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♫    Music to dream by ....
from the album 'Qntal 11'  1995   

'Früling'
Qntal

(minimize new window & listen while you browse)


 

    January 4th 2013     
       ....  Here's to the future!
.....  Aa’ vanlle nu I’ giliath           
   (Making magic in 2013?  The  Ogham wood  is now Birch - Beith ,  December 24th -  January 20th)

Wild ponies on the common at Hothfield, Kent on New Year's Day ©vcsinden2013

     Walking on the common, quite late on New Year's Day I had a word with a few of the wild ponies making their way towards the stream. Just as mortals (so we're told) dream of being magical, so too do the animals. They tell stories of mythical horses from far mountains performing feats of bewildering enchantment for their knights, princesses and seers. Tales of courage, tales of pale ponies with silvery manes plaited with crystals. Tales of gentle unicorns.

The Art of
John Bauer

  Like Swedish artist and illustrator John Bauer, who died all too young in 1918, they dream of the fairy horse. Regal, proud, immortal. As wild ponies, happy in all weathers, they still imagine flying through the moonlight or carrying a princess under the stars.

   Better known perhaps for his illustrations of Trolls, John Bauer's work has enchanted and inspired generations. Rackham, Tengren and Froud all acknowledge their debt - and the faery-world never tires of looking at his creations.
   The John Bauer Museum, Jönköping, Sweden, re-opens in the Spring of 2013 after extensive renovations. One of Muddypond's goals for the new year will be to visit.

Happy New Year little ponies on the common - thank you for the thoughts - and by the way - you look quite magical to me!

Hothfield Common - wild ponies graze in the sunlight on New Year's Day ©vcsinden2013

 

 

 


    January
8th 2013     
      .... Twelfth Night - a celebration at Bankside, holly and low tide on the river ....

Twelfth Night - waiting on the embankment for the Green Man's boat ©vcsinden2013 Twelfth Night - the holly decked Green Man begins the festivities ©vcsinden2013
   The Green Man, in his winter foliage arrives at London's Bankside in Southwark as only a real Londoner can - rowed in a historic boat up the Thames, where he lands near the dank and slippery steps outside the Globe Theatre, to be greeted by an impish Beelzebub - alias The Lord of Misrule.

        Twelfth Night, January 6th, in all its varied manifestations is enjoying a gradual revival in many parts of England. For mortals that is. Although, should we get the chance, faere-folk WILL spy -  (anyway, we like the 'Lambs Wool' or hot spiced cider!)

Twleth Night - the holly decked Green Man leaves the 'Trinity Tide'  ©vcsinden2013
'Trinity Tide' the historic Thames Waterman Cutter arrives from its journey,
turning under the Millenium Bridge at Bankside.

A Very Potted History! 

   From before the middle ages. the date was auspicious in the winter calendar for most parts of Europe, marking both the end of Yuletide festivities and the eve of Plough Monday, when the rural commumities returned to the fields.

     Merrymaking in the cities included Twelfth Cake, dark with dried fruits and iced in white sugar.  The night featured dressing up for acting games like charades and the choosing of a King and Queen for the revels - by means of discovering the bean and pea in your slice of the cake, or drawing paper lots.

   There might be visiting mummers with their latest dramas. There was gift giving, since in the Christian calendar this night is associated with Epiphany, the arrival of the three kings.. Not to mention the Wassail Bowl, steaming and perfumed with nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.

     Rural Twelfth Night hoped to secure blessings for next years harvests, particulary the apple trees. Again this involved the Wassail drink, some being poured onto the roots of the orchard trees while saucepans clattered and squibs banged as a warning to any malevolent forces lurking nearby.  

Twelfth Night or King or Queen

      Now, now the mirth comes
With the cake full of plums,
Where bean's the king of the sport here;
Beside we must know,
The pea also
Must revel, as queen, in the court here.

      Begin then to choose,
This night as ye use,
Who shall for the present delight here,
Be a king by the lot,
And who shall not
Be Twelfth-day queen for the night here

Twelfth Night - Beelzebub waits for the Green Man's boat on the steps of the Thames ©vcsinden2013
theLionsPart - Twelfth Night - Beelzebub meets the Green Man from the Thames Cutter  ©vcsinden2013

  Which known, let us make
Joy-sops with the cake;
And let not a man then be seen here,
Who unurg'd will not drink
To the base from the brink
A health to the king and the queen here.

      Next crown the bowl full
With gentle lamb's wool:
Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of ale too;
And thus ye must do
To make the wassail a swinger.


Give then to the king
And queen wassailing:
And though with ale ye be whet here,
Yet part ye from hence,
As free from offence
As when ye innocent met here.

Robert Herrick
from 'Hesperides' 1648

Twelfth Night, Southwark, London - the White Bear parades ©vcsinden2013

Pictures: ©vcs2013
Beelzebub waits on the steps by the Globe Theatre
Leading the Green Man across the Thames 'beach'
The White Bear of London, making music in the procession.

   Now here Muddypond spied King Bean and Queen Pea, picked out by their slices of cake and newly crowned - himself carrying a globe artichoke (a reference to the place I suppose - very droll!) as the Orb, and herself with a leek for her Sceptre!  Sometimes a whole clove hidden amongst the currants means that a Knave is needed too.
This ceremony has many characters, with a place of honour for The Mayor of Southwark, Councillor Althea Smith.Twelfth Night - The Mayor of Southwark with King Bean, the Winter Green Man and Queen Pea ©vcsinden2013

    Since the 19th century, Twelfth Night sprees in Britain have, like faeries, become unfashionable - the Twelfth Cake morphing into a Christmas cake, and the dressing up moved to celebrate New Year's Eve. Luckily country apple-orchard wassailing has never left us. Good on yer Southwark and your organisers and actors 'the Lions part'. Long may you reign!

Twelfth Night - The george Inn, Southwark, London ©vcsinden2013
Festivities end in the courtyard of London's oldest surviving galleried Inn - The George
with mulled ale, goodies to buy and a spot of Molly Dancing.

 

New:  You might also like to read about Swedish illustrator
Harald Wiberg and his 'Tomten' art.
Find it on Muddypond's 'other' blog.  Meeting the Tomten.

 

 

 

   January 22nd 2013     
       .....  Illustrator Margaret Tempest in Wintery mood    .......
          (Making magic?  The  Ogham wood  is now  Rowan - Luis,    January 21st - February 17th)

                                                                                                       

Illustration from 'Pinkie Mouse and Christmas Day' written & illustrated by Margaret Tempest. Pub:Colliuns 1946  

  

 

 

" It had been snowing for hours.

Hare stood in the garden of the little house at the end of the wood, watching the snowflakes which came softly tumbling down from the grey sky, dropping like white feathers. His paws were outstretched, his head uplifted, his mouth wide open. His fur was sprinkled with snow, so that he looked like a white Hare from the icy North. Every now and then he caught an extra large flake and ate it with relish.

"Whatever are you doing, Hare?" cried Squirrel, who sat close to the fire. "Come in! You'll catch cold."

"I am catching cold, and eating it too," replied Hare happily.'

Extract from Chapter 1 of 'Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas'
by Alison Uttley.    Ill: Margaret Tempest. First pub: 1940


                      

                                          

 

 

                                             

                                               

 

 

                                            

                                              Spindle berries in fresh snow ©vcsinden2013

 

             

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



 

 
    ' It had been snowing for hours' here too. Faery guardian Dog-Martin put on his best fleecy jumper and took Muddypond out for a walk through the newly iced Hurst Wood to remind the birds that there are still berries to be found. Plenty of pretty red spindles for a start. As we crunched past the Forgotten Chapel, we met a fine snowman with his hair all in a shock!

Fuzzypeg from 'Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas' by Alison Uttley - illustrated by Margaret Tempest Vintage postcard 'Skaters' by Margaret Tempest
Fuzzypeg emerges still eating his bread and jam -
from 'Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas' ill Margaret Tempest
'Skaters' a Margaret Tempest vintage postcard by Medici

 



 

 

 

 

Photos taken on Sunday 20th January at Hurst Wood.

Another Margaret Tempest vintage postcard on the left - 'Explorers' published by Medici.

                  

 

       

 

     January 29th 2013     
          ......  Faery drops, hope of Spring   .......


Vintage snowdrop postcard from Germany
Early snowdrops at Challock Church, Kent ©vcsinden2013
January snowdrops last Sunday outside Challock Church.
Making ready to bloom in their thousands to welcome guests at the 'Snowdrop Teas'

 

 

 

     February 1st 2013
       ......  
Today is Brigid's Day or you may call it Imbolc .... 

Aman Re Brigid
a vintage postcard    c1928

     

    Simple things to do for Bridgid's Day  The first celebration day of the year. This day is traditionally about purification so get out your faery broom and sweep away the winter's accumulated disarray!
Burn a little purification incense for the season - try combining pine with lemon or lemon balm for purity and with dried rowan berries (the Ogham wood which rules this day) and simply throw it in your clean hearth fire. Or you might grind those things with a little frankincense or copal resin to make a herbal incense for smouldering on a tiny charcoal block.

Hang your Brigid's Cross if you made one last night, or catch up today! Make some Star Lemon Biscuits (see recipe and more about Brigid's Day here in Muddypond's diaryblog), bring in some fresh twigs or snowdrops if you are not superstitious!

Burn a candle of white or sunshine yellow. Clean some more or use a summer smudge-stick to waft smoke into every corner - or both! Leave a little milk outside your front door tonight - if no Magics find it, a hedgehog could, and that's much more important at present.

 

 

 

    February 19th 2013     
       .....  Another of the spine-tingling Romney Marsh churches - Fairfield   .......
          (Making magic?  The  Ogham wood  is now  Ash - Nion,   February 18th - March 17th)

Fairfield Church in February, Romney Marsh, Kent ©vcsinden2013
The church of St. Thomas Becket at Fairfield, ice on the dyke in mid-February 2013

      Such a lonely place it seemed, and yet it is much loved. A perfect choice of setting for a recent adaptation of David Copperfield.  The breathtakingly beautiful little church of St. Thomas Becket has braved the tearing winds and sometime floods of the Romney Marsh for nine hundred years. So many centuries and still it has no road, simply a grassy path across the marshy fields with a rough wooden bridge over the dyke to welcome its visitors.

Pick up the ancient key, heavy iron and longer than my hand and take a deep breath as you push the oak door ajar ......
Fairfield Church in February, Romney Marsh, Kent ©vcsinden2013
Fairfield Church in February, Romney Marsh, Kent ©vcsinden2013

    The scent of ancient timbers greets you as you stand and gaze at living history. Although the structure of the building and the bell tower (three working bells) has been carefully restored, and the ancient wattle, daub and plaster walls replaced with brick, the original beams have been saved and the wonderful Georgian interior unchanged. There's a towering three-tier pulpit and high boxed family pews.

