Myth and Magic — Herbarium of Magical Wildflowers

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Myth & Magic Wildflowers Podcast

Herbarium of Magical Wildflowers discussed in the weekly Myth and Magic Podcast

Anemone — Episode 28
Belladona — Episode 05
Betony — Episode 26
Blackberry — Episode 08
Bluebell — Episode 29
Bulrush — Episode 09
Chili Pepper — Episode 02
Daffodil — Episode 25
Fat Hen — Episode 04
Henbane — Episode 33
Hops — Episode 11
Horse Chestnut — Episode 10
Mistletoe — Episode 17
Morning Glory — Episode 07
Neeps — Episode 13
Primrose — Episode 27
St John’s Wort — Episode 01
Sunflower — Episode 06
Violet — Episode 30
Wake Robin — Episode 15

ALL Myth & Magic Episodes HERE >>

Myth and Magic EP 15 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 15 SHOW-NOTES

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Folklore and fantasy themes aimed at creative writers: to start writing stories and challenge your brain with exciting ideas, dip into this kit-bag. Learn how fantasy worlds draw on real world history, mythology, and folklore. And there’s weekly news from the world of fantasy fiction too, plus fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

CLICK HERE for >>> Episode Fifteen: 26M

This week I explain why Harry is a warlock and not a wizard. I discover the earliest origin of wizard myths before examining the definition of warlock and touch on the witch trials of early-modern Scotland. I take a look at Daemonologie, and I think about the Roman roads of Britain and how they probably influenced the Kingsroad (and other straight roads) in A Song of Ice and Fire. Wildflower of the week: Wake Robin.

Dr John Fian

Dr John Fian

Last week I made the claim that MERLIN is perhaps the one-and-only WIZARD when I was discussing the definition of WIZARD and comparing a Wizard to a Witch. If you’ve been listening to the shows since Episode One you might be aware that I had already touched on Odin (also known in English mythology as Wōden — the old Norse God associated with wisdom, healing, sorcery and knowledge) and especially in his guise as a “wanderer magician…” J. R. R. Tolkien’s fiction was very much influenced by Norse history and it seems that Gandalf was inspired this figure aka Mr. Wednesday.

This Norse God is a shape-shifter but is most usually depicted as a one-eyed and long-bearded, white haired old man, frequently armed with a spear or staff, and he wears a dark cloak and a broad hat that hides much of his face. He’s usually accompanied by animals and birds (these are his familiars, that he talks to) and he can ride across the sky on “old slippy” if he needs to get anywhere (slippy is an eight-legged flying horse.) Does this remind you of Dumbledore?

I ought to have pointed out, last week, that MERLIN was either the incarnation (artificial or otherwise) of Wōden or a folk memory of this wandering Norse God.

Yet Wōden is far older than this Norse deity. The Romans knew of such a figure, so it’s possible we need to look much further back into history to find the first reference to the wizard. Perhaps back into the Proto-Indo-European pantheon of Gods.

And, yes, Proto-Indo-Europeans — these are the prehistoric people who lived about 4,000 years ago in the area we now know as Ukraine and Eastern Russia and who were farmers and fisher-folk and lived in climate with winter snow and invented the wheel and the plough and domesticated the horse — they probably believed in a sky-god (the SKY FATHER) and passed their history along using song-poetry. These very ancient people believed in an Otherworld that was guarded by a watchdog and could only be reached by crossing a river. They may also have believed in a world tree, bearing fruit of immortality, guarded by a serpent or dragon, and this hidden otherworld was tended by three goddesses who spun the thread of life. They had “The Striker” (a flying God with a hammer who is akin the the later Thor) and they had the water-God APAM NAPAT a figure that probably inspired the later Roman god Neptūnus, and the Old Irish water-god Nechtain. And they also had animistic deities: for example elves and nymphs. It’s from these very ancient beliefs that our image of the wandering wizard emerges…

By the way, it’s interesting to note that well into the 12th century A.D. and long after Norway had been “officially” Christianized, the Odin/Wōden character was still alive and being invoked by the Nordic population. In fact, even in recent times, if a person is woken by an odd noise during the night, they declare they hear “Odin passing by…

Anyway, I thought I’d try to offer some back ground to the figure MERLIN and later Wizards… especially Gandalf but also The Doctor and Dumbldore type characters… it seems they all come from one very, very ancient folk-belief and folk-memory, perhaps even an invocation… of the powerful figure of Wōden the wanderer.

WARLOCK

Last week I stated that the male equivalent of a witch is a WARLOCK. And this was the word that had been used to describe the male counterparts to Samantha Stephens in the 1960s television show Bewitched. It’s also (strictly speaking) what Harry Potter is learning to become.

A warlock is defined as: a person (typically male) who uses magic for or against others

The word derives from the Old English word: WǢRLOGA which means: oathbreaker or “deceiver” so it has dark origins.

The Old Norse VARÐ-LOKKUR, that means “caller of spirits” has also been suggested, though argued against, as a possible source word.

Although most victims of witch trials in early modern Scotland were women, what is less well known is that some men were executed as warlocks.

Witchcraft has such a long, fascinating and complex history that goes back to before the Bible, so the subject deserves special attention and I intend to examine witches & witchcraft in considerably more detail in the new year, and over special shows.

But just to concentrate on warlocks, I wanted to explain about the Scottish witch trials. In 1589 King James VI and 1st (he was the son of Mary, Queen of Scots,) visited Denmark where witch-hunts were common and, on his sea voyage, he encountered rough seas and storms that were said to be the result of magic. At least one of his ships (said to be the one that contained valuable gifts for his Queen) was lost in the storm. Upon his return to Scotland, he attended the North Berwick witch trials, the first major persecution of witches in Scotland, and after he saw the trial of the witches who had “caused” his ships to be struck by waves and winds, he set up a royal commissions to hunt down any other witches in his realm, and recommended torture when dealing with any suspects.

The Scottish schoolmaster Dr. John Fian was accused of bewitching townsfolk, preaching witchcraft, and, along with Agnes Sampson and others, of raising storms to sink the fleet of King James VI of Scotland. He was the first of a few warlocks that were tried and sentenced for witchcraft. Dr. John Fian endured having his fingernails forcibly extracted and his feet mangled in screw-down torture boots known as pilliwinks. These instruments of torture crushed his feet until they were no longer usable. It’s said he endured this torture without expressing pain. He was taken to the Castlehill in Edinburgh, strangled, and burnt on 27 January 1591.

John Stewart, Earl of Mar and Garioch, the youngest surviving son of James II of Scotland, (imprisoned and probably killed at Craigmillar Castle) was likewise accused of being a warlock by King James VI and 1st and arrested for treason.

King James VI and I was responsible for a book known as the “Daemonologie” a text book which focused on necromancy and the historical relationships between the various methods of divination and black magic. The text book also touched on werewolves and vampires.

It’s interesting to think that a book on Demonology would be published before an Authorized Version of the Bible. I shall discuss Daemonologie in more detail in a future show,

William Shakespeare is said to have used Daemonologie as a source book when writing and producing his Scottish Play – Macbeth.

John Napier of Merchiston (1550 –1617) the famous mathematician, physicist, and astronomer who “invented” the much-hated log tables (aka logarithms) (disliked by schoolkids of a certain age, ask your grandfather about them) was born and died in a castle and dabbled in alchemy, necromancy, and magic. He kept a black rooster as a familiar. He was widely known to be, and professed himself to be, a warlock.

During the European Age of Enlightenment (the 18th century) belief in the powers of witches and sorcerers began to die out and reports of warlocks became rarer.

Locus in Quo – The Roman roads of Britain

In the last episode of Myth and Magic I promised I’d cover ROMAN ROADS in Britain. Listeners from outside Europe, especially those from the continent of America or Australasia will be unfamiliar with Roman Roads, but they are a shared feature of the topography of most of Europe and also North Africa.

Those of you who are watching Britannia the fantasy television series will be aware that the Romans came to Britain in 43 AD (they set up my home town of Staines that same year) and stayed on until about 410 AD.

In Britannia as in their other conquered provinces, the Romans constructed a network of paved trunk roads to march upon. They hated horse riding (a common mistake in tv shows and movies is to have the senior officers riding around on white steeds: non-roman auxiliary troops were the cavalrymen, and looked down upon) but they liked long, straight, reliable roads to march their legions around on (about about 5,000 men, divided in several cohorts.)

Prior to the Roman conquest of Britain, merchants used unpaved track-ways, including the ancient ones that were probably first trod-down by herds and that run along the ridges of hills, one such trackway (still in use) is the Ridegway. But these were not of sufficient quality for the Roman Legions, so they set out to create an all-weather network of roads that was completed by 180 AD.

“Street” comes from the old word for paving :

Dere Street from Eboracum (York) to the Antonine Wall in Scotland
Ermine Street – London (Londinium) to Lincoln (Lindum Colonia) via York (Eboracum)
Fosse Way – linked Exeter (Isca Dumnoniorum) to Lincoln (Lindum Colonia)
Watling Street – London to the port of Dover

Here, where I live, on the Thames at Roman AD PONTES we are between the PORTWAY and AKEMAN street. PORTWAY run from London to Dorchester (Durnovaria.) And AKEMAN ran from London to Gloucester (Gelvum.)

Fantasy Writers Definitions – Chekhov’s gun

This month thousands of writers – both new and old – are diligently writing their 50 thousand plus words participating in the NANOWRIMO challenge. It might be a bit too late to bring CHEKHOV’S GUN to their attention… but nevertheless, it’s an important and useful “rule of thumb” for fantasy fiction writers.

