Sunday, 31 August 2014

Believe in the Faeries
Who make the dreams come true
Believe in the wonder,
The Stars and the Moon,
Believe in the magic,
From Faerie above,
They dance on the flowers
And sing songs of love.
And if you just believe,
And always stay true,
The Faeries will be there,
To watch over you.


Friday, 29 August 2014

Anne Jefferies and the faeries

There are many tales of people visiting faerieland and it happened to a young girl called Anne Jefferies in the middle of the 17th century. She was the daughter of a poor labourer in the parish of St Teath, Cornwall. At the age of nineteen she was lucky enough to secure a position as servant in the house of the a Mr Moses Pitt who also lived in St Teath. Although she was considered by her employer to a staid and sensible girl, little did they realise that she spent many hours wandering around the countryside looking for the faeries. She would wander through the woods and across the hills, singing in an attempt to draw them out.

'Faerie Fair, Faerie bright
Come and be my chosen sprite'

This went on for many weeks, but she caught no sight of the little people of Cornwall. But not down hearted  she would wander through the moonlit nights again and again singing to draw them out for she knew that the fae could not resist music and would eventually come to her.

'Moon shines bright, waters run clear
I am here, but where’s my faerie dear?'

Then one morning she was sat in her employer’s garden doing some mending when the faeries eventually appeared to her. She looked up and saw six little men walking across the lawn towards her, they were splendidly dressed in green and one sported a long red feather in his cap. It was this little faerie that climbed into her lap and began to kiss her neck and face, he then gently touched her eyes and all went black. There was a loud rushing noise and when Anne opened her eyes she had been transported to faerieland. It was most beautiful place, the houses and palaces were made of gold and silver, the lakes and rivers were full of leaping brightly coloured fish and all the trees and bushes were laden with fruit and berries. In this place the little people were no smaller than Anne herself so she could join in all their games and could wear as splendid clothes as her hosts.
Anne stayed there for many days until the faerie men started to squabble over her, all wanting to be her favourite. Although Anne wished to stay in faerieland with her little friends, the faerie who had blinded her the first time, touched her eyes again and she was transported back to the garden. When Anne opened her eyes she was in the same spot, with the mending still in her lap and had apparently only been gone a few minutes. A crowd of anxious people had surrounded her, all thought she had had a strange convulsion, from which now she was recovered.

This was not the last encounter that Anne had with the faeries, they visited her many times; they passed on many of their healing crafts and gave her the gift of prophecy. Her cures became famous and her prophecies were all in favour of the Royalists. This and her zealous religious beliefs got her into trouble with Parliament. In 1646 she was imprisoned and charged with witchcraft by the famous John Tregeagle. She was sent to Bodmin gaol where Anne claimed that the faeries brought her food during her imprisonment, and reports from her gaolers confirmed that Anne would take no food from them. So the faerie food sustained her until she was released through lack of evidence

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

The Lavender Witch; serialised part 7

‘I can’t believe you’re serious! This is ridiculous.’ Rob looked in astonishment at his father- in- law.
‘That’s what I have been saying for the last few days and I still can’t believe it,’ said Gordon quietly.
‘But it happened,’ Kitty said firmly. ‘And we have to find out why she is haunting us.’
‘Are you sure she’s not out for revenge?’
‘Revenge against whom? We haven’t done anything to her; we’ve just got her fireplace.’
Rob was fidgeting impatiently with the bottle of whiskey.
‘Well I’m sure there must be an explanation for it, it sounds like you’re letting your imaginations run away with you,’ he stared at his wife and shook his head.
‘We weren’t Rob! You weren’t there; you didn’t see what it was like and that voice screaming outside!’ Eve shuddered. ‘It was awful.’
She looked at her parents. ‘You can’t go back there; you’ll have to sell the house.’
‘We’re not selling Eve, dad and I will get to the bottom of this.’
Gordon looked at his wife, his expression troubled.
 ‘I don’t know Kitty, perhaps we should sell.’
‘Gordon! After all the work we have put into the house and anyway I don’t feel that she means us any harm.’
‘Mother!’ Eve shouted at her. ‘Are you mad, after tonight how can you say that!’
‘I don’t know, it’s just a feeling I have.’
‘Well we’ll see, we’ll go back tomorrow and see what happens,’ said Gordon slowly.
‘You would get a good price for it,’ added Rob.
‘We’re not selling,’ Kitty said firmly. ‘And anyway we need to see Mrs Leavenham; she might know something that will help.’

A knock sounded on the cottage door but Hannah didn’t move from her position in front of the fire. She stared drearily into the flames and wished whoever it was would go away.
The latch clicked. ‘Hannah? Are you well me dear?’
She turned slowly. ‘Michael.’
He came further into the room, his cap clasped in his hand. ‘Missus sent I up to see if you needed anything.’
‘Is Mary well?’
‘Aye she’s doing well, baby as well. He’s a fine chap.’
‘You look after her mind and make sure she don’t do too much.’
‘Daughter can look after the house till she’s up on her feet again’
Michael looked at Hannah bent over the fire and then glanced at the empty crib near the wall.
‘Are you sure you’re well? You could come and stay with us for a few days till you feel
better. We’d make room for ‘ee.’
‘Now Michael Guppy you’ve enough mouths to feed in your house without inviting more people to your table.’
‘Well,’ he hesitated staring at her pale drawn face.  ‘Here’s something for your pot tonight,’ and laid a plump hare on the table. ‘I’ve skinned and gutted it for ‘ee.’
Hannah managed a faint smile. ‘You’re a kind man Michael.’
A pink tinge appeared on his cheeks. ‘Aw now, one good turn as they say.’
Hannah turned to look him squarely in the face. ‘I hear he’s been spreading tales about me again.’
‘Ay well, nobody takes any notice of him, we’m all know them tales ain’t true. There ain’t one of us in the village you haven’t helped at one time or another.’
‘Their memories be short Michael.’
‘Dunne worry Hannah everything will blow over soon enough. He’ll find somebody else to gripe about you wait and see.’
She turned back to the fire, her shoulders slumped. ‘Haven’t I suffered enough and still he hounds me, he’s a devil that one, curse him. He won’t be happy till he sees me gone. Damn him and his family.’
‘Now, now Hannah,’ Michael looked worried. ‘Don’t ‘ee let anybody hear you’m talking like that woman, that’ll just bring trouble.’
A tear rolled down her cheek. ‘Well why won’t he let me be? Hasn’t he done enough to me already, I don’t think he’s going to rest easy until he has every stick and stone that be mine.’
Hannah lifted her apron and wiped her face.
Michael shifted impatiently, twisting his cap in his hands.
 ‘Now you’d better be going or your Missus will think you’ve stopped off in the Red Lion.’
‘Are you sure you won’t come down to the village?’
‘No, no”,’ she sniffed. ‘No you get on I’ll be fine and thank ‘ee for the hare Michael’


