Saturday, 27 June 2015

It's a WUFFF Life

At long last we have managed to shoe-horn a gap into our schedule so that we can concentrate on updating the Magical Curiosities section of the catalogue.

We have got lots of changes this year, stuff coming out and new stuff going in. We have a new supplier of hand made, dipped candles for example, including some gorgeous beeswax ones, but that is only one line.

Anyway Saturday is often a good day for starting this kind of project, as it is nice and quiet and we are not near the phone and rarely get interrupted. So I have been working on my pc in the office and Graham has been working on his in our bedroom. His desk is at the far side of the room and he sits with his back to the bed.

I am in the office with my radio on as loudly as possible, listening to the Graham Norton show, which again ensures that nothing distracts me (apart from Graham Norton and Maria of course, I love the 'Grill Graham' bit as the two of them are very down to earth expressing their views on problems sent in by listeners - which may not be as 'pc' as some - this morning one of the 'problems' was a lady who was convinced that the smell of her neighbours cigarettes was seeping through the walls, and the advice given was along the lines of 'get a life'). I have been concentrating so not really taking notice of anything around me, except when periodically Maeve comes into the office and nudges my elbow, to have a stroke and a bit of fuss.

What I didn't realise was that she has been relaxing on our bed, behind Graham and every so often, with no warning giving a loud WUFFF, making Graham jump, who then shouts at her.

So it seems that when I have been getting nudged for a fuss, it is straight after Maeve has been told off by Graham for making him jump. So then she goes back in the bedroom gets on the bed ....
and goes WUFFF loudly, making Graham jump .... rinse and repeat.

Saturday, 20 June 2015


Midsummer is the time of greatest light, when the days are at their longest and when the weather is (usually) settled and warm. This year, the way we can tell it is midsummer is because the rain is lovely and warm - in the words of the immortal Spike Milligan.

The very longest day of the year is the Midsummer Solstice, and this is the day when Druids and many others will make a pilgrimage to Stonehenge to watch the sun rise. Let us hope they are able to see the sun.

But in former times Midsummer did not refer to the Solstice, but to Midsummers Day, which is the 24th of June and the feast of the nativity of St John the Baptist, and echoes the birthday of his cousin Jesus which was fixed at the 25th of December, and thus takes over the Midwinter Solstice festival.
This means that we can hold our own Midsummer celebrations at any time from the eve of the Solstice, to the date of Midsummer by the Old Julian Calendar, the 4th of July (a day well known for festivals).

This also means that spells which say that a herb should be gathered on Midsummer's Eve, can actually be gathered at any time within this space for the same magical potency, for example in this spell from 1520:

'Yf any woman wyll that her husbande or her paramour love her well, she ought to put in his shoo a lefe of Brekens that had been gathered on saynt Johans even (23rd June) whyles that they ringe none (3pm), so that it be in the left shoo, and without faute he shall love her mervaylously.'

None (to rhyme with bone) is one of the divine services, and takes its name from the Roman way of counting the hours, it is the ninth hour of day light. Brekens can be bracken or any other fern, remember fern are especially magical at this time of year. Fern seen gathered by moonlight can make the bearer invisible and also reveal the fairy folk to your sight. It is also reputed to bring great wealth and good fortune to anyone who carries it.

An Elizabethan ballad captures the fun to be had at the Solstice celebrations:
When Midsummer comes,
with bavens and brooms,
bonfires they do inspire.
And swiftly then,
the nimble young men
run leaping over the pyre.
The women and maidens
forgetting the ravens
together do couple their hands.
With bagpipes' sweet sound,
they dance 'round and 'round
no malice amongst them will stand

Bavens are bundles of twigs for burning in the summer bonfires.

Midsummer is one of the special times for seeing and speaking to spirits of all kinds. From fairies and trolls to spirits of the dead.

One of the easiest ways to interact with the spirits is simply to invite them to your celebration. If you are having a special meal you can lay an extra place for your spirit friend, and make sure you serve them up some of your goodies - they won't need a lot, spirits don't eat much.

