Celebrating Imbolc

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Bride’s cross

 

Last night I met up with my local pagan moot to celebrate Imbolc. Braving the harsh wind and rain from Storm Henry, we gathered and huddled inside the building clutching steaming cups of tea and coffee.

We gathered around the altar, gazing into the candle representing Bride’s hearth fire, with Bride in her bed overlooking our circle. A motley crew of pagans; among our party was a heathen, two animist folk witches, a green witch and a kemetic witch. Yet despite our different paths and beliefs we met common ground and came together to celebrate the season. We all took turns talking about what this time of year meant for us. For me it is as though I were a bear, slowly coming out of a spiritual hibernation. Winter makes me retreat, hermit-like and I store my energy inwards to help me focus on the mundane tasks at hand.

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Bride in her bed

But as soon as Imbolc approaches I feel the need to go forth like a seedling bursting through the cold, damp soil towards the promise of the sun. The inner fires within me burn and rise, and I feel the aching need to get back into my craft and socialise, as well as plot and plan projects over springtime. Bride has come, and She renews us, giving us the vitality needed to break out of the lackluster winter darkness.

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Moot Imbolc Altar

We cleansed ourselves with incense and blessed water with purifying herbs, using a bird’s foot as an aspergillum. We each lit a candle from the central hearth fire, and later snuffed it out to be relit, taking Bride’s fire into our homes. The moot co-ordinator Ffyona guided us through a seasonal meditation and I felt myself relaxing, sinker deeper and deeper into it, the imagery filling my senses. When it was done I felt like I’d woken up from a nice long nap. Using the energy we’d gathered, and the light from Bride’s hearth flame we sent out healing to loved ones and took some of the healing within us too.

Then after all the energy work, we laughed and chatted and feasted together 🙂

Although we were a small gathering this time round, I can attest to the success of our moot as I was one of the co-founders. The moot is now running in its fifth year and going strong.

A moot is only successful when it’s members contribute. So please folks, support your moots and gatherings. They are run by hard working volunteers with busy lives,  so although showing up to moots is great, perhaps you can also offer to lend a hand? If you have a skill, or a talent, put it to use 🙂 Moot co-ordinators don’t want to be running the show 24/7, the point of a moot is to create a safe community for members to get to know others of a like mind and for celebration, but also as a place of learning. We all have something we can contribute to the community.

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My Imbolc celebration has turned into a two day event. This evening I relit my hearth flame from the candle I used at the moot to welcome Bride into the home, an offering of milk was placed on my altar and then I made some Bride’s crosses out of pipe cleaners.

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I am looking forward most to the days lasting longer and can’t wait to get out foraging again when new things start popping up out of the soil.

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Bride’s hearth flame

Wishing you all a very blessed Imbolc, Là Fhèill Brìghde and Candlemas.

slàinte mhath!

 

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Traditional Scottish Divination

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The Three Witches by Henry Fusili

 

Being Scottish a couple of hundred years ago was no easy task especially if you lived somewhere remote like the Highlands and Islands. Many folk struggled to make ends meet and it also resulted in more people gravitating towards cities to earn a living or moving to the lowlands where there was plenty of flat land and warmer temperatures for farming. The Highlands can be a harsh and unforgiving landscape which wasn’t always arable for farming, and long cold winters and disease could kill livestock. If one of your family became sick, you would have to travel miles before you could reach the nearest doctor.

Scottish folk were also very highly superstitious and held strong belief in the supernatural, particularly in witches, fairies, spirits and the Devil. Witches were said to steal milk, or blight crops which could in turn cause a family to starve. Fairies were known to cause illness and disease or steal away a healthy child. As seen in the Carmina Gadelica, Scottish folk would use prayers, chants and incantations when performing their day to day chores. It was essential for their survival, to protect themselves and what little they had.

When life seemed uncertain, many would perform their own divinations, or consult their local spaewife or seer. It wasn’t always about life and death situations, some people would consult methods of divination for fun or games. For serious matters they would consult one who had the gift of second sight for a more accurate reading.

Many Scots today still consult psychics, fortune tellers and mediums. My own Granny used to read palms and tea leaves. I myself use different methods of divination, and it is something that is practiced all over the world.

Listed below are some of the more traditional forms of Scottish divination.

The Frith

Quarter days were Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lammas (1st Nov, 1st Feb, 1st May, 1st August). These were considered the most powerful days in the Scottish year, considered to be holy. The first Monday of the Quarter, being dedicated to the Moon, was believed to share the same influences of the Quarter day itself, and was reckoned a day of good omen.

