Hope you will like my music choice this month ....
April 27th 2011
A curious folk custom dating from 12th century - and right on my doorstep .......
Old postcard of 'The Biddenden Maids'
click to see larger image and read text
Are you sitting comfortably? Then, I'll begin .........
Once, very long ago, around 1100 in fact - but not so far away, in the small Kentish village of Biddenden, two little girls were born to the wealthy family of Chulkhurst. They were named Elisa and Mary.
The babies caused a great deal of interest - for they were born healthy - but conjoined - at hip and shoulder. They managed to live their childhoods together and grew up to be known as 'The Biddenden Maids'.
Legend tells us that at the age of 34, one of the sisters died. The other refused to be cut away from her, and was so affected by the death that she lived herself for only another six hours.
Now, their property - a small holding and about 20 acres of land was left to 'The Poor' in their will.
For the last 900 years it is documented that every Easter Monday, a welcome 'dole gift' of bread and cheese was handed out to those who were then the needy of the Parish.
Biscuits or rolls were made (and still are) from a special wooden mould, with the imprint of the sisters carved into it and distributed to residents and 'strangers' - and faeires by the way!
Every year this tradition has continued, the lands having been sold and the money invested. The old Workhouse, built on the edge of the smallholding, is now houses and the rents for these also contribute towards the charity.
Nowadays, any pensioner or resident with a disability is eligible to apply for the gift if they wish, and it's handed to them by the Trustees from the window of the Old Workhouse according to tradition early on Easter Monday morning.
It's quite a walk for some of them so I hope they all enjoy what they find in the bags of today - a nice loaf with a quantity of cheese, tea and sugar - all in strict accordance with the Will of Eliza and Mary.
I love this picture - taken in 1902 by Sir Benjamin Stone -
same window as the one in my photo, just 109 years earlier!
I wonder if the twin sisters would be amazed at how they are remembered and valued so many centuries later?
And what a lovely, quirky old English custom.
Biddenden Dole Biscuit 2011
Explanation under the Village Sign
pictured below right
If you're interested in traditional British Folklore Customs, you might also like these entries from my Diaryblog pages ...
Entry for October 3rd 2009 - Folklore Meet at Tenterden
Entry for May 13th 2010 - May Day Celebrations
Entry for January 17th 2011 - Wassailing the Apple Trees
Entry for January 7th 2011 - The Ceremony of The Cutty Wren
You might also like 'Remembering the Bluebell Woods' - new on the blog at -
April 22nd 2011 (The Ogham wood for magic changed on April 15th to Saille (Willow) and will last until May 12th)
As promised - more choices for a spring faery-tale handfasting ....
' The Royal Wedding Meerkats'
created by Heather at Niftyknits!
(picture used here with her kind permission)
Now, rumour has reached deep into the centre of that faery wood of mine - and just think - I always believed it was a secluded spot! - that out there in the world beyond the dawns and full-moons and shadows, there is to be a resplendent wedding of royal and princely proportions!
To celebrate this auspicious occasion, my friend Heather of the knitting needles has created a darling pair of Meerkats - suitable to such a week in the calendar of mortals ....
I think their namings are M'lady Meerkate and Prince Willmeer - or some such strangeness.
Is she not a beauty? - and as for the Prince - well such distinction and proof of service to his country have never before been seen in the world of Meer!
For the handfasting, continued from below, here is a lovely idea for the handmaids - each little basket is lit with tiny lights woven into the willow. The hair decoration is as delicate as a silver cobweb and would look amazing combined with a thin wreath of natural ivy twigs.
Silver Leaves Bridal Headpiece
by Phenomena Jewellery (USA)
Traditional Irish Wedding Cord
hand-woven by Niamh Dempsey
The handfasting cord can be made from anything you wish - from long, soft ribbons - from corded wools - but I liked this hand-woven example very much - craftswoman Niamh Dempsey says ...........'I mostly make them specially for couples getting handfasted as this is the traditional cord used in wedding ceremonies in Ireland'.
Now all you need is a wonderful wood, dear friends and a besom broom to jump over ................... happy days.
Recently I have added a link for 'The British Hedgehog Preservation Society' on my Nature links page (and NOOO that does NOT mean you may boil them up into jam!! tsk - how DARE you!!) - and on the Eco Enchantments Blog pages you might like to read about the magic of cowslipos and oxlips.
April 11th 2011
A faery-tale handfasting for spring ....
Wedding Mice by Natasha Fadeeva
Sun's shining, apple tree blossom is ready to break and here in this little island, romance is definitely la mode - la denier cri!.
Now, being a magic, my ideas of romance and yours may be different - most likely they are! But even so ...
Muddypond could begin nowhere else than by giving you a glimpse of these mice. They are the most perfectly delightfully wonderful little things aren't they?
Made by Russian needle-felting artist Natash Fadeeva - click on the picture to go to her website ....
