Churchyard Nature Note with Andrew Tompsett

May 2017

Nard, what is it?

Each of the four main Gospels tell us of a woman who anointed Jesus with a large and valuable amount of ointment known as nard. The gospels vary slightly, Mathew and Mark stating that Jesus was at the house of Simon the leper and the woman was unnamed. John names several who were present including Lazarus, Mary and Martha and it was Mary who anointed Jesus. Luke confirms the story but states that the woman had lived a sinful life but we may wonder if she had particular knowledge or abilities. So, what is nard and what are its special qualities?

Nard, also known as spikenard, is an amber coloured oil derived from the rhizomes of the Nardostachys a plant of the Valerian family which grows in remote valleys of the Himalayas. It is, as the bible says, extremely expensive and has healing properties as well as being used as a perfume and sparingly as a food flavouring.

Some related plants, formerly used by herbalists in Britain include Betony, Self Heal, Woundwort and Heal all. The woman who carried out this ‘good work’ for Jesus may have been aware of the beneficial properties of nard. Could she also have been aware of the torment that Jesus was to suffer in the coming days?

Churchyard notes

Trees – the low branches of trees adjacent to the road have been trimmed back well above head and vehicle height. In the near future further significant trimming and clearance will take place in the current burial area to allow more light through. Later this year the regular tree safety survey will take place to try to avoid unexpected falls.

Conservation – Kate Williams reports that it had been difficult to find a dry enough day during the winter to burn the large collection of tree trimmings, so it was decided to make three ‘habitat’ piles of the branches well back in the wild area where they could remain to shelter wildlife for some time to come.

Bluebells are providing good colour in many places although the spread of the strong-smelling, white, Three-cornered leek Allium triquetrum is less welcome.

Slowworms are regularly making use of the warmth beneath the sheet of corrugated iron beside the tower.

As the spring advances there is more birdsong in the churchyard, a chiffchaff was particularly loud with a slightly odd song – more ‘chiff’ than ‘chaff’!  Robins have been active and may soon use the new nest boxes installed for them.


Andrew Tompsett