“…a bustle in your hedgerow…” (slightly demystified )

Just to take a quick look at the well-known line from Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin…

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, Don’t be alarmed now, It’s just a spring clean for the May Queen.

I’ve mentioned that fairies and witches tend to emerge from hedgerows (in folk tales) – the May Queen is an old superstition which may or may not have its origins in human sacrifices which were intended to pacify magical forces – but it also refers to the coming of spring and in particular the blossom on the hawthorn tree, which is also called the Queen of the May, and is the most common hedgerow tree in Britain. The blossom was used for decoration at the May festivals.

Robert Plant had been reading Lewis Spence’s Magic Arts in Celtic Britain when he wrote the song – so a lot of the lyrics to Stairway to Heaven, including this one, are just slightly garbled allusions to those old traditions. (I guess “spring clean” is mainly there because it rhymes and scans rather than because it means anything much.)

There’s always a slightly sinister undertone to those traditions (as can be seen in something like The Wicker Man) but also they can just be celebrations of the coming of spring, without the original bloodthirsty tendencies.

So, if you do hear something bustling in your hedgerow today, hopefully it’s not a witch or malevolent fairy…


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Filed under Hedge Mythology, Historical Hedges

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