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Music to suit the waning of the year.
From the German band Faun
on the album 'Totem'

'November'  - Faun

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  December 31st 2011  -  'In comes I'  with the end of year folly!
                                      Laughter and beer and plenty of holly!    .....


(The Ogham wood for magic has changed now to Beith  (Birch) - December 24th - January 20th)

medieval manuscript showing Mummers with their musician - a Bodleian manuscript  

If ever proof were needed that the mortal folks of Britain are quite, quite insane, then the old tradition of 'Mumming'
or 'The Mummer's Play' has to be it!

Woodchurch Morris Men after the Mummers Play 2011 at the Red Lion, Charing Heath vcs
Much needed beer is on tap for the 'after performance' notes
in The Red Lion at Charing Heath.

    The plays, performed in rhyming couplets with all male casts around Winter Solstice and the end of year time, were taken from mansion to hall to castle in return for some warming ale and a few pennies.

  Nowadays they rove into pubs on a dark winter's night, and play for the same (although in modern times, it has to be said that they are usually collecting for a charity).

  the Woodchurch Morris Men, Mummers Play 2011- vcs Always a routine formula, with a villain to be killed and then restored to moral victory by the Doctor with his bottle of herbal elycampane root, a hero, a love interest, and various other motley characters.

 They can tell any tale that the Mummers wish - as here in a vengeful and very risque - (this faery had to cover her very sensitive ears at times) - telling of Cleopatra.  The oldest ones were all about the Knights of the Crusades and St. George - I did miss the dragon!

   These days, the players are very likely to be troops of Morris or Molly dancers obviously wondering how to fill the dark winter months!

'Then in comes I, both short and small,
I am come to see and save you all,
Clap your hands together,
And sing "God Save the King",
Clap your hands together,
And let all your voices ring.'
 
Illustration of a traditional Mummer's play from the Illustrated Times 1855

The Woodchurch Morris Men, Mummers Play 2011 - vcs
 
'In Comes I'  The Woodchurch Morris Men
Celebrating Yuletide with a play - every now and then!


 

December 22nd -  Winter Solstice - back to the light ..... 

 

Far away, beyond any place where mortals meet - a place where I cannot take you -
The Stone Circle - a beloved and a faery place for midnight.

 

 

   December 19th 2011 -  Mistletoe, Auctions, Holly and even MORE Mistletoe .....  

     A few days ago, Muddypond - me that is - went off on a Mistletoe enterprise. An adventure in Worcestershire.

  It's not long now before 'The day of a year and a Day', 'Mistletoe Day' - that will be on Friday (23rd). (Read lots more about this on my 'Mistletoe page')

   AND there's so much to do getting ready for Yule on 21st - Winter Solstice celebrations need plenty of preparation if they're for sharing!

  So - off I went to see the Tenbury Mistletoe and Holly Auction!  Something this faery's promised herself for a long, long time, but it's two hundred miles from my wood.

  Anyway - here I am, buying mistletoe to deck the fire-clearing for the Solstice party.

  The auctions at Tenbury are famous.
(See more about the auction days here on my site). There are three on consecutive Tuesdays in the lead up to Winter Solstice. Mistletoe grows in abundance in that part of the country (West Midlands) and the farmers bunch it into huge swathes and each big bundle is sold to the highest bidder.The auctioneers move quickly down the rows, you need to be on your toes!

Bright Holly at the Tenbury Auctions ©vcsinden2011
  Buyers picking out the holly bundles that they like best, and listening eagerly to the prices. Customers arrive from all over England, and even Europe to find the very best of the winter evergreens.

   When you're only used to seeing a sprig or two hanging up for decorations, or a single white-berried ball standing out among the bare winter branches of an apple tree, the sight of hundreds of bundles, all neatly tucked into rows is quite astonishing!

Tenbury Mistletoe Auctions - happy people loading up to go home ©vcsinden2011
Mistletoe rows at the Tenbury Mistletoe and Holly Auctions 2011 ©vcsinden2011
 

Some happy customers, all loaded up and heading home after buying from the long rows - so much to choose from!

Below - a whole apple orchard covered in mistletoe, seen growing on the way home, still in Worcestershire.

Mistletoe in the apple orchards, Worcestershire, England ©vcsinden2011

    Don't forget to read more about Mistletoe day - 23rd December here on my website. Buying fresh mistletoe or want to know more about the auctions?  Follow this link to my Tenbury Auction page and this one to 'The English Mistletoe Company' website.



 

  December 10th -   Elder Moon - the thirteenth full moon, brilliant over the bare woods .....    

