Sunday, 29 January 2017


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.