Eve drove slowly into the drive and stopped just inside the gateway.
‘Are you sure about this?’
‘We’ll be fine,’ reassured Kitty. ‘Thanks for bringing us back.’
The house looked calm and welcoming in the early morning light, the light from the hall casting a warm glow onto the front doorstep.
‘You can stay with us if you need to, we don’t mind.’
‘Thanks Eve, but it was a bit of a squeeze with all of us and we can stay in a hotel tonight if we need to.’
 Gordon opened the car door and climbed out. ‘We left the lights on.’
‘I did tell you last night before we left,’ answered Kitty as she tried the front door. ‘You didn’t lock the front door either.’
She pushed the door open, inside the hall floor was covered in the leaves and twigs that had blown in the back door the day before and there was a fine covering of grit and sand over everything. Kitty’s feet crunched as she walked across the hall towards the kitchen.
‘Where did we put Mrs Leavenham’s phone number?’
Gordon hovered in the doorway. ‘It’s in the kitchen, pinned to the fridge.’
‘Come on in then and shut the door, we’ve got some tidying up to do.’
She looked at him hesitating in the doorway; he looked very ill at ease and was glancing nervously at the doorway into the front room.
‘Are you okay?’ she asked.
‘As fine as anybody could be under the circumstances.’
Nero padded after her into the kitchen and jumped into his box by the radiator and settled down with a satisfied grunt.
‘Well Nero is happy to be back.’
‘Stupid dog,’ grunted Gordon.
Eve stood next to her father, holding his arm and staring around the room. ‘Do you want me to stay and help clear up?’
Kitty was struggling to move the kitchen table away from the door.  ‘Come and help me move this then I can throw all this rubbish back into the garden, I knew I should have had the bonfire and not just left it.’Eve moved forward reluctantly into the room and took hold of the edge of the table and helped her mother drag it back into the middle of the kitchen.
‘Gordon can you get the broom?’
‘Why are you bothering with all this now, let’s just get hold of Mrs Leavenham.’
‘Well, you ring her while I clear this mess up,’ Kitty said firmly and pulled out the broom from behind the door of the utility room. ‘Look at this, there’s leaves in here as well.’
She brushed a pile of leaves out and into the middle of the kitchen and then stopped and looked at Gordon who was still hesitating in the doorway. ‘Well, are you going to call her?’
He gazed blankly at her.
‘Are you sure you’re okay?’ she asked.
‘Yes, yes I’m fine Kitty stop keeping on,’ he pulled the scrap of paper off the fridge and headed back to the hall. ‘I’ll phone her now.’
Eve hovered in the doorway looking first at her mother calmly sweeping the floor and then at Gordon.
‘Do you need me here mum?’
‘No dear, if you want to go I quite understand.’
‘I can’t stay here, I’m sorry, not after last night.’
Kitty propped the broom up against the table and went over to her.
 ‘It’s okay Eve,’ she patted her daughter on the arm. ‘We’ll be fine.’
‘Okay, if you’re sure then,’ Eve tried not to sound too relieved; she moved quickly to the front door and looked at her parents.
 ‘You will let me know what happens, won’t you?’
‘We will and thanks for running us back,’ said Gordon and gave her a hug.
Kitty looked at him enquiringly.
‘No answer I’m afraid.’
‘I’m going dad, okay?’
‘Yes go on Eve, we’ll be fine so don’t worry,’ he said calmly for his daughter’s benefit. ‘There’s nothing to worry about.’
Gordon shut and locked the front door after Eve had driven off and walked slowly back into the kitchen, he looked at his wife impatiently. ‘Kitty, let’s leave all this and go down to the village.’
‘I’ve nearly finished Gordon, out of the way,’ she pushed him to one side and finished sweeping up the last of the leaves into the dustpan. ‘There all done.’
‘Now can we go?’
‘Well perhaps she’s not home.’
‘We can try; she may be at the shop already. I can’t stay here and twiddle my thumbs Kitty.’