The famous Russion play-write and short-story writer Doctor Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) came up with an important dramatic principle for his plays and short stories: every element in a story must be necessary and irrelevant elements should be removed.

every element in a story must be necessary, so if an element is removed the structure would “fall apart” irrelevant elements should be removed or they might be seen to make false promises to the reader or an audience

The “Gun” refers to Chekhov’s statement: “If you say, in the first chapter, there is a rifle hanging on the wall, the gun must go off… it’s not going to be fired, it has no right to be hanging there.

Likewise, if you bring a loaded rifle onto a stage, it must be fired by the end of the story. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.

Ernest Hemingway, for one, contradicted this “rule” on several occasions, and said he valued inconsequential details in his writings, but even he conceded that readers would inevitably seek symbolism and significance in these moments so, agreed with Checkhov that its wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.

Thinking about your own story and using the principle of Chekhov’s gun, do you have any “guns on walls” that serve no purpose? For example, a magic ring or special cloak that’s not used? A magical power that’s not utilized? Some deep mystical knowledge that is never mined? An animal or creature that is said to have magical or amazing powers… but then we never get to see how these are used. Got any of Chekhov’s guns? Yeah? Erase them now before they weaken your story structure.

Wild flower of the week: Trillium erectum

The Wake Robin, Beth Root or Stinking Benjamin, is a quickly fading plant from the Trillium family that are perennial herbs grown from rhizomes with three large leaf-like bracts that, in the case of the Wake Robin, are red in colour. These bracts are photosynthetic but are brightly coloured and resemble flowers.

The small flowers are carrion-scented (hence Stinking Benjamin) so attract scavenging flies for pollination. Eventually the flower petals wither, to leave behind a fruit that ripens into a dark red berry.

Trilliums are native to the eastern United States and eastern Canada, so don’t try looking for one in the European woodland.

The root was traditionally used as an aid in childbirth, hence the name “Beth root” (which is a corruption of “birth root”). Native Americans would use the root tea for menstrual disorders, to induce childbirth, and to aid in labor.

According to Buckland’s book of Gypsy Magic you can attract a lover with a pinch of Wake Robin. Just a pinch of the herb used in whatever you’re cooking will cause your lover to be drawn to you in a very strong and positively romantic way.

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CLICK HERE to listen to >>> Episode Fifteen of MYTH & MAGIC 26M

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Myth and Magic EP 17 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 17 SHOW-NOTES

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Folklore and fantasy themes aimed at creative writers: to start writing stories and challenge your brain with exciting ideas, dip into this kit-bag. Learn how fantasy worlds draw on real world history, mythology, and folklore. And there’s weekly news from the world of fantasy fiction too, plus fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

CLICK HERE for >>> Episode Seventeen: 39M

This week I explore the origins of Father Christmas. Is he a deep folk memory of the ancient Yulefather? Are Santa Claus, Sinterklaas, Saint Nicholas of Myra, and Sir Christmas all memories of this same pagan character? How do reindeer figure in the Christmas tradition? What is Yule? What is a Yule Goat? When is the Night of Mothers? Who is Zwarte Piet? Who is Krampus? Where do the Christkindl celebrations originate? And what’s so magical about mistletoe?

God Jule - the Yule Father and his Yule Goat

God Jule – the Yule Father and his Yule Goat

Nothing awakens the interest of a young mind in the subject of MYTH and MAGIC more than the story made annually and almost made true — that is Santa Claus. The beloved character brings together religion, mythology, history, mysticism and fantasy in a way that is not only fascinating and compelling, but also legitimate. Although disconcerting and quite esoteric in nature (is he an elf? A saint? A supernatural entity? A marketing device created by shrewd business people?) everyone “gets” what Father Christmas is all about, even though they can’t put into actual words what there is to “understand” about him. That’s about as esoteric as you can get these days… it’s not often (in this rational, modernistic world) that we see an acceptance that something exists or is true, even though there’s no proof of its actual existence… beyond hope, trust and optimism that is.

I often think that it is entirely possible that in this world of humanism, science and rational thought, FATHER CHRISTMAS is the last vestige of a belief in the miraculous, paranormal and otherworldly. If it’s difficult for me ( a fantasy fiction writer) to see how this creature clearly belongs outside the material realm and yet is welcomed into our hearts, minds and even our homes at Christmastide… it must be doubly difficult for all the logically minded folk out there. Yet, they are all eagerly awaiting his arrival. He’s even tracked by the ultra high-tech North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) systems — and their Russian Aerospace equivalent GLONASS — as he journeys around the world on his mission to deliver presents to good children. And, even more amazingly, even though he’s a supernatural entity from a different space/time and dimension, he’s associated with a holy Christian festival. How did that happen?

YULE FATHER in the Odin/Wōden wanderer guise

YULE FATHER in the Odin Wōden wanderer guise

If you have been listening to my show you perhaps won’t be surprised to know that the character we know as Father Christmas probably reaches way back in time to the Odin/Woden wandering wizard figure that I have mentioned before, in several episodes. The white beard / white hair / cape and hood and the old man’s mystical nature might have given you a clue. “Our” Father Christmas is said to be a fairy or magical being… and he is probably connected to Woden, so NORAD is probably tracking Woden in his guise as the wandering wizard of the hunt.

Reindeer

Reindeer

So where do we start? Why not start with REINDEER it’s a good a place as any!

REINDEER (also known as caribou in North America) are probably one of the oldest domesticated animals known to man (actually they’re semi domesticated). They’ve been hunted by man since before the mists of time… in fact scholars suggest they may be the single most important hunted-species on the planet. They were known to the ancient Greeks and the Romans as a vitally important hunt species. Domestication of the deer by the Arctic peoples probably started between the Bronze and Iron Ages when the animals the people lived alongside began to be herded as livestock rather than hunted as prey. The indigenous peoples employed their deer to pull sleds and raised them for meat, hides, antlers and milk. The deer were not completely domesticated though and tended to migrate between coastal and inland areas. Therefore, the herders normally traveled with their herds and lived a nomadic life.

(By the way, in modern times, during World War II, the Soviet Army used reindeer as pack animals to transport food, ammunition and post and to bring wounded soldiers, pilots and equipment back to base. About 6,000 reindeer and more than 1,000 reindeer herders were used as part of the operation.)

But back to the Arctic peoples of the iron age – try to imagine if you can… a WHITE OUT. A white-out occurs when the land, covered in crisp white snow, meets a whitewashed snow-filled skyline. Imagine if you encountered a white-out and glimpsed a team of REINDEER pulling a sled across a ridge in the middle distance. The ridge is icy white, the sky is icy white and the foreground between you and the deer-sled is icy white. The sleigh and the reindeer would appear to be “flying” across the sky. Now, imagine this vision was at night (for, in Winter time, the night-time for Arctic peoples is never-ending) and the sleigh has been adorned with twinkling lanterns or candles… what do you think that would that look to an observer?

YULE

YULE or Yuletide is an ancient midwinter festival that celebrates the WILD HUNT and is a very deep folk memory of the importance of the deer herds and celebration of the herders. It also celebrates the god Odin/Wōden [ Old Saxon : Wōdan, and Old High German: Wuotan] in his guise as wanderer/hunter and the lighting of candles in memory of female ancestors that normally took place on the “Night of Mothers” i.e. 24th December – Christmas Eve to us. Although, remember, this was before the advent of Christianity.

Odin/Wōden in his guise as winter wanderer bears the name JÓLFAÐR (YULE FATHER) and in this guise he is depicted as an old man with a white beard, wearing a cloak with a hood, and holding a magical staff. He rides a white horse across the sky.

The word YULE is still used today in Nordic countries to describe the winter holiday season.
According to the Saga of Hákon the Good written in the year 934 Yule was celebrated over three nights, starting at midwinter night. Big feasts were arranged and sacrificial blood was drunk.

In folklore the pre-Christian WILD HUNT is a motif that typically involves a ghostly or supernatural group of hunters passing-by in wild pursuit. The hunters might be elves, fairies or the dead and the leader of the hunt is often the Odin/Wōden figure. But he might be joined by the THOR character who rides across the sky in a chariot pulled by goats. The WILD HUNT is a phenomena known across cultures, for example: In Scandinavia The Ride of Asgard , in Britain, known as Woden’s Hunt, Herod’s Hunt, Cain’s Hunt, or the Devil’s Dandy Dogs (in Cornwall) Gabriel’s Hounds (in North England), and Ghost Riders in North America.

A reliable eye-witness account of the WILD HUNT from 12th century England describes it as this:

The huntsmen were black, huge, and hideous, and rode on black horses and on black he-goats, and their hounds were jet black, with eyes like saucers, and horrible. This was seen in the very deer park of the town of Peterborough, and in all the woods that stretch from that same town to Stamford, and in the night the monks heard them sounding and winding their horns…

By the way, The Romans considered the Odin/Wōden figure to be the same God as their “Mercury” and thew ancient Thor to be the same figure as their “Hercules”.

In processions during YULE TIDE it was a common European tradition for young, unmarried men to parade and congregate in masks to celebrate the WILD HUNT.

It’s generally agreed that the hunters of the WILD HUNT probably come from a faerie otherworld. Another dimension. Over the ages, the hunt was to led by popular characters of the time, such as Gwydion, King Arthur, King Herla, and Herne the Hunter.

If dark horsemen might move magically across a winter sky, accompanied by black ravens and war-dogs and they seemed to merge with the darkening clouds on a distant horizon, it’s easy to see how this mental image might be frightening for children… so the emblem of the WILD HUNT became replaced by something more friendly and more wholesome (for children) especially after Christianity had spread across the Northern realms (the last areas of Europe that were Christianized were the Baltic regions – and this was as late as 12th to the 14th centuries.) The idea of a gentle, warm hearted figure riding across the sky with his herd of beasts became our idea of “Father Christmas.”

