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.






Monday, 17 April 2017

Weird and wonderful folkore surrounding the Cuckoo





It is at this time of year  that you can expect to hear the first cuckoo and
 if you are walking at the time it is considered to be lucky.
Not so lucky to hear it while lying in bed as this means that you or 
someone in your family will die that year.
If you have no money in your pocket when she calls or if you fail to
turn over all the coins you have, you will be poor all year.
On hearing the cuckoo sit down and immediately take off your
 left shoe you will find in it a hair of exactly the same colour as that of 
your true love.



If you wish to know how many years of life you have left then count 
how many times it calls, each call equates to one year of life.

On hearing its first call run three times in a circle, giving good luck for 
the rest of the year. It is also encouraged that you run to the nearest gate
 and sit on the top rail as this will drive away the spirit of laziness.
On Dartmoor along the River Teign the older generation  believed that
 the song of the cuckoo called the salmon upstream

March, he sits on his perch; April he tunes his bill; May, he sings all day;
June he alters his tune, and July, away he do fly"




This is a Reedwarbler feeding a juvenile cuckoo!

According to Aristotle the cuckoo should be praised for its resourcefulnes, for laying its egg in another birds nest. 



This habit has led to a connection between cuckoo and cuckoldry and indeed the word cuckold is derived from cuckoo.

"The cuckoo then on very tree
Mocks married men. for thus he sings: Cuckoo!"
Skakespeare



Thursday, 13 April 2017

               
 The bluebell is one of the most potent of faerie flowers and a bluebell
    wood is a very dangerous place to stray into. 
    It will be  full of faeries weaving spells and enchantments amongst the trees 
    into which you will be drawn if you are not careful. 
     Mortals will be held captive until led out by another human and if a child wanders
     into their webs of enchantment they will be whisked away to faerie land and 
     never seen again.
The faeries are called to their revels by the sound of the bluebells chiming but if a 
human hears the chiming it means a malicious faerie is nearby and can possibly 
foretells your own death. For this reason it is known as deadman’s bells in Scotland.
If you wish to attract faeries to your home plant bluebells in the garden.



The Bluebell is a common bulb in England and Scotland, found less in Ireland.
 Grows in dense patches in woods and hedges. The flowers are found in pink and
 white as well as the more usual blue. All have a wonderful scent.
     Flowers  April to June.





  Scottish Bluebell or Harebell.  A common native perennial of Britain,
            found on poor dry soils such banks, roadsides and dry grassy areas.
           Flowers July to September.




The bulbs of the bluebell are poisonous in their fresh state but have diuretic and styptic properties 
and when dried and powdered have been used as a styptic for Leucorrhoea. Bluebells are currently being investigated in the treatment of cancer.
The viscid juice contained in the plant has been used for many things in the past, such as a substitute for starch, bookbinding gum and also for setting feathers upon arrows.




Excerpt from 'Faerie Flora'

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Gulliver's Travels




The morning sunshine beckoned Gulliver out for an adventure, little 
did he know that the lovely sunshine wouldn't last!
Having to shelter in one of these strange automobiles during a 
heavy hailstorm, he waited patiently for the sun to reappear.


Wading through the thick layer of ice left behind by the storm he 
tottered off towards Seaton beach. 

Seaton a small seaside town in East Devon on the south coast 
of England. It faces onto Lyme Bay, to the west of the mouth of 
the River Axe, it has red cliffs to one side and white cliffs on the other. 
A sea wall separates the shingle beach from the town. This is one of the
 towns that sits on the 96 mile Jurassic Coast line.


Being a very small elf he found it difficult to keep his feet in the strong
 winds blowing off the sea.









Tired of being blown around by the cold wind Gulliver is having 
a rest behind one of the rocks on the beach



In Saxon times Seaton was known as Fluta or Fleet, the Saxon word for
 creek and was founded by Saxon Charter in 1005 AD.
But there has been a farming community here 4,000 years before the 
Romans arrived when it  became an important port although the remains 
of the Roman occupation has been reburied to preserve them.
In 2013 a local builder unearthed the Seaton Down Hoard of copper alloy 
coins, these Roman coins, about 22,000 is believed to be one of the largest 
4th century collections ever found
The importance of Seaton as a port continued  for several centuries, supplying 
ships and crew for Edward I's wars against Scotland and France until a 
landslip caused by heavy storm partially blocked the estuary. The arrival 
of the railway added to the decline of the harbour.










Thursday, 26 January 2017

Witches Spittle






The use of spittle by witches for curing warts is quite well known and was and is 
used freely in many healing charms , as well as curses.
They believed that spittle contained the essence of their personality, and so by 
spitting on a certain area their power and their influence is brought to bear on 
that particular spot.
Christ cured a man's blindness by spitting into his eyes and it was also common 
practice in many ancient religious ceremonies, believing that the saliva of the gods 
bestowed healing
One author of folklore, Ruth St Leger-Gordon recounts a tale from the mid 60's of a 
neighbour who was well known to be a witch. 
This woman, Mary Ann, cursed a tradesman with whom she had fallen out by spitting
 on his doorstep three time and muttering " Take that, take that, take that".
After which the man had nothing bad luck, his wife died, his business failed, he then
 went deaf and to cap it all died young. 
Her powers, it seemed, could be either black or white depending on her mood; for 
about the same time she cured a six year old girl of a chronic eye infection which up till 
then had the local doctor baffled. Mary Ann drew the young girl to one side and spat 
three times into each eye. The mother, a firm believer in Mary Ann's powers forbade 
the young girl to wipe the spittle from her face. She was not disappointed for shortly after
 the young girls eye complaint  cleared up and she was able to attend school again.

