Wednesday, 28 August 2013

To keep off evil spirits...
If you are troubled with evil spirits, pick bramble at the full moon and 
make a wreath, including rowan and ivy, then hang over the doors of your
 house ; this will also protect the inhabitants against evil spells. This belief in the 
protective qualities of the bramble led them to being planted around fresh 
graves of protect loved ones against evil, although in some areas it was believed 
that this would stop the dead rising and returning as ghosts.
Faerie Flora 2013
The rowan is the most powerful of plants against evil and witchcraft, hang it above the door
or planted in the garden. It protects home, family and beasts against spells, and if you use rowan wood walking sticks and whip stocks, these are all deterrents against the influence of witches and faeries. Coffins made of rowan wood will prevent the dead from walking.

Sunday, 25 August 2013


I know I have mentioned changelings before but I came across another account which chilled me.
I am at present writing a tentative article for The Somerset Life magazine, about the local folklore and I was going to include a paragraph about changelings but I have decided to leave it out because it is too upsetting.
Well anyway I am sure you are made of sterner stuff! so here goes...

This chilling account is from Ireland, 1862.
Bridget Peters, a decent-looking woman, was indicted for having caused the death of Mary Anne Kelly, by administering large quantities of fox-glove… It appeared that the deceased was a child almost six years of age, and had been delicate almost from its birth, being affected with a softening of the brain and partial paralysis… The prisoner is what is called a ‘Fairy Doctor’ and the mother of Mary Anne Kelly having consulted her, she promised to recover her, or not charge anything unless her skill was successful. The consequence was that this unlicensed general practitioner made up some mysterious, preparations in a cauldron, which acts very peculiarly on the nervous system, and vervani, which is regarded as a very wonderful medicine by those who are superstitious. But the prisoner, after examining the child, very significantly nodded her head, and told Mrs Kelly that it was not her child but a ‘changeling’ and that something must be done to recover the missing girl, who was with the fairies; accordingly after every dose of the doctress, she had the deceased stripped Mary Maher, the servant in the family, and carried out naked on a shovel and laid on a dunghill, the poor patient calling out mamma, and in a state of great alarm. The shock of such an exposure and this while under the depressing influence of foxglove, caused a great shock to the system and on the morning of the 4th of September, another dose having been administered, the poor victim of this superstition died, although the prisoner concealed the fact until evening, pretending that she was in a sound sleep and getting well.
There was another case in the mid 1800's where a father was accused of mistreating his son, making him live outside in a shed from the age of 16 months. The father's excuse was that he was a changeling, the court accepted this reason and the case against him was dismissed!

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Autumn is coming...

 'Come said the wind to
the leaves one day,
Come o're the meadows
And we will play,
Put on your dresses
Scarlet and Gold
For summer is gone
And the days grow cold'

Traditional children's song

Although it's still only August and beautiful weather at that, it's beginning to feel a bit like autumn. There's a nip in the air first thing in the morning, and a dew is on the windows and cars first thing.
Still we have had a glorious summer and maybe it will continue into September.

The 24th is Bartlemas Day, the Feast of St Bartholomew the Apostle.

And if Bartlemas Day be fine and clear
You may hope for a prosperous Autumn this year, 

although some say that St Bartholomew brings in the cooler autumn weather 
and that his day ends the forty days of rain presaged by a wet St Swithin's.

All the tears St Swithins can cry
St Barthelmy's mantle can wipe dry

This is the time of harvest, of apples being picked and cider made.
My own apples are doing well, last year they were terrible due to the rain,
 I'm expecting a good crop this year!
The apple symbolises fruitfulness, prosperity and rejuvenation, and the wood is still 
seen as a symbol of security. But beware of entering an apple orchard as the trees 
are inhabited by faeries and pixies, so do not sit beneath a tree and fall asleep or 
you will fall under a faerie enchantment. If you wish to call upon the faeries, summon
 them with a apple wood wand. Eating an enchanted apple will allow you to enter
 the faerie realm.
There are many superstition surrounding apples and orchards, these beliefs were 
taken seriously in  earlier days: felling an apple tree would bring the death penalty 
as it was believed to bring bad luck. And apple blossom must not be brought into the
 house as it will bring sickness and the evil influence, and if blossom appears on t
he tree late in the season it fortells a death in the family.

