From the natural perspective, Křivoklátsko is a very rich region, with warm hills, whipped during the winter by freezing winds, exposed rocks, wooded dark foothills, cold valleys and ravines with streams, in local dialect called “loužky”. Křivoklátsko is also a region with special relevance to Celts, the golden treasure of Podmokly, the head of Mšecké Žehrovice and the Stradonice oppidum are some of the most significant Celtic artifacts from the European perspective. The Czech royal castle of Křivoklát is the emblem of the entire area. The inhabitants of Křivoklátsko, or, The Forest of Crooked Logs, have always gathered fruits and herbs, which they used for healing, purification, magic, ceremonies of folk religion at home and during annual festivities, but especially for daily subsistence and the creation of various infusions and decoctions, which they mixed the pre-selected herbs in. Thus, unique recipes were made, that differed from region to region like folk songs and strengthened the body and mind in different ways. Most of the herbs used to grow close to human settlements (elderberry – bez, ground ivy – popenec/vopenec, common knotgrass – truskavec/praskavka, shepherd’s purse – kokoška/krejčík, hazel – líska, nettle – kopřiva, lamb’s quarters – merlík/beranní ocásek etc.), for many of them people would indeed just go into a modest garden or to the side of the road leading out of the village. However, the real treasures were hidden in the local diverse forests.

Do you think, that the local forests are old? Their strong trunks, tiny acorns and mossy pillows, that remember the very beginning of ages? This may indeed be true, but in a different way, than most of us imagine. The spring is coming, so it is a good time to tell a short story. Sit by the spring of clear water, that flows through the ravines to enter the Misty River. Look at the reflection of the sky glistening on its surface and listen to the story told by the one, who was a long time ago called the forest god.

The roots creeping up the rocks, the mighty trunks letting the rainwater flow down to the ground, the cheerful verses of bird songs, as well as the imagination and ideas of gods began billions of summers and winters ago. It all started in the biggest stars. The pressure inside them was so strong, that the triskeles[1]Each proton or neutron consists of three quarks, which can be in several places at once until the wave function collapses, hence the triple helix or triskelion resembles a similarity to a proton. Celtic La Tène art, like the quantum world, is based on fluctuations, so parallels are directly … Pokračovat k poznámce, the triple spirals, two at a time, merged into larger shapes. Like when water flows into the earth’s crevice, where it accumulates and settles, so these spirals were merged by forces, that made them important for later life. Without this property, there would only be formed a small number of elements, which we have called carbon and oxygen.

A path through a beech forest leading to the mythical hill Velíz

These and many others star-formed elements, that I will mention later, represent the foundation of the later forest. However, billions of years[2]Ancient stories tell us, that life arose from fire and water. Indeed, the Earth, like Mercury, Venus and Mars, should be a fiery, warm and rocky planet, unlike Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, which are watery, covered with ice, gases and liquids. But there is an abundance of both fire and water on … Pokračovat k poznámce had to pass, before the first large plants anchored themselves in the windswept land and established cooperation with fungal fibers. But the forests are much more, they are full of trees, herbs, mosses, lichens, invisible mushrooms, animals and other creatures, without which they would not be so diverse. Look at the squirrel over there, that crawls on the linden tree. Thanks to its winter supplies, which it forgets to pick up, oaks, beeches and other trees can spread much faster. The squirrel simply unknowingly spreads their seeds, but in return receives nutritious fruits.

Cooperation with animals had occurred relatively recently in angiosperm plants, such as oaks, apples, beeches, lindens, but also anemones, liverworts, blackberry and raspberry plants. Think of all those flowers, that attract insect pollinators using their bright colors and tasty nectar. Have you ever wondered, why your sight, unlike that of most of other mammals, recognizes red rose hips so clearly in a flood of leafy thorn bushes, or ripe pears in the treetops? Thanks to fruits and nuts, that you are able to efficiently locate, even you, humans, can be here with your brain, that originated by constant social rivalry and cunning, with which you, like the crow family, could conquer the world and explore the universe. As your by social intrigues developed mind tries to see social relations all around and humanize everything, so you gave begun to imagine us, gods, even though we are mere parts of nature incapable of any human thought. We gain this ability as story creatures only thanks to you.

The river valley in late April, during the time of evening fires

You speak well, Lord of the Forests, and forgive me for stepping into your speaking. In a few moments, my lady will visit us and tell us more about herbs, mixtures, brews and stories. But let me make a small addition to your speech. A lot of ancient stories actually talk about how the world began, they are just wrong about two things. The first one is the time span, because only a few living creatures can image millions and billions of years, and the second thing is the already mentioned humanization. Remember Greek stories. All you have to do, is to replace Chaos with the tension of fields or strings, Eros with attractive forces, Gaia with the Earth, Uranus with the sky and so on. Only later did people look for some almighty and omniscient designer of the world, without explaining where he himself had come from.

