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Swallowhead Springs

Sacred Well


It seems no difficult matter to point out the time of year when this great prince died, who is here [in Silbury] interr'd, viz. about the beginning of our present April. I gather it from this circumstance. The country people ahve an anniversary meeting on the top of Silbury-hill on every palm-Sunday, when they make merry with cakes, figs, sugar, and water fetch'd from the Swallow-head, or spring of the Kennet. This spring was much more remarkable than at present, gushing out of the earth, in a continued stream. They say it was spoil'd by digging for a fox who earth'd above, in some cranny thereabouts; this disturb'd the sacred nymphs, in a poetical way of speaking.

... I took notice that apium grows plentifully about the spring-head of the Kennet. Pliny writes defunctorum epulis dicatum apium. To this day the country people have a particular regard for the herbs growing there, and a high opinion of their virtue.
This is from Stukeley's 'Abury', chapter 9 (courtesy of the excellent images at Avebury Now ).

Hmm, Pliny could be talking about the plant being served at feasts for the dead. But my latin is non-existent, perhaps someone else can translate? I imagine Apium is a carrot-family water-celeryish sort of plant. Maybe fool's watercress or something similar? Culpeper said that Apium "opens stoppings of the liver, and spleen, cleanses the blood, provokes the menses, helps a cold stomach to digest its meat, and is good against the yellow jaundice". But that could have been a totally different plant too...
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
14th July 2010ce
Edited 17th July 2010ce

Comments (2)

Marsh worts, there are four, but if its the 'fools watercress' Grigson says it often grows with the real watercress (hence name) and gets picked by mistake.."But in the west of England country people know the difference and they deliberately cook Apium Nodiflorum with meat in pies". So there, obviously superior in the west...

Just across the page from that is pignut with a variety of wonderful names..
"In Ireland the Earthnut belongs to the fairies, and especially to the leprechaun - the fairy shoemaker. But in Scotland if you eat too many of the Lousy Arnuts, lice will crowd into your hair"......
moss Posted by moss
14th July 2010ce
Ooh could be marshworts yes, thank you Moss. I had to tear myself away from buying Grigson's country alphabet the other day. I've seen pignut growing but didn't dare dig it up so have yet to sample it. Perhaps it's a good thing if it belongs to the fairies and gives you lice. Well it looks like a botanical visit to the spring must be in the offing. I just don't want to be there with a load of yogurt weavers chanting and tacky plastic things lying about. That's what's put me off for so long :) Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
14th July 2010ce
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