The third book in my Wraidd Elfennol series, Of Land and Sky, starts off with an anonymous poem, entitled ‘The Poem of the Nine Woods’. This poem is pagan in origin, and tells a small story of which woods to burn, which have special meaning. I have always loved this poem, and loved having the opportunity to work with it.
During my research for my book, I was fascinated by the lore of the trees, which have been sadly forgotten by most in this ‘advanced’ age. I focussed on the nine trees in the poem, being Birch, Oak, Rowan, Willow, Hawthorn, Hazel, Apple, Vine, and Fir. For each tree, I discovered lost uses, stories, and folklore about them.
When Great Britain was invaded by the Romans, they found a land that was (then) largely covered by trees. Each species of tree had its own particular bounty to offer, whether it be shelter, food, or medicine. Some of this knowledge was lost in the wake of the Roman domination, as the Druidic tradition was oral.
What we do know is the Celtic people had a tree calendar, with thirteen trees featured, each ruling a different time. In this case, it is not dissimilar to the astrological calendar that is so well known today. Each ‘sign’ had its own associated colours and stones, strengths and weaknesses.
The oak tree is probably the tree most associated with England. Until the 20th century, the oak’s strong and durable timber was at the heart of our buildings, ships, and industry. The strength and number of England’s oaks have said to have played a big part in Britain’s past successes as a world power. The oak tree is a tree with a long life, taking around sixty years for a full crop of acorns to be produced.
The Welsh Druids revered the oak tree, seeing it as a reminder of the chief’s protection and the safety of his shelter. It was symbolic of triumph, through strength and endurance. It isn’t just the Welsh who respected the oak though. In Ireland, it was known as one of the Three Ancient Trees of Erinn, who was a goddess of fate. In Greece, the first tree created was the oak. Although a symbol of hospitality, the oak tree is also hit by lightning more frequently than any other tree.
King Arthur’s Round Table was said to have been made from a single slice of a massive oak and, like King Arthur, the oak was seen as a magical protector of Britain.
King Charles II escaped capture by hiding in an oak tree in 1651. He thereafter adopted the oak as his emblem. He returned to London on 29th May, which was both Oak Apple Day, and his birthday. This day was officially renamed, becoming Royal Oak Day.
The oak is a reminder to have an open mind and a generous spirit, which in turn will give you the strength to prevail. However, the oak also serves as a reminder that resisting, with the oak’s stubborn strength, will not help a situation, and may lead to boughs breaking from strain.
The leaves, bark, and acorns of the oak have been used medicinally, and still are to this day. Bach Flower Remedies use oak for those who are disheartened, but struggle on. All the properties of the oak have astringent, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory elements. From a compress for inflamed eyes, to a coffee substitute, and even as a bath to help treat chilblains and frostbite, the oak is a tree rich in history and medicine, if only you take the time to learn.
OF LAND AND SKY (WRAIDD ELFENNOL, #3)
The balance of the Elements is once more in doubt, and new Chosen are called. They need to find the will to succeed, or the unseen enemy from years gone by may have the advantage.
The Wheel of the Year has had many cycles – and the folk of Wraidd Elfennol have lived in peace since the age of Marella, Kai, Daren, and Lani. All the Elements have been in perfect harmony with each other.
All that is about to change, with new Chosen called to represent their Element and to find nine sacred branches.
Bran and Rhosyn need to work together to restore the balance between Earth and Air… and maybe find out just who they are meant to be.
Full of myth and magic, with a strong Welsh theme, Of Land and Sky continues the Fantasy series set in the imaginary world of Wraidd Elfennol.
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“Merry Meet, Chosen of Earth.” A deep voice rumbled inside Bran’s mind, very different to the female voice of the Birch.
“Merry Meet,” thought Bran in return. “How may I call you?”
“Bedwen Arian was right, you are a polite one,” rumbled the Oak. “You may call us Derw.”
“Do I understand that you know why I’m here then, sir Derw?” asked Bran, as he stood tall under the canopy.
“All the trees of Wraidd Elfennol know of your quest, young Bran,” answered Derw.
“And will you help me? Help us?” asked Bran.
“For a price, yes.”
“A price? What do I need to do?” questioned Bran, a hint of worry in his mental tone.