The Post Office door was closed; the opening hours were taped onto the glass window.
‘We’re too early, let’s go and see if she’s at home, she should be at this time of the day.’
They both jumped and turned eagerly but it wasn’t Mrs Leavenham standing behind them, it was a woman they had never seen before.
‘Good morning,’ responded Kitty politely.
‘Aren’t you the couple from the new house at the Castle Farm?’ she asked.
‘That’s right,’ Gordon looked at her curiously.
‘I’m Sheena, from the pub. My husband said you had come in over the weekend,’ she looked eagerly at Kitty. ‘Malcolm said you were interested in attending a séance.’
‘Oh well,’ began Kitty. ‘I thought it sounded interesting, actually..’ Kitty had a sudden thought. ‘Have you held many séances?’
‘Well not here, it’s been difficult to find people who are open minded enough to accept the spirit world in this area. Would you be interested?’ she added hopefully.
‘I think you may be able to help us, would you consider holding a séance in our house?’
Gordon looked at Kitty doubtfully. ‘I’m not sure that’s a good idea Kitty,’ he interrupted.
She glanced at him impatiently and rushed on, ‘It might help us and it’s worth a try.’
Sheena looked at the couple and excitedly tugged at the string of beads around her neck.
 ‘I would love to hold one for you; perhaps we could get a group together?’
‘No!’ they both said quickly. ‘It would be better if we keep it to just us three,’ Kitty added  ‘We’re being troubled by a spirit.’
‘Really!’ Sheena looked delighted. ‘How exciting.’
Gordon stared at her coldly.
 ‘No it isn’t actually, it’s bloody frightening.’
‘Oh yes of course, of course if you’re not used to the presence of spirits then it would be unsettling,’ she nodded at them. ‘When would you like to hold it?’
‘As soon as possible, like now really.’
‘Now? That’s rather short notice. I’d have to fetch a few things and prepare myself mentally for it. Tonight would be better, in the dark.’
‘It has to be dark?’ queried Kitty.
‘No! Definitely not in the dark,’ said Gordon firmly.
Kitty looked at him. ‘No you’re probably right. Could you do it in an hour or so?’
‘Why! You are in a rush, we can try, there’s no guarantee of course that the spirits will turn up so to speak.’
‘Oh I don’t think that is going to be a problem Sheena,’ Gordon added drily. ‘I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.’
‘Oh this is so exciting, so it’s Gordon and Kitty isn’t it?’
‘Yep, that’s right.’
Sheena half turned.
 ‘I’ll go and fetch a few things and let my husband know, I’m sure he’ll be able to manage on his own for a few hours.’
‘Just come up when you’re ready.’
Sheena waved a hand over her shoulder as she hurried back to the Witch and Broomstick then suddenly stopped and came back.
‘Oh dear, I forgot what I came for,’ she giggled and pushed a handful of letters into the post box set into the wall of the Post Office. ‘Now I won’t be long.’
‘Okay,’ Gordon called after her as she hurried down the narrow village street, the clacking of her heels bouncing off the stone walls of the cottages.
 He turned to Kitty ‘Are you sure about this?’
‘Who better to help than somebody who holds séances?’
‘Hmm, well shall we go and see if Sybil is at home?’

Priddy Cottage was not far from the Post Office and just a hundred yards farther on than The Witch and Broomstick. They walked past, still closed this early in the morning but coming from inside they could hear Sheena’s voice raised in excitement.
The cottage was in a row of small stone built cottages just in front of the church, a steep path led up to the lichgate at the rear of the houses and behind the church was the small neatly kept graveyard.
‘Quiet neighbours,’ remarked Gordon.
Kitty looked at him and half smiled. ‘You just couldn’t resist could you?’ then knocked firmly on the front door. Heavy net curtains hung at the small windows and the curtains were still half drawn. A bright pink potted pelargonium stood on the windowsill.
‘She must be out.’
‘Bugger the woman, what’s she doing, a woman of her age should be at home.’
‘She’s allowed a social life Gordon, perhaps she’s out visiting a neighbour.’
‘Well she shouldn’t be,’ he answered crossly.
‘Stop being so touchy.’
‘I think after the last few days I am entitled to be feeling a bit touchy!’
‘Let’s just go home and we’ll try again later,’ Kitty took his arm and gave it a squeeze. ‘Come on.’
‘Okay you’re right, let’s go home and get ready for the séance. Although God only knows what that will bring,’ he suddenly stopped. ‘Talking of God only knows I wonder if there is a vicar living in the village.’
‘What for?’
‘An exorcism of course.’
‘Do they still do that?’
‘How the hell should I know? I’m a logistics manager. I’m a bit out of my depth here.’
‘Doesn’t it cast the spirit into outer darkness or purgatory or something?’
‘As long as it casts her out of my house I don’t care.’
Gordon looked at her curiously.
 ‘Yes, her, Hannah. Who else?’
Kitty’s steps slowed. ‘I don’t know Gordon, I don’t know why but I feel that she’s not trying to harm us.’
‘Are you serious after yesterday?’
‘Was that Hannah? All the noise and the wind? I don’t know Gordon I really don’t.’
‘Well I’m at a loss as well, I thought I could handle this,’ Gordon stopped and swung round to face his wife. “But the worst thing is that she was talking to little Emily, and Emily could see her!’
‘I know Gordon I was there! Perhaps she was murdered and she’s not at peace, but I don’t understand what that has got to do with us.’
 Kitty looked puzzled and stared up the street in the direction of Orchard Cottage.
Gordon put his arm around her shoulder.
 ‘Come on, it looks like we’ll be finding out soon.’
‘I hope so and I hope Sheena knows what she is doing.’
Kitty’s steps slowed again as they walked past the farmyard, she glanced in but the place looked deserted.
‘Do you think we should tell Mr Beamish what’s happening?’
‘No definitely not, I think we should keep this to ourselves, we wouldn’t want him to die of fright.’
Kitty half laughed. ‘I think he’s tougher than that Gordon.’
The couple reached the end of the old stone wall and stopped at the entrance of the driveway; the house looked quiet and gave no clue as to the events that had occurred over the last few days.
Gordon sighed and gave her hand a squeeze. ‘Come on then, let’s go in and get ready for the great event.’
‘I suppose we should have asked her if she needed anything for it.’ mused Kitty.
‘Like what?’
‘I don’t know, candles maybe, sacrificial goat. I haven’t done this before you know.’
‘We haven’t got any candles or a goat; she’ll have to make do with the dog.’
‘She’s not having the dog! She can have you instead.’
‘Seriously though Kitty I’m not comfortable with this at all,’ he hesitated as he spoke and glanced around. ‘I just hope it doesn’t make the situation worse.’
‘Well what else can we do?’ Kitty said hesitantly. ‘Apart from move. But I think it’s worth a try and I’m sure she’ll be able to help.’