You could also leave out some offerings for the fairies. They are partial to a cup of tea, bread and butter and cake. You could make some special cookies, bake a hole in them so that you can thread them on ribbons and hang them from a fairy tree - hawthorn, elder, birch or apple are all good.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

This Week

Well so far this has been an interesting week.

On Monday I had a grand ordering session. Not something that happens very often, but we are updating our Main catalogue, Magical Curiosities, which will be sent out for the next year, and there are a lot of changes to be made. Stuff to come out and new stuff to go in.

Of course before we even get to the ordering stage, there is a period of heavy wrangling between Graham and myself deciding which new items to include, and which we will have to take out to make room for them. So we wrangled over the previous weekend and had come up with a list of stuff to order.

We had also decided the dogs could do with a bath - not a task we undertake lightly with two large and very hairy rough collies. So Tuesday morning we rolled up sleeves, took off quite a lot of clothing (everything is going to get very wet) and set about the first dog, Maeve. I had just got her out of the bath and was attempting to fend her into the back garden for a shake, when there was a knock at the door. Graham was by this time dealing with China in the bath.

It was Barry, the mechanic to pick up our car for its MOT. So I gave him the car keys and he took the car - and Maeve thought 'Whoopee!' and headed upstairs to attempt to dry herself on our bed.

With a little persuasion - ok there was shouting involved - Maeve was directed out into the back garden, rubbed with a large towel and had several invigorating shakes.

After China had been dealt with in the same way, we did our normal routine: sorted the post, picked orders. But Tuesday was a beautiful day, the first sunny and properly warm day of the year, so we decided to have the afternoon off and for the first time since last year, sat out in the garden, with books and dogs. It was blissful and felt like a holiday. The birds were busy swooping through the garden, swallows chattering high overhead, catching insects. The cotoneaster buzzing with lots of tiny bees, its flowers are barely worth a mention, but the bees love them.

Wednesday we continued with our normal routine, processing orders, blending oils, collecting ready made items, printing books and fact sheets. There was a call from the garage telling us that the car would be returned either Wednesday or Thursday.

At tea time the work phone handset died. No warning, just totally dead. We had to hastily find another phone and plug it in, but of course this phone I can't take the handset with me round the house and I am working mainly upstairs today (Thursday).

So tomorrow will be even more interesting. We have to visit our paper supplier, then go buy Graham some shoes, go find a new phone, and hope that we don't miss a delivery while we are out and about.

I am looking forward to getting the next catalogue out. We have had a delivery of hand dipped colourful candles already - including some gorgeous beeswax ones. Oh and a box of altar cloths has just arrived, we have some more Green Man ones.

Oh and then the Book Shop is being updated too, I have two new titles completed, and just in their finishing stages. One on Issobell Gowdie and the other Folk Witchery for Beginners, based on my Blog posts. We have also sent for a selection of Tarot and oracle cards, so lots to look forward to.

If you want to be sure you get a copy of our catalogues you can always message me your address through facebook - sorry we can only supply UK and EU.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Patroness of Flute Players

A three day festival of Minerva/Athene as the patroness of flute players starts on the 13th of June. The guild of flute players was very important in ancient Rome, and at this time they honoured the goddess by masked processions through the city and a banquet held in her honour in the temple of Jupiter.

Ovid has the Goddess herself explaining the origins or the festival:

'In the times of your ancestors the flute player was much employed and held in great honour. The flute played in the temples, it played at games, it played at mournful funerals.. The labour was sweetened by its reward, but a time followed when the traditions were broken, and the flute players were sent into exile.
Plautius then devised a plan for their return. In order to deceive the Senate as to their persons and their numbers, Plautius commanded that their faces be covered with masks; and he mingled other with them and ordered them to wear long garments, to the end that women flute players might be added to the band and in that way the return of the exiles could be concealed'

Minerva then explains why she is the patroness of the flute players:

'I was the first to make the long flute pipes resonate with music, by cutting holes at intervals in boxwood. It pleased me to play the flute, but when I saw my face reflected in a pool of clear water, my youthful cheeks were all puffed out.
The sound of the flute is not worth that!
Goodbye, dear flute, I said.
Nevertheless, I am the inventor of the flute and the first composer of flute music.
That is why this day is sacred to flute players.'