 The first Monday of the Quarter day was considered the most auspicious day for making the frith. This was a form of magical horoscope akin to the frett of the Norseman. The frith was a form of divination which allowed the frithir (augurer), to see into the unseen, in order to ascertain the whereabouts and the condition of the absent or the lost, whether man or beast.

Immediately before sunrise, the augurer, fasting, his head and feet bared and his eyes closed, went to the door of the house and stood on the threshold with a hand on each jamb. He began with an incantation or a ‘prayer to the God of the Unseen to show him his quest and grant him his augury’, and then, opening his eyes, looked steadfastly in front of him.  From the nature and position of objects within sight, he divined the facts of which knowledge was sought.

The possible signs were very numerous. For instance, a man standing meant health or recovery; a man lying down meant sickness; a woman standing, some untoward event; a woman passing or returning, a fairly good sign; a woman with red hair was unlucky; a woman with black, lucky; a woman with brown, still luckier. A bird on the wing was a good omen, particularly the lark or the dove; but the crow and the raven were exceptions. A cat was good for Mackintoshes, Macphersons, Cattenachs, and all other members of Clan Chattan; a pig or a boar, though a good omen for everybody, was particularly good for Campbells; and generally the totem animal was good for all members of the clan with which is was associated.

A variation of the ceremony is recorded in South Uist. ‘The frithir, or seer, says a “Hail Mary”… and then walks deiseil or sunwards round the house, his eyes being closed till he reaches the door-sill, when he opens them and looking through a circle made of his finger and thumb, judges of the general character of the omen by the first object on which his eye has rested.

-The Silver Bough, p.50-52, F. Marian McNeill.

 

Speal Bone Divination – Slinneanachd

An early form of divination used in Scotland was divination by speal bone (Slinneanachd). This was a shoulder blade of  mutton (sometimes other animals) used to foretell future events. The bone must be well scraped clean and no iron must touch it. Best to boil the bone to remove all flesh according to J.G Campbell (The Gaelic Otherworld).

In Lewis divination by means of  the blade-bone of a sheep was practised in the following manner. The shoulder-blade of a black sheep was procured by the inquirer into future events, and with this he went to see some reputed seer, who held the bone lengthwise before him and in the direction of the greatest length of the island. In this position the seer began to read the bone from some marks that he saw in it, and then oracularly declared what events to individuals or families were to happen. It is not very far distant that there were a host of believers in this method of prophecy.

-Isle of Lewis Folk-Lore (1895)

(The Penguin Guide to the Superstitions of Britain and Ireland, Steve Roud).

Thomas Pennant journeyed through Scotland in 1769 and recorded information about the speal bone. He states that,

When Lord Loudon was obliged to retreat before the Rebels to the Isle of Skie, a common soldier, on the very moment the battle of Culloden was decided, proclamed (sic) the victory at that distance, pretending to have discovered the event by looking through the bone

– The Lore of Scotland, A guide to Scottish Legends. Sophie Kingshill.

 

Halloween/Samhain

Halloween was seen as one of the best times to perform divination, as the commonly held view was that the veil between worlds was thin, and it was much easier to consult spirits and receive clear messages during divination. Lay folk often performed divination games on Samhain without the need to consult a seer. For some perhaps it was just a fun game to play.

Luggie Bowls

Luggie Bowls is a Halloween divination game. Called luggie bowls because the bowl had a handle on either side resembling ears (lugs).

The player is blind-folded and picks a bowl. The one she picks will determine her romantic fate. One bowl full of clean water- you will marry within the year, one bowl of soapy water- you will marry an old, but rich man, and one bowl empty- you will never marry.

For a man if he picked a bowl of clean water he would be married to virgin, the bowl of dirty water meant married to a widow, an empty bowl meant no marriage would occur.

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Burning the sweetheart nuts

This divination was performed by unmarried people, to divine if they were destined to be with whoever they desired at the time. The person was to take two hazelnuts, one named after themself and the other named after the object of their affection. They are then placed in the embers of a fire, during which this charm is spoken:

“If you hate me spit and fly;
If you love me burn away.”

If the nuts jump from the heat then it foretells and unhappy future for the two people in question. If they burn quietly then the couple are seen as a good match for each other.

Salted Herring

It was a tradition on the Isle of Lewis to eat salted herring on Halloween in the hopes of dreaming of a future spouse that night.

Kail Stalks

The company set off for a field where they were blindfolded and moved across as they pulled kail stalks after dark. If the stalk was crooked or straight, long or short this would be the stature of their future spouse. Sometimes a lad and lass who were courting held hands and pulled a kail stalk together. If it had plenty of good rich earth around its roots their future would be prosperous (Scottish Festivals, Shiela Livingstone).