Sveti Nikola (1903) by Uroš Predic

Sveti Nikola (1903) by Uroš Predic

SAINT NICHOLAS

But how did SAINT NICHOLAS get caught up in all this?

SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA was an early Christian bishop who probably lived during the mid fourth century A.D. ( Roman times) in the area we now know as Turkey. SAINT NICHOLAS had a long white beard, white hair, and wore red robes and a mitre (because he was a bishop) and because of his many miracles, he’s known (in Turkey) as Nicholas the Wonderworker. Furthermore, Saint Nicholas is the patron saint of children (among other things) and during his life he earned a reputation for secret gift-giving. It’s obvious that the early church thought that SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA was a perfect substitute for the ancient YULE FATHER.

In late medieval England, on Saint Nicholas Day (6 December) parishes would hold “boy bishop” celebrations. As part of these rituals, local youths would perform the functions of priests and bishops, and exercise rule over their elders. It was a good way of diverting attention from YULE and replacing it with the wholesome image of SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA (in his guise of Bishop of the Church.)

Today, Saint Nicholas is celebrated as a great gift-giver in several Western European and Central European countries. According to one source, in medieval times, nuns used the night of 6 December to deposit baskets of food and clothes anonymously at the doorsteps of the needy. This is probably how the custom of secret gift-giving at Christmastide came about.

Sinterklaas with Black Pete

Sinterklaas with Black Pete arriving in Groningen, The Netherlands

SINTERKLAAS

When I traveled to the NETHERLANDS to visit the Christmas Markets I saw the celebrations for SINTERKLAAS. The feast is celebrated on 6th December and commemorates the patron saint of children SAINT NICHOLAS as bishop. The Dutch for St Nick is SINTERKLAAS . In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas is assisted by Zwarte Piet (aka “Black Pete”) who is one of the “companions” of SINTERKLAAS and is traditionally dressed in Moorish attire and portrayed with a blackface. It’s thought that Pete is folk memory of Saint Nicholas’ real & actual servant who has been described as “Moorish”.

Oddly, in modern day Netherlands SINTERKLAAS arrives by white horse (he doesn’t use a reindeer sleigh to get about) … but then again, the YULE FATHER character of the wild hunt rode a white horse across the sky… is this a curious throwback to a much earlier tradition?

During the Religious Reformation of the 16th- and 17th-century, in Europe, Protestant reformers such as Martin Luther changed the Saint gift-bringer SINTERKLAAS from the semi-pagan motif into the more acceptable Christ Child or Christkindl . The reformed church also moved the date of the Christkindl celebration from 6 December to Christmas Eve.

Of course, the Sinterklaas story travelled with the DUTCH migrants and took root in former Dutch colonies such as the settlement of New Amsterdam (on the tip of Manhattan Island.) The English took over the New Amsterdam settlement and renamed it New York in 1664 but the descendants of the original Dutch families continued to celebrate their SINTERKLAAS traditions along with other wintertime festivities such as Christkindl.

Sir Christèmas

Sir Christèmas

FATHER CHRISTMAS

In the British tradition, from about the eleventh century, FATHER CHRISTMAS has been the personification of Christmas tide. In this respect he is the same thing as sinterklaas and also an entirely different thing. Confusing? Yes, I said at the outset that this mythical/magical entity was esoteric. FATHER CHRISTMAS can be considered synonymous with Santa Claus (SINTERKLAAS) because he shares a common heritage with the pre-Christian notion of the WILD HUNT. Neverthless, the church wanted to distance their devotees from pagan tradition, so their FATHER CHRISTMAS (or Sir Christmas) was presented and characterized as the personification of Chistmas. A very early English carol suggests that “Sir Christèmas” brings news of Christ’s birth as he encourages his listeners to drink: “Make good cheer and be right merry, And sing with us now joyfully: Nowell, nowell.

In Britian the term “Yule” was comprehensievly replaced by the word “Christmas” in Britain from about the 11th century and Old Father Christmas was seen as the new symbol of the “good old days of feasting and good cheer”. During the rise of the PURITANS in the 1640s (they tried to abolish Christmas) folk held onto the belief that a Christmas Spirit in the form of Old Father Christmas would still come to them secretly to “deliver Christmas.” You can imagine how the legend stuck in the minds of people.

And in the mid 18th century Father Christmas became a stock character in Christmas folk plays known as mummers plays.

During the Victorian period Christmas customs enjoyed a big revival, and the figure of Father Christmas became an emblem of “good cheer”. It was about this time that he became associated with merchandise and shopping.

But, remember, he’s probably the wandering wizard of the ancient wild hunt. Think about that before you encourage your kids to write secret letters (prayers & wishes) to him, to stick them up the chimney… into heaven… for him to grant.

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CLICK HERE to listen to >>> Episode Seventeen of MYTH & MAGIC 39M

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Myth and Magic News 20th December 2019

This week the BBC reported that the Cottingley Fairies hoax photo has been sold for £1,000

The famous100-year-old photo of Cottingley Fairies posed by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths in 1917 fooled many into believing in fairy folk.

Frances confessed the photographs were a hoax in 1983 though she continued to maintain that one of the images was genuine. She admitted that she and her cousin had created the photos by making cardboard cut-outs at Cottingley, near Bradford in England.

The photo entitled “Alice and the Fairies” featuring Frances, sold for £1,050 in Cirencester. But the image “Iris and the Gnome” posed by Elsie, went unsold as the reserve price was not met.

These photographs once belonged to the Church of England Reverend George Vale Owen who claimed he received messages via a process known as automatic writing hat had been sent from spirits or psychic forces. George Vale Owen was one of the best-known spiritualists of the early-20th Century, and a friend of Sherlock Holmes creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The photos came about after the two girls played together beside a beck (stream) at the bottom of their garden, much to their mothers’ annoyance; They frequently returned home with wet feet and muddy clothes. They came-up with the excuse they’d been to “see the fairies” and borrowed Elsie’s Dad’s camera to prove their claim. The Father developed a picture (in his own darkroom) that portrayed Frances behind a bush in the foreground, on which four fairies appeared to be dancing. Knowing his daughter was good at art & crafts he dismissed the fairy figures as cardboard cutouts.

But the photographs came public in mid-1919 when Elsie’s mother attended a meeting of the “Theosophical Society” in Bradford. The lecture was on “fairy life” and she allowed two of the fairy photographs, taken by her daughter, to be shown to the audience. The photographs were displayed at the society’s annual conference in Harrogate, a few months later. One of the central beliefs of theosophy is that humanity is undergoing a cycle of evolution, towards increasing “perfection” and the idea of spiritual and spiritual beings is not absurd to them.

The prints, along with the original glass-plate negatives, were sent to a photography expert who professed the photographs to be genuine and author and prominent spiritualist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle got involved. He sent the pictures for more tests. The results/opinions that came back were mixed but Conan Doyle remained optimistic that the girls had literally taken photos of fairies.

psychopompós

Psychopompós

Magic Word of the Week – PSYCHOPOMP

Taken from the Greek (it means “guide of souls” ) psychopompós are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife. Most religions have them.

In art PSYCHOPOMPS often take on anthropomorphic identities such as: horses, deer, dogs, whip-poor-wills, ravens, crows, vultures, owls, sparrows and cuckoos.

Anubis and Yama are PSYCHOPOMPS as are the Norse Valkyries.

The angel Azrael carries souls to heavens.

In many cultures a shaman fulfills the role of the psychopomp. The concept of a “midwife to the dying” cuts across most religions. A priest or minister of the sacrament plays the part in some Christian traditions.

The banshee of Irish and Scottish folklore is a psychopomp; she keens and laments before impending death then hangs around to escort the soul to the afterlife.

The psychopomp is often considered to be a mediator between the unconscious and conscious realms.

The the Grim Reaper, which I touched upon in my piece about LAMMAS [Episode 3 of Myth and Magic) is a PSYCHOPOMP figure that is familiar to us.

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JULBOCKEN

JULBOCKEN

Fabulous Creature of the Week – The YULE GOAT

The Yule goat is a Scandinavian and Northern European Yule and Christmas symbol. Its origin may be German pagan and its thought to have has existed over many centuries. Modern representations of the Yule goat are typically made of straw.

The goat is connected to the worship of the Norse god Thor, who rode across the night sky in a chariot drawn by goats. This is a tradition that goes back to ancient Indo-European beliefs.

Yule Goat Sheaf

Yule Goat Sheaf

The last sheaf of harvest grain is sometimes bundled and specially prepared (see photo) and is credited with magical properties (as the spirit of the harvest) to be saved for the Yule celebrations. At YULE this straw goat was brought out and perhaps placed alongside a YULE LOG and called the JULBOCKEN: Yule goat

The goat is also seen, in some cultures, to be a spirit who arrives at a house before Christmastide to see that the Yule preparations are done right.

Krampus

Krampus

The YULE GOAT might also be a folk memory of the horned KRAMPUS. KRAMPUS (The Horned God) pre-dates Christian tradition and is strong in Alpine belief. The Krampus figure is a shaggy-haired, horned and rather demonic looking half-goat half-man who is seen holding a birch rod (or staff) with which he occasionally swats children with. He’s the figure who punishes children who might have misbehaved over the year – while Saint Nicholas rewards the good ones with gifts. In this respect, the Yule Goat is one of the malevolent companions of Saint Nicholas : these tend to be uncontrolled house spirits (kobolds or elfs) and are similar in conduct and nature to Robin Goodfellow, Knecht Ruprecht, Belsnickel, and Black Pete.