And were I ever to be a prospective faery-queen, ready to be handfasted to an elven prince, then here are a few more pretty things that gladden my hard-to-please heart.
'Forest' corset gown with tree embroidery
from Uptight Clothing
Felted net & lace fingerless gloves
Handmade shoes - Marie Antoinette
More heart-stopping treasures to go with these - coming very soon in Part 2 - betcha can't wait !!
You might like a new recipe, just right for this time of year - Wild Garlic Kugelis - on my Hedgerow Cooking Pages...
Several folks have asked me about faery magick and the new moon ........
A proud Mum on Mothering Sunday, showing off her lambs by the faery-tale willows
New Moon, as far as magickal workings go, lasts for just over three days from the night of the dark moon. Even before the first silver slither appears in the sky, the moon is waxing and her energies can be felt.
Any time over these three days, gently begin working towards renewing tired spirits and creative energies. The new moon is also a fine time for travel or travel plans, and of course - for sewing seeds, or beginning new projects in the garden. Make a start with your intentions now, and continue until the moon is full.
What might you do? As it's Mothering Sunday here in Britain, a thought and a wish for her wouldn't go amiss. And well, let me see - light a candle or two - silver for the lunar energies and goddesses, white for peace and spitituality. Charge them with a drop of oil if you like - try Jasmine or Sandalwood to enhance Moon power.Need a spirit to talk to? Freya, Norse Goddess of the Moon and of early spring may be able to help. Her flower is the primrose - what better for April?
As the Ogham wood for this time is Alder I have added some tiny budding alder twigs to my primrose jar.
Burn a little herbal incense and work a ritual of your choosing, or simply watch the candle flames and dream about, or ask for, help with what you most need to accomplish.
Which herbs to burn? Lemon-Balm, Poppy Seed, Myrrh and Willow are among those ruled by the moon, and a scratching of alder bark or a cone or two may add power.
In 'The Silver Bough', Florence Marian McNeill talks of a silver penny .... 'a coin known in Gaelic as "peighinn pisich", the lucky penny, which was turned thrice in the pocket at the first glimpse of the new moon.'
That 'first glimpse' could be two or three days away yet - but keep an eye open and a lucky penny at hand!
You might also like 'A little piece of paradise' - new on the blog at -
March 30th 2011
Of Worts, Emmets, Bald's Leech Book and archaic cures .......
Muddypond was looking through her old leather-bound treasury 'Lines on Enchantment' yesterday - not studying for those Stella Fae exams exactly you understand, but wondering about uses for Enchanter's Nightshade, which grows in my wood.. Finding the page below, which is a cure for villagers (humans to you?) I pondered on just how far us magics have come with our herbal medicines.
It's a physic for those who are 'elf-shot' - a term they used in the middle-age for all sorts of agues, and this cure recipe comes directly from the first british medical book and herbal - 'The Leech Book of Bald.' The original is in the British Library, and this is from a transcript of 1864. Worts, or Wyrts, is an old-english name for herbs, and emmets are of course ants.
I copied out the cure carefully and stuck it into my book. Here it is - have a look at the first part, and I will tell you more!
'Bald' was a healer. A monk who lived in the tenth century, practising his trade with poor and rich alike, and continually refining and collecting recipes and ideas for cures which, until Bald, had been handed down by word of mouth.
Bald persuaded a young monk named Cyld to scribe for him, and together they made the Leech Book, the third part being completed around 958AD. 'Leech' was the anglo-saxon word for a healer, or for medicine - they were poorly paid, and often poorly regarded.
How outlandish - outrageous even - these 'cures' sound to us magics now! But like all herbal knowledge, most of their work was based on trial, refinement, success in practise and fact. They must have been much hardier souls in those days!
Here's the second part of the cure - not to be forgotten if you want it to work ..........
The picture used as illustration is by the brilliant Swedish painter and illustrator of fairy tales, Gustaf Tenggren
Many of the cures in Bald's Leech Book finish with those words .... 'and all will be well with him'. Hmmmm - I wonder?
You might also like 'Moonlight Owls' - new on the blog at -
March 23rd 2011 (The Ogham wood for magic changed on March 18th to Fearn (Alder) and will last until April 14th)
St Clements in Old Romney - pews, yews and resting places .......
New today - my Ogham page for Fearn (Alder) - read about the folklore and magic of the Alder tree here. Fearn is your birth wood if you were born between March 18th and April 14th.
The conjunction of this weeks 'supermoon' and Ostara, the Vernal Equinox and first day of spring saw the most beautiful weather here in the South, and made Muddypond want to explore.
I took a flitter down to the Romney Marsh - to watch early for brown hares, to glare at the power station and generally see what else there was to see
Spiritual places, no matter what, where or how, always retain the peace and yearnings of those who've spent time there - and so I love to visit them.
