The Bawming of the Thorn

Appleton Thorn by Robert Bateman, 1880. Warrington Museum.

Appleton Thorn by Robert Bateman, 1880. Warrington Museum.

Tree of Life Necklace by Feral Strumpet.

Tree of Life Necklace by Feral Strumpet.

Once there was a time when we knew the trees and they knew us.  They were planted in the middle of villages and were considered guardians of a place.  On Old Midsummer Day, July 5th,  the third Saturday in June or there abouts, these guardian trees were adorned with garlands, ribbons, flowers and flags. Appleton Thorn in Cheshire is named after such a hawthorn tree and here this tradition, called the Bawming of the Thorn, continues.  The  tree there is said to be an offshoot of the legendary Glastonbury thorn, a tree with its own fascinating history.  Legend claims it was brought from Jerusalem to Glastonbury by Joseph of Aramathea and was the same tree from which the crown of thorns was made.  Others claim this fantastic story was a creation of the monks who wished to discourage the use of the Hawthorn in pagan rituals and yet still wished use its power to promote their Christian faith.

Tree of Life Earrings in silver by Feral Strumpet

Tree of Life Earrings in silver by Feral Strumpet

Sarah wearing the Tree of Life in Brass

Sarah wearing the Tree of Life in Brass

The hawthorn is the May Tree or White Thorn– with it’s beautiful white flowers juxtaposed against its sinister thorns. Washing in the dew gathered from the white petaled flowers was a Old Tyme beauty tip. Witches made their brooms from them– perhaps because the hawthorne is the gateway to the fairy realms, the Otherworld.  Vivian imprisoned Merlin in a cage of Hawthorne branches, using his own spell against him and it was under a Hawthorne that the Queen of May captured Thomas the Rhymer. Hawthorns often stand guard over sacred wells– and in these manifestations in story and landscape do seem to suggest the Yggdrasil, a tree linking this world with other realms.

What survives of these notions fascinates me. These happy village fetes, celebrating a tree with song and dance– is this a kind of Druidic hold over? A dream writ in Ogham on our collective subconscious? In England these ancient ideas manifest with fanfare– brass bands and Morris dancing. People still gather– they say it is for the sake of tradition– that it as has always been so, but I like to think there is something else here, feeding the imagination, talking back to our ancient guardians telling them we have not forgotten them.

World Tree Earrings in Brass by Feral Strumpet

World Tree Earrings in Brass by Feral Strumpet

 

 

 

Walking with Giants

Hableton Street, the ancient moorland road.

Hambleton Street, the ancient moorland road.

Yesterday Mike and I went hiking on the Arden Great Moor, down the ancient road which once joined Scotland to York, called Hambleton Street. Now just a stony track, it was once the main thoroughfare for cattle traders coming drown from Scotland to the markets in York. But it is certainly much older than the 17th century rovers who used it historically. It is one of the oldest roads in Britain and was once used by the Roman Legions and before them, the Brigantes– though we have no evidence of this, nor of the Norse settlers using this road during the Viking Age–no evidence save a claim made by ancestral memory from the folklore that has grown up around it.

Pile of stones marker on Hableton Street.

Pile of stones marker on Hambleton Street

Land wight. Anthropomorphic face in stone on a marker on Hambleton Street.

Land wight. Anthropomorphic face in stone on a marker on Hambleton Street.

 

Norse belief in land wights, or genius locii, starts to make perfect sense on these ancient roads. Here in the photo on the right, a stone watchman takes shape in the topmost stone.

Piles of stones along the way mark resting points.  Along with lonely moorland crosses and standing stones, these place markers are full of mystery.  Piles like the one pictured above were said to have fallen from the apron of the giantess Bell, wife of Wade– the namesake of another ancient moorland road, Wade’s Causeway. The giant Wade has Norse origins– in Old Norse his name is Vadi.  He is the son of a Norse King and a mermaid, according to the Vilkina Saga. He is the father of the mythic Smith Wayland whose name is synonymous with other sacred sites in England.

Wade could wade through the ocean, and he and his wife Bell had only one hammer between them, so they had throw it through the air to each other, over the moors.  Much of Wade is lost to us– save a bawdy mention of his boat in Chaucer’s Merchant’s Tale and a Latin fragment of his story mentioning elves and adders and nickers (water spirits), yet the land of the moors is marked by the giant (even his legendary grave is here at ruins of Mulgrave Castle near Whitby).