    Take time to explore and you might find a copy of a poem wiritten half a century ago now, giving us a glimpse of the church, its feelings and its surroundings. It is well worth reading.

Extract from 'Fairfield Church'
by Joan Warburg

My parish is the lonely marsh.
My service at the water’s edge:
Wailing of sea-birds,  sweet and harsh,
The susurration of the sedge.
Bleating of a hundred sheep
Where pilgrims and crusaders sleep.

Read the whole poem here in a new window.

Fairfield Church in February, Romney Marsh, Kent ©vcsinden2013

  At the back of the church is a very unusual plain stone font. Its bowl is cut from a single slab of stone and it is heptagonal. Now all you fine mortals will know that the regular seven sided circle will make a faery-star. Muddypond has drawn one for you over the font to show its form more clearly. Seeing it sent a shiver through my wings - perhaps it was meant for changelings! Well, you never know!

Fairfield Church in February, Romney Marsh, Kent ©vcsinden2013
A last look back - such an icy February chill in the air that I needed  my best winter cloak of shimmering blue for the visit.

     We spoke a little, nearly two years ago now, about the church of St. Clements outside Old Romney. You can find that if you scroll down to the entry for March 23rd 2011 here.

You might also like to browse
The faery art of Jack Frost
.
Find it on Muddypond's 'other' blog.
"Every breath that you breathe''

 

 

     February 26th 2013
        ......  
Like Moles? new on the 'Wolf Moons and Muddypond Green' blog ...

You might also like to browse
Find it on Muddypond's 'other' blog.
'Little Gentleman in Black Velvet- folklore of Mole...'

 

 

 

     March 5th 2013     
       .....  Thinking about hedgehogs - and the magical animation of Yuri Norstein ...

‘The Hedgehog in the Fog’ illustration by Franchesca Yarbusova
‘The Hedgehog in the Fog’ illustration by Franchesca Yarbusova
The delicious artwork by Franchesca Yarbusova. for her husband Yuri Norstein's film 'Hedgehog in the Fog'

     Russian animator Yuri Norstein is responsible for some of the best loved animated films ever made. Perhaps the most well known, and certainly the most "awarded", is 'Tale of Tales' - but Muddypond's favourite has to be 'Hedgehog in the Fog'. The beautiful, understated artwork has also been featured in a book, giving Franchesca Yarbusova full credit. And who, looking at it now, would believe that the animation will be forty years old next year?

     Perhaps you've never heard of this enchanting short film - possibly it was made long before you were born? Possibly you had forgotten all about it?  Or, perhaps it's a favourite of yours too?  However that may be - we faere-folks believe it's time to remember.
     Such a gentle, sweet in its nicest sense, little story. A bear, a samova, a white horse, an owl in the dark, some raspberry jam and the stars - not much more - except hedgehog of course - dear hedgehog. 

 

            

  Now, I've mentioned this before I know - but - when I was a faery-sprig, and even as a faery-of-a-certain-age, hedgehogs were quite a common sight even in towns. They snuffled over the evening grass into pools of light from the half-curtained windows. In woods they were abundant enough, if rarely seen. Too many of course were seen killed on the country roads, but now, when did you last see a hedgehog, either dead or alive?

  In the first ten years of this century - just ten years! the already rapidly dwindling hedgehog population in Britain is thought to have declined by 25% !  Here is a link to the document  'Evidence of a declining hedgehog population' based on surveys up to 2011.

‘The Hedgehog in the Fog’ illustration by Franchesca Yarbusova
‘The Hedgehog in the Fog’ illustration by Franchesca Yarbusova

   Please - be enchanted by the animation of  Yuri Norstein and his wife, artist and illustrator Franchesca Yarbusova.
Then, join the help groups Hedgehog Street , The Britsh Hedgehog Preservation Society BHPS, and / or Tiggywinkles - Wildlife Hospital and see what you can do to help - before it's too late!  Diole' le' - thank you.

 

 

 

     March 12th 2013     
        .....  Of murals, creatures great and small and artist John Ward .....

Details of birds from the John Ward murals in Challock Church, Kent ©vcsinden2013

       Not so very far from Muddypond's wood, standing high up on the Kentish North Downs is the village of Challock. The villagers are proud of their church, even though it was long-ago left isolated among one or two farms over a mile or two down, down, down a winding country lane. Now. it has a service every Sunday and a thriving church community as modern transport makes attendance more possible.

   It isn't the stone and flint part 12th century building of St. Cosmos and St. Damian, beautiful though it is, that makes this place so memorable however - it's the remarkable modern murals.Part of the John Ward murals in Challock Church, Kent ©vcsinden2013      

   

Almost every wall
of the church is decorated, but the two newest murals, painted some forty years apart by artist John Ward (1917 - 2007) will stop you in your tracks.

    These show scenes from the life of Christ, set in modern day Challock, with the village people and events going on all around.

    On the largest wall, directly opposite the entrance, is the Millenium Mural. A depiction of the vast yew tree which stands outside the church, and under it Christ on his mule, crossing the village green while local children carry reed-like palms and flowers to welcome him.

       

The Prince of Wales admires the year 2000 mural with artist John Ward photographed working in the church.
These two images are on show in the church.

   If the paintings as a whole are stunning, then the smallest details are even more so ....

Detail of the John Ward murals in Challock Church, Kent ©vcsinden2013
Detail of the John Ward murals in Challock Church, Kent ©vcsinden2013
A scene depicting the annual summer 'Goose Fair' - under the table, if you search, much loved pets peer out at you.

    The Millenium mural was paid for in a large part by donations from the villagers, who in return were painted into the scenes, as were their houses and favourite objects, birds and animals of their choice.

Detail of the John Ward murals in Challock Church, Kent ©vcsinden2013   Here's hoping you'll find an opportunity to visit and admire the paintings for yourself - and spend time marvelling at all the tiny details from nature. Although the church is normally kept locked, the ancient key can be made available to you (details in church porch).

The massive church key has its place in the mural (left) - and here it is for real (right)

   Faere-folks are fascinated by ancient keys you know, because we have our own ways to unlock doors and chests and drawers, so a key is an anathema to us. Should they be made of iron (and we think mortal creatures add iron delibarately) we have to hold the key in a large leaf, (docks are recommended) for fear of minor burns to our fingers!Detail of the John Ward murals in Challock Church, Kent ©vcsinden2013

You might have to search quite hard for these chaps - and after last week's entry (see below) I couldn't possibly omit the hedgehog.
I discovered her at the last minute, almost down on the stone floor!

St.Cosmos and St.Damian is also well known for its snowdrops - see more on Muddypond's Kentish Snowdrop Page

 

 

 

    March 21st 2013     
       .....  Baskets from the hedgerow ...

  (Making magic?  The  Ogham wood  is now  Alder - Fearn,   March 18th - April 14th)

From 'Gnomes' by Rien Portvliet.

Illustration by Rien Portvliet in 'Gnomes' first published 1976

  Mortal folks stole the skills of basket-making untold centuries gone-down from magics. Forest dwelling gnomes built sturdy frame-baskets for logs (proof above).   Elves and the Faere took adaptations and twirled up containers for everymagicwant. They used light woods and hedgerow twigs such as silvery-grey ash, or shrubby dark hornbeam and bright dogwoods, adding wool, berries, leaves - anything to make them practical and pretty.

Hedgerow canes ready for baskets AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013 Hedgerow basket weave by Mussypond Green on a course at AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013
Tempting materials conditioned and ready - with a closer look at those I chose for my basket weave.

   AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013 It's still a woodland craft which it's as well to learn properly, faere folk or not - and last weekend Muddypond was lucky enough to have a place on Alan's 'Hedgerow Basketry' course. (Alan Sage at AJS Rural Ways). I was only able to get on the waiting-list last year so had looked forward to it for a long time.

   In the first session we learned when to cut the various twigs, canes and rods - in winter when there is little sap and the leaf buds haven't broken - how long to dry them -roughly six weeks depending on the wood - and to soak - up to two days before use.

  By the way - making a basket from Hedgerow Materials is the task for Inquest Levels 135 - 9 of the Stella Fae Exams! I suppose I'll get there one day - there are only 413 Levels after all!

 On the right, a tiny corner of Alan's classroom which is housed in an old stable.

Hedgerow baskets AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013 Hedgerow baskets AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013 Hedgerow baskets AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013
New friends concentrating on their chosen baskets. Teacher Alan in the centre picture bends to help with another stage in the process.

  This fae did break the 'conditioning' rules by weaving a long strand of fresh ivy leaves through the framework, but ivy lasts for ages especially if you rub glycerine into the stems and leaves. I also plaited a tangled coil of 'Old man's beard' (without seed-heads) and wound this through the sides.

Making hedgerow baskets AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013 Muddypond's hedgerow basket made at  AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013 Making hedgerow baskets AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013

   Below is a flash of me, proudly preparing to take my basket back to Hurst Wood for use in the First Day of Spring Solstice. Next week I'll take it down to old Burnt-Sienna Brown (Stella Fae examiner of wondrous years) to find out if it's good enough to pass my Inquest. Fingers crossed.

Faery Muddypond with her home-made hedgerow basket made at Hedgerow baskets AJS Rural Ways ©vcsinden2013

 

 


     March 27th 2013     
            .... Re-introduction of Britain's endangered small mammals ..
                                                                                                  .....
fine fellows that they are .... 
       (Making magic?  Full Alder or Lenten Moon tonight - time to pick a twist of  rust-red Alder wood to make a powerful wand)

       When Muddypond was a faery-sprig (sigh: here she goes again!) we were encouraged to think of all animals, but especially small ones, as anthropomorphic. In our minds they kept us company, chatted about this and that, dressed up in coat-tails. scarves or pinnies and set off by themselves for picnics and adventures.
In our books and favourite illustrations they 'messed about in boats' and spent idyllic, long spring and summer days busy or idle as they pleased in the meadows and hedgerows.

And that, to us faere-folk of the woodlands is how they still are ...

Racey Helps dormouse in 'The Tail of Hunky Dory'
Dormouse waking ©vcsinden 2013
Racey Helps dormouse in 'The Tail of Hunky Dory'
A hazel dormouse at Wildwood Trust, and painted by Racey Helps in his 1958 book 'The Tail of Hunky Dory'

   Nowadays, this whimsical viewing of the animals is positively discouraged. An agent will reject a book almost out of hand as 'old-fashioned' should it have the audacity to feature a rabbit in a beanie-hat. Having hounded and poisoned much of the natural world to extinction, mortals now believe that creatures should be treated respectfully as they really are. Good attitude change? For conservation? yes, probably - for children's imagination and literature? emphatically no. A little of both would go a long way.
     Two wonderful animal books with ecology at the forefront and never a scarf to be seen are of course 'Watership Down' by Richard Adams, and 'Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nymh' by Robert C O'Brien but these were both early 1970's publications with strong messages of their own. Me, I like my animals both ways - dressed up or au naturel.    

