Boscawen-Un 9th January 2014
This circle has long been my favourite stone circles in the area. It is the site of some very personal and some very profound experiences which you might hear me share sometime.
Today was Sue’s first visit to this site.
Boscawen-Un is a Bronze Age site close to St Buryan and consists of 19 upright stones in an elliptical arrangement. The circle has a west facing gap (an entrance?) and a leaning off-centre stone – somewhat unique in this area. The 19 stones which form the perimeter consist of 18 granite stones and one stone which contains a high proportion of quartz – the ‘quartz stone’.
The centre stone is inclined to the north-east – leaning away from the quartz stone. The position of the quartz stone in the southwest may indicate the likely direction of the full moon during the solstice.
Some suggest that the centre stone is a representation of the masculine and the quartz stone in the south-west is representative of the feminine.
This circle has long been associated with the Bardic (Druid) tradition and may have been used by ‘Druidic’ groups from during the Iron Age.
The Welsh Triads
The Welsh Triads (Welsh Trioedd Ynys Prydein, literally “Triads of the Island of Britain”) are a group of related texts in medieval manuscripts which preserve fragments of Welsh folklore, mythology and traditional history in groups of three. The triad grouping being based around ‘likeness’ – for example :- “three things not easily restrained – the flow of a torrent, the flight of an arrow and the tongue of a fool’.
The texts include references to King Arthur and other semi-historical characters from Sub-Roman Britain, mythic figures such as Bran the Blessed, undeniably historical personages such as Alan IV, Duke of Brittany (who is called Alan Fyrgan) and even Iron Age characters like Caswallawn (Cassivellaunus) and Caradoc (Caratacus).
Some triads simply give a list of three characters with something in common (such as “the three frivolous bards of the island of Britain” while others include substantial narrative explanation. The triad form probably originated amongst the Welsh bards or poets as a mnemonic aid in composing their poems and stories, and later became a rhetorical device of Welsh literature.
The earliest collection of Triads has been dated from the 13th Century and are said to relate to oral traditions dating back to the 6th Century. It is in these writings that we can read of a Gorsedd of Beisgawen of Dumnonia which is identified as one of the big three Gorsedds of Poetry of the Island of Britain. Dumnonia, of course was a kingdom in post-Roman Britain, which we now know as Devon and Cornwall.
The In 1928 Henry Jenner in the course of the revival of the Cornish language and culture inaugurated the Cornish Bard Association and called it the Gorseth Kernow (Gorsedd of Cornwall) at Boscawen-Un
The Pasture of the Farmstead at the Elderberry Tree
Boscawen-Un is a from the words bos (farmstead) and scawen (elder or elderberry tree). The suffix Un denotes an adjacent pasture. Therefore the name translates as the pasture of the farmstead at the elderberry tree.
The Elder tree (Sambucus nigra) is a member of the Honeysuckle family and is one of the sacred trees of Wicca and Witchcraft. According to the Celtic Tree Calendar (which is likely to be an ‘invention’ of Robert Graves rather than having any historical basis) the Elder is the thirteenth tree of the year and dates from the 25th November – 22nd December, as such the Elder tree is associated with Yule – the Winter Solstice, which generally occurs around the 21st December.
The word Elder is derived from an old Anglo-Saxon word ‘aeld’ meaning fire, an association given to the Elder because of its use. The soft pith of an Elder branch pushes out easily and the tubes formed were once used as pipes for blowing up fires, later bellows were made from Elder for the same use. From this followed the folk names Pipe-Tree, Bore-tree or Bour-tree, the latter is still being used in Scotland and is traceable to the Anglo-Saxon term Burtre. Other early names include Eldrun or Ellhorn, and then later in the fourteenth century it became known as Hyldor or Hyllantree. In Germany it is known as Hollunder.
The botanical name for the Elder – ‘Sambucus’, occurs in the writings of Pliny and other ancient writers. Adopted from the Greek word ‘Sambuca’, a musical instrument much favoured and used by the Romans, it is thought that Elder wood was used in its construction due its hardness. There is difficulty in accepting this however, because the Sambuca was a stringed instrument, while anything made from Elder would most likely have been a wind instrument similar in the nature to Panpipes, a Flute or even a Sackbut, the renaissance equivalent to the modern trombone.
In most countries, the Elder tree is intimately connected with magic and witchcraft, and there are many folktales and legends telling of a Witch that live in the tree. One such is about Hylde-Moer, the Elder-tree Mother, who lived in the tree to watch over it. Should the tree be cut down and furniture made of its wood, many believed she would follow and haunt the owners. As the story goes, an ignorant woodcutter once cut down an Elder tree to make a cradle for his newborn son, but each time the child was placed in it, Hylde-Moer would appear and pull the child’s legs, thus allowing it no peace until it was lifted out. To cut an Elder permission must always be gained first by asking, and not until Hylde-Moer has given consent by remaining silence, may the tree be cut down.
For further information on the Elder Tree in magic and folk lore visit this interesting site : http://www.thegoddesstree.com/trees/Elder.htm