Thursday, 20 July 2017

Behold The Specklebeast...

Behold The Specklebeast

I have always loved what is often referred to as Celtic Artwork, but in fact spans a long period of history. I imagine the roots of the art form extend back to the enigmatic spirals and cup and ring markings left behind on the rocks and monuments by our Neolithic and Bronze Age ancerstors. These evocative carvings keep us endlessly intrigued as to their meanings, many of which can be speculated upon. Whatever these meanings may have been to their creators, their wildness and strange beauty has lasted the test of time, and still continues to resonate with many on some deeper, inner level.

Carved Kerbstone, Entrance to Newgrange Megalithic Passage Tomb, Ireland
Carved Kerbstone, Entrance to Newgrange Megalithic Passage Tomb, Ireland

The Badger Stone, Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire
'Cup and Ring' Carvings, The Badger Stone, Ilkley Moor
The Iron Age tribes, sometimes known as Celts, developed these spirals and whorls into an intricate art that expressed their wild and childlike souls, their innate sense of humour and irony. Sometimes working animals, gods and humans into the mix, they covered their possessions and bodies with intricate and skilful detail, leaving behind for us, hints of their culture and mindsets.

Brentford sculpted metal Celtic Art wall plaque by Justbod
Based upon an Iron Age Chariot Fitting dated 100 BC - 50 AD

This language of knotwork and zoomorphic (meaning having or representing animal forms) found further expression in Anglo-Saxon and Viking/Norse artwork, so, even with obvious and distinctly separate forms, there still appears to me to be a continuity of expression, stretching back to a misty and unknown past.

Runestone Viking Art Wall Plaque by Justbod
Runestone by bod: based upon Viking Runestones in the Urnes style

When Christianity was established in the British Isles, the Celtic Monks wove their own versions of these amazing art forms into their beautifully illuminated manuscripts, a type of artwork now classified as 'Insular Art.' It is mostly examples from these stunningly crafted books that have become popularly associated with the idea of Celtic Art.

Detail of Chi Rho Page, Book of Kells, Wikimedia
Detail of Chi Rho Page, Book of Kells, Wikimedia

Specklebeast is based upon an engraved ring created in roughly the same time period as the great illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells. The ring, made of engraved silver and silver gilt, was found in the Thames in 1856. It was made in England and dates from about 775-850. 

Silver Anglo-Saxon ring 775-850 Wikimedia Valerie McGlinchey
Silver Anglo-Saxon ring 775-850 Wikimedia Valerie McGlinchey 
CC BY-SA 2.0

Known as 'The Chelsea Ring,' as it was found in that area of the Thames, it is currently in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Read more about it on their website.

Specklebeast was originally created by me using a process of hand-sculpting metal, which was then inset into a hand-crafted solid oak plaque. It was available in either silver metal, or pure copper.

I then created a version in our popular 'Dark and Light' range of plaques - the design being hand-burnt, using a technique called pyrography, into a birch-wood panel then was then inset into a custom-made oak frame. This is still available from our Dark and Light page.

I loved both these versions but also wanted to create one expressing a sinuous and muscular Specklebeast, twisting and writhing within the circle. This was formed by sculpting an original in clay, which was then used as a master to create a mold from which cold-cast bronze and aluminum copies have been made. These are then inset into a custom-made solid oak wall plaque 16 cm²

Behold The Specklebeast....

Specklebeast AngloSaxon Celtic Art Wall Plaque
Specklebeast In Silver, set in Oak

Specklebeast AngloSaxon Celtic Art Wall Plaque
Specklebeast in Bronze or Silver

Visit our Creatures Page to meet all of our wee beasties.... 

Thanks for reading!


Justbod Team

Unique and Unusual Gifts
~inspired by a love of history and nature~

Justbod - Unique and Unusual Gifts inspired by a love of history and nature


You might also be interested in: 


Pictish Boar Celtic Art Wall Plaque
Pictish Boar In Bronze and Oak

 For regular updates on new products and special offers:


Sources and Further Information:

Anglo-Saxon Art: Wikipedia
Celtic Art: Wikipedia
Norse / Viking Art: Wikipedia
Insular Art: Wikipedia

The Chelsea Ring: Victoria and Albert Museum
Brentford: An Example of Early British Celtic Art

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

bod's Runestone, Grettir's Saga, and a Matter of Trust

bod's runestone, Grettir's Saga and a matter of trust

'For men of consequence a mound should be raised to their memory, and for all other warriors who had been distinguished for manhood a standing stone...'- The Ynglinga saga

Norse sagas, runic stones, the heroic-age and trust - read about the different elements woven into bod's new 'Runestone' design.....


