England

July 10th is Lady Godiva Day. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the story – but here it is again:

The Countess Godiva devoutly anxious to free the city of Coventry from a grievous and base thralldom often besought the Count, her husband, that he would for love of the Holy Trinity and the sacred Mother of God liberate it from such servitude. But he rebuked her for vainly demanding a thing so injurious to himself and forbade her to move further therin.

Yet she, out of her womanly pertinacity, continued to press the matter insomuch that she obtained this answer from him: “Ascend,” he said, “thy horse naked and pass thus through the city from one end to the other in sight of the people and on thy return thou shalt obtain thy request.”

Upon which she returned: “And should I be willing to do this, wilt thou give me leave?”

“I will,” he responded.

Then the Countess Godiva, beloved of God, ascended her horse, naked, loosing her long hair which clothed her entire body except her snow white legs, and having performed the journey, seen by none, returned with joy to her husband who, regarding it as a miracle, thereupon granted Coventry a Charter, confirming it with his seal.

From the Flores Historiarum by Roger of Wendover

In the English region of East Anglia, those who continue to follow the ancient ways believe that June 29 is the prime day of the year to harvest herbs for healing use.

Here are some great tips for harvesting herbs:

For the highest quality, herbs should be harvested before the Sun gets too high in the sky. The heat of the Sun will evaporate the essential oil from the herbs, so picking earlier in the day (like by 10:30am) ensures that the highest amount of oils will still be present within them.

When getting plants from the wild, respect the area and plant you are harvesting, never strip a plant bare, never pull it out by the roots to get a few leaves and I always check to see that there are other plants of the same species around and its not some rare almost extinct plant. Also be very sure that the plant you are about to pick is what you think it is, Mother Nature can be very tricky sometimes, and 2 seemingly identical plants can have very different effects when ingested. It is best to ask permission of the plant before taking it’s bounty, and remember, respect, respect, respect!

Transporting your herbs must be done carefully to retain their valuable powers. It’s best to take an open-topped basket or cotton bag with you and some layers of tissue so that herbs can be transported dry and safe back to home, it is pointless seeking out a special plant, than sticking it into a carrier bag in your pocket so it sweats, bruises and it unidentifiable mush by the time you get home.

It is best not to harvest any herbs that have been growing close to the road as the leaves take in the carbon monoxide and poisonous fumes given out by the traffic and take it down into the plant to the root where it becomes stored.  Do not pick wild herbs and plants from verges or thoroughfares as this contravenes several laws and also the fact that most areas like these are open to our friendly dog and cat population.

If harvesting wild plants leave a large amount of flowers, seed and root as the plant population of that area will very quickly die out if you go in mob-handed and wrench up the only two plants for miles around.

To harvest herbs in a magickal way visit this post: Harvesting Magickal Herbs in a Magickal Way

Oak Apple Day or Royal Oak Day was a formal public holiday celebrated in England on 29 May to commemorate the restoration of the English monarchy, in May 1660. Parliament declared this to be a public holiday, “to be for ever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King’s return to his Government, he entering London that day.”

Traditional celebrations to commemorate the event often entailed the wearing of oak apples or sprigs of oak leaves. , in reference to the occasion after the Battle of Worcester in September 1651, when Charles II escaped the Roundhead army by hiding in an oak tree near Boscobel House.

Anyone who failed to wear a sprig of oak risked being pelted with bird’s eggs or thrashed with nettles. In Sussex, those not wearing oak were liable to be pinched, giving rise to the unofficial name of “Pinch-bum Day”; similarly it was known as “Bumping Day” in Essex.

What is an Oak Apple?

An oak apple is a mutation of an oak leaf caused by chemicals injected by the larvae of certain kinds of gall wasp.  It is a type of plant gall, possibly known in some parts of the country as a “shick-shack.”

In Upton Grey, Hampshire, after the church bells had been rung at 6 a.m. the bell-ringers used to place a large branch of oak over the church porch, and another over the lych gate. Smaller branches were positioned in the gateway of every house to ensure good luck for the rest of the year.

These ceremonies, which have now largely died out, are perhaps continuations of pre-Christian nature worship.

The Garland King who rides through the streets of Castleton, Derbyshire, at the head of a procession, completely disguised in a garland of flowers which is later affixed to a pinnacle on the parish church tower, can have little connection with the Restoration, even though he dresses in Stuart costume.

He is perhaps a kind of Jack in the Green and the custom may have transferred from May Day when such celebrations were permitted again after having been banned by the Puritans.

The public holiday, Oak Apple Day, was formally abolished by the Anniversary Days Observance Act 1859, but the date retains some significance in local or institutional customs.

