Updated: Feb 24
An extra special extension to our Fairytrails challenge...
"Love is a canvas furnished by Nature and embroidered by imagination..."
Welcome to our Valentine's Day Special!
Just like before, it's all about encouraging you to connect with the wild outside through folklore and story! We find it much easier to remember trees, plants and creatures when we learn about the folklore associated with them and listen to the myths, legends and fairytales in which they play a part!
That's why we want to share some more outdoor storying love with you this Valentine's Day - hoping that, as well as providing you with something fun to get up to, in the long term you might also find yourself recognising, identifying and understanding more of the outdoors than you ever did before!
This time round there's a little more magic involved alongside the tree, plant and creature spotting with spell weaving, traditional little rituals and several suggested stories and podcasts to curl up with at home or enjoy along the way - all love-linked and drawn from romantically entangled traditions!
This is a project that you can dip into whenever you feel like it - there's no time limit and no rules about where to start and how to do it. Let the trees and the tales guide you!
For Bristol bods, we've created mapped out a route around our local park (Victoria Park, Bristol). If that's you, then grab our new map, feel free to embellish it with cauldrons, creatures, wands, witches and the like...and, either on Valentine's Day or during half term, we challenge you to visit each of the trees, plants and creatures marked on the map!
If you aren't local to Victoria Park, Bristol - don't panic! You can still do this where you live! You might just need a little extra help from the fab free apps Flora Incognita and The Woodland Trust to check you've got the right trees and plants!
The Valentine Ramble
Click here for the fab free apps Flora Incognita and The Woodland Trust to check you've got the right trees and plants! I've also learnt much of the folklore, spells and rituals mentioned below from The Treadwell's Book of Plant Magic.
Did you know that Flora (Roman Goddess of Spring) asked the gods to turn her best nymph buddy into a flower when she found her dead? That they duly did and, during the (we assume) complicated business of carrying out the request, Flora was accidentally hit by one of Eros's arrow. Cross as she was, Flora mispronounced Eros as ‘ros’ and that's apparently how the nymph-turned-flower got her name!
A dozen red roses are a well recognised token of love but they are also known to attract love to you - so stick them all over the house/yourself if you're on the hunt for love! Some say that it's also helpful to eat turkish delights in order to be successful in your quest for love so order a box now! Of particular interest and relevance with us being Brizzle bods is the Somerset folk spell noted in Plant Magic...prepare yourself well in advance and make sure that on Midsummer's Day, at precisely midday, you pluck a white rose, pop it in the flower press and give it time to dry. You'll then need to wait six months before whipping it out, tucking it into your bra and waiting for...'your future husband to snatch it away'! (The old saying, 'Patience is a virtue', springs to mind!)
For adults: (Text) The Nightingale and the Rose
For kids: (Audio) Beauty and the Beast
Another fab podcast for the grownups: Roses are Red by The Folklore Podcast
In Celtic mythology, this 'Lady of the Woods' is the tree of beginnings. She is often connected to themes of renewal, purification and fertility - and was even used as a living maypole! According to Treadwell's Book of Plant Magic, the birch tree is often referred to as the 'tree of courting and love' in Wales. Traditionally, young lovers would apparently have walked together through the birches and made love tokens for each other made of birch wood. If you feel like using some birch to be romantic, why not try whittling a spoon from the next bag of firewood you grab from B+M bargains (usually birch wood) - although dry, seasoned wood can be quite tricky to whittle (make it easier by soaking it in a bucket of water!) Tips on how to do this can be found here.
For adults: (Audio) The Fool and the Birch Tree
For kids: (Text) The Wood Fairy
The ash has rich mythic history and is perhaps most well known as Yggdrasil - The World Tree in Norse mythology. Throughout history, the tree has been used in a wide variety of ways to cure illness and bring good fortune, but today it's a Somerset love spell that takes centre stage.
According to Treadwell's Book of Plant Magic, when you find your ash tree, select a branch with an odd number of buds (or leaves later in the year). Most importantly - ask the tree for permission to remove this branch. Now for the tricky bit...fold the branch in three and keep it safe in your pocket while you find a suitable place to ambush your love interest because the next step is to leap out at them and throw it at them. Yup, chuck it at them. Apparently, the next time they see you, they will fall instantly in love. WARNING: This plan could definitely backfire!
For adults & kids: The Norse Creation Myth at the bottom of my podcast page, told by Dawn Nelson.
The lime tree is also referred to as the linden and, in many cultures, it is a very scared tree. Throughout the Baltic, the tree is connected with the goddess Laima who is responsible for fertility, childbirth, marriage and fate. (Oh, and pregnant women have her as their patron saint.) You can see why people (predominately women) visited the lime trees in order to secure good luck and a happy future. For this Valentine Ramble, we're going to focus on a folk spell for happy marriages and homes full of friends. To do this, you need to gather some lime and oak leaves. Once this is done, according to Treadwell's Book of Plant Magic, you must 'make a large wreath to hang on the home's front door'. Green is the best colour to use because it is a love colour, and gold is also great because it is the colour of happiness. Apparently, one of these wreaths ensures that fairies know they are welcome and 'fairness will prevail' - hmm...I could do with the latter so I'm off to make one right now!
