Collecting the folklore and uses of plants

Bedford – site of the Garden of Eden

The Panacea Society, founded by Mabel Barltrop, a clergyman’s widow, later known as Octavia, was founded in Bedford in 1919, and lingered on until 2012.  Octavia received daily communications from God, and was told that ‘Bedford was the site of the original Garden of Eden …  the area around Bedford was the place where evil began in the world – represented by the serpent persuading Eve to eat the forbidden fruit’.  And ‘it was to Bedford and the Garden that Jesus would return, to live in the community gathered to greet him’.

It appears that members of the Society attached particular significance to a weeping ash, Fraxinus excelsior ‘Pendula’, in their garden, according to a notice nearby:

‘This tree stands close to the centre of Bedford in a garden at the centre of the world.  Panaceans enjoyed thinking about this tree as a symbol of their life here.  They believed that their community activities were linked to the future happiness of the world beyond this garden.’

The Society’s former headquarters is now open as the excellent Panacea Museum.

Tree, currently badly attacked by a fungus at the base of its trunk, photographed September 2021.

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