Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Lammas / Lughnasadh

Beginning at sunset on July 31st and ending at sunset on August 2nd is the sabbat or festival of Lughnasadh, commonly known as Lammas, it is the first harvest festival in the pagan calendar, the other two being at the autumn equinox (Mabon) in September and Samhain (Halloween) at the end of October.  

The first grain harvest is signalled by Lammas and much celebration is associated with it, it is told that the Sun god transfers his remaining light and warmth to the goddess Nass to ensure the continuing growth of crops; he will also protect the land and die defending it. Traditionally, soldiers and men who were working away from home would return just to help with the harvest and make sure all the grain was stored safe and dry before the autumn rains came so that the store would last until harvest the next year.  

There is a lot of tradition related to Lughnasadh, certain things are eaten, made and done for the festivities. Bread is very significant to the sabbat, to make bread on Lammas eve and stir it with family and friends whilst making a wish for the harvest you desire should ensure a good crop, to give some of the bread to the birds and then eat the rest of the loaf at breakfast on Lammas day will seal the ritual. Other foods that are important are nuts and fruit especially from local sources, homemade pies, elderberry wine and ale. Herbs associated with Lughnasadh are incorporated into decorations and meals, some of these are cornstalks, oak leaves, wheat, heather and acacia flowers.  

Decoration is an important and lovely way to personalise any festival and the most traditional decoration and symbol for Lammas are corn dollies or corn animals, in some rituals they are burnt as a sacrifice to the gods but most often they are placed on an altar or Lammas table display sometimes where the main meal will be eaten, or maybe on a mantelpiece. Together with candles in the colours of the land, golden yellows, oranges and greens, and dried grasses tied with ribbons, thanks are given to the gods and wishes for a continued spell of good weather for the harvest has more intensity. 

The Lughnasadh sabbat is said to be a perfect time for handfasting ceremonies, the ‘wedding’ of a couple in nature is very symbolic in pagan culture and there ceremonies are beautiful occasions. The marriage vows may be taken for a year and a day, a lifetime or for all of eternity. It is a joyous event with merriment and laughter way into the night! At the warmest time of year, with family and friends of the couple home for the harvest, together with the long summer evenings, the perfect handfasting scene is made. 

(This post is also on the blog at my site )

Monday, 30 July 2018

Newspaper snippet

I just came across a little snippet I cut out of a UK newspaper last year (I think) about people's top 10 favourite spooky phenomena, thinking about writing about them all in due course although a couple of them - the origins of Stonehenge especially - are so vast a topic that I wouldn't know where to start, so many opinions, conflicting arguments etc, but fascinating nonetheless. They run as follows:

10 - Hampton Court ghosts, Surrey
9 - Highgate vampire, north London
8 - Devil's footprints, Devon
7 - Rendlesham Forest UFO, Suffolk
6 - Agatha Christie's 'missing 11 days', Harrogate, Yorkshire
5 - Suicidal Dogs at Overtoun Bridge, West Dunbartonshire
4 - Enfield Haunting, north London
3 - Beast of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
2 - Origins of Stonehenge, Wiltshire
1 - Loch Ness Monster, Scottish Highlands

Is your favourite there? 

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Book find...'Fifty Most Amazing Crimes of the Last 100 Years'

Sometimes these books just find you don't they, and this one...THIS one is fantastic. It dates from 1936 and as the title suggests it chronicles 50 of the most 'amazing' crimes of the 100 years previous to that date. There is no author name, but it was edited by J.M Parrish and John R. Crossland, Published by Odhams Press Ltd.

From the first case - Landru: A Real Life Bluebeard by H Russell Wakefield which is described as "Dark, bearded, sinister, urbane, greatest 'lady-killer' - in the most terrible sense - of all time" to the final one - Fritz Harman: Terror of Hanover by F.A Beaumont, this book drips intrigue, I can't wait to delve into it and see what it brings. I will keep you updated as I go!

Now on Tumblr...

Being already on Twitter and Instagram (not a fan of Facebook) we are now venturing onto Tumblr - so many of the folks we follow on Twitter are there and it looks like a great platform to dismiss boredom - although I feel I may get sucked in and will lose hours of my life....hey ho!

