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Artists above - 1st page - Arthur Rackham,        Rollover page -   Harold Gaze,   Margaret Tarrant




     September 25th 2015         Hop Hoodening at Canterbury Cathedral  ......

But where, oh where, were the HOODENS ?

    Muddypond is getting all behind with her celebrations! It's thirteen days now since the Annual Service of Hop Hoodening took place in the Cathedral at Canterbury. A friendly ritual, where the Kentish hops are blessed, with the growers, modern-day hop pickers and the brewers of the beers.

Hop Hoodening at Canterbury Cathedral 2015 -  hop decoration ©vcsinden2015

   The Service takes place in the vast nave of the Cathedral, and the altar, placed on the worn steps at the foot of the tower, is decorated with hop bines ready for the occasion.

    A hush falls as rustic dance tunes are heard in the precincts, louder, closer - trouser bells jingling, but I heard no clopping of hoof or clacking of jaw as the procession enters ....

So where, oh where, were the HOODENS ?

Hop Hoodening at Canterbury Cathedral 2015 - Wantsum Morris men in the precincts ©vcsinden2015

Wantsum Morris Men dance through the precincts

    Behind the clergy and Lord Mayor comes the Hop Queen and her princesses, escorted under a shelter of hops, followed by the Morris groups ...

But where, oh where, are the HOODENS ?

Hop Hoodening at Canterbury Cathedral 2015 -  the Hop Queen ©vcsinden2015

    The sweet and informal service of blessing flowed along, with lusty singing, morris tunes and the traditional dance "Old Woman Tossed Up In a Blanket" dexterously performed by the Ravensbourne Morris Men - seen below in their theatrical 'dressing room' and dancing in the precints ......

Hop Hoodening at Canterbury Cathedral 2015 - Ravensbourne Morris Men ©vcsinden2015

   After the service there was beer. Quite right too! There was dancing in the precints and around the city, dodging puddles from early rain but all in glorious September sunshine.

Hop Hoodening at Canterbury Cathedral 2015 - Ravensbourne Morris Men ©vcsinden2015

Ravensbourne Morris, from Keston near Bromley, get down to business after the Blessing


      But, shamelessly, Muddypond asks her question again - surely the Hooden Horses of Kent - and believe me there are quite a few in stables not so very far from the Cathedral City - should have been there EN HERD!

Where, oh where, were the HOODENS ?

 Canterbury Cathedral memorial garden   ©vcsinden2015




    September 10th 2015         Rush Bearing at Sowerby Bridge  .......
  (The Ogham tree associated with this day is  Muin - Bramble - Blackberry   2nd to 29th September.  You should use blackberries and or fresh or dried bramble leaves for your faery magic, incense and this time)  

      Muddypond has been away on her researches. She's been wanting to see a 'Rush Bearing Ceremony' for many a long year and at last she has her wish. 

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 - head of the parade ©vcsinden2015

       Most of those that are still held take place in Lancashire and its border with Yorkshire. The celebration over two days in Sowerby Bridge, travels to many churches in the little canal-side Yorkshire town and over the hills and moors to neighbouring villages presenting bunches of ceremonial rushes. The beautifully thatched cart is drawn by a team of up to sixty local men.

      Over nearly four centuries, from the mid 1500's to the very late 1800's, church floors were covered with cut rushes for warmth and cleanliness. Once a year a fantastically decorated rush-cart pulled by men or horses in procession would travel to the church with a huge load clean rushes - and the special day became a festival.

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 -  the cart enters St Patrick's  ©vcsinden2015

   Many of the words which accompany Muddypond's pictures come from
‘Rush Bearing’ by Alfred Burton, published in 1891

 ' MANY of our old customs are fading away into the dim mists of antiquity, and all but  the name will soon be forgotten. This is  much to be regretted, because they were attended with  a great deal of pure enjoyment, and were looked forward to by the people for weeks before the event.

