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Fairy artists above - 1st page - Harald Wiberg,  Rollover page - Millicent Sowerby,  Wanda Lehre.

 



    March 20th 2015  ...  Pigments, paints and projects for the First day of Spring ...
   (The Ogham tree associated with this day is Fearn - Alder - 18th March to 14th April.  Use wood, catkins or tiny cones for your magic, incense and meditation.)

Margaret Tarrant's Spring silhouette

    Blacks and creams for a silhouette - 1940's postcard illustration by Margaret Tarrant

     The Spring Equinox - a day when the world is in balance, an equal split of daylight and dark - and a wonderful eclipse of the Sun to add to the day's magic. Sadly here in the south eastern corner of Kent the clouds and mist hung low in the sky until past midday, and all hope of a sighting of the Moon's shadow was dashed.

    No early sunshine then, but plenty of Springtime in gardens and hedgerows - and so many months of warmth and light and birdsong to follow  ...

Hazel catkins in Muddypond's wood ©vcsinden2015
Celandines on the bank in March ©vcsinden2015
Snowdrops with primroses ©vcsinden2015
   
Colour balance for the equinox Ostara. The yellows, ochres and whites of hazel catkins, celandines, snowdrops with primroses, blackthorn blossom and spidery witch hazel.
Blackthorn blossom in March ©vcsinden2015
Witch hazel in March ©vcsinden2015

 

     Woodland Ostara colours, followed by a colour-burst of sheer Spring exuberance - a little bunting project for Muddypond's small and trusty Campervan Mopsy, who looks forward to many journeys now the evenings are longer.

   Project Bunting - unfinished as yet - crochet (many fine fae folk can do it!). I'll show it to you when it's truly finished!

  The gorgeous flower and owl buttons are treasures from the wonder-house UK craft supplier
   'Paper and String Ltd'.

Bunting crochet project for Mopsy ©vcsinden2015

Bunting crochet project for Mopsy ©vcsinden2015
Bunting crochet project for Mopsy ©vcsinden2015

 

 

 

 

   February 20th 2015  ...  Candlemas and Shrove - February happenings  ....   

St. Pancras Church at Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105
The tiny, beautifully unspoiled Coldred Church. Its single bell replaces one made in the 12th century, which has been preserved in the little nave.

        

       A tradition of the Christian Church for the second day of February is the Candlemas service. There has been a celebration at the beginning of this cold winter's month since time immemorial, and as often happens, the early Christians blended their date of Purification to fit with the older pagan honouring (Imbolc or Brigid's Day - Feb 1st).
Candlemas at ST. Pancras Church, Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105It becomes increasingly difficult to find a real Candlemas service in my part of the world, especially one held on the evening of the actual calendar date of February 2nd. (Many are still held, but on the nearest Sunday). After much searching I found one, and how lucky I was!

  Down a long country lane stands the tiny, ancient church of St. Pancras in the pretty village of Coldred, near Dover.

Although it hardly seats more than thirty souls, the village takes great pride its traditional Candlemas.

 

St. Pancras Church, Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105
The ancient church of St. Pancras, standing amongst Saxon earthworks and Roman remains at the Kentish village of Coldred.

 

Snowdrops at Candlemas in Coldred Church  Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105
Early snowdrops decorate the church at Coldred.

 

    The Festival of Candlemas honours the day when, as was the custom of the time, at forty days from the birthing of her child, a mother wento to a temple where she would be ritually 'purified' and the baby blessed. This custom was known in medeival Britain as 'Churching'.
     It's written that on the occasion of Mary's purification, priest Simeon recognised her baby as being 'The Light of the World'. From this came the custom of processing with candles and bringing, or being given, a candle to be blessed for the remaining winter ahead.

   Traditionally the church is decorated with evergreens and white flowers for the 'Putification', particularly the 'Flower of Hope' - the snowdrop - barely in seasonal bloom at the beginning of February. At St. Pancras there are plenty to choose from, growing beside the church gate.

Candles for Candlemas at St.Pancras Church, Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105

       Seeing Coldred only in the darkness of the February evening, whetted my appetite to explore it further in daylight. The village, much loved and lived in, simply abounds with community and centuries of history.

The memorial Lime Avenue at Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105

  The entrance to Coldred is framed by an avenue of lime trees, now twenty years old and looking very beautiful even in mid-winter.

