Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Flowers of the faeries - Kingcups, golden riches in darkest mud ..

    Dearly loved by Faere Folk (particularly those with wellington boots) and Water Sprites, golden Kingcups (Caltha palustris) herald the early spring and are much in evidence at the Spring Equinox, Ostara, March 21st.   Herbalist Culpeper desribes the flowers as 'Glittering like gold'. 

    They should still be in full bloom on May Day and were used in its festivals.  'Caltha' is derived from the Greek word for goblet or cup - calathos, and 'palustris' from the Latin palus, meaning marsh.

A Milicent Sowerby postcard of 1920, pub. by Humphrey Milford 

The rhyme reads:
'By the river's brink there is dew to drink,
When the morning skies are sunny.
Cups of gold that a King might hold, 
And each of them filled with honey.'

Photos taken this week at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens and the Charing Alder Beds. 

     Kingcups  belong to the buttercup family, along with celandines. They open their petals to the sunrise, but keep their roots in the boggy soil of marshes and the edges of streams and ponds. They are usually in pristine condition as all parts of the plant are mildy poisonous and unattractive to slugs - although as you see from the Milicent Sowerby postcard above, Magics will  occasionally drink from them!

'K is for Kingcup' by Cecily Mary Barker from 'A Flower Fairy Alphabet' 1st pub. 1928

     Kingcups are commonly known as Marsh Marigolds, and enjoy regional folk-names like Mary Buds, Water Bubbles, Bootes and Mary, Molly or Polly Blobs. From the beginnings of the 'Langauge of Flowers' they have been the symbol for being 'Desirous of Great Riches'.

      Naturally, the flower is often depicted in fairy-tales that feature frogs - and there are many - remember that kiss? They are definitely the plant of choice outside the dwelling of any discriminating toad. 

Illustration by Katherine Wigglesworth from 'Toad's Castle' by Alison Uttley 1951

Kingcup in full sun at Charing Alder beds, and part of the 'Kingcup' Wedgewood dinner service. 

You might like to see more about this lovely Springtime.
There's a new posting with pictures of Sissinghurst Castle Gardens in Kent
here on Muddypond's main website

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Only stripy stockings for faery Christmas Eve hearths ....

    The very eve of Christmas - all faere-folk who have to do with mortals cannot help but get caught up in the excitement, although Yule is just past, and even the Ogham 'Mistletoe Day' was yesterday!

    Modern-day faeries - that is those hatched any time from the beginning of the 19th century show a definite penchant for stockings striped in off-beat colours. I know I do. What I wonder is - where did this habit originate?  In what literature was it first mentioned? Hmm - a little study for the new year I think. 

      Meanwhile, especially for this night,  here's a small 'stocking rhyme' and three favourite 'stocking' illustrations  ........

Illustration by William Heath Robinson
From  'Christmas Thieves'   c1910
Stocking Song on Christmas Eve
Welcome, Christmas! heel and toe,
Here we wait thee in a row.
Come, good Santa Claus we beg,
Fill us tightly foot and leg.
Fill us quickly ere you go, -
Fill us 'til we overflow.
That's the way! And leave us more
Heaped in piles upon the floor.
Little feet that ran all day
Twitch in dreams of merry play.
Little feet that jumped at will,
Lie all pink, and warm, and still.
See us, how we lightly swing;
Hear us, how we try to sing -
Welcome, Christmas! heel and toe,
Come and fill us ere you go.
Here we hang, 'til someone nimbly
Jumps with treasure down the chimney.
Bless us! How he'll tickle us
Funny old St. Nicholas!
       Mary Mapes Dodge
From 'Rhymes and Jingles'  1904
'For years, he had been quietly filling his stocking'
By Arthur Rackham from 'Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens' 1912
From 'The Boo-Boos and Santa Claus'
by Mabel Lucie Attwell  1923
Here's hoping that you have a cosy and magical celebration, despite the recent storms.
May your stockings be filled with Mid-Winter goodness and may they all be stripy!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Flowers of the faeries - Faery Lanterns - to light you through the dark side .....