Faerie Flora 2013

Monday, 19 August 2013

weighing witches against the bible...

An account of this activity can be found in 'The Gentleman's Magazine; 1759, it states that in August in the year 1759 one Susannah Haynokes, an elderly woman of Wingrave near Aylesbury, Bucks, was accused by her neighbour for bewitching her spinning wheel so that she could not make it go round and offered to take Oath before the Magistrate. On which Susannah's husband in order to justify his wife insisted on her being tried by the church Bible and that the accuser be present. Accordingly she was conducted to the church, where she was stripped of all her clothes to her shift and under coat and weighed against the Bible; when to the no small mortification of her accuser, she outweighed it and was honourably acquitted of the charge.

 In the Low Countries there is actually a weigh house that was endorsed by emperor Charles V, for weighing witches:  Every city and town that was involved in trade had their own and often the weights would differ from each other. In this buildings  they also weighed witches, and it was not unusual to doctor the weights to get a conviction, for a small fee, of course. It is said that emperor Charles V was present at such a witch trail, and he did not believe the verdict. So he let the witch be reweighed at Oudewater, and they found that she was around 100 pounds, which was consistent with her body build. As a sign of his confidence in the weights (and weigh-master) at the Weigh-house in Oudewater,  Charles V appointed it as the official Witches Weigh-house, to ensure a fair trail for anybody that was accused of being a witch (and being a witch you were supposed to weightless and thus be able to fly). If you had a “normal” weight, then you got an official certificate to confirm that you weren't a witch!, which seems to have been a live saver for a lot of people. At Oudewater they never found a witch. 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Poppets or Mommets....

What, I can here you asking are these? I have included a few pages about poppets
 in my new book Faerie Flora and to be honest didn't think much more about
 them until I was watching a film called The Crucible a few days ago: it was about the
 Salem Witch trials in America. A poppet was found in a woman's house and they 
believed it proved that she was a witch. Then I was reading a book about the 
Witches in Wessex and it was mentioned in there but for a different reason.
Poppets, also known as mommets, are lifelike figures usually made of cloth but can also
 be of clay, wax,straw etc. They are made to represent a certain person and by using 
their hair, toenail clippings,saliva etc it reinforces the bond between the poppet 
and the intended recipient. Life must be breathed into the poppet and the doll 
then named. Poppets are used in in ritual magic and spell craft and have been in
 use for thousands of years.
Interestingly tho in the film the women referred to the doll as a poppet but 
meaning just a simple child's toy which in fact it was.

In 'Witches of Wessex' by Olive Knott, which I think was published around the 1950's, 
she recounts an old tale about a mommet.
A Somerset farmer believed that he had been overlooked by an old couple in the 
village since for some time he had ill luck with his cattle and crops. Consequently he 
threatened the two old people, informed the police and the case was brought to court.
The farmers wife appeared on behalf of the husband and on being asked the question, 
'Does your husband really believe that he has been bewitched by these people' answered, 
'Yes he hung a mommet in a tree, but it didn't work.'
The mommet was a stuffed rag doll, another form of the waxen image, which 
was supposed to represent the ill wisher.
Those who believed themselves to be overlooked would dig pins into the figure and 
eventually burn it, This they considered was effectual in breaking the spell of the ill wisher. 
The term mommet is still used in Wessex although it's original use has died out. 
A mother annoyed with one of her children will call him a mommet but from this 
word like many which have been incorporated into every day language the initial
 sting has been entirely removed.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

The Moon and Flowers of Harvest..


According to Aubrey author of Observations in 1685
You should observe the Harvest Moon, for
'The moon doth always piss, when she is pale
When red, she farts: when white, she wipes her tail.