 The avenue was planted as a memorial to Helen Mummery - what a wonderful tribute!

  If you're searching for a quintessentially British pub, look no further than the 'Carpenter's Arms'.

  Hardly bigger than a cottage, overlooking the green and its pond, there are two little rooms around a bar. Crackling wood burning fires welcome guests, books, papers and of course locally brewed ales persuade him into staying a while.

  It reminded me forcefully of times and places in Malcolm Saville's 'Lone Pine' mysteries!

The Carpenter's Arms at Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105
The Village Pond on the Green at Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105

   The village pond. Every village with a right to that name should have one!

  This peaceful place is at the heart of Coldred, on the green. Inhabited by many ducks, and overlooked by restful benches, even this idyllic hub boasts of strange history ...

  In the mid seventeenth century, local woman Nell Garlinge was accused of witchcraft and 'swum', hands and feet tied across the body, in the deepest part of the pond to test her guilt or innocence!

 

   This superb example of an old Kentish Staddle Barn stands adjacent to the church.

   The barn is raised high off the ground on mushroom shaped 'staddle stones' to keep the grain stored inside dry and safe from vermin.

The Old Kentish Staddle Barn at Coldred, Nr. Dover in Kent ©vcsinden2105

   There is an interesting pdf. document with a history of Coldred, complete with lots of pictures. Written in 1996 by local resident Marjorie Chapman you may follow the 'Coldred Chronicle' link here.

 

   Then came another February tradition, Shrove Tuesday.  ©vcsinden2105

My faery pleasure and indulgence wasn't for pancakes this year. The choice made was a fine contrast to the woodland ways which normally keep Muddypond busy!

   Brick Lane street art  ©vcsinden2105To East London she flew, Brick Lane to pinpoint her landing place more accurately. Bustling thoroughfare awash with famous graffiti, art galleries, endless curry houses, Indian sweet shops and groceries, markets and street food.

    You know I think, that we faery-folk don't eat exactly as mortals do - apart from a very few 'specified victuals' (dew, mushroom, wild strawberry, pure marshmallow etc.) we take our nutrition from the air. We imbibe it through a process closely aligned to 'smell'. Thus, just walking along Brick Lane, past Curry houses of every kind, is an experience like no other - sheer gluttony and sensory excess!!

    It's little known in Britain (even amongst faere folk) that on the list of permitted 'specified victuals' are sweet Indian delicacies - tiny nibbles from barfi, halwa, jalebi and ladoo. Muddypond knows -and adores them - especially barfi !

Harfi and Ganesh  ©vcsinden2105
My assorted and indulgent barfi - watched over by the little Ganesh statue, brought home from Varanasi.

     Necessary on a visit to Brick Lane (complimentary to curry imbibing!) is a look in one of the Galleries. The exhibition at the Old Truman Brewery Gallery, now until 12th April, is  'The Art of the Brick'.  Amazing!   Art, mostly life sized figures, made up entirely of tiny Lego bricks - tens of thousands for each exhibit - and all by artist Nathan Sawaya. Unexpectedly beautiful and thought provoking!

       There are 14,500 bricks in the hand alone (below).  My pictures (taken on phone) won't even begin to give you an idea - I hope you will  visit the website if you can't get to the exhibtion itself.

'The Art of the Brick' Red Man  ©vcsinden2105
'The Art of the Brick' -life-sized  swimmer  ©vcsinden2105
'The Art of the Brick' - pieta  ©vcsinden2105
The Art of the Brick' the Hand, showing it's real size  ©vcsinden2105

     Being an old fashioned country creature, I'd never seen the modern phenomena called 'Love-locks' - and here beside Brick Lane I discovered some! A present-day counterpart of the 'Clouty Tree' I suppose. Two hearts locked together forever inside a padlock. Interesting - but in Europe already unwieldy and a bit of an eyesore in places.

brick Lane - 'Love-locks'   ©vcsinden2105

 

 

   January 27th 2015  ...  The Mari Lwyd - 'A horse's head in the frost' ...                    

Ghostly Mari Lwyds meet in the Three Tuns at Chepstow 2015 Mari Lwyd ©vcsinden2015
A misty throng of Mari Lwyds chatting by the fire in the Three Tuns, Chepstow, Wales

Overheard: 
Father - "Well, there you are - what do you think of them?"
Small Daughter - "I don't like them!"
Father - - "You don't?  Why not?"
Small Daughter - "Because they're dead."
    