Muddypond took this picture earlier, as the Moon was rising behind some oaks.
So very bright, I think It will be frosty later!

  The thirteenth full moon on the year is the time of the Elder tree. Nights are long, earth is cold, trees are bare. The associations with the number, and with the tree are those of ill-luck, and in ancient times of sacrifice.

   The old name of ‘Mourning Moon’ and the Chinese ‘Bitter Moon’ are not given without reason! This moon  is in Gemini and a good time for communication, and there will be a partial eclipse, but unless you are far, far in the North, you won’t see it.

   Full moon celebrations tonight might use bare twigs as decoration, with a black candle as an aid to concentration and deep red wine, spiced and warmed..

   If you’re cutting wood for an elder wand, remember to thank the tree with some act of care – do not take from the elder lightly, only if you need the wand and mean to use it.
  
   Hold the wand in the light of the moon and it may bring you inspiration for tasks unfinished or yet to start.
If you have the ingredients for a herbal  incense, mix a little frankincense with a few dried and crushed elder berries and a pinch of sandalwood.

More about the Ogham Elder Tree and its magic and folklore here on my website. More about full moon names here.

 


 December 5th 2011  - Hurst Wood Musings .......

   Here is me, idling through my woods, having been away a little while. Just the scent of it reminds me how lucky a Wood Warden faery I am, to be living in this magical place. Even if it can be pretty lonely at times - Magics are rare in these parts as you know.   Fairy Muddypond thinking Winter thoughts in Hurst Wood ©vcsinden2011
  You see travelling is wonderful, with all the sights and sounds so different and so extraordinary - but there really IS nothing like being back by the fallen oak, among the mist, the wet leaves and the bare hazel branches. 

It's very different to this time last year. Thick snow had already fallen, and the earth was brittle, glittering with long nights of frost.

 Now - oddly warm days. Plants and creatures have been confused into believing it's a second Autumn.

Fungi - unknown species in December Hurst Wood, Charing  ©vcsinden2011

Warm weather for early winter has brought a new flush of alluring fungi to the woods.

  Poisonous to mortals. The fairy mushroom - Fly Agaric was out in force in Hurst Wood today.

Shaggy Ink Caps - Coprimus Comatus, in Hurst Wood, Charing ©vcsinden2011
Faery Ring for Dark Elves ©vcsinden2011
A stand of young Coprinus Comatus, or the Shaggy Ink Cap

At the bottom of neighbourhood bank I found a Faery Circle which must have been used by Dark Elves!

    It seems strange to see entirely fresh, green bracken ferns, growing amongst the faded brown in December. Did you know that if you slice a small piece of thick stem straight across,just above the root, you may find an initial?  In medieval folklore, witches were averse to the touch of bracken because the letters revealed often had religious connotations.

"When the fern is as high as a spoon,
You may sleep an hour at noon;
When the fern is as high as a ladle,
You may sleep as long as you're able;
When the fern begins to look red
The milk is good with brown bread."


An old proverb, mentioned in Folkard's
'Plant-Lore, Legends and Lyrics' 1884

Bracken and Hazel - magical plants, still colourful in December, Hurst Wood, Charing ©vcsinden2011

    To finish my homecoming inspection of the woodlands, I checked that the dormice hadn't woken up. I was a bit worried about them in this warm weather - thinking they wouldn't get enough winter beauty sleep, but there they were, curled into tights balls in their hazel-leaf and straw nest, just beside the old Spindle Tree. But I won't show you exactly where!

Spindle berries in December sunshine - Hurst Wood, Charing ©vcsinden2011
Rene Cloke - 'The Spindle Tree Fairies'

Spindle Tree berries in this afternoon's sunshine. Hurst Wood, Charing.

'The Spindle Tree Fairies' - postcard illustration by Rene Cloke 1920

You might enjoy a little more about the spindle tree - 'Bright Talisman of Inspiration',
New on my Wolf Moons and Muddypond Green Blogspot



 

   November 25th 2011 - from the Full Moon Festival at Varanasi on Nov 10th  ....
 (The Ogham wood for magic has changed now to Ruis  (Elder) November 25th - December 22nd)

     
                                                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                                     

November Full Moon - the Indian Kartik Purnima - famously celebrated in Varanasi.

