Saturday, 19 August 2017

Smoking

At ten to nine on a Saturday morning, the works phone goes. By the time we have clattered downstairs to catch it, whoever it was has rung off.
     Interested to see who had rung us at that time on a Saturday, I did dial back - the thing where you type in 1471 and it tells you the number of whoever rang you last - and rang the number given.
     'Hello, I'm Chris from Raven, did you want me?' I ask
     'No-one has rung you from here,' says the man on the other end.
     'Erm, yes they have,' I say, 'Because I've just done dial back.'
     A lady obviously takes the phone off him and says, 'Do you do smokeless incense sticks?'
    'No sorry,' I say, 'The whole point of incense sticks is that they give off smoke.'

     There are some times when you know that it is a waste of time detailing the alternate options available, and this was one of those. So we ended the conversation pleasantly, and I went back to checking out a catalogue from one of our suppliers.
    Incense and perfume both come from words which mean 'fragranced smoke', so by their very nature, they are smoke. But smoke which is used for its aroma.
     However these days there are alternatives, and one of the best is to use a perfume burner. These do not (or should not) actually burn the perfume, they create a fragrant steam which carries the perfume molecules into the air. You put water into the top recess of the burner, add a few drops of perfumed oil and light the candle beneath it. The candle flame warms the water which evaporates and carries the perfume into the air.
     I make a lot of magical oils, which can be used for personal perfume, to anoint candles for spell work, used in your bath (only a few drops at a time) or used in oil burners too. This is a very pure way of experiencing the perfume, and is a lovely way of filling your ritual area with an aroma which can enhance your ritual or spell work.
     Also the incense and particularly incense sticks, can often smell very different when burnt, to how it smells in the packet. Perfumed oils smell the same, but the warmth enhances their fragrance.


This is my favourite oil burner, which we bought from our friends at Zoo Ceramics at Waddington in Lincolnshire.

     There is also a huge variety of perfumed oils, from single fragrances, to the magical blends I make. Our most popular are Kyphi, based on recipes found carved into the walls of temples in ancient Egypt, Ruthvah which was created by Aleister Crowley, and blends such as Lucky Master, Come To Me, Aphrodite and Van Van.
      And there are literally thousands of others!

Monday, 14 August 2017

Making Orgonite

Orgonite is a fab material made from inorganic and organic materials according to the principles of Wilhelm Reich.
     You can find some beautiful examples of this these days, and we have been stocking large and small Orgonite pyramids and other items such as pendulums and angels - when we can find them.
They are usually composed of tiny polished gemstone chips, plus crystals, metal in the form of wires and filings, all set in a clear resin - the resin being derived from petrol is the 'organic' element.
     My daughter in law has been creating some lovely pendants and needle minders, which have a clear resin protective surface, selling them through her online 'shop' Denkai Designs. So when I told her about Orgonite, and that I would love to have a go at making some, volunteered to help me, as she has experience of working with the resin and creating moulds for pendants.
     So on Sunday, Cherise arrived with all her equipment for us to have a go.
     First we had to make the mould, by mixing together two lumps of a plasticine-like stuff. We wrapped this around some glass shapes, which I thought would look nice for the finished objects, then had to wait for this to harden into sturdy but flexible moulds, and could pop out the original glass shapes.
     I had already made some tiny metal charms, one for Venus, one for Jupiter and a tiny interlocked wire pentacle. These would create three special Orgonite shapes which would make use both of the Orgonite energies and combine them with magical correspondences.
     The square shape I had decided would be dedicated to the energies of Jupiter and used to create a wealth drawing object. The heart shaped one was obviously going to be just right for Venus, and the third Crescent shape would embody the powers of the Moon Goddess.
     To be sure that none of the contents would poke through the surface, we first had to create a thin layer of resin all around the inside of the moulds, which would have to be at least partially set before I added anything else.
     One thing I am not good at, as anyone who knows me is probably aware, is patience.
     Many years ago, it was possible to buy a tee shirt showing two vultures sitting on a branch and one saying to the other 'Patience, my ass, I'm gonna kill something!'
     That would probably suit me. So the 'waiting while it sets' part of these processes, was not going well. I spent my time gently moving the resin around so that it built up the layer around the inside of the mould, and eventually Cherise agreed that now I could start doing the fun bit!
     The first thing into each mould were the appropriate little metal charms I had made. This was followed by tiny gemstone chips chosen because they were associated with each of the planetary powers. So in the Jupiter one went lapis, sodalite and amethyst, together with some pretty glitter. The Venus one had peridot and rose quartz, and the Moon one clear quartz - I should probably have used little pieces of selenite for this one.
     When I felt there was enough in each, the moulds were topped up with more of the clear resin to hold everything in place.
     Cherise then gently blew on the surface of each to disperse any little bubbles, and told us to cover the moulds and put them somewhere to stand while they set over the next few days.
     Heck! More waiting!
     After three or four days, the great un-moulding took place.
    I was really excited as the backs of the shapes looked really good and crystal clear.
     But saddly, the fronts weren't nearly as good. It looked like a layer of tiny bubbles had coated the moulds. so that when the shapes were revealed, the surface is both pitted and semi-opaque. Like the effect of a frosted window.