The Mighty Lord with hair shining like the rays of the sun, you, who often appear in the form of a golden-horned deer or a hero on a white horse, your addition is interesting, but let me now, for a while, return back to the forests, trees and fungi. Most plants cooperate with fungal fibers to exchange carbon, water and nutrients. In the rich deciduous forests, where maples, ash trees, elms and herbs predominate, you will find rather short fibers of fungi, that do not form fruiting bodies, that is mushrooms visible on the surface. These fungi efficiently like snakes look for nutrients, which they supply to their friendly trees. It is mainly phosphorus, that is most important for life after carbon and nitrogen. These kinds of forest have beautiful loose soils, that retain water and contain a lot of calcium and magnesium.

View of Křivoklátsko from the hill above Zbečno during the summer solstice with blooming wild roses in the foreground

Penny buns and fruiting bodies of similar fungi can be found in another type of forest, which can easily be adjacent to the former type of forest in a small area, if the soil, environment and subsoil are sufficiently varied, as is the case with the forests of Křivoklátsko. Here the fungi behave differently, together with oaks, beeches, pines and other trees, they create large networks, that allow them to accurately dose nutrients and transfer them from the place of supply to the place of scarcity. Fungi have enough space to form fruiting bodies and reproduce quickly. However, they are very sensitive, especially to the amount of nitrogen compounds released from exhaust gases and fertilizers. The whole fungi nets then wither and trees like pines die due to drought, even in places, where they should have originally not. The acidic environment under crushed spruces then causes the soil to become clogged with iron and aluminum compounds and thus all species diversity perishes. Every forest requires a conscious approach.

But, what do I see, the Lady of the Dawn, the Flower Maiden and the goddess of ancient times, the wife of the Mighty, is coming to us from the grove. A bright morning star shines on her forehead – come, join us and tell us, what brings you here. Do you want to say something about forest herbs? About what happens, when the spring comes to our forests with birdsong and a sweet scent?

Liverwort, called “podlíska” (
literally: under hazel) in the Křivoklát region, blooms before the trees are leafed

That is so, Lord of the Forests, but not only that is, what my heart desires to express. In the spring, when the singing of the titmouse, thrushes, finches and blackbirds spreads across the land, as the sun gains strength and its daily pilgrimage across the sky lengthens, the first colorful flowers grow from the forest soil. We all know liverworts, lungworts, anemones, primrose, crooks and bedstraws that, in ancient drinks, gave people a smile on their faces. These beautiful herbs take advantage of a time, when the trees are not yet fully covered in green leaves, and thus the herbs have enough sunlight to gain strength and attract pollinators. Then, when you hear the cuckoo sound, you can be sure, that the time of new power is here, a time, that heralds the every year’s abundance of fruits.

Rose hips and a hollyhock flower in the form of a blooming morning star

People are looking forward to the power of spring in their gardens. The seeds of marigold, chamomile, cornflowers, hollyhocks and other plants are waiting to be able to make the whole world happy with their colorful blossoms. First, cherries, blackthorns, apple trees, hawthorns and elderberries bloom. At the summer solstice, the magic time comes, when St. John’s wort, wild marjoram, wild thyme, linden and other powerful herbs suitable for tasty brews bloom. Over the next few months, yarrow, nettle and wormwood take over the scene, so they could make way for the autumn fruits and rose hips, which, together with the rose twigs, bring joy in hot infusion, joy to upcoming times. During the long winter nights, it is the right time to tell mysterious tales.

Between an oak and a hornbeam on Holý vrch near Skryje during the August’s heat and storms

My dear lady, I do know one such story. Please, sit down with us and listen carefully, what I indent to tell you about these forests here, even though you probably already know a lot of it. Thousands of years ago, desperate people, whom we are used to call the Celts, deposited a cauldron of treasure into a pond, that had existed at the time. They sacrificed so much and performed such powerful rituals, that the forests of Křivoklátsko, closed like a castle gate and refused to accept new settlers for several centuries to come. That later changed, but the forests were still protected by powerful spells, that moved around as whispers in the wind and through the roots of centuries-old giants. The forests of Křivoklátsko could not be destroyed until the time, when the treasure was taken from the ground. At that time, the entire forests would have been destroyed, had it not been for the discovery of coal, if we had not, as gods, taken the sacrifice of the Oupoř valley. Since the flood in 1872, the valley has been overgrown with forest trees and is strictly protected by then as our temple, a sacred place of untamed natural events. The forests of Křivoklátsko persisted.