One of these is the old custom of strewing rushes, and its attendant ceremony of the rush-bearing, with its quaint rush-cart and fantastic morris-dancers.


From the Introduction
‘Rush Bearing’ by Alfred Burton

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 -  the rush cart ©vcsinden2015
Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 - White Rose Morris ©vcsinden2015
The White Rose Morris side from Huddersfield toil up the hill after a sup at the Navigation Inn
Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 -  WrigleyHhead Morris©vcsinden2015

' Behold the rush-cart and the throng
Of lads and lasses pass along !
Now watch the nimble morris-dancers,
Those blithe, fantastic, antic prancers,
Bedecked with gaudiest profusion
Of ribbons in a gay confusion
Of brilliant colours, richest dyes,
Like wings of moths and butterflies ;
Waving white kerchiefs here and there,
And up and down and everywhere

From: Elijah Ridings ‘Village Festival’ 1848


Pictured left : Two members of Wrigley Head Morris

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 -  400 Roses ©vcsinden2015
Ladies too celebrate the Rush Bearing - here the colourful 'Four Hundred Roses' entertain.

    From Congleton Town Accounts :
1607.   To the Rushbearers, wine, ale, & cakes - 6s. 0d.  

   From Wilmslowe Town Accounts:
1661.  Paid for getting forth of all mats, rushes,
and makinge the church cleane against the Rushbearinge - - 3s. 0d.

1685.    Paid for the Rushbearing, of the Parishioners and others for their pains - 7s. 6d.

'  The ropes are attached ; the stretchers noosed fast at proper distances ; all is ready.

The music strikes up louder ; the driver clears the way with his long-whip, making it give a loud and clear crack at every stroke — that being his feat — the word is ' Neaw lads,' and at one strong pull and a heave of the shafts the wheels are dislodged from their socket-holes. '

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 -  the bearers©vcsinden2015
Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 -  the bearers ©vcsinden2015

'The cart is slowly drawn up to the level sward, amid the loud shouts of the admiring gazers ; and so, with music-clangour, and bell-jingle, and laughter, and words of
caution, as ' Howd on, lads,' 'Gently, lads,' the quaint and
romantically fantastic spectacle moves towards the village of its destination.

From: Samuel Bamford ‘Early Days’ – Chap XV   1893

'There in the midst, throned on a rustic sledge
Frilled high with rushes in their greenness gathered,
The queen of beauty sits, in youthful bloom
The frost of Time's fierce winter shall not nip,
And round her hang a garland of fair maids,
Fair as herself, with wreaths of flowers yoked
In deathless fellowship of fairest fame.

From a poem by Rev. James Dixon
Found in ‘Rush Bearing’ by Alfred Burton, 1891

Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival 2015 - the ceremonial rushes after presentation at St Patrick's Sacred Heart  ©vcsinden2015


The back of the Sowerby Bridge rush cart
is a memorial, carrying the pewter ale mugs
of past bearers.

 Each church en route is given a bunch of ceremonial rushes.
Here at the church of St. Patrick's Sacred Heart

 The next Sowerby Bridge Rushbearing Festival will be Saturday and Sunday September 3rd & 4th 2016




      August 28th 2015 ...  Castle Howard, Yorkshire - enchanted place of Brideshead memories ...

Castle Howard ©vcsinden2015

       As the Second World War ended in 1945, Evelyn Waugh published his novel "Brideshead Revisited".  In 1981 the novel was serialised for television in eleven unforgettable episodes. It was perfection, not just 'of its time' but for all time.

       It's an adaptation with its script bonded like a second skin to the original novel by long, narrative readings by Charles Ryder, played by Jeremy Irons.   The three other stars - the iconic Sebastian Flight, by Anthony Andrews, his soul-mate the Bear Aloysius - and the house - Brideshead - played by Castle Howard!

Castle Howard - statue ©vcsinden2015
Castle Howard The Annunciation - Burne Jones ©vcsinden2015

Life-sized Faery and Angel - please note difference in wing style !
The stained glass is one panel in the Chapel, by pre-raphaelite Edward Burne JonesSuch treasures!