     Weirdly these look better in the photo than they do in real life.
     I have learnt several things from this: the moulds were too deep. I suspect that what I should have done is be prepared to put another thin layer of resin over the outer surface once they were set.
     The process of making these was fun. And I really don't have the patience for this.





Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Golden Grain

As promised, here is an extract from our latest Raven Newsletter, for those folk who miss out on its full magnificence:

     All over the world we grow grain.
     Grains of different varieties are the staple food of millions of people, and have been for thousands of years, and it seems that all over the world, at roughly the same time, people began to attempt to cultivate different grains. This all seems to have happened around ten thousand years ago.
     In Syria or southern Turkey wheat and barley began to be farmed, in the East it was rice, and in southern Mexico maize became domesticated. Archaeologists have worked out that the most ancient crops grown around the Mediterranean were wheat, barley, lentils, peas and chickpeas, plus flax grown both for its seeds and for its use in textiles.
     Oats appear to have been a later addition to the domesticated grain family, but they do grow better in damper and cooler climates such as the British Isles. Oats can be planted in the autumn and over wintered as they are unaffected by frost and snow, but don't like to be too warm.
     These days it is wheat which is the main grain used to make our daily bread, so much of the lore and magic which once belonged to other grains, has been attached to wheat. But it is interesting to see how similar stories crop up of a special spirit or deity who comes to show humans how to grow the grain.
     In ancient Egypt the grain god was Osiris, who is killed by his brother, but magically brought back to life by Isis, so that she can conceive a child by him. In Egypt little clay trays in the shape of the silhouette of Osiris were filled with earth and planted with grains to be placed in the graves of loved ones. The sprouting of the grain gives the hope of resurrection. If the grain can have its head cut off and be killed, yet magically appear again in the spring, then we also have the possibility of re-birth in another life. The Egyptians believed that this was re-birth in the land of the dead, where people would carry on in a very similar way to their lives on earth.
     But in the land of the dead, even the poorest people could live like lords, with servants to carry out their work for them.
    When people were buried they were often given possessions to take with them into the afterlife. In Egypt this often included little models of workers, known as Ushabti. To the Egyptians when any image had its eyes painted in, that was when the image came alive. This applied to images and statues of the gods, to images of the deceased, and to the little Ushabti models too. There were similar rituals which could be used to ensure this awakening also, and these are detailed in the papri found in the tombs of the dead and known to us as The Book of the Dead.
     As it was the god Anubis who performed this ritual for the gods, he was invoked to help do the same for the dead and for the Ushabti:
Anubis grant thou that breathing may take place in the head of [name], 
and that s/he may see with her/his two eyes and hear with her/his two ears, 
and that s/he may breathe through her/his nose, 
and that her/his mouth shall be open 
and that s/he may be able to speak with her/his tongue.
May the voice of [name] be heard.




Monday, 7 August 2017

Visitors

You know how it is, you haven't blogged for a while because all has been quiet on the home front and then all of a sudden there are LOTS of things you need to put up all at the same time.
     I want to give you an extract from the last Newsletter, for folks who missed it.
     I want to tell you about my first (and possibly only, or maybe not, but I don't know yet) attempt to make my own Orgonite and incorporated magical correspondences into it.
     And then we got a pigeon in the kitchen again.

     There we were having a pre-shopping look at the computers - well a mini play of World of Warcraft if you want to get technical about it - when all of a sudden I heard the sound of flying glass objects and the crash of something hitting the floor.
     'There's something in the kitchen!' I said to Graham
     'Huh, what?' was his considered reply
     'There's something in the kitchen, go and look!'
     'I can't hear anything.'
     'Go and look!'

     So he went, he looked, he swore a bit, and then removed the pigeon from its favourite window above the sink, by throwing a t-shirt over it so it couldn't see him coming. Took the pigeon outside, put the t-shirt in the wash and replaced all the stuff it had swept out of the window.
   
     The bathroom is on the ground floor, right next to the little kitchen with the back door. And at this time of year, when I have a bath in the morning I like to have both the back door and bathroom door open, I love the fresh air - and I can kid myself that I am actually reclining in a hot tub.
     The other day as I luxuriated and read my book I glanced up to see a black and white cat passing the bathroom door. On its way out!
     So it had been visiting while Graham and the dogs were out of the way.
     So so far this year our visitors have included numerous bees of various sizes, two toads, slugs, butterflies,  a pigeon and a cat.
     I am hoping the rabbits, hedgehog and bats stay outside.


Saturday, 8 July 2017

Jasmine

     I love Jasmine.
    We have a well established Jasmine that grows up outside our front door and tumbles around the porch. At this time of year it is smothered in little white flowers, all of which seem to last for only one day, then tumble to the ground.
     The bees love it, although they need a long tongue to get into the trumpet shaped flowers and reach down to the nectar. Some of the bees cheat, and rather than accessing the nectar as they are supposed to, they manage to push their noses into the bottom of the flower from the outside and get their dinner that way.
     Jasmine always means summer to me, especially as it always reminds me of the Isley Brothers song 'Summer Breeze', with its lines 'Summer breeze, makes me feel fine, Blowin' through the jasmine in my mind.' It is the stuff of happy summer memories.
     Although Jasmine perfumes the air all through the day, it is in the evening when it really smells its best, so it is really a flower for long Summer evenings, when you can spend time outside. Its pretty flowers with their five petals also put me in mind of stars.
     For centuries Jasmine flowers have been gathered for their sweet scent. It is one of the most expensive essential oils as it takes 1,000 flowers to make a single drop of the oil. And at one time only young girls picked the flowers, because their hands are softer and less likely to bruise the flower petals.
     Jasmine is sacred to the Moon Goddess and also to the Goddess of Love. It is said that love will grow wherever a Jasmine flourishes. You can pick the flowers and use them as part of a Goddess incense, or put them in a pouch either to draw love, or to increase your psychic and magical powers.




