Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Thomas Hardy and Puddletown Forest




Thomas Hardy, English novelist and poet, born 2nd June 1840,  near Dorchester, Dorset. Hardy set all of his major works in the southwest of England, known in his novels as 'Wessex' after the medieval kingdom of the Anglo Saxons. Many of the places that he used in his novels do exist but in many cases gave the places fictional names, such as Casterbridge in 'The Mayor of Casterbridge' is the county town of Dorset, Dorchester. And the infamous Mixen Lane of that novel was Mill Lane, according to Hardy where all the lowlifes and scoundrels of Dorchester lived.
I have to say I take exception to that as my grandparents and great grandparents lived there for many a year and good church going folk they were! 

Hardy was born in a small cottage at Higher Bockhampton which lies at the edge of Puddletown Forest.
The cob and thatch cottage was built by Hardys’ great grandfather and has been little altered since the family left.

Hardy, despite training as an architect returned to his first love of writing and it was here in his birthplace that he wrote many of his earlier works including ‘Under the Greenwood tree’ and Far from the Madding Crowd.


This is one of several conifer plantations which consumed much of Dorset's heathland just after the war. There are still fragments of heath to be seen and some broad leaf trees, such as chestnut, oak and birch so it is a pleasant walk along the many paths threading through the forest.




Thomas Hardy's birthplace.

 This part of Dorset was mainly heath land in the time that Hardy lived  there and inspired the references to the ‘Egdon Heath’  of The Return of the Native. 


Today the area is planted with mainly conifers and would be unrecognisable to Hardy.



Within a mile of the cottage is the area known as Rainbarrows, a cluster of ancient bowl barrows on the edge of the steep escarpment fringing Duddle Heath.
Bowl barrows are the most numerous form of round barrows and are believed to be funerary monuments dating from the late Neolithic period to the late Bronze Age. Constructed as earthen or rubble mounds and are sometimes ditched. They would have covered single or multiple burials. The three bucket urns containing cremated remains which were found at the site are now held in the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester.



Hardy lived at Max Gate, Stinsford near Dorchester. His first wife Emma died in 1912 and was buried in Stinsford churchyard. Hardy later married his secretary Florence in 1914.
Hardy died 11th January 1928 at Max Gate.

A local girl was delivering laundry to the house that morning and was refused entry by her older sister who worked for the Hardys. She told the young girl that the 'old man' had died and that he had been taken down to the kitchen. The local Doctor removed Hardy's heart and it was placed inside an Oxo tin. From there it was to be transferred to a casket supplied by the local undertaker and taken to Stinsford Vicarage until it was placed into his first wife's grave.
His ashes were interred at Poets Corner.


This is a gruesome anecdote told by some... that the heart was removed, wrapped in a tea towel and placed in a biscuit tin which was then lodged in a meat safe awaiting the arrival of the undertaker.
When he arrived some time later he found the open tin, the remnants of the tea towel and a very satisfied looking cat. The undertaker grabbed the cat, wrung its neck and put the remains of Hardy's heart back into the tin with the cat saying, 'Mr 'Ardy wanted his 'eart buried at Stinsford and buried at Stinsford Mr 'Ardy's 'eart shall be!'
And so the remains of the heart plus the cat are supposed to have been interred together.


But according to the memoirs of the young laundry girl the cat never ate the heart and that it was all a fallacy!
So I guess nobody will ever know!




Thursday, 16 August 2018

New Forest Fairy Festival 2018

Well, it wasn't the weather we would have liked but it didn't dampen anybody's enthusiasm at the Fairy Festival!
Here are a few quick snaps of our Gazebo:

The Shelf Faeries seem to have taken over this year, but I do sell cards of my artwork and my books such as The Faeries and Folklore of the British Isles, Faerie Flora and The Psychic Sisters series.











Sharing the Gazebo this year was 'The Ivory Dolls of Glastonbury' with an array of beautiful clothes and accessories.






Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Cauldrons; every witch should have one!


I thought I would start this blurb about the origins of the name but even this 
seems open to question... 
On one hand it is believed that the word ‘cauldron ‘comes from the 
Latin ‘caldaria' meaning cooking pot while some experts say that  word cauldron 
was first recorded in the middle ages as ‘caudroun' (13th century) and 
originally came from the Norman ‘caudron.’
Whatever the origins of the name the cauldron is often made of cast iron 
bronze or silver.
In domestic history they were used  as a cooking vessel but they are most commonly 
associated with witchcraft; a cliche popularized by works of fiction such 
as Macbeth where the three witches used a cauldron to prepare their potions.

