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    October 31st 2014 .... on this night .....'churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
contagion to this world.'   .... William Shakespeare

Autumn colour ©vcsinden2014
Autumn colour for All Hallow’s Eve ©vcsinden2014
Autumn colour for All Hallow’s Eve ©vcsinden2014
Autumn colour for All Hallow’s Eve ©vcsinden2014 Charm for protection on the night of All Hallows  ©vcsinden2014
Autumn colour for All Hallow’s Eve ©vcsinden2014
Autumn colour for All Hallow’s Eve ©vcsinden2014 Autumn colour for All Hallow’s Eve ©vcsinden2014
Autumn colour for All Hallow’s Eve ©vcsinden2014 Autumn colour for All Hallow’s Eve ©vcsinden2014
Autumn colour for All Hallow’s Eve ©vcsinden2014
Autumn colour for All Hallow’s Eve ©vcsinden2014
Autumn colour for All Hallow’s Eve ©vcsinden2014

   Muddypond wanted to share these   'Autumn Colour for Samhain '  pictures,
which she took around and about during her heritage and research journey to Herefordshire last week.

Pumpkin lantern ©vcsinden2014 Pumpkin lantern ©vcsinden2014

This fine fellow is sitting
beside my wood, brightening
the path for any wanderer who dares to come near.

His flesh is even now being
turned into spicy pumpkin soup!

Five minutes to Samhain Supper.



    October 27th 2014 .... magical heritage at Much Marcle ......
       ( The ruling  Ogham wood for all your magical needs is now Wheatstraw or Reed - Ngetal   from October 28th to November 24th.)

     A Guardian Tree flourishes in the church-yard of St. Bartholemew's in the Herefordshire village of Much Marcle. A Yew so ancient that it has stood sentinel there for well over one and a half millenia!  This great tree was already full grown when it watched the church being built stone by stone, and despite its incredible age and vast store of memories, with all blessings it will be there for centuries to come.    

Ancient yew tree at Much Marcle, Herefordshire ©vcsinden2014
Ancient yew tree at Much Marcle, Herefordshire - inside looking up ©vcsinden2014
Sitting inside and looking up through the tree to the sky overhead
St. Bartholemew’s Church, Much Marcle, Herefordshire – under the great yew tree  ©vcsinden2014
At rest beneath the spreading branches
St. Bartholemew’s Church, Much Marcle, Herefordshire – gravestone beside the great yew tree  ©vcsinden2014
A mighty girth of 31ft allows room for benches inside the tree for rest and contemplation.
A plump and cheeky cherub enjoys his place beside the yew

      Sit on the benches inside the split trunk of the tree and dream with it for a while. Each scarlet berry scattered around your feet could be a year of English history that it has witnesses. Imagine the parade of Lords, Ladies, servants, farmers, craft and trades people, each dressed in his Sunday best, that has walked from the lych gate to pass into the church and look back over a shoulder to marvel at the Yew Guardian at the door.

    Going into the church itself, you find that imagination is no longer necessary - there the parade lies before you in all its gloriously meticulous detail. Rosaries, wimples, collars, lace, fleur-de-lys petticoats, each a perfect study of costume fashionable at the time of carving.  (Images above from my set of 'Costume Reference' books by Marion Sichel, pub:Batsford 1977)

Effigy of Blanch Mortimer, St. Bartholemew’s Church, Much Marcle, Herefordshire ©vcsinden2014
The much loved 'Sleeping Beauty' Blanch Mortimer, died 1347 and restored to former glory
14th century shoes on the effigy of Walter De Helyon,  St. Bartholemew’s Church, Much Marcle, Herefordshire ©vcsinden2014
Shoes, wonderful shoes. The rare oaken effigy of Walter De Helyon who died in 1357.
17th century effigy of Sir John Kyrle, St. Bartholemew’s Church, Much Marcle, Herefordshire ©vcsinden2014 Hedgehog effigy, St. Bartholemew’s Church, Much Marcle, Herefordshire ©vcsinden2014
Such detail! Here lie Sir John Kyrle (died 1660) and his wife Sybille. His feet do not rest on the customary lion or hound, but on a hedgehog!

Ancient Yew tree, St. Bartholemew’s Church, Much Marcle, Herefordshire ©vcsinden2014





    October 12th 2014 .... fashioning the Community Drum ......


    I've chosen extracts from the poem 'The Squaw Dance' by Lew Sarett to accompany pictures of this perfect day.
The poem was first published in his mesmeric collection 'Many, Many Moons: A Book of Wilderness Poems', published by Henry Holt & Co. in 1920.

Beat, beat, beat, beat, beat upon the drum ;
Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hoy-eeeeeeeeeeeeee-yah !