Events still take place at Upton-upon-Severn in Worcestershire, Aston on Clun in Shropshire, Marsh Gibbon in Buckinghamshire, Great Wishford in Wiltshire (when villagers gather wood in Grovely Wood), and Membury in Devon. The day is generally marked by re-enactment activities at Moseley Old Hall, West Midlands, one of the houses where Charles II hid in 1651.

Fownhope, Hereford have an ongoing tradition in the celebration of Oak Apple Day. The Fownhope Heart of Oak Society organize an annual event, where members of the society gather at the local pub and march through the village holding flower and oak leaf decorated sticks, whilst following the society banner and a brass band. The march goes first to the church for a service, and then to houses who host refreshments.

The Heart of Oak Society was previously a friendly society, but had to reform in 1989 to keep the tradition going. Although Oak Apple Day celebrations have decreased in popularity and knowledge, Fownhope has managed to keep the event going, increasing in popularity and turn-out every year.

At All Saints’ Church, Northampton a statue of Charles II is wreathed at noon every Oak Apple Day, followed by a celebration of the Holy Communion according to the Book of Common Prayer.

At some Oxford and Cambridge colleges a toast is still drunk to celebrate Oak Apple Day.

Oak Apple Day is also celebrated in the Cornish village of St Neot annually. The Vicar leads a procession through the village, he is followed by the Tower Captain holding the Oak bough. A large number of the villagers follow walking to the Church. A story of the history of the event is told and then the Vicar blesses the branch. The Tower Captain throws the old branch down from the top of the tower and a new one is hauled to the top.

Everyone is then invited to the vicarage gardens for refreshments and a barbecue. Up to 12 noon villagers wear a sprig of “red” (new) oak and in the afternoon wear a sprig of “Boys Love” (Artemisia abrotanum); tradition dictates that the punishment for not doing this results in being stung by nettles.

Source: Wikipedia

The Furry Dance, also known as The Flora (or incorrectly as the Floral Dance), takes place in Helston, Cornwall, and is one of the oldest British customs still practiced today. The Dance takes place every year on May 8 (or the Saturday before if May 8 falls on a Sunday or Monday), and is a celebration of the passing of Winter and the arrival of Spring.

The dance is very well attended every year. Winter’s gone, so everybody’s out in the streets to celebrate the new life springing up all around. It seems like the whole of Cornwall is lining the streets, all freshly decorated with colourful flowers

The four dances and a Hal-an-Tow (a mystery play), spread across the day, starting with the first dance at 7.00 am, continuing with the children’s dance at 10.00 am, then the midday dance and culminating in the evening dance at 5.00 pm. Of these, the midday dance is perhaps the best known: it was traditionally the dance of the gentry in the town, and today the men wear top hats and tails while the women dance in their finest frocks.

The Dance twists and turns its way through this ancient Cornish town and the route doesn’t change, even if that means that the Flora Dance has to traipse through people’s houses, across their gardens or straight through the shops.

The whole town is decorated with greenery, many of the people are wearing greenery outfits and the Town Band play all day long, providing music to the dancers, they have a splash of greenery in their hats too, you’ll notice this is Lily of the Valley, which is Helston’s symbolic flower. The gentlemen wear it on the left, with the flowers pointing upwards, and the ladies wear it upside down on the right.

Originally, most likely, a May Day celebration, it was moved to May 8th to commemorate the town’s patron saint, St Michael, who is said to have saved the town from what appears to be a meteorite hit in AD 495, you can still see the boulder that crashed down as it’s still visible as a wall in the Angel Yard.

Source: Cornish Festivals

Have Your Own Furry Dance:

The Furry Dance is an ancient festival that rejoices in spring’s warmth and beauty. To bring this energy into your life, it’s customary to dance with a partner. In fact, the more people you can get dancing, the more fortunate the energy! Usually this is done on the streets throughout a town as a show of regional unity, but when propriety won’t allow such a display, just dance around a room together instead. Don’t worry about the steps – just do what feels right.

  • Themes: Unity; Joy; Luck
  • Symbols: Flowers; Triangle
  • Presiding Goddess: Tanat

In Cornwall, Tanat is the mother goddess of fertility who has given all her attention to nursing spring into its fullness. She also staunchly protects her children (nature and people) so that our spirits can come to know similar fulfillment.

Wearing something with floral or triangular motifs (guys, wear a necktie, and gals, pull out a square scarf and fold it crosswise) activates Tanat’s happiness in your life and in any region where you have the token on today. As you don the item, say:

Liberate happiness in and around,
by Tanat’s blossoming power, joy will be found!

Or if you want to use the same thing to generate unity and harmony, use this incantation:

Harmony and unity,
Tanat’s blessings come to me.

From: 365 Goddess

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Saint George’s Day is celebrated on April 23, the traditionally accepted date of the saint’s death in AD 303. For those Eastern Orthodox Churches which use the Julian calendar, this date currently falls on the day of 6 May of the Gregorian calendar. In Turkish culture the day is known as Hıdırellez or Xıdır Nəbi and is symbolic of spring renewal.