Castle Howard- the Atlas Fountain ©vcsinden2015

The Atlas Fountain, much photographed and starring in several scenes

Me n' the Boys - a Muddypond Green compilation - original photo from Granada TV Castle Howard ©vcsinden2015

"Me n' the Boys"
Muddypond, Charles, Aloyisius and Sebastian

(Original photo from Granada TV)

A stand in Aloyisius lives at Castle Howard now - the original, with Sebastian, left - has disappeared.

     Muddypond loved it here - a spellbinding house, grounds and lake to explore. She will be back.




      August 3rd 2015 ...    Heads, hats and hoofers' hooves at Ely Folk Festival ........ 

Ely Folk Festival 2015 Gog Magog Molly, colours on the cathedral wall   ©vcsinden2015

The rainbow feet of Gog Magog Molly resting on the wall of Ely Cathedral

Ely Folk Festival 2015 Headress of the drummer from Bakanalia  ©vcsinden2015 Ely Folk Festival 2015 Headress of the drummer from Bakanalia  ©vcsinden2015
Drummer's headress - Bakanalia Morris from Glenfield, Leicestershire

Ely Folk Festival 2015  amber stockings of the Witchmen ©vcsinden2015

Witchmen footwear - stompy boots and amber stockings faithful to Ely but at home in Kettering, Northamptonshire

Ely Folk Festival 2015   Hemlock musicians ©vcsinden2015

Hemlock Headgear - Bedfordshire group Hemlock Morris

Ely Folk Festival 2015  the amazing Luke Jackson  ©vcsinden2015 Ely Folk Festival 2015   Oyster Band's John Jones ends the festival ©vcsinden2015

My choice of the music -
Luke Jackson in finer voice than ever -
Oysterband's John Jones, a fine festival finale

Ely Folk Festival 2015   leg wear of Pigs Dyke Molly ©vcsinden2015

Monochrome legs, belonging unmistakably to Peterborough's Pig Dyke Molly

Ely Folk Festival 2015   a feminine Hemlock hat ©vcsinden2015
Ely Folk Festival 2015   a male Hemlock hat ©vcsinden2015
Hats of the Hemlock - with shoes quirky and trad with bells on !
Ely Folk Festival 2015   character shoes ©vcsinden2015
Ely Folk Festival 2015  border morris team Bakanalia  ©vcsinden2015 Ely Folk Festival 2015 finest folk band amongst the dance teams - Bakanalia  ©vcsinden2015

If it's black and blue it must be Bakanalia (link above)

A fine festival as always Ely - see you next year!





    July 19th 2015 ...    An Orkney summer part 2 - impressions of the stones ......

      Words taken from Orkney poet and author George Mackay Brown in 'An Orkney Tapestry' -
see last entry for more details.

       'In the centre of Orkney, between the two lochs of Stenness and Harray, on a stretch of moor, stands the Ring of Brodgar - a circle of huge monoliths. We will never know what kind of neolithic ceremonies - hymn and procession and sacrifice - went on there, at midsummer, to make animals breed and corn grow.'

Ring of Brodgar, mainland Orkney ©vcsinden2015


Drum, summer solstice a the Ring of Brodgar, mainland Orkney ©vcsinden2015


'The circle itself is the black sun of winter. The offered throat of a bullock, a chant, a stone knife - these instruments and elements were required before the ceremony was complete and the honey-dripping lord of summer walked in power through the sky.'




Left. The Ring of Brodgar, looking towards Harray.

Muddypond's drum, made with tuition from Pat Pica. founder of Eagle Spirit Drums - (see here to read about her making) waits with a shiver of anticipation for her turn to sing, accompanied by the evocative call of the curlews on the shore.
Her magnicent bison-skin drum bag was hand- made by Pat himself.