She turned and looked back down the path.
‘Hello me dear, what are you doing up here this early?
‘We’ve been baking and I made an extra loaf for you. I smuggled it out under my pinafore.’
The young girl sounded triumphant as she pulled back the soiled white apron and showed Hannah the loaf.
‘That’s kind of ‘ee but you mustn’t bring me any more food, if he should find out what you’ve been doing...’ her voice trailed off.
‘I’ll be careful Hannah, dunnee worry.’
They both started as a dog barked farther down the hill.
‘That’ll be him, get going child and don’t let him see you.’
‘Aye I’d better,’ she looked nervously over her shoulder. ‘I’ll come up later in the week, he’s off to the market in Axminster on Thursday,’ she giggled. ‘I think he’s going courting.’
‘Now you be careful...oh quick!’ Hannah grabbed her by her thin shoulders.
 ‘Hide, he be here.’
The child ducked out of sight behind the brambles, barely breathing in the hope that he or the dog wouldn’t notice her crouching in the bushes.
‘Now then woman, what are you doing?’
‘Nothing that’s any of your business so go on and let I be.’
‘Don’t you tell me what my business is Hannah Beamish. You’re a blight,’ he ground out. ‘A blight on this village, we all know that. With your potions and spells, who knows what demons you call up...this is a good Christian village. You should go from here and leave us in peace.’
‘Demons! There’s only one demon in this village and that’s you. Don’t you think I don’t know where all this nasty tittle tattle has come from, you evil bugger.’
His face flushed with rage and he drew his teeth back in a snarl. ‘Evil? You’d know all about that you old hag!’
‘If Samuel was alive you wouldn’t talk to me this way.’
‘That cripple’s gone and good riddance to him and his brat,’ he spat at her.
‘Damn you!’ she said in quiet fury. ‘Damn you to hell.’
His face twisted and he lunged at her raising his stick in a shaking hand.
‘No! Don’t you dare!’
The little girl tumbled out from behind the bramble bushes and rushed over to Hannah and stood between the two furious adults.
‘Leave her be.’ she shouted at him.
‘You! What are you doing here? I don’t pay you to dawdle about on this hill. Get on back to the farm and get on with your chores or you’ll feel my stick across your back.’
Hannah reached forward and put a protective arm around her thin trembling body.
‘You touch this child and you’ll be sorry.’
‘This is all your doing leading this brat astray, encouraging her to waste my time. I’m taking it out of your wages,’ he yelled at the child. ‘I’ve a good mind to send you home, let your parents deal with you.’
Hannah held her tighter and glared at him.
‘Get off my land.’
He stared at her for a second his mouth working in fury and without another word he turned and stalked off down the path.
Hannah heaved a trembling sigh and gave the girl a little shake.
‘Now get on back quick and go into the dairy and find Rosie. She won’t stand no nonsense from him. Now go.’ Hannah gave her a little push.
‘Will you be alright up here on your own?’
‘I’ll be alright, now go on with you.’
The young girl nodded and picking up her heavy skirt and petticoats pushed her way through the hawthorn hedge so she could take a short cut across the fields back to the farm.