Do follow us there @darklegendsmoonlitmyths - we are on Istagram and Twitter also as @moonlitmyths :)

Thursday, 1 March 2018

"When snow falls dry, it means to lie".

As I write, storm Emma is making her presence known! Outside the wind is gusting and the snow is swirling around...and it is COLD.  This made me think about the folklore relating to snow, and this one seemed more than relevant.

'When snow falls dry, it means to lie'...and that is exactly what we have here, tiny, hard pellets of snow mixed in with softer ones, the slightest breeze is making it start to drift and it stings your face if you venture out into it. Dry snow at this time of year is said to predict a dry summer, whereas softer snow tells of a wet spring and summer. It is also said that if a snow storm starts with small, dry, hard flakes it is more likely to last a long time and stick, whereas wetter, softer flakes at the beginning of a storm results in a shorter fall.

Well, by the looks of it, we are in for a doozy, it certainly makes me doubt the well-known saying 'its too cold to snow'. Kettle on again I think, stay warm out there folks.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Elf holes and fairy doors.

I think of myself as very lucky, in the way that when I was a child, my parents and I walked a lot. On these walks my Dad would sometimes tell me tales, superstitions and stories of the countryside, being from a farming family superstitions were rife with his elders...everything (or so it seems) could bring bad luck! Never bring snowdrops into the house, red and white flowers mixed in a vase would mean a death in the family, never bet on a horse with one white foot, they go on and on.

However, on a lighter note, elves and fairies were not always a bad thing. Holes and cracks in cliffs and rock formations were elf entrances to their homes, and similar crevices in trees were where fairies lived. We would often leave a little present (a sweet, a penny, a flower) by the hole as a good will gesture for passing through their area - to a small child this was fantastic. 

In my adult life I have found many similar things, fairy doors are now made by craft people to put in one's garden for example. Research I did for an article about the Domovik house spirits seemed very familiar and I could see in my mind's eye farm houses from my childhood being home to such helpers.

Are children still told these tales? I do hope so. Sadly in the age of political correctness I wonder sometimes if these age-old stories will be allowed soon! The resurgence in storytelling and folklore should hopefully keep these encounters alive...fingers crossed.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Doomed to Sail Forever - The Flying Dutchman.

The mysterious ghost ship The Flying Dutchman, recently brought back to fame by the Pirates of the Caribbean films is actually a long-standing nautical legend dating from around the 17th century. The name ‘Flying Dutchman’ refers to the ship’s infamous captain Hendrik van der Decken, but it has become known as the name of the vessel over time, it is a phantom ship doomed to sail the seas forever as punishment for the evil behaviour of the captain and crew. 

The Flying Dutchman has been sighted many times over the last few hundred years, usually from afar or on the horizon around the Cape of Good Hope and sometimes described as having a ghostly light around it. The ship often appears during storms and is considered an omen or portent of doom to anyone who sees it especially if they are also on board a ship. Mariners used to nail horseshoes to the masts of their vessels in an attempt to ward off the Dutchman and any bad luck associated with it. Most versions of the story behind the doomed ship tell of a horrible crime that took place on board or sometimes of a disease that infected the crew, due to the crime or illness the ship was not allowed to sail into port anywhere and was therefore condemned to sail forever. 

In one Dutch version of the tale, the ship’s captain, here known as ‘van Straaten’, was an arrogant man who claimed he could sail around the Cape of Good Hope, he said he would not retreat even if faced with a terrible storm, the ship was lost during the voyage however and the dead crew still sail the seas today. A German version of the legend says the captain, this time called van Flakenberg, engaged in a game with the devil, he subsequently lost and was condemned to a living death aboard his ship, never allowed to set foot on land again. 

The Flying Dutchman is said to have been seen as recently as 1923 at the Cape of Good Hope – the ship’s legendary home which is known for its treacherous sailing conditions, the ship was seen from land just on the horizon although many say it was simply a trick of the light. The last recorded sighting of the ship was in 1942 off the coast of Cape Town; four people saw the Dutchman sail into Table Bay... and simply vanish.