Julebukking is a Scandinavian Christmas tradition where people with masks and in JULEBOCKEN costumes (Julebukkers) go door to door Wassailing and Yulesinging. Neighbors try to identify who is hidden under the disguises. If there’s a goat in the troop, he’s normally the rascally one who performs all the pranks.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe

Wildflower of the Week Mistletoe

One memorable Valentine’s Day my wife and I were given a tour around the mistletoe plants (Viscum album) in the Palace gardens at Hampton Court. Once I had been shown (by the experienced gardener) where and what to look out for, I realized how much mistletoe there actually is up in the tree canopy around here! It seems, here in Surrey at least, by the River Thames, it grows everywhere. I encourage you to look up into a leafless tree at this time of the year to seek the witches’ brooms.

Mistle is probably the ancient word for twig : thus twig-toes…

Mistletoes grow on a wide range of host trees, and most people know that they are parasitic. Host trees (around here) tend to be apple, lime (linden), hawthorn and poplar.

In fact they are hemiparasites (they produce some of their own photosynthesis, at least some of the time in their leathery yellow-green leaves) and in most cases they probably have a symbiotic relationship with the host tree.

Witches Broom

Witches Broom “Caught” in a Birch Tree at Winter

A mistletoe seed germinates on the branch of a host tree or shrub, and in the early stages of development is entirely independent of its host. The sticky, glutinous seeds are spread by birds that eat the (drupes) the mistle thrush is such a bird… though the “berries” are toxic to humans, causing a wide range of symptoms that includes blurred vision, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

Mistletoe plants are considered to be a keystone species with a broad array of animals depending on their fruits and leaves during winter months, consuming the leaves and young shoots, transferring pollen between plants and dispersing the sticky seeds. Thus, rather than being a pest parasite, mistletoe can have a positive effect on forest, woodland or orchard biodiversity.

In Greek mythology, a mistletoe arch (the Golden Bough) was used by heroes to access the underworld (the Elysian Fields.)

The Romans associated mistletoe with peace, love and understanding and they hung it over doorways to protect the household during the festival of Saturnalia 17-23rd December.

Before this, in the British Isles, the druids performed the ritual of oak and mistletoe. A druid priest arrayed in white vestments would climb the oak on the sixth day of the moon and, with a golden sickle, he’d cut down the mistletoe, to be caught in a white cloak. It is said that they believed that a mistletoe drink would impart fertility to any animal that was barren and could be used as an antidote to poisons.

Although mistletoe continued to be associated with fertility and vitality through the Middle Ages it also began to be used as a decoration under which lovers were expected to kiss, as well as to help householders protect themselves from witches and demons.

According to custom, mistletoe must not touch the ground between its cutting and its removal as the last of Christmas greens at Candlemas. It may remain hanging throughout the year, though, and is often allowed to do so, to preserve the house from lightning or fire, or until it is replaced the following Christmas Eve.

Mistletoe is the state floral emblem of Oklahoma and the county flower of Herefordshire. Every year, the UK town of Tenbury Wells holds a mistletoe festival and crowns a ‘Mistletoe Queen

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Myth and Magic EP 7 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 7 SHOW-NOTES

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Folklore and fantasy themes aimed at creative writers: to start writing stories and challenge your brain with exciting ideas, dip into this kit-bag. Learn how fantasy worlds draw on real world history, mythology, and folklore. And there’s weekly news from the world of fantasy fiction too, plus fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

CLICK HERE for >>> Episode Seven: 30M

This week I go high onto the moors and heaths, as I travel to Exmoor to explore how moorland habitats have been used by fiction writers to convey wilderness, wildness and magic. I learn about Pixie mythology and visit the ancient Moorland village of Withypool where Lorna Dorne was written. I think about using scrying in fantasy fiction plots and talk about floating timelines. I also examine ABCs also known as phantom cats or mystery cats. The magical wildflower of the week is Morning Glory.

Exmoor

Exmoor

What I’ve been up to – trip to Exmoor

EXMOOR is a picturesque area of hilly moorland in west Somerset and parts of north Devon on the South West Peninsula of England. The ancient 250 square miles of moorland is named after the River Exe. If you can picture the personification of Britain in the form of Britannia, facing the Atlantic, her left foot and ankle is the South-West peninsula.

For those listeners unfamiliar with a moor — we have several in the British Isles, we even have one here in Staines, about ten minutes from my home on the river , and in fact Britain has over 10% of all of the world’s moors — a MOORLAND is an upland habitat characterized by low-growing vegetation on acid soils. Moors are considered to be rare and vulnerable habitats and, in fact, Staines Moor has been almost continuously under threat from land developers and those who wish to exploit its minerals and natural resources. The new threat to my local moor comes from plans for Heathrow (airport) expansion.

Moors differ from Heaths (heathland) because they are generally on higher ground, have a less gentle topography, and have cooler and damper climates. Nearby to us is some famous Surrey heathland. Heaths are man-made and were probably manufactured habitats created about 6,000 years ago in the Late Stone Age and Bronze Age for agriculural purposes. They are still managed from grazing, even now, though they are normally kept as important rare habitats.

Exmoor was once a Royal forest and hunting ground and was designated a National Park in 1954 and declared an environmentally sensitive area in 1993. The coastline between Porlock and Foreland Point, which I explored on my visit, forms the longest stretch of coastal woodland in England and Wales. The scenery includes magical waterfalls, dark caves, rocky headlands and steep ravines. At Parracombe there is a neolithic henge, so we can guess the Moor has been inhabited since stone age times.

The moor is recorded in the Domesday Book (1087) and there is evidence that Sheep have grazed on the moor for more than 3,000 years. The area was center of the wool trade in the Middle Ages.

On my visit I saw Exmoor ponies (a distinct breed of pony) standing in groups by thorn trees. These are probably the oldest remaining wild horses in Europe.

Sightings of the famous “beast of Exmoor” which I will cover later in the show first started to be reported in the 1970s, though after 1983 and the loss of several scores of sheep (possibly a hundred) the government took action and sent-in the Royal Marines to hunt the elusive creature down.

Puck

Puck – an illustration from the title page of Robin Goodfellow: His Mad Pranks and Merry Jests
1629

Pixies are associated with Exmoor. (Piskies are normally associated with Cornwall).Pixies are said to congregate on high moor and perhaps inhabit stone circles, barrows, dolmens and ringforts. They might also live underground in the spectacular caves seen in the area.

Pixie mythology is believed to pre-date the Roman invasion of Britain. In the early-Christian era the Pixies were said to be the souls of children who had died un-baptised. Later, in the 19th century, some historians suggested the name pixie was a racial remnant of the Pictic tribes who used to painted their skin blue. This theory has since been largely debunked.

Several Exmoor place-names are associated with Pixies and Pixie Day takes place annually in the East Devon town of Ottery St. Mary in June. The day commemorates the legend of the pixies being banished from the town (where they caused a nuisance) to local caves known as the “Pixie’s Parlour”

Zoologist Charles Spence Bate (an associate of Charles Darwin) stated his belief that: Pixies were evidently a smaller race, and, from the greater obscurity of the … tales about them, I believe them to have been an earlier race. (1873)

the English historical novelist Anna Eliza Bray who studied Pixies (1854 ) suggested that pixies and fairies were two distinct species of folkloric mythical creature.

J.M. Barrie’s Tinkerbell sprinkles “pixie dust” was she a pixie? And the nature-fairy Robin Goodfellow also known as Puck is said to be a friendly pixie.

withypool

Old Withypool Buttercross

Locus in Quo: Withypool

The word Withy means “willow” and WITHYPOOL is the “capital” of EXMOOR. Although it is a small village located on the River Barle with a population of no more than 200.

The area has been inhabited since the Bronze Age and a Stone Circle can be seen on Withypool Hill.

In the 14th century, Geoffrey Chaucer was in charge of the village in his duties as forester of North Petherton.

R. D. Blackmore reputedly wrote part of of his new romantic novel Lorna Doone : A Romance of Exmoor (1869) in the bar of the Royal Oak Inn at Withypool. The author was raised in Exmoor, although he was born near to where I live, along the River Thames (in Berkshire) and lived most of his long life about five miles from here around the twons of Twickenham and Teddington. Nevertheless, Blackmore is considered to be an Exmoor artist and there’s even an area of Exmoor (Valley of the Rocks) near Lynton and Lynmouth that’s known to tourists as “Doone valley.”

In the 1930s the Royal Oak Inn was owned and operated by a retired a spy-ring leader named Maxwell Knight. He was a man known to the James Bond author Ian Fleming. It’s thought that Fleming based his “M” character on the publican — M is the Head of the Secret Intelligence Service in the James Bond novels.

Myth & Magic News – True Fiction

TRUE FICTION is a new series devoted to exploring just that. Each week we’ll take you beyond what you’ve seen on screens to explore what inspired the fiction we love. Hosted by actor Kurt Indovina, each episode investigates the origins of pop culture’s most compelling stories. Kurt speaks to experts to find the truths within the tales and to analyze how and why the stories have been imprinted on us and our culture.

But the TV show isn’t just about monsters and made-up universes. Even pop culture’s more grounded touchstones have fascinating histories, like the very real murder that served as the foundation for Twin Peaks, for example, or the tumultuous history that makes Jackie Chan punish himself for our entertainment.

You can see the True Fiction show on the GameSpot Universe YouTube channel. This is a YouTube portal that offers gamers recaps, features and episode breakdowns of their favorite TV shows and specializes in giving viewers some fun fan theories from successful shows.

The TRUE FICTION show begins this September 22 and the producers say new episodes will be released each Sunday.