From Ovid's words it sounds like it was the Senate who decided to get rid of the flute players, perhaps because they were played by women as well as men, but this was obviously not a popular decision, and was thwarted by Plautius. He made it so that the identities of the players was hidden, and their sex also, enabling both men and women to once more play the flute for celebrations and religious rites.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

A Wedding to Remember

Yesterday is a day which will be forever etched in my memory - well possibly the date won't as I am crap at remembering dates of when stuff happened - but the day itself was lovely.

It was the long awaited day when our son Michael wed his lovely lady Cherise Sellars got married, They have been together eight years now and have a son, Eden (5 and a half), but Cherise has been planning the wedding for years.

Both the ceremony, wedding breakfast and evening celebration were all held at a hotel called Lazats, which is a smashing place, not too far away from us, and just enough in the country to be surrounded by fields and trees. It was not too hot, but it was a bright, dry day, with a little breeze to keep it comfortable.

The ceremony was due to start at one p.m. so we arrived at 12.30, together with our friend Jack Nichols who had travelled up from Lowestoft for the wedding. It wasn't long before we were shown into the room where the civil ceremony was to be held, all the chairs with white covers and a purple organza bow on them, and ours marked with little cards for the father and mother of the groom. Graham promptly took his card and slipped it in the band of his hat, so he was for the rest of the day 'reserved'.

When everyone was assembled the registrar explained the order of the proceedings, and when we would be allowed to take pictures - at the end and not before!

Mike looked lovely in his suit and lilac coloured waistcoat (Eden had a matching outfit too), but we couldn't wait to see Cherise's dress. The two bridesmaids and maid of honour - Cherise's sister, Laura - were in lilac and looked lovely and stylish too. Cherise looked a picture when she processed down the aisle on her dad's arm. Her hair had been done in a loose and deceptively simple style with a sparkling clasp of crystals and silver leaves and flowers around the back and side of her hair. Her dress suited her beautifully, with a corsetted top and full skirt with a short train, she really did look like a princess.

During the ceremony they both gave and received a ring, we found out afterwards that Mike's was cobalt, which is a white metal neither Graham nor I had seen before, and Cherise's was white gold.
Mike managed to get through his vows nearly flawlessly, but Cherise's voice broke with emotion and she had a job saying the last few words, I think it brought a lump to the throat of most folk there, and I saw a few tissues being passed out.

When it came to the signing of the registry, Cherise's dad shouted 'Don't do it Mike!', but the registrar said, 'You are too late, it's the exchanging of the vows which makes the marriage, this is just registering the fact.'

Here is a pic of Cherise and Mike signing the register. I took it from where we sat, behind the best man Danny Smith and Cherise's dad, Peter Sellars.

After the ceremony we went out onto the terrace and had drinks and canapes, while the photographer got to work, creating groups of various people. Of course, when Graham and I were called to our turn in the firing line, Graham had just got himself a pint of Carlsberg. 'Without the beer please.' said the photographer, so Graham dutifully put it down out of sight , 'And now with beer!' said Mike, so the beer will be featured after all.

While the photos were being sorted, we chatted with Rowan Wildash (our friend who has just opened her own business Ninefold Tattoo Studio) and her friend Darren, and other people who introduced themselves, or were introduced to us as friends and relatives. There were quite a number of friends who were from the online game World of Warcraft and who we knew by their in game character names first of all. When we went in to the meal afterwards, I saw that many of them had been put together on one table and their place cards were all given by their character names.