A cauldron according to legend was the most important tool in a witches house and 
would be used to brew up vile potions using such ingredients as bats blood, decapitated 
and flayed toads, snakes and baby fat. 
Before every Sabbat the witch would prepare their flying ointment using the cauldron
 and  for the feast broiled children were the preferred snack!
If that wasn’t enough fun after the sabbat they would ride on their brooms out 
over the ocean and  dump the contents of their cauldrons in to the seas so causing
 storms across the ocean or by throwing locks of their hair into the water.


Some more bizarre cauldrons were used such as the one belonging to Lady 
Alice Kyteler. This Irish witch used the skull of a beheaded robber for mixing up 
her potions and poisons.
She was the first recorded person condemned to death in Ireland, however she did escape. But her servant was caught, flogged and burnt to death.




The Gundestrop Cauldron from Denmark
This cauldron was fashioned out of silver in about 100 BC and 
found in a peat bog in Gundestrop, Denmark. The decorations depict victims 
being plunged headfirst into a sacrificial cauldron.


The cauldron is a symbol of rebirth, the hearth and of abundance and well being. There are many stories from the Ancient Celts that tell of cauldrons from which endless food would pour and nobody would ever go hungry, and the dead if thrown in would return to life albeit  without the ability to speak. Some say that they also lacked their soul.
In Wicca the cauldron is associated with the goddess, Cerridwen, it not only symbolises the goddess but also the womb. She was an enchantress in Welsh medieval legends and she possessed a cauldron of poetic inspiration in which she made a magical brew of herbs, roots and the foam of the ocean, prepared according to the movements of the heavenly bodies. This potion brewed for a year and a day to yield three drops which bestowed knowledge, inspiration and science.
She is regarded by many modern Pagans as the goddess of rebirth, transformation and inspiration.
She possessed the gifts of prophecy and shape shifting and is associated with water and the Moon which represents the emotions, the unconscious and intuition. 


The Lisdrumturk Cauldron
Found in 1854 Co Monaghan by turf cutters.
Dated late Bronze Age

Among the Celts, the priestess of the moon goddess was required to sacrifice human
victims by cutting off their heads over a silver cauldron. The blood was then boiled
 to produce a magical drink of inspiration.



Example of a bronze ritual tripod cauldron with cover
from the 5th to 4th century BC, China.

A 14th century Wizard Lord William Soulis was executed using a cauldron. He was described as being a pernicious wizard and perpetrator of the most foul sorceries. According to legend he was capable of summoning demons, the most prominent was Robin Redcap with which he engaged in so many acts of evil depravity that his own castle began to sink into the earth to 'hide its sin from God'
Complaints about Soulis's behaviour reached the King, Robert the Bruce, and 
he cried out " Soules! Soules! Go boil him brew!"
Soulis was so unpopular by then that the locals took the King at his word and caught and bound him, using a specially forged chain to bind him as no ordinary rope could contain his evil powers. They took him to the summit of Nine Stang Rig and put him a cauldron of molten lead and suspended it over a large fire.





These days cauldrons are not used for such violent acts, I hope,. They represent the female aspect of divinity, the womb and are used in conjunction with wands, swords, athames in symbolic representation of The Great Rite  which is the ritualised sexual connection between god and goddess)


Interestingly enough many of the cauldrons used through out southern England from 1650 onwards were made in Somerset. The villages of South Petherton and Montacute were major centres of production. And the Museum of Somerset holds the largest collection of English cauldrons in existence.


Bronze cauldron from a foundry in South Petherton with the makers name of William Sturton II.
This foundry was producing goods from 1630's to 1690's.

Oh and an interesting snippet to finish with.... 
Leprechauns hide their gold inside cauldrons, so check yours before use!











Friday, 9 February 2018

St Apollonia's Day and a cure for toothache!







The 9th February is St Appollonia's Day, and is dedicated to the memory of 
an aged Christian matron of Alexandria. She was one of a group of virgin 
martyrs who were persecuted during a local uprising against the Christians 
prior to the persecution by Decius, who was Roman Emperor from 249 to 251.
According to legend her torture included having all of her teeth pulled out 
or shattered. 