The link for the TRUE FICTION show is here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRgUg0jJUgGMadGPzzmu8cw

The Crystal Ball

The Crystal Ball by John William Waterhouse – 1902

Magic Word of the Week – Scry

SCRYING

Scrying is “seeing” or “peeping” into the unknown i.e. the future using a device, generally a Crystal Ball. In this respect scrying differs from:

* Clairvoyance – because this is seeing the future in visions, like Fiver does in Watership Down
* Augury– because this is predicting the future by watching natural signs, often birds in flight, like Romulus and Remus did before they founded Rome
* Divination – because this is prophesy using ritual i.e. tarot cards or bones. In my recent novel Moondog and the Reed Leopard, Moondog’s gypsy mother-in-law uses tea leaves to foretell her daughter’s fortune

Reflective, translucent, or luminescent surfaces are used in Scrying. Crystals, stones and glass are the favorites. Who hasn’t looked into a piece of colored glass and fancied they might have seen something unworldly?

A magic mirror is an often used as a plot device. The idea became popular in the Snow White fairy-tale, when a mirror on the wall was used by the jealous queen. The Wicked Witch of the West also uses a crystal ball in The Wizard of Oz movie.

Obsidian “candles” or Black Candles are used for scrying in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series and the sisters scryed with crystal in the popular TV series Charmed.

Joseph (he of the Technicolour Dreamcoat fame) might have used a polished silver chalice for scrying, according to the Bible… A steward claimed a highly polished chalice was used for divination when it was planted in Benjamin’s sack. See Genesis.

Skeptics suggest that scrying is often the result of delusion or wishful thinking… therefore it can be useful plot device for a fantasy fiction author who might want to mislead readers into thinking of an alternative ending or want to suggest that a character is feeble-minded or open to wishful thinking. Think about using a crystal ball in your next plot…

One final thought on scrying: It might be considered an archaic and faintly ridiculous pastime, to gaze into a shiny mirrored surface and attempt to see if the future has anything to offer us or find out if someone fancies us… but according to Statista 2.71 billion people do some scrying every day. That’s about a third of the world’s population staring into a mirror to “see” the future and find out if they’re loved and who by… just a thought.

Fantasy Writers Definitions – Floating timeline

Five Go To Mystery Moor

Julian would have been thirty-three by the time the adventurers met for their final foray…

A floating timeline or sliding timescale is a device used by fiction writers in long-running serials to explain why characters age little or never at all over a period of time – despite real-world markers such as notable events or advents of technology happening around them. Many readers will be familiar with the concept through comic-book series. For example, The Punisher character meets Spider Man in a contemporary New York setting even though he is depicted as a recent Vietnam War veteran… in “real world” terms this meeting would have been circa 1962. Likewise, the Archie Comics characters are “trapped” within a 1950s retro- style Riverdale for over 70 years — never ageing beyond his time at Riverdale High even though the stories run from 1942 to 2015 (in comic book form) and beyond those years on television.

Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” series of novels, that followed the adventures of Julian, Dick, Anne and (George) – and dog Timmy have twenty-one summer holiday adventures filled with picnics, rock-pooling, lemonade, and bicycle trips… though the five are perpetually youthful (though the oldest, Julian, eventually reaches adulthood from when readers first meet him, aged twelve.)

If Blyton hadn’t used a Floating Timeline device in her series, Julian would have been thirty-three by the time the adventurers met for one final foray, at Tinker’s field in 1963.

Castles, moors and smugglers rocks feature in many of the Famous Five stories. In “Mystery Moor” they camp with gypsies on moorland… but by 1963 (at the end of the series) the world of horse-drawn caravans, ghostly lights and smugglers dungeons had been replaced by an appalling “Real World” set of child murders (the so-called Moors Murders) a serial killing crime that appalled all of British Society. I remember that it felt as if they ( Ian Brady and Myra Hindley) had stolen-away the innocence of the post-war Britain.

JK Rowling famously disapproved of “trapping” her characters within a floating timeline. She wanted the Potter kids to experience all the pleasures and pains of growing up and developing in ‘real time.’

My Morning Glory

My Morning Glory – 18 September Staines UK

Wildflower of the Week : Morning glory

My Morning Glory is looking particularly magnificent as I do this podcast in the early morning sun on this cold yet bright autumn morning down near the River Thames, here in Staines, England. It’s the third year I’ve grown these magnificent blooms from seed. I’d prefer the blue blossoms, if I’m honest, but they don’t make any headway in the cool climate of Britain.

Plants from the Convulvus family with their funnel-shaped showy blooms include some useful ones especially the sweet potato. In the British Isles the common name for these plants is: bindweed

But the most showy members of the family are the exotic looking Morning Glories… In fact mine is Ipomoea sometimes known as picotee morning glory and these are extremely popular plants in Japan. Believed to have been introduced into the country from China or via Korea in the 8th to 9th centuries, city dwellers keenly grow new colours and they are often used as adornments along Temple roads.

Morning Glories tend to only unravel into full bloom in full and bright sun. Thus, their common name makes sesne. I’ve noticed that quite often my plant here in Britain loses all its blossoms by lunchtime.

The plants and especially the seeds are extremely toxic – though Aztec priests used the plant’s hallucinogenic properties in rituals. The seeds of morning glory can produce a similar effect to L.S.D. when taken in large doses…and give the user some lucid hallucinations.

If you grow morning glory from seed be aware that it can become an invasive species – all members of the Convulvus family tend to entwine, knot and bind other plants.

As well as belladona, jimson weed, and hemlock – Morning glory can also be used in the preparation of a Flying ointment

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Myth and Magic EP3 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 3 SHOW-NOTES

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Father Thames with urn at Ham House - photo credit Ethan Doyle White

Folklore and fantasy themes aimed at creative writers: to start writing stories and challenge your brain with exciting ideas, dip into this kit-bag. Learn how fantasy worlds draw on real world history, mythology, and folklore. And there’s weekly news from the world of fantasy fiction too, plus fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

CLICK HERE for >>> Episode Three: 23m:22s
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This week I consider Old Father Thames and have a conversation about other river gods and later go deeper into the river Naiads. I visit the Lammas Fields and look out how, at Lammastide, the local medieval monks potentially inspired our image of Father Time and also, even, death. I discuss the Grianan of Aileach and talk more about the Wanderer (Woden) who probably inspired the fictional figures of Merlin and later Gandalf. I also discuss the bildungsroman genre of fiction. My magical word of the week is: VERÐIR … a word that imparts: warden trees and wraiths. My wildflower of the week is: The Water Lily

As you know, I live besides the River Thames in Surrey, England. I’ve been busy with my writing projects this week, so have not traveled far. But a take a wander daily along the river bank at Staines to visit Old Father Thames. The river helps calm my mood and provides inspiration and recovery.

The river Thames has been a site of pagan ritual, sacred rites and popular celebrations since ancient times.

Peter Ackroyd’s “Thames – The Sacred River” is the best source of knowledge about what is known as “London’s river” but is actually the longest river in England (215 miles) and passes through several manifestations from Thames Head to Tideway before it meets the North Sea.

The river has its own deity: “Old Father Thames” whose hair and beard becomes the waves and rivulets of the river itself : bringing to mind the Ganges and Shiva. According to the Journal of Biological Chemistry up to 60% of a human adult body is water. So the notion isn’t too hard to get to grips with. A human can be a river and a river can be a human

The Prince of Rivers - Achelous - depicted as a mosaic in Zeugma Turkey

The Prince of Rivers – Achelous – depicted as a mosaic in Zeugma Turkey

The over-arching River God is probably Achelous. Sophocles suggests he can become:

“ A rambling bull [once,] then a writhing snake
of gleaming colors, then again a man
with [an] ox-like face: and from his beard’s dark shadows
stream upon stream of water tumble [d] down”

Since Roman times this river god is often depicted reduced to a mask and used decoratively as an emblem of water, “his uncut hair wreathed with reeds…Is this the Green Man?

Green man Water Spout

Green man Water Spout

According to Greek myth Achelous is the source of all knowledge. He mourned the loss of one of his horns (in combat with Heracles or the Roman Hercules) and this horn became the fabled “Horn of Plenty” … the cornucopia that becomes a symbol of Thanksgiving and harvest. Ackroyd suggests that this horn transforms into an URN when held by OLD FATHER THAMES [see top photo] suggesting, perhaps, that once tamed… the river can be fruitful and life-giving.

One curious thought, though… Achelous has been given the gift of perpetual self-renewal… so he holds the secret of eternal youth. Thus, the term: The Fountain of Youth…
Yet why does the Thames deity choose an “Old Father” as a guise?

LOCUS IN QUO – This week: The Lammas

Monk with Scythe

Monk with Scythe

LAMMAS is celebrated on 1st August and marks the annual wheat harvest, which is the first (of three) harvest festivals to be celebrated each year in Europe.

On LAMMAS day it was once customary to bring a loaf of bread to church, made from the new crop of cereal, which began to be harvested at Lammastide, the period that falls halfway between the summer Solstice and the Autumn September Equinox.

The “First Loaf” was blessed by priests, and in Anglo-Saxon times, it might be employed in protective rituals : for example Lammas bread might be broken into four bits, to be placed at four corners of a barn, to protect the rest of the year’s harvested grain.

The LAMMAS feast is also known in Britain as the “Gule of August.” Apparently, the word GULE just means feast in ancient Brittonic

In the medieval agricultural year, Lammas also marked the end of the hay harvest that had begun after Midsummer, and the beginning of the cereal harvest.

