English lavender, magickal herb - lavender and more lavender ............
Muddypond Green spends quite a lot of time working with herbs - and what could be more 'mid-summer' than lavender? Traditionally, English lavender is grown in Norfolk - but we have quite a bit in Kent, and I went on an adventure to see the National Collection of lavenders at Downderry Nursery near Hadlow.
I fluttered round to discover that they grow up to 250 varieties of lavenders and rosemarys, supplying nurseries, farmers and us herb lovers with flawless plants. They experiment with perfecting ever hardier species, get ready their stands for Chelsea and Hampton Court shows and distil their own pure oil.
Planet - Mercury
Element - Air
Gender - Male
Goddess - Hecate
Powers - Healing, Peace, Protection, Chastity
Can't you smell it? Lavender has magical properties of healing. Rub a little oil on temples or wrists to relieve a headache, use its antiseptic properties to quickly heal minor burns, scalds, stings and scratches.
If you're going harvesting, or even just out to the kitchen, you might like my simple recipe for
'Wild Cherry Conserve' - new on my Hedgerow Cooking page.
later .... no glimpse of The Guardian of the Gate ... was there?
'I knew I should have looked behind me - it was just before midnight - and I was by the Stone Circle needless to say.
You might also like ' A basket full of wild cherries......' - new on the blog at -
June 21st 2011
More of the Irish stones for the Summer Solstice day .......
This year, Muddypond will celebrate Litha (Solstice) later today - with the sundown - but I still have some haunting places from the South of Ireland that I haven't shared with you - and what better day to think about stone circles?
So, I'll pretend I'm still there ...as I would love to have been - at dawn ..... instead of clearing some stubborn weeds by a woodland path and watching the dark clouds blot out the sunrise .....
These are the needle stones of Gurranes - called 'The Three Fingers'.
A stone row on top of the windswept hills - low clouds were swirling and occasional sheets of rain driving almost horizontally across. Several of the stones have fallen over the centuries - but these three still stand - tall markers, calling the old ones to congregation.
Difficult to understand the size of these stones from a flash - but the tallest one must stand at about 15 feet 4½ meteres.
So very lucky to find 'Island' - an amazingly complete and complex wedge tomb.
Meeting the farmer on whose land it stood was memorable as he could remember the excitement of its being uncovered in the late 1950s.
I sat here a long time and thought about the burial here - a Warrior Prince? An ancient King? Such a reverential burial site still holding its magic.
You can see the double-walled construction clearly here - with the burial gallery in the centre and the high portal stones marking the entrance. The floor, he told me, is as it was - a covering of smaller stones laid flat and close.
The Stone Circle of Drombeg - with the blue of the sea in the distance - a perfect circle with a vast 'altar stone', and at a small distance, the remains of a stone habitation and closeby there, facitilies for a cooking fire and water.
Drombeg - cooking and water structure
|Drombeg - altar stone|
It seemed to me that here was a small shelter for a hardy priest-being - who watched over the circle and the worshippers, living alone on the hillside and welcoming those who had travelled miles to make their offerings and reverence to the gods of sun and moon.
Just as we do today - Sunrise - Sunset - the longest day of the year.
The flash below I call 'The Farmer's View' - thanking Farmer Johnny so very much for his kindness in taking us up to the impossibly-faraway-top of this hill in his jeep, with sheep dogs running round us, to see a hidden stone-circle - in one of the strongest gales I've ever tried to stand up in! Talk about tattered wings!!
June 15th 2011
Just before midnight .......
Oh alright!! It was RAINING!! I know, I know - I admit it - Muddypond didn't see even a glimpse of the full moon - never mind an eclipse - she made this dream up - but the Moon eclipse picture is real and from the BBC about an hour ago - and I've eaten the strawberries - and the lavender biscuits, they were real enough too. Smiles contentedly.
Here's hoping some of you saw it in all its glory - please do tell me 'bout it if you did.
June 14th 2011
Preparing for tomorrow's total eclipse of the moon ......
Wednesday 15th, will bring us not just the full-moon – but a rare Total Lunar Eclipse! Your next chance to witness the total shadow will be in 2018! Weather permitting !
Perhaps a small seasonal thanksgiving ritual after the eclipse.
Here are mid-June oak leaves, elder flowers, strawberries,
poppies and lavender biscuits.
