xviii. Signs and Wonders - Thistles
Old English þistel, from Proto Germanic thikhstula, Old High German distil.
All along the rusty railway line
from Broadmeadows to Womma
the big boll heads
of Scotch thistles
like an avenging purple army
dressed in the fearful armour
of their spikes and prickles
brash, bold and arrogant
lined up in the simple ranks
of an elite and primitive custom
alert for orders
waiting for a word
ready for any battle
and ready to take on the day.
The thistle is a thorny plant with a beautiful flower, the national symbol of Scotland. During the reign of Alexander III of Scotland, (1241-1285) King Haakon of Norway attempted to conquer Scotland. It is said that the Norse tried a sneak nighttime attack, but barefoot, they stepped on thistles. They screamed in pain, thus alerting the Scots, who were then able to overcome them. Therefore as the national symbol, the thistle represents courageous defense and deep rooted ideals.
In Christianity the thistle is a symbol of temporal sorrow and the curse of sin from the story of the Fall. Because the thistle is a thorny bush, it is often portrayed as the source of Christ's crown of thorns. Because thistles flourish to crowd out useful crops, they have also been used to represent the "tares" or weeds written of in Matthew 13.
The Order of the Thistle represents the highest honour in Scotland, and it is second in importance after the Order of the Garter. © 2009 Kendoric-Highland Pugs
When I was a child I attended Blair Athol primary school in South Australia, named after the Scottish city. Our school emblem was a scotch thistle and I wore it rather proudly all through those years on a small enamel badge and it remains for me a potent symbol of childhood, school, reading and writing and of course poetry!
Reading: St. Matthew 7:16
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? NIV
For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves’, to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good’. We are all trying to let our mind and heart go their own way—centered on money or pleasure or ambition—and hoping, in spite of this, to behave honestly and chastely and humbly. And that is exactly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a thistle cannot produce figs. If I am a field that contains nothing but grass-seed, I cannot produce wheat. Cutting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still produce grass and no wheat. If I want to produce wheat, the change must go deeper than the surface. I must be ploughed up and re-sown.
C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity
©Jeff Guess 2017