Chepstow Mari Lwyd ©vcsinden2015
The Chepstow Mari Lwyd

     An old Welsh tradition for New Year's Eve and Twelfth Night saw a 'first footing' by the Mari Lwyd  (Grey Mare - Night Mare) - a horse's skull decked out in a white shroud, ribbons, bells, perhaps as a bride.

    At midnight, there might come a knock on the door, or the Mari head, high on a pole, scratching at the window pane, begging for entry in song or verse. Should he be allowed through the door, he would be fed and watered with ale.

    The modern 'Maris' look a friendly enough bunch, each with its own distinct character and they're said to bring good fortune for the New Year, but in times gone by they may have been objects of foreboding.

 

   To accompany my pictures there are a few chosen verses from
          'The Ballad of the Mari Lwyd'  by Vernon Watkins. 
It's a long and spine-tingling lament with echoing voices and whispers in the dark.

   The Ballad reminded me somehow of the local Kentish legends of the smugglers on the Romney Marshes and the infamous
'Dr Syn'. 

Perhaps you'd like to read it all - find it on this link  The Ballad of the Mari Lwyd, and other poems'   London, 1941

 

Llantrissant Mari Lwyd at Chepstow 2015 ©vcsinden2015

Midnight. Midnight. Midnight. Midnight.
Hark at the hands of the clock.

The breath of a numb thing, loud and faint:
Something found and lost.
The minute drops in the minute-glass;
Conscience counts the cost.
What mounted, murderous thing goes past
The room of Pentecost?
Sinner and saint, sinner and saint:
A horse’s head in the frost.

 

    Left: The Mari from Llantrissant

Though you come from the grim wave’s monklike hood
And Harlech’s bitter coast,
White horses need white horses’ food:
We cannot feed a ghost.
Cast your Lwyd to the white spray’s crest
That pounds and rides the air.
Why should we break our lucky feast
For the braying of a mare?

 

 

                          Right: The Cardiff Mari

Cardiff Mari Lwyd ©vcsinden2015
Lands End Mari Lwyd 'Penevyll'  at Chepstow 2015  ©vcsinden2015



Go back, with your drowned and drunken eyes
And your crooked mouths so small
And your Mari foaled of the starry skies:
Go back to the seawave’s fall.
If we lift and slide the bolt in the door
What can our warm beer buy?
What can you give for the food we store
But a slice of starving sky?

Sinner and saint, sinner and saint:
A horse’s head in the frost.

 

Left: Mari 'Penkevyll' from Land's End in Cornwall

 

The slinking dead, the shrinking sands,
And the picklock, picklock, picklock hands

Dread and quiet, evil and good:
Frost in the night has mixed their blood.
Thieving and giving, good and evil:
The beggar’s a saint, and the saint a devil.
Mari Lwyd, Lwyd Mari:
A sacred thing through the night they carry.
Betrayed are the living, betrayed the dead:
All are confused by a horse’s head.

 

 

            Right: 'Larcher' the Mari from Carmarthen

Carmarthen Mari Lywd 'Larcher'  ©vcsinden2015
Pembrokeshire Mari Lwyd ©vcsinden2015

‘O crouch and cringe by the bounding flame
And close your eyelids fast.
Out of the breath of the year we came.
The breath of the year has passed.
The wits of a skull are far too great
Being out of the hands of the clock.
When Mari Lwyd knocks on the door,
In charity answer that knock.’

 

 

     Left: The Pembrokeshire Mari

 

 

O white is the frost on the breath-bleared panes
And the starlike fire within,
And our Mari is white in her starry reins
Starved through flesh and skin.
It is a skull we carry
In the ribbons of a bride.
Bones of the Nightfrost parry
Bones of the Fire inside.’

 

 

                                       Right: The Swansea Mari

 

Swansea Mari Lwyd ©vcsinden2015
Mari Lwyd at Chepstow, Wales - on the Iron Bridge ©vcsinden2015
    Chepstow's Mari returns over the Iron Bridge, leading some aquaintance from the 'English' side of the bank onto Welsh soil.