Countrymen observe a certain rule, that a dripping moon ( that is, perpendicular) 
presages wet, especially the moon being of a cloudy and blackish colour in a 
clear sky; and that the weather will last so a good while.'

The Scottish Bluebell or Harebell is often referred to as Harvest Bells, a native perennial which flowers from July to Sept. This is also called Fairy Caps and Fairy Ringers, it is guarded by the magical har,e which is associated with the sidhe, so it is unlucky to pick it.

The moon gazing hare is an ancient symbol of fertility, and is always an attribute 
of lunar deities. The moon-gazing hare was especially important to early Britons. In 
nature hares can be seen and in ancient times, often seen in this "moon gazing" pose. 
Chinese moon gazing hares were thought of as gazing up at what he sees as his ancient 
ancestor, the Moon Rabbit in the moon.

The Moon gazing hare and spring

The hare signifies the fertility of Spring, of new life as the sun returns to the earth. 
Light and dark are of equal length yet the light is growing stronger.

What the moon gazing hare represents

The myth of the Moon gazing hare reflects ancient beliefs. Pagans believed that seeing 
a moon gazing hare would bring growth, rebirth, abundance, new beginnings and 
good fortune. The hare is known to be sacred to the goddess Eostre and eventually 
became known as the Easter bunny. In some countries, it is customary to eat hot cross 
buns around the time of Easter and Christmas; the cross on the bun is said to represent 
the four quarters of the moon. These buns were originally pagan offerings and were 
often hung from rafters to scare off evil that lurked in houses.
The more common bluebell,which  flowers in the spring, is also a very potent faerie flower and a bluebell wood is a very dangerous place to stray into.
Another useful flower for this time of the year is the Dog Daisy or Harvest Daisy:
'The whole herb,stalks flowers and leaves, boiled in posset drink, is accounted an excellent remedy for asthma, consumption and difficulty of breathing. A decotation of the herb cures all diseases that are occasioned by excessive drinking of cold beer when the body is hot.'
John Pechey The Compleat Herbal of Physical Plants 1694

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Old Lammas Eve..11th Aug

This is supposedly the last of the hot and unhealthy 'Dog Days' which 
begin on the 3rd July
This is an uncanny time, full of spirits haunting the roads and habitations 
of mortals. Crosses of rowan, surefire protection against evil spirits, were fastened 
above doors and windows for Lammas Eve, the latest it must be put up is noon
 Lammas Day. It is supposed to be by done in silence and secretly otherwise 
the charm and effectiveness of it is broken.
Cattle were similarly adorned with rowan tied on with red and blue threads 
around their tails.

12th Aug Old Lammas Day
Traditionally the season for trial or 'handfast' marriage in Scotland.
'At the Lammas Fair, it was the custom for unmarried persons of both sexes 
to choose a companion, according to their liking, with whom they were to live
 till that time next year. This was called hand-fasting or hand- in - fist. If they were 
pleased with each other, then they continued together for life: if not, they separated,
 and were free to make another choice.'

Old Statistical Account 1794 Parish of Eskdalemuir

 In some countries August 1 is Lammas Day (Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas, "loaf-mass"), the festival of the wheat harvest, and is the first harvest festival of the year. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop, which began to be harvested at Lammastide. The loaf was blessed, and in Anglo Saxon England it might be employed afterwards to work magic, a book of Anglo-Saxon charms directed that the lammas bread be broken into four bits, which were to be placed at the four corners of the barn, to protect the garnered grain. In many parts ofEngland tenants were bound to present freshly harvested wheat to their landlords on or before the first day of August.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Yew; an ancient sacred tree..