The landscape of the moors is still marked by ancient migrations– mythic and literal– the Romans may have left many structures and written documents of the Northern land they struggled to conquer, but it’s the unwritten legends of the Norse and Anglo Saxon people that linger in the land, waiting for the new inhabitants to know them.

Hand-forged Anglo-Saxon Pennanular Brooch in Bronze by Feral Strumpet.

Hand-forged Anglo-Saxon Pennanular Brooch in Bronze by Feral Strumpet.

 

Oak Apple Day

The mounted Garland King, Castelton, Derbyshire (source-- wikipedia commons)

The mounted Garland King, Castelton, Derbyshire (source– wikipedia commons)

Yesterday was that abolished holiday, Oak Apple Day, celebrating the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660.  Charles II, before he regained power, hid himself in an oak tree, or so the story goes. For the last 400+ years, Britain has used this as a way to worship a tree king.  Ancestral memory dies hard in these parts.

Before the holiday was abolished in the mid 19th century, shops and churches, horses and railway engines were adorned with oak boughs. Anyone who failed to wear a sprig of oak on the day risked being pelted with eggs or scourged with nettle.

Some customs from the holiday survive in recent memory, taking on aspects of the pagan green man in their celebrations.  In Castleton in Derbyshire, the Garland King procession continues.  A man, mounted on a horse, is completely covered in a cone of flowers– the topmost posey is called “The Queen” and crowns him.  The village follows him (along with a good number of day-trippers) from pub to pub, brass band in tow. At the end of the day’s journey, the floral cone is hoisted by a rope from the church tower, looking very much like the head of a vanquished foe on display. All across the isle, from the Burryman in Queensferry to the Jack in the Green in Hastings, the leafy king sacrifices himself so that we may have a few summer days. If you’ve lived through one wet Yorkshire summer, you know why this is worth a blood sacrifice, even by proxy!

The Oak King's Bride in copper plate by Feral Strumpet

The Oak King’s Bride in copper plate by Feral Strumpet

Here is my Oak King’s Bride. It’s a design I made three years ago. It was one of the first in my shop and it has since become a best seller as well as a signature design.  I make it in copper plate, brass and sterling silver plate (the Oak King’s Bride in Winter).  For more Oak King inspired designs, go here.

Ancient Warrior Hearts

Etruscan Votive Head, 500 BC.

Etruscan Votive Head, 500 BC.

Victorian Etruscan Revival Set, found on Pinterest.

Victorian Etruscan Revival Set, found on Pinterest.

Long before there was Rome and the Romans, there was Etruria and the Etruscans, though the name they called themselves was the Rasenna, from the region which is now, roughly, Tuscany. They were famed for their jewellery making skills, employing innovative techniques with gold wire filigree and granulation, or making motifs with tiny granules of gold. The people adorned themselves with layers of necklaces, earrings and headpieces.

Advances in Victorian archeology brought the works of these ancient smiths into the popular imagination.

Here is my humble take on the Etruscan revival.  I made it in honour of the recently discovered Warrior Princess, buried holding a spear. She was initially mistaken to be a prince, until bone analysis revealed her to be a middle-aged woman. The body buried with her, almost entirely cremated, was that of a man. Archeologists now conjecture that the jewellery found with the cremated body belonged to the man. But the tiny bronze box with five needles and thread, also found in the tomb, keeps its secrets.

Ancient Hearts. Etruscan inspired design by Feral Strumpet

Ancient Hearts. Etruscan inspired design by Feral Strumpet

They are wearable for every day, simple and lightweight but filled with ancient mystery!

Happy World Labyrinth Day

Chartres Labyrinth Necklace, by Feral Strumpet. For more labyrinth-inspired designs, go to my shop.

Chartres Labyrinth Necklace, by Feral Strumpet. For more labyrinth-inspired designs, go to my shop.

Tomorrow, May 3rd is the 6th annual Labyrinth Day. Organizers of the day are encouraging people to walk as one at 1– walk a labyrinth at 1pm together.