    My pictures were all taken at the Chepstow Mari Lwyd Day in Wales on 17th January this year. There's a Wassail, an encounter between English and Welsh by torchlight on the Iron Bridge, a Mari Lwyd 'First Footing' in verse to gain entrance to pub and museum, Morris Dance and much frivolity. Eccentrically enchanted enjoyment!

     There are many online places for us to look at Chepstow Mari Lwyd photos,
so I have simply concentrated here on the treasured horse spirits.

     You might like to look at more Chepstow event pictures here  and find more of the history of the Mari Lwyd custom here   

Mari Lwyd at Chepstow 2015 ©vcsinden2015

 

 

    January 23rd 2015  ... A walk in the January dusk ...  cold but perfectly enchanted ...
        (The Ogham tree associated with this day is Luis - Rowan - 21st January to 17th February.  Use wood or berries for your magic and meditation.)

January Challock, Kent ©vcsinden2015

January rook - Challock, Kent ©vcsinden2015

January

' There was never a leaf on bush or tree,
The bare boughs rattled shudderingly ;
The river was dumb and could not speak,
For the weaver Winter its shroud had spun ;
A single crow on the tree-top bleak
From his shining feathers shed off the cold sun ;
Again it was morning, but shrunk and cold,
As if her veins were sapless and old,
And she rose up decrepitly
For a last dim look at earth and sea.
'

James Russell Lowell

Snowdrops, early in january at Challock Church ©vcsinden2015
Snowdrops, early in january at Challock Church ©vcsinden2015

January dusk walk with Guardian Martin ©vcsinden2015

 

 

     January 12th 2015  ... Hoodeners at the turn of the year     (cont. from Dec 2014 here)
        (The Ogham tree associated with this day is Beith - Birch - 24thDec - 20th January. Use it for magic and meditation.)

Hoodeners, St Nicholas at Wade, Kent, entertaining at Gad's Brewery, Ramsgate  ©vcsinden2014

♫    "We are St Nicholas Hoodeners with our custom very old
We represent a ploughing team
Who celebrate an ancient theme
Our solstice rights aren't what they seem
Peace offerings so we're told "
    ♫

      If you're fascinated by folklore and traditions, as am I - (faery-folk seek them out wherever they can to bear them witness and feel past days flowing through present and future) - you will be prepared to travel far.    Imagine the pleasure, on a cold winter's day, of simply skipping to a not-so-far-away brewery (Gadd's)  to keep company with one of the oldest hooden horses in the country and his trusty band of revellers.

Old Dobbin waits in the wings - Hoodeners, St Nicholas at Wade, Kent ©vcsinden2014

Old Dobbin awaits his entrance cue amongst the ale casks!

   Hooden horses have a very strong link with Kentish folklore - and nowhere is the winter ritual so enthusiastically preserved than in the village of St. Nicholas at Wade near Canterbury.

  Each year a small band of players sets bravely forth to pubs and house parties to perform a little play in verse and song. It's along old mumming lines of death and resurrection (old year into new), but always with satirical comment on newsworthy issues from the past year, both local and national.

The plough-boy is thrown from Old Dobbin,
but luckily revives in time to sing the carols!

Hoodeners, St Nicholas at Wade, Kent ©vcsinden2014

    One of this year's main themes for uncomplimentary rhyming was the struggling local airport -
here's a quote from the Daily Mail setting out the issue!
"Manston Airport, near Margate, Kent, - where Dambusters ace Sir Barnes Wallace carried out tests on the revolutionary bouncing bomb during the Second World War has been sold for just £1."Hoodeners, St Nicholas at Wade, Kent ©vcsinden2014
Old Dobbin brings news to the Waggoner and Molly

Hooden horse Old Dobbin disgraces himself - Hoodeners, St Nicholas at Wade, Kent ©vcsinden2014

Hmm - Old Dobbin is seemingly hell-bent on leaving his own satirical comment!

I've met quite a few hoodens in my time, but never one who did THIS ! Disgraceful, but then he is a couple of hundred years old now after all!

       'If ye the Hooden Horse do feed, throughout the year ye shall not need '  - an old rhyme to encourage would-be alms givers!  At the turn of each year, the old horse and the St Nicholas at Wade Hoodeners raise plenty of money for a local charity of their choice

Long may they Hooden!