     In the Northern Hemisphere, faere-folk and mortals both are well into the dark side of the year. Night begins to fall early and seeing patches of  Physalis  Alkekengii  glowing burnt-orange beside my path reminds me of faerie journeys through winter forests.

       Physalis  Alkekengii  is the name for the magical plant with seed heads that we all know as Faery Lanterns, or Chinese Lanterns, and harvested assiduously by all kinds of Magicks when they can find them.  Simply sprinkled with a pinch of wing-dust , tapped with a full-moon wand and charged with an infinitesimal incantation, the lantern will kindle to make your way safe.

      Here below, I would like to share with you a very few of my collection of faery-lantern pictures - from books, prints and postcards, these are some of my favourites ......

From 'The Legend of Tipperary' - artist,Mabel Lucie Attwell

From 'The Bee Who Would not Work' by Charlotte Herr
Illustrated by Francis Beem. Pub: Volland 1913

'Elfin Lamp Lighters' - artist Rene Cloke

By Arthur Rackham, from 'Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens' 1906

From 'Flower Fairies' by Clare Ingram
Illustrated by Maginel Wright Enright,         Pub: Judson, Rand McNally & Co 1915

'Starlight' a postcard illustration by Margaret Tarrant. Pub: Medici

      Should you be able to pick your lanterns for decoration before the Magicks steal them away, remember that, although the orange fruits inside are packed full of vitamin C, the other parts of the plant are poisonous. Perhaps, as with so many magical plants - you would do better after all to 'leave them to the faeries.'  Just look at the joy those lanterns bring!

Friday, 3 May 2013

Snail Jelly? Never will it darken our enchanted doors! ....

Illustration 'The Wee Sick Goblin' by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite
     At dusk, on the May Day, a Goblin was brought into our midst. He's a terrible colour and can barely stand because his knees will tremble. He seems very mal-nourished and we think he's suffered some sort poisoning from a surfeit of tree-fungus, or possibly bluebell stalks.
  Old medic Wala B.Bear has suggested the following remedy - taken DIRECTLY from the late 17th century work by John Chambers. 'A Pocket Herbal; containing the medicinal virtues and uses of the most esteemed native plants; with some remarks on bathing, electricity, &c.'
And, yes, I pledge my promise to you that this is a genuine recipe:

Snail Jelly

'Jellies prepared from any animal substance should be taken as often as possible. Snails and Earth Worms, boiled in milk, are very serviceable. 
 Take fresh gathered Snails, as many as you please, take off their shells, and boil them in new milk to a Jelly. While hot dissolve in every pint a drachm of Balsam of Peru, and 2 ounces of the Syrup of Tolu.
Jelly of Earth Worms is made in the same manner, except that the Worms are well washed from the soil, wiped in a cloth, and cut in pieces of an inch long.
After boiling in the same manner as above, you may add any sort of spice, and sweeten to your taste.'

                                                                 Well Really!     Tsk!

     Will they never learn? It's the work of Wood Guardian Fae to look after sweet natured creatures like snails  (see left) - and how would this rich soil of ours prosper without the chewing and burrowing of the earth worm?

    Jelly indeed! 

   We'll try our own recipe thank you. There'll be herbs and bark and minerals stirred with an Ogham Tree wand under the new moon - and no creature shall be harmed in the making!

Illustrations   -  (above) from 'The Little Fairy Sister' 1923
(left) from  'The Little Green Road to Fairyland'  1922
by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite 

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Poor old dormice - will it EVER be spring? ....

        The Hazel Dormouse is one or the rarest and most beleaguered species of small mammal in the Britain. As luck would have it, the area of southern England where Muddypond lives has a fair abundance of the little creatures, but they are rarely glimpsed. For one thing, they actually hibernate and sleep for about eight months of the year - even longer if the year is like this one with temperatures barely rising above freezing  right into early April!  

   You can read a brief account here of my recent adventures;  learning about successful breeding and  re-introduction programmes at  the 'Wildwood Trust' near Canterbury, Kent.

   Here is an oblivious dormouse, SO fast asleep and resplendent in his ginger fur coat still waiting for warm weather! He's safe in the hands of chief conservationist Hazel Ryan.

