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Illustration above - by Swedish Fairy-tale artist Lennart Helje




    August 20th 2018
                            .... down to Devon to satisfy a folk-beast fetish ........


  The Aardman Award for Best Beast 2018 at the Sidmouth Folk Week, together with his pal Morph.                 Aardman Aninmations Trophy for Best Beast - with Morph,  Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018  Aardman Aninmations Trophy for Best Beast - with Morph,  Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018               

"An all-comers event for Hobby Horses, Unicorns, Goats, Morris animals and other Beasts of Disguise.
Canter along to the Hub for a bit of horseplay."
Peter Lord, Aardman Aninmations Trophy for Best Beast ,  Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018   

       The "Sidmouth Horse Trials",   a light hearted competition for folklore beasts, was in its third year down by the seafront, and seems likely to become a popular annual event at the Sidmouth Folk Week.

   The Trophy that you might win is priceless quite honestly - made and donated by Aardman Animation (Morph, Creature Comforts, Wallace and Gromit et al).

   The event with its illustrious prize was instigated by one of the founders of Aardman from some forty and more years ago - folk tradition and Morris fan, Peter Lord. (Photo left).Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018

Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018

Some of the eager beasts await their entrance

Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018

Jazza, a small zebra, son of my friend n'Dobbin from Pilgrim Morris  - and a frisky hooden start to woo the big crowd
(See n'Dobbin at the wonderful 'Guildford Summerpole' gathering here)

Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Week ©vcsinden2018

Rare sighting of a Mari Lwyd, (a Yuletide Welsh grey mare) out in the hot summer sun

     The "Sidmouth Horse Trials" are open to any Beast, not necessarily a horse, but the rules state that it MUST be a Beast which turns out with a Morris or Mumming group to dance, collect and entertain. It cannot be a Beast simply invented for the day. (Or so I believed, perhaps this is no longer the case?) - anyway, first it must sign up before the big event. 

     The Beast and perhaps his wrangler must :

(1)  parade around the ring with all the groups

(2)  perform en solo, a short routine for the judges

(3)  cavort chaotically before the crowd en masse in a heart-warming manner, trying to gather as much attention as possible





Sidmouth Horse Trials, Folk Wee - Outside Capering Crew ©vcsinden2018

               A nimble horse from "The Outside Capering Crew" (winners 2017) recalls his skills

Sidmouth Horse Trials, Winner 2018,  Folk Week ©vcsinden2018

The 2018 Winner was the flirtatious pairing of hobby-horse 'Malarkey' and rider Julie Page.





     July 3rd 2018
                      ... Sweden - for Midsummer traditions ...


Elsa Beskow

This illustration is from a beautiful book which I bought in Sweden, a thick compilation from one of my favourite Swedish artists Elsa Beskow (1874 – 1953).

The book is "I Tradgardsland Och Blaarsskog" published by Bonnier Carlsen and records seasonal traditions, nature and pastimes.





Midsummer in Sweden - Hölen ©vcsinden2018

Raising the Summer Pole at Hölen

Midsummer in Sweden - Mora ©vcsinden2018

The children's ceremony at Mora - decorating the pole



    June 15th 2018
                                ........... looking forward to Litha - Midsummer ...

            This year, to celebrate Midsummer, Muddypond will be out in the countryside near Mora, in Sweden, looking forward to the late-night-sun celebrations and the Summer Poles.

            But before that, hopefully the fullfillment of a long held ambition  -  to visit the exhibtion of illustrations by the folk legend John Bauer at the Museum in Jönköping.


                  Unused illustration by John Bauer 1882 - 1918


     May 1st 2018
                                ........... the Dawn Rising  ...

May Dawning, Muddypond Green watches the sun rise ©vcsinden2018

Muddypond Green, Wood Guardian Fae, watching the May Day Dawn at Sambrook Farm in Shropshire.
Frost in the long grass, mist rising through the trees and over the water,
bird song and early morning lambs calling all around.

