Imbolc is just a few days away, and it is one of my favourite days on the Wheel of the Year. This year is comes aided by a new moon and I don’t know about you, but I can already feel the rising sap, up in my bones, as I look for the first snow drops to appear, heralding a change. Above I’ve chosen a selection of pieces that remind me of this energy– clockwise from the upper left– The Snowdrop Fairy Flower Earrings, The Mother Troll Amethyst Necklace, The Griffin Milk Earrings, The Gerd– a delicate sterling silver strand with faceted chrysoprase, the silver scent locket (what would you put inside to herald spring?) and lastly the Cosmic Hug pendant of Rose Quartz.
Tomorrow I’ll be putting together my altar, and cleaning and oiling all my tools in honour of the heathen Charming of the Plough. I’ll give thanks to Brigid, who in the form of Brigantia, was the goddess of the tribal ancestors of this area– she was also the goddess of the forge, brewing and poetry; she has guided my hand in all these things and I am eternally grateful. What do you do to celebrate Imbolc and herald the first glimmerings of spring?
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We are making room for new designs in 2017, and are busy filling up the Boxing Day Sale Section at feralstrumpet.co.uk. Starting on Boxing day, you’ll find some old favourites there and many more new pieces– one offs and prototypes, all an additional 50% off with coupon code KANGAROO. This offer is good from Dec. 26th-Jan. 2nd, 2016. (This offer can’t be combined with other coupons or offers and can’t be used retrospectively.) Here’s a peek at just a few of the designs that will be on sale!
It’s my favourite time of year, when adults can ask each other, “what are you going to be?” We don’t have many trick-or-treaters where I live, but I stock up on candy anyway. As the veil thins, we honour our ancestors but also indulge in other delights– I always share some with them on my altar.
How are you celebrating this Samhain or Halloween?
Dwarfs get a bad rap– chthonic whistling hoarders, pathologically sneezing, sleeping or grumpy, these homunculi have never been able to compete with the glamour of elves. But what if I told you they really were elves?
When I first started cold forging, it was a magical process. As I have become more masterful, something else guides my hands, something older and wiser than myself, but who or what is helping me?
According to Norse myth, dwarfs were born from the maggots swarming the dead body of Ymir, the primordial giant birthed from melting ice in the great void. Their beginnings were less than auspicious, it’s true. Dwarves have made some of the most powerful artifacts of Norse legend– Thor’s hammer, Freya’s necklace, the magic ring Draupir, the fetter to bind the apocalytpic wolf Fenrir and Odin’s spear as well as the replacement for Siv’s golden hair.
The delicacy of my wire work, the fluidity of the copper and vine-like qualities of the metal come from hands that have begun to ache with arthritis, that are cut and calloused. It is a common theme in mythology that the smiths that create great beauty are wounded, misshapen, as if their bodies are a foil to their creations. I’m no different.
But in the words of the Völva in the Völuspá, what of the elves?
In Norse mythology, dwarfs live in Nidvallir, or Dark Fields, which is also called Svartalhiem or dark-elf-land. Dwarfs are dark elves. I have named my recent collection after their ancestor Sindri. Adornment was a powerful force in Norse myth, and beauty forged of metal and stone was an essential part of Old Norse life. The power to make such things was seen as magical, something which originated with the beginnings of the universe. When the gods made their first temples they also made forges alongside them. They smelted ore and created tongs and tools for smithing before even creating human beings. The dark elves are the keepers of these first secrets, and they have shared them with me.
The use of a strand of beads in prayer is universal across almost all faiths, but is best know in the form of the Catholic rosary. I have collected rosaries since I was a teenager. Often I would find them in the street or in thrift shops, or in pieces at swap meets. I have refurbished them and sold them whole again or I have also listened to them– many would like to be something else entirely and perhaps this is why they found their way to me.
I have always loved them, perhaps because they were the first meditations to the goddess I had ever known, even before I knew there was such a thing as being Pagan or Heathen.
Some pagans have come from a Christian path and may miss certain aspects of those rituals. A wonderful article about this can be found on Patheos, Retooling the Rosary. The meditative rhythms of the beads reflect the rhythms of the earth. Pagan prayer beads can use may of these for their structure– the four seasons, the phases of the moon, the 8 Sabats or 13 Esbats, the 24 runes in the Elder Furthark. I am partial to nines. Odin hung on the tree for 9 days, there are 9 worlds in the Norse cosmos, the fascinating mathmatical patterns using 9 as well as the many uses of 9 maidens in folklore inform these desgins.
I have made devotional chains in the past for clients, dedicated to a specific deity or tradition. I welcome the opportunity for this kind of custom work. But even in my secular jewellery, the hand wrapped rosary links I make are very meditative and in some designs take on a devotional feeling as I make them, much like the rhythms of tying a witches ladder.
Traditional ladders used knots with feathers attached. Used in binding spells: for instance, to bind an illness the knotted cord was worked up and then thrown into a pond or river– presumably the ailments with it. Any research on the subject is bound (ha!) to turn up the use of knot magic in cursing. We must cast a critical eye on the remnants of history left to us by those who wished to distort our traditions. This work was most likely also used for other benevolent purposes as well as ill. In modern wicca, the knots are used to seal a working and chanting can be part of it.
A variation on the traditional chant:
Knot one, the work’s begun.
Knot two, my aim is true.
Knot three, it will be.
Knot four, power’s stored.
Knot five, the work’s alive.
Knot six, the work’s fixed.
Knot of seven, the truth given.
Knot eight, will be fate.
Knot nine, the work is mine!
As in prayer and spell work, words are more powerful if you use your own. In my other life as a poet I have been obsessed by the sestina form, a six-stanza poem that ends in a three line envoy. The end words of each line are rotated through the stanzas, as strands in a braid. This form was arguably invented by a 13th century troubadour, Arnaut Daniel, who called it a cledistat, which means “to interlock”. Here is a wonderful graphic that shows the structure of the sestina as a series of beads or knots on a spiral thread.
I am constantly amazed at the correspondences between creative work. The same attention to detail that went into writing my sestinas is manifested in my hand wrapped rosary chains. They are from the heart.
The end of the year is exciting. We gather together against the cold, thinking of the possibilities of the new year. The Yule gift I’ve given my business, (because, let’s face it, Feral Strumpet feels like a person to me now) is a new online shop. It’s easier for my customers to use, it’s still independent and best of all, it’s pretty. I can now accept credit cards, as well as the old, tried and true Paypal as well as bank transfers if you are in the UK. Also you can see prices in your country’s currency by using the drop down menu at the top of the store page. The shop is also integrated with this blog.
What a better way to celebrate a new shop than with a new collection. The Crystal Nimbus Collection is based on a hand-forged design which grew out of my incredibly popular Anglo Saxon pennanular brooch. A simple, endless circle inspired by the moon, ouroboros and archeological finds. This penannular brooch is based on an Anglo Saxon design discovered in North Yorkshire. This brooch was featured in the Easy KnitnSweater Jacket Tutorial from Very Pink Knits. Anglo Saxon Penannular Brooch. MADE TO ORDER
These new crystal necklaces were born out of that design, of which I have now made many. I recently read a fascinating article on crystallography. The otherworldly voids and stark, icy structures inspired me. Rather than form a holiday collection I started to think about light and shape. The forging process itself shaped these. The raw crystals capture the winter solstice spirit so well– they are a light in the darkness. The nimbus shape came from the anglo saxon brooch but also my obsession with medieval iconography and the fine gilded halos of saints– a simple mark denoting grace. Highlights of the collection are below. Each is one of a kind and I hope to add more pieces as the season darkens.