Outside the village of Old Romney, at the marsh church of St. Clements, I came across the plain, slate-stone marker for Derek Jarman, cult film maker, who in life, made a perfect little shingle garden at his home out on the remote sea-sweep of Dungeness.
The garden at Prospect Cottage - 'every bloom a miracle'.
You can visit this remarkable garden - I looked out my pictures from two summers ago when I got back home to the woods. He loved the forms of the rocks and pebbles and driftwood picked up on the beaches nearby, and visitors to the church have added their own in memory.
The Kentish ragstone which forms tiny St Clements must have been gathered in my second-ancestor's days as it's over 800 years old.
Between the cold walls of the interior are surprising box pews and a gallery, once painted pink for a Dr Syn film and left that way - otherwise rare and unchanged since the days of the Georgians. Stunning.
Click to view a larger image
Inside hangs a certificate, such a nice thing - dating the huge yew tree which shelters and shades many of the grave markers - to 560 years old - well - it must be nearer 600 now as it's signed by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie.
It asks us all to ....
'Please do all you can
to help prolong the life
of this vernerable member of your community."
March 14th 2011
When ' frosts are slain and flowers begotten' ... horse-chestnut, violets and pussy-willow ........
You might like to read a little about the Faery magic of Hellebores on my blog - new March 15th.
" ....... And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green underwood and cover
Blossom by blossom the spring begins."
- a fragment by A.C. Swinburne
from 'Atalanta in Calydon '
Faery treasures all these - luscious dark-brown sticky buds - soft, furry-grey pussy willow and deep purple scented violets.
Early springtime, still cold, but sometimes the bright sunlight breaks through, lighting the wood brightly in a way that won't happen once the leaves are on the trees above me. Suddenly the violets on the bank are out in their hundreds, leaning close I catch their scent.
Read 'Violets and their country magic' April 5th in last year's diary page here.
How to crystalize fresh, wild violet flowers for cake decoration here on my hedgerow cookery page.
The fat sticky-buds of horse chestnut that I picked and brought into the warmth last week are unfurling their pale, leafy fingers. Mix them with a few stems of red cornus and some fluffy pussy-willow for a tall 'outside-in' decoration.
March 8th 2011
Pancakes and Hares ...........
Today is Shrove Tuesday - Pancake Day - an old tradition which used to entail finishing up all the good things in the store cupboard so that no-one would be tempted during the Lentern fast. Flour, fat and eggs were made into pancakes.
These days we like ours with a little sugar and lots of fresh lemon juice.Here's my kitchen table earlier this evening.
New on my Nature and Conservation Links page - a link for Hares - have you ever had time to look at this page? British societies, with lots of events, newsletters, photo galleries, shops with lovely cards, and many things to do for children.
This also links in with some musings that you might like about March Hare Magic, over on my new blog site. You could even leave a comment there? !
March 7th 2011
Sunset and 'Evangeline - A Tale of Acadie' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1847 .......
Muddypond, being one of the faere-folk, likes twilight times. The 'betwixt and between times' when, as you know, it may be possible for us to meet.
I do hope you like my pictures - these are the true colours that you would've seen if you'd been wandering near the woods yesterday - perhaps you were. If only you'd sat quietly, you would have seen me flying for pure joy and wantonly basking in the silken colours and the crisp, cool air. I saved a picture for you ....
' ..... Softly the evening came.
The sun from the western horizon
Like a magician extended his golden wand o'er the landscape;
Twinkling vapors arose; and sky and water and forest
Seemed all on fire at the touch, and melted and mingled together.
Hanging between two skies, a cloud with edges of silver,
Floated the boat, with its dripping oars, on the motionless water.
Filled was Evangeline's heart with inexpressible sweetness.
Touched by the magic spell, the sacred fountains of feeling
Glowed with the light of love,
as the skies and waters around her. '
'Glowed with the light of love as the skies and waters around her.' - Longfellow
March 2nd 2011
Time for a touch of March madness in the shopping emporiums of faerie .......
Two illustrations by one of my very-most favourite Fairy Tale illustrators - Warwick Goble c1920
In a few days this fae will be attending on the fasting of a lovely red-headed bridey and her kingly consort. Blessings to them and all that are theirs. Thing is tho - what, oh what, to wear? My sea-green faery eyes sharpened on these 'objets des dėsir' - liked the woodland colours so very much. Well, as I've said before - a faery can dream can't she?
'Corset Vest Top' ....
‘Leather Hare’ purse necklace
'Queenie' Fairy Shoes
'Native' Corset-laced gloves
Vaisto - Finland
‘Sea Green’ Agate &Urchin Necklace
That little purse-necklace now on its long chain, hmmm - how perfect for keeping your tiny treasures and charms? Perhaps that one could be mine - I might even tell you one of these days what I'll carry in it, if you can keep a secret!
If you love beautiful things - and I know you do, please have a look at my new link to:
Faery and elemental artist Julia Jeffrey - here on my Links page