Sleeping dormouse ©vcsinden 2013
Dormouse, still fast in winter sleep,
in the safe hands of conservation officer Hazel Ryan.

  This week, I was lucky enough to be able to spend a second day at 'The Wildwood Trust' in Kent with chief conservation officer Hazel Ryan, learning about their 'Small mammal captive breeding programme'. Some of the dormice were just preparing for a slightly early wake-up. Here's a snippet from the 'news' page on the Wildwood website

March 13     Wildwood prepares captive bred dormice for release

Wildwood’s dormice prepare to head out to the wild in Wildwood’s latest release programme

Whilst people in the UK are hiding under their duvets to escape the wintry weather, the sleepy dormice at the Wildwood Trust are being woken from their slumber for an important mission to help save their species from extinction.

The tiny creatures, all bred at Wildwood, are part of the Trust’s captive breeding programme designed to repopulate areas of the UK where dormice have become extinct.

 

   The course was made available by the People's Trust for Endangered Species PTES, the Kent branch works closely with Wildwood. As well as their extensive dormouse breeding programme, water-voles, water-shrews and harvest mice are all bred here for re-introduction into the wild.

    Below -   more of the animals for re-introduction , au naturel and with imagination added ....

Water vole ©vcsinden 2013 Ratty - Ernest Shephard
  
A water-vole, quite a large fellow compared to the others - 20cm without tail -
and in character as Ernest Shephard's Water Rat from The Wind in the Willows.
The Wildlife Trust's website tells us  'The Water Vole is Britain's fastest declining wild mammal and has disappeared from many parts of the country where it was once common.'
Harvest mouse ©vcsinden 2013
  
The tiny harvest mouse - barely 5cm, who builds a wee round nest on strong corn stems near harvest time. -
here Jill Barklem has imagined the interior in 'Autumn Story' from Brambly Hedge.
'The loss of our field margins, hedgerows and grassland habitats is a threat to this species.'   Wildlife Trust.

Badgers at Wildwood, Kent in their see through set ©vcsinden 2013       Although the small mammal breeding areas are not available for public viewing, Wildwood is a wonderful day out for adults and families alike. They show a huge variety of British Wildlife in a setting of the ancient Blean woodlands, including a wolf pack, badgers (you can see them here on the right inside their set), otters, British owls and much, much more. They run an education centre and many of their own courses and events for all age groups.

  Not only is it a lovely day out, BUT - Muddypond is delighted to note that the way-marker signs for youngsters feature a BADGER in a COAT ! Yay!

Wildwood, Kent

If you'd like to see a few more arty dormouse things
you can find them on Muddypond's 'other' blog.
'Poor old dormice - will it EVER be spring?'

 

 

 

 

   April 12th 2013     
      .....  Refreshing the faery wardrobes at Violet Time ......

'Cinderella Tunic' from Etsy shop 'Paulina722'   'Gypsy wrap skirt'  from 'Wildskin' on Etsy

                                               

     One glimpse of spring sunshine - and one glimpse is all we've had! - and us fae can't resist rootling about in the woods or ancient quarries to find bits and pieces for a fine new spring outfit. Down in 'Gnark's Quarry' this week there's a long bank, ablaze with darkest violet faery-flowers and scented with etherial violet perfume. Heady stuff!

   Here's a choice of pretty, pretty things for you mortal ones - perhaps you need a new ensemble for the First Day of May, which'll be with us before we can sneeze.

Elfin shoes from Fairysteps for violet time Handfelted necklace by Anna Wegg on Etsy Leafy Elven Cuffs from Artmode on Etsy Violet fairy wings from the UK - handmade at Fairylove

'Titania' - handmade faery shoes
'Fairysteps'

Hand felted neck wear
'Anna Wegg'
'Green Leaves' hand felted cuffs - 'Artmode'
UK hand made double faery wings
'Fairylove'


Violets in April - Hurst Wood, Charing ©vcsinden2013 Elfin Cape by Angela Shannon on Etsy

Beautiful hand felted 'Elven Cape' -
perfect for May Eve - made in Kent
by  Angela Shannon at 'Folkowl'

 

 

 

 

     April 26th 2013     
         .....  The Rossetti painting that wasn't there ....
   

Red House, William Morris in April ©vcsinden2013
Red House, mid April - the marriage house of William and Janey Morris

    As part of the much mentioned Stella Fae studies, Muddypond is expected to take 'arty history' to heart, and so she visits places! Faerie tribes have a definite bias towards all things 'Pre-Raphaelitey and Arts & Crafts Movementy' so two houses designed by architect Philip Webb were on the agenda.

   Red House in Bexleyheath   (now owned by the National Trust)   built for William Morris, was the only house he owned outright. He lived there with new wife Janey for just five years - a planned extension for their friends the Edward Burne Jones's (who painted decorative mural panels in the main house) was never built.

   Knowing that Dante Gabriel Rossetti had painted a wooden settle as a wedding present for the Morris's and especially for Red House, I went to see .......  one of the panels had long been a favourite ....... a detail on the right reminding me of last night's full 'willow' moon.

Left - 'Dantis Amor' - unfinished panel from the Red House settle - now in the Tate Gallery, London.
Right- a composition sketch for the design in Birmingham Museum & Gallery.

   The panel 'Dantis Amor' has another name - 'Love that Moves the Moon and Stars' and is based on the story of poet Dante and his unrequited love for Beatrice - she is shown framed by the moon as she ascends after her death at the age of twenty-four. (The angel is not holding a Crystal Singing Bowl, which is a shame, but an unfinished sun-dial!)

   But it wasn't there! Whaaaa ..... this fae should have done her homework - the settle was apparently demolished decades ago, and the main panel is now saved in the Tate. Hmmm, I think it might be happier in the home is was painted for - shouldn't that have been its destiny?

Red House - bird weindow pnel by Philip Webb ©vcsinden2013
Red House - bird weindow pnel by Philip Webb ©vcsinden2013
Red House - bird weindow pnel by Philip Webb ©vcsinden2013
Philip Webb birds  - glass panels in the entrance corridor windows.

   Did enjoy these cheery birds though - and there are more! A quirky touch by the Red House Architect Philip Webb. 

  He also designed and built Standen in Sussex, a superb house, again now owned by the National Trust, with a huge collection of Morris & Co wallpapers. Muddypond visited last weekend, in bright April sunshine. The Trust has a contract for copies of the very early electric light bulbs that have been lit in Standen since 1894.

Standen, East Grinstead Red House - bird weindow pnel by Philip Webb ©vcsinden2013
Standen, original lighting ©vcsinden2013
Standen, original lighting ©vcsinden2013
Standen - an 'Arts & Crafts Style' house by Philip Webb in Sussex. Still retaining its early, original electric lighting..

If you are interested in the works of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood,
there is a truly awe-inspiring online resource for you to browse from The Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery.

 

 

 

    
  
    April 30th 2013     
         ......  May Eve - making ready for the Beltane dawn ....
  

'The Maying' Arthur Rackham
May Day - final verse by Edith Nesbit

   Maying tomorrow, rise with the sun and gather the dew - but oh mortal maids take care if you go to the woods to gather may branches. Be aware, tis a centuries old wooing day for the young, and young hearts should never be ensnared with the first snap of a blossom branch. 'Give a kiss and take a kiss and go home free.'

      The Poem - is the final verse of Edith Nesbit's heartfelt warning - 'May Day'  - read it all here and take heed!
  The Illustration - 'The Maying' Arthur Rackham - from 'The Romance of King Arthur' pub. Mcmillan 1917

 

 

 

 

       May 1st 2013    
             .....  May Day - long before the day-ay-oh ....
 

Hartley Morris Men bring in the summer, May Day at Coldrum ©vcsinden2013

'Hal-an-Tow, jolly rumbelow
For we were up - long before the day-ay-o
h
To welcome in the Summer
To welcome in the May-ay-oh.
'

Coldrum Longbarrow, Kent in the May Day dawn light ©vcsinden2013 Coldrum Longbarrow, Kent - Hartley Morris Men greet the sunrise on May Day morning ©vcsinden
Greetings to the Dawn,  to the East,  to the Rising Sun  and return of Summer

'The Summer is a-coming in
And Winter's gone away-oh.
'

Listen here to Roger Allam's great rendition of 'Hal-n-tow' sung at the Globe Theatre production of Heny 1V pt 1.
Hartley Morris Men dancing the sun-up on May Morning at Coldrum, Kent ©vcsinden2013

      The official sunrise was 5.32am, and by four-ish, those who love the old ways were up and about, brewing a first cup of tea, bringing out bells and drums and making their way to meaningful haunts all over the British Isles.

      This year Muddypond was delighted to spend early May morning with The Hartley Morris Men at one of the few significant megalithic sites in Kent - Coldrum Longbarrow. The dancers and muscians were spry and ready for the long day ahead of them. Unearthly music piped in first light from behind the cloutie-tree  - the dancers danced - fine cake was shared - then a gathering was called at the foot of the barrow mound, a rememberance made and the traditional May Song rivalled the dawn chorus.

Hartley Morris men, joined by faery Muddypond Green, sing the sun up on May morning at Coldrum Longbarrow ©vcsinden
The Hartley Morris Men, joined by Muddypond, to sing in the May soon after sunrise.

There's more about the Coldrum Long Barrow here in my diaryblog - scroll to entry for March 25th 2012

 

 


     June 4th
2013     
        .....  Stella-Fae study leave!  Rain and cloud forest - Costa Rica ....
(Part 1)
          (Making magic?  The  Ogham wood will now be Hawthorn - Huath until June 9th)

Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica in May ©vcsinden2013.

    This Earth, One Earth, Our Earth - us Magics must care for the creatures, the enchanted healing plants and trees world over - and no-one takes their eco-enchantment responsibilities more seriously than the government and people of Costa Rica.

Muddypond Green, wood guardian herself, has been so very lucky to spend time being over-awed by the sheer diversity, colour and abundance of the small country divided between the Pacific and Caribbean oceans by a backbone of volcanic mountains.

Costa Ric's forest  birds - a Motmot ©vcsinden2013 Costa Ric's forest  birds - an Emerald Toucanet ©vcsinden2013 Costa Ric's forest  birds - a Quetzal ©vcsinden2013
Torquoise-browed Motmot
Emerald Toucanet
Resplendent Quetzal

 

Arenal Volcana, Costa Rica, from room balcony at Arenal Volcano Lodge in May Costa Ric's forest  birds - a Motmot ©vcsinden2013
Arenal Volcano, last active 2006 from Monteverde Cloud Forest

     From dawn to dusk, birds and bird-song surround you - in gardens, on mountain sides, pineapple fields, banana and coffee plantations to the great forests themselves - all ablaze with rare and dazzling colour.

