The Thirteen Trees
of the
Ogham Moon Calendar

thro

The Five Trees
of Solstice
and Equinox

The Vowels

through

The Half Year
Ruling Trees

through

The Sacred One

 

 

 

©RubyClark2013

Original artwork © Ruby Clark 2013

Gorse  -   Onn

Ogham letter O    

March 21st - 1st day of Spring - Spring Equinox

Associated festival:  Ostara - March 20th - 22nd

Powers:
Gorse:          Money spells,        Hope for the future,        Protection
& Safety,
Broom:      Divination,        Purification,        Protection

Gorse flowers represent the Sun ©vcsinden2017

   Onn - Gorse - Furze :  here is another controversial candidate for the Ogham Tree Alphabet. It can be confusingly switched with Broom, both in some of the alphabets and in the flesh.  Broom is also sometimes switched  in Ogham alphabets with Ngetal (reed, wheat).

     Both Gorse and Broom have their own lines in the 'Câd Goddeau' or 'The Battle of the Trees'  - as does Furze. (See more about this important mythological poem here).

   The Welsh bard Taliesin tells that Furze (Gorse) is being badly behaved 'until he is subdued' and this refers to the old practice of routinely burning the sharp thorned bushes at around the time of the Spring Equinox, so that tender new growth could be grazed by sheep.

   Gorse shoots contain plenty of nutrition for animal feed, and it was once common, in Wales in particular, for a 'Gorse Mill', powered by a water wheel, to be built so that the viscious twigs could be crushed by heavy metal spikes into a more manageable material.
Find wonderful details of a Gorse Mill here at http://www.milldrawings.com/html/gorse_mill.html

   In the scholarly 16th century herbal   'Theatrum Botanicum'  by John Parkinson, the author unashamedly mixes his gorse (furze) and broom species together - often referring to furze as 'thorny broom.'

 

     The nature of Gorse ..... Ulex europaeus

    Gorse spikes ©vcsinden2017On rough hills, fells, moorlands and on many areas of waste ground, the golden sunshine of a billion gorse flowers attracts bees and pollinators from early spring to late autumn. Rolling acres of bright gorse can be seen across the Lake District, Cumbria and the West Country moors, but it’s a common sight growing in impenetrable thickets throughout the United Kingdom.

    Gorse bushes, which can grow to about two metres in height, appear to have no leaves. Rather like a pine, their evergreen spines are modified leaves. These are extremely tough, sharp and prickly and this spikey shape keeps water loss to a minimum, enabling the plant to withstand windy, dry conditions. Gorse can tolerate exposure to salt and it flourishes on poor, thin soil. The dense spines also form a protection against being cropped by sheep, cattle, horses or deer at the same time as being themselves shelter and protection for small mammals, insects and nesting birds.

Gorse thicket at Hothfield Common, Kent ©vcsinden2017

          A dense gorse thicket of  tough spines and prickles - Hothfield Common, Kent   

    Gorse can produce its coconutty-vanilla scented, hooded flowers, pretty well year-round.  They bring sparks of sunshine and hope to dark days, then, as the flowers die back, large brownish-grey, furry seed pods appear.Gorse pods ©vcsinden2017

  

When they are perfectly ripe, and the sun is hot, the pods explode with an audible pop and scatter their seed up to ten metres away.

In coldest winter each twig and spine can be rimed in dense, white frost.


Seed pods ripe for bursting - Hothfield Common in early September         

In 'Wessex Scenes', Thomas Hardy wrote "On the uplands the gorse is rime-laden and beautiful, with the fretted webs of spiders, like the framework of rose-windows in the shining walls of some fairy palace."

 

   Gorse & Broom Healing and Medicine  

     There is not a lot evidence to show that any parts of these plants were much used as historical or modern remedies - what I can find is mentioned below:

    Gorse flowers, or a mixture of shoot tips and flowers, can be made into a tea and drunk hot or cold as a diuretic. A tea can be made with 4 tablespoons of fresh flowers to one pint of boiling water. Crush the gorse lightly and leave to infuse for 10 minutes. Strain the liquid and sweeten if liked with a teaspoon or two of honey.

A modern day
Bach Flower Remedy -

the makers believe that the distillation from the Gorse flower "embodies hope. In the extreme negative Gorse state, all hope has been lost."

 

     In earlier centuries, Gorse blooms were used to treat jaundice (the deep yellow colour, akin to eyes and skin of the sufferer, being a fine example of sympathetic medicine).

"Good to open obstructions of the Liver and Spleene, some have used the flowers ... in a decoction against the jaundies, as also to provoke Urine and to clense the kidneyes of gravell or stones ingendred in them."