My 'Runestone' design originally developed from a reworking of a very old Scandinavian tradition, that of the Runestone: Viking or Norse art Runestone inscriptions, which were typically carved into raised stones or boulders. The tradition began in the 4th century, and lasted well into the 12th. Most of the Runestones found are located in Scandinavia, but there are also others scattered throughout the lands visited, and settled, by the Vikings. Runestones were often memorials, and were frequently brightly coloured when first created.

The Möjbro Runestone 5th Century
The Möjbro Runestone 5th Century Wikipedia

The Lingsberg Runestone, Sweden, known as U 240 Attribution: I, Berig CC BY-SA 3.0
The Lingsberg Runestone, 11th c. Attrib: I, Berig CC BY-SA 3.

Viking or Norse art has been categorised into different time periods, and my design has been based on the type of art known as 'Urnes Style,' named after the northern gate of the Urnes stave church in Norway. It is also often called 'Runestone Style' by scholars and is characterised by slim and stylised animals that are interwoven into tight patterns, with animal heads in profile with slender almond-shaped eyes.

Urnes Stave Church by Johan Christian Dahl
Urnes 12th c. Stave Church by Johan Christian Dahl Wikimedia

Urnes Stave Church Carvings By Eduardo CC BY-SA 2.0  via Wikimedia Commons
Urnes Stave Church Carvings Photo: Eduardo CC BY-SA 2.0  via Wikimedia

Runic Inscriptions

The Runic inscriptions on Runestones were most often memorials to the dead, much like our gravestones today, and imagery was often taken from Norse mythology.

'A son is better, though late he be born, And his father to death have fared; Memory-stones seldom stand by the road, Save when kinsman honours his kin.'- Hávamál

From The Book Of Romance by Andrew Lang Illustrated by Henry Justice Ford
From The Book Of Romance by Andrew Lang Illustrated by Henry Justice Ford

There were, however, other types of Runestone which involved the Norse love of self-promotion, a habit which runs throughout the Norse hero-sagas. Hundreds of examples are known, and here are just a couple to give you a flavour:

'Vigmund had this stone carved in memory of himself, the cleverest of men. May God help the soul of Vigmund, the ship captain. Vigmund and Åfrid carved this memorial while he lived' - U 1011 

'Jarlabanki had this stone put up in his own lifetime. And he made this causeway for his soul's sake. And he owned the whole of Täby by himself. May God help his soul.' - U 164

Modern Runestone by Tobias Radeskog [Public domain], via Wikimedia
 Modern Runestone by Tobias Radeskog [Public domain], via Wikimedia

My original Runestone design had a very simple inscription that echoed one of the lines of text from our online shop. With the new design I wanted to change it to something that was  universally inspirational. 

Looking to Norse sagas and literature, I scoured the texts for something suitable. Sifting through lots of really great quotes, I found much of the Norse wisdom really fascinating. Some was a little too archaic and some contained too strong a martial tone for what I had in mind, but, eventually, I discovered a quote from Grettir's saga that was perfect:

"Trust no man so well that you trust not yourself better." 

In other words: "Trust Yourself" - a powerful maxim to live by. This became the basis of the runic insciption on the new Runestone design.

Grettir's Saga

Grettir's Saga, or the Saga of Grettir The Strong is one of the Icelander's Sagas, which were written between the 13th and early 14th centuries and are fairly realistic accounts of events taking place between the 9th and 11th centuries in Iceland. It follows the life and adventures of Grettir Ásmundarson, a big, strong character who is mischievous, unlucky and hot tempered. He is an achetypal outsider figure who, through various (mis)deeds becomes outlawed and battles various trolls, monsters and men in an action-packed saga full of eerie atmosphere, magic, gallows-humour and pathos. 

Grettir by Henry Justice Ford from The Book Of Romance
Grettir by Henry Justice Ford from The Book Of Romance

The main story conveyed by the unknown author seems to be that of a chaotic, heroic, pagan-age culture gradually fading away as it is replaced by a more ordered, pastoral Christian one. 