  A wonderfully named 'Respendent Quetzal' posed and flounced on a suspension bridge cable, keeping his eye on his lady and nest-hole in a nearby tree despite having moulted the second of his long, long twin tail feathers.

 So many others I could show you - sloths, humming birds, butterflies - another day perhaps!

 

    Stay if you can at the Arenal Volcano Lodge, only a mile from the volcano, way away from everywhere in the midst of cloud forest. It's the site of an old scientific observatory. The picture above is a view from a room balcony - mortals can be up with the dawn to watch the coatis play in the garden below, hear howler monkeys racketing up the day and see the astounding birds.

Costa Rica - Iguana with salad Costa Ric's forest  birds - a Motmot ©vcsinden2013 Costa Rica - Emerald Basilisk Lizard at the river Costa Ric's forest  birds - a Motmot ©vcsinden2013
Green Iguana - a huge presence in the sun
                   Emerald Basilisk - prefering shady places by the water

    Massive iguanas, bask in the sun like ancient dragons and scrump left over vegetables - and if you are blessed you may catch a glimpse of the secretive, vivid basilisk lizard sitting atop a fallen river branch, immobile, watching for insects.

   Later on, it's the turn of the frogs .... unbelievable ... but true...

Costa Rica, frogs - Gaudy leaf frog ©vcsinden2013 Costa Rica, frogs -  Blue jeans frog ©vcsinden2013 Costa Rica, frogs -Black & green Dart frog ©vcsinden2013
Gaudy Leaf Frog
Blue Jeans frog
Black & Green Dart Frog

     Dusk comes early at this latitude, time to pause, gaze out over the countryside. Now's the time to indulge in a long glass of fresh pineapple juice (or something!) and reflect for a while on the day's wanderings and wonders.

Costa Rica - Arenal lake at sunset Costa Rica, frogs - Gaudy leaf frog Costa Ric's forest  birds - a Motmot ©vcsinden2013
Arenal lake, seen from the terrace at Arenal Volcano Lodge.

 

 

 


    June 6th
2013     
         ....  Stella-Fae study leave!  Rain and cloud forest - Costa Rica ....
(Part 2)

Muddypond Green at dawn on Playa Negra  a Costa Rican Caribbean beach ©vcsinden2013
Walking on the sands - a Caribbean dawn at Playa Negra

  So many hummingbirds, iridescent and lustrous. Tiny feathered fireballs darting through the day out in the wilds or hovering and skimming around sugary garden feeders. Different species for coast and mountain - each one engrossed and engrossing- shimmering in the sunshine and defying you to look away!

Costa Rican Hummingbirds ©vcsinden2013

Three toed sloth near San Jose, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013
Above - Three toed sloth       Right - Agouti

 

   As one of the most forward 'eco'  thinking countries in the world, the Costa Rican Government is pledged to keep its remarkable wildlife heritage. They are turning the clock back, encouraging farmers to return some land to the wild - and rain forest quickly asserts itself. A protected and entire 'Green Corridor'  will run across the country, allowing animals freedom to roam and is now over 90% complete.

Agouti - Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013As home to rare mammals like jaguar and tapir, breeding sea turtles, amazing bird species - not to mention diverse insect and plant life - it has a gift which it is learning to treasure. Many of these wonderful creatures are easy to see - toucans fly overhead, blue morpho butterflies dream through sunlit patches and evening sloths siesta high up after leaves and flowers.

        

Capuchin monkey - Monteverde, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013 Coati - Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013 Hairy Porcupine, Monteverde Clod Forest, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013
White-throated Capuchin Monkey
A very curious White-nosed Coati
Baby Mexican Hairy Porcupine

 

Monteverde Cloud Forest - Sky Walk bridges ©vcsinden2013
Workmen in misty weather on one of the six suspension bridges - Monteverde Cloud Forest -

 

 

 

 

   June 19th 2013   
      ....   Back to English skies - 10 beguiling things from a few faery awaydays
                                                                                                                in West Sussex ....
....

       (Making magic?  The  Ogham wood will now be Oak - Duir until July 7th and her full moon will be June 23rd)

Bosham, West Sussex ©vcsinden2013

     This is a picture of Bosham, near Chichester, taken at low tide in late evening light - in fact it was almost nine o'clock and still bright as we approach the Summer Solstice. Below, in no particular order are a further 9 magical things that bewitched Muddypond (wood guardian fae) on a little 'explore' of ancient England.

Yew tree-Kingley Vale, West Sussex ©vcsinden2013
Amberley Village Tea Rooms , outside in June ©vcsinden2013

    Here is one of the great Watchers - a yew tree from the yew forest of Kingley Vale where the yews have stood for centuries unknown. It is silent, a coolly shadowed and enchanted place and I'll tell more of it soon on my Ogham Yew page.

   In contrast, sitting outside Amberley Village Tea Room in bright sunshine. You are surrounded by the pleasant clatter of local pottery cups, bowls and tea pots while indulging in home-made scones and strawberry jam with a big bowl of clotted cream. Of course, it's lucky that the fae population only indulge in the SCENT of the scones, cream etc. but the scent was good !

Coot family ©vcsinden2013
hedgehog embroidered church kneeler ©vcsinden2013
Thatch roof faery, Bosham, West Sussex ©vcsinden2013
Sea going swan and cygnets, Emsworth, West Susses ©vcsinden2013

   Top row above, proud coot parents show off their red-headed chicks on a wild pool beside Amberley castle. Muddypond fell in love with this embroidered kneeler in one of the famous medieval churches of this part of the world, this one at Stoughton. She was glad to see her beloved hedgehogs taking such pride of place.

  Bottom row - taken at Bosham - a FAERY no less - never seen a straw or reed faery before - she sits, wand in hand, atop a beautiful cottage overlooking the pub and the creek. And another amazement - sea-going swans! Cygnets braving the choppy salt-water by the Emsworth harbour wall.

Bosham Telephone Box community library ©vcsinden2013
St Michael's Church Up Marden, West Sussex  ©vcsinden2013

  There was a really varied and up-to-date selection of books to be borrowed or swapped in the busy Bosham community telephone box - nice change-of-use idea now mortals seem plugged into mobiles! 

   Contrast the utter unchanged simplicity of the tiny, remote St. Michael's church at Up Marden, hidden amongst trees on an ancient track. Simon Jenkins, writing about the church in his book 'England's 1000 Best Churches' said he "could not be immune from the spirits of this place". I know exactly what he means.

Amberly - walking towards the castle ©vcsinden2013

  Last but by no means least, a walk through the lyrical village of Amberley, the England of old, with its matchless mixture of architecture, tumbling roses and cottage gardens.


If you are interested in  ancient trees and their magic,
Muddypond has just revised and updated her Ogham page on the Oak,
whose guardianship is June 10th to July 7th.


( Oak was her first Ogham page, back in 2010 and is now in much more detail )

 

 

    June 21st 2013   
        .....  My Summer Solstice - keeping it simple ...

                   Litha Candle in a Whitstable oyster shell ©vcsinden2013

      Rising early on this, the longest day of the year, I sat on a breakwater and looked eastwards towards the horizon. It was just before 5.00am and not one glimmer of sun pierced the endless, misty, dull-grey of the sky.  Finding a perfect little Whitstable oyster shell, I set it down on my scrying mirror with a sprig of heather for Ogham magic and lit my white candle.

      The tide was far, far out over the shingle and sand, but I heared the shallow waves pulling and lapping over the pebbles, and no other soul, magic or human could be seen.

Seasalter beach - waiting for solstice sunrise ©vcsinden2013 Whitastable beach huts at dawn ©vcsinden2013
                              Looking to the east on Seasalter beach, where sunrise was invisible - and a row of forlorn beach huts wait for summer

. Soon after the appointed time, 5.25am but with never a glimmer, I climbed up to the headland, where the ruined towers of the saxon church at Reculver face east as if they too were waiting. Sitting on the grass, looking down over the sea I read a poem to the sun. I give you an extract here -

from 'Summer Solstice' by Hilary Llewellyn-Williams.
   



Sun, stand still
burn
as the chestnuts burn
over the dark stream
in pure honey white flames;
swell
as the hedges swell
out over the roads
rough loaded with life -
fizzing wild carrot, cow parsley
pink shocks of campion
and roses
buttercups polished up and bold
among sorrel, and deep grasses,
insect and beasts and birds

 

Reculver towers and Muddypond Green - gacing East for solstice sunrise ©vcsinden2013

    The poem was originally published in 'The Tree Calendar' by Hilary Llewellyn-Williams 1997. Pub: Poetry Wales Press. It was later included in other collections by the author notably 'Hummadruz' Pub: Seren 2001 - poems of the trees, seasons, stones and solstices. Thank you so much to my friend Imogen for bringing them to my attention.

 

 

 

 

    July 3rd 2013   
        .....  Meeting  a wood guardian faery of the human-kind and in hotter climes than mine .....
                              (Costa Rica Pt 3)The Toucan Rescue Ranch, Heredia, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013

The Toucan Rescue Ranch owner Leslie Howle with sloth friend ©vcsinden2013
Leslie Howle

         Last month, Muddypond wrote a little about her amazing study-leave in Costa Rica.   She couldn't leave the subject without introducing you to a real guardian of the Earth.   Her name is Leslie, and she spends up to twenty-four hours a day looking after the injured and neglected wild animals and birds in her care.Toucan Rescue Ranch, Costa Rica 

   Leslie Howle and husband Jorge have turned what was simply their home into The Toucan Rescue Ranch.  Creatures find their way to her as lost babies from construction sites, as road or electrical cable injuries or as wild creatures abused and imprisoned in tiny cages as part of illegal trading.

   It all began with toucans!  There was no place for injured toucans in Costa Rica it seemed, and Leslie loves toucans. As her expertise grew and her care became known, the little ranch snowballed and tumbled with sloths, parrots, birds and animals of all varieties.    

    Although the aim is to rehabilitate the animals back to the wild, many can never go back even after life-saving care. For these, huge and beautiful homes are built. Hopefully after a while a partner will arrive and a breeding programme begun. There are seven pairs of toucans now - and first rare hatchlings are eagerly awaited.

The Toucan Rescue Ranch, Heredia, Costa Rica - birds we met ©vcsinden2013

A huge Spectacled Owl and magnificent Barred Hawk listen to the extraordinary sound of  friendly Whistling Ducks

You really SHOULD hear Whistling Ducks!     Click here for a video  from The Toucan Rescue Ranch to listen.

   Here are a few of the wonderful animals that Muddypond had the privilege to meet while staying at The Toucan Ranch ...

Hairy porcupine at Toucan Rescue Centre, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013

  Left - a Hairy Porcupine accepts a flower snack.
  Right- a rare baby Grison, difficult to bottle feed as he turned out to be milk intolerant!