Ring of Brodgar, mainland Orkney ©vcsinden2015

      Below:    Skara Brae - a complete neolithic village, sheltered from sea-winds by being dug into a vast mound and re-covered in earth. The houses show stone beds, fireplaces, storage shelves and wall nooks. Discovered after a violent storm at the Bay of Skaill. I love the poem, imagining the musings of village inhabitants at the time of the building of Brodgar and Stenness.

Skara Brae, mainland Orkney ©vcsinden2015

     Skara Brae

Here in our village in the west
We are little regarded.
The lords of tilth and loch
Are Quarrying (we hear)
Great stones to make a stone circle.

In the last of the snow
A great one died
In that stone hollow in the east.
A winter sunset
Will touch his mouth. He carries
A cairngorm on his cold finger
To the country of the dead.

They come here from Birsay
To take our fish for taxes. Otherwise
We are left in peace
With our small fires and pots.
Will it be a morning for fishermen?
The sun died in red flames
Then the night swarmed with stars, like fish.

The sea gives and takes. The sea
Devoured four houses one winter.
Ask the old one to make a clay lamp
The ripening sun
May be pleased with the small flame, at-plough-time.

George Mackay Brown

Skara Brae,house with stone bed,  mainland Orkney ©vcsinden2015
Skara Brae, mainland Orkney - house with shelves ©vcsinden2015

                         Burial Chambers


            Maeshowe.   The most famous of them all, and there are many on the various islands!  A vast stone-age meeting and burial place. A unique square chamber, tapered towards the high ceiling, big enough for many to meet in safety, opening on to smaller rooms for the laying of the bones of the dead. No photography is allowed inside.

           Some centuries after Maeshowe's raising, Viking raiders broke through the top, seeking shelter from battle and bitter cold. In their days within the walls, they spent hours carving the walls with graffiti - at least thirty messages including some about nearby buried treasure - all of course in Viking runes. This incident is mentioned in the 'Orkneyinga Saga'.
            Read more about these famous runic inscriptions here.The insert pictures above - by Edwin Rendall - show 'The Maeshowe Dragon' and a word of rare 'stick runes' carved into the stones.

Cuween Hill, neolithic tomb, Orkney©vcsinden2015

The way up to the chamber of Cuween Hill

             Many of the burial chambers are sited near hill tops or cliff edges and are much smaller than Maeshowe. Some are in wild places, such as Cuween and Wideford Hill, with wind howling and ravens winging over the heather. The entrances are low, so you must crawl along the entrance passageways by the light of your torch and explore alone. At the cliff edge 'Tomb of Eagles' you enter on your stomach, pulled on a low wheeled trolley!

Faery Guardian Muddypond Green looking out from the chambered tomb of Cuween Hill on Orkney ©vcsinden2015

Knee pads for crawling into Cuween Hill tomb, Orkney ©vcsinden2015

Muddypond contemplates crawling out of the tomb passageway and back into the sunshine at Cuween Hill. Rather wishing she'd taken advantage of the knee-pads kindly on offer at the foot of the hill!

Stenness, the standing stones, Orkney ©vcsinden2015

The Standing Stones of Stenness


  The immense, lonely 'Watchstone' with its angled top echoing the stones along the path which it guards - back to the Stones of Stenness and forward, past the Ness, to the Ring of Brodgar.


'The essence of Orkney's magic is silence, loneliness and the deep marvellous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light.'

George Mackay Brown


The Watchstone, guarding the way to the Ring of Brodgar©vcsinden2015




    July 12th 2015 ...    An Orkney summer - impressions without the stones ......
  (The Ogham tree associated with this day is  Tinne - Holly   8th July - 4th August..  Use its pale wood, flowers, bark, and berries fresh or dried in season for your magic, incense, wand and this time)

Hoy, Orkney Islands - decay and beauty ©vcsinden2015

Orkney - curious cows ©vcsinden2015

    The ancient standing stones, rings and chambered tombs of the Scottish Orkney Islands simply must enjoy a diaryblog entry all of their own. But first - some other impressions - stillness, endless light and vast, windswept treeless views of rolling farmland surrounded by sea.