Despite that full-moon energy, the lengthening of the shadows is not a time when the fae race choose to work magic – rather light a white candle and make it a time for simple contemplation, to be in touch with emotions. Later there will be time for rituals.
The Moon will rise at around 21.00 here, and will still be VERY low in the sky when the Earth slips between her and the Sun, not making her disappear, but casting a dense shadow.
The eclipse will appear at its darkest at around 21.30 - 22.00 where I am in Southern England, and owing to the atmospheric conditions the shadow may well be a coppery-red.
The word ‘eclipse’ comes from the Greek ‘ekleípō’ meaning ‘to cease to exist’ and ‘to abandon’ – imagine the fear and awe that the ancestors felt as the Moon darkened – perhaps never to return to full glory.
When the bright moon is restored a magic focus may begin, with an Oak wand and leaves and elder flowers or wild poppies being appropriate for this part of the June month. If you like to burn a herbal incense, frankincense, sandalwood and lemon-balm have powerful moon influences.
Elder-flower cordial, lavender biscuits and fresh strawberries would make a very seasonal thanksgiving!
I know how you love hand-crafted objects of faery-tale wonder - have a look at the jewelled, pewter pieces by
Sue Rawley - new here on my Favourite Things Links page.
June 12th 2011
A break from ancient stones with a bit of mad and trad ..........
The Ogham wood for magic has changed to Duir (Oak) from June 10th - July 7th. The best time to make a wand of duir wood will be full moon on June 15th OR Summer Solstice June 21st.
East Kent Morris Men with their Hooden Horse far right - salute. Based in Folkestone - find their website here.
Flutter downhill through King's Wood Forest, and you might eventually come to a village cricket ground on a green, with an old pub, still alive and well. As I was making for home the other evening, and the sun was setting , I heard a commotion and flew lower to see what it was................
Hmmm - now I have seen things like this before - folk dancers - Morris Dancers they're called - all dressed up and a-jingle-jingling with bells. Some have a fine selection of instruments to make their music, some have stout wooden sticks to wield in the dances. There were two groups rollicking outside, and plenty of traditional ale tankards on the tables.
The dance side in the flash on the left, wear flat caps, blacken their faces and sport hobnail boots.
They had some fine musicians, but also some great singers who led rousing chorus and verse while the dancers clattered on the road.
They are Dead Horse Morris, they're based in Whitstable, Kent and you can find their website here.
Both sides will be at The Tenterden Folk Festival at the end of September. I stayed until it was nearly too dark to fly on home to my wood.
|Dead Horse Morris with a rousing late evening song|
You might also like ' Cambridge Folk Museun and certain toys ...' - new on the blog at -
June 6th 2011
Stones, circles, tombs and faery ancestors .......
Faery treasures to be venerated and safeguarded. Well that's how we think of them, but to you they are most likely megalithic treasures, strange survivors of the bronze age and way, way before. However we look at them, experience them, they are undeniably mysterious, steeped in reverence and an atmosphere like no other.
Muddypond's recent travels in Ireland took her to a few, and she would like to share them with you, perhaps you might visit, stay in the little castle lodge that I talked about last week (entry May 30th)- and wonder too.
These four flashes show 'Labbacallee' or 'The Hag's bed' - I tried it out for a rest as it was getting on for sundown by the time I had found it.
This is the biggest wedge tomb in all of Ireland, the rocks huge and solid, the burial gallery thick walled and timeless. Three massive capstones form the covering, the largest one is thought to weigh around ten tons.
At the back, three upright stones are set like buttresses, akin to the fins on an imaginary time-shuttle. A wedge tomb is simply one which graduates from high at the portal to low at the back.
Not so easy to find, one of the faery cathedrals - Bohonagh. Faery cathedrals are stone circles - the wilder the better.
Through a busy dairy farm, along a track behind the milking parlour and up a small hill, wild and lonely I stood and gazed in awe at the thirteen stones, forming a circle so perfect that they must have been set to the line of a giant compass.
Above, in the top flash, you can see the two portal stones, each about two metres, seven feet high, set guarding a view of distant hills.
Right - standing about seven metres to the east of the circle is a simple boulder burial.
Most magics don't have a body to dispose of when we pass - it's just a matter of a fade and a sparkle - I sat a while and pondered on the strength of a soul that needed such a vast rock to keep it from wandering.