“Nothing for you to worry about, Chosen of Earth. I ask that you listen to my story, like you did with our lady Birch. Tell my tale to those who would listen. Let the trees live again.”
Bran heaved a sigh of relief. “That I can do, and with pleasure,” he stated, bowing his head to the Oaks in respect.
“Then listen carefully as I tell you tale of the Mighty Oak, the Lightning tree.”
Bran stood still as the oak trees began to speak to him.
“In times long ago, we were revered and respected. We were a symbol of hospitality, shelter, and protection, favouring the honest and the brave. Our branches were used to make wands, strong in protection and male energy. Our wood was always used as fuel for the Midsummer Fires. We reassured people that, with good will and hard work, they could prevail against the odds.
We have heard that in a land far away, a round table was made from a single slice of an oak. In fact, people used to carry a piece of us with them, and so long as they had asked us nicely first, it would draw good luck to them.
Our bark and leaves can help with skin complaints like frostbite, blisters, and even eczema. We could also make a soothing compress for your eyes.
Now, just the same as with all other trees, we are something forgotten.”
Bran stayed silent until he was sure that the oaks had nothing more to say. “I didn’t know about any of that,” he admitted to them.
“And now you see why we need you to tell our tales,” said the Oaks.
Bran nodded, feeling more determined than ever that once this quest was done, somehow he would find a way to help the trees.
“You have given us your vow that you will help, so it now our turn to help you. It is with honour you have asked, and it is with honour you shall receive. May you be blessed with love and friendship. Rowan is next, and she is where Fire is the strongest.”
Bran was silent as he felt the branches move towards where he instinctively knew Rhosyn now stood. The canopy opened and a branch about the size of his arm dropped into Rhosyn’s waiting arms.
“One last thing before you go, Chosen of Earth. We have two things to gift you.”
Bran was startled at their words. “There is no need for any further gifts,” he said quietly to them. “Your sacrifice of a branch is more than enough. Plus you have gifted me with your story.”
“Nevertheless, two gifts further you will receive. The first is a piece of advice for you to think on. Just remember that stubborn strength that resists will not endure and may break under strain.”
Bran nodded as he memorised the words, and he planned to write them down as soon as he returned to the campsite.
“The second gift is something for both you and the Chosen of Air, although it takes different forms for you both.”
Bran was puzzled by the words and opened his mouth to question when he felt a sharp burning pain on his upper right arm. He quickly pulled his shirt aside to find a stunning picture of an oak tree and roots inside a circle with decorative knot-work.
“As above, so below. You now carry the blessing of the oak trees, always and forever. Hold out your hands.”
Bran did as instructed, wincing slightly as his shirt pulled across his arm. Into his hands dropped a small piece of oak, no bigger than large coin, with the same symbol pyrographed onto it.
“Please give this to the Chosen of Air. Without her, you couldn’t do this, so you are blessed with her, the same as she is blessed with you.”
“I will do, thank you Derw, so much. I will help you, I promise. I won’t allow you to be forgotten again.”
“This we know, your heart is strong and pure. You honour Lady Daire, and you honour the trees. We are proud to have spoken with you, Bran, son of Makani. We will send word of our meeting to the other trees. If any can help you, be assured they will. Now it is time for us to rest. It’s been an age since we have spoken for so long. Fare thee well, Chosen of Earth.”
“Merry Part, until we Merry Meet again,” said Bran formally, feeling the essence of the Oaks leave his mind. He took a deep breath and rolled his shoulders, muttering an oath under his breath as his shirt pulled yet again on his arm.
Originally from the United Kingdom, Morgan Sheppard now resides in Germany, although she freely admits to having left part of her heart in Wales. Morgan is the author of the fantasy series, World of Wraidd Elfennol, and also the contemporary, women’s fiction novella, Disjointed Lives.
Whilst a writer mainly in the fantasy genre, Morgan is more than happy to share her love of reading amongst the many different genres out there, and can always be found with a book close by.
As well as reading and writing, Morgan spends her time looking after her family and trying to learn German. Unfortunately, a natural aptitude for languages doesn’t appear to be one of her strong points. However, stubbornness is, so she continues to persevere. So far, Morgan is confident enough to order a beer and a pretzel.
Feel free to email her at MorganJSheppard@gmail.com or stalk her online on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.
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