In spite of lots of travelling, she believes that England is the most magickal,
so bewitchingly beautiful - and what would we be without the changing seasons?




    April 2nd 2018
                                ........... seven days on Rapa Nui - at the other end of Earth

Rapa Nui - Ahu Tongariki©vcsinden2018

The Travelling Moai watches over the entrance to 220m long Ahu Tongariki with its 15 statues

     So I haven't seen you for a while now - this fae has been travelling again, to put her little woodland home and Kentish surroundings into some perspective (as required by Stella Fae Exams - still not passed!).
 Rapa Nui - LAN airline arrives in the rain ©vcsinden2018 Nearly a month in Chile, and I'd like to show you a tiny Easter Island viewpoint - from what is said to be the most remote, inhabited Island on the planet.

       Rapa Nui - rare information sign ©vcsinden2018First, you must travel to Santiago, Chile's capital city, and from there take a further flight of nearly five hours to reach this remote, green speck in the Pacific ocean. 

   Rapa Nui (as Easter Island should rightly be called) was born from the tips of  three huge volcanos which pushed up from the ocean floor - making a triangular shaped island just 15.3 miles at its longest point, and 7.6 at its widest.  Only one airline flies there, and lands at the only small town - Hanga Roa. Around here the whole population of the Island lives and works.

     The climate can be hot and tropical, but there are often heavy downpours of rain. The small population is ever aware of its ocean legacy, and the island's perilous position as a single rock in thousands of miles of water in every direction.

Rapa Nui - the fishing port Hanga Roa Otai ©vcsinden2018

Moai stands proud on his platform at Hanga Roa Otai, the tiny fishing port.

      It's to spend time with the extraordinary Moai statues that people travel so far - and once you've arrived you don't have to go any distance to find them if you don't want to, they're everywhere around the coast, even in the town itself!

    The huge stone Moai were once believed to represent Gods, but are now thought to be specially comissioned memorials to important and recently dead ancestors.  They were cut from the rock of the huge quarry riven into the side of the volcano Rano Raraku and transported for miles to their coastal positions on carefully constructed platforms or 'ahu'.

      Some are on beaches, some atop cliffs, some along the low coastal paths, singly or in groups. They all face inwards to the island, watching over their people, with backs to the wind and rough seas.

Rapa Nui - Anakena Beach ©vcsinden2018

One of the most famous groups, seen here way in the distance, across the popular sands of Anakena beach.
See them closer below.

Rapa Nui -  the Moai with topknots at Anakena©vcsinden2018

Moai with topknots (hairstyles cut from different stone) intact, guarding the sands of Anakena Beach

    The Moai are thought to have been carved and transported over several centuries - from the 10th to 15th AD.  Diaries from Captain Cook's expedition in 1774 talk in detail of many standing statues. But at some stage between then and an outsider's recorded visit in 1838 , every one of them was pushed onto its face and some completely destroyed by the Rapa Nui - the Island and its people was in serious decline. The Guardians were not performing their task.

Rapa Nui - fallen Moai on the coast road ©vcsinden2018

   Many of the Moai are still fallen and eroded by rough weather, and that is how they will now be left. Around fifty or so have been re-erected since Thor Heyardal's famous experiment in the 1950s.

Rapa Nui - The Giant - Rano Ranuku quarry ©vcsinden2018

     Moai were carved at the quarry of Rano Ranaku, where stone was cut from the sloping sides of the volcano.

       The volcano and quarry of Rano Ranaku now shows us the amazing spectacle of scores of Moai heads - heads since their bodies have been gradually buried beneath the steeply sloping earth - and some still in the process of being hewn from the rock, when the time came to abandon the whole idea.

   Rapa Nui - evocative Moai at Rano Ranaku ©vcsinden2018

Abandoned, untransported statues at Rano Ranaku - giving some of the most evocotive photo opportunities!