Two red stripes on the trees around the Oupoř valley remind us, where the entry is forbidden. Anyone, who tries to enter, will be plagued by a curse, that they will remember only on their deathbed. Only then will they realize, how disrespectful it was and what they could have done by this disrespect. They will look at other natural nature reserves or other national cultural monuments and realize, what their excessive exposure to public interest has caused. Blinking lookout towers built by bored billionaires on Celtic national cultural monuments, parking lots and a barrage of rubbish from disrespectful visitors, the ones, that confuse forests with rubbish bins. Yes, there are just a few of them, but the more people find the place, the better the chances, that the bad ones get to it.

View of Křivoklát castle standing on a once sacred rock

Hopefully, you are right, Lord of the Forests, but anyway do not worry. This place near Křivoklát castle will remain hidden forever. No one names it, as long as the sun shines and the water flows. The forests of the Crooked logs will forever keep some secrets, which will perhaps be only revealed to those with a heart of gold, those, who understand, that the local beauties need to be preserved, who will serve as an example to others. There may be floods, droughts or ice ages, when the trees move and change. The dust may fall on the rubble forests after thousands of years have passed. They called us differently, dívové, bohové – gods, vitové – lords, hrdinové – heroes. However, we are still the same, deep in the mind we help to humanize the world, so that people can more easily build a relationship with the landscape. So they could understand, what in the life is truly important.

So let us talk of Křivoklátsko’s nature, herbs, trees, animals, the origin of the forest, its hidden secrets and beautiful places, warm slopes, cold valleys, hilltops and river bends. Let us see how the character of the landscape was influenced by prehistoric events, settlements rich in traveling and tales of the Bronze Age, stories, tools and coins of the Iron Age of Celts, and our direct ancestors in the early medieval Age of Fortified Settlements. Folk customs and imagination associated with the annual cycle, herbal mixtures, brews, songs, plant growing and the art of delicious local food, those are the topics, we will be interested in. Let us talk about the Brews of the Forest of Crooked Logs.

An orchard at Velká Buková in the spring

Lord of the Forests, the day begins with my dawn, as you know. Its pink tinge with a clear blue sky and the last star pierces the darkness like a loving embrace, that flows through the land on the winds of moist eastern breeze, in drops of morning dew, in the lovely songs of blackbirds, thrushes and robins. Little birds with a reddish chest like the dawn, they explore the surroundings of thorny bushes, rose-white flowers of roses and hawthorns. The appearance of these flowers is reminiscent of the touch of my dress, the bottom of their fruits taking the shape of the bright morning star. At the time of the summer solstice, when the birdsong culminates, people humbly pluck the flowers of St. John’s wort, wild thyme and wild marjoram, from which they prepare a soothing, yet new power of mind bringing infusion. The scent of linden flowers, mallows and apple trees imprints an image of me onto their closed eyelids, and with it the taste for life. The life, that began long ago to experience the secrets of alternating days, nights and seasons.

My dear wife, Flower Maiden and Lady of the Dawn, how wonderfully your words sound. When the dark night drifts through the land, interwoven with the dawn of the sun rays, which brighten the sky above the horizon, here I follow your carriage with my golden glow, that brights pleasant warmth. Chicory flowers turn towards my sun, the leaves of trees draw my power, thus promising an abundance of sweet fruits. While your brew brings inspiration, composed of cornflower, St. John’s wort and marigold[3]The folk names of the plants from Křivoklátsko region are: modráček (chrpa in Czech, cornflower), milovníček or krevníček (třezalka in Czech, St. John’s wort) and měsíček (marigold), as well as hawthorn, hollyhock, raspberry, daisy and mint, my own brew, on the other hand, offers new strength for fighting and work, a brew of elderberry, St. John’s wort, wild marjoram, yarrow, blackberry, knotgrass and ripe rose hips. With my brothers, the Lord of the Moon and the Lord of the Wind, I oversee the course of the world, the earth and nature. Surely you know that, my sleeping beauty, as well as the fact, that while you plant flowers, our sons and I plow and sow grain. With our daughter, the Daughter of the Sun, we then take care of an ancient orchard full of golden apples, which taste like honey and bring immortality, the invincibility of the mind capable of discovering and exploring the world.