Eagle Spirit Drums – workshop -stretching the skin lacing ©vcsinden2014
Eagle Spirit Drums – workshop - drilling the frame ©vcsinden2014
Medicine men on the medicine drum,
Beating out the rhythm with a steady thrum.
Medicine gourd with its rattle, rattle, rattle,
Flinging wild with the call of battle.

        Beat, beat, beat, beat, beat upon the drum ;
Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hoy-eeeeeeeeeeeeee-yah !

Rhythm of Life, Elham - in the yurt ©vcsinden2014
Eagle Spirit Drums – workshop -braiding leather handles ©vcsinden2014
Stretching the lacings, drilling, braiding, enscribing, thinking.
  Fifteen of us worked together to make the double skinned Community Pow-wow drum from thick, thick bison leather..
Muddypond green at the drum workshop  ©vcsinden2014

Beat, beat, beat, beat, beat upon the drum ;
Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hoy-eeeeeeeeeeeeee-yah !

Pat Pica, Eagle Spirit Drums – workshop - ©vcsinden2014
Beaded drummers squatting in the ring
Leap to its challenge with a crouch and a spring;
Weathered old bucks that grunt and wheeze
As they jangle bells on their wrists and their knees
Eagle Spirit Drums – workshop - admirimg the soaked bison leather ©vcsinden2014
To the beat, beat, beat, beat, beat upon the tom-tom,
Beat, beat, beat, beat, beat upon the drum ;
And a shuffle to the left, a shuffle to the left,
A shuffle, shuffle, shuffle to the left, to the left
Hi ! Hi ! Hi ! Hi ! Hoy-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-yah !
Eagle Spirit Drums – workshop - ©vcsinden2014
Eagle Spirit Drums – our double sided Pow-wow drumrat the Elham workshop  ©vcsinden2014












    Caroline receives the finished drum from Pat, now it must wait for a couple of weeks to gradually dry and tighten before it can take its place at the centre of the sound, fire or drum circles at 'Rhythm of Life', Elham, Kent.

Hi ! Hi ! Hi ! Hi ! Hoy-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee-yah !

All our thanks go to our drum-workshop leader
Pat Pica of Eagle Spirit Drums,
a man who infuses his drums with essence of earth, dreams and magic.

(Read about another medicine drum workshop with Pat in my DiaryBlog entry June 12th-15th 2012 here)




    September 30th 2014 .... magical places ... the yew grove and spring at Gawton's Well ...
              ( The ruling  Ogham wood for all your magical needs is now Ivy - Gort   from September 30th until October 27th.)

Gawton’s Well, Staffordshire - votives and clouties ©vcsinden2014

     If you follow the much-walked path around the resevoir at Greenway Bank Country Park in Staffordshire, cross a tiny bridge over a stream and move gradually out into the wild places, you may find a secluded spot high on the bank, which seems surrounded in mystery. Pass the dark pool (below) and stop to admire the beginnings of Autumn colour.Pool near Gawton’s Well, Staffordshire ©vcsinden2014

   The spot you're looking for isn't far from the main walkers' thoroughfare, but hidden from prying eyes. Search diligently enough and you'll discover it - a dark grove, feeling mystical, silent and unvisited.

    An ancient grove of yew trees circle a trickling spring of pure hill water. At some point in history the source has been built up with rocks cut into huge rectangles and flat boulders, giving a series of shallow pools where you may step, cupping your hands to anoint yourself, collect the water or drink.


Gawton’s Well, Staffordshire ©vcsinden2014
The head of Gawton's Well, above the entry-pool, amongst the Druids' grove of yews.

      Perhaps better not drink though, for in places the yew tree branches, although magical themselves, sweep low and there is a layer of dark needles and scarlet berries in the water. Most faere-folk are extremely susceptible to the toxins of the Ioho or yew tree, so this one simply splashed face and eyes, dipped toes and sprinkled wings!

    Sunlight glints through the yew tree circle sparkling on the water, making the deep shadows seem ever more silent. No birds singing, no animal sounds inside the surrounding stone and moss walls.

  Sit beside the blessing pools for a while and the stillness is palpable. The circle of yews is believed to be a Druid Grove, and the use of the Well dates from the dark ages and probably beyond.

Gawton’s Well, Staffordshire ©vcsinden2014
Gawton’s Well, Staffordshire ©vcsinden2014

    Inside the ringed stone wall, all was as quiet as a disused church. Add to the votives, the clouties, beads and prayers if you will, then scramble down the bank beside the narrow rocky trickle of a stream, out through the rough stone entrance, and you immediately leave the dark yews behind, emerging into birch and oak, wild flowers, grasses and the scurry of birds and animals busy making ready for Winter. A magical place for certain.

Grey squirrel burying hazel nuts near Gawton’s Well, Staffordshire ©vcsinden2014 Clouties, votives and thanksgivings at Gawton’s Well, Staffordshire ©vcsinden2014 Moorhen near Gawton’s Well, Staffordshire ©vcsinden2014

     Read more of what is known of the history of Gawton's Well in an article from Biddulph Museum here.

