In my mandala of the year (1), I have sixteen trees. In the quarter from Lughnasadh (or Lammas) to Samhain, these are apples, blackberry, hazel and rowan. Blackberry presides over the days from 24 August to 15 September.
My choices have as much to do with personal memories as with natural processes, traditional lore, or the ogham alphabet in which Blackberry is Muin. In England we have an August Bank Holiday in which the weekend is extended to include the last Monday of the month. This year it will be August 31st. I have early memories of blackberry picking walks during this holiday, with family groups doted around a wooded hillside, and an air of informal ritual. Although balmy days might follow, this was the final act of summer.
The plant, of course, is with us throughout the year. The Druid Plant Oracle (2) names it as Bramble. “If you have ever tried digging up Bramble roots, you will know how tenacious they are – they travel long and deep, and some root systems can cover a wide area and be of great age”. Blackberry was said to be the bush into which Lucifer fell when he was thrown out of Heaven. Bramble provided a challenge for the prince in Sleeping Beauty.
Bramble also provided much needed sustenance for the famished wayfarers in The Voyage of Maeldun. In Joanne Harris’ Blackberry Wine (3) a small rural community in the south of France is saved from unwanted gentrifying ‘development’ through the prickly stubbornness of key individuals. These, quietly supported by most of their community, defend their own vision of how to live in the face of personal, commercial and threatened legal pressures. Neglected flora, overlooked forms of intoxication and a little magic all contribute to the holding of a much loved space. Mr Bramble is a good friend to have.
(1) See the ‘house’ section of: https://contemplativeinquiry.blog/2020/08/12/meditation-wisdoms-house/
(2) Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm The Druid Plant Oracle: Working with the Flora of the Druid Tradition London: Connections, 2007 (Illustrated by Will Worthington)
(3) Joanne Harris Blackberry Wine London: Black Swan, 2000
(4) The image at the top is from John Matthews & Will Worthington The Green Man Oracle London: Connections, 2003
When living on an island kind of in retreat… one year the blackberries were late… I picked them after the equinox – unknowingly breaking the ‘rule’ not too… bad luck… the following year there were non at all to pick – I learnt my lesson.
Respecting limits. What a great lesson!