I have more to show you soon, before we talk of the full eclipse moon of June 15th. Meanwhile, a new Muddypond charm - for courage - can be found here on my Spells and Charms page.
May 30th 2011
Looking for the Tuatha-De-Danann in the hills of southern Ireland .......
Flying back from Ireland - Cork to be exact, I knew just how much I wanted to show you the woodland gatelodge where I passed my evenings, in hopes that you will be able to stay there some time soon.
The woodburning stove was lit and dreams of stone circles, and the fae tribe of Tuatha-De_Danann who could have been my Irish ancestors drifted through the ancient walls and up the spiral stone stairs..
Now I sound like President Obama don't I? But then all the best of us must have faery-irish in the blood somewhere!
This little gate house was my own private castle - set in the deep countryside with its own woodland walk into the most romantic, tumbled greener than green garden.
The garden is a famous one, known as Anne's Grove but because we have had such a bitter, frost damaging winter, it wasn't open to the world - just to those who stayed in the Gatelodge.
If you'd like to stay in the lodge, it's owned by The Irish Landmark Trust, and you can book it on their website, just for a weekend if you like. You don't need to go out really - the place is steeped in magic and the gardens and woods full of birds and mysteries.
Diola le' to Helen for making us feel so welcome.
I'd come though, to discover the faery cathedrals - the stone circles that are sprinkled among the hills and forests, and very soon I'll show you what I found.
Meanwhile - come and walk down the wooded path outside the back door, and enjoy the evening shadows of the gardens.
A fair way down, with the path turning gradually from wild and dark to luminous with rhodedendrons and azaleas, you will find Anne's Grove.
Secrets to explore by the hundred. It almost seemed a wickedness to leave it, but then it was the faery ancestors of the wild places that I had come to find .....
You see the place where the statue points - up there on the right? There have to be faery meets by new moon - don't you think so?
You might also like 'English field poppies - perchance to dream' - new on the blog at -
May 19th 2011
More willow - this time in baskets - look what Muddypond made!! .......
My basket - do you think it will pass Level 133 ?
Well, I'm proud of it anyway!
Faery folk are forever curious and they like to learn. Well, they like to learn what they WANT to learn that is.
For a long time now Muddypond has wanted to make real baskets from willow rather than relying on other creatures' kindness - baskets are always needed for my Eco Enchantments business, especially when I have to deliver to the Neighbourhood Bank (see more about that in my 'Places' page.).
Even better, making a small frame-basket is the task for Inquest Level 133 of the Stella Fae Exams!
It took me two days to learn, and it wasn't so easy, but here it is - I can take it now to Inquisitor Burnt-Sienna Brown and see if she will pass me.
He was very patient, explaining everything from the beginning - showing the different willow withies, telling us how to let them stand after picking to avoid them shrinking, how to soak them to make them pliable.
(Alan's Willow Dragon photo is from 'Trip Advisor' - with thanks)
Alan is a brilliant basket maker, but he also makes willow sculpture -- here he is above, showing us how to put in the 'ribs'
and on the left is his amazing dragon, which roamed for a while in the Enchanted Forest at Groombridge Place, Kent.
After the handle we started by making a 'God's Eye' (see second flash above), then the ribs. It was a great two days, made a change from Wood Wardening and patching up small woodlanders like the stoat who foolishly got his head caught in a plastic beer-can tie Damned careless villagers. Oh well.
Now I can look forward to another workshop to learn the beginnings of willow sculpture.
Here are some new friends learning, enjoying and making something very satisfying.
(I bet these villagers wouldn't drop plastic traps in woods!)
Hope I'll meet them again next time.
If you'd like to see more about Alan and AJS Rural Crafts, there is a new link on my links page 'favourites' here.
You might also like 'Spiers and Boden show their faery disguises' - new on the blog at -
May 13th 2011 The Ogham wood for magic changed today to Huath (Hawthorn) 13th May - 9th June. The best time to make a wand of huath will be full moon May 17th.
Just a note to say that Muddypond has just finished a new Ogham Tree Page all about the Magic of the Willows if you woud like to read more about 'The Tree of Enchantment.' Try here.