Sark Washing

In Shetland on Halloween, if a girl washed a man’s sark [shirt] in a burn [stream] where a funeral bier had crossed, and sang a certain song, the first to appear and grip the shirt would be her future husband.

Robert Burns’ poem Halloween (1786) depicted many types of divination most commonly used:

http://www.electricscotland.com/burns/halloween.html

Yuletide

Boys used holly for divination. They deliberately pricked their thumb with the sharp edges of the leaves and counted the drops of blood as they fell. Each drop of blood equalled a year of their lives and they would forecast when they would die.

(Scottish Festivals, Shield Livingstone)

 

Reading Tea Leaves and Palmistry
Although these practices did not originate in Scotland, it has been part of Scottish culture for centuries, most likely they were very popular methods used during the Victorian period.

It is clear that Halloween was the most favourable time of year to perform divinations, and in modern Paganism this is still the more favourable time of year to consult divinatory tools.

These are just some of the methods used, some have perhaps have died out over time as Scottish people become less superstitious/religious and more secular. Some of these traditional methods may be replaced by more modern methods over time. Some methods may have already been lost to time due to lack of documentation. But the world over people still consult mediums and psychics, tarot readers and other fortune tellers. The belief of there being people who are gifted with the second sight has not changed. In fact the practice of divination is open to everyone now, anyone can purchase a tarot deck and start learning.

Did you grow up around those who told fortunes? Do you have any stories about the types of divination common to where you live? I would be interested to hear your stories. Feel free to write them in the comments below 🙂

Slàinte!

 

 

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At the Magical Crossroads in Scotland, 1979

Added this book to my Amazon wishlist, I’m all over Scottish witchcraft, coming from a Wiccan background I’ve now turned to more traditional Scottish folk ways. It will be interesting to read how the two types will play out in the novel

Druid Life

A guest post by Suzanne d’Corsey

When Nimue Brown kindly invited me to offer a guest blog to her site, spurred by the publication of my novel The Bonnie Road, the topic of witchcraft in the book was the obvious choice to explore.

The Bonnie Road takes place at a pivotal time in the history of our Western neo-Paganism, in Scotland, 1979. This was when the secretive followers of the Auld Ways existed in a relatively static state; when a quiet movement was underway to uncover and make meaningful a pre-Christian legacy; when many strands twined together in the New Age movement, of passionate explorers of lay lines, earth mysteries, of UFO sightings, of Findhorn finding its feet, all these trends rising against the backdrop of Margaret Thatcher’s new government. Add to the mixture the encroachment from England of a relatively new style of witchcraft that came to be known…

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New addition to the Hag’s household

I’ve been a busy witch lately between work, study and spending time with my boyfriend and I know I’ve neglected writing on here for some time.  Sorry folks! I’ve got some interesting blog posts in mind and will hopefully get some time set aside to update things. Keep your eyes peeled!

In the meantime meet this little rascal:

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This is Thelonious, my plushie mandrake familiar acquired from The Beast Peddler.  He is the cutest wee mandrake root ever (I am a little biased). What makes him even more special is that he was given to me by my lovely boyfriend.

This wee guy has an energy about him that’s hard to explain. It’s almost as if a wee spirit resides within, and why not? I am an animist so I recognise the spirit within all things.

He’s a very low maintenance sort of mandrake but quite partial to a glass of milk and biscuits.

Apologies in advance if I become an insufferable mandrake mama and spam my blog with his adventures 😉

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Enjoying a wee car journey

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The Launch of Conjure

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Saturday 11th April was a busy day for me, but also a very special day. I’d spent the morning and afternoon at the Scottish Pagan Federation Conference and in the evening returned to Dundee to attend the launch party of a dear friend’s business.

My friend Juan launched his business Conjure, along with 2 other businesses (Siobhan Diamond Photography and Jill Sime Make Up Artist) in collaboration with Moonberry Creative Studios.

Over the past several months I have watched him put in a tremendous amount of hard work and effort and the stress such work brings with it, and I can say with confidence that not only did he face the storm but he came out the other side and brought some beauty into this world.

Conjure is not only a business but it’s also a labour of love for Juan, and he expresses his creativity through making handmade esoteric themed accessories, jewellery, apparel & art.

