Bramble Meaning & Symbolism
My Celtic Blackberry art, also with a Celtic Tree Calendar version, with prints, gifts & products available - alongside a look at bramble meaning, myth, and symbolism...
Celtic tree calendar: 2 September to 29 September
The Celtic word for blackberry, taken from the ogham tree letters is ‘muin’. Sometimes, people will interpret ‘muin’ as ‘vine’ – but a vine as we now know it (a grapevine) was not a native plant in Celtic Britain and Ireland where the ogham evidence we have derives from – and so it is now more commonly thought that ‘muin’ refers to the blackberry.
In Old Irish, the word ‘muin’ has several meanings:
The ‘Ogham Tract’ which lists the meanings of the ‘tree alphabet’ ogham letters describes ‘muin’, the bramble, as:
…while Cuchulainn describes ‘muin’ as:
This links the ‘muin’ blackberry with three meanings encompassing:
We know that the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates (4th/5th centuries BC) mentioned blackberries and that the Ancient Greeks used blackberries to treat gout – while the Romans used blackberries to soothe sore mouths and bowel inflammations.
We’ll look more at how the blackberry has been used for healing later…
It’s sometimes said that Jesus’ crown of thorns was made of blackberries – and that Lucifer was cast out of heaven into a blackberry bush – ouch!
Bramble is considered sacred to the goddess Brigid as it sustains and protects such a large number of creatures.
The Irish tale ‘The Voyage of Maelduin’ shows us how important the blackberry was as a source of food – Maelduin and his men are saved from starvation when they find an island covered in berries (likely blackberries).
Even when I was a child (not that long ago!) it was common for families or children to go blackberry picking, or ‘blackberrying’ – filling bags and boxes and staining fingers (and sometimes clothes) a purpley-black – but always taking care not to strip the stalks bare, in order to leave some for other people, birds, and animals.
It was often advised to pick blackberries only in the waxing moon, to gain protection from ill-will.
Many traditions over the correct timing of blackberry picking have arisen, most focusing on the specific date after which blackberries should never be picked – variously advising dates from the end of August, Michaelmas Day (29 September), or the end of September, or Halloween (31st October) as the blackberries will have been poisoned, spat on, or weed on by fairies, witches, or even the Devil...
It’s likely that the varying dates relate to how far north or south the blackberries grow, so relating to the change in weather – as the late crop of blackberries taste sour in any case and you could certainly believe that they’d been poisoned by witches (or worse, weed on by fairies) were you to taste one.
In the north of England, even when I was a small child, the autumn half-term break was referred to as ‘Blackberry Week’ – and children would pick blackberries for pies, jams, wines, syrups, and cordials.
Elsewhere, blackberries were never eaten – especially in France and Majorca where they believed brambles were made into Christ’s crown of thorns – while in Brittany, it was because they were the food of the fairy folk.
Fine weather at the end of September and early October is often referred to as a ‘Blackberry Summer’.
But it was sometimes thought that ‘blackberry time’ was unlucky – “the blackberries be about” causing illness in both humans and animals, depression, and even, tragically, suicide.
Kittens born at ‘blackberry time’ are often small and weak but incredibly naughty – called ‘blackberry kittens’… but chickens from this time were seen as ‘the best’.
Brambles would be sometimes planted on graves ‘to keep the dead from walking’…
And crawling under an arching bramble strand would bring luck at cards but also the risk of being carried away by the Devil!
As well as potentially dealing you a lucky hand at the card table, crawling under/through a bramble arch (a bramble branch hooping out and taken root at each end) was also widely used for healing spells…
Passing under the bramble arch was believed to be able to cure a child of whooping cough (‘chincough’) as well as being able to heal rheumatism, rickets, boils, blackheads and other illnesses.
Horses and cows could also be healed (if obliging) by passing them, too, through the blackberry arch.
Burns could be healed with nine blackberry leaves which had been floated in water from a holy well or spring. The leaves were each then passed in turn over the burn with the prayer:
“There came three angels out of the east,
Galls growing on blackberry bushes, called ‘cramp thorns’, were used for painful joints and legs.
And blackberry syrup or vinegar was very commonly used (again, even in the not-so-long-ago past when I was a child) to soothe sore throats, coughs, flus, and colds – remember that Old Irish and Welsh meaning of ‘muin’ – throat – did the Ancient Celts perhaps use this too?
Blackberry is an astringent herb, mildly diuretic, and a tonic. It’s long been traditionally used for upset stomach, diarrhea, dysentery, haemorriods, cystitis, mouth sores and ulcers, and inflamed gums, rashes, and fungal infections.
In flower essence remedies, blackberry can be used to inspire action and motivation for difficult tasks, and to provide stamina and tenacity.
A Scottish Riddle - what is it..?
“As white as snow, but snow it’s not,
As red as blood, but blood it’s not,
As black as ink, but ink it’s not.”
The bramble shows us flexibility, tenacity, and vigour – and also the importance of connection as the bramble branches reach out and connect all the other trees and bushes in their thorny embrace.
Blackberry is about good preparation (gathering for winter), a healthy reward for hard work and risks taken (blackberrying at risk of prickles), and the importance of being ready to act at the right time (picking brambles when they are ripe, but before they are taken by the witches’ or fairies’ poison).
Blackberry is health-giving and healing – a nourishment for our body and soul…
My Celtic Blackberry Art
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How to Buy my Celtic Blackberry Art
I've actually created two versions of my Celtic Blackberry art:
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Explore more Celtic art here and more Celtic tree art here..
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Please note that the information in this piece is for entertainment only and should not be used to diagnose or prescribe for health purposes.
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