Today’s a quickie as the real action doesn’t take place until after I’ve gone to bed. There’s a piece of Cornish folklore that states that if a sprig of yarrow is plucked on a new moon and tucked under a pillow, the head on the pillow that night will dream of their intended. And as it’s a new moon tonight, I thought I would give it a go, especially as last night I dreamt of the whole cast of What We Do In The Shadows.
The weather was revolting which made me less inclined to potter around various graveyards and rough ground looking for stench-girse*. Instead I headed back to Devil’s Dyke as I’d spotted yarrow there last week when I failed to find my Old Lammas Eve rowan. I love the Dyke when it’s drear, even more than when it’s blistering. The roads get flooded, swathes of fret and drizzle drift, and all the sounds and colours mute. A bit like the opening credits of a horror film but with National Trust maps.
This time I wore the correct footwear, and hoping there was no-one around to ticket my car, I quickly managed the kissing gate next to the car park and ran into the nearest thicket. Only the yarrow turned out to be saxifrage, or upright hedge parsley. Such are the powers of my observational memory. But then I saw another patch of yarrow. Which turned out to be cow parsley. And then, after a handful of blackberries, I saw another patch of yarrow. Which actually was yarrow. I quadruple checked p.189 of my Collins Gem Guide to Wild Flowers to make sure. Then I plucked me a sprig.
So tonight when I go to bed, my already wilted bad man’s plaything** will nestle beneath my pillow, I shall recite this brief verse:
Good night, fair yarrow,
Thrice good night to thee;
I hope before to-morrow’s dawn
My true love I shall see.
and tomorrow I shall report back…
*Names for yarrow in *Scotland and **Lincolnshire.
Blamey, M. and Fitter, R. (1980) Collins Gem Guides Wild Flowers, London, HarperCollins Publishers
Courtney, M.A. (1890) Cornish Feasts and Folk-Lore, Penzance, Beare And Son
Vickery, R. (2019) Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Wright, J. (2020) The Forager’s Calendar, A Seasonal Guide to Nature’s Wild Harvests, London, Profile Books Ltd