Thursday, 13 September 2012

Ecclesian Trees

Lowry refers to "Ecclesian trees" in a letter dated 2/5/1926 to Carol Brown; " When I think of you I think always of those moors, a smell of bracken, heather and gorse, and the Ecclesian trees over which it seems one may dive into the Dee." (Collected Letters Vol 1 Pg. 26). Lowry is most likely alluding to the almond trees in Ecclesiastes; "Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets. Ecclesiastes 12:5 King James Bible (Cambridge Edition).

Lowry's allusion is probably to hawthorn trees which were the most common species used for hedging during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries after the parliamentary enclosures in England. Hawthorn has more connections with ancient beliefs and traditions than almost any other tree. It was a powerful supernatural force for good or for evil. The appearance of the May blossom was the herald of the end of winter and the beginning of summer. Often, the May Queen was crowned with May blossom but at the same time it was considered unlucky to bring May flowers into a house.

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