The artist in his studio

The artist in his studio

So I arrived that evening with another good friend and was pleased to see a good turn out for the studio launch for all three businesses. Free wine and champagne and bars of chocolate were given out and there was live music from a fantastically talented group called Sinderins, (formerly Anderson McGinty Webster Ward and Fisher). There was a raffle with a lot of lovely prizes and overall everyone managed to raise over £300 for the renal unit ward at Ninewells Hospital.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/z_ryZ9Ssq6o“>

It was a great night and I felt so proud of Juan for everything he has accomplished. Well done mate! 😀

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Me being silly

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I will leave you with some photos of his studio and products to drool over 😀 Also see some links below for access to Conjure’s pages.

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Slàinte Mhath!

The Hag x

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/ConjureAccessories

http://www.conjureaccessories.co.uk/

https://twitter.com/conjureuk

http://conjureaccessories.tumblr.com/

https://www.facebook.com/MoonberryCreativeStudios

https://www.facebook.com/SDiamondPhotography

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jill-Sime-Makeup-Artist/208450079177546

https://www.facebook.com/Sinderinsband

The Scottish Pagan Federation Conference 2015

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It’s been a long time since I last wrote a blog post here. Life has been keeping me pleasantly busy since I started my degree in English Literature, spending time with loved ones and doing full time work. So my apologies folks, I do intend to blog more this year.

As of 14th March Hag o’ The Hills turned 1 year old! I’m please to say I’ve had good feedback from people. This blog was really only intended as a place for me to gather my thoughts, get into the habit of regular writing and document my spiritual path. It pleases me greatly that others enjoy reading my words and get something out of my posts. Thank you all for your ongoing support 🙂

11th April saw me and some fellow witchy chums driving through to Edinburgh for the Scottish Pagan Federation Conference. Although I was still bleary eyed from getting up early (I am definitely a night owl), my spirits were high and we laughed and joked our way there.

I was last here a couple of years ago, but looked forward to it more this time around as one of the talks was about Scottish cunning folk.

Christina Oakley Harrington, an academic, historian and founder of Treadwell’s Bookshop presented the talk, taking us on a journey through the witchcraft trials in Scotland, and some of the spells and remedies said to be used at the time. She told us the stories of Alexander Drummond, Jean Maxwell and Adam Reid.

Some of the cures involved transferring illness from a person onto special water (usually collected from a south running water), or by transferring illness to animals or even people. A person’s shirt was cleansed in a south running water to provided a cure. She also mentioned “silvered” water (a piece of silver being placed in the water vessel) being used in place of south running water. She also gave us a wonderful source to search through trial records in Scotland (see links below).

The talk was very moving at points, you could really get a sense of how those poor folk suffered when they were arrested and found guilty. Christina had previously given members of the audience cards with the names of the cunning folk and each in turn were said out loud while we sat and thought of them.  Say my name that I may live. I felt my heart tug as each name was called, and the tears began to well up. It was a beautiful thing to be part of. We cannot change their fates, but we can remember them and honour them.

The next talk I attended was Hollow Hills and High Places by Julia Jeffrey – the artist of Tarot of the Hidden Realm. She recounted her experiences with the landscape and it’s beings, and how she incorporated the essence of it into her tarot deck and art work.

Next up was Paganism in Fairy Tales by Joanna Coleman, which started with Joanna telling us a fairy tale before discussing some of the themes involved. Then we ended with a workshop by Christina Oakley Harrington – Scottish Cunning Folk’s Magic. I was only able to attend this one for 30 mins as my friends and I had to catch a train.

I was pleased to see the animistic side of Paganism represented by this year’s talks. Paganism seems to be growing up a bit, maturing and moving past the usual goddess worship and digging back down to the roots and acknowledging the spirits around us. Not that I’m criticizing goddess worshippers, I just happen to think there’s more to Paganism than just that. I am definitely looking forward to next year’s conference.

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Picked this up from the stalls

Next thing I have planned is to go to the Beltane Fire Festival again at the end of this month. I can’t wait for that! Good company, plus the delights of the festival and then the wonderful pubs after it, then the full Scottish breakfast the next morning. Gonna need it for the hangover 😛

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River Tay

Hope you all have a wonderful Beltane and Walpurgisnacht!

Beannachd Leibh!

The Hag x

Links:

http://www.shca.ed.ac.uk/Research/witches/

http://www.scottishpf.org/

Scotland’s Favourite Son

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image from Google

Burns Night 25th January

Robert Burns also known as Scotland’s Favourite Son, The Bard, The Ploughman Poet and many other names, was a Scottish poet and lyricist. He is a big deal in Scotland, regarded as our national poet, and his fame has spread worldwide. He wrote his poems in the Scots language and many have been published in English to reach a wider audience.