     I'm just glad that ours has recovered from the 'trim' Graham gave it a couple of years ago.



Thursday, 29 June 2017

Aconite

   This is an extract from an article 'A Witch's Garden' from the last issue of the Raven Newsletter  

     At this time of year there are many flowers in bloom, and in our front garden we have a particularly magnificent clump of aconite, known also as Wolf's Bane or Monk's Hood.
     This is a wonderful deep blue and has spires of flowers all with their distinctive hood shapes. Because it is such a beautiful flower it often finds its way into table decorations at weddings, often without the florist realising that this plant is extremely poisonous in all its parts.


     Aconite can be tricky to get going, but once it has settled it will come up year after year. However be careful as this plant should only be handled while wearing gloves as it can make itself known even through unbroken skin.
     Interestingly the antidote to Aconite is Belladonna, another extremely poisonous plant, and both were used together in many recipes for Witches' Flying Ointment.
     Aconite juice was used by many ancient cultures as a hunting poison, to coat the tips of arrows, and it has been speculated by many including Dr Margaret Murray (author of 'The Witch Cult in Western Europe'), that this was the poison used by the fairy folk, the indigenous tribes of Britain and Ireland, to coat their elf-shot. Thus making their arrows particularly deadly.


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Day of Big Hair

The other day, when it was really hot, I was in the bath and sloshed water over my head, just to try and cool down a bit.
     The water felt so lovely that I slooshed a bit more, and of course my long hair got well and truly wet through. But I was quite happy with that, and let it dry naturally, steaming gently in the heat.
     Of course that meant that it dried plastered to my head in a particularly unflattering way.
     The next day, when I combed my hair out, released from its plastered-ness it decided to celebrate by going LARGE. But not consistently BIG all over, Oh No! It had to go Wild Child at one side and normally wavy at the other.
     This HUGE plume of sticky-up hair really amused me, so I decided to take a photo of it - well, I asked Graham to, actually. Then I went to put the photos on the PC and see if the large fluffiness had shown up sufficiently.
     And it was then that I got a shock.
     We have a nice digital camera. It is a few years old now, and was an xmas pressy from Mike and Cherise, and it takes excellent piccies. It has an optical zoom facility too which helps with photos of flowers or close-ups of small objects.
     However, when I looked at the photos of me I had a heck of a shock. My God! How hairy am I ?!
     This is the problem with a good digital camera, the detail it captures is amazing.
     Now I have always had a problem moustache - pale skin, black hair, my word the unwanted ones really show up! And I deal with it regularly with magnifying mirror and tweezers.
     But the digital camera picked up every hair I had missed. And as I focus on dealing with the moustache, I had not noticed the creeping growth of long hairs dotted around the sides of my face, and around and under my chin.
     I know that I am an oddity, and that my Crone-ness is growing daily, but I had no idea that I was turning into the Wild Woman of Melton Fields.
     Needless to say, those photos have been consigned to the re-cycle bin, and I have been busy with my tweezers again.
     But why is it when the rest of my hair is turning grey, the moustache is still persistently and photogenically black?


Monday, 12 June 2017

Magical Fern

Ferns have always struck me as being magical plants.
     They are certainly one of the oldest, and long before there were other trees, massive forests of tree ferns covered parts of the earth.
     In the UK they are found in cool, dark and mysterious places. They form the undergrowth in many ancient woodlands, and by ancient springs. They don't need good soil and are happy to re-populate derelict ground or old industrial sites.
    I love the way they emerge in Spring and unroll their fractal fronds. Some times patterns on icy windows resemble feathers or fern fronds and it is because these follow the same method of construction. A piece plucked from a frond has the same overall shape as the entire frond.


     They are said to be at their most magical around Midsummer, and are one of the plants associated with the Fairy Folk.
    It is said that at sunset on Midsummer's Eve the ferns put out a bud which glows blue in the dusky woods. It grows into a flower through the evening and at midnight is ready to shed its seeds. These magical fern seeds should be gathered by holding a pewter plate beneath the plant, while you gently tap it with a hazel wand. The seed will fall onto the plate and should be stored carefully as they will confer invisibility on the user.
     Of course we know, these days, that fern does not have flowers, and that it reproduces by spores, or by sending out underground runners.
     But at midnight on Midsummer's Eve, when the Fairies are about, and you know how to enter the magical world, then you can still gather your magical fern seed, and work the spell of invisibility.