   'Farming the land and fishing the sea' - how the crofters worked for centuries past, and how life is still lived on the islands albeit in twenty-first century farming and fishery fashion.
            Herston Hall, South Ronaldsay - ©vcsinden2015
                           Herston Hall, Widewall Bay, on South Ronaldsay - the southernmost island of the Orkneys.

     Above is the converted Chapel where Muddypond returned to after a day's saga questing. Nestled between cattle-grazed hills and almost washed by the sea, her rock pools a mecca for eider ducks and sea birds at low tide. You might love to stay there too - you can find it here - Herston Hall.

     If you are lucky, the hall will be surrounded by multi-coloured cows with their small calves- very curious cows! The photo below was taken during breakfast one morning - a face at each of the three arched windows!

Herston Hall, South Ronaldsay - curious cows ©vcsinden2015

             Surrounded too by the legends and the history, palpable, touchable stories of the peat fireside nights. Trows, selkies, giants, witches . Old wives who could make a sixpence selling spells for a 'fair wind' to the fishermen, crooning to the milk as it set into butter, the rythm of the stones as the corn was ground or the endless twisting of the spindle turning the fleece to thread.

Orkneys - Kirbuster Farm Museum - magnificent boots! ©vcsinden2015
Orkneys, Kirbuster Farm Museum - peat fire smells ©vcsinden2015

'Farming the land and fishing the sea'.
Smell the scent of the peat-fire at Kirbuster Farm Museum.

Orkneys - ruined croft ©vcsinden2015

    The islands are rife with the ruins of lords' ancient brochs and the crofters' cottages only abandoned in the last century. Some of the little stone buildings have been saved, whilst others are 'overbuilt' to make low modern bungalows with magnificent flagstone floors. Others still are simply crumbling away and the families who once lit their hearth fires are themselves the stuff of Orkney legends.

Orkneys - treeless landscape with Standing Stone ©vcsinden2015.   

An atmospheric night of story-telling can be found in evocative surroundings at Sandwick. Orkney legends brought to life while the late sun sank behing the hills and the wind buffeted the stone walls. 

                                  Listen - here is the selkie wife, crying for her hidden seal skin.

Orkney Peat Fire Tales - a perfect night ©vcsinden2015

Listen - a young fiddle-player, forced to entertain under the earth-mound
at a trowie wedding.
Take in the scents of the peat smoke - listen.

A grand evening, thank you John and Lyn.. Orkney Peatfire Tales.

Orkneys - my sea monster ©vcsinden2015


          Many of the Orkney Islands have small populations, spread over the hills in isolated farms or clustered in tiny villages by the sea. The only way most can travel between them, or go to a Kirkwall supermarket on the mainland, is by small 'roll on roll off' ferries, like the one below, ploughing the sea between the tiny ports of Houton and Lyness on Hoy.

Orkneys - roll on roll off car ferry to Lyness on Hoy ©vcsinden2015

         Hoy, famous for its high cliffs, rock stacks and wildlife.  Below is Rackwick at the north of the island, loved for its wild beauty. The broken-down, wind pounded crofts of a small community of 19th century fishing folk huddled on the shoreline and under the hills, where one or two are taking on a new life.

Rackwick Bay, Hoy, Orkney Islands ©vcsinden2015

Rackwick on the island of Hoy, a bay of legend, peat fire tales and windswept beauty.

     As a change from the quest after Orkneyinga Saga and Folk tale, a rain lashed day was spent in the 'peedie' town of Stromness, with its mile long high street, houses huddled with their backs to the ferocious sea wind which buffets through the steps and passageways down to back door sea. The home street of George Mackay Brown, late Orkney poet and journalist whose vivid island tales and descriptions formed my pre-questing preparations -my favourite being 'An Orkney Tapestry' first published by Victor Gollancz, 1969.

Stromness High Street - Orkney ©vcsinden2015