Burns also collected folk songs throughout Scotland and adapted them. Many of you will have heard of Auld Lang Syne, the song traditionally sang at Hogmanay, we’ve Burns to thank for that.

Burns Night has effectively become a national day celebrating The Bard’s birthday, and is celebrated more widely than St Andrews Day which is Scotland’s national holiday. Many people will attend a Burns Supper which consists of a meal of haggis, neeps and tatties and whisky, toasts are made, and Burns’ poetry recited.

Today I will be reading some of my favourite Burns’ poems and songs and sharing a meal of haggis, neeps and tatties and a dram of whisky with my ancestors.

One of my favourite poems is Tam o’ Shanter. The poem is about a farmer making his way home drunk. As he rides home on his beloved horse Meg he comes across Alloway Kirk ablaze with light and full of witches and warlocks dancing and even the Devil himself.  He is chased by the witches and the Devil and races to make it across the bridge (it was known that the Devil and witches could not cross running water):

Tam o’ Shanter:

When chapman billies leave the street, 
And drouthy neibors, neibors, meet; 
As market days are wearing late, 
And folk begin to tak the gate, 
While we sit bousing at the nappy, 
An' getting fou and unco happy, 
We think na on the lang Scots miles, 
The mosses, waters, slaps and stiles, 
That lie between us and our hame, 
Where sits our sulky, sullen dame, 
Gathering her brows like gathering storm, 
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm. 

This truth fand honest Tam o' Shanter, 
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter: 
(Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses, 
For honest men and bonie lasses). 

O Tam! had'st thou but been sae wise, 
As taen thy ain wife Kate's advice! 
She tauld thee weel thou was a skellum, 
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum; 
That frae November till October, 
Ae market-day thou was na sober; 
That ilka melder wi' the Miller, 
Thou sat as lang as thou had siller; 
That ev'ry naig was ca'd a shoe on 
The Smith and thee gat roarin' fou on; 
That at the Lord's house, ev'n on Sunday, 
Thou drank wi' Kirkton Jean till Monday, 
She prophesied that late or soon, 
Thou wad be found, deep drown'd in Doon, 
Or catch'd wi' warlocks in the mirk, 
By Alloway's auld, haunted kirk. 

Ah, gentle dames! it gars me greet, 
To think how mony counsels sweet, 
How mony lengthen'd, sage advices, 
The husband frae the wife despises! 

But to our tale: Ae market night, 
Tam had got planted unco right, 
Fast by an ingle, bleezing finely, 
Wi reaming swats, that drank divinely; 
And at his elbow, Souter Johnie, 
His ancient, trusty, drougthy crony: 
Tam lo'ed him like a very brither; 
They had been fou for weeks thegither. 
The night drave on wi' sangs an' clatter; 
And aye the ale was growing better: 
The Landlady and Tam grew gracious, 
Wi' favours secret, sweet, and precious: 
The Souter tauld his queerest stories; 
The Landlord's laugh was ready chorus: 
The storm without might rair and rustle, 
Tam did na mind the storm a whistle. 

Care, mad to see a man sae happy, 
E'en drown'd himsel amang the nappy. 
As bees flee hame wi' lades o' treasure, 
The minutes wing'd their way wi' pleasure: 
Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious, 
O'er a' the ills o' life victorious! 

But pleasures are like poppies spread, 
You seize the flow'r, its bloom is shed; 
Or like the snow falls in the river, 
A moment white - then melts for ever; 
Or like the Borealis race, 
That flit ere you can point their place; 
Or like the Rainbow's lovely form 
Evanishing amid the storm. - 
Nae man can tether Time nor Tide, 
The hour approaches Tam maun ride; 
That hour, o' night's black arch the key-stane, 
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in; 
And sic a night he taks the road in, 
As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in. 

The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last; 
The rattling showers rose on the blast; 
The speedy gleams the darkness swallow'd; 
Loud, deep, and lang, the thunder bellow'd: 
That night, a child might understand, 
The deil had business on his hand. 

Weel-mounted on his grey mare, Meg, 
A better never lifted leg, 
Tam skelpit on thro' dub and mire, 
Despising wind, and rain, and fire; 
Whiles holding fast his gude blue bonnet, 
Whiles crooning o'er some auld Scots sonnet, 
Whiles glow'rin round wi' prudent cares, 
Lest bogles catch him unawares; 
Kirk-Alloway was drawing nigh, 
Where ghaists and houlets nightly cry. 