Here, in my hometown, we have a Recreation Ground known as THE LAMMAS. This is an ancient word and comes from nearby LAMMAS fields. These were Thameside meadows. Nearby there’s an ancient crop-field (Thorpe Hay Meadow – owned and managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust ) that was once farmed by monks from nearby Chertsey Abbey. This crop field is thought to be the last remaining example of an untouched Thames valley hay meadow in Surrey. The monks once grew ancient strains of meadow barley in this place (the field has been preserved unfarmed and unsullied). When you visit you can see the same wild grasses (growing on the edges) that were farmed by monks in the 7th and 8th century. I like to imagine a monks, wearing a dark habit – making the first cut of the LAMMAS barley at Lammastide. He stops for a while to rest upon his Scythe, but it’s August, so he keeps his hood over his brow to avoid the sun’s strength on his bald head.

What does that image conjure up to you? To the people of of Staines, Egham and Chertsey in about year 675 this man represented the good things in life: bread to eat, beer to drink, the first harvest, hope and strength, and the expectation that starvation in winter could be avoided…

But you also might imagine that the image of a monk wearing a hooded a habit, and carrying a scythe, might signify quite the opposite: death?

Chronos

Chronos – does the God remind you of anyone?

Father Time is the personification of time . In Greek mythology – Cronos, or Kronos, is depicted as carrying a scythe or a sickle and a festival called Kronia was held in honour of him to celebrate the harvest. Cronos was later identified with Khronos – the personification of time – and, during the Renaissance, this notion gave rise to the idea of “Father Time” wielding an harvesting scythe and being placed in charge of a man’s timespan on earth

English words that derive from Khronos include: chronology, chronic, anachronism, and chronicle.

Grianan of Aileach Ringfort in Co. Donegal

Grianan of Aileach Ringfort in Co. Donegal

MYTH & MAGIC NEWS: This week – GRIANAN OF AILEACH

This month the Irish Government listed the ancient Grianan of Aileach fort, just seven miles from Derry city, in County Donegal, as a national monument.
It is perched above the Co Donegal village of Burt and attracts thousands of visitors every year.

The fort is a powerful manifestation of what remains of ancient Ireland and on a clear day, from its pinnacle, it is possible to get a glimpse of three counties-Donegal, Derry and Tyrone. The commanding and spectacular waterways of Lough Swilly and Lough Foyle lie to its west and east respectively.

But, in the 19th Century the fort, once home to kings of old Gaelic order, was rapidly disintegrating towards extinction. It was however saved by the vision of one man who spearheaded its restoration just over 140 years ago.

The Victorian archaeologist George Petrie first surveyed the Grianán of Aileach in the 1830s

The earth banks of the hill-top ringfort are probably late Bronze Age or Iron Age and there’s a small spring deidcated to St. Patrick and Petrie found a circle of ten stones and some interesting artefacts including an ancient gaming board.

The word Grianán means sunny place and there’s a theory that the hillfort might have been a Temple to the Sun.

It’s probable that the Kings of Aileach held their inauguration ceremonies at the fort and it became a “ceremonial” capital of their realm. It’s said that St. Patrick blessed a symbolic flagstone at the fort and it’s believed that this is the inauguration stone known as St. Columb’s Stone and now found in Belmont House School, Derry.

The Dagda

The Dagda

According to Irish folklore, the ringfort is said to have been built by THE DAGDA who was a father-figure, a king, and a famous druid…

THE DAGDA was a bearded man who wore a cloak and carried a magic staff – see above (the tip on one end of his staff could kill, while the other end would revive and heal.)

The DAGDA was also known as “the horseman” “the great father” and the “horned man”

Does this description you of anyone? See Episode One (Wōdan) in his guise as “The Wanderer”? Is this also Gandalf or Merlin?

And, also, is the Irish DAGDA the same fellow as the Cerne Abbas Giant? i.e. the so-called “Rude Man” of Cerne. I’ll return to this subject in a later show.

The sacred Temple of Uppsala, in Sweden protected by a Warden Tree

The sacred Temple of Uppsala, in Sweden protected by a Warden Tree

MAGIC WORD OF THE WEEK: This Week VERÐIR

In Norse mythology the VERÐIR is a warden spirit, believed to follow the soul of every person from birth to death.

The English word “wraith” is derived from the word, along with “ward” and “warden”

It is said that a warden of a dead person could also become a revenant, haunting particular spots…

Later, under Christian influence, the wardens became what we think of as: guardian angels

A very old tree (most often a linden, ash or elm) that grows on a farm lot is often dubbed a “warden tree”.

These Guardian Trees were said to have been taken from sacred groves – as saplings – by the pre Christian Germanic peoples who settled Europe.

It is said that the sacred Temple of Uppsala, in Sweden was protected by a Warden tree – an evergreen yew, probably.

Is this the inspiration for the weirwood tree as depicted in “A Dance with Dragons” from A Song of Ice and Fire ? And the HEARTS TREE in the Godswood?

Fantasy Writers Definitions: This week BILDUNGSROMAN

In literary criticism, a Bildungsroman is a “coming-of-age story that follows the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood.

The first Bildungsroman is agreed, among scholars, to be Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship a book written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Thomas Carlyle translated Goethe’s novel into English, and after its publication in 1824

The genre evolved from folklore tales of a dunce or youngest child going out in the world to seek his fortune…

Emma, by Jane Austen and Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley are both fine examples of the Bildungsroman novel as is the: “Song of Solomon” by Toni Morrison (as discussed in Episode 2 of Myth and Magic)

A parody of this genre is “The Magic Mountain” by the German novelist, Thomas Mann and written in 1912.

I’m currently reading “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt (2013 ) I guess that I have put it down more than once… I’m enjoying it though I admit it’s heavy going… it’s the literary equivalent of eating too much bread pudding… nevertheless, this Bildungsroman won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and follows the coming-of-age of protagonist Theodore Decker as he rises from poor little rich boy to become an arch-criminal in an epic tale that reminds me of the worlds described by Charles Dickens.

The heroic fantasy novel “The Name of the Wind” or The Kingkiller Chronicle: Day One, by Patrick Rothfuss is probably one of the better recent fantasy novels that share similarities with the original Bildungsroman books.

A Naiad by John William Waterhouse

A Naiad by John William Waterhouse

Fabulous Creature of the Week: THIS WEEK NAIADS

The Lyndhurst, Hampshire born English sculptor David Wynne specialized in creating wonderful artworks that often captured the flow of movement found in water and especially rivers. We’re lucky to have his Five Swimmers Fountain (1980) here in Staines. He also produced River God Tyne, Girl with a Dolphin (at Tower Bridge) and Boy with a Dolphin (1974) – at London’s Cheyne Walk. Perhaps he was most famous for his design of the “EEC” fifty pence piece that has the interlocking & holding hands of the partners (1973) but, right now in BREXIT BRITAIN… that’s another story. His “Swans-in-flight” is to be seen in the Armstrong Auditorium on the campus of Herbert W. Armstrong College, Edmond, Oklahoma, and always makes me think of SWAN MAIDENS. and his statue of a boy on a magical horse, “The Messenger” can be seen in Sutton, south London.

David’s nymph-like creatures have always reminded me of Naiads (pronounced NY-AD)

Typically these are female spirits associated with fresh water (Oceanids are saltwater) and were often the object of local cults. In England coming-of-age ceremonies were often held by the spring, to gain local naiad’s favor. Fresh waters have always been important for ritual cleansing and springs are often credited with magical medical properties. Oracles were often situated by ancient springs with a resident Naiad.

Famous naiads include:
Appias who lived in the Appian Well near the Roman Forum
Pallas the daughter of Triton who was accidentally killed by Athena who created the Palladium in her memory
Ismene, the wife of Argus
Memphis, the naiad of the Nile River

Was the Lady of the Lake (Arthurian legends) a naiad?

Evidence of the fusion between Arthurian legend and middle-Christian history can be found in the full name of the University of Notre Dame: Notre Dame du Lac. (our lady of the lake.)

Water Lillies where I was staying in Shrewsbury last week

Water Lillies where I was staying in Shrewsbury last week

Wildflower of the Week: THIS WEEK WATER LILY Nymphaeaceae

My mother told everyone that I was born when the first WATER LILY in her mother-in-law’s pond unfurled her Nymphaeaceae petals to take in the sun.

Now I’m lucky enough to live in a place where wild WATER LILLIES grow. And around about my birthday (they were 2 days late this year) I see the blossoms emerge on the River Thames. Water lilies are rooted in soil under the water, with leaves and flowers floating on the surface

Water lilies do not have surface leaves during winter. So they are a sign of High Summer and, indeed, LAMMAS.

The white water lily is the national flower of Bangladesh and the seal of Bangladesh contains a lily floating on water. The blue waterlily is the national flower of Sri Lanka. It is also the birth flower for the star sign Pisces.

Nelumbo is a genus of giant WATER LILLIES also known as LOTUS. It is is the floral emblem of India and Vietnam.

Nelumbo nucifera, also known as the Indian lotus or the Sacred Lotus is grown as a crop. It has been cultivated for its edible seeds for at least 3,000 years. The stamens can be dried and made into fragrant herbal teas and the leaves can be used in steaming.

Hindus venerate the plant: Vishnu is described as the “Lotus-Eyed One” and its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul from its muddy origins. This encapsulates spiritual promise.

In Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of the body, speech and mind. Because the lily floats above the murky waters of material attachment.

According to tradition, the second Buddha was incarnated as an eight-year-old child appearing in a lotus blossom floating in Lake.

John William Waterhouse - Hylas and the Nymphs Manchester Art Gallery 1896

John William Waterhouse – Hylas and the Nymphs Manchester Art Gallery 1896

In Greek mythology the lotus-eaters were a tribe of people who lived on an island and whos only crop was the Lotus (although this might well have been the fruit of the Jujube
tree.)

The fruit had narcotic properties and thus caused the island’s inhabitants to live in peaceful apathy. Thus, a LOTUS EATER is someone who spends their time indulging in pleasure and luxury rather than dealing with practical matters.

