The Common Riding: Langholm’s Great Day

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This Friday just gone was Langholm's Common Riding. Since I've lived in Eskdale, I've been both fascinated by Langholm Common Riding, and mainly stayed as far away from it as possible -- although I have been, once.It's an odd local custom, involving thousands of people, a couple of hundred horses, and an awful lot of alcohol. And for some Langholmites, it's a bigger day than Christmas.What happens on 'Langholm's Great Day'The Langholm Common Riding is held on the last Friday in July, … [Read more...]

Some things I learned from blackberries

blackberries

  Green as glass White as snow Red as blood Black as coal What am I?-Traditional riddle "The Hermetic tradition defines three magical works: the black work of deathlessness and destruction; the white work of illumination and rebirth; and the red work of power over the earth. This ancient color triad...corresponds to the first three colors to be defined in human languages. But the next color to be defined in language is green, which is the complement to red as white is … [Read more...]

Can a human being be the spirit of a place?

My Marie Laveau altar for St. John's Eve

 Marie Laveau has been on my mind of late.  Ever since I went to Mardi Gras, actually, and visited her (reputed) tomb and left a token there among the offerings left by tourists and other pilgrims. I do that sort of thing fairly often, actually, usually at the grave sites of writers I admire. (William Faulkner and Eudora Welty both like bourbon). When I went back to New Orleans recently, I stayed in a hotel, the Inn on St. Ann, that according to legend was once run by Marie Laveau as a … [Read more...]

The power of the song thrush: life, death and the feast of St. John

Image by Jose Sousa, used under Creative Commons license.

"'Twas on the twenty-fourth of June Oh, as I sat weaving all at my loom, 'Twas on the twenty-fourth of June Oh, as I sat weaving all at my loom, I heard a thrush, singing on yon bush, And the song she sang was the jug of punch."These words are the first verse of a traditional Irish drinking song, The Jug of Punch, in its simplest form. I'm thinking of it today, St. John's Eve. The feast of St. John, celebrated on the 23rd and 24th June, is a Christian gloss over the celebration of the … [Read more...]

The Queen of Fair Elfland

American Elder

             True Thomas he took off his hat, And bowed him low down to his knee: “All hail, thou mighty Queen of Heaven! For your peer on earth I never did see.”“O no, O no, True Thomas,” she says, “That name does not belong to me; I am but the queen of fair Elfland, And I’m come here for to visit thee. A couple of weeks ago, I made some elder flower tincture. I have done this off … [Read more...]

The Witchcraft of Place

pokeweed

Every so often, I teach a workshop I call "Ditch Witch:  Magical Uses of Common Roadside Plants."  When I first started working on the idea, I sat down and wrote all of the names and uses of plants I could think of, restricting myself to ones you would normally see just walking around.  When I got to twenty-five, I decided I had enough to go on with and started culling it down to the few most useful and common ones, to prevent overload.It helps that I have the vast well of knowledge that is S … [Read more...]

Signs of Beltane Approaching

blackthorn

The land is finally waking, here in the cold north (aka Scotland). Ostara is the balance of day and night, as elsewhere, but the land does not really wake until Beltane -- also known as Beltaine, or Bealtuinn.Spring and summer come upon us all of a piece, here. Here and now, the oyster catchers nest, the swallows arrive, the curlews warble, yet the sycamore is still bare-limbed. Daffodils and celandines and coltsfoot and wood anemones all bloom together.The blossoming … [Read more...]


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