  Below left - Milo the Two-toed Sloth had no control over his body temperature, and is always brought into the house at night. (Yes, he IS real!).
  Below centre - a tiny Armadillo found abandoned, now living in the kitchen for warmth and hand feeding.
  Below right - Kinkajoos, brought in a year apart, now a loving couple -  she helps him with his balance and climbing after his bad accident.

Grisson baby, at Toucan Rescue Ranch, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013
Sloth care at Toucan Rescue Ranch, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013 Armadillo baby at Toucan Rescue Ranch, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013 Kinkajoos - a loving pair, Toucan Recue Ranch, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013

'Millie, the two-toed sloth'


     An enchanting little book about one the first of Leslie's sloth babies tells of the adventures of  'Millie, the two-toed sloth' and some of the friends she meets in her new world. All proceeeds go towards the upkeep of the rescued birds and animals.

   Visitors to Costa Rica can take a pre-booked tour of the ranch, or stay there in one of just two private 'Bed & Breakfast' cottages - a highly recommended and delightful part of any travels - (within easy travelling distance of San Jose airport).

   Leslie is very likely to be mothering a baby sloth or two - in the wild they stay dependant for at least a year. They are magical  creatures but, like most babies, very demanding, needing night and day feeding and cuddles!  Below is the latest and smallest of her treasures ....

Two-toed sloth baby natalie at Toucan Rescue Ranch, Costa Rica ©vcsinden2013

Wishing you many faery blessings Leslie - a truly dedicated Earth Guardian.

Find out more about  the work of The Toucan Rescue Ranch, also Tours and B & B here on their website,
and here on Trip Advisor.

 

 

 

 

    July 16th 2013   
       ... Back to the English summer - must be festival time .. the faere folk favour the traditional ...
  Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013

   

    No rain though? Now that's very odd! In fact weeks of hot, hot and hotter weather - and that's how it was when Ms. Muddypond here spent some precious days camping and basking in musical sunshine at the 28th Ely Folk Festival.

    Ducks at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013Glorious music and dance at this folk moot - room to move too - what more could we want! Held partly in the historical little cathedral city with its market place, cloistered greens and river marina, and partly at its own site not far from the centre, for festival stages, food and camping. The festival was an easy-going joy from first to last.

   Mother ducks from Ely introduce their ducklings early to the joys of picnics taken in the shade of the huge cathedral.

    Here follows a scrapbook with a few favourite memories and a smidgen of the music that this fae enjoyed most from the three day programme of music... music... and more music ......

'Witchmen' at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013
'Witchmen' - from the 'daarkside', or Kettering in fact - hurl themselves into the fray.
Catchers of dreams at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013 John Tams with 'Snowfall' at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013

    A peaceful moment for a group learning the art of weaving a catcher of dreams.  On Saturday night, John Tams as part of the group  'Home Service'  gives a heart-stiring performance of   'Snow Falls'  - a song which he wrote for the National Theatre's epic 'War Horse'.

'The Hanging' Ouse Washes Molly at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013 Karine Polwart at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013 Van Gogh the Hooden Horse at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013

      Above, the 'Ouse Washes Molly' group dance outside the cathedral to illustrate a strange and dark tale culminating in a double hanging. Unusual!     Scrumptious Scottish singer/songwriter  Karine Polwart  holds the audience entranced on Friday evening - and an extrememly mischievous hooden horse, apparently named Van Gogh because he lost an ear (since mended) and let out of harness by the Yately Morris Men, fixes me with a rather menacing gaze!

Steve Lockwood & Brooks Williams at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013 Seth Lakeman at Ely Folk Festival ©vcsinden2013

      Friday night gave us an incredible set from the matchless harmonica of Steve Lockwood and blues guitarist par excellence Brooks Williams. Wasn't expecting such excitement since this isn't a wood-fae's first choice of musical style - but luckily she recognises pure genius when she hears it !!  
     On Sunday, the 28th festival reached its zenith with the sheer brain-blowing energy of Seth Lakeman. Now there's one that's welcome to drop into a faery-moot down here in Kent on any moonlit night! Always magic.

 


If you are feeling summery, there's a little feature about
shells in faery art on Muddypond's 'other' blog.
"Faery Thoughts of Summer Shells"

 

 

 

 

   July 24th 2013   
      ....  Badger watching in Essex this week, a sheer delight ....
watch over them all ....

  Also - NEW at last on the Ogham Tree Pages is the folk lore and magic of the Poplar - Eadha, ruler of Autumn Equinox

 badger Culling - Say NO!  ©vcsinden2013

                   Illustration left by Hilda Boswell, Enid Blyton's Third Holiday Book 1948 -       right: Muddypond watches as a shy badger snuffles for a worm  Woodland badger ©vcsinden2013


    Much beloved as an icon of British woodlands
, and cherished since our childhoods or faery-sprig days from chance encounters at dusk and the pages of our story books, badgers are being even now slaughtered in their thousands by order of our Government. Culled. Shot.

    As I watched a family on their evening forage, I wondered - how has this been allowed to happen - this idiotic and cruel decision? Shame on us all - is it really what the British people want?  It's widely understood that badgers may spread bovine tuberculosis amongst cattle - may! but is this the answer?

 

   Right now - in the midst of the decade when the inhabitants and guardians of our little scrap of world are mourning the loss of their hedgehogs, dormice, sky larks, sparrows, honey bees and  countless other species - we allow the needless killing of these innocent creatures, the badgers that we should treasure.

Woodland badger beside set ©vcsinden2013
Badger beside set ©vcsinden2013

  The cubs stay with the parents for many years and are looked after in their own, sociable and boundaried communities. They're not difficult to hunt down and kill - but why exterminate? Vaccinate! Or finish the work on an efficient vaccine for cattle!

   I was so very privileged to meet with this large group of wild woodland badgers, individuals above, on a sultry Essex evening, just before sundown. First one stripey snout appeared, them more of the group took courage, routing for worms and grooming each other near their set entrance whilst I watched, marvelled, filmed and photographed. Here's wishing you and generations to come the same opportunity.

Woodland badgers ©vcsinden2013


Read about the culling and how you can help at the website of The Badger Trust.

 

 

 


     August 7th
2013 
     ....  The Kentish Stones -   portals
to past millenia  .....
  

                 Kent may not be the first county that drifts into faery minds when thinking about megaliths, chambered tombs or standing stones, but here they dwell, of course they do - if you know where to look. They dwelt here indeed at least a thousand years before Stone Henge woke to its first sunrise.

                As with all the ancient stone places, they have the atmosphere of otherworldliness, of betwixt and between, of faerie  - portals to ancient ways, silence and wisdom.

Faery Muddypond Green dowses with unfamiliar metal dowsing rods at Chestnuts megalithic chamber-tomb, Addington, Kent  ©vcsinden2013
Metal rod dowsing. Walking through the central chamber of Chestnuts -
Muddypond with a faery friend in mid-August sunshine.

    'The Chestnuts' is the sister site to 'Coldrum', where I have taken you before - (see here and here).

   One of the 'Medway Megaliths' - each one the remains of a chambered long-barrow built with massive local sarcen stones, each one facing towards the rising sun, in varying states of repair - Chestnuts stands on private land in the village of Addington. Another longbarrow, fallen, can be clearly seen from the road. 
   You are welcome to make a visit by appointment, where the dear lady of the land will tell you its history and allow you to share in her decades of delight.

  She offers you a chance to try out metal dowsing rods (faeries prefer to use hazel twigs as everybody knows - metal rods react too strongly in faery hands).
Standing at the centre of the old chamber, the rods slowly turned in a full 360° circle.

 

An 18th century etching of the 'Chestnuts' Addington in Kent.   A few stones have been raised and straightened in early 20th century.
Chestnuts, Kentish megalithic chamber-tomb on private land ©vcsinden2013 Chestnuts, Kentish megalithic chamber-tomb on private land ©vcsinden2013
'The Chestnuts'. The huge stone lying flat front-left of first picture is thought to be the fallen capstone.

   As the Chestnuts is a chambered tomb, it would once have been roofed with its capstone and smaller stones then covered in a vast mound of soil, highest over the portal stones, lowering in a wedge shape towards the rear. All the Medway megaliths have revealed human remains in earlier excavation, some can be seen in Maidstone Museum.   

A faery funeral from one of the masters -Brian Froud or Alan Lee.  From "Faeries" first published by Pavilion Books 1995

      I don't believe the archaeologists have discovered the numerous clues to the faery-remains in the Kentish tombs yet, mainly because the little bodies themselves fade gradually a few hours after death. The grave-goods and reliquarys are there to be found though - just search more carefully - attune yourself and keep very silent!
    The wonderful illustration above is the artist's response to a description by William Blake of a time when he saw such a procession - complete with rose-leaf bier and a daisy covering - in his own garden.

Newington Devil's Stone, Kent ©vcsinden2013

Skulls and remains of twenty-two individuals taken from
Coldrum during 19th century excavation.
(Photo: Kent Archaelogical Society)

Kent has its very own 'Devil's Stone' legend. Some say he has left the mark of a hoof on the huge sarcen stone but they have never seen it for actually the Devil was wearing very large boots!

   He was infurated by the sound of the pealing bells from the tower of 12th century Newington Church and one night, bounded up the stone walls, cut down the bells and threw them into a sack. With his plunder over his shoulder, he leaped down into the lane, but he tripped over the stone, leaving his mark for all to see.

  The bells rolled into the stream and since then the water has run clear and fresh, the bells are restored and the stone stands near the church gate.

Kit's Coty House - meagalithic tomb, Kent - 19th century graffiti ©vcsinden2012
Kit's Coty House, Kent ©vcsinden2013
Right: Kit's Coty House looking back across the downs.
Above: 19th century graffiti and damage made before the Victorian railings were erected for the monument's protection.

    The strangely named Kit's Coty House is the best known of the exposed 'Medway Megaliths', now owned by English Heritage. It has been dated to at least 3,400 BC and stands on the top of a down's headland above Aylesford The stones would once have been covered as they are part of a long barrow burial site.
    The giant capstone atop the three uprights towers above three metres in height. Stones marking the length and width of the barrow itself have long since disappeared, and the tall sarcen which stood at the far end, shown in ancient prints as 'The General's Tombstone' was apparently 'blown to bits' in 1867.Kit's Coty House, Kent (grave-goods imaginary!)©vcsinden2012

       For faerie grave-goods, search diligently, very diligently, but leaving no damage behind you to grass, stone, fur or feather - not even a footstep - try to move any that you discover, or even make a photographic record, and they will simply crumble, dissolve then fade away. (Those above are from illustrator Rodney Matthews, who knows that lead-pencil sketching is allowable!)

 

 

    August 27th 2013   
       .....  National shame!  The badger cull begins .......

