, that I sometimes boil, but it demands respect, and you never want to touch it carelessly. It has two inch long spikey protrusions on it, like needles. Some of the farmers here use them as cattle-proof hedges.’

She moved her head closer to me, momentarily, and in a hushed voice, asked, ‘Would you like to know a secret story about the blackthorn tree’. She knew I couldn’t resist a good story, and so I nodded eagerly, and as the hallway clock juddered and chimed once more, she continued.

‘There was once a farmer, who really didn’t care about the land he farmed. He was just in it for the money, and he was never satisfied. He was always looking for ways to get more and more out of the land, to get richer and richer. He noticed that in the middle of his field stood a lonely, but very large blackthorn tree. It had been there since before he was born. It was a noble, majestic specimen, and a very fine and proud tree, too.

The locals used to believe that the Lunantisidhe, moon-fae, used to live in blackthorn trees or used to live nearby them and looked after them. They are good creatures, but it would never do to upset them. Also, some people believe that the Cailleach, that old crone that you’ve probably heard outside on occasions, carries a staff made of a blackthorn branch. – and with it she can summon up a storm. Perhaps , like the one outside?’.

I quickly looked toward the widow and back. It’s true I had heard the Cailleach several times, but also remembered that my grandmother always said that there was nothing to fear from her, if you gave her due respect.

My grandmother continued, ‘That money-mad farmer was insistent that that blackthorn tree had to be felled, and that would give him more land to farm, more crops, and more money. He asked for help, but not one of the locals would help him chop the tree down. They knew the farmer didn’t really respect the land, was besotted with money, and they knew the myth of the blackthorn tree and the very protective Lunantisidhe, or moon-fae.

The farmer grew angry with them, and the next morning, as the sun came up, he took an axe to the tree. It took him hours and hours, and as his axe cut into the tree, so it looked like blood was coming out of the blackthorn tree. Certainly, the farmer’s arm was bloodied, as some of the long thorns from the tree scratched and dug into his arm.

Once the tree was felled, the greedy farmer stood back, sweating and with sore, aching muscles cursed the tree for the work it had caused him.

He turned around. His jaw dropped and his heart raced. His farm house was ablaze. And being made of wood and with a thatched roof there was no way of saving it. His house was completely destroyed. And, as the timber burnt and cracked, and crackled, and flames leapt into the air, in the breeze whispers could be heard to those that had ears to hear. It was the angry voices of the Lunantisidhe who had sought revenge, by balancing nature. The tree had lost its life at the hands of the greedy farmer; the farmer had lost his home. All because he did not respect nature, the blackthorn tree or the Lunantsidhe.’

She finished the story, and I couldn’t resist going back to the window, to gaze outside at that storm and that noble blackthorn tree standing at the end of her garden. If I listened hard enough would I hear the Lunantisidhe?

Now, I’m much older. But, in that story of myth and magic, and told many years ago, is there a moral there for us as individuals and as a society when it comes to appreciating and protecting nature?

 

10 thoughts on “The Story Of The Blackthorn Tree: A Lesson In Respecting Nature

  1. I loved this story! Everything in life is balance.
    To deny pain is to deny joy. I feel that my pain has been my best teacher and I’ve learned to sit with it instead of impatiently trying to numb it.
    This story is very close to my heart as I have a grove of Hawthorn trees that I adore. My Newfoundland dogs are particularly attracted to the grove & enjoy sitting in it with me.
    Thank you! – just lovely
    Erin

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading the story, Erin. It is one of my favourite stories and the meaning is so true. Many blessings to you and those whom you love, Tadhg.

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  2. Absolutely!!! Even the pandemic is giving us cause to pause and consider the effect we undoubtedly have on nature. I love reading your grandmother’s stories, thank you Tadhg!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Helen. Many thanks for reading the article/story, and for your kind comment. I’m pleased you liked it. I hope to include a few more stories over the next month or two, along with other articles. Many thanks, and bright blessings to you and those whom you love, Tadhg.

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    • Many thanks for reading the story. I’m pleased you liked it. Yes, we need to respect nature and enjoy it, and ensure it can be enjoyed fully by future generations, too. Bright blessings, Tadhg.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful simple story. The importance of appreciating and protecting nature is an important balancing act. A happy state is often one of equilibrium where the yin is balanced by the yang. A healthy and happy state is possibly the result of maintaining and managing this balance. Unfortunately humankind too often tips the balance by not respecting nature.
    The story is a classic case, in the spiritual sense, of Newtons Third Law of Motion – For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Chris. Yes, I’m all for harmony and balance, and do accept that humankind has a mixed-to-wanting track record in many area of respecting nature. But, I’m an optimist, and can see some signs of change. Many thanks for reading the article/story and for commenting. Bright blessings to you and yours, Tadhg.

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