By this time he was cross the ford, 
Where in the snaw the chapman smoor'd; 
And past the birks and meikle stane, 
Where drunken Charlie brak's neck-bane; 
And thro' the whins, and by the cairn, 
Where hunters fand the murder'd bairn; 
And near the thorn, aboon the well, 
Where Mungo's mither hang'd hersel'. 
Before him Doon pours all his floods, 
The doubling storm roars thro' the woods, 
The lightnings flash from pole to pole, 
Near and more near the thunders roll, 
When, glimmering thro' the groaning trees, 
Kirk-Alloway seem'd in a bleeze, 
Thro' ilka bore the beams were glancing, 
And loud resounded mirth and dancing. 

Inspiring bold John Barleycorn! 
What dangers thou canst make us scorn! 
Wi' tippenny, we fear nae evil; 
Wi' usquabae, we'll face the devil! 
The swats sae ream'd in Tammie's noddle, 
Fair play, he car'd na deils a boddle, 
But Maggie stood, right sair astonish'd, 
Till, by the heel and hand admonish'd, 
She ventur'd forward on the light; 
And, wow! Tam saw an unco sight! 

Warlocks and witches in a dance: 
Nae cotillon, brent new frae France, 
But hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels, 
Put life and mettle in their heels. 
A winnock-bunker in the east, 
There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast; 
A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large, 
To gie them music was his charge: 
He screw'd the pipes and gart them skirl, 
Till roof and rafters a' did dirl. - 
Coffins stood round, like open presses, 
That shaw'd the Dead in their last dresses; 
And (by some devilish cantraip sleight) 
Each in its cauld hand held a light. 
By which heroic Tam was able 
To note upon the haly table, 
A murderer's banes, in gibbet-airns; 
Twa span-lang, wee, unchristened bairns; 
A thief, new-cutted frae a rape, 
Wi' his last gasp his gab did gape; 
Five tomahawks, wi' blude red-rusted: 
Five scimitars, wi' murder crusted; 
A garter which a babe had strangled: 
A knife, a father's throat had mangled. 
Whom his ain son of life bereft, 
The grey-hairs yet stack to the heft; 
Wi' mair of horrible and awfu', 
Which even to name wad be unlawfu'.
Three lawyers tongues, turned inside oot,
Wi' lies, seamed like a beggars clout,
Three priests hearts, rotten, black as muck,
Lay stinkin, vile in every neuk.

As Tammie glowr'd, amaz'd, and curious, 
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious; 
The Piper loud and louder blew, 
The dancers quick and quicker flew, 
They reel'd, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit, 
Till ilka carlin swat and reekit, 
And coost her duddies to the wark, 
And linkit at it in her sark! 

Now Tam, O Tam! had they been queans, 
A' plump and strapping in their teens! 
Their sarks, instead o' creeshie flainen, 
Been snaw-white seventeen hunder linen!- 
Thir breeks o' mine, my only pair, 
That ance were plush o' guid blue hair, 
I wad hae gien them off my hurdies, 
For ae blink o' the bonie burdies! 
But wither'd beldams, auld and droll, 
Rigwoodie hags wad spean a foal, 
Louping an' flinging on a crummock. 
I wonder did na turn thy stomach. 

But Tam kent what was what fu' brawlie: 
There was ae winsome wench and waulie 
That night enlisted in the core, 
Lang after ken'd on Carrick shore; 
(For mony a beast to dead she shot, 
And perish'd mony a bonie boat, 
And shook baith meikle corn and bear, 
And kept the country-side in fear); 
Her cutty sark, o' Paisley harn, 
That while a lassie she had worn, 
In longitude tho' sorely scanty, 
It was her best, and she was vauntie. 
Ah! little ken'd thy reverend grannie, 
That sark she coft for her wee Nannie, 
Wi twa pund Scots ('twas a' her riches), 
Wad ever grac'd a dance of witches! 

But here my Muse her wing maun cour, 
Sic flights are far beyond her power; 
To sing how Nannie lap and flang, 
(A souple jade she was and strang), 
And how Tam stood, like ane bewithc'd, 
And thought his very een enrich'd: 
Even Satan glowr'd, and fidg'd fu' fain, 
And hotch'd and blew wi' might and main: 
Till first ae caper, syne anither, 
Tam tint his reason a thegither, 
And roars out, "Weel done, Cutty-sark!" 
And in an instant all was dark: 
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied. 
When out the hellish legion sallied. 

As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke, 
When plundering herds assail their byke; 
As open pussie's mortal foes, 
When, pop! she starts before their nose; 
As eager runs the market-crowd, 
When "Catch the thief!" resounds aloud; 
So Maggie runs, the witches follow, 
Wi' mony an eldritch skreich and hollow. 