A NYMPH is a minor female deity – usually young and beautiful – and found in rivers and springs. A common Renaissance motif was the sleeping nymph – the idea of a nymph sleeping in a grotto or spring .

In Waterhouse’s 1896 oil painting “Hylas and the Nymphs” (above) the servant Hylas is depicted being enraptured (and later he was abducted) by water nymphs while seeking drinking water in a pond of water lilies. The yellow water-lily that I see this time of the year on the Thames can clearly be seen growing in the water and adorning the nymphs hair.

CALL-OUTS

Eve Paludan

Eve Paludan

EVE PALUDAN is a paranormal, mystery, urban fantasy and fantasy writer who tends to create paranormal mystery romances

Eve’s popular “Witchy Business” WITCH DETECTIVES series brings supernatural witch mystery with wittiness, spirited dialogue, relationships and paranormal kicks.

At the heart of the tales is ELLE Chambers. Elle Chambers is an insurance investigator, and one who solves cases using unconventional means. Supernatural means. Elle is a witch.

The books are kinda unusual because they redefine vampires in a new and unconventional way…

Fans say the series is, “enjoyable, believable and entertaining…”

Brian S Converse

Brian S Converse

BRIAN S CONVERSE is a Father. Husband. Veteran and writer of science fiction / fantasy / horror

His RAJANI CHRONICLES that started in 2017 and with illustrations by the amazingly talented Lawrence Mann (West Yorkshire ?) follow the exploits of a Detroit police lieutenant named James Dempsey – he’s on the verge of career burnout – but finds himself aboard an alien spacecraft with others from his apartement block, and provided with extraordinary powers. In fact, it seems he’s been abducted by the aliens… to help the Rajani fight off dominion from the Krahn Horde. The magic element revolves around stones that bring powers from within.

Episode 3 of the Chronicles came out this summer when Dempsey’s super-powered humans face their final battle…

If you want me to mention you and your new fantasy fiction book or creative work (maybe it’s a poem, an artwork with a fantasy theme or some specialist knowledge) why don’t you contact me at:
promoter at rawramp dot com

CRITERIA FOR A CALL-OUT on the MYTH & MAGIC
The Fantasy Writers Show

*You must be a fantasy fiction writer, novelist, poet or artist
*You must have an active twitter account
*You must follow @neilmach on twitter
*You must subscribe to my podcast
*You should have a new book or artwork to talk about

INTERVIEW: If you want to come onto the show to talk about your book or anything else to do with MYTH & MAGIC especially writing or creating for it, please contact me via
TWITTER: @neilmach

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/author.neilmach/

SOUNDCLIP Credits Episode 3

Irish Pipes : chripei
Monastry Bell : BristolStories
Grass Cutter: SilentStrikeZ
Waves : amholma
Distant Horn : onderwish
Ghostly howl : JanIsAGuy

Myth and Magic EP1 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag — Episode 1 SHOW-NOTES

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Myth and Magic 3D graphic

Myth and Magic Episode 1 — Fantasy Writers Kitbag —
Episode 1 SHOW-NOTES

NEIL MACH

Folklore and fantasy themes aimed at creative writers: to start writing stories and challenge your brain with exciting ideas, dip into this kit-bag. Learn how fantasy worlds draw on real world history, mythology, and folklore. And there’s weekly news from the world of fantasy fiction too, plus fabulous creatures, studies on folk tales, nature fables and lots more mythical, magical fun.

CLICK HERE for >>> Episode One : 31m:25s
Tolkein’s Black Country, Godiva, Zee, St John’s Wort, Anansi, Confabultion

VISIT TO THE BLACK COUNTRY

Black by day, red by night

I’ve just returned from a trip to the West Midlands where I stopped in the “The Black Country.” I went up there to visit the Black Sabbath exhibition in Britain’s “second city” Birmingham. Some of you might know that Ozzy and Black Sabbath come from the Wolverhampton and Birmingham area but that’s a whole other story.

During the Industrial Revolution, this area became one of the most industrialized parts of Great Britain with coal mines, coking works, iron foundries, glass factories, brick works and steel mills.

Metalworking and coal-mining had been going on since medieval times but became highly developed during the mid-18th century.

The “Capital of the Black Country” Wolverhampton, and Bilston (where I stayed during my visit) and also Wednesfield (pronounced Wencefield) are all mentioned in Anglo-Saxon charters and chronicles. The Saxons migrated to the British Isles during the 5th century and brought their customs with them, especially their notion of kinship*. They were converted to Christianity in about: 590–660

The name Wednesfield derives from the old English: Wōdnesfeld that means Woden’s Field.

He’s normally portrayed as a long-bearded old man wearing a cloak and a broad hat. The old Irish believed he was a “seer and a prophet…” He’s Mr. Wednesday (played by Ian McShane ) in the TV adaption of Neil Gaiman’sAmerican Gods.” [Anansi the “spider” is also mentioned in the same novel!]

Woden in his guise as a wanderer Georg von Rosen

Woden in his guise as a wanderer – by Georg von Rosen

Wōden is an old Norse God associated with wisdom, healing, sorcery and knowledge

The reason you might find this interesting is because several characters from J. R. R. Tolkien’s fiction were inspired by this figure The appearance of the wizard Gandalf was particularly inspired his “wanderer” guise.

TOLKIEN lived in Kings Heath ( a suburb of Birmingham) with his grandparents in 1895 and later moved to the quiet hamlet of Sarehole on the outskirts of the Black Country, where he lived as a child in the 1890s. The area probably influenced his description of THE SHIRE.

It is claimed that Tolkein’s Mordor is influenced by his knowledge of the Black Country (in the Elvish Sindarin language, Mor-Dor means Dark (or Blackened) Land…) i.e. Black Country!

His character named Bilbo Baggins might have been based on an observation of the Mayor of the Bilston ( the town where I stayed during my visit last week.) Intriguingly, the Mayor that Tolkein knew was named: Ben Bilboe

To read more about Tolkein’s Birmingham here: https://www.birmingham.gov.uk/tolkien

* It’s a coincidence that Tolkein’s ancestors were probably of Saxon origin: hence the name derives from Tolk’s Kin although he was born in what is now South Africa.

 

BANBURY / COVENTRY

Banbury Cross

What’s the Difference between the Fine Lady of Banbury and Lady Godiva?

On my trip to the Black Country by National Express coaches, we stopped off to pick up customers at Banbury and, later, Coventry. And it got me wondering what the differences are/were between these two horseback ladies…

Banbury had many crosses (the High Cross, the Bread Cross and the White Cross), but these were destroyed by Puritans in 1600. Banbury remained without a cross for more than 250 years until the current Banbury Cross was erected in 1859 [shown above photo credit: Jongleur100]

It’s thought the nursery rhyme (Roud Folk Song Index 21143 )
attached to the town is a folk-memory of this “period without crosses.”

Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
To see a fine lady upon a white horse;
Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,
And she shall have music wherever she goes

A cock horse might mean a high-spirited horse, or riding the horse that’s pulling the cart, or, as told to my by my riding instructor, it just means riding side-saddle.

The fine lady can been associated with Queen Elizabeth I, Lady Godiva (who I will turn to in a moment) or a 17th century socialite named Celia Fiennes who traveled England riding sidesaddle on horseback between 1684 and about 1703 in a period when lone female travelling, especially on horseback, was unheard of. Her travel notes became an (unpublished) memoir.

Fiennes saw many of the finest baroque English country houses while they were still being constructed and before the idea of “stately homes” was a thing.

Lady Godiva was the Countess of Mercia in the eleventh century. According to a legend she rode her horse naked  through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband imposed on his tenants.

According to legend, just one person in the town viewed her naked ride, a tailor known as Peeping Tom.

The nakedness might be an allusion to Godiva’s penitential journey. The custom of the time was for penitents to make a public procession in a shift, (a sleeveless white garment similar to a slip) a very wispy garment considered to be “underwear”: thus, to all intents and purposes: Naked.

The dogma of the time taught that after atonement was complete any previous sin was no longer present on the sinner’s soul so they could continue life “in grace.”

Those familiar with the “Game of Thrones” (season five) will know that Cersei Lannister was forced to walk naked through the streets of King’s Landing as atonement. This part of the tale was perhaps influenced by the Lady Godiva story.

There are several artistic interpretations of Godiva, my favorite (though it’s a bit chocolate boxy) is John Collier’s Lady Godiva [shown below] now held in the Herbert art gallery, Coventry.

Lady Godiva by John Collier - Herbert art gallery, Coventry

Lady Godiva by John Collier – Herbert art gallery, Coventry

 

TADE THOMPSON

Tade Thompson

Tade Thompson

Last week TADE THOMPSON, a British-born Yoruba writer, became only the second writer of black African heritage to win the Arthur C Clarke award for science fiction.

Three out of this year’s six shortlisted titles were by writers of color, a reflection of the fact that some of today’s most exciting SF and fantasy writing comes from non-white authors

Tade Thompson’s Rosewater Part One of his Wormwood Trilogy set in a future Nigeria after alien “meteors” ave wiped out the USA and UK.

The book also won the Nommo Award from the African Speculative Fiction Society

http://www.africansfs.com/nommos

And, incidentally, a NOMMO is an ancestral spirit important to the Dogon people of Mali

NOMMO is a Dogon word meaning “to make one drink.”
Nommos are described as amphibious, hermaphroditic, fish-like creatures (hence the odd logo of the Nommo awards, see below)

African Speculative Fiction Society

African Speculative Fiction Society

Nommo was the first living creature created by the sky god AMMA At that stage I picture it to be something like a Mudskipper, but according to legend Nommo underwent a transformation and multiplied into four pairs of twins. One of the twins rebelled against the universal order which meant that AMMA had to sacrifice the “other” twin to restore balance and order. This “innocent” twin was dismembered and scattered through the universe.