There was an enthusiastic rapping on the door shortly after they had arrived home, Gordon was busy in the front room pulling out the dining table and arranging three chairs around it.
‘Kitty she’s here,’ he called.
‘That might not be Sheena; we’ve only been back fifteen minutes.’
 Kitty hurried through from the kitchen and cautiously opened the door and peered out.
 ‘Oh it is you. Hello,’ she opened the door wider. ‘Come on in Sheena. Gordon is just sorting out some chairs for us.’
‘Hi Katy.’
‘Oh sorry, Kitty, Malcolm is so sorry that he couldn’t come as well but he’s expecting a delivery this morning. I’ve been telling him all about it and he was so jealous..’
‘Well, we did want to keep it to the three of us Sheena.’
‘Well yes of course but Malcolm always came to our meetings in Surrey, he’s such an enthusiastic spiritualist, he has such energy, such positive vibrations, very good for the circle..,’ she giggled slightly with excitement.
‘Well come on in, I think we’re ready for you.’
‘I’ve brought all my things with me, candles, cards and my Ouija board,’ she bustled into the front room and gazed around curiously. ‘This room has such a calm aura, a 
perfect choice for this meeting, well done. I’m surprised to hear you’ve been troubled with spirits though,’ she looked at Gordon curiously. ‘As it’s a new property, that’s quite unusual.’
‘Surprised isn’t the word I would have chosen Sheena, but I agree we weren’t expecting this in a new home either.’
‘I’ll put the kettle on. What would you like Sheena, tea or coffee?’ asked Kitty.
‘Oh no, not for me; no caffeine while I’m working.’
‘Oh well perhaps a glass of water then?’
‘That would be fine thanks.’
‘Have you done this before?’ asked Gordon. ‘I’m a bit uncomfortable with the idea of a séance.’
“Now don’t worry Gordon,’ she patted him on the arm and smiled encouragingly. ‘Everything will be fine.’
Sheena placed her bag on the table and pulled out two dumpy candles and a pack of brightly coloured tarot cards and arranged them neatly before she pulled out one of the chairs and sat down.
‘Now I will just cleanse my chakras and centre myself and then we can begin.’
Gordon stared at her then glanced across at Kitty hovering in the doorway, he raised an eyebrow.
Kitty frowned at him and shook her head slightly at him warningly.
‘I’ll just fetch a glass of water for you, Gordon would you like anything?’
‘I know it’s early but I think I’m going to need a whiskey, make it a big one.’
‘Oh no, no,’ interrupted Sheena. ‘No alcohol, no stimulants, it will cloud our auras, we must all keep a clear awareness during this meeting.’
‘You expect me to do this sober?’ he joked grimly.
Sheena’s plump little face beamed at him. ‘There is nothing to fear from the spirit world, as you will soon find out. Now I must prepare.’ Sheena slipped off her shoes and settled her bare feet flat on the carpet.  ‘I need to ground myself,’ she explained to Kitty in answer to her puzzled face.
 She then sat straight backed on the chair and closed her eyes and began to breathe deeply, with her hands palm upwards on her knees.
Gordon rolled his eyes and stared grimly at Kitty, shaking his head slightly. She raised a finger to her lips and left the room quietly to fetch the water. When she returned she was carrying a glass for Sheena and a small tumbler of smoky orange liquid which she handed to Gordon.
‘There you are,’ she said quietly to her husband.
Sheena suddenly opened her eyes and flexed her fingers.
 ‘Now I’m ready,’ she gestured to Kitty and Gordon. ‘Come and sit down.’
They pulled out a chair each and sat down opposite her.
‘Now let’s light the candles and we’ll begin. Could you draw the curtains please?’
‘No,’ said Gordon flatly.
She looked surprised at the sharp reply.
 ‘Well it’s not absolutely necessary I suppose,’ she looked slightly annoyed. ‘If you’re going to be more comfortable like this it will have to do.’
She settled herself back into the chair and closed her eyes again.
‘We’ll just ask the spirits to communicate with us,’ Sheena began to breathe deeply. ‘Spirits are you there? Give us a sign that you are present,’ she paused. ‘Spirits,’ she intoned in a flat low voice. ‘Draw near to us and make yourself known,’ Sheena paused and began again. ‘Spirits are you with us?’
‘Obviously not,’ interjected Gordon sarcastically.
‘Gordon be quiet,’ snapped Kitty. ‘I’m so sorry Sheena.’
‘Now negative energies will impede the flow of communications from the spirit world, so please Gordon and you as well Kitty send out positive thoughts and love to the spirits.’
Sheena sat in silence for a while and then sighed.
‘I’m afraid the spirits are not cooperating today, the atmosphere can’t be right, too negative perhaps,’ she glanced at Gordon as she said this.
‘Oh dear,’ Kitty sounded disappointed. ‘I really hoped this would help.’
Sheena looked at the couple hopefully.
 ‘We could try my Ouija board.’
Gordon and Kitty looked at her in consternation and then at each other.
‘We’re not too keen on using this board of yours Sheena. I’ve heard strange stories about Ouija boards and we definitely do not want to make matters worse.’
Kitty nodded in agreement.
Sheena sighed ‘But don’t you think it would be worth trying. We have a good chance of getting a result with the board.’
They sat silently as they considered it; Kitty rubbed her hands together nervously and stared at the board that Sheena had placed on the table.
‘Gordon what shall we do?’
He groaned and rubbed his hands over face. ‘Okay then let’s give it a whirl. Let’s try the Ouija board. How does it work?’ he asked leaning forward and staring at it.
‘It’s quite simple really, we place our fingertips on the movable indicator and the spirits will move it in response to our questions, either by pointing it to yes or no or by spelling out words from the letters at the bottom. It’s easy really.’
They placed their fingertips tentatively onto the triangular shaped indicator and looked at Sheena.
‘Now just relax and think about the spirit that you wish to communicate with, visualise him or her in your mind.’
Sheena closed her eyes and called out calmly ‘Spirit, are you here, reveal yourself to us. Make yourself known to us.’
While she was talking Kitty closed her eyes and let her mind wander when unbidden an image of the cottage on the hill popped into her head.Then under her fingertips she felt the board jerk.
‘Jesus! It’s moving!’ Gordon snatched his hands away and sat back in alarm.
‘Gordon! We might have been getting something.’
‘Oh how exciting,’ Sheena clapped her hands together excitedly. ‘Let’s try again.’
Gordon reluctantly placed his fingers back on the board.
‘Now clear your minds again and relax. Is there a spirit present who wishes to communicate? Give us a sign that you are here.’
The indicator on the board remained still.
‘Spirit, are you present?’Sheena asked again.
Gordon shook his head at Kitty. ‘This is ridiculous, she must have pushed it.’
‘This does work Gordon,’ Sheena snapped at him. ‘Now let’s try again and please keep quiet.’
She closed her eyes again and drew a few deep breaths. ‘Spirits,’ she intoned. ‘Are you present? Do you wish to communicate with any of us?’
The indicator remained stubbornly still.
Gordon leant forward and looked at his wife.  ‘Kitty, you try.’
Sheena opened her eyes and stared at her. ‘Why should that work?’ she asked.
Gordon turned to her. ‘She has spoken to Kitty before.’
‘Really,’ Sheena looked a bit annoyed. ‘I wish you had told me that before that you have been in communication with the spirit.’
‘Would it have made a difference?’ Gordon answered sharply. ‘You’re supposed to be the expert.’
‘Does it matter?’ interjected Kitty trying to keep the atmosphere calm. ‘Let’s just try again.’
Gordon reluctantly placed his fingers back onto the board.  ‘Come on then.’
Kitty drew a deep breath and placed her shaking fingers next to Gordon’s and tried to clear her thoughts and remain calm. Sheena and Gordon however were looking increasingly annoyed with one another.
‘Go on Kitty, you try now,’ he said firmly.
‘I am the spirit’s mouthpiece so any communication should come through me.’ Sheena pointed out briskly.
‘Well they don’t seem to want to speak to you.’
She drew her hands back from the board and sat back in her chair, her face flushing in annoyance.
‘The atmosphere is not right for communicating with the spirit realm, there are too many negative energies, I can’t work with negative energies around me.’
Kitty kept her hands firmly on the board. ‘Let me try then,’ she asked quietly. ‘Do you wish to speak to me?’
The pointer juddered under her fingers and slowly slid across the board to point at the word YES.
There was chilled silence in the room.
Gordon and Sheena leant forward; she stretched out her hands to place them next to Kitty’s.
‘No, leave it,’ Gordon pushed her hands away. ‘Go on Kitty.’
‘Why are you here?’ she asked.
It started to move slowly again, first sliding across to the letter Y then back slowly across the board to the letter O and then to the U.
‘You,’ breathed Sheena slowly.
‘Why do you want to speak to me? What do you want?’
‘One question at a time Kitty.’
