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♫    Music to dream by ....
from War Horse  ♫

Devonshire Carol
John Tams

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John Tams ©vcsinden2013



      December 29th 2013     From St. Stephen's Night - the sombre tradition of the Cutty Wren ...

Cutty Wren 2013 Old Glory Molly Dancers & Band - the Wren ©vcsinden2013

Peer deep inside the ivy-clad cage to find the King of the Birds, the Wren in these modern times a tiny carving

      The darkest and most solemnly witnessed folkloric tradition in Britain must surely be this Suffolk version of the Ceremony of the Cutty Wren. Once again, Muddypond simply couldn't let Yuletide pass without travelling to the small village in north Suffolk on Boxing Night. There, with all due reverence, the sepulchral procession, serious faces, stomping molly dances, story-telling and songs are so carefully marked.

Cutty Wren 2013 Old Glory Molly Dancers & Band - Stamping ©vcsinden2013

'Old Glory Molly Dancers' perform 'Stamping', with never a smile - and an amazing accompaniment from their sinisterly masked and crowned band.

Hunting the Wren

“We'll hunt the wren,” says Robin to Bobbin,
“We'll hunt the wren,” says Richard to Robin,
“Where oh where?,” says Jack of the land,
“In yonder green bush,” says every one.

 “How get him down?” says Robin to Bobbin,
“With sticks and stones,” says Richard to Robin,
“How get him home?” says Jack of the land,
“The brewer's big cart,” says every one.

“How'll we eat him?” says Robin to Bobbin,
“With knives and with forks,” says Richard to Robin,
“Who'll come to the dinner?” says Jack of the land,
“The King and the Queen,” says every one.

“Give eyes to the blind,” says Robin to Bobbin,
“And the legs to the lame,” says Richard to Robin,
“Give luck to the poor,” says Jack of the land,
“And bones to the dogs,” says every one.


Words from a folk song tradition, in turn taken from an 18th century poem mentioned by Sir James Fraser in 'The Golden Bough'

Cutty Wren 2013 Old Glory Molly Dancers & Band - The Wren Bearer©vcsinden2013

Cutty Wren 2013 Old Glory Molly Dancers & Band - Procession at 9pm ©vcsinden2013

The procession of the Wren through the village is almost eerily silent, simply footfalls and the slow beat of a single drum.

Cutty Wren 2013 Old Glory Molly Dancers & Band - Procession of the Wren ©vcsinden2013

Cutty Wren 2013 Old Glory Molly Dancers & Band ©vcsinden2013 Cutty Wren 2013 Old Glory Molly  Band ©vcsinden2013

   It is not my task here to discuss the ancient 'Cutty Wren' history - although I did do a little of that two Yules ago and you may read about it here in Muddypond's Diary Blog at the bottom of the page.   If you would like to read the history from 'The Golden Bough', you will find it in Chapter 54 Pt 2 - 'Processions with Sacred Animals'.
There is plenty to see and learn, of course, on the Old Glory Molly Dancers & Musicians website. A quick link to an Old Glory Cutty Wren video can be found here on my Ogham Gort - Ivy page.

It IS my task to express my thanks to the Old Glory Molly Dancers and Musicians for a night (their twentieth in modern revival) not to be forgotten.

I do hope that on some future, frosty night of St Stephen, you will be able to see these wonders for yourselves.

Cutty Wren 2013 Old Glory Molly Dancers & Band - final tribute ©vcsinden2013

“Mister, Mistress, come out with the money,
Or else your bad health we’ll be singing!
Pray give us a treat for the King of the Birds
While the bells of St. Stephen are ringing.”




    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'




   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 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.





    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




    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 10th 2013      'Anthems for Peace' - Michael Morpurgo ....

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 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 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