Ah, Tam! Ah, Tam! thou'll get thy fairin! 
In hell, they'll roast thee like a herrin! 
In vain thy Kate awaits thy comin! 
Kate soon will be a woefu' woman! 
Now, do thy speedy-utmost, Meg, 
And win the key-stone o' the brig;
There, at them thou thy tail may toss, 
A running stream they dare na cross. 
But ere the keystane she could make, 
The fient a tail she had to shake! 
For Nannie, far before the rest, 
Hard upon noble Maggie prest, 
And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle; 
But little wist she Maggie's mettle! 
Ae spring brought off her master hale, 
But left behind her ain grey tail: 
The carlin claught her by the rump, 
And left poor Maggie scarce a stump. 

Now, wha this tale o' truth shall read, 
Ilk man and mother's son, take heed: 
Whene'er to Drink you are inclin'd, 
Or Cutty-sarks rin in your mind, 
Think ye may buy the joys o'er dear; 
Remember Tam o' Shanter's mare.

 

slàinte mhath!

 

=============

Further reading and links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Burns

http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/robertburns/burns_night_running_order.shtml

http://www.scotland.org/whats-on/burns-night/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/robertburns/works/tam_o_shanter/ (excellent link where you can hear the poem recited by the actor Brian Cox)

Speaking Scots

In Eastern central Scotland where I was born and still live, I grew up speaking two languages: English and Scots. Now some folk don’t see Scots as a language but more of a dialect. But it’s a language in my book, and has it’s own words, phrases and history. It’s still commonly spoken in the lowlands, and in the north east they speak a version called Doric. It’s also spoken in parts of Ulster.

My Dad didn’t like me speaking Scots and often corrected my speech by making me say things in English and pronounced in English than with an oary Scottish tongue. He thought Scots was common and ugly. I think it’s part of our rich cultural heritage and we should take pride in it.

So just thought I would share some Scots words and phrases with you 🙂

A’bodie/aw’body: everyone

Baith: Both

Baffies: Slippers

Blether: talk nonsense

Bra/Braw: Great, brilliant.

Cauld/Cald: cold

Clout: to hit, slap or strike

Canny: Gentle

Dreich: dull, grey, gloomy (usually in reference to the weather)

Faither: Father

Fleg: Frighten

Flit: to move (house)

Glaikit: Stupid

Greet/Greit:  to cry

Haivers: nonsense

Hen: Term of endearment for a woman

Ken: know

Lum: Chimney

Mither: Mother

Mind/Mynd: remember

Nicht: Night

Peelie-Wallie: pale

Radge: mad, angry, rage

Scunner: disklike, disgust

Snaw: Snow

Teckle: good, great

Thon: Those

Hud Yer Wheesht: be quiet!

Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye!: What’s meant to happen will happen.

Ma heid’s mince: My head’s a bit mixed up.

***

Thanks for reading! 🙂

Winter Solstice Wishes

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Whatever your beliefs and whatever you choose to celebrate:

may you have joy and peace,

may you have plenty of food to eat and drink to quench your thirst,

may you have warm hugs from people you love.

may there be a roof above your head and a warm place to sleep,

may you truly know and celebrate how wonderful and unique you are,

and may all your needs be met.

Solstice Blessings  ♥

A visit to Dunkeld and The Hermitage

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Image from Tumblr

We are in the depths of Autumn now, where the weather is taking a turn towards winter. I can feel the chill in the air and I’m taking bad with waking up in the dark mornings, and finishing work in the dark too. I’m definitely more of a Spring and Autumn person. Those are my seasons. But winter is not without it’s charms. Is there anything more inviting than fresh snow waiting to be walked upon?

I always want to get outdoors this time of year, before the weather turns really bad. So my witchy friend J and I hopped into his car and took a day trip to Dunkeld and then visited The Hermitage.

Dunkeld is a lovely town, it feels very villagey and very old. Dunkeld is thought to date back to sixth century when a monastery was founded by the banks of the River Tay. Kenneth MacAlpin, the first King of Scotland, moved the bones of St Columba to Dunkeld around mid 9th century, which established Dunkeld as the first ecclesiastical capital of medieval Scotland . Building of the current Dunkeld Cathedral began in the 12th century and additions were added up to the 16th.

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I spotted this beautiful yew tree close to the market cross and had to take a photo. There were tons of yew trees growing around Dunkeld Cathedral, I’ve never seen so many in once place before, though they are frequently grown in churchyards.  The Yew has a lot of folklore behind it, as it is an evergreen tree and known to grow for thousands of years. The oldest yew tree in Scotland is at Fortingall and estimated to be between 1,500 and 3,000 years old. The yew is a tree of death and rebirth, it contains a poison in it’s wood, leaves and seeds, and known for it’s longevity not only by the number of years it can live for, but also because it can continue to grow new shoots from cut surfaces and low on its trunk, even at an old age.