‘What do you want to say to me?’
The pointer began to move slowly again across the board, quickly gathering speed as it spelled out the word A V A.
‘AVA, what’s that?’ asked Kitty puzzled.
‘Who, it’s a name.’
‘Who is Ava?’ asked Sheena.
‘I don’t know any Ava.’ Kitty suddenly looked worried. ‘You don’t think it means Eve do you?’
‘Ask the spirit to identify itself Kitty,’ instructed Sheena.
‘Spirit, who are you?’
The indicator lurched into movement again.
H  A N  A H
‘Hannah Beamish? Are you Hannah Beamish?’
‘Why are you here?’
Sheena turned to her and grasped her arm, her hand trembling.
 ‘There is a connection somewhere you must think.’
‘I don’t know of any Ava’s,’ she answered.
‘Ask her.’
‘Hannah, who is Ava?’
‘Ava was your friend?’
Gordon sat forward suddenly. ‘Ask her if Ava was Mrs Leavenham’s grandmother.’
‘Now Gordon that’s far too complicated a question,’ Sheena leaned towards Kitty. ‘It has to be simpler.’
Kitty stared at the board thoughtfully. ‘Hannah, is Ava related to Sybil?’
The pointer remained still under her fingers.
‘Well, we’ll take that as a no then,’ sighed Gordon. ‘And we are none the wiser as to why she is here.’
‘It’s something to do with you and somebody called Ava, is it a family member?’
‘I don’t know of anybody called Ava in the family, I’m sure I would have remembered a name like that.’
 Kitty sighed and sat back from the table, and rested her shaking hands in her lap. She looked across at her husband.
‘And we didn’t see any Avas in the records we have been looking at.’
‘You have been researching this?’ queried Sheena.
‘Of course we have, you would not believe what’s been happening here over the last few days,’ said Gordon.
The three sat around the table each lost in their thoughts until one by one they noticed a drop in the temperature of the room.
‘It’s getting cold, this is usually a sign that a spirit is close,’ Sheena closed her eyes. ‘Spirit show yourself, make yourself known to us.’
‘No!’ Kitty said quickly. ‘That’s not Hannah.’
 A wave of nausea swept over her and she suddenly retched, putting her hand up to her mouth. The faint fragrance of lavender that had lingered around the room was suddenly swamped by a strange acrid smell.
‘A spirit draws near, I feel that this is a male, he is not at rest. He is seeking something.’
She opened her eyes and looked at Kitty in alarm.  ‘He is being drawn to you; he has a very negative aura Kitty.’
As she spoke the table began to rock backwards and forwards, the Ouija board was violently swept from the table by an unseen hand and sent flying across the room crashing into the fireplace.
‘What’s happening?’ said Sheena in a panic. ‘Spirits aren’t supposed to be aggressive like this.’
Their breaths were clearly visible in the freezing room and Kitty began to shiver.
Gordon took her arm ‘Come on let’s get out of here, it’s not safe.’
He pulled her up from the chair and put an arm around her shoulder. Gordon looked across at the frightened psychic.  
‘Get your things Sheena and come on.’
‘We should stay and try to find out what this spirit wants, what it  needs to be at peace, don’t you think?’ she asked in doubtful voice.
‘You can stay if you want to but we are leaving.’
The room grew darker.
‘It’s so cold,’ Sheena clutched her bag to her chest. ‘I don’t know what to do,’ she confessed.
‘I thought you were supposed to be the expert,’ Kitty snapped.
‘Let’s just go,’ Gordon grabbed the arms of the two women and pulled them towards the hall. ‘We’ll argue later.’
‘Nothing like this has happened to me before; we just read tea leaves and used the Tarot cards.’
Kitty pulled her arm away from Gordon’s grasp and swung around to face Sheena.
 ‘We assumed you knew what you were doing you silly woman.’
‘I’m sorry; it wasn’t supposed to be like this.’
‘Come on we’re going Kitty, you too Sheena.’
Gordon pushed the two women into the hall, Nero was already there whining and scratching at the front door. It was hardly open before the dog pushed his way through and ran out barking into the driveway.
‘I need my handbag Gordon.’
‘Leave it, I’ll come back later and get a few things.’
‘On your own?’
‘Weren’t you listening Kitty?’ Gordon looked at her amazement and shook her arm. ‘Whatever or whoever is being drawn to you. Do you really think I’m going to let you back into that damn house?’
‘I think Gordon is right, this spirit’s aura was so evil Kitty, you shouldn’t go anywhere near here.’
She looked nervously at the house and edged away. ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t help you more but this is beyond me.’
‘I was afraid this would make it worse...’ he snapped turning on her. Catching sight of Kitty’s white face he swallowed the rest of his sentence and did his best to talk calmly.
‘Let’s walk Sheena down to the village,’ he suggested and turned to Sheena. ‘Could Kitty stay with you for a while? Then I can come back and get the car.’
She looked at them hesitating for a while. ‘Well...’
 Kitty looked at the reluctant expression on her face and said quickly ‘It’s okay, I’ll go and see if I can find Sybil while I’m waiting for Gordon.’
Sheena breathed a visible sigh of relief.
 ‘Well of course, you’re more than welcome to come in and wait,’ she lied.
‘No really, I’ll be fine,’ Kitty looked at her husband. ‘If she’s not in then I will go and wait in the church.’
‘Right I will just walk you down there and then I’ll come back.’
‘We ought to ring Eve in case she tries to get hold of us again.’ Kitty said looking doubtfully into the hall.
Gordon pushed her away from the door. ‘I’ll do that later, don’t worry.’
He pulled the front door shut and followed the women along the drive.
Sheena was walking quickly in front of them and was soon out of earshot.
‘I’m guessing she’ll be taking up another hobby after this,’ he said drily watching her hurry past the farm entrance.
Kitty smiled weakly. ‘I don’t think she will be dropping in for coffee either.’
Gordon put an arm around her shoulder. ‘You’re shivering; I should have picked up a coat for you.’
‘It’s okay I just feel a bit sick, it was that awful smell. It was like something rotting,’ she raised a trembling hand to her mouth.
‘Take a few deep breaths,’ he said peering at her pale face.
Kitty slowed and put a hand to steady herself against the rough stone wall of the barn, she suddenly gulped and started to retch, bending double she was violently sick against the wall.
‘ Kitty,’ he exclaimed supporting her with an arm around her waist as she continued to painfully retch. ‘I’m so sorry, I should never have agreed to this.’ He looked at her anxiously as she slowly straightened. ‘How are you feeling now?’
Kitty scrabbled in her pocket for a tissue and shakily wiped her mouth.
‘That’s better I think.’
She blew her nose and leaned back against the wall. Closing her eyes she rubbed her fore head.
‘ I’ve got such a thumping headache.’
‘I should have picked up my phone and we could have called Eve, she would have been able to come and pick us up. What a fool!’ he said in exasperation. ‘Will you be alright to walk down to Sybil’s?’ he brushed the hair back from her face and looked at her in concern.
‘Just give me a minute, my legs are shaking.’ After a while the colour returned to her face and she pushed herself away from the wall, blew her nose and said ‘Okay let’s go.’
Kitty looped her arm through his and he held it firmly while they walked slowly down the lane and into the village.
The shop had opened by the time they reached it but Sybil was not behind the counter, Gordon peered in the door.
 ‘Hello,’ he called through the door. ‘Anybody there? Sybil? Perhaps she is out the back or something,’ he said hopefully.
The door in the back of the shop opened and a young man poked his head out.
‘Morning,’ he called. ‘Sorry to keep you,’ he backed through the door holding a tray of loaves. ‘We have just had a delivery and I’m up to my neck this morning,’ he smiled cheerfully at the couple standing in the doorway and placed the tray onto the counter.
‘Can I help you with anything?’
‘Yes,’ said Gordon quickly. ‘We were looking for Sybil, is she here this morning?’
The young man shook his head ruefully ‘I wish she was but she doesn’t work Wednesdays. She’s probably at home,’ he looked at them curiously. ‘Do you know where she lives?’
‘Yes, yes we do, thanks. We’ll go and see if she is at home.’
Kitty smiled faintly at him as they moved away from the entrance to the shop.
‘Okay,’ he called and started packing the loaves onto the shelf. Gordon waved his hand briefly and guided Kitty back to the street.
’Okay?’ he asked anxiously looking at her white face. ‘You’re a bit shaky still; will you be alright to walk on a bit further?’
She nodded slightly and sniffed. ‘Yeah I’m okay,’ she smiled slightly as they walked past the pub. ‘Fancy a pint?’
Gordon smiled slightly and hugged her. ‘I don’t think they would let us in, do you?’
There was no sign of Sheena, she had already disappeared into the Witch and Broomstick, the lights were off and the door was firmly closed.
Kitty looked at the door to the public bar. ‘Nope, I don’t think they are open for business this morning.’