The New 'Runestone'

My first Runestone design was created sometime ago, and has now been totally reworked, with a change to the medium used, a different custom-made oak plaque, and a completely new runic inscription.

Viking Art Runestone Wall Plaque in bronze and oak
The new Runestone in bronze and oak

All of above influences have been woven into the new design, which was created as an original sculpture, cast in both a bronze and aluminium version, and then set into custom-made oak plaques. 

The full Runic Inscription reads: 

"Trust no man so well that you trust not yourself better: 
The Saga of Grettir the Strong: 
bod wrought this."

Written in the Elder Futhark system of Runes, it is a letter, rather than phonetic translation from modern English. 

Overall size of piece: ~16 cm x 16 cm x 2 cm

Viking Art Runestone Wall Plaque in bronze/aluminium and oak
The new Runestone cast in aluminium or bronze
Every stage of the process has been done by me, by hand. 

Runestone is available, with other wee beasties, on our 'Creatures' page. 

Thanks for reading 


Justbod Team 

Visit our main website and shop:

Unique handcrafted gifts
~ inspired by a love of history & nature ~ 

A Justbod Selection Box of Celtic Viking & Anglo Saxon Art

You might also be interested in: 


Raedwald Anglo Saxon Art Wall Plaque in bronze and oak
For updates on new products & special offers:


Sources & Further Information:


Urnes Stave Church:

Grettir's Saga:

1914 Translation Into English by G.H. Hight   
(the quote used in 'Runestone' is from Ch. 67)
The Book Of Romance by Andrew Lang Illustrated by Henry Justice Ford
- online PDF copy with a short version of the Saga of Grettir The Strong


Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Hawthorn: The Faerie Tree

Hawthorn Tree Hob Moor York

This wild, beautiful, gnarly and throny little ancient tree is also known by many other names, such as Whitethorn, Hægthorn, Queen of the May, Quickthorn, or just May, and can grow to a ripe old age. It is one of our oldest, most sacred, and beautiful trees. Often known as the 'faerie tree,' the hawthorn has rich and varied folklore associated with it. Mostly growing in strange and hauntingly beautiful shapes, it can be found in the wildest and harshest spots.

This is the first in a series of articles that I plan to write on different native trees from every aspect, including the nature of their wood.

I'm starting with probably my favourite, the enigmatic and ancient hawthorn tree, which has shared and shaped our history since the beginning. I love everything about it, from the sinuous and sculptural shapes that it takes, through its various qualities and folklore, to the hypnotic beauty of its dense, yet challenging wood.

The Hawthorn Tree 


Small Hawthorn
Small Hawthorn, near Husthwaite, Yorkshire

Common name: common hawthorn, hawthorn 
(from Old English hagaþorn, hæguþorn, from haga ("enclosure, hedge") + þorn ("thorn")

Scientific name: Crataegus monogyna 
(Crataegus: from the Greek kratos - strength and akis - sharp, referring to the thorns. Monogyna is derived from Greek mono - one and gyno - female, meaning 'with one ovary' (or pistil.)

Family: Rosaceae (rose)

Ancient Hawthorn Skipwith Common Near Selby
Ancient Hawthorn, Skipwith Common, Near Selby

A deciduous tree native across Europe, and one of Britain's most ancient trees, it can present as a shrub or small tree up to 14 metres (45 feet) tall with a dense crown. It is often found in hedgerows, but can also be found as a solitary tree, or in mixed woodland. It is highly adaptable and consequently does not have a typical shape, instead growing to fit its circumstances, sometimes fusing with itself and other trees in strange and intricate shapes.

The bark is brown-grey, knotted and fissured with slender twigs covered in thorns. The flowers of the hawthorn used to be known for blossoming around, or just before, May Day, (until the calenday was revised in 1752, bringing May 1st forward by 13 days,) hence the hawthorn's alternate name 'May,' or 'May Tree,' and its associations and close links with fertility and May Day celebrations.

Pink and White Hawthorn Blossom, Holy Trinity Church, York
Pink and White Hawthorn Blossom side-by-side, Holy Trinity Church, York
The flowers are highly scented, with five petals growing in flat-topped clusters, and are normally white, although there are rarer pink varieties. Once pollinated by insects, the flowers develop into deep red berries known as haws.

Pink Hawthorn Blossom
Pink Hawthorn Blossom

Hawthorn Berries: Haws. Photo Wikimedia Licence CC 3.0

Hawthorn can be very long-lived, with the oldest specimens in Britain, such as the Hethel Old Thorn in Norfolk, reputedly being over 700 years old.