Stop the Badger Cull - Chris Packham has his say

     Chris Packham, influential naturalist and presenter of British television series 'Springwatch' and 'Autumnwatch' voices the feelings of a huge proportion of Britain, as reported in the Telegraph today.  Thank you Chris - and so say all of us.   Read the whole article here.           (photo from facebookphotowallpublic).

 

 



     August 29th 2013    
         ....  Dartmoor, mystical Britain  .....

Kilbury Manor, Buckfastleigh, Devon ©vcsinden2013
Kilbury Manor -    a fine, fine 'B & B' place to rest faery wings when they have been all night on the moors and under the moonlight.

   This last weekend was spent on Dartmoor - a place of unending magic passed down through millenia and lingering still in every cranny and crevice. The main purpose of my visit being attendance at a thanksgiving festival 'Dusk, Dark and Dawn' - an all night pilgrimage at the heart of the moor.

   But first, some of my pictures, with words from Mrs Anna Bray, widow of the rather eccentric Reverend Edward Atkyns Bray, Vicar of Tavistock. Mrs Bray, who was a novelist, corresponded at great length in the 1840's with Robert Southey on her passion - the moors, and the craggy, granite tors.

Tor in evening light - Dartmoor, Devon ©vcsinden2013

    "On Dartmoor the priests of the Britons appropriated the tors themselves as temples, erected by the hand of nature, and with such majesty that their circles were only memorials of their consecration.

    Over the moor, the Druid moved in the region of the vast and the sublime: the rocks, the winter torrent, the distant and expanded ocean. The works of the great god of nature in their simplest and in their most imposing character were all before his view."

hawthorne on Dartmoor - Huath ©vcsinden2013 Menhir, Dartmoor, Devon ©vcsinden2013
A solitary hawthorn - the ogham tree huath.
A solitary menhir near the roadside

 

    A striking feature of any Dartmoor journey is its tiny stone built bridges at the bottom of windy, valley lanes, and the most ancient ones of all - the 'Clap' bridges. The pub sign on the right shows the old bridge at Postbridge (see below)

"Amongst the British antiquities of the moor I must not allow myself to forget to mention the rude vestiges of its primitive bridges. ........... the construction of these bridges is exceedingly simple, being nothing more than masses of granite piled horizontally, and thus forming the piers, on a foundation of solid rock, that nature has planted in the midst of the stream.
     The piers being thus formed, the bridge is completed by huge slabs of moor stone laid across and supported from pier to pier."

Clap bridge at Postbridge, Devon ©vcsinden2013

Mrs Bray had plenty to communicate with Southey on the subject of the magical denizens of the moors, from the dangers of getting lost out in the tors and peat bogs, which was known as being 'Pixie-led', to descriptions and encounters with the immortals as told by locals.

" ...... or else the pretty stream lies sparkling in the moonbeam for no hour is so dear to pixie revels as that in which man sleeps and the queen of the night, who loves not his mortal gaze, becomes a watcher. It is under the cold and chaste light of her beams, or amidst the silent shadows of the dark rocks where that light never penetrates, that on the moor, the elfin king of the pixie race holds his high court of sovreignty and council."

Rowan, Luis, Dartmoor, Devon ©vcsinden2013
Dartmoor forest toad ©vcsinden2013
Fernworthy stone circle, Dartmoor, Devon ©vcsinden2013
Moors enchantments - the otherworldly Rowan - Luis,       A diminutive chestnut-brown toad explores a forest path,          Part of Fernworthy stone circle.
Fernworthy Stone Circle, Dartmoor, Devon ©vcsinden2013
The stone circle - Fernworthy Forest

Words from 'Legends, Superstitions and Sketches of Devonshire' by Mrs Anna Bray.
pub 1844 A.K.Newman and Company.

 

 

 

 

   September 4th 2013    
       .....  Dartmoor, mystical Britain  .....
Dusk and Dark and Dawn ....

     Just a few days ago, I, that is Ms Muddypond Green, Wood Guardian Fae, was privileged to spend a whole dusk til dawn night in pilgrimage, song and contemplation under the guidance of Carolyn Hillyer and Nigel Shaw. We gave thanks for the age-old land.  Here is a scrap-book reminiscence ....

Dusk & Dark & Dawn – Nigel Shaw and Carolyn Hillyer ©vcsinden2013 Dusk & Dark & Dawn – Julie Felix and Damh the Bard ©vcsinden2013
Nigel Shaw and Carolyn Hillyer with their evocative 'Evensongs & Nightshades'.                                Folk singers Damh the Bard and Julie Felix.

Dusk & Dark & Dawn – fire ceremony ©vcsinden2013

Dusk & Dark & Dawn – fire ceremony ©vcsinden2013 Dusk & Dark & Dawn – Carol Asuray leads the fire ceremony ©vcsinden2013

   As darkness fell the fire ceremony began, with circle dancing accompanied by Woodwose, then a night song followed by 'Walking the Land'.  A time to discover shrines and pools lit by thousands of candles, walk the new labyrinth and listen to stories in the smokey roundhouse. Below, the peaceful pool of Moonlit Reflectiion.

Dusk & Dark & Dawn - moonlit pool of reflection ©vcsinden2013

Dusk & Dark & Dawn - prayers for the land ©vcsinden2013 Dusk & Dark & Dawn - a golden sunrise on Dartmoor©vcsinden2013

    Later, as the light gained strength, all gathered to hang prayer flags made during the night, and send energies and thanks down into the earth with our handmade arrows, each with a wish wrapped tight around its shaft.

      The pilgrimage finished with a sunrise ceremony, a circle of welcome for the light. A buzzard swooping low and spiralling above our heads, wondered at our singing in her usually silent and deserted dawn world and carried our voices to the rose-streaked clouds. A night of faery-magic, man-made by mortals!

Dusk & Dark & Dawn - fater the sunrise ceremony ©vcsinden2013
Carolyn Hillyer (in black) at the conclusion of the song for first light.

 

 

 

   September 14th 2013    
      .....  North of Ireland cliffs, rocks, sea in the words of W.M.Thackeray ....
.

'--of those lean solitary crags standing rigid along the shore, where they have been watching the ocean ever since it was made--of those grey towers of Dunluce standing upon a leaden rock and looking as if some old, old princess, of old, old fairy times, were dragon-guarded within--of yon flat stretches of sand where the Scotch and Irish mermaids hold conference-'

Dunluce Castle, Antrim, Northern Ireland ©vcsinden2013

    On my travels again, discovering the places of wonder and legend. Above, Dunluce Castle stands it's romantic guard as it did in the days when William Makepeace Thackeray wrote his 'Irish Sketchbook' 1845, and in whose footsteps I travel here  .....

'The" Antrim coast-road," which we now begin to follow, besides being one of the most noble and gallant works of art that is to be seen in any country, is likewise a route highly picturesque and romantic; the sea spreading wide before the spectator's eyes upon one side of the route, the tall cliffs of limestone rising abruptly above him on the other.'

Sea bathing, horse and rider on the Great Coast Road, Northern Ireland ©vcsinden2013 The Great Coast Road, Northern Ireland ©vcsinden2013
   

'The road to the Causeway is bleak, wild, and hilly. The cabins along the road are scarcely better than those of Kerry, the inmates as ragged and more fierce and dark-looking. I never was so pestered by juvenile beggars in the dismal village of Ballintoy  ....  (two pictures of Ballintoy below)

    ........  A couple of churches, one with a pair of its pinnacles blown off, stood in the dismal open country, and a gentleman's house here and there: there were no trees about them, but a brown grass round about-hills rising and falling in front, and the sea beyond.
        The occasional view of the coast was noble; wild Bengore towering eastwards as we went along; Raghery Island before us, in the steep rocks and caves of which Bruce took shelter when driven from yonder Scottish coast, that one sees stretching blue in the north-east.'

From the church at Ballintoy, The Great Coast Road, Northern Ireland ©vcsinden2013

Ballintoy Harbour ©vcsinden2013

Above - the idyllic little harbour of Ballintoy, which unbeknownst to was the location for 'Lordsport'
during the filmimg of part of  'Game of Thrones'.
See below - Alfie Allen as 'Theon Greyjoy' in the very spot!
Standing just here started me on a passion for the books and amazing film series - a modern legend!

Ballintoy harbour acknowledges its fame as a location for 'Game of Thrones' ©vcsinden2013

    Then on to the place of old legends, of the giant Finn MacCoul and the causeway he built to link Ireland with ScotlandFaery Muddypond Green contemplates the Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland ©vcsinden2013. You can search for seven-sided faery pillars amongst the pentagons and hexagons. Thackeray felt the alchemy of the place on a duller day, and when the visitor had to brave a rowing boat or treck for miles along a daunting cliff-top path.

'It looks like the beginning of the world, somehow: the sea looks older than in other places, the hills and rocks strange, and formed differently from other rocks and hills-as those vast dubious monsters were formed who possessed the earth before man. The hill-tops are shattered into a thousand cragged fantastical shapes; the water comes swelling into scores of little strange creeks, or goes off with a leap, roaring into those mysterious caves yonder, which penetrate who knows how far into our common world? '

  

The Giant's Caueway, Northern Ireland ©vcsinden2013 The Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland ©vcsinden2013

   William Makepeace Thackeray even wrote of his impressions of the amazing place where we roosted, so very lucky to have our own castle gatehouse - The Barbican at Glenarm. With its own river, castle grounds, spiral stairs, turrets and towers we were spoiled beyond measure and transported into a fairy-tale realm which we did not want to leave.

Glenarm Castle, Barbican gateway, The Irish Landmark Trust,  Northern Ireland ©vcsinden2013'There are in the map of Curry's 'Guide-book points indicating castles and abbey ruins in the vicinity of Glenarm;

   The abbey only exists in the unromantic shape of a wall; the castle, however, far from being a ruin, is an antique in the most complete order-an old castle repaired so as to look like new, and increased by modern wings, towers, gables, and terraces, so extremely old that the whole forms a grand and imposing-looking baronial edifice, towering above the little town which it seems to protect, and with which it is connected by a bridge and a severe-looking armed tower and gate.'

The Barbican, Irish Landmark Trust, Glenarm Castle, Northern Ireland ©vcsinden2013

 

'The severe gate of the castle was opened by a kind, good-natured old porteress, instead of a rough gallowglass with a battle-axe and yellow shirt (more fitting guardian of so stern a postern), and the old dame insisted upon my making an application to see the grounds of the castle, which request was very kindly granted ......'

     Our 'good natured old porteress' , who was not old at all, showed us how to swing open the massive gates with modern technology and where to climb the spiral stairs to the roof terrace looking over Glenarm and out to the sea. The tower itself contained everything that you could wish for to make an atmospheric stay perfect.