Many people find that they have the gift for using healing charms without having 
to be a 'witch' but custom decrees that these gifts must be handed down alternately
 from man to woman in each succeeding generation. If there is no one  suitable in the 
family then the gift is passed on to an outsider.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Jan 17th: Twelfth Night, Old style

This is traditionally the time to wassail your apple trees, to encourage them to bear a good crop in the coming year. This is still prevalent today and has been revived in many country areas.
The owner of the orchard, along with friends,  gather in the orchard singing, firing shotguns into the branches and beating the trunks with sticks to drive out the evil spirits to ensure a good crop for the coming year.
Cider is drunk from the wassailing bowl which contains hot spiced cider, lumps of apple and pieces of toast.
The remains from the bowl is poured over the roots as an offering to the Apple Tree Man, and the cider soaked toast is placed in the forks of the trees.

‘Old Apple Tree we wassail thee, and happily thou wilt bear,
For the Lord knows where we shall be,
Till apples another year’
       


The oldest tree in the orchard is inhabited by the Apple Tree Man, who is the guardian of the orchard. To honour him the last few apples must be left for him and the pixies; this custom is called griggling, pixy hoarding and cullpixying.
 The apple symbolises fruitfulness, prosperity,  and rejuvenation and the wood is still seen as a symbol of security. 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; and eating an enchanted apple will allow you to enter the faerie realm. You can burn the bark as an offering to the faeries on midsummer night.
from 'Faerie Flora'

Friday, 13 January 2017

Greet the first new moon of the New Year







'May the light be fair to me
May the course be smooth to me
If good to me is the beginning
Seven times better be thine end
Thou fair moon of the seasons
Thou great lamp of grace
Bring blessings on me and my house'

The new moon is considered to be the most important of its phases,
 especially in Ireland. And its appearance was greeted with a ceremony 
which was believed if not carried out would bring misfortune.
The women of Cork would bless themselves and offer a short prayer,
 'May she leave us in good health.'
Marriage divination was also carried out in the light of the full moon.
In England it was customary to  stand astride the bars of a gate or stile
 ( in Yorkshire they would kneel on a ground fast stone) and say aloud:

'All Hail to the moon, all hail to thee,
I prithee good moon reveal to me
This night who my husband or wife must be'

I believe the idea was that you would dream of your future partner that night.

And to finish an Irish blessing for you!

'May you always have walls for the winds,
a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire,
laughter to cheer you, those you love near you,
and all your heart might desire.'



And for more information about the new moon
http://faeriesandallthatstuff.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/seeing-new-moon-through-glass_27.html

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Food Magic and Medicine from our hedgerows



For anybody who is interested in the folklore of our hedgerows my article in last years Kindred Spirit magazine might be to your taste, This is just the opening paragraph, the full article can still found in the magazine via the Kindred Spirit  website: http://kindredspirit.co.uk

Britain’s hedgerows are an important part of our countryside not only for the wildlife but also for the diversity of flora that can be found in these micro environments but the folklore which is part of our heritage is in danger of being lost as well. These oral traditions have been passed down through the generations and usually safeguarded by the housewife who would have turned to the hedgerow for food and for medicine. The more everyday ailments could be treated by a quick visit to the hedgerow. Having just rudimentary medical knowledge this herbal lore was indispensable for the families well being and would have been used in many different ways, both herbal and culinary, with a wealth of folklore for each plant.
The superstitions and charms surrounding the plants were also an important part of their lives and governed many of their everyday actions. The seasons of the year were celebrated using these plants and in some cases performing a central role in the celebrations.
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




Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Price Promotion


Starting on the 18th Jan 2017, both The Lavender Witch and the second in the series The Cunning Man will be available at various countdown prices for a week from Amazon Kindle.


The Lavender Witch is a chilling ghost story based on the strange but true events surrounding the death of Hannah Beamish, accused of being a witch by a wealthy farmer in a small remote village where she lived in the early 1800’s. 
One hundred and seventy years later these strange events, only now remembered by a few, come to light when Kitty and Gordon move back to the Devon village where they were born, they buy an old orchard from a farmer and build a small house. All is fine until they move in and Kitty spends her first day alone in their new home.
Over the course of their first week in the house chilling apparitions appear and events spiral out of their control bringing the past and present together until the truth emerges as to what really happened on Castle Hill. Was Kitty and Gordon's return to the village a coincidence? And what secrets are the elderly sisters Sybil and Queenie keeping? To save their home and their sanity they must finally put the ghosts to rest. 
The Cunning Man.
During an innocent day trip with the WI to Bindon, a small fishing village on the Dorset coast Queenie and Sybil, the psychic sisters are troubled by the underlying atmosphere of fear and secrecy.
Their curiosity is further piqued when Queenie notices fresh witch marks carved into every door lintel in the village and when they encounter the ghost of a child in the churchyard they realise they have to investigate further.

Friday, 6 January 2017

The Cunning Man: second in The Psychic Sisters series.


Following on from the 'The Lavender Witch'

During an innocent day trip with the WI to Bindon, a small fishing village
 on the Dorset coast Queenie and Sybil, the psychic sisters are troubled by 
the underlying atmosphere of fear and secrecy.
Their curiosity is further piqued when Queenie notices fresh witch marks carved
 into every door lintel in the village and when they encounter the ghost of a child
 in the churchyard they realise they have to investigate further.





Available from Amazon, on Kindle or as a paperback.
www.amazon.co.uk 
or from my website
www.magic-myth-legend.co.uk