Sunday, 4 June 2017

Dem Bones, Dem Bones

Today is the first Sunday in the month, so (yippee!) it is the Humber Bridge Farmer's Market and the Walkington Car Boot Sale.
     Today we found a butcher stall selling raw beef bones - 20p each! Bargain! So we bought a hunk of ribs for Bridie and a single rib for China to have a go at.
     As soon as we got home, we couldn't wait to give the dogs their bones, while we treated ourselves to some sponge cake and coffee.
    China quickly snaffled hers, and even though we tried to keep her on the floor, she was soon back at the far end of the sofa, with her back to us and giving her bone a good nag.
     Bridie on the other hand seemed a bit unsure about the rack of ribs, and I was getting a bit worried that we had picked something that was too big for her, and we would have to try and split it up for her. She sniffed it and rolled it around the floor, and went upstairs. Then came down again and snook up on the ribs and had a sniff and tried a little bite at it, and it moved. So she shot upstairs again, and then came down and eyed it and us as if deciding whether this really was hers and could she steal it away.
     We decided to come up and have a little look on the internet. And it wasn't long before Bridie and the rack of ribs arrived too. And before long there was much standing on the ribs and pulling with the whole body and cranching and thumping against the floor and lots of panting - this is a whole body exercise for the dog, it would appear.


     We thought the ribs might keep her occupied, maybe for a week.
     Two hours later, there is currently a knobbly thick boney bit left, and I hear the distinct sounds of a dog who has pinched China's bone and is now secretly eating it around the corner where I can't see her.


   

Saturday, 3 June 2017

To Dare

This is an article I wrote for the May 2017 edition of our Raven Newsletter:

One of the things you come across when you start to practise magic is the Magician's Pyramid: To Know, To Will, To Dare and To Keep Silent.
     And the one that most people will struggle with is, surprisingly, To Dare.
     These four attributes give you the ground rules for successful magical practise. But the key thing is to put into action the things you have read about.
     Most people are quite happy with the theory of Witchcraft or Magic, they will happily read about spells and magical workings. They will accumulate magical tools and accoutrements, so that when they start to practise magic, they will be ready to go.
     But actually putting that knowledge into action is where most people fall down. I remember years ago a friend being at a meeting where a well-known White Witch in full ritual regalia and waving a magic wand about, was pontificating about spell working, how to do it, what you needed, what phases of the Moon to use. Until my friend said to him, 'So you have tried this spell have you? What sort of results did you get?'
     The man blustered for a bit and then admitted that he didn't actually practise magic, but that he didn't need to, because he knew all the theory and so was fully qualified to act as a teacher to others.
     When my friend told me about this, I remarked, 'Well if I was going to have brain surgery, I would rather have treatment from someone who had done the actual operation before, not someone who had just read about it in a book.'
     And that is why 'To Dare' is such a crucial part of any magic: NOTHING will happen unless you get on with it and put your theoretical knowledge into conscious practise. And there is a whole heap of an advantage once you have started working your spells.
     There is an old saying: 'Nothing succeeds like success.'
     And what this means is that practise and experience will ensure that your chances of success are so much greater.
     We all know how easy it is to 'look the part' wearing wafty clothes and symbolic jewellery, and to give the air of 'one who knows'. But you may well find that the real practitioners are the ones who look like a little old lady or gentleman sitting in the corner, just watching and listening.
     However there are some individuals who will not have success with spell work, no matter how hard they try. This is the same in all walks of life: it is no good trying to be an accountant if you hate maths. And here I am reminded of an old Peter Cook and Dudley Moore sketch, where Moore acting the part of a one legged man, has gone to audition for the part of Tarzan, during which Cook points out that Moore's right leg is a great leg for the part, and he has nothing against it, but unfortunately neither has Moore.
     But at least Dudley Moore's character was having a go.
     Until he went for the interview he believed that he had as good a chance as any, only by trying it out did he find that this was not the part for him.
     And so it is with spell work, until you actually try it, you will never know whether this is the Path for you.
     Perhaps it is fear of the unknown, or fear of failure, which holds people back. But I have found that this extends to when they are asking someone else to do the spell for them.
     When your friends find out about your magical interests, very often they will ask you to cast a spell for them. I have found that a very easy way to find out if they are serious about the process is to ask them to provide the materials you will need.
    The standard response is 'Oh, can't you get them, and I'll pay you back for them after.'
     If you refuse and insist they must provide you with candles etc., in 99 times out of 100 that is the last you will hear of it.
     So even To Dare, by proxy, is still a difficult hurdle to get over.
     Magic and Witchcraft are not theoretical subjects, they are practical and experimental, and great fun, and awesome, and difficult, and really, really easy and surprising and something which is very addictive.
     So go on, give it a go.

     Dare a little!