The tables looked lovely, with white, lavender and purple flowers, candles in crackled holders, and the wedding favours we had made a couple of weeks ago at every place setting. Each name card had a little piece of folk belief or wedding lore, and these had been matched to suit whoevers card it was. Grahams said 'It is lucky on your wedding day to see a rainbow or a black cat' and mine 'snake rings dotted with ruby eyes were popular wedding bands in Victorian England - the coils winding into a circle symbolised eternity'.

A two piece band played during part of the meal, a guitarist and double bass player, belting out rock and roll hits from the fifties and sixties. Everyone seemed to be having a lovely time, there were happy faces everywhere, and the conversation and laughter so loud it was drowning out the amplified musicians. There were many compliments on the bride and groom - and the wedding favours went down well too!

At the end of the meal, we had speeches from the bride's father, then the groom, which was very funny, Mike said he was used to speaking in public, but usually giving a power point presentation, so if people would care to fall asleep half way through, he would feel right at home. Then Cherise gave a speech too, which was a lovely break with tradition, and finally Danny, the best man. I thought they all did very well,

And right at the very end the bride and groom's parents, bridesmaids and best man were given gifts too - which was very unexpected as far as Graham and I were concerned. But we shall have no excuse about not remembering the date of the wedding as Graham has a hip flask, with 'Father of the Groom, 6.6.2015,' and I have a pretty jewellery box engraved for  'Chrissy, Mother of the Groom 6.6.2015'.

I am sure Mike and Cherise will be happy, they are both lovely folks and we love them very much.

Monday, 1 June 2015

The Magic of Love and Marriage

It is the month of June, and the Month of the Honey Moon, the Moon of Love.
And as my son Mike is marrying his fiancee Cherise on Saturday, the thought of love and marriage is well in the upper part of my mind at the moment.

The month of June is said these days to have been named after the Roman goddess Juno, the spouse of Jove or Jupiter, and they are said to have wed this month, and thus give their special blessings to any couple who follow suit in June. However it could also be named after Junius or Juventas the goddess of youth - although this goddess name can also be the maiden form of Juno, and thus the month celebrates the goddess as she moves from Maiden to Mother.

There are several traditional verses which tell us the possible fortunes of those who wed in the various months of the year, and these can be quite radically different. The one most often quoted is:
Marry in the month of roses - June,
Life will be one long Honeymoon.

But the Irish version of this monthly rhyme is very different and for June we are told:
Marry when June roses blow
Over land and sea you'll go

The Irish really don't want a couple to marry in May, June, July or August, and it is speculated that this is because these are the busiest months of the farming year and you don't want people shirking work at this time - or to lose a worker if they go off to live at a spouse's farm.

Another monthly rhyme simply tells us about the character of the bride:
A June bride will be impetuous and generous

Juno is generous in many ways this month, she is sometimes called Juno the Moneymaker, so this is also a good month for starting a business or for working a wealth drawing spell, addressed to Juno Moneta. However, when you get a result from your working, remember to give some of the proceeds back to the goddess, buy her some flowers or candles and say 'thank you'.

Oh and if you are given a piece of wedding cake you can use it to see your own future spouse. Ideally it should be a small slivver passed nine times through the wedding ring. You then sleep with it beneath your pillow - and your dreams will be ominous, as the old fortune books say.
You can repeat this rhyme:
I put this cake beneath my head
To dream of the living, not of the dead,
To dream of the man/maid that I am to wed.
Not in his/her best, or Sunday array,
But in the clothes he/she wears each day.

You ask to see them in their normal clothes as this would indicate the kind of work they might do, or how prosperous they might be. Your 'Sunday best' clothes would give a false impression that you might be more affluent than in reality. You can also make the spell more effective if the moon is waxing to full, and you do the spell on a Friday night, the night of Venus

Of course this spell would be done with a nice, dense old-fashioned fruit cake. I don't think I would want to try it with a modern piece of sponge cake.