I gathered in the first of the blackberries today – an impressive handful of six weighty berries were very gently placed in the front pocket of my rucksack. (It’s still a bit early for them to be coming out, so I considered myself very fortunate to have gathered six.) I’ve been thinking about blackberries a lot recently, predominately because the word, along with dozens of other nature words, has been erased by the powers that be.
(You may be thinking what the actual f does she mean? Well, my friend, The Oxford Junior Dictionary is the power in this instance, and within its pages you will find that the definition for blackberry is a phone and not a fruit. Mind blown? Mine was too. I was also particularly upset about the loss of the word catkin.)
So, I gathered the first of the blackberries – not without accidentally putting my head through a spider’s web – and I felt, for the first time this summer, relatively happy. I remember going brambling – the act of picking the fruit from the bushes – with my mum and gaggle of siblings year in, year out.
There was always that very real, very intense fear that other families would get the bigger, better, sweeter blackberries before us. I can remember always saying to my mum ‘quick! we need to go NOW! everyone else will get to them before US!’ I can remember eating one, stashing one, eating one, stashing one and the sheer thrill that came with finding a particularly humongous fruit.
We would make blackberry crumble with our haul as well as jars of jam and maybe a bottle or two of cordial. It was never a particularly easy job to gather the blackberries. We had to navigate thorny thickets that really didn’t want to give up their goods. But it was always worth the mauling.
In England, it’s said that after October, blackberries become food for the witches. You see, following Old Michaelmas Day on the 11th of October, the devil has, by stepping, spitting or shitting on the blackberries, made them unfit for eating, at least by regular folk.
Blackberries were sacred for the Ancient Celts for they believed the ripening process was a representation of the Goddess: maiden (white) mother (red), crone (black). The seeds of the fruit were a promise that spring was on the way.
Intriguingly, blackberries make for good protection from vampires. If there’s a blackberry bush planted near a house, a vampire wouldn’t get further than the bush, for he’ll have to stop and obsessively count the berries which leads to him forgetting why he was there in the first place.
If you’re interested in using blackberries for magical purposes, they work best for protective and prosperity magic and should be collected when the moon is waning. Blackberry leaves are used for everything related to female fertility, and, if made into a tea, can work as a mild aphrodisiac.