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

A Dog and a Half

Well, having Bridie has certainly enlivened China!
     In fact we are all getting more exercise than we expected.
     This is no fault of Bridie, she is just a very energetic, inquisitive and interested dog. She is also a lot bigger than China.
     Bridie is the result of the incorporation of American collie genes into British breeding stock. The British rough collie has been getting gradually smaller over the years, to the extent that we have been asked if China is a Sheltie, the Shetland Sheepdog. Angela (Wicani Collies) took the radical (apparently) step of bringing a large male Texan collie into her breeding programme, with the main aim of breeding out certain genetic defects which can lead to health problems for collies.
     Unfortunately these days,there are some nasty inherited genetic defects to some dog breeds, to such an extent that those who tend to win the 'best in breed' at dog shows may also exhibit some of the most grotesque of these defects. We all know that the 'flat faced' dogs have breathing problems, so why not breed their noses back in again? Some dog breeds have back or hip problems, others have heart or even brain problems, the results of the skeleton, rib cage or skull being bred into a specific shape or size.
     Angela has now succeeded in breeding out the genetic defect, a collie eye problem, from the dogs in her kennels. However it is amazing the pure hatred she has been subjected to - including death threats! And all because she has wanted to truly improve her dogs not only in looks, but in their health too.
     Bridie stands head and shoulders taller than China, and I mean that literally. We have never had a dog who could just stand and look at what might be happening on our dining table, usually the collies can reach to run their noses around the edge of the table. She is also a lot more solid, strong and energetic dog. China seems to find this quite stimulating and trots quite happily after Bridie, and is having to keep looking to see what Bridie is doing, as Bridie is moving elegantly from room to room and in and out of the garden. However Bridie does tend to lean on China, she likes to lean on me too, and you certainly know when you are being leant on!
     Graham took both dogs out for a walk for the first time on Monday, and arrived home ten minutes earlier than usual, simply because Bridie naturally walks more quickly than China. He said he was also sure that his left arm was now longer than his right as Bridie tried to go in all directions at once and sniff everything thoroughly too.
     Normally Graham doesn't bother with a lead, once the dogs are across the main road, and into the fields and woodland, but as this was Bridie's first walk in a strange area, she was on a lead. We need to make sure firstly that she will come back when called, and that she knows the route so can find her way home if she gets lost.
     So far she seems to be settling in amazingly well, considering that she is seven years old. She has quickly learnt how to use the stairs. In fact once she found out how to get up, and then down again, this became a game that kept her interested for some time, either thundering up and down at top speed, or wandering up, then down gently, then thundering back up again.
     We just need to teach her how to use the dog flap next.

Bridie is at the back of the photo and China  at the front. The nose in the middle belongs to Graham.

 

Saturday, 13 May 2017

A New Arrival !

Last night we were playing WoW (World of Warcraft), as we do, when we saw our son Mike (Thog) had come online. He doesn't normally play this game, but the app has an instant messaging service which is very handy.
        'Hiya,' he said 'Just had a message from Angela asking if you would be interested in taking on one of her dogs.'
       Angela is our friend from Wicani Collies, who has the most beautiful dogs, and who has been letting us home some of hers for quite a number of years now.
     So there we had the weekend planned: Saturday morning I would create and print the customer labels, then we could have a fold and stuffing weekend. I've been writing the Newsletter and printing all week ready for the next Mail Shot.
     Damn just noticed I started a paragraph with the dreaded 'so' - I hate being fashionable.
     So anyway, the instance response was 'Yes, of course, I have petrol in the car, when can we come?' while thinking the proverbial 'Does a bear sh*t in the woods?'

    Which was why this morning instead of folding and stuffing, we were on our way to Driffield and beyond to visit Angela and Keith and possibly (who am I kidding) bring home another beautiful girl to keep China company.
    It was lovely to see Angela and Keith again. It is a few years since we all met up. Mike and Graham had popped in last year on their way to their boys weekend in Robin Hood's Bay. So we had a good catch up, and talked mainly about dogs.
    And now are a two dog family again, with the addition of Wicani White Lace and Promises, or Bridie to her friends


     I am sure Bridie is saying in the bottom photo 'If you think one of those will make me pose for a photo, you have another think coming.'

Monday, 8 May 2017

Treasure!

Yesterday we had a fab morning out.
     It was the first Sunday of the month, so the Humber Bridge Farmer's Market was on.
     There are some things we always buy from here.
     I like the home grown tomatoes, the Lincolnshire butcher with her dripping, pork pies and half a sponge cake(s). I treat myself to a Blood Tonic Cordial too, which is made from raspberries and nettles and has a completely unique and yummy flavour.
     And our big treat is some curry from a Pakistani lady, who also makes enormous flat breads and onion bajis the size of your head. Delicious.
     But today also Walkington Car Boot Sale was on. Normally Graham has to go round this one on his own, while I wait in the car, as it is held on the local playing field, and the hard tyres of my wheel chair just sink straight in, making pushing impossible, if the ground is at all moist. However we have had a couple of weeks without much rain, so this time Graham decided we were going to give me and the wheelchair an outing.
     So a huge treat (I loooove Boot Sales)! And one I intended making the most of. I had raided my change jug, where I collect coins that are stuffing my purse. And of course we have to use up the old £1 coins as they will cease to be legal tender in October.
     So I was heavily laden with money to spend.
     It is amazing how one person's rubbish is another person's treasure. And Car Boot Sales are a great example of re-cycling, which is only to be encouraged!
     To give you some idea of how well we did, Graham had to park me three times to go back to the car and unload our bags of booty.
     So what did we get?
     Lots of books: reading books for me and a pile of erotic titles which might make it to a future Book Sale list (although I will have to pry them off Graham first). Including a small hardbacked ex-library book Harris's List of Covent-Garden Ladies, which was a seventeenth century catalogue of the available ladies of pleasure with a review of their charms and specialities eg
Mrs Str- No 88 Queen Ann Street East
This lady keeps the house, is a fat plump lass, about twenty-four years of age, and is at present in keeping with a country parson, who is seldom in town.
Much experience and a natural propensity to the business, has rendered this lady a perfect mistress in the science she professes; and not withstanding her great practise, she is not the least tired of it, but pursues it with as much eagerness as at first, though her long study has somewhat impaired her complexion, which she endeavours to disguise, by the assistance of art.