This is an ancient sacred tree which can live for anything up to 3,000 years; it's 
evergreen leaves, a symbol of mourning and resurrection. 
Many yew trees can be found planted in graveyards, and small sprigs of yew 
were often planted in the grave to protect the spirit.
One old tale concerning the yew is that the tree became dissatisfied with it's 
dark green needles, envying the other trees in the forest their beautiful coloured 
leaves. It grumbled to the faeries asking them to change it's appearance; so 
to keep the yew happy they changed it's leaves into gold. The golden leaves 
glittered in the sun but this attracted the thieves and they stripped the tree bare. 
The faeries then gave the tree delicate leaves of crystal but a storm came 
and the rain smashes the delicate leaves, leaving the tree naked.
The yew was then clothed in bright green and gold leaves that fluttered in the 
wind but this attracted all the wild animals of the woods, and the tree was again
 stripped bare of it's leaves. The yew stood there in the wood and moaned for 
it's own evergreen leaves to be returned, so the faeries once again did their magic
 and returned the yew tree to it's original form. But because the tree still envied the
 other trees their colourful leaves the faeries gave it bright red berries to wear 
every year, and made the berries along with the leaves poisonous to 
discourage the beasts of the forest.

Faeries and Folklore of the British Isles

Monday, 5 August 2013

Myths surrounding the elder....

If you stand beneath an elder tree on midsummer eve you will see 
the King of the faeries and his entourage but be careful that you do not get
 swept away to faerieland. The tree and the wood is greatly prized by the fae folk 
so it must not be used to make mundane household objects, especially not a cradle 
or the baby will be pinched black and blue. 
Do burn the wood or bring it into the house as this is very unlucky and 
will bring the devil in.

The Elder Mother guards the tree and although she is usually kind she can become
 dangerous if her trees are harmed so you must always ask permission 
before cutting an elder tree.

'Ourd gal, give me some of thy wood
An oi will give some of moine
When oi grows inter a tree'

Faeries and Folklore of the British Isles

 Everyone knows faeries love music and merrymaking, and best of all they 
like the music from instruments made of elder wood. Wood from the elder tree 
lends itself well to the making of whistles, pipes, chanters and other musical instruments, 
as the branches contain a soft pithy core which is easily removed to create hollow
 pipes of a pale, hard, easily-polished wood. 
The elder is a protective tree, and it is auspicious if it  grows near one's dwelling, 
 especially if it had seeded itself there, traditionally  the elder's best place to grow 
was at the back door, to keep evil spirits and other negative influences from entering 
the home. The aroma exuded by the elder's leaves has long been known to repel flies, 
so this folklore may have been borne out of the need to keep such insects, and the 
diseases that they carried, away from the kitchen and food. Bunches of leaves 
were hung by doorways, in livestock barns, and attached to horses' harnesses for
 the same reason. Elder was traditionally planted around dairies and it was thought
 to be efficacious in keeping the milk from 'turning'. Cheese cloths and other linen
 involved in dairying were hung out to dry on elder trees, and the smell they absorbed 
from the leaves may have contributed to hygiene in the dairy. Elder trees were also 
traditionally planted by bake houses as protection from the Devil,
  and loaves and cakes put out to cool under the elders. 
Any foods left out overnight under an elder however were considered a gift to the faeries.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Outwitting faeries...

There lived at Rothley in Northumberland a very clever little boy that 
once outwitted a faerie girl. 
One night despite his mothers warning that the faeries would get him
 if he didn't go to bed, he stayed up alone playing in front of the fire. 
Down the chimney flew a beautiful little faerie girl and joined 
in the boy's game.
'Ainsel' was her name she informed the boy and he, being rather quick 
and cheeky, said he was called 'My Ainsel.
They stayed playing together until the fire began to die down, the little boy 
stretched and rose to stir the fire with a poker. One of the embers fell on 
the faerie's foot and as she screeched out that she was burnt, a voice echoed
 down the chimney asking who had burnt her daughter's foot. 
With a cloud of soot the faerie's mother stood before the little boy asking 
again who had burnt her foot.
'My Ainsel, My Ainsel!' she crowed, delighted that she would get the 
little boy into trouble.
'Then in that case,' said the mother. 'What's all the fuss about?'
And with that she shooed  her protesting daughter back up the chimney.

Faeries and Folklore of the British Isles