Susanne Atkin

Photography and Local History

Taking Time To Pause ...

Legends, folklore and stories

Throughout history and in many different countries, forests are the settings for stories about enchantment, lost travellers, fugitives, witches and lurking evil.


Mankind, it was believed, descended from the oak (Jupiter, Thor) and the ash (Askr). Dryads inhabited trees in ancient Greece; demons and spirits lived in the forest trees of Germany and Scandinavia.


A tree and a human have a trunk (body), limbs, and a heart; the alder bleeds; and at one time trees were thought capable of both speech and movement. A family has roots and branches.


Trees stand on the earth, reach into the sky and penetrate underground, linking three realms of existence, giving them a mythic quality.


A hazel rod for invisibility; yew to protect against fire; thistle blossom for divination; ash to drive away serpents.  Use lichen on hazel as a wound salve. Plant a willow to ease the passage of your soul at death. Sing sad songs of willow. Wassail the apple trees.



A woman refused to go into the forest on certain days:

‘I should hear my future being whispered in the trees...’, 1902.


‘Every tree...has an individual aura, ...and even (when leaves are stirring) a voice of its own’.  Francis Brett Young, The Far Forest, [Wyre Forest] 1936.

‘I was a listener in the woods...’, Irish king and poet, 9th century.

In Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, the Old  Forest was inspired by an area near Birmingham: ‘They do say the trees do actually move, and can surround strangers and hem them in’.


After ten years the young trees in Stoulton woodland have grown taller and the spaces between and under them are a little darker. And as it grows: old imaginings, new stories.






©  Susanne Atkin 2012

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