     There were also some jigsaws which have been put away as xmas pressies for me, a HUGE knitted blanket - the stall holder said she decided to knit it last winter, to use up her wool, and it kept her warm while she was knitting it. A small and beautiful porcelain Japanese Lucky Cat.
     But the piece-de-resistance, and incidentally the last and heaviest purchase, is or are, five large square plastic tubs full of 1950's ceramic tile samples.
     As soon as I saw them I knew I must be able to do something with them.
     None are full sized tiles, they are all miniatures, mainly square, but also oblong and some hexagonal ones too. All in 1950's shades, mainly pale or mottled colours.
     I have an idea for all sorts of things from pentacles and Green Man faces, to spells or charms for happiness, wealth or Good Luck.
     The Lady we brought them from was chuffed that someone could see their potential.
     And I am looking forward to having a play with them.

     Incidentally the little cat is 40mm tall to give you an idea of scale in the photo

Friday, 28 April 2017

Literally ....

Graham is a very straight forward kind of chap. He doesn't do subtlety.
    This means that over the years I have eventually learnt that it is no good giving him hints about what I would like, as these are inevitably ignored.
     So if I say something like 'It is a shame there are no chocolates in the house.' all I will get is an agreement. What I need to do is write in big letters on the shopping list 'CHOCOLATES'. That sort of hint gets Graham's attention and may well produce a result.
     Unless he gets distracted by beer, of course. Or loses the shopping list. Or forgets to look at it.
     We have been together now thirty-eight years, so you would think I would know and remember that he is also very literal minded. So I have to be careful how I phrase things too.
    This morning I forgot. Which is why we now have carrots scattering the back lawn.
     This morning Graham decided that the carrots in the bottom of the fridge were past their best and was going to bin them. But I like to try and compost stuff like that, so I said:
    'Rather than putting them in the bin, can you chuck them on the back garden?'
     Now what I had imagined would happen is that Graham would take the carrots and go out into the back garden, beyond the fire pit and behind the comfrey, where there is a wild and nettley bit of garden, where grass clippings etc get emptied.
     What I did not expect was for Graham to stand at the back door and literally throw the carrots out into the back garden, in a 'whee!' moment of exuberance.
     They do look quite pretty against the green

     And I have just realised why they are still there.
    When I saw them scattered over the lawn, I explained to Graham what I had expected him to do with them. And he said 'Oh!'
    What I should then have said is 'So will you go pick them up and put them in the nettley bit?'
    I forgot the instruction bit.

     Eventually, between the two of us, the carrots will get removed from the lawn and put on the compost heap. And peace will be restored.



Monday, 13 March 2017

The Hazzards of Car Ownership

Some years ago now, our son. Mike, bought himself a new (second hand) car.
     This car was so new that it had a Manual with it.
     A Manual which told you what each of the buttons did. We were all impressed.
     Until we came to read the Manual, and it appeared that everything to do with the car had the potential to result in serious injury or DEATH!
     For example: 'These are the buttons which raise and lower your windows. Doing this while the vehicle is in motion could distract the driver, causing an accident, which could result in serious injury or DEATH!
     'Here is your radio and CD player: inserting a CD or selecting a channel on the radio while the vehicle is in motion could distract the drivers' attention, causing an accident which could result in serious injury or DEATH!'
     It didn't have a tailgate or that would definitely have had very serious safety useage notes - no doubt opening or closing the tailgate while the vehicle was in motion could result in serious injury or DEATH!

     A couple of years ago, Graham managed to hit himself on the forehead while closing our tailgate.
     We were in Sainsbury's car park and he had just loaded the shopping into the back of the car.
     I was already in the drivers seat and when I heard the tailgate slam shut, and glanced in the mirror to see no signs of Graham, I assumed he had rushed off to return the trolley - he has the turn of speed of a young gazelle at times.
     What I didn't realise was that he had hit himself and fallen to the ground behind the car that I was now reversing out of the parking space.
     Happily I reverse slowly and stopped dead when there was a frantic thump on the back of the car.
     I got out to find Graham bleeding magnificently from his self-inflicted head wound and being helped up by two French gentlemen.
     When we got home I saw on the tail gate there was a bloody hand print, which looked like there had been a gruesome murder and I'd obviously been transporting the body!
     Graham still has a scar on his forehead from that encounter. A permanent reminder to be careful how you shut the tail gate.

     So, last week, he did it again ....
     This time I was looking in my mirror, so I saw him go down like a pole-axed ox as he hit himself on the head with the car door. So I didn't reverse over him. As a loving and caring wife, I also managed not to laugh.
     Also this time, as he had managed to hit himself right on top of the head, there was no blood!

     I think maybe I need to write him a check list to use when shutting the tailgate:
1)    Stand well back
2)    Make sure that no part of your body, particularly the head, is beneath the tailgate.
3)    Close the door slowly until it is past ALL body parts
4)    Push the door closed from the outside






Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Bellows?

You remember Graham was looking a bellows?
     Well, with our son's help, bellows were selected and ordered online (together with a metronome - no he is not musical, unless you count the trump-et involuntary - and stamp hinges (the one birthday present I have specifically asked for.))