Extract from:   John Parkinson 1567-1650    - Theatrum Botanicum, an herball ...

A much quoted 'fact' about gorse is that the seeds were said to act as a pesticide against fleas.. I can only find one shred of historical evidence for this which is taken from the wonderfully named 
'Leechdoms, Wortcunning, Starcraft Early England -
A collection of documents, for the most part never before printed.'

''Against fleas, take this same wort, with its seed, sodden; sprinkle it into the house; it killeth the fleas.'


Gorse flower in November ©vcsinden2017'
Gorse flowering brightly in November

 

   Gorse & Broom Religion, Spirtuality and Folklore

    Element:   Gorse: Fire  Broom:Air      Ruling Planet: Mars       Gender: Masculine 

    Gods associated with Gorse are:  Jupiter, Thor  and the Celtic Sun God Lugh.

Folk names: furze, fyrs, fursbush, thorny broom, prickly broom, eithin (Welsh), whin, goss, gorst, ruffet, frey

      Rough branches of furze make excellent fuel for a bonfire, especially for traditional associations at Beltane. Gorse wood was prized for reaching very high temperatures when burning, and once much used in bread ovens.

"...... on the eve of St. John the Baptist, (June 23rd) the natives lighted fires to the windward side of every field, so hat the smoke might pass over the corn ; they folded their cattle and carried blazing furze or gorse round them several times."

Folklore of the Isle of Man, A.W.Moore, 1891]

   Gorse in flower in July - Hothfield Common, Kent ©vcsinden2017Legend has it that fearsome Gorse will act as a proficient protection against the unwanted ingress of fairies (often considered meddlesome and spiteful) as well as witches.

 In  'British Goblins - Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions' by Wirt Sikes, the author gives a lengthy example of the fairy barricade, said to be from the wife of parliamentarian W.D.Stanley (1840).

  She was visiting an old lady in her tiny welsh hill cottage. Going inside 'To her surprise she saw it entirely shut out by a barricade of thick gorse, so closely packed and piled up that no bed was to be seen. ..... She went close and said, "Betty, where are you?" .....  Mrs Stanley then made a small opening in the gorse barricade, which sadly pricked her fingers.'

The old lady complains bitterly about ill treatment from the 'Tylwyth Teg (fairy folk).

 ' "But Betty, tell me what is all this gorse for? It must have been great trouble for you to make it all so close." "Is it not to keep them off? They cannot get through this, it pricks them so bad, and then I get some rest." So she replaced the gorse and left old Betty Griffith happy in her device for getting rid of the Tylwyth Teg.'

   In 'Celtic Folklore -Welsh And Manx' written in 1901, John Rhys reports that:

'The break of this day (May 1st) is also the signal for setting the ling or the gorse on fire, which is done in order to burn out the witches wont to take the form of the hare; and guns, I am told, were freely used to shoot any game met with on that morning.'

 An old saying from Cumbria :

'Where there's bracken there's gold, where there's gorse there's silver
and where there's heather there's poverty' 

 from 'Garlands, Conkers and Mother-Die: British and Irish Plant-lore' by Roy Vickery

Gorse & Broom Magic, Charms and Beliefs

  'When kissing's out of fashion, Gorse is out of bloom'       Old English proverb 
'The Gorse Fairies' by Cicely M Baker


     * Furze blossom is always associated with sunshine because of its beautiful, glowing colour and may be used to represent the Sun in rituals and ceremonies.

       *  A spell to increase money (as ever, take care what you wish for!!). Soft boil an egg, cut straight across the top and eat its contents with thanks (like Gorse, eggs also represent the Sun).
Wash the shell out and use as a container for 7 gorse blossoms and 7 gorse spines. Bury as near as possible to your front door (I expect this could be in a pot if necessary).

       *  As protection from faeries of the spiteful type (and their are many) - completely barricade the space around your bed with gorse branches!! :-)      

Illustrations of Broom (left) and Gorse (right) by Margaret Tarrant

      *  Perfect magickal ornaments for Beltane - 1st May - (or earlier for Ostara and Easter if you wish) are made from hard-boiling a white shelled egg, adding a little white vinegar to make the dye take more effectively.
  Steep the eggs in a decoction of  strong gorse flower water. This is water just covering flowers which have been soaked for two hours and simmered for at least another two.
.Leave the boiled eggs in the warm water until the desired dye colour is reached.
  Place the eggs in a basket filled with snippets of gorse (take care of fingers!) and add yellow ribbons to enhance the decoration.  Here comes the Sun!