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    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.



   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 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

 

 

 

   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

 

 


   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 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.