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Mice of Horsehill Farm

The Mice of Horsehill Farm: Teasels Present

Deep in a wooded valley lies an old farm, a small bubbling stream 
flows past the old buildings. It's banks lined with young hazel and willow trees, 
and in the summer the farm is surrounded by a sea of  flowers and wild garlic.

Spillers, Teasel and their five children, Fullers, Marigold, Stickers, Twinkle
 and little Jersey live in the crumbling stone barn at Horsehill Farm.

Teasel’s Present is the first book in the series, and is one of the many adventures
that the small mice family has throughout this year.
In this adventure Teasel loses her birthday present, a beautiful brooch, 
and has to find who has taken it. 
With the help of her friends, Spiff the Faerie and Gorse the Brownie 
she retraces her steps and finds that the naughty squirrel Nuttella Rose
 has taken it, but can Teasel persuade her to give it back?

I was brought up on a farm deep in the Dorset countryside, Horsehill Farm in fact,
 and spent my childhood wandering about the woods and hills surrounding our home.
 As is the case at most farms they have their own small inhabitants, mice, rats ,
 bats, etc and I spent many hours watching and making up stories about their daily lives.
 So it seemed a natural thing to try and recreate this little world that I had pictured as a child.

'Teasel's Present' is a paperback, 27 pages, illustrated throughout with colour 
illustrations plus black and white  line drawings.
It is available from Amazon and my website  

                                            The next book in the series is ‘The Great Storm’

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Faerie Glamour

 The faerie's art of concealing their true appearance is called Glamour and 
is often used to deceive mortals. They can alter their own shape as well as 
the appearance of food , money and surroundings. So a splendid feast spread 
out on a beautiful gold table could be nothing more that nuts and berries laid on a log.
The use of faerie ointment on your eyes will allow you to see them in their 
true state but be careful the faeries do not find out as their wrath can be terrible
 and the user will be blinded.