      Another reason for their apparent invisibility is that they are nocturnal, and loathe to venture from the shelter of bushes and trees onto the ground. They'll go long distances to find touching aerial branches to run along before they cross a path. Only at hibernation time do they venture down to search out hiding places; forming a circular, indented burrow in leaf litter and filling it snuggly with dried leaves and grasses.
      As always on this blog, hedgerow fae Muddypond would like to share with you some of her favourite 'golden age' children's book illustration on the subject in hand.
     Firstly from Oliver Herford, who was obviously fond of dormice - he has another poem on the subject "The Elf and the Dormouse" which I will give you soon ...


The Deceitful Dormice
Poem & illustrations by Oliver Herford from his book "Artful Antics" pub 1894

Sleepy Dormouse who had passed
The winter in her nest,
Hearing that spring had come at last
Got up at once and dressed.

And, hastening from her downy house
To hail the new spring day,
She ran against another mouse
That lived across the way.
The shock was such, at first the two
Could scarcely speak for lack
Of breath. The each cried "Oh, it's you!
Why, when did you get back ?"

"I've only just return'd, my dear,"
The sleepy dormouse said,
"From Florida - the winters here,
You know, affect my head."

      "Have you, indeed?" exclaimed her friend.
      "I'm glad to see you home.
      I, too have just returned - I spend
     My winters down in Rome."

     With many pawshakes then, at last
     They parted, each to say,
    "I wonder where that creature passed
     The winter  - anyway!".
One below from Margaret Tarrant, the dormouse on the table at the Mad Hatter's tea party.
From 'Alice in Wonderland'  Ward, Lock & Co.1916.
Lastly from Racey Helps in his charming "The Tail of Hunky Dory".
All about the dormouse's adventures with his slightly dyslexic friend the water-shrew 'Shewsbury'. Pub Collins 1958
Don't forget, you can read more about the dormouse re-introduction programme and see some different 'dormouse art' on Muddypond's main website.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

To the Little Gentleman in Black Velvet - the folk-lore of Mole ....

Illustration - Margaret Tempest from 'Moldy Warp the Mole' by Alson Uttley pub:Collins 1940
    Among the madness of the deliberate devastation of  wildlife - the horrendous and stupefyingly unnecessary threat of the British Badger Cull, and the almost unoticed near extinction of our hedgehogs through pesticides and urban encroachment - one fellow at least is doing well! (Sign the largest and most urgent anti-badger cull petition here - or learn more) (Read more about the plight of British hedgehogs here on my blog)

     Moley - The Little Gentleman in Black Velvet - the Mould-Warp - still enthusiastically excavating our wild meadows and cricket pitches, still delving and delighting. Still with his place in the heart of folklore and children's literature.

     We can thank our relevant Gods that the cruelty of an ancient 'mole' superstition is now only a shadow over past times. Poor Moley's feet, you see, were believed to be lucky if hung about the neck, also advantageous in the cure of toothache in those terrible pre-dentist times! The main trouble with this being, the charm only worked if the feet were cut from the living mole, and then the little creature must be left to die, not dispatched.

   Why fairy-folk and wood guardians of the past allowed this nonsense to get about I cannot imagine - but then - won't those yet to be born ask that about the 2013  Badger Cull if  (Lord of the Greenwood forbid) we enable it to go ahead?
Three illustrations above by Johnny Gruelle from 'The Molehill at Menemshia Creek' pub:Volland 1917

Pleasanter beliefs run:
A mole making fresh hills in a meadow brings fine weather.