City of Troy Turf Maze

City of Troy Turf Maze near Dalby, North Yorkshire

There are several labyrinths around Yorkshire, some temporary, others maintained for hundreds of years.  All are sacred to me, offering a wonderful multi faith symbol of faith and the complexities of life.

Julien's Bower, Lincolnshire

Julien’s Bower, Lincolnshire

Celebrating the spiral journey– these beautifully detailed earrings depict the Chartres cathedral maze Crowned by amethyst toned Swarovski crystals, these earrings are a beautiful reminder that there are no wrong turns in life, and though the path may twist and double back, we walk it in love and trust.

labyrinth_earrings-4

The Chartres labyrinth dates from the 13th century and is the best preserved example of a medieval labyrinth, but it is no doubt an echo of an earlier pagan symbol. Many years ago I had the luck of being in Chartres when the labyrinth was open to pilgrims. Walking it like so many had for hundreds of years before me (some on their knees!) I was filled with wonder. I hope a tiny fraction of that is captured in this necklace.

- See more at: http://feralstrumpet.indiemade.com/product/labyrinth-earrings-chartres-everyday-meditation-earrings-amethyst-swarovski-crystals-and-ste#sthash.1g2qApsp.dpuf

Me walking the temporary labyrinth at Rievaulx Abbey

Me walking the temporary labyrinth at Rievaulx Abbey

Satellite 4, Eastercon in Glasgow

Mike manning the stall with sinister flair at Eastercon

Mike manning the stall with sinister flair at Eastercon

Over the Easter holiday weekend I peddled my wares at the British Science Fiction Convention, also known as Satellite 4 or Eastercon for short. This is my third year of selling at Eastercon, and it remains my favourite show.

Sometimes when I tell people how great selling at Eastercon is, they are confused. But this is my demographic– imaginative readers, fans who are enthusiastic and full of wonder– my work appeals to these folks, and I am one of them. There is a sense of authenticity being there.  The cons are volunteer run, putting paid-for events to shame– the difference? Vendors are not seen as paying customers but as fellow fans in the community. I’ve sold at many other events where stalls were pricey and as a vendor you just weren’t treated with respect or consideration.

I don’t do a loIMG_1336t of events, as the my internet shops keep me very busy.  Live selling is a different way of working, especially for an introvert like myself.  You bring all your hard work with you, you set it up so it’s enticing and then you sit there for hours, days.  You’ve gotta have something in common with the folks coming to your booth, something to chat about.  Eastercon is perfect for that.  Now people know I’ll be there so they come to talk about what they are reading or writing and the panels they’ve been to.  There is a real feeling of community.  Folks will come modeling new purchases or ones from years back so I can see them.  I love this part of live selling– you get to actually see your creations as they were meant to be worn– by people who love them. What also amazes me about this crowd is they immediately get that mine is a small, fan-run, one-woman handmade business and the people who come by my stall want to support that.

Of all the places I’ve sold, Eastercon is the place where I see people in love picking out things for their beloved.  This is a regular occurrence at Eastercon– I kid you not!  Romance is alive and well in fandom.  It’s become my new benchmark for making– could someone give this to the love of their life? If the answer is yes, then it goes on my stall and in my shop.

Maker as Morris Dancer

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Joining the 400 Roses Morris Side has been a bit like running away with the circus. I’ve always loved Morris Dancing– to see Brits dancing, in the streets no less, ringing in the spring and seasonal festivals is one of the highlights of living in England. The 70s folk revival has brought Morris traditions new life and with it the forms have evolved.

roses_small_pbThe 400 Roses is a uniquely Yorkshire side– founded by Christ Ogden, it’s a fusion of tribal belly dance and Morris formations with its own band T’Thorns playing traditional Morris tunes. The dances are done outside in the streets, in the wilds of village fetes, folk, waterways, steam trains and sheep festivals.

When I told my husband Mike that I’d been invited to join the Roses he exclaimed, “That’s one of the greatest honors in Yorkshire!” And he wasn’t wrong.

It took me some time to assemble the costume which is a reference to trad Morris gear and mummers coats. Chris generously lent me her bustle belt until I could make one of my own. You can’t hear the bells in the picture, but they are there en masse, heralding spring.

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