Feature in the Artisan Issue of One&Other

One&Other, The Artisan Issue. Feral Strumpet is featured.
One&Other, The Artisan Issue. Feral Strumpet is featured.

I’m honoured to have my Tribal Hoop earrings included in the Artisan Issue of York’s One&Other magazine.

The Artisan Issue of One&Other, my Tribal Hoops are featured in the photo on the right.
The Artisan Issue of One&Other, my Tribal Hoops are featured in the photo on the right.

This issue is the second anniversary of this special magazine– it has lived in York about as long as I have. This little free bi-monthly magazine captures the soul of York– not an easy thing to do. Though the city is beautiful and full of history, the constant crowds of tourists can blur its essence.

The magazine captures what is going on, much in the way the LA Weekly did when I lived there, but One&Other is not only stylish and knowing, it’s got soul. Seeing the city through the loving lens of this magazine affirms my pride in living and working here.

Lovely fashion spread from the Artisan issue of One&Other
Lovely fashion spread from the Artisan issue of One&Other

When Alice Ostapjuk contacted me saying they wanted to use my Tribal Hoops in a photo shoot I was thrilled.

The Editorial Director, Vicky Parry says it best:

…We live in a walled city, one that has flourished on chocolate and attracts millions of tourists to bask in the shadows of its iconically-crafted buildings, to a modern labyrinth of eateries and crafts that bring us industry today…

…this issue pays homage to those that have passion; the people and projects that, like ourselves, were borne out of a hunger to create.

Thank you One&Other for the lovely feature– I’m proud to be included with the other artisans of York.

The Tribal Gathering

Performing with Tanzhexen at Jewel of Yorkshire. Photo by Violet Ann.
Performing with Tanzhexen at Jewel of Yorkshire. Photo by Violet Ann.

In my other life, I am a tribal belly dancer.  Originally it was something I did as a dare to myself and then it was something I did so I could socialise in a new place where I knew few people and now it has taken over most aspects of my life that are not already occupied by making pretty things.

There’s a wonderful tribal belly dance festival in York this weekend called the Tribal Gathering. I’ll be selling my wares in the souk.

I make most of my costuming.  Though my designs I sell are not necessarily performance ware– they are intended everyday or special occasion pieces, but the designs are all influenced by dance, and tribal belly dance in particular.

Currently the tumble polisher is tumbling, I’ve been hammering away and working away with the callouses and cuts to show for it! I reek of sulphur. Making pretty things is not unlike dance.  I think of all the sweat and tears to bring something beautiful out of nothing– it is the same struggle, and a joyful one. I hope to see some of you at the tribal gathering.

If you’re not sure what tribal belly dance is, this short documentary is a nice introduction:

Tribal Hoops available in My Etsy shop.
Tribal Hoops available in My Etsy shop.

The Wishing Well at Osmotherly

The Saint John's Well, Mount Grace Priory, Yorkshire
The Saint John’s Well, Mount Grace Priory, North Yorkshire

Last weekend Mike and I went looking for one of the “lost” water shrines in North Yorkshire. There are many of these places, though they are fast disappearing– blocked up, trashed and forgotten.  Yorkshire Holy Wells and Sacred Springs by Edna Whelan and Ian Taylor, now out of print, is a wonderful resource.  Though the information in this gem of a book is now over twenty years old, it is still and invauluable aid to finding these magical places.

Mike in the bluebell glade
Mike in the bluebell glade

To reach Saint John’s Well, also called “The Wishing Well” one must traverse a forested hill misted with bluebells–a marker of ancient woodland. The equally ancient path, no doubt trod by countless well-wishers, is now blocked by many felled trees. The hike is not easy but also not impossible.

The photo above shows the well house secreted away in its gully now densely upholstered with decades of leaf mould. The water inside was clean and clear, though leaves blocked the entrance. It resembles a little house with a fairy door. It is not hard to imagine that this was built to house a genius loci.  One is tempted to return and clean this place– it wouldn’t be hard to return it to its former order.

The water here formerly supplied Mount Grace Priory–itself a sacred site. The restored Lady Chapel behind the Priory is said to be a site of miraculous healings. (See Yorkshire Holy Wells site).  The well predates the priory as a water shrine.  Though there is no written record of this, the landscape and folk customs make their own argument.

William Grainge in his 19th century writings on the Vale of Mobray explains that this well was the depository of wishes: “Even yet to this font come young men and maidens to breathe or whisper or wordless sigh the secret but ardent wishes of their heart…” This ritual included an ivy leaf with a bent pin stuck through it, tossed into the water.

Me at the well house, St. John's Well, Mount Grace Priory
Me at the well house, St. John’s Well, Mount Grace Priory

Many wells are called “pin wells” because of this practice. Why bent pins? Altering an ordinary object, destroying its original use, marks it as a talisman. In the Middle Age coins intended as offerings were bent in order to mark them as such– this practice continued for hundreds of years. It appears in the nursery rhyme–

There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.

He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile.

He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,

And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

Throughout my journeys to various sacred sites I have often found little poems, flowers or coins left on stiles or near the sites themselves. Could the crooked sixpence be an offering left? And the crooked man and his odd cat and house be a cunning one (Ok, some say this rhyme is about Scotland and England in the 17th century, but could it be about something else as well.)

Some say the bent pins were offered to the fairies as elfshot. We found no such offerings in the dark water that day but the generations of longings and hopes left here for safekeeping were unmistakably present.

Bluebell earrings, inspired by fairy landscapes, available in my Etsy Shop
Bluebell earrings, inspired by fairy landscapes, available in my Etsy Shop

The Hare and the Moon

Egyptian Heiroglyph for hare also means "to be".

I have been to Whitby many times for the Gothic Weekend twice a year– this year will be the first year I will be attending as a dealer!  Look for me in the Leisure Centre if you will be there.

Near the Shambles in Whitby, there used to be a shop with green shutters painted with three hares. That little Pagan shop has moved and the three hares are now painted over, but it was the first place I saw this sacred image. The hares form a triquetra, or three cornered shape, representing the three aspects of the Goddess– later adopted by the Christian faith to represent the Holy Trinity.

They are a riddle, these “rotating rabbits”– three hairs, each with two ears, yet they only share three. This image originated in the cave temples of China, and traveled along the Silk Road to England. Sometimes called “Tinner’s Rabbits”, the symbol was adopted by tin miners in Devon.

But the three rabbits also decorate mosques, and the appearance of this traveling symbol in synagogues may be a reference to the Jewish diaspora.

Hares have been associated with the Virgin Mary– and most likely is attached in ancestral memory to an older Goddess, one associated with the moon and lunar cycles.  In Chinese Folklore the Moon Rabbit is said to be pounding out the elixir of immortality in a mortar for the moon Goddess Chang’e. The Aztecs also have a moon rabbit legend as well as many other cultures. Some say you can see this rabbit by looking at the shadows on the moon which form its shape.  One wonders if the moon gazing hare is looking up to see its big goddess in the sky– it’s a nice image to contemplate at this time of year.  At least, I like to think on it.

In the days before special effects, the optical illusion of the three ears must have had been amplified with a kind of shifting mystery. These rabbits turn and turn in the mind, spinning the wheel of the year toward spring.

As an aside, I have been listening to the neo folk band, The Hare and the Moon a lot lately– they describe themselves as “spook folk”.  You might like to give them a listen! http://www.myspace.com/thehareandthemoon

Blessed Spring Equinox, dear reader!

The Hare and the Moon, Labradorite and Pewter Earrings by Feral Strumpet on Etsy.