Thursday, 22 June 2017

Swifts




We have been delighted every night this week by the aerial acrobatics 
of a pair of swifts. In the cool of the evening we have sat on our decking 
and have marveled at the way these birds swoop and glide so close to the 
buildings that they have made us duck on several occasions.






Historically these birds have been known as the devils birds or devils bitches 
because they are so mysterious , disappearing every winter only to reappear 
when the summer arrives. Now we know they migrate to Africa.

But what amazing birds!

They can fly up to around 10,000 feet and do everything on the wing, feed, 
drink, preen their feathers and even mate.






They also sleep on the wing and apparently shut down half their brain, while 
still correcting their flight so that they wake up in the same place where they fell asleep. 
Amazing!


In Moray the swift was believed to bring bad luck to river fishermen, while
 historically farmers in southern counties were encouraged to shoot at them as they 
were believed to be ‘regular limbs of Satan’. 
However one farmer in Hampshire shot seventeen of the birds out of bravado and 
subsequently had seventeen of his finest cows die!
Serves him right!

Since writing the above we now have two pairs entertaining us every night!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Is May an unlucky month?

According to folklore the month of May seems to be incredibly 
unlucky, for example Kittens born at this time grow into 
unlucky melancholy cats!

And to marry in May is notoriously unlucky, and to do it dressed 
in green is sheer madness!

"Married in May and kirked in green
Both bride and bridegroom won't long be seen.
O' marriages in May
Bairns die in decay"


And the May weather is considered to unreliable for shorn 
sheep, which may take cold and die.

"Shear your sheep in May
You'll shear them all away"

Thunder during this month presages a poor summer and a bad harvest.
"Thunder in May
Frightens the summer away"

According to a Devon legend the sharp frosts that occur at this time of year
 are the revenge of a beer brewer called Frankin who was put out of business by 
the rising popularity for drinking cider.
He pledged his soul to the Devil in return for frosts on each of the 'Frankin's days' 
around the May 21st hoping that these would kill the apple blossom and 
ultimately ruining the cider crop.


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Changelings and May

The month of May is supposed to be the ideal time for substituting 
mortal babies with changelings; why this month I wonder?

Faeries will not hesitate to steal un-baptized children, 
especially popular are fair haired babies, replacing them with changelings.
These may be either an old wrinkled elf who wants an easy life  or a replica made of wood which under a Faerie spell will appear to be alive.
The  replica will sometimes appear to sicken and die,it would then be buried.
It may continue to live, but it will not grow however much it eats,and changelings do have an inexhaustible appetite, it will also have a wizened deformed appearance.

In earlier years many babies that were born ugly or 
malformed were believed to be these changelings, as this was an easier explanation for parents of a socially unacceptable child; life would have been hard for these children.
Placing the changeling on a red hot poker or putting it on the fire, or whipping it was believed to make it reveal its true nature. It would then fly cackling up the chimney and disappear, the real baby would be found at the door having just been returned by the Faeries (see page 12).

Offerings of milk were left at the Well of the Spotted Rock, Inverness, by Mothers who believed that their child had been taken by the Faeries and replaced by a changeling. The changeling would then be left overnight near the well and when the Mother returned in the morning, she hoped the real child would be there, having been returned by the Faeries.

Men and Women were also taken to be husbands and wives of Faeries in the otherworld.
In 1894 in Clanmel, County Tipperary, Bridget Cleary fell under suspicion of being a changeling by her husband Michael.
She apparently appeared more refined than usual and had grown an extra two inches.
Although she protested her innocence he tortured and burned her to death  “to make the witch confess“. Michael Cleary buried the remains of his wife but they were later discovered and he was charged with manslaughter.

He was sentenced to 20 years hard labour.

Faerie births are becoming
rarer and the Faerie 
children are not as healthy as they once were.
So mortal babies are taken
to replenish their stock


The stealing of children has
a more sinister motive in
the Lowlands of Scotland.
Mortal babies are used by
the Faeries to pay the
Devil’s Tithe which is due
every seven years.



To protect a baby from
 being taken by the Faeries hang an open pair of 
scissors over the cot or stick an iron pin into the baby’s clothes.

Lay the Father’s trousers across the cot.