Hawthorn Tree Lore

Ancient Hawthorn Skipwith Common Near Selby
Ancient Hawthorn Skipwith Common Near Selby

The hawthorn is steeped in tradition, ancient practises and folklore. Heavily associated with the faerie realm, solitary hawthorns in particularly are often referred to as faerie trees and oftentimes hung with cloughties / clooties (cloths/rags tied to the tree as a prayer, blessing or acknowledgement of the spirits of the land.) Strong beliefs still prevail in many parts, particularly in Ireland, that ill fortune will befall anyone impetuous enough to damage or cut down a faerie tree. Roads have even been known to be re-routed to avoid incurring the wrath of the local faeries.

St Helens Well, Market Weighton, tree hung with clooties
St Helens Well, Market Weighton, tree hung with clooties

The five petals of the hawthorn flower are considered to make a pentagram, a potent magical symbol, and are sometimes known as the Elven Cross. The heady scent of the mayflowers is also believed, if inhaled deeply enough, to transport an individual to the 'other world.' A famous example of this comes from the story of 'Thomas the Rhymer' or 'True Thomas,' the famous 13th century Scottish Mystic and Poet, who met the Faery Queen by a hawthorn bush, then being led to the Faerie Realm for a brief visitation. Upon his return he found, to his amazement, that seven long years had passed.

"At the beginning of each summer, when the milk-white hawthorn is in bloom, anointing the air with its sweet odour, and miles and miles of golden whin adorn the glens and hill-slopes, the fairies come forth in grand procession, headed by the Fairy Queen." 
- The Story of Thomas the Rhymer.

In ancient times there were many Goddess cults associated with the hawthorn, and the Faery Queen may well ba remnant of those beliefs.

Some more hawthorn lore: 
  • Bringing hawthorn blossom into the house has long been a taboo, and scientific research has shown that there may be some wisdom in the prohibition, as the blossom contains the chemical trimethylamine, which is present in decaying animal tissue (interestingly, the other species of hawthorn in the UK, the Midland Hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata,) which is now relatively rare, but may have been much more common when this folklore developed, gives off a pungent 'decomposing corpse' smell when the blossom is first cut.)
'Tanglewood' - hawthorn, Hob Moor, York
'Tanglewood' - hawthorn, Hob Moor, York
  • Although blossom is taboo indoors, globes of woven hawthorn twigs would be brought into the house to protect it against fire.
  • Due to its dense foliage and abundant thorns, the hawthorn has been used, alive and dead, throughout history to create protective spaces for animals, plants and humans, thus adding the quality of protection to its associated symbology.
  • Fertility is another primary attribute linked to hawthorn, the tree being common at weddings and woven crowns and mayflower garlands gracing many a May Day celebration, which, of course, is our modern day name for the ancient pagan festival of Beltane.
Lone Hawthorn
Lone Hawthorn near Masham, North Yorkshire
  • A nickname for the leaves of the hawthorn tree are 'bread and cheese.' They are edible and thus called either because they were thought to be as nutritious and filling as bread and cheese, or because they were often the 'bread and cheese' of poor folk fallen on hard times, depending on the source.
  • The site of Westminster Abbey was once called 'Thorney Island,' possibly after a sacred grove of hawthorn trees, showing the continuity of worship on this site.
  • One of the most famous hawthorns is the Holy Thorn of Galstonbury, the original reputedly sprouting from the planted staff of Joseph of Arimathea, the uncle of the Virgin Mary.
  • The hawthorn has several traditional medicinal uses including treatments for heart problems, hypertension and angina, as it contains chemicals which are sedative, anti-spasmodic and diuretic. The berries are also rich in Vitamin C.
  • There are many recipes available for hawthorn flowers, leaves and berries from Mayflower Sorbet through to Hawberry Brandy - see the sources at the bottom of this article.
  • Hawthorn - huathe - is the sixth symbol of the Celtic Ogham script, and makes up the 'Faery Triad' along with Oak and Ash. "Of all the trees that grow so fair, old England to adorn, Greater are none beneath the sun than Oak, and Ash, and Thorn." - Rudyard Kipling.