The term Glamour comes from the Scottish word glaumerie which means magic, 
traditionally this power was used to capture mortal partners for
breeding. As mentioned before the faeries are always trying to improve their own 
race by mingling it with human blood.
To guard against this, it is customary for brides to be surrounded by bridesmaids 
similarly dressed so the fae would be confused when trying to seize the bride.
 This also applied to the groom, as the wedding night is considered to be the most
                                                powerful time for mating with faerie kind.
                         The bride or groom might be returned later but as time in faerie land is
                      different to the mortal world their family and friends would be old or dead.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Folklore surrounding childbirth

There are many myths and folklore surrounding childbirth and young infants, one of the most prevalent was that un-baptised children would be stolen by the faeries to replenish their failing stock. Changelings will be left in their place who would neither grow or flourish. 
Witches often collude with the faeries in return for payment. One story by Lady Wylde tells of a man who passing a remote house late at night overheard two women talking. One said ‘ I have put the dead child in place and have carried away this one. Wait until the moon rises and then take it to the Faerie Queen and you shall have the payment I promised.’
The man stood outside the window and waited until both women left the room then reaching in, took the sleeping child and carried it quickly home. In the morning there was a great lamentation in the village for the Lord of the Manor’s beautiful baby, who had just been born, lay dead in his cradle.
The man went to view the the little corpse laid out in the Lord’s hall and laughed aloud when he saw the little shrivelled corpse. He quickly explained before the parents took offence at his behaviour , and suggested to the Lord that he light a fire. He then went up to the cradle and said to the still form lying inside ‘If you do not get up I will throw you on the fire.’
The changeling, for that is what it was, grinned, opened it’s eyes and shot out of the cradle. But the man was too quick for it, he caught it and threw it onto the fire. As soon as the flames touched it, the changeling turned into a little black kitten and shot up the chimney.
The man hurried back to the village to collect the real child and restored it to the grateful parents.

Nursing mothers who had not been churched would also be at risk from being taken, they would be carried away to faerie land to suckle faerie babies. Human milk is much prized by the fae as they believe it might give their faerie babies the chance of a human soul.
A nursing mother was visited by a faerie who was carrying a small baby, she begged the mortal woman to give her child just one suck of her milk. The mother did so and was blessed with good luck for the rest of her life.

Midwives are also stolen by the faeries; it would seem that the fae babies cannot be delivered without human aid. However, they are always returned after the birth, with payment of a kind. The women are deluded into thinking that they have been given gold as payment but on inspection when they  have returned home will find it just a handful of leaves.
There is a well known tale from Scotland about Eilian of Garth and the midwife.
Eilian was a poor servant girl who worked long hard hours for a local midwife, When one day she disappeared it was agreed by her mistress and those about her that Eilian had gone off with the Faeries. The servant girl was not seen for some time until the midwife was called out one stormy night by a stranger to attend his wife, who was about to give birth. 
She was taken to a fine looking house and inside to a richly furnished room where a woman lay on a bed. After a while the baby was delivered and the father asked the midwife to rub an ointment onto the baby’s eyes, this she did but also accidentally smeared some onto one of her own eyes. 
Instantly the beautiful room disappeared and instead there was just a damp dark cave and on a bed of bracken and dry grass lay the servant girl Eilian. 
The midwife was seemingly paid well with gold coins but by the time she had hurried home they had disappeared and just dried leaves lay in her purse.
Several months passed before she saw the father again, strolling through the market place. He was very surprised that the midwife could see him to enquire after  Eilian and the baby. He inquired with which eye did the midwife see him with and when he discovered which one, that eye went blind.

First we bought the porridge-crock
And then we bought the ladle,
And then we bought a little cheeld,
And had to buy a cradle.

In some parts of Cornwall a cake was made after the birth called a groaning cake, ( I wonder why!) and every visitor to the house was offered a piece. It was regarded as ill mannered to refuse.
A ginger haired child was thought to be undesirable. If the birth took place between mid-night and cockcrow the next morning on a Friday the child would have special powers, enabling it to see spirits, to be beyond the power of witches and to possess knowledge only reserved for a chosen few.
A child born between the old and new moon would have a short life and those with a blue veined nose would not reach its 21st birthday. No baby’s hands were washed during the first year for it’s riches would be washed away and cutting it’s nails during this time would make it a thief. Hair was also allowed to grow until the moon waned, thus preventing baldness in later life.
A left handed child will never do any good so it must at once be made to  use the right hand.

Baptism is the most important event after birth, it was believed that if the child died before being baptized it’s spirit was doomed to flutter for ever as a ‘Spunky’ and would be seen as a ‘Will of the Wisp’ and flutter about lanterns at night in the form of moths.
So it was thought necessary to get the child christened as soon as possible, especially if the child was sickly. In south Somerset the journey to the church was nearly as important as the ceremony. Everybody in the party would be dressed up in their best and the leader of the procession would carry bread and cheese, which would be offered to any stranger that they met upon the road. It was slightly different in Cornwall, a large currant cake would be carried known as ‘the cheeld’s fuggan’ or ‘christening crib’. In return for the food the stranger was obliged to give a penny for the baby which would bring good luck to the child. The coin would be saved as a good luck token.
It was thought to be a good sign if the child screams during the ceremony as it was believed the Devil was being driven out of the infants body.
After, however, the child would hopefully be more calm and happy as it was believed that if they frowned the wind might change direction and their faces stay stuck being miserable.
So many childhood rhymes were encouraged to make sure the child stayed smiling!

Tap-a-shoe, that would I do
If I had but a little more leather;
We’ll sit in the sun till the leather do come
Then we’ll tap them both together.

This would be accompanied by the baby’s feet being lightly tapped together.

Friday, 22 August 2014

23rd August; the sun enters the House of Virgo

Kalender of Shepheardes 1604

'The man born under Virgo shall be a good house holder, ingenious and solicitous to his work, shamefast and of great courage: but he will be soon to anger. Scarcely shall he be a while with his first wife. He shall be in peril by water, he shall have a wound with iron, and shall live seventy years after nature.
The woman shall be shamefast, ingenious and painstaking. She ought to be wed at twelve years, but she shall not be long with her first husband. Her life shall sometimes be in peril: she shall have dolour at ten years and if she scape shall live seventy years. She shall bring forth virtuous fruit and everything shall favour her.
Man and woman both shall suffer many temptations; they shall delight to live in charity, but they shall suffer much, wheresoever it be.'