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on the Telford Bridge overlooking the River Tay

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Dunkeld Cathedral

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We stopped by Palmerston’s cafe and had tea and scones. I opted for the Earl Gray blue flower and an apple and cinnamon scone with jam and clotted cream. Ahh it was amazing. Palmerston’s is a lovely cafe and the food is home made. Would definitely stop by there again when I next visit Dunkeld.

It was getting a bit late in the afternoon so we quickly made our way to The Hermitage through the Craigvinean Forest. We’d said prayers to the forest spirits to let them know we meant no harm or disrespect. I’d brought offerings along too, and placed them out throughout the forest as we walked along. I was gifted with a chunk of quartz which appeared on the path I walked. So I said my thanks and took it with me.

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Can you see it’s face?

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Misty Craigvinean Forest

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Boulder with a troll like face

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Totem pole, carved from a Douglas Fir tree by a native Canadian from the Squamish Nation

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The forest was huge and easy to get lost in. But beautiful to see the firey oranges of the ferns and the evergreens. Very autumnal, with the scent of the damp earth and rain soaked trees. Rivulets of a stream ran through the forest to join up with the River Braan. A ferocious hungry river, travelling fast and crashing against rocks. I cast out offerings into it’s hungry jaws.

Many people have walked these forest paths, some famous people include Wordsworth, Queen Victoria, Mendelssohn and Turner.

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mini stream

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River Braan

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River Braan leading to the Black Linn Waterfall and up to Ossian’s Hall and bridge.

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Ossian’s Cave

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From inside Ossian’s Cave

We found Ossian’s Cave in the middle of The Hermitage.  Named after James MacPherson’s Ossian . The cave and the Hall of Mirrors are Georgian follies created by the Duke of Atholl. The cave is a small man made cave, along with Ossian’s Hall of Mirrors which overlooks the Black Linn falls.

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Image from Google

My phone battery died at this point so I didn’t get great photos of the cave and hall, so here are some from google:

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Inside Ossian’s Hall

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Ossian’s Hall

We stood by the railings of Ossian’s Hall, tuning into the energy of the river and getting soaked by the spray of the waterfalls. I asked for energy from the river, to help me on my spiritual path, to give me the energy to fight through apathy. Witchcraft involves hard work if one is to move forward. So many of us reach a plateau and do not have the energy or the will to move past it. For me I’ve been in a somewhat dark night of the soul. I think it’s because so much has changed for me. The wool has been pulled from my eyes, I’ve banished illusion and I’ve stepped away from another’s dogma. I’m seeking my own truth, as we all must.

I love our witchy car conversations. On the way back home we were discussing the new projects we were looking into; gods vs spirit work, occultism, and where we see our practices in 5 years. I’ve come to the conclusion that I really don’t like man made limitations being imposed on my practice. My practice is fluid and has changed dramatically. I started off being a solitary wiccan at age 14, then joined a Gardnerian coven at age 25 and was initiated at 26, I left the coven for various reasons earlier this year and now I’m back to being solitary.My craft is very fluid and eclectic. But I can’t honestly answer where I would like to be in five years time, spiritually. My practice is very much a day to day existence at the moment and I can’t currently see where it is I’m heading. The one thing I hope for, is that wherever I end up I hope I get there through my own will and following my own truth and not the will or truth of another.

I call myself a witch not Wiccan as that’s no longer what I practice. I use a more natural, instinctive approach to my craft, utilizing whatever I have to hand. I include a lot of Scottish folk practices as that’s my culture, but I don’t call myself a Gaelic polytheist or a Celtic re-constructionist. I incorporate some hoodoo practice but not enough to call myself a rootworker. I’m looking into traditional witchcraft, folklore, animism and modern occultism. As for gods… well I used to be a god worker in the sense of working with a god and goddess in a Wiccan format.  But now I would say I’m more of a spirit worker. I work with my ancestors and the spirits of the land. I tend to view gods as spirits too, although more powerful spirits than say the spirit of a plant or tree. I’m still trying to figure out the rest of what I believe. I’ve rejected some of what I’ve been taught by books and the coven, because I don’t want to adopt another person’s worldview. I’m currently trying to figure out exactly what it is I believe in. At the moment I need to stop thinking, and get doing.

But the journey is part of the fun 😉

Tìoraidh an-dràsta (Goodbye, for now)