Folklore & Foraging

Close up of a food forager with her haul of foraged food in her basket. Including; hawthorn,berries and nuts. Photographed on the island of Mon Denmark. Horizontal format, the person is wearing jeans and a jumper photographed in the autumn.

As part of Green Week in Coventry, Green Futures for Coventry City of Culture organised a Folklore and Foraging Walk & Talk which took place in the City Centre. Along the way we were regaled by tall tails performed by the professional Storyteller Pyn Stockman. Food foraging has become popular in recent years as chefs have turned to foraged food to produce local and seasonal menu’s.

It was here we found and learned to recognise the edible and medicinal plants that are growing abundantly and freely. These include Dandelions which can make a salve or a pesto and the flowers, leaves and roots can all be consumed. Next there was Chickweed for sprinkling on salads or making a pesto. Stinging Nettles are a superfood packed with vitamins and nutrients and have a long history in folklore and myth. Nettle was used up until the 18th Century for making cloth and the sting of the nettle is said to protect against fairies, sorcery and black magic. It was here in part of the City Wall ruin that Pyn regaled us with our first tale, The Six Swans by the Brother’s Grimm whereby six brothers were enchanted and turned into Swans, and a princess who suffers a terrible injustice although she could not speak of it to anyone, worked for six years making clothes of nettle (in the link it is Star Flowers) to regain their human form and undo the spell. Other plants good for foraging include Miner’s Lettuce, Wild Violet whose leaves are edible and medicinal and Red & White Clover & Fiddlehead Ferns.

When we stopped in a kind of small, natural Birch Grove, Pyn told us another story about Betushka, the Goddess of the Birch tree. Birch wood is believed to drive out evil spirits and banish fears. The Birch is known as the Mother Tree or the lady of the forest. Although the tale that was told was Czechoslovakian folklore of the Birch abounds for instance in Norse and Celtic Mythology. As a pioneer species it represents rebirth, new beginnings and growth. Finally we finished at a Hawthorn tree and the hobgoblin known as Robin Goodfellow, otherwise known as Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He is famous for shape shifting and misleading weary travellers. And there in the blustering wind, which almost carried Pyn’s voice away, our journey ended.

Image reproduced from https://www.istockphoto.com/photos/foraging (accessed 11/03/22). For more information about foraging visit https://www.growforagecookferment.com/what-to-forage-in-spring/ Image reproduced from http://www.ecoenchantments.co.uk/myogham_birchpage.html (accessed 11/03/22)