Deep burrows forewarn of a severe winter to come.
If you clear mole-hills on St. Sylvester's Day (Dec 31st), the mole will dig no more near that place.
Moles will not touch earth where blood has soaked.
Illustration: Margaret Clayton from 'Bunny Brothers' pub: The Fireside Library 1900

     More worryingly - folklorist Marie Trevelyan, in 'Folk-lore and Folk-stories of Wales' 1909 collected the following:
 'If a mole burrows under a wash-house or dairy, the mistress of the house will die within a year. If a molehill be found among the cabbages in the garden, the master of the house will die before the year is out.'
Illustration by Ernest Aris from 'Willie Mouse' by Alta Tabor - pub:Saalfield Publishing Company

        'Here's to the Little Gentleman in Black Velvet' - is actually an 18th century toast drunk by the followers of Queen Anne!
        In February of 1702, Sorrel, the war stallion of King William 111 fell over a fresh mole hill (or a Wanti-tump) thrown up by an eager 'mould-rat'. King and horse crashed to the ground, the King breaking a collar-bone which festered and within a month William was dead.
    Here are those first immortal lines from Kenneth Grahame's 'The Wind in the Willows' - to fill you, like Moley, with a promise of Spring:

     'The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing.'

The illustration is by the original  'Willows' artist - famed for his pen & ink, drawings - Ernest H Shepard 1879 - 1976.

   We faere-folk love you Moley the Mould-warp - a toast then of sweetest mead -
'To the Little Gentleman in Black Velvet'.  Cheerio!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

'Jack Frost takes every breath you breathe' .......

Illustration by Margaret Tarrant, from 'The Weather Fairies', 1st published by Medici in 1927

      Frost patterns - a wonder never fully explained - not to this fae's satisfaction anyway. And that's just how we magics like our wonders to be! I found these early on Sunday morning and while I examined them closely, keeping my fingers well away from the burning cold, a poem came to mind.  I remember it was read to me in the depths of January when I was simply a fae-sprig.

     Here too, dotted amongst the verses, is a little enchanted fairy art by some of Muddypond's favourite 'Golden Age' fairy illustrators. Beginning with the original illustration for the poem itself by Charles Robinson ......

Jack Frost
Gabriel Setoun
The door was shut, as doors should be,  
Before you went to bed last night;
Yet Jack Frost has got in, you see,  
And left your window silver white.

He must have waited till you slept;  
And not a single word he spoke,
But pencilled o’er the panes and crept
Away again before you woke.
Illustration 'Jack Frost'  from 'Arthur Rackham's Book of Pictures'. Pub: Heineman 1913
And now you cannot see the hills
Nor fields that stretch beyond the lane;
But there are fairer things than these  
His fingers traced on every pane.
Rocks and castles towering high;  
Hills and dales, and streams and fields;
And knights in armor riding by,  
With nodding plumes and shining shields.
Illustration by H J Ford from 'The Yellow Fairy Book by Andrew Lang 1894

And here are little boats, and there
Big ships with sails spread to the breeze;
And yonder, palm trees waving fair  
On islands set in silver seas,
And butterflies with gauzy wings;
And herds of cows and flocks of sheep;
And fruit and flowers and all the things  
You see when you are sound asleep.
Illustration by Oliver Herford - from 'Ladies Home Journal' 1926
For, creeping softly underneath  
The door when all the lights are out,
Jack Frost takes every breath you breathe,  
And knows the things you think about.
He paints them on the window-pane  
In fairy lines with frozen steam;
And when you wake you see again  
The lovely things you saw in dream.
Illustration by Helen Jacobs from 'Land of the Happy Hours' by Stella Mead. 1st pub. Nisbet 1946
The poem is from the book 'The Child World'  - a collection of poetry by Gabriel Setoun, illustrated by Charles Robinson and first published by Bodley Head 1896. 
Gabriel Setoun is the pen name of Scottish poet Thomas Nicoll Hepburn.

Another -

Jack Frost on the Window-pane

An artist came to our house by night,
Pinched were his features and hard his breath;
His garments were threadbare, his long beard white,
And his fingers were icy and cold as death.

A picture he drew when we crept to bed,
Of hills and forests and valleys and meres.
The sun looked admiringly on it – he fled,
And all that was left of his visit was tears.
from 'The Happy Story Book'  Platt & Munk Co. Author unknown 1918

Two pages from 'King Winter' illustrated by Gustav W.Seitz in 1859
If you enjoy a bit of Winter - or if you're looking forward to longer days and signs of Spring, there is a new page on Muddypond's main website - 'A Kentish Snowdrop Calendar'