   But when the bellows arrived today, they were not bellows as I was imagining.You know, two wooden paddles joined by leather/plastic and a pokey end where the air gets blown out. No, this is an altogether more 'boys toy' kind of bellows.l Well actually, technically, they aren't bellows at all. They are, or it is, a 'barbecue fan'. In matt black plastic and looking very like a 1920's gangster's Tommy Gun. You hold it in one hand and the other turns a handle as quickly as you can manage which blows out a constant stream of air.
     None of this blow air out, suck air, dust, smoke and ashes in!
     This wonder of modern technology was also under £3! Making it incredibly good value for money - and effectively silencing my thoughts on expense (they were actually cheaper than my stamp hinges!).

     Graham is now downstairs, happily blowing at the fire with his bellows gun.


Friday, 3 February 2017

Iceberg Shortage!

On the breakfast news today, the lead story appeared to be that there is a shortage of iceberg lettuces.
     Now either there was very little happening in the news today, or this is a clever marketing ploy. Somehow I suspect the latter:
     'How can we get the customers to buy lettuces in the depths of Winter, when it is freezing outside and blowing a gale? I know! We'll say there is a shortage of iceberg lettuces! People are always daft enough to panic and bulk buy if we say: 'Don't Panic! If we all buy sensibly, there will be enough iceberg lettuces to go around!' Oh and to make sure people understand there is a shortage, we will ration the lettuces. Customers can have no more than three iceberg lettuces.'
     Now, I don't know about you, but if I were to buy ONE iceberg lettuce it would last me a week, or maybe two, or at least until it starts to dissolve into green goo in the salad box of the fridge - probably three weeks is my estimate.
     I cannot see any circumstances where I would ever feel the need to buy THREE iceberg lettuces.
     'Aha!', says the spokesperson from the salad vegetable growers association, 'But it takes seventeen weeks to grow a lettuce. So even if we plant more lettuces now, it will be seventeen weeks until we can harvest them.'
     Well, frankly, I think I can wait seventeen weeks until I can buy an iceberg lettuce - that would make it the middle of May. 'Cast ne'er a clout till May be out', oh well, better give it a few more weeks to be sure.
     To be honest I think it is more than seventeen weeks since I bought my last iceberg lettuce. And so far, it being February and the coldest part of the Winter and all, I really do not have the urge to swap warm soups and stews, chips and fish finger butties for the delights of salad, no matter how high it is piled with iceberg lettuce.
     So if anyone is worried that they may be running short of iceberg lettuce, you can tell them wherever you shop, that Chris said you can have hers.



Sunday, 29 January 2017

Bellows

Today Graham is not happy with me.
     The reason is that he has decided he wants to buy a pair of bellows to encourage the fire to burn more quickly.
    And the reason he is not happy with me is because I have vetoed the idea.
     My argument is that we have been lighting the fire for well over thirty years without the aid of bellows, so why do we need them now?
     And I suspect Graham's argument is: 'But I want to play with some bellows!'
     I know that if we buy some bellows, they will be used once then stashed by the fireplace and never used again. But is this a good enough argument to say 'No.'? Would I be better off allowing the bellows to be bought? Graham would be happy, I wouldn't have to endure the hurt silences and it wouldn't actually be that expensive a purchase.
     He might be right - it might be a good idea - not having any experience of bellows, I could be wrong. It is certainly a less scary prospect than some of his methods of 'encouraging' the fire to burn - parafin, barbeque lighting fluid. It would be worth it to avoid those.

     Graham has taken the dog out for a walk.
     By the time he gets back I will have talked myself round to the idea that having a pair of bellows is a Good Idea - or at least an 'OK' one.
     So, looks like we shall be buying bellows after all.

p.s. Graham is now happily choosing bellows
       and a metronome.....




Thursday, 19 January 2017

St Agnes Eve Spells

St Agnes Eve is one of the traditional nights of the year for performing love divination spells, to find out who your future spouse may be.
     Most of these were designed for girls or young women to use, but most can be adapted for a man to try.
     The first is a Scottish spell which instructs that you should go out to a ploughed field at midnight and take a handful of grain with you. Cast it about, as if you are sowing the field and say:
Agnes sweet, Agnes fair,
Hither, hither now repair,
Bonny Agnes let me see,
The lad who is to marry me.

A chap could simply say 'The one who is to marry me.' or 'the lass'. The spirit of your future spouse should then be seen following after you, as if mowing the grain - or you might dream about them.

The next spell says that you should 'take a row of pins', this goes back to when pins were sold stuck into rows in paper. I would suggest making your own row of pins in a paper, and for this purpose 13 pins would be a good number - or 21 as the 21st is St Agnes' saint day.
     So, take a row of pins, and as you take a pin from the paper say a Pater Noster (Our Father) and stick the pin in your sleeve. Continue doing this, one prayer for each pin, until you have transferred all the pins from the paper to your sleeve, then go to bed without saying anything else and you will dream of your spouse.

Take a sprig of rosemary, and a sprig of thyme, sprinkle each with a few drops of water (the older versions of this spell say this should be a few drops of your own urine) and put one in each shoe. Put the shoes by your bed and say:
St Agnes, that's to lovers kind,
Come, ease the troubles of my mind.
I pray this night in dreams to see
The one who'll love and marry me.

