Friday, June 12, 2015

The Whimsy of Straw Finials

 
Photo by Rachel Oakes


A few weeks ago, I was browsing through my friend Rachel Oakes' photos she had taken on a recent jaunt to a small British village, and I paused when I came across one photo.  "Is that a peacock on the roof??" I asked, surprised.  She explained that it was actually a straw sculpture on the thatched roof, known as a straw finial.  We continued in conversation as she explained that such things were quite common in the villages around her.  Meanwhile I was positively glowing with glee to find something so utterly charming, whimsical, and magical. 

I knew all of you would enjoy them too.

According to an excellent write-up on the tradition at this link, the tradition originated from small straw sculpts on top of hayricks and straw stacks.  Taking the form of birds, crosses, crowns, boats, apples, and more, the ornaments were, at least according to some, supposed to be a friendly way to show which hayrick belonged to whom. 

Folklore also suggested that the straw sculptures could ward of witches and birds.  The witches were given "something to play with, thus diverting her attention from making mischief elsewhere."

Although the earliest examples of decorative straw finials date to 1689, it's still easy to find artists making these organic ornaments today.  Below are a few of my favorite examples I was able to find online.


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6 comments:

  1. I love these too and found them so charming when I first discovered them. People must think me half mad as I wander about little villages taking photographs of them. Our village shop is thatched and has a bird on top. Some are quite elaborate depending upon what part of the country hat you are in. I love the ones you have chosen here!

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  2. I love this post as we have lots of thatched roofs around my village with these decorations on top. I love the idea of a witch being distracted by something to play with :D
    I'm glad to see you're still blogging, it's been a long time since I last visited.x

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