Friday Reflection – The Magic of Bluebells

Friday Reflections - Bluebells

I recently when for a lovely dog work in our local woods and was delighted to be greeted with an incredible blue carpet of bluebells, it smelt and felt like spring. I made a throwaway comment to my wife about how a carpet like this takes decades, if not centuries to establish because bluebells spread at an agonisingly slow rate. I heard myself say this as a fact and recognised I had absolutely no substance to my knowledge so went home and looked into Bluebells, and what a cool flower they are.

Apparently the UK contains almost 50% of the world’s population of bluebells, and they are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). Meaning we are prohibited from digging up the plant or bulb in the countryside or removing them from our land to sell.

It turns out my “made-up fact” was correct Bluebells are associated with ancient woodland, meaning woods that have been in existence since at least 1600; the Woodland Trust considers that some bluebells may even mark remnants of the original the wildwoods that covered Britain after the last Ice Age. A carpet of bluebell can contain many thousands of bulbs, which do take decades to spread, a bluebell seed even takes 4 to 5 years to become a flowering bulb.

The bluebell has some great names linked to it position in folklore, such as cuckoo’s boots, lady’s nightcap, fairies’ thimbles, dead men’s bells. Much of the folklore revolves around dark fairy magic. Bluebells were said to ring when fairies were summoning their kin to a gathering;  but if a human heard the sound they would be visited by a bad fairy, and die not long after. If you are to pick a bluebell, many believe you will be led astray by fairies, wandering lost forevermore. Not surprisingly, therefore,  it is considered unlucky to trample on a bed of bluebells, because you would anger the fairies resting there. 

In Greek legend, Endymion (which forms part of the original Latin name for Bluebell) was a beautiful but mortal youth who was lulled into an eternal sleep by his lover, the moon goddess Selene, so that he would never grow old and die. As such the bluebell is a symbol of constancy and everlasting love. It is said that if you turn a bluebell flower inside-out without tearing it, you will win the one you love, and if you wear a wreath of bluebells you will only be able to speak the truth.

Bluebells have been used for a variety of different things throughout history, their sticky but toxic sap was used to bind the pages of books and glue the feathers onto arrows, and during the Elizabethan period, their bulbs were crushed to make starch for the ruffs of collars and sleeves. Bluebell sap is also being researched as potential to help fight cancer and HIV.

So next time you are fortunate enough to be in the presence of a Bluebell wood – imagine the history that has passed by it over centuries and respect what maybe hidden behind the beauty – both in the toxicity of their sap and also the fairy’s that maybe waiting to lure you away. On our walk whilst there was a fairy door clear to see we luckily didn’t hear any the ringing of bells. I hope your weekend is full of beauty, mystery and a little intrigue.