May 9th 2011
Scary faery willow trees, a letter and a certain moon wand with heart .......
| Ancient willows growing by the banks of the canal at Hythe, near the Roman ruins
| Illustration by Swedish faery tale artist John Bauer 1915
from 'The Boy and the Trolls'
Now is still the time for willow magick, the time that willow rules the calendar of Ogham. If you make a wonderful willow wand, it could be used for powerful workings at every full-moon of the year - since willow - the tree of enchantment - is the tree most beloved of the moon goddesses.
Ancient trees of white willow, which were once coppiced many, many decades ago and then forgotten, will grow to the most extraordinary shapes. The trunks hollow out and contort, the branches twist - they are true faery tale trees - the stuff of Tim Burton nightmares if you glimpse them in the moonlight.
Can't you just imagine the scene with a princess and an old troll woman going on in the caverns beneath the roots of these trees?
I hope you can, because this is just what you might see if you explored the hollow bole of these willows and dared to clamber down the slippery steps of grey stone and gnarled fingers of dark root ......
I have had some faery correspondence recently, a Drax in fact, from a curious young villager sprig aged only six years, asking me many questions about our magickal kind - he seems fond of us - and shows a special interest in Muddypond's best friend the Silver Storm Dragon. I explained to him in my answer, the value of a wand made of willow - and he has fashioned a very special one himself from a willow stick.
This young sprig tells me in a Drax that a star for the top of his willow wand would have been too conventional, so he has made a heart with jewels like a face - for each wand should be like the person that owns it. How right and wise that is!
The tassels of red and yellow show the fire and the tail of a Storm Dragon. Isn't it beautiful?
Now apparently, when the smaller members of the family saw the papers and wood, the jewels and the tassels, they wouldn't be content until they too had fabricated a wand of willow - and Mister Scott, being a villager of much heart allowed them to join in.
But oh how very lovely! Thank you so much for showing me. I will make sure that the Storm Dragon, away in Lithuania sees them too.
You might also like 'Wild Garlic and Muddy Dogs' - new on the blog at -
May 3rd 2011
Another folklore custom - this one for Beltane - 'The Greening' - first day of summer .....
|Click here for the website of the 'Clerical Error' Morris Dancers|
My story today involves a trickster, an olden day reveller, a Lord of the Dance. A character to bring in the greening and festivities of the first summer day - first day of May - from dawn when he is awakened and his green coverings are glistening with dew, to dusk when he is put to a ceremonial death.
Then his 'Spirit of Summer' is released - but when the green begins to change and the leaves fall in winter, his job is to safeguard the life within the trees and the earth for the following spring.
His name? Jack in the Green.
Here, words from the last verse of Jethro Tull's evocative song of that name ................
♪ 'The rowan, the oak and the holly tree
are the charges left for you to groom.
Each blade of grass whispers Jack-In-The-Green.
Oh Jack, please help me through my winter's night.
And we are the berries on the holly tree.
Oh, the mistlethrush is coming.
Jack, put out the light' ♪
Faeries love ceremony you know? Even woodland-fae like to escape sometimes and see what's going on in the strange and wonderful world around us. So, where did I find Jack in the Green this May weekend? Well, by the sea it was - by the crumbling ruins of a castle, in the brilliant sunshine of Hastings. No-one would have noticed me among the huge crowds.
There were giants there too - it's many a day since I saw a giant - they were very pretty and all ready to dance - here is one up on the cliffs looking out across the sea.
Sometimes our memories of the history behind folklore can be a bit awry! Many British pageants and traditions had to end when the country was at war, and they weren't revived - we only have a few documents and engraved prints of past revels to go on.
That's how it seems to be with Jack. His narrative is mixed with the ancient Green Man - another name is Green May - and spring fertility rites, the legends of Robin Hood, the little Victorian chimney-sweeps who covered themsleves in grass and leaves for their May holiday and the old beliefs in the battle between the spirits of Oak and Holly.
Whoever he is, Jack-in-the Green, a symbol of May 1st, is decked out in style down here - and seriously welcomed. At the release of Jack's spirit, all folks are given leaves from his green frame, and they're kept until the following year for luck and to remind us all of the need to be vigilant in sharing and experiencing our earth, the outdoors and nature.
Here on the right is the Hastings Jack in his crown of fresh flowers, with the Mad Jack Morris men, and surrounded by my charmed and treasured leaves.
Last year, I went to see the 'Jack-in-the-Green' on May 1st in Rochester. You can read about it in my web-diary here.
Plenty of folklore on last months diary blog too - click here.