Chamomile, wild thyme and St. John’s wort in our garden

Your conversation is interesting, and forgive me for being late. But as a storm god I had to take the task to calm the western wind. He has been running freely through the land, while his brother, the freezing midnight, or northern, wind did drink a lot of mead. Mighty Lord, nice was your speech about knowing the world, which we, as a hawk, or as a beautiful raven explore and in the minds of people, as story beings, we help them to reveal hidden laws. The mind is magical, solving like a nut difficult task, which it cannot at first crack in the evening, but which will do so in the morning after a calm sleep. I recall inquisitive people learning about the events of ancient times, when my wife, Lady of the Earth, and I span in the wedding dance. Mainly from the ages known as Proterozoic and the beginning of Paleozoic come waving rocks of the Křivoklátsko region. Many of them are rich in nutrients, giving room for growth of diverse environment of rubble forests with their ravines and forest-steppe hilltops. Perhaps it would be beneficial for people to sit in such a place, look around, take an elderberry whistle and as a thrush play a merry song celebrating the sky and the earth. The earth, that grows elder and linden flowers, wild thyme, spruce shoots and elderberries, suitable for tasty and healthy infusions.

Leaves are simply magical and almost every other form of life, including us humans, depends on their production abilities. Tiny veins let the sweet juices flow from the leaves to the plant body, and conversely bring in water and nutrients. When it is warm, the leaves release water through small stomata, which evaporate water, thus cooling the leaf. If the amount of carbon dioxide is excessive, the number of stomata decreases, if it is not, then the number of stomata increases. Getting enough carbon dioxide and sunlight, after all, was the main cause behind the fact, why the leaves of many plants are broad and extremely thin. The stomata also release oxygen, which we breathe.

You are all instructive, even you, Lord of Thunder, who is as wise as an eagle and as fierce as a buzzard hawk. However, I, as the Lord of the Forests, must say something a little different. Surely you know, how people in the past used a concoction of the oak bark to treat both cough and toothache, or young beach or ash leaves to reduce inflammation. Oyster mushroom has long been a well-known dish, that brings new blood to the veins, as it was abundant in the original primeval forests with a lot of dead deciduous trees. Today, people are rediscovering the magic of the forest, whether it is the ability of oyster mushrooms to decompose oil and gas under certain conditions, or the healing ability of turkey tail mushroom and fragrant lichens. The forest still inspires the seemingly modern world. You talk about life, but Lady of Death also belongs to it, because without her, only a few people would care to spend the precious moment of life well and happily. At the winter solstice, people have always experienced this idea the most, eating porridge and remembering their ancestors. It used to be a time of ghosts, when the forest was asleep, and only a wild hunt swept through the air on the wings of the wild wind. But, what do I see, the time of the year is rapidly changing. Who is this coming to us, to take a vacant place in our circle? Twelve forms, twelve months, in one person?

The sign of the blooming sun by the stream in early spring with the wish, that the first spring flowers bring hope for peace

Lord of the Forests with black hair, it is indeed I, the Lord of Truth, Time and Clear Sky. Twelve forms, twelve dimensions, an oak grove dedicated to the tranquility of the forest, where twelve old men sit around the fire. My staff gave birth to the world, glittering drops of water, from which the white-throated dipper bird with the help of a wolf and a fox pulled the earth. Such are, at least, human stories woven into the remnants of the customs associated with the agricultural annual cycle, when, for example, at the beginning of spring, parents in the Křivoklátsko region hung sweet pastries for their children on flowering willows and hazel trees. If you are talking about brews of herbs, do not forget the brews of knowledge and opinions, because you would not fully understand nature without human influence and vice versa. Getting to know the history of human settlements of your region, folk customs and natural events, all this will help us get rid of the fear of the unknown. Thanks to that, we can find out, who we really are.


1 Each proton or neutron consists of three quarks, which can be in several places at once until the wave function collapses, hence the triple helix or triskelion resembles a similarity to a proton. Celtic La Tène art, like the quantum world, is based on fluctuations, so parallels are directly offered. For instance, illustrative is the observation of densities of gluons, that hold quarks within the proton together, and hence they really resemble rippling triskeles.
2 Ancient stories tell us, that life arose from fire and water. Indeed, the Earth, like Mercury, Venus and Mars, should be a fiery, warm and rocky planet, unlike Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, which are watery, covered with ice, gases and liquids. But there is an abundance of both fire and water on Earth.
3 The folk names of the plants from Křivoklátsko region are: modráček (chrpa in Czech, cornflower), milovníček or krevníček (třezalka in Czech, St. John’s wort) and měsíček (marigold)