Some say that you should fast all day (or from midday, or miss your evening meal). And make sure that no-one kisses you today, not even a child. Or at supper time hard boil an egg, take out the yolk and fill the void with salt. Eat the egg just before you go to bed and your future spouse will appear in your dreams offering you a drink of water.

Finally another traditional spell which says that you should knit your right garter about your left leg stocking as you say the following verse:
This knot I make, this knot I knit,
To know the thing, I know not yet,
That I may know, that I may see,
The one who is to marry me,
Where he/she may go, in what array,
And what he/she works at every day.

As we don't wear stockings and garters these days, you could make a Witches Ladder instead. Take some blue ribbon, yarn or cord and tie nine knots in it. Tie one knot at each of the commas in the verse, and the last one at the end.
     Sleep with the cord beneath your pillow, to have an ominous dream!

     Good luck.



Monday, 16 January 2017

On the First Flyer of the Year

I really feel that we are fully back into our work routine now.
     Today we took our first Mail Shot of the year to the Post Office - we call them 'Flyers' as they wing their way through the postal system to our customers.
     No, there wasn't a nostalgic tear in the eye as Graham headed off with carrier bags full of envelopes. But there was a sigh of satisfaction.
     It is lovely finding new things to tempt people with. Things I find fun, interesting or pretty - and always magical. But there is always the slight worry that maybe I am the only one who will find these fun, interesting pretty and/or magical.
     When we first started Raven and we really weren't sure what people would like, we created a little form which said: 'This is all my fault ...... ' for each of us to sign and to take responsibility if we were investing in something which the other thought was distinctly 'iffy'.
     I must admit that I filled in far more of these forms than Graham did. Which I like to think means that I am more adventurous, creative and imaginative than him. But probably means that I am far more likely to go 'Oooooh, Shiney!'
   
    This time, one of the new items we found are some wonderful black glass bottles, in the shape of a skull. These are ideal for a Special Edition Black Bottle of Mortica - a special spell to contain the energies of an enemy, the spell is supplied with the Black Bottle.

     Now I think these are fab, and so does Graham, so we bought an armful of them.
     But whether anyone else will agree with us, we shall soon find out.


Thursday, 5 January 2017

Twelfth Night Traditions

For a start, I have not been able to find out why we celebrate twelve days of christmas. It is all rather speculative.
     The first two significant dates in the life of Jesus are his birthday (which was originally celebrated on at least six different dates, none of which was in December), and the visit to his birthplace by the Three Wise Men, or Three Kings. These dates were fixed as the 25th December - largely to cover up the birthday of Mithras, which was already celebrated on that day - and the 6th of January - known as Epiphany.
     You have to shuffle about with the calendar whether you count the 'Twelve Days' from christmas day, in which case the 12th day of christmas is the 5th of January, the Eve of Epiphany, or from Boxing Day, which makes Epiphany the twelfth day.
     So Twelfth Night can be either the evening of the 5th or the 6th of January.
     There are further complications in that some communities retain the date of christmas as it would be in the old Julian calendar, which makes christmas day either the 6th or 7th of Jan., with Twelfth Night on the 17th, 18th or 19th!
     What we mainly know about Twelfth Night is that it was a time of great celebration, feasting and fun. The tradition of celebrating the arrival of the Three Wise Men or Kings is found in many countries. In Spain and France special ring shaped cakes are bakes, stuffed and decorated with preserved fruit. This was carried into Vodu with the festival of Les Rois (the Kings) celebrated on the 6th of January.
     In Britain the Twelfth Night Cake was a rich and fruity affair, which also had little trinkets hidden within it. A bean meant that the finder was the King of the night, a pea was for the Queen. But you might find a silver coin symbolising wealth, or a clove which said you were a villain, or a twig for a fool. These were later moved to the christmas pudding instead.
     Alcoholic punch, or a drink called Lambswool, was another feature of the celebration, and was served in the Wassail Bowl. Wassail is an Anglo Saxon word, a contraction of wax hael, meaning 'grow healthy' or the equivalent of our modern toast 'Good Health!'
     Twelfth Night was also a time when Mummers performed their plays, which usually included the death and resurrection of the hero, symbolising the rebirth of the green world in the Spring. These plays reminded folk that even though it may be dark and cold, Spring will come again.
     It has become the tradition that christmas decorations should be taken down by Twelfth Night, although originally they stayed up until Candlemas - the old Celtic festival of Imbolg - 2nd of February.
   
Party Games
     There are many games which were played during the Twelfth Night party. Perhaps the best known is Snapdragon, where raisins and other preserved fruit have flaming brandy poured over them, and you take turns to snatch the fruit out of the flames. This is not as painful as it sounds, and looks really pretty by candlelight.
     There were games involving eggs (which symbolise the new life of the sun, reborn at the Solstice) such as throwing an egg and catching it. The two people moving further apart at each successful catch.
     Pass the Slipper was another popular game. All present form a circle, with one in the centre who is blindfolded. Then as music is played, the others pass a slipper one to the next, behind their backs. When the music stops, the one in the middle takes off the blindfold and tries to guess who has the slipper. If they guess right, the one who had the slipper takes their place in the middle and is blindfolded. If there is a large group of revellers, the guesser is allowed three tries.