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Littlestone
Littlestone
5384 posts

Re: see yews!
May 10, 2005, 00:12
Thanks ftc - amazing (> maybe the oldest living thing in Europe <).

Years ago, I trekked up the mountainside of Yakushima Island in southern Japan - it took me all day through steamy sunshine and tropical downpours but at the top of the island are some of the oldest life forms on the planet - huge cedar trees dating back some 5,000 - 7,000 years ( http://373news.com/2000yakushima/yakusimE.htm )

I'll never forget being in the presence of those silent travellers through time...
PeterH
PeterH
1180 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 10, 2005, 07:38
"You mention the theory that yews were planted in church yards to keep them away from cattle. Why plant them at all?"

Who is to say that anyone did plant yews other than in landscape gardens, yew walks and so on?

Imagine a number of yews growing in an area. Forget them being planted for bows as it would take too long for a sapling to develope heart wood strong enough. Then, long after the longbow era, with the increase in livestock, enclosures etc , more land is cleared and poisonous yews are grubbed up - leaving those which are growing safely behind churchyard walls where cattle can't eat them and landowners can't clear them.

Just another way of looking at it.
goffik
goffik
3870 posts

Re: see yews!
May 10, 2005, 07:43
Bigsweetie took us to see this last year - absolutely incredible tree! Absolutely amazing it's still alive considering it's use/abuse in the past! What a beauty... I love yews, me...

G x
FourWinds
FourWinds
10943 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 10, 2005, 07:57
Here's a snippet ...

<i>The Greeks and the Romans continued this idea of yew as a symbol of death and regeneration. The tree was sacred to the goddess Hecate - Romans sacrificed black bulls wreathed in yew branches to Hecate at the midwinter feast of Saturnalia in the hope that she would provide an easier winter and spare the rest of their herds.

Christians built their churches on the Druids' ancient yew tree sacred groves, so continuing the association of yew trees with places of worship. For them the yew symbolised the resurrection of Christ and it was used in churches at Easter and on Palm Sunday, and burnt for ash on Ash Wednesday. They also put yew in the shrouds of the dead. Irish yews were much loved by Victorians and can be found forming long dark sombre avenues in graveyards of that period.

Legend has it that the roots of graveside yews reach into the mouths of the corpses. This is life in the mouth of death and is again the symbol of resurrection. Stories abound in Irish legends of yew trees growing out of graves to unite star-crossed lovers in death. Deirdre and Naoise's graves were staked by the High King Conchobar in order to separate them; yet the stakes grew into yew trees which wove their branches together over the graves and joined the lovers even in death. Tristan and Iseult were buried either side of the nave in the chapel of Tintagel Castle, Cornwall, and within a year yew trees had grown out of each grave. Despite being cut down many times they eventually grew together and intertwined, never again to be parted.</i>

from http://www.cvni.org/news_and_articles/yew/yew.html

Just a little factoid. The spreading yew tree isn't found much in Ireland. There are a few, the oldest being at Crom (Crom just happens to be the name of a Celtic god. Coincidence? Probably.) Irish yews are tall and the branches rise up similar to a poplar. There's one in this picture - http://www.megalithomania.com/show/image/4427
FourWinds
FourWinds
10943 posts

Meant to add ...
May 10, 2005, 07:59
It would be hard to have a grove of British yews, but the Irish yew does lend itself to marking out a space with them, because the branches wouldn't fill up the centre area.
FourWinds
FourWinds
10943 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 10, 2005, 08:02
A much better way of looking at it! Nice one, but it doesn't explain why some of the older ones weren't cut for bows. Perhaps the fact that no one wanted a bow that could be possessed by the spirits of the dead had something to do with it, especially when you consider the belief that the roots of yews were thought to enter the mouths of the dead and so resurrect them.
PeterH
PeterH
1180 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 10, 2005, 08:13
Yes - I accept that the yew is very special and has attracted all manner of magic and legends. I love them and have compiled a photographic log of all the really ancient ones that I have found. Nice pic of the Alton Prior yew over on the Portal.

My only reason for pointing out an alternative reason for the survival of ancient churchyard yews is to say that one old yew doesn't prove a pagan site. I do accept that it is a possible indicator though - just not proof.

PS - anyone had a good look at the sarsen quoins of Alton Barns just next door? Saxon long and short work, but out of all proportion - massive. Re-used and dressed?
PeterH
PeterH
1180 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 10, 2005, 08:14
...then again as PeteG says - there is a natural drift of sarsen there so what could be more natural than to build with local stone?
danielspaniel
danielspaniel
90 posts

Re: Meant to add ...
May 10, 2005, 11:13
A few here:

http://www.homeusers.prestel.co.uk/aspen/sussex/stones.html#conc1
Littlestone
Littlestone
5384 posts

Re: Circles under churches
May 10, 2005, 17:26
Thanks for the Stanmer, Falmer, Ditchling etc suggestions Daniel (and for the info you posted here this morning). All interesting stuff. Looks like a busy weekend in Brighton :-)
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