     The island of Rapa Nui  has more to offer its visitors and residents than stone statues only, too much to be able to tell of here. It may be a tiny place in the middle of a vast ocean, but  ......

   There's Hanga Roa, its pretty little town, with enough restaurants, crafts and cafes to keep the most exacting tourists happy. Dawn and sunset skies that must be seen. Fiercely windy volcano and cliffs where the Bird Man Cult was centred. Its church - a showpiece for its fine modern carvers. A lovely small museum. Cliffs and rough seas but also long hours of sunshine and two wonderful sandy beaches with warm, warm waters.

Rapa Nui - The Church of Holy Cross, Hanga Roa ©vcsinden2018 Rapa Nui - statue of Mary, Holy Cross Church, Hanga Roa©vcsinden2018

  The Church of the Holy Cross in Hanga Roa, and a wonderful Mary, Stunningly influenced by Rapa Nui culture.

Rapa Nui - horses free to roam ©vcsinden2018

Horses everywhere - wild, burnished horses who wander free - take care on the little roads!

Rapa Nui -sunset on the coastal walk near the town ©vcsinden2018

Sunset at Ahu Vai Uri, Tahai

     Do stay for much longer than a couple of nights - hire a car - take in the views and the mysteries in your own time. Sit with the Moai. You have travelled a long, long way - it's worth it.

Rapa Nui - the cemetery of Hanga Roa©vcsinden2018

Last word - Hanga Roa Cemetery




       March 30th 2018
                                ........... a litle silly spring crafting! ...

Crocheted spring rabbits ©vcsinden2018
So this is how Wood Guardian fae spend their wet spring evenings - a little hygge by a fire, crocheting Easter creme egg cover rabbits of many garish wools for friends and for you, to say Happy Easter holidays.

Not to mention a flower pot full of primroses !

Crochet primroses ©vcsinden2018

A pot of crochet english primroses©vcsinden2018


Also, long overdue - coming as soon as I can - sharing my travels in Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and Chile -
below, my proudest photo to whet your appetite (hopefully!)

Moai, Rapa Nui ©vcsinden2018



        January 21st 2018
                    ........  Going Welsh with the Mari Lwyd  .....

         An important part of Welsh folk history which was never really extinguished, but now enjoys riding the wave of folk revival, is the Mari Lwyd - also known as Y Fari Lwyd. The grey mare.

       Associated with mid-winter folklore, at around the time of Christmas, New Year and Old or New Twelth Night, Mari would be led out by her keeper(s). They would go from house to house (often the Public House!), peering in the windows and banging on the door to be let in.
     The chilly outside Mari party would sing traditional verses (in Welsh of course, as indeed they still do) begging for entrance. The fire-warmed inside party would reply, also in song, telling Mari to go away! 
      Eventually, after a longish song-battle, the door is opened and Mari enters, bringing good luck to the house.

     A variety of Mari's enjoying a catch up outside the two pubs at the bottom of Bridge Street and
circling the apple trees as part of the Wassail at the foot of the castle walls

     The 'Chepstow Annual Wassail and Mari Lwyd' is a lovely 'revival' event, where Mari's are welcomed from all over Wales (and further) to take part in a combination of Mari Lwyd 'Open Door' plays and Wassail in a gorgeous setting in old castle dell, where a little apple orchard has been specially planted.  
     Later, there's a unique evening meeting where rival companies, English at one end and Welsh at the other, meet at the centre of the Old Bridge. There's much flag waving, Morris dancing and Wassail drinking before all return as friends, led by many Mari's and a big Gloucester Old Spot Boar (for the English of course)!

  Mari's around the pretty old town area of Chepstow - undaunted by a rather wet day in mid-winter.
Below: The dark punky fella 'Penkevyll' comes all the way from Cornwall's Land's End !

You can find more about the Mari Lwyd tradition, and the Chepstow Mari here on my website  - scroll down to January 27th