The main character is Kaaro, he’s a “sensitive” that works for a government agency. Sensitives are able to enter the “xenosphere”, which is a mysterious alternate space where sensitives can meet each other, manipulate their appearance, and interact with one another. The world-building is excellent, with many ideas being “drip fed” into the mind of the reader.

MIDSOMMAR

Midsommar has also been in the news. With cinema goers asking how “real” the rituals are…

The 2019 folk horror film written and directed by Ari Aster is about solstice ritual. Set in a place called Hälsingland in central Sweden (but filmed in Hungary) Hälsingland was first described by the English poet Widsith in 1072 in his The Traveler’s Song (found in the Exeter Book.)

It’s likely that the summer solstice has been celebrated since the Stone Age

Mostly, in the British Isles, the midsummer observances have centered around “staying up all night” and keeping a bonfire alive on the Eve of St. John the Baptist and/or St. Peter’s Day to celebrate and rejoice in the “light of the world.”

A 13th-century monk (in Winchcomb, Gloucestershire) suggested that youths collected bones to burn. The bonfires, or Saint John’s Fires, explained the monk, were to drive away dragons, which were abroad on St. John’s Eve, poisoning springs and wells.

The parish church at Barnwell in the Nene Valley, said that parish youth would gather on the day to sing songs and play games served to repel witches and evil spirits. Midsummer was also a popular day for infant baptisms in the 19th century

The Cornish “Golowan Festival” possibly harkens back to Druid superstition and includes a dangerous “serpent dance.”

Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was probably influenced by the middle-German “wild man” tale of Der Busant. (The buzzard)

In Sweden Midsummer’s Eve is a de facto public holiday in Sweden with offices and many shops closed. Like in Norway and Finland, it is believed that if a girl picks seven different flowers in silence on midsummer night and puts them under her pillow, she will dream of her future husband.

Solstice is derived from the Latin words sol (Sun) and sistere (to stand still)

At summer solstice at Stonehenge an observer standing within the stone circle, looking northeast through the entrance, would see the Sun rise in the approximate direction of the heel stone

Let me know if you have any interesting midsummer rituals or observances in your area or you can confirm or deny any of the information I have presented here.

 

ZEE

All creation is part of a great energy, everything is worthy of respect, and all matter is connected through an unseen energy, think of it as the lifeblood of the universe. Some may know it as Godhead (the substance of God rather than the actual figure) and it’s an energy we can all tune into and use it through prayer and meditation.

This life force is known as: prana, chi, energy, earth energy, or the ether…

Perhaps, just as the blood in our bodies permeates every body of the flesh, but connects via the veins, this life force energy is concentrated in the ley lines, or the paths of the feng shui dragon.

According to Patrinella Cooper in her Romany book of charms, herbs and fortune-telling, the first step on the path to performing any magic is to recognize and harness to power of Zee.

These energy currents are known by most cultures across the world by various names but the Romani word for this life-force is: mi douvals zee … or just ZEE

 

CONFABULATION

CONFABULATION is a memory error defined as the production of fabricated, distorted, or misinterpreted memories about oneself or the world, without the conscious intention to deceive

CONFABULISTS are very confident about their recollections, despite evidence to the contrary

NOTE: It’s not LYING because there’s no intent to deceive and the person is unaware that their information is false

Most cases of confabulation are due to brain damage, dementias or toxidrome caused by hallucinogenic drugs

There is a good theory that says CONFABULATION is useful for memory-disabled people to maintain their self-identity

If there are two memory processes: (verbatim and gist) and GIST processes representations of an event’s semantic features rather than its surface details (the details being the verbatim processes)

Most people process and store verbatim and gist information (memories) in parallel with equal credence given to both. But it’s feasible that some RECOLLECTORS or WITNESSES are stronger in Gist than they are, perhaps, with verbatim. And vice versa. We have this in my house. I tend to recollect the flavour and mood of an event while my wife remembers the miniscule details. And it is irritating (to me) that she doesn’t remember the spirit or feeling of a HAPPENING but I’m sure it’s equally v (to her) that I don’t remember times and places and, more especially, peoples names.

Studies show that verbatim memory declines between early and late adulthood, while gist memory remains fairly stable into old age.

Psychological researchers have noted that Schizophrenic patients tend to make up delusions on the spot which often become fantastic and perhaps increasingly elaborate with questioning

 

ANANSI

Anansi

Anansi in my hallway

Last Sunday a house-spider spun a web across my hallway (a much used passageway) between the time my wife went through the hall to get out of the front door and I had finished my morning coffee. I guess it took 20–30 minutes to build and I have a picture of the web and spider which I shared on Instagram [above]

This creature has prompted me to think about ANANSI.

ANANSI takes the shape of a spider and is considered to be the spirit of all knowledge in stories. So he’s an important “medium” for people like us… for storytellers.

He takes the role of trickster, he is also one of the most important characters of West African, African American and Caribbean folklore… although I first came across him when researching the Leni Lenape or Delaware people, the indigenous people of the Northeastern Woodlands, who live in Canada and the North Eastern United States. Incidentally, Lenni Lenapi literally translates as: ”The Original Men/Man”

Anansi stories were part of an exclusively oral tradition, and Anansi himself was seen as synonymous with skill and wisdom in speech * … could he spin a story in just 30 minutes?

Anansi is often celebrated as a symbol of slave resistance and survival, because Anansi is able to turn the tables on his powerful oppressors by using cunning and trickery…

As the creation narrative goes: there were no stories in the world. The Sky-Father, Nyame held them all in a giant box. Anansi liked the world, but without stories he thought it was boring, so he went to Nyame and asked if he could buy them. All the stories. The Sky-Father set a high price, so high he thought the stories were safe. But, in a series of adventures, Anansi won them all.

You might think that Anansi shares similarities with the trickster figure of Br’er Rabbit, through the stories shared by Joel Chandler Harris and his Uncle Remus narratives.

When I was a child, at school, we were made to read Br’er Rabbit stories. At the time the teachers and establishment didn’t think they might be racist or patronizing… and although Joel Chandler Harris’s stories tend to convey demeaning stereotypes, his aim (I think) was to accurately recount the tales he heard from slaves when he worked (himself) on the plantations as a young man. In that respect, he might be forgiven perhaps, for preserving an oral folklore that might have been lost. One such tale is the story of the tar-baby:

A tar-baby is a doll made of tar and turpentine and it’s used by the villainous Br’er Fox to entrap Br’er Rabbit. In the West African version, though, it’s Anansi who creates a wooden doll and covers it with gum, then puts a plate of yams in its lap… in order to capture the elf known as Mmoatia. The elf takes the bait, eats a yam, a strikes out at the tear-baby to get a response, and that’s when it gets stuck fast. It makes more sense that a sticky trap is set by a trickster spider than by a Fox, doesn’t it?

I’m aware that some will consider the tar-baby a metaphor or “racial slur” which is why I prefer the Anansi story and did not chat about this on the show.

* Another coincidence : As a child, JRR Tolkien was bitten by a spider. Was this Anansi giving him the skills to spin a story?

 

ST JOHN’S WORT

My St Johns Wort

My St Johns Wort

Many of you will know that I am an enthusiastic gardener here by the River Thames in Surrey. This week I purchased and planted two rare Hypericums. ST JOHN’S WORT. I already have one large bush and it’s so reliable and so golden-yellow that I decided to get two more.

This isn’t a gardening show so I won’t bother you with the special strains of ST JOHNS WORT I planted (but if you’re really interested, tweet or email me and I can let you know what I planted) but this is a myth and magic show and so I wanted to tell you about ST JOHN’S WORT and why it is famously associated with repelling ghosts and evil spirits.

You’ll see the yellowish shrubs with their bright-yellow rose-like flowers in concrete tubs and traffic islands all over the UK. They are so often used in modern landscaping because they are hardy and put up with all kinds of pollution and mishandling. But they are also considered, by some farmers and gardeners, as invasive pest weeds and its true than can poison cattle and livestock. Oddly, some of the plant’s leaves contain what look spots are around the veins (these spots are actually glands) and a proportion of these contain a red secretion that can stain hands and clothes. The flowers are at their best and brightest around Saints John and Paul’s Day that’s 26th June. This is not St. John the apostle by the way. Legend has it that those two saints were beheaded and the plant-leaves contain John’s blood. Although St John (the Baptist) has his feast day on June 24th and because this marks Midsummer and St Johns Wort was commonly harvested at that time, I suspect the two JOHNS are interchangeable. The herb was hung over pictures or icons of saints in houses at Midsummer… thus, the Latin name “Hyper” means OVER and eikon means picture.

Common Saint John’s wort has long been used in folk medicine to treat depression. The red oily extract was used by the Knights Hospitaller, the Order of St John, after battles, and probably has antibiotic properties.

The herb was once enthusiastically grown in Black Country gardens to ward off evil. The folk belief was that these plants “work” like a lucky horseshoe or making a cross on a loaf of bread, they just do it without bother. Even if you don’t believe in their magical properties, what’s to lose? You may as well plant one, enjoy the buttercup flowers, and sleep peacefully.

Sound Clip Credits:

Tribal Drum: peridactyloptrix
Bee and Birdsong: stujun
Succes Fanfare Trumpets: FunWithSound for Fantasy Writers News
Sleighbells: jsm1963
Ensemble of bells: vision_m
Horse clip-clopping: swiftoid
Magic Wand: __olver__

CALL OUTS
IF you would like me to give you a CALL OUT on my show please check the criteria below then email me: promoter at rawramp dot com

CRITERIA FOR A CALL-OUT on the MYTH & MAGIC Show

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