  To see more of  'The Barbican', or to book a stay, go to the website of   The Irish Landmark Trust   and view their wonderful holiday properties.

 

 

 

   September 20th 2013  
     .... North of Ireland
- dwellings of the ancients ...

     One of Muddypond's tasks on the long road to becoming a 'Stella Fae' fully qualified, is to fulfill a promise to discover more about the spiritual places of the forefaes. These meld so often with the megaliths and tombs of ancient mortals that they have become almost impossible to tell apart.

      The stone circles of Beaghmore and the court-tomb Tamnyrankin beckoned to me on a very recent Irish exploration (see also below), and briefly - here they are ....

Beaghmore, Tyrone - two stone circles ©vcsinden2013 Beaghmore, Tyrone - cairns and circles discovered under peat ©vcsinden2013
Beaghmore       - views of some of the seven stone circles and cairns.                      

      The heart-stirring site of Beaghmore in county Tyrone is out on the wild moors and very remote despite its ease of access and well kept feel. Discovered buried under peat, there are seven circles, some in pairs, with stone rows leading to them and several burial cairns which may be from an earlier date.
      Our only companion on a grey, rainy day was an immaculate chiffchaff who watched us intently as we wandered marvelling among the circles, making known to us that he was the watch-bird - a guardian of the sacred place. He drew our attention particularly to the 'Dragon's Teeth' circle.

Beaghmore, Tyrone the 'Dragon's Teeth' circle  ©vcsinden2013
Beaghmore:      The extraordinary circle kown as 'Dragon's Teeth' where hundreds of carefully placed rocks fill the huge space.

   Mortals have no explanation for the ancient placing of the 'Dragon's Teeth', but faery-folk believe that it was a way of counting the buried and cremated ones at each cairn and resting place here on the moor.

Beaghmore, Tyrone - stone rows ©vcsinden2013 Chiffchaff - guardian at Beaghmore stone circles, Tyrone ©vcsinden2013
   
Beaghmore:   Stone rows leading to the circles, and an avian stones-guardian who kept his chiffchaff-eye on us for much of the visit.

     In an even more remote spot some miles north of Beaghmore and in County Derry, stand the rare and remarkably well preserved stones and long barrow of the Tamnyrankin Court Tomb. Built in early prehistoric times it is thought to be between 5000 to 6000 years old (many faery-generations indeed!). Silent - we stayed long at this place.

Tamnyrankin Court Tomb, Derry ©vcsinden2013
Tamnyrankin:   a sketch showing Tamnyrankin as it might have been, with my picture of the well preserved tomb now.

.   Tamnyrankin Court Tomb, Derry ©vcsinden2013

   The front wall of a court-tomb was shaped like a horseshoe, with its entrance in the centre, flanked by menhirs graded down in size from the central portal. The 'court' in front is believed (by mortals) to be a small amphitheatre used in gatherings and ceremony. (The Fae of course know this to be true, we used them for moots on clear nights under the full moon - still do!)

    Tamnyrankin has two chambers behind its portal stones and towards the back of the 25metre long barrow a stone passage runs straight across, giving access to two smaller chambers. The entrance capstone has fallen and the chamber shelters ferns. Blackberry vines tumble over the barrow with wild flowers and heathers.

Tamnyrankin Court Tomb, Derry ©vcsinden2013 Tamnyrankin Court Tomb, Derry ©vcsinden2013

 

 


    October 2nd
2013    
        ...  A little learning for the Harvest season ... and 'Crying the Neck'!
...

Traditional corn dollies - amulets for a fine harvest

   The fields around Muddypond's wood at the foot of the North Downs of Kent are bare now of the golden corn that waved and rustled only a week or so ago. They are ridged and furrowed, manured and catching breath for a while before the round begins again.   The Weald and Downland Museum, Susssex ©vcsinden2013

 

   During September, on the everlasting quest for traditional learning which the fae kind delight in, I went for the first time to  The Weald and Downland Museum   for two workshops at their Rural Studies centre.

  One was all about Corn Dollies, little talismen for harvest thanks and good fortune.  On the far left of the drawing above, is the 'Devonshire Neck'. It's one of the best known 'harvest dollies' or harvest amulets found in Britain and once had its own special ritual ... (drawing above taken from 'The Women's Institute Book of Country Crafts' 1979)

Devonshire Neck ©vcsinden2013
Muddypond's first attempt at
plaiting a 'Devonshire neck'.

 There is plenty of documentation about the 'Crying the Neck' ceremony, once common on almost every West Country farm. The extract below is from Sir James Fraser's 'Golden Bough' Chapter 47 ....

harvest jug, 1903 ©vcsinden2013
Harvest Jug 1903 at Scotney Castle, Kent

    'An old man, or some one else well acquainted with the ceremonies used on the occasion (when the labourers are reaping the last field of wheat), goes round to the shocks and sheaves, and picks out a little bundle of all the best ears he can find; this bundle he ties up very neat and trim, and plats and arranges the straws very tastefully. This is called 'the neck' of wheat, or wheaten-ears.'    

 After a jug of ale, which may well have been like this beautiful jug pictured earlier this year at the National Trust's Scotney Castle, the reapers stand in a circle around the one chosen to hold 'the Neck'.

   Now the Neck is raised and lowered to the ground three times, a gesture copied by the reapers who touch the soil with their hats. 

  Stretching to the sky the whole circle calls out slowly and in various harmonies, three times, "The Neck", and then "Waay---en" (we have him). After this comes much maiden chasing and fun and games, topped by a plentiful harvest supper and more ale from that wonderful jug. The Neck itself was hung by the farm hearth for a year and replaced with the next cutting of the corn.

Weald and Downland Museum –corn dollies workshop with Verna Bailey ©vcsinden2013

 

Weald and Downland Museum –corn dollies workshop with Verna Bailey ©vcsinden2013
Left: teacher Verna Bailey with nimble fingered pupils
Right:  Demonstration pieces by Verna

     Amongst the many, many courses, study days and workshops at the Weald and Downland open air museum, I discovered some with the expert on herbal medicines Christina Stapely. The workshop I chose was 'Medicine of the Trees' - a subject of never-ending interest to all Wood Guardian Fae and lovers of the Tree Ogham knowledge.. . .

Weald and Downland Museum – Medicine of Trees workshop with Christina Stapely ©vcsinden2013 Weald and Downland Museum – Medicine of Trees workshop with Christina Stapely ©vcsinden2013
 
Lecturer and writer Christina Stapely directing the ointment making, with the bees wax, berries and herbs simmered on a traditional wood fire.

Weald and Downland Museum, Sussex, traditional rural crafts and trades building ©vcsinden2013
This vast purpose built structure is the centre for longer courses in 'Traditional Rural Trades and Crafts' which run all year round.

Weald and Downland Museum – Medicine of Trees workshop with Christina Stapely - Black Walnut tree ©vcsinden2013 Weald and Downland Museum – Medicine of Trees workshop with Christina Stapely ©vcsinden2013
 
A group of 'Medicine of Trees' participants admire the magnificent Black Walnut tree and examine unusual Sea Buckthorn berries.- also below

Sea Buckthorn in September splendour ©vcsinden2013

 

 

   October 16th 2013    
      ....  Impressions of Northumberland ....   from an enchanted angle ...

Lindisfarne  ©vcsinden2013

Lindisfarne  ©vcsinden2013

    Northumberland, mystic land replete with picturesque castles and drenched in history. Above and below, a day or two on the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne, a place Muddypond has long wanted to visit. Mid October, a perfect time for faery-folk to cross the causeway and find the island unusually deserted.

Lindisfarne  ©vcsinden2013  
Lindisfarne - 'The Journey' ©vcsinden2013

'The Journey' - cut full size in elm by sculpter Fenwick Lawson depicting monks from the Abbey fleeing with St. Cuthbert's coffin to a place of safety in Durham.

Lindisfarne  ©vcsinden2013

Craster Kippers ©vcsinden2013 Red squirrel stronghold, the forests of Northumberland ©vcsinden2013

Anwick Castle from Lion Bridge in October ©vcsinden2013

  Leaving Lindisfarne behind, the little port of Craster beckoned. The smokery of  Robson & Sons is said to produce the finest kippers to be had in England.  I can well believe that!  Sadly no Red Squirrel came out to exchange the time of day, even though Northumberland is a growing stronghold for them. 

  Now the castle of Alnwick lured us, ancient site of, among other things, a certain flying Ford Anglia, an angry Whomping Willow and a courtyard once full of the wizards of Hogwarts. Oh yes, I should say it has a fair old weight of history on its broad shoulders as well!

Martin at Dunstanburgh ©vcsinden2013

Routing Linn rock markings ©vcsinden2013

     Faery Guardian Martin enjoyed a race on the evening sands, ears flying, and took on a serious fight with some fine seaweed. Next day, into the hills to find for ourselves some of the rock-markings for which Northumberland is famous. These, and more like them, thought to have been carved circa 6000 year ago, are in a lonely spot at Routing Linn.

To guard against the body snatchers ©vcsinden2013

    I loved this tiny, rare, semi-deserted building, nestled into the corner of a country churchyard. It is a 'Watch House', constructed in the early 19th century to give shelter to a guard, on permanent watch for the famous 'body-snatchers' from just across the Scottish border.

    Below, the most picturesque of all, by late afternoon light in a howling wind - the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle.

Dunstanburgh, Northumberland ©vcsinden2013

 

 

 

    October 31st 2013      
         ..... Samhain   -  and gifts from faery-gentlewomen .....
       (Making magic?  The  Ogham wood will now be Reed or Wheat - Ngetal from October 28th until November 24th)

©vcsinden2013

   
Back from another few windy days and moonless, unforgettable, firelit nights
on the Dartmoor hills.
Tors and wild places, dark ponies with rain in their manes. Full, clear-rushing, cold streams amber brown with peat. 
Drum beats and ancient, ancient stones - here "The Spinster Rock" at Drewsteington  (chieftain tomb, erected by three women before breakfast to show their power!), surrounded by remembrances from the faery-kin with whom I spent an enchanted space of time on the moors.

 
Images for tonight, the Eve of All Hallows, drawn by brilliant Canadian artist Larry MacDougal     left 'Pumpkin Dealer'   right: 'The Jack'

You may like to see the rowan necklace of 'A Year and a Day', new on my Spells and Charms page.

 

 

 

   November 6th 2013      
       .....  A snippet in honour of the bone-fires of November ...
       (Making magic?  The  Ogham wood is now Reed or Wheat - Ngetal from October 28th until November 24th)

Smarden Bonfire, Kent, Nov 2013 ©vcsinden2013

Smarden Bonfire Nov 2013 ©vcsinden2013

    
       The Song of the Old Mother

   I rise in the dawn, and I kneel and blow
   Till the seed of the fire flicker and glow;
   And then I must scrub and bake and sweep
   Till stars are beginning to blink and peep;

   And the young lie long and dream in their bed
   Of the matching of ribbons for bosom and head,
   And their day goes over in idleness,
   And they sigh if the wind but lift a tress:

   While I must work because I am old,
   And the seed of the fire gets feeble and cold.