Hawthorn Tree Quotes


"And every shepherd tells his tale
Under the hawthorn in the dale."
- John Milton

Row of Hawthorns, Yorkshire Wolds
Row of Hawthorns, Yorkshire Wolds

"The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade
For talking age and whispering lovers made"
- Oliver Goldsmith

"In hawthorn-time the heart grows light."
- Algernon Charles Swinburne

"Gives not the hawthorn bush a sweeter shade
To shepherds looking on their silly sheep,
Than doth a rich embroidered canopy
To kings that fear their subjects' treachery?"
- William Shakespeare

"How right it is to love flowers and
The greenery of pines and ivy and hawthorn hedges;
They have been with us from the very beginning."
- Vincent Van Gogh

"Poetry and imagination begin life.
A child will fall on its knees on the gravel walk
at the sight of a pink hawthorn in full flower,
when it is by itself, to praise God for it."
- Florence Nightingale

White Hawthorn Flowers Photo Wikimedia Licence CC 3.0
White Hawthorn Flowers Photo Wikimedia Licence CC 3.0

"There is a road from the eye to the heart that does not go through the intellect Men do not quarrel about the meaning of sunsets; they never dispute that the hawthorn says the best and wittiest thing about the spring."
- Gilbert K Chesterton

"The world is like a little marsh filled
With mint and white hawthorn."
- Mary MacLane

"...the hawthorn, the may, the first glory of the hedges...its flowers are the risen cream of all the milkiness of Maytime. Its scent has the exotic heaviness of a summer in it, very like the pungent vanilla half-sweetness of meadowsweet."
- H.E. Bates

Lone Hawthorn, Hob Moor, York
Lone Hawthorn, Hob Moor, York

"The fair maid, who on the first of May,
Goes to the fields at the break of day,
And bathes in the dew from the hawthorn tree,
Will ever strong and handsome be."
- Old English Nursery Rhyme

Wood from the Hawthorn

Hawthorn wood is very dense and a pale, creamy brown-through-red colour. It often contains beautiful patterns created from the different shapes that this little tough tree has known in its life. Spalting from fungus can add extra delight to this mix. 

Different blocks of hawthorn wood
Different blocks of hawthorn wood
Traditionally, as only smallish items can be created, the wood has been used for items such as tool handles, particularly the handles of personal and special knives, which, if made from hawthorn, are known to be lucky. It has also been used for other small decorative items.
The patterns of hawthorn
The patterns of hawthorn

It is an extremely fine firewood, burning at high temperture, both unseasoned or dry, and is an excellent wood to make charcoal.

In the past I have made a great many items from hawthorn, including: didgeridoos, knife handles, picture frames, coasters, small and medium sculptures and, most recently, tealight holders.

Hawthorn Tealight Holders
Hawthorn Tealight Holders from Justbod

It is one of my favourite woods, and always a interesting journey to work with. I adore its natural beauty and the variance in the patterns that it creates. Very challenging to process, as the wood is very dense, and contains multiple directions of contrasting tensions from the twists and turns created by the living, growing tree, hence it cracks easily as it dries. It can also contain pockets of bark and voids. I have probably had to discard far more wood than I have ever used.

Some of the sculptural shapes of hawthorn
Some of the sculptural shapes of hawthorn

Balancing this is the beauty of its natural curves. It is always worth the effort, and I love discovering the varying patterns, colours, shapes and structures within the different sections of a branch. Hawthorn always sparks my imagination with new ideas and inspirations from its enigmatic soul, hardy nature and rich and deep ancient presence within our lives.

Thanks for reading


Justbod Team

Visit our main site and shop >>

Artwork, Carvings and Sculptures 
~ inspired by a love of history and nature ~


You might also be interested in:


Tree of Life Wall Plaque
Visit our Tree of Life page
For regular updates on new products:

Sources and Further Information: 


Wikipedia: Crategus Monogyna
Tree and Landscape: Hawthorn
Woodland Trust: Hawthorn
Trees For Life: The Mythology & Folklore of Hawthorn
Sacred Texts: Thomas The Rhymer
Wikipedia: Thorney Island
Traditional Music: Oak and Ash and Thorn

Offline Publications:

The Complete Book of Trees of Britain and Europe by Tony Russell
A Tree In Your Pocket by Jacqueline Memory Paterson
The Hedgerow Handbook by Adele Nozedar
The Celtic Tree Oracle by Liz and Colin Murray
Ogam by Erynn Rowan Laurie
The Healing Energies of Trees by Patrice Bouchardon