Draw a circle of fire around the cot.

Make the sign of the cross above the baby and 

sprinkle it and the cot with Holy Water.


Excerpt from Faeries and Folklore of the British Isles

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

May Day, Beltane.

I know, I can hear you all shouting you're late but I was busy!

1st May is the Celtic festival of Beltane, the beginning of summer.


May Day which harks back to pagan festivals was celebrated as the beginning of 
summer and on May Day Eve communities would go out and bring in the ‘May.’ 
Spending the night outdoors they would greet the first light with drums and 
blasts on cow horns to welcome  in the summer and then return home laden with 
branches of May blossom (Hawthorn) to decorate their homes.

And we were up as soon as any day O
And to fetch the summer home,
The summer and the May O
For the summer is a come O
And the winter is a go O




We all know the tradition of the Maypole which once upon a time would have been
practised in every community but in pagan times it would have been a living tree 
that our ancestors would have danced around, clapping their hands on the bark to 
wake the spirit within.
Overseeing the celebrations would be the May Queen, decked in hedgerow flowers, and 
keeping her company would be the King (the Green Man) also decked in Oak and 
Hawthorn leaves. Children would fashion wild flowers and blossom into garlands
 and carry them around the village calling at every house, receiving a May Day cake 
from the householder as a reward.

‘Good Morning, missus and master
I wish you a happy day
Please to smell my garland
Because it’s the first of May’



To leave a branch of hawthorn at a friends door is a luck bringing compliment, but 
gifts from another kind of tree could be insulting.

Nut for a slut; plum for the glum,
Bramble if she ramble; gorse for the whores.


A fair maid who the first of May,
Goes to the field at then break of the day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree
will ever be after handsome be



It was believed that on May Eve witches were at their most powerful and that 
the month would be ‘witch ridden’ so crosses were fashioned from Hazel and Rowan 
to hang over doorways and fireplace to prevent witches from entering. Even flowers from the children’s posies were a witch deterrent such as the Primrose, bunches were hung 
over doorways to the house and cowshed as it was considered to be very magical. 
Striking a rock with Primroses will open the way to faerieland but on a more practical
 note the leaves were used as a remedy for arthritis, rheumatism, gout, paralysis and a 
salve could be made for soothing wounds, burns.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Beware May Eve





According to The Discovery of Witchcraft of 1584, May Eve ( Walpurgis Night) is the 
time you must guard your children against witches.




 " The Devil teacheth witches to make ointments of the bowels and members of 
children, whereby they ride in the air and accomplish all their desires.
 So if there be any children unbaptized or not guarded with the sign of the cross 
or orisons (prayer) then the witches may and do catch them from their mother's side 
at night, or out of their cradles...and after burial steal them out of graves and 
seethe them in a cauldron until their flesh be made potable."




To ensure this doesn't happen  place a crust of salted bread under 
the baby's pillow, also hang garlic and rowan around the cradle.




Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Sleeping amidst the falling cherry blossom



After a night of spring revelry my faerie fell asleep among the bluebells and ferns 
at the bottom of the garden. Luckily a light covering of cherry blossom has fallen 
on over her protecting her against the sudden snow shower!

Friday, 21 April 2017

St Marks Eve

'

According to my trusty almanac the 24th of this month is 
the night to visit the church porch.
At the appointed hour ghosts of the doomed can be seen passing 
into the church. You may need to make three visits before the spectres 
will appear before you but beware if you see your double or fall asleep 
while the ghostly procession passes you will surely die within the year.

'The ghosts of all whom death shall doom
Within the coming year;
In pale procession walk the gloom,
Amid the silences drear.'



It is also a good time for young girls to use divination to discover 
the identity of their future husbands. Hang your smock by the fireplace 
and await for the arrival of an apparition of your true love to come in 
and turn your garment for you.

'On St Mark's Eve, at twelve o'clock,
The fair maid will watch her smock,
To find her husband in the dark,
By praying unto good St Mark.'

In Lincolnshire young women would visit the Malden Well on St Mark's Eve
 and walk backwards around it three times, at the same time making a wish 
to see her destined sweetheart. 
After the third circle she must kneel and gaze into the water, hopefully to see 
the image of her future husband.