       W B Yeats

Smarden Bonfire Nov 2013 ©vcsinden2013

Photos at Smarden Village Bonfire Night Nov 2013

 

 

 

 

   November 7th 2013      
      .....  Siddington Church - a harvest festival of marvels ...

Siddington Church, Cheshire, corn dollies at Harvest Festival  - harvest maids ©vcsinden2013     

    The traditional British harvest thanksgiving was celebrated in October, but I haven't had time 'til now to share my favourite one with you. One which I had wanted to visit for a long while .....

Siddington Church, Cheshire  ©vcsinden2013
All Saints Church at Siddington, Cheshire

   Siddington Church, Cheshire, corn dollies at Harvest Festival  ©vcsinden2013In historic Cheshire there are a number of the prettiest medieval 'black and white' timber churches, originally built with wattle and daub to infill the great oak beams.

  One such is All Saints Church in the village of Siddington.

  All Saints rightly boasts "We are particularly well known for the spectacular harvest decorations where over 1000 of Raymond Rush's corn dollies decorate the church along with a rich display of local produce".

  What an amazing sight!  No wonder the display, hooked onto nails via long poles to save climbing too many ladders, hung from every chandelier, railing and beam, framing windowsills and highlighting the organ balcony is famous.

                                    Siddington Church, Cheshire, corn dollies at Harvest Festival  ©vcsinden2013

Siddington Church, Cheshire, corn dollies at Harvest Festival - the organ balcony  ©vcsinden2013
Siddington Church, Cheshire, corn dollies at Harvest Festival - above the altar©vcsinden2013

      Siddington Church, Cheshire, corn dollies at Harvest Festival  ©vcsinden2013Siddington Church, Cheshire, corn dollies at Harvest Festival  ©vcsinden2013Mr Rush, whose traditional farmland surrounds the church, has been inricately connected with the life of the All Saints for over sixty years. His farmhouse, corn dolly workshop and pretty garden with its chickens and bevvy of cats is only a few steps away.

 A countryman through and through, with unrivalled knowledge of many a traditional skill, Mr Rush continues to make his wonderful corn dollies, displayed annually for hundreds of visitors to admire at harvest time. The clock, with twenty-four straw stars is one of this year's newest ideas!

The Corn Dolly Maker - Mr Raymond Rush ,
his workshop and one of his seven books of country-lore and traditions 'Countrywise'.

Siddington Church, Cheshire, corn dollies at Harvest Festival  ©vcsinden2013

 

 

 

   November 10th 2013      
      .... 
'Anthems for Peace' - Michael Morpurgo with Joey ....

Anthems for Peace, Michael Morpurgo with Joey ©vcsinden

     Yesterday, Remembrance Sunday, I was in London for an unforgettable and emotional evening, 'Anthems for Peace'. Here was Michael Morpurgo reading from his book 'War Horse' with Tim Van Eyken, the 'Songman' from the stage show giving some of John Tams' wonderful music. 'War Horse' set designer Rae Smith drew illustrations for the readings, projected on to a huge screen.

               Then, from the darkness came Joey himself, the War Horse, daintily walking towards his audience, pawing a hoof and whinnying us a greeting. 

Anthems for Peace, Michael Morpurgo, Joey and Tim Van Eyken ©vcsinden Anthems for Peace, with Joey the War Horse, Virginia McKenna and some of 'Voices at the Door' ©vcsinden

    Later, in a perfect second half, a master-class in 'less is more', Michael was joined by the still beautiful Virginia McKenna to read his moving short story 'The Best Christmas Present in the World', memories of Christmas in the trenches. They were accompanied by acapella group 'Voices at the Door' with simple, exquisite carols in English, German and French.

  It was a privilege to be there. Thank you all for an evening never to be forgotten.

 

 

     November 14th 2013    A quick note about faery lanterns ......


If you enjoy the work of the early 20th century fairy artists, and need some light to see you through the dark side, there's a short new feature
about Chinese lanterns on Muddypond's 'other' blog.
'Flowers of the fairies - faery lanterns'

 

 

 

    November 20th 2013    
        ....  Once more to the glorious Bonfire Societies of Sussex  ......
  
                 
                     from 'The Philosophy of Natural Magic'  by Henry Cornelius Agrippa 

Robertsbridge Bonfire Society, Sussex - Whispers at the great fire ©vcsinden2013
Robertsbridge Bonfire Society, Sussex- fire clearers ©vcsinden2013

     
No faerie year can be complete
without at least one visit to the 'Fire County' for a good dose of 'visions and imaginations'!

  Robertsbridge Bonfire Society, Sussex ©vcsinden2013From the end of September to mid December the 40 Bonfire Societies take their turn light up the weekend skies. Robertsbridge Bonfire Society, Sussex ©vcsinden2013The best known of these is on the coast at Lewes, but if you actually want to visit, view and enjoy in comfort away from the too strong mortal crowds, try one of the many others on offer!

   Even the smallest historic villages put on spine-tingling torchlit parades, vast bonfires built to rival the pyramids and pyrotechnics to make you gasp....

   On the night of the November Full Moon, it was the turn of the village of Robertsbridge to kindle their magick - pictured above, the Robertsbridge Bonfire Society banner leads the way. A very, very splendid fire-ritual it was too.

Robertsbridge Bonfire Society, Sussex - Vine Cross Society parades in the Highstreet ©vcsinden2013
Robertsbridge Bonfire Society, Sussex - fireworks ©vcsinden2013
Robertsbridge Bonfire Society, Sussex - Rotherfield Society parades ©vcsinden2013
Robertsbridge Bonfire Society, Sussex ©vcsinden2013


“ But the fairy riders, as the air thickens, shout with triumph and urge their coursers onward and downward, till they reach the earth at last in one glorious rush -
and behold, they are changed into stars of burning flame.”

                                                                                                                   From  “Fairies”  by Gertrude M. Faulding  1913

Muddypond Green at Robertsbridge Bonfire Society, Sussex ©vcsinden2013

 

 


      December 4th 2013   
          'In a Pagan Place'  ...
  a faery place indeed ...
  (Making magic?  Using a wand? The  Ogham wood is now Elder - Ruis, from November 25th to December 22nd)

Faery waterfall, a pagan place, Northumberland ©vcsinden2013

Archway entrance to Faery waterfall, Northumberland ©vcsinden2013 Faery waterfall, a pagan place, Northumberland ©vcsinden2013
Entrance through the tree arch to the pagan place
Top of the mossy faery falls

We that live in Fairyland
No sickness know or pain;
I quit my body when I can,
And take to it again.

Our shapes and size we can convert
To either large or small,
An old nut-shell’s the same to us
As is the lofty hall.

We sleep in rose-buds soft and sweet,
We revel  in the stream,
We wanton lightly on the wind
Or glide on a sunbeam.

 

Old Ballad

 

(From 'The Book of Elves and Fairies' by Frances Olcott
pub: Houghton Mifflin Company 1918)

Muddypond Green at Faery waterfall, a pagan place, Northumberland ©vcsinden2013

  This most beautiful of pagan places is in Northumberland, where I journeyed last month.  Rather melancholy in the late Autumn, local legend tells that here, faeries come to spend their last hours, before they fade into the sparkles and glimmers of the waterfall. Their spirits (but not their souls, for faere-folk have no souls) can sometimes be glimpsed when sunlight casts rainbows in the spray.

Faery waterfall, a pagan place, Northumberland ©vcsinden2013
Oak tree above the Faery waterfall,  Northumberland ©vcsinden2013
Pools,.rocks and rills below the fall, while high above a towering oak stands watch, clinging to the rock edge.
 

'Northumbria Days Out' an offbeat and off the beaten track guide by Keith Taylor

   
    
    I'm not sure whether or not I fell asleep, possibly I did. Certainly I sat
for a long, long while outside the cave on a blanket of brown leaves and star moss. I was listening to the strange booming sound made by the water at the base of the rocks when next I knew I found myself on the wing. Up to the huge oak, through the spray, dancing, soaring and swooping for joy with my Lord of the Greenwood. Should have guessed that he would be found here. Well, it seemed to me that he was ...

     Now the faery-falls and pools are one of the many 'off-the-beaten-track' places that I would never, never have found without this little book -
      'Northumbria Days Out', by Keith Taylor.
You can order a printed copy, or download it at the link above. An unusual and off-beat gem!
Thank you so much Keith, for your suggestions, they gave me so much pleasure.

 

 

 

      December 17th 2013    
         .... The Elder Moon is full, and Yule fast approaches 
....     

Frosted wild clematis seed head ©vcsinden2013
Frosted leaves ©vcsinden2013

     An odd mix of British wintery weather heralds the advent of the Yule season and we all know how the faere-folk of this little island do love to whisper about the weather!  Frost glistens under the full, silver-white mid-December moon, and as the dawn sun rises, the woods and fields are under a pall of eery mist. Now Yule-tide storms are threatened! 

Mist ©vcsinden2013 
 Charing - forgotten chapel at yule ©vcsinden2013 

Muddypond's broken window pane ©vcsinden2013      

 

    I had been to check that the hazel dormice Dormir and Souris were tucked up snuggly in their leaf and root nest. Now, flying over the pines in the early darkness, back to my clearing in the wood, I noticed familar pin-ponts of light through the branches.

 

     Charing - forgotten chapel ©vcsinden2013Of course ! - nearly Mid-winter Solstice - when villager folks and kind neighbours fill the 'Forgotten Chapel' with candlelight and the scents of pine tree, soft fresh hay, cinnamon and nutmeg.    I flew up to the little diamond window pane, its lavender glass broken so many moons ago - and taking care not to be seen, peered down ...

   There! Again, the wonderful tree, proud with its hundreds of twinkles and every nook and cranny in the ancient stones lit by a candle flame. Soaring into the vast roof beams, the notes from medieval pipes, shaums, strings and jingles.

 

Charing - forgotten chapel at yule ©vcsinden2013
Charing - forgotten chapel ©vcsinden2013

Charing, forgotten chapel at Yule with medieval music ©vcsinden2013

 

 

    December 24th 2013    
       .....  Wishing you and yours a cosy and happy Mid-Winter .....
       (Not sure which wand to use at this time, or which wood to include in your herbal incense? The  Ogham wood is now Birch - Beith
         from December 24th to January 20th)

Curt Nystrom, a Yule greeting

Illustration by Curt Nystrom

Yuletide stockings by favourite faery artists of a century ago, feature on
Muddypond's 'other' blog 'Wolf Moons and Muddypond Green'

'Only stripy stockings for Christmas Eve hearths'