    Retracing our steps around the resevoir in the early evening light, we were surpised by the clamour of hundreds of wings, and a vast flock of wild geese dropped down to the water.



      September 12th 2014 .... treasured traditions - the Horn Dance at Abbots Bromley ...
              ( The ruling  Ogham wood for all your magical needs is now Blackberry - Bramble - Muin   from 2nd to 29th September.)

Horn Dance, Abbots Bromley 2014  - at Blithfield Hall ©vcsinden2014

                     All Magics, faeries such as I included, treasure ancient traditions. We love nothing better than to check on proceedings to ensure their solemn and proper enactment! The Horn Dance at Abbots Bromley has continued down the centuries (until being banned by Cromwell after the Civil War and reinstated as fast as possible afterwards!).

Abbots Bromley Church, St. Nicholas ©vcsinden2014

Above:  The Church of St. Nicholas, Abbots Bromley where the six sets of ancient horns are kept.

Left:  Muddypond talks with the leader of the White Horns on the day before the dance. The tips of his antlers were quivering with anticipation!

   The huge horns once belonged to reindeer and have recently been carbon-dated, revealing them to be over 1000 years old. It's thought that they came to England with Viking raiders and there is a known Viking settlement in the area.
    There are three white and three brown sets. The dance leader carries the white horns in the picture here, weighing in at 25¼ lbs (11.5kg)!

    Come rain, come shine, once a year in the very early morning of the Monday after the 1st Sunday after September 4th, the church doors open. A blessing is given and the Horns are released from their resting place against the grey stone walls to dance once again in the autumn air.

Fairy Muddypond Green talks to the Leader Antlers of the ©vcsinden2014

Horn Dance, Abbots Bromley 2014 - beginning at the Church ©vcsinden2014

Early morning and the group assemble outside the Church after the blessing

Horn Dance, Abbots Bromley - the reindeer horns on display in the Church ©vcsinden2014 Horn Dance, Abbots Bromley - the Old Horse ©vcsinden2014
The cherished reindeer horns are taken from the church for only one day. The expressive old hobby horse has earned his rest.

    Led by the musicians, the fool and the traditional 'man/woman' Maid Marion, they spill out of the churchyard passage and onto the little village green . Past the ancient Buttery, stopping all the morning rush hour traffic as they dance and promenade along the narrow streets towards Goose Lane.

Horn Dance, Abbots Bromley 2014 - stopping traffic beside the Village Green ©vcsinden2014

     An age-old 'death and resurrection' ritual is re-enacted as they go by. The 'Boy with a Bow' shoots at the 'Hobby Horse' with every forward movement of the dance. The Horse seems to be unperturbed by its day long battering, but the Boy's bow arm must suffer!

Horn Dance leader, Abbots Bromley 2014 ©vcsinden2014
Horn Dance, Abbots Bromley 2014 - Hobby Horse and Boy with the Bow take it easy at Blithfield Hall  ©vcsinden2014
 The leader, who has been involved with the dance since he was a boy, carries the heaviest set of white horns and decides when to change from procession to dance, for how long, and which private drives and lawns will be honoured as they keep to the traditional stops!

Horn Dance, Abbots Bromley 2014 - around the new houses ©vcsinden2014
The newer parts of the village aren't neglected!    It's thought that this may have once been a type of 'Beating the Bounds' ceremony.

     The more recent history of the famous Horn Dance is well documented, and an archive exhibition was on display in the Church. Below, William Ady poses proudly in 1899, apparently wearing a very colourful uniform of scarlet, blue and gold.

Horn Dance, Abbots Bromley - William Ady 1899 ©vcsinden2014 Horn Dance, Abbots Bromley 2014 - Goose Lane ©vcsinden2014

         Now it's out to the nearby village of Admaston and to the country estate of Blithfield Hall. We piled along the winding drive and ecamped on the far edge of the Ha-ha to watch the dancers perform their ancient rites in front of the old stone hall.

             It was hot (fairies you know are not keen on sunlight) and the men must have felt the heat in their thick padded clothes with the weight of the horns on their shoulders!

Horn Dance, Abbots Bromley 2014 - a moments rest in the sun on the Ha-ha wall ©vcsinden2014 Horn Dance, Abbots Bromley 2014 - horns weighing over 25lbs rest on the grass ©vcsinden2014

  Gruelling rounds of local Pubs follow Blithfield, and Abbots Bromley makes merry! The finish is not until 8 o'clock when the horns are finally returned to the church.

   Jackets came off, legs and antlers were rested as introductions are made, and then - off again! .....

Horn Dance, Abbots Bromley 2014 - Blithfield Hall ©vcsinden2014