"Her persecutors seized her and by repeated blows broke all her teeth, then then erected outside the city gates a great  pile of faggots and threatened to burn her alive if she refused to renounce her faith. Given at her own request a little freedom she sprang quickly into the fire and was burned to death."
Taken fr om an account written in 1260


For this she has become the patron saint of dentists and those suffering with toothache.




A sure cure for toothache taken from The Homish Apothocary 1561

"The grey worms breeding beneath wood or stones and having many feet, and 
when they be touched they do cluster together like porkenpicks. These pierced 
through with a bodkin and put into the tooth that aceth allayeth the pain."


This is an American advert from 1885 offering the Cocaine toothpaste for sale which gives  an ‘instantaneous cure’

Cocaine was the first local anesthetic to be used but with its addictive side effects it its use was soon abandoned by health care professionals.
No....really?!






The first written mention of toothache was found on a Sumerian clay tablet which dates from around 5000BC. The tablet is now referred to as ‘The Legend of the Worm’ as in ancient civilisations it was believed that tooth decay and dental pain was caused by tooth worms. This belief persisted until the Age of Enlightenment which was an intellectual movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century.

A priest -physician Andrew Boorde in the 15th cen-tury recommended a de worming technique for the teeth. ‘ And if the toothache do come by worms make a candle of wax with Henbane seeds and light it and let the  perfume of the candle enter the tooth and gape over a dish of cold water and then you may take the worms out of the water and kill them on your nail.’

Leo Kanner in his article The folkore of the Teeth cites the following remedy from Brandenburg 
Germany.
‘ One takes a mouthful of salt and goes with it in the evening silently, without greeting or addressing any-one to the churchyard. There make a hole over the last grave, cross two blades of straw over the hole and spit the salt upon it. Then close the hole with mud and the patient goes home as silently as he came. The toothache will disappear and never come back’

Or another recommendation from the same area in Germany is that the toothache can be relieved by kissing a donkey!


Not recommended by modern day Dentists!


Ancient Greeks similarly believed that a mouth wash made from donkey milk would help promote strong teeth and gums.
If you don’t fancy kissing a donkey there are few other remedies like spitting into the mouth of a frog in the hope that it will take the pain from you or you could suck on the freshly extracted tooth from a corpse!
Or visit your local Blacksmith as they used to perform dental work as well as tending to your horse...




I think that's enough about teeth!












Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Snowdrop




 One of the first flowers of spring, and
  commonly known as the flower of hope. 
   Although its beauty symbolises purity,
 it is widely regarded as a omen of death and as such
is considered to be unlucky to take into 
the house of anybody who is sick, except
in Shropshire where bunches of the flowers are 
taken into the house to purify it.

After Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, Eve stood
 weeping and surveying the  snowy wilderness to which they had been sent 
when an angel appeared. 
The glowing figure caught a falling snowflake, breathed on it and then
 handed it to Eve:

‘This is an earnest wish, Eve to thee
That sun and summer soon shall be’

The angel vanished and where she had stood the snow had turned 
into a carpet of snowdrops.


From 'Faerie Flora'

Candlemas: St Mary's Feast of the Candles

The 2nd of February is officially the Feast of Purification and the presentation of Christ in the Temple.
Forty day s after Jesus's birth Mary ritually cleansed herself and presented her child in the Temple at Jerusalem. During this visit she met Simeon who prophesied that Jesus would  be a light to lighten the Gentiles. So it is tradition on this day that lights and candles are blessed in church and candlelit services and processions are held.



Candlemas Day, plant beans in the day

Put candles and candlesticks away.
If Candlemas Day bring snow and rain
Winter is gone and won't come again
If Candlemas Day be clear and bright
Winter will have another flight

This ancient festival also marks the midway point of winter, halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox.



Apart from the weather superstitions a few more abound around Candlemas; anybody who hears funeral bells on Candlemas will soon hear of a death of a  close friend or relative; each bell that tolls represent  a day that will pass before the unfortunate news is heard.
Sailors who are always very superstitious are reluctant to set sail on this day as they believe that any voyage begun today will end in disaster.






The Snowdrop in purest white arraie
First rears her head on Candlemas daie
circa 1500