Yellow Gorse. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Yellow gorse, furze, broom, whinn, call it what you will, it’s blooming marvellous at the moment, and its glad golden glow is currently brightening the hills and hedgerows of Ireland as Bealtaine nears, like a halo over the landscape. Naturally, this prolific plant features prominently in Irish mythology and Ireland’s ancient lore.
Its official name is Ulex Europaeus. In Ireland, it is called aiteann, which, according to an ancient manuscript known as Cormac’s Glossary, comes from aith meaning ‘sharp’, and tenn, meaning ‘lacerating’. This is due to its prickly nature, and fierce thorns.
In fact, this was one of the reasons why farmers and shepherds used it in hedging their fields; it kept livestock in, and intruders out. It was believed to extend protective powers over the herds, and act as a good flea-repellent. Ground up, it made excellent animal fodder.
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