For adults & kids: (Text) The Lime Tree
We are also LOVING reading The Girl Who Speaks Bear to the children which is fantastic, features a magical lime tree and draws deeply from these fairytales!
Considered sacred by the ancients and featuring in Don Quixote (Part One, Chapter XVII, where the hero uses it in his recipe for 'balm of fierabras' - which, by the way, is a case of 'exhausted fiery arms'), rosemary has played an important part in times past. One of the things it is said to symbolise is friendship and seeing as that's such a large part of loving someone, we've decided to include the herb along our walk. According to Plant Magic, a little sprig of rosemary given to a friend will lend strength to that friendship and help the bond develop and grow. If friends are what you're lacking, then is advises you plant a rosemary bush to attract them and it's also a great gift to give someone who is moving for this very same reason! You might remember that green is traditionally a colour of friendship, so pop it in a green pot or tie a green ribbon around it!
For adults & kids: (Audio) The Sprig of Rosemary
Watch my retelling of The Beekeeper and the Hare to hear a tale about how far friends will go to protect one another!
The Old English word ‘wyrm’ meant 'legless serpent or dragon', but seeing as those are hard to come by and wouldn't much appreciate being vanquished, dried and mashed... you can instead grab yourself some earthworms. To help rekindle love (thank you again 'Plant Magic) you should apparently grind them up and sprinkle them into the dinners of those who require your assistance. (Run fast if discovered!)
For adults & kids: (Text) Prince Lindworm
We're noticing so many tiny signs of spring right now - flowers starting to come up, the sun shining a little more for us, and our fluffy little birdie friends seem busier than usual...Did you know that apparently a bunch of medieval birdwatchers came up with our upcoming Valentine's Day on the 14th February? It's likely to be linked to Slovenian folklore where they believe this is the first day of spring - when the plants start popping up and the birds get busy with making baby birds! Days back then were each assigned a certain saint hence the connection with St Valentine! Cool eh? Our modern day celebration of all things ❤️, is actually down of a bunch of medieval birdwatchers! 🪶Bless all our little birdies! Keep an eye out for birds along your walk and let's celebrate the part they play in heralding the beginning of spring!
For adults & kids: (Text) The Blue Bird It's a looooooong one! Maybe read it in installments!
Figs and pinecones
Figs are basically foklore royalty because they feature in A LOT of origin stories around the world. They clothed Adam and Eve, saved Romulus and Remus from drowning, they were used by the gods to create fluttering tongues in India and the ancient Egyptians believed the fig tree was the first thing you came across when you left the land of the living. But it's the fig's connection to love that we wish to learn about today...so here's a more romantic fact - in Greek myth, Demeter gave a fig to Dionysus as a gift, hence the link to love and fertility). There's also plenty to find out about pine cones (like they were sacred and in some cultures referred to as a sort of third eye) but again - stay focused! Let's look to love again and for this Valentine Ramble we thought we'd throw in a little bit of saucy stuff for the grownups...
Apparently, eat figs on a Tuesday if you're keen to 'increase passion', or opt for for a Friday if you'd prefer things to be 'long and languorous'!
Re the pine cones, it's pretty much the same - collect them on a Tuesday or a Friday. (Friday is actually the 'day of love' so aim for that!) Next, you need to position yourself in front of a picture of the person you love and hold the cone upright. Um, I can't actually find any spells to share with you, so I guess we'll have to hope that goes some way to helping you have an exciting night!
For adults: spend some time reading Angela Carter's 'The Bloody Chamber' to each other if you fancy super sexy fairytale retellings! (The Company of Wolves one is a particular favourite.) Or, there's always time for a classic with the myth of Cupid and Psyche.
We thought it might be nice to finish at home and so we've chosen the bay as our final tree, seeing as lots of us have one of these tucked up in the garden! Bay was the herb of poets, doctors, oracles, warriors and politicians. The leaves were made into wreaths for illustrious people and the ancients used them to crown athletes and heroes! It was said to be symbolic of wisdom and I like to think that this is why it was also associated with love - wisdom is definitely gained in relationships. According to Plant Magic, an old English charm to ensure a couple stayed in love was to 'pick a sprig or leaf of bay, divide it and each keep their piece safe'. Your relationship will stay strong so long as you both have your half hidden away safe. (I love the idea of this but would most definitely be the first person to lose their bay leaf!)
For adults: (Audio) Daphne and Apollo
Click here if you'd like to do a little more outdoor storying with the original Fairytrails challenge!
BONUS LINKS FOR GROWNUPS:
Before you leave...we'd even like to point you in the direction of one other Folklore Podcast episode about plant lore with the wonderful Lisa Schneidau AND my favourite story to share around Valentine's Day - the Innuit folktale The Skeleton Woman. There is plenty of fascinating analysis out there to enjoy for this one, not least by Jungian psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estes! Great story to discuss during the evening meal - debating how the tale might guide you towards understanding what is needed to reach a state of the perfect union!
So there we are - plenty of trees, plants, spells, lore and stories to be getting along with this Valentine's Day! Have fun and let us know how you get on!