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Donnerstag, 9. Juni 2011

Working on my blackthorn Shillelagh

 In winter I got myself two blackthorn shanks for a quarterstaff and a shillelagh. I really like the symbolism of the wood, and of the Shillelagh. To me it is a symbol of stubornness in the face of desaster, of rebellion against injustice and tyranny. To those not familiar with the concept: A Shillelagh is a traditional Irish weapon, typically made from oak, blackthorn or holly. It´s got its name from the Shillelagh village, where once there were dense oak forests. The forests were cut down by the English, so the inhabitants used blackthorn instead, as was commonly  used beforehand, too. Blackthorn grows in very hostile conditions,
and blackthorn hedges make for a very enduring brush landscape;-) and an effective means of keeping someone out. It also makes for a very effective wood to whack someone with, too. Shillelaghs were even "loaded" by hollowing out the top knob (made either from a piece of branch or rootwood) and filling it with lead. In modern Irish martial arts, stickfighting (Bataireacht) is taught again. When Ireland was occupied by the English, the Irish people were forbidden to carry weapons. Even the shorter original Shillelagh, which is now called a "shamrock" (Seamróg), was forbidden to carry. So it got a bit longer and just became a walking stick (which was not forbidden). Traditionally the wood was cut in December, smeared with butter, manure or resin to keep the wood from cracking, and hung up, tip up, with a copper ferrule fitted to prevent splitting, in the chimney for three weeks, therefore gaining the black appearance.

In my opinion, the blackthorn in itself has a lot to do with the Irish (and Scottish) and maybe Celtic psyche in general.It´s hard, enduring, yet shows a lovely blossom. The fruit are sour and bitter when not treated properly, but delicious if you know how to handle them ;-).

The Ogham meaning (Straif: begining of secrets, death, winter tree), and the modern Runic connotation, i.e. Thorn, thurisaz goes hand in hand with this fascination. I just wanted to make a Shillelagh, and to treat it with the respect it deserves. Not primarily as a weapon, but as a walking stick and as a mythological inspiration.

It has dried out nicely, but showing one crack along the knob. I filled it with some dual-compound glue. I left the bark on, and heated it with a hairdryer, applying a mixture of beeswax, resin, and boiled linseed oil. gave it a good burning with the hairdryer again. Then I polished it with some 1000 grit sanding paper and steel wool (0,000). I will forge a tempered tool steel tip for it and maybe make a bronze cap. I will carve some runes into it I have yet to find, and this Shillelagh´s name I have to find still, too.

Kommentare:

  1. One day, I'll find the right bit of blackthorn to make myself one of those...

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  2. @Gorges...so what...;-)?

    Also tried some straightenening technique for the first time using boiling water, a towel and patience, and it actually worked.... In the meantime I had the privilege to mess up the forged tip (burned it, you now that expression that starts with an f and then there are some stars and it ends with a k? I find it very appropriate in this place...;-)). I am off my patience a bit and will simply fit a tip I have still lying around from an old walking stick. I´ll keep you informed;-), no really, I will, even if blogging is dead;-).

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Now go on, discuss and rant and push my ego;-). As long as it´s a respectful message, every comment is welcome!

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