Ah, swaths of bluebells – one of the highlights of the British springtime. The dainty blue flowers bloom in abundance in April or May and carpet the woodland floor. But for some reason, I usually miss them. I’m either traveling or I just simply forget. Living in the middle of the city there aren’t many signs to remind me.
However, this year was different. My husband and I were in rural Wales, and as we drove along, I spotted a patch of blue on the roadside. My heart skipped a beat. I got out to investigate, and sure enough, they were bluebells.
There was nothing for it but to find a bluebell wood and see the magical sight that I had, up until now, only seen in photos. So I went to the National Trust site to find a bluebell wood near us. As it turned out, we weren’t far from Coed Cefn, an ancient woodland in Crickhowell, Wales.
The UK has many ancient woods which have existed at least since 1600. In the spring, when the bluebells bloom, they take on an otherworldly feel and smell. This magical transformation has led to much folklore about bluebells and fairies. I wanted to see the bluebells, but I also hoped to catch a glimpse of a fairy.
Bluebells and Fairies
Bluebells – These small blue, bell-shaped flowers have a strong association with fairies. They grow in ancient woodlands which are mysterious places anyway, and a woodland carpeted with bluebells would convince anyone that it has been enchanted.
Nowadays, we tend to think of fairies as nice little Tinkerbelle-like creatures, but they haven’t always enjoyed such a good reputation. In days gone by, they were considered mischievous and sometimes downright evil.
This is why you should proceed into a bluebell woodland with caution. It’s said that the sight and smell of these flowers are so sweet that they can cause an adult to be ‘pixie-led’ – That’s when you go into a trance and the fairies lead you around in circles until someone finds and rescues you. The fate of children is worse though: They could be abducted by fairies and never seen again. (Yikes!)
If you do decide to venture into a bluebell woodland (and you definitely should) never pick, or step on, a bluebell. This is because the fairies hang their spells on the flowers and if you break their spells, the little spirits get very upset.
The bell-shaped flowers have another use too: They ring to call the pixies to their balls and important gatherings. These bells are normally only heard by fairy ears, but if a human should ever hear them, something bad will happen to him.
So gather up your courage and visit a bluebell wood. Just remember to stay on the path and don’t pick any flowers. Besides annoying the fairies, another reason to avoid picking them is that bluebells are poisonous. This fact might account for the many old stories warning people away from them. In our modern days, there’s another deterrent: Bluebells are a protected species and picking them is against the law.
Even though most of the folklore about bluebells warns us to leave them alone, in one instance we are advised to pick one – and only one – then say, “Bluebell, bluebell, bring me some luck before tomorrow night.” Then put the flower in your shoe and you’ll have good luck (or at least a sweet-smelling foot).
In other lore, if you wear a garland of bluebells around your neck, you cannot tell a lie, and if you can manage to turn a bluebell inside out without tearing it, you will find your true love. Bluebells planted by your front door are supposed to be good luck because if someone unwanted comes, they’ll ring to warn you.
Now you might be wondering if I happened upon any fairies on my foray into the bluebells. Sadly, no. I was just so overcome by the beauty and the sweet smell that time seemed to stand still. I wandered around… and around… and around… until my husband came to rescue me.
Read more stories like this in my book Bowlers, Brollies, and Brits: Curious Histories of England
You might also like:
- Wake Up and Smell the Lavender – another fairy/flower story
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