  When the sunrise of this auspicious day is long over (see entry below) and the sun disappears below the horizon, the thousands upon thousands of tiny oil-filled lamps, which have been set out along the length of the ghats and terraces - are lit.
It is the day that the Hindu Gods came to the Earth, and they are worshipped with fire.Full moon ceremony  Dev Diwali at Varanasi on the Ganges 2011©vcsinden2011

  Unimaginable numbers (lakhs) of mortals throng and jostle along the waterfront.
It's a celebration, and us Magics love a celebration, especially if it has anything to do with fire!
Hundreds of boats are hired - old steamers for big parties - row boats and old wooden Indian boats of all sizes take to the great mother Ganga for the finest views.Full moon ceremony  Dev Diwali at Varanasi on the Ganges 2011©vcsinden2011

The Times of India reported  - "Amidst sounds of sacred vedic mantras, glittering fire crackers and millions of diyas (earthen lamps), the ancient ghats of the city came alive on Dev Deepawali on Thursday. The festival is celebrated on Kartik Purnima."

Varanasi - full moon night November ©vcsinden2011

  A very important part of the night is the Ganga Aarti ceremony, the priests facing the river, following a rhythmic chanting of mantra and drum. Blessing the Ganga with balletic movement and bells, aarti fire lamps made up of miniature brass oil dishes on a frame, incense burners and beads.

Ganga Aarti ceremony Varanasi ©vcsinden2011
Ganga Aarti ceremony Varanasi ©vcsinden2011

    Amongst the crowds, the fireworks, boats and excitement, people find space for personal prayers and devotions, lighting tiny lamp after lamp at the water's edge, sending their hopes with them down river. As it has been done since time unknown.

The maidens lean them over
The waters, side by side,
And shun each other's deepening eyes,
And gaze adown the tide;
For each within a little boat
A little lamp hath put,
And heaped for freight some lily's weight     
Or scarlet rose half shut.
The river floweth on.

Of shell of cocoa carven
Each little boat is made;
Each carries a lamp, and carries a flower,
And carries a hope unsaid;
And when the boat hath carried the lamp
Unquenched till out of sight,
The maiden is sure that love will endure;
But love will fail with light.
The river floweth on.

Verses 3 & 4 from Elizabeth Barret Browning's ballad "A Romance of the Ganges" 1838

Dev Diwali at Varanasi - girls send their hopes and players with the oil lamps down the Ganges©vcsinden2011

Unforgettable!

 

 

 

   November 22nd 2011 - travel weary, home and happy - the Dev Deepawali Festival at Varanasi ...

    Early morning on the day of the Dev Deepawali festival, November 10th, India and my aarti lamps float down river. I've just spent two days in Delhi, and travelled on an overnight train to get here the day before full moon and my wings are a bit crumpled to say the least.

 Now I'm in an old rowing boat, so quiet - just the plash of the oars as the sun rises. I am watching while in Varansi, the steps (ghats) leading along the Ganga Maati begin to fill with mortals – each waiting for a turn to bathe in the great holy river.Varanasi- sunrise on the Ganges ©vcsinden2011

 
  As the sun rises, young and old, Hindus and Jains flock to the water to take a ritual bath,  gaining sacred karma on the day of the November full moon.  

Ganga Maati- river Goddess
photo from exoticindia.com

 

  Nearly fully dressed they step down into the water and face the pink dawn, reciting a mantra or a prayer, pouring streams over bowed heads or dipping below the glistening surface.

 



The river is a Goddess, here seated on her crocodile, a flask of Ganges water in her top left hand.

 

Varanasi_a family prepares for dawn bathing on the day of the November full moon and Dev Dewali ©vcsinden2011

Varanasi ©vcsinden2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
   Here a family are readying themselves with prayer and preparing their aarti lamps, which are floated on the river as a tribute even in the soft dawn light.

On the left, tourists gaze at the buildings rising from the ghats and a cow meanders, searching the left-overs as the light gets stronger. When the river is in full flood it rises dramatically, so the jumble of temples, hotels and palaces are built high above the stepsVaranasi_6am-ritual bathing in the Ganges at November full moon, the Kartik Purnima ©vcsinden2011

   6 am and the crowds get thicker -  a holy day, a celebration with lots to look forward to later when darkness falls.
In the picture below bright rows of saris, salwar kameez and shawls drip and dry, draped over bamboo scaffolding and railings.

Varanasi_saris drying after morning ritual bathe ©vcsinden2011

Varanasi-dawn bathing at Kartik Purnima - full moon ©vcsinden2011

It's believed that the water of the Ganges is divine, that it has the power to purify and wash away sins.

Later, as the sun begins to set, the ghats and river will come alive with jostling boats, aarti lamps by the million, strings and strings of marigolds and under the full moon - more ritual - but that's another story - to be told very soon!

You might enjoy a little musing about 'The Puppeteers of Khajaraho',
New on my Wolf Moons and Muddypond Green Blogspot
.