It is also believed to be a magical day when all evil spells can be broken. It was believed that the saint helps the crops to grow and blesses the morning dew, so early in the morning they walked in the pastures and meadows and collected dew, washed their face, hands and feet in it for good luck and even in some rural parts of Bulgaria it was a custom to roll in it naked.

Many Christian denominations in Syria celebrate St George’s Day, especially in the Homs Governorate. They do this by dressing small children as dragons and chasing them through the streets whilst beating them with clubs and batons. It is a very special time of year, after the beatings folks will enjoy a sit down dinner and dancing.

Saint George’s Day is the feast day of Saint George as celebrated by various Christian Churches and by the several nations, kingdoms, countries, and cities of which Saint George is the patron saint.

Since Easter often falls close to Saint George’s Day, the church celebration of the feast may be moved to accommodate the Easter Festivities. Similarly, the Eastern Orthodox celebration of the feast moves accordingly to the first Monday after Easter or, as it is sometimes called, to the Monday of Bright Week.

Some Orthodox Churches have additional feasts dedicated to St George. The country of Georgia celebrates the feast of St. George on April 23, and, more prominently, November 10 (Julian calendar), which currently fall on May 6 and November 23 (Gregorian calendar), respectively.

stgeorgehandwavingflagSt George’s Day was a major feast and national holiday in England on a par with Christmas from the early 15th century. The Cross of St. George was flown in 1497 by John Cabot on his voyage to discover Newfoundland and later by Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. In 1620 it was the flag that was flown on the foremast of the Mayflower  when the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The tradition of celebration St George’s day had waned by the end of the 18th century after the union of England and Scotland. Nevertheless, the link with St. George continues today, for example Salisbury holds an annual St. George’s Day pageant, the origins of which are believed to go back to the 13th century. In recent years the popularity of St. George’s Day appears to be increasing gradually. Today, St. George’s day may be celebrated with anything English including morris dancing and Punch and Judy shows.

A traditional custom on St George’s day is to wear a red rose in one’s lapel, though this is no longer widely practiced. Another custom is to fly or adorn the St George’s Cross flag in some way: pubs in particular can be seen on April 23 festooned with garlands of St George’s crosses. It is customary for the hymn “Jerusalem” to be sung in cathedrals, churches and chapels on St George’s Day, or on the Sunday closest to it. Traditional English food and drink may be consumed.

In the Valencian city of Alcoi, Saint George’s Day is commemorated as a thanksgiving celebration for the proclaimed aid the Saint provided to the Christian troops fighting the Muslims in the siege of the city. Its citizens commemorate the day with a festivity in which thousands of people parade in medieval costumes, forming two “armies” of Moors and Christians and re-enacting the siege that gave the city to the Christians.

The Serbian St George’s Day is called Đurđevdan and is celebrated on 6 May every year, as the Serbian Orthodox Church uses the Julian, Old Style calendar. Đurđevdan is also celebrated by both Orthodox and Muslim Romani and Muslim Gorani. Đurđevdan is celebrated, especially, in the areas of Raška in Serbia, and is marked by morning picnics, music, and folk dances.

In Russia, St George’s Day (Гергьовден, Gergyovden) is a public holiday that takes place on 6 May each year. It is possibly the most celebrated name day in the country. A common ritual is to prepare and eat a whole lamb, which is an ancient practice possibly related to Slavic pagan sacrificial traditions and the fact that St George is the patron saint of shepherds.

Source: Wikipedia

 

 

Mothering Sunday is a holiday celebrated by Catholic and Protestant Christians in some parts of Europe. It falls on the fourth Sunday in Lent, exactly three weeks before Easter.

The other names attributed to the fourth Sunday in Lent include:

  • Refreshment Sunday
  • Pudding Pie Sunday (in Surrey, England)
  • Mid-Lent Sunday
  • Simnel Sunday
  • Rose Sunday

Simnel Sunday is named after the practice of baking simnel cakes to celebrate the reuniting of families during the austerity of Lent. (Here is a recipe: Simnel Cake.) Because there is traditionally a relaxation of Lenten vows on this particular Sunday in celebration of the fellowship of family and church, the name Refreshment Sunday is sometimes used, although rarely today.

Simnel cake is a traditional confection associated with both Mothering Sunday and Easter. Around 1600, when the celebration was only held in England and Scotland, a different kind of pastry was preferred. In England, “Mothering Buns” or “Mothering Sunday Buns” were made to celebrate. These sweet buns are topped with pink or white icing and the multi-colored sprinkles known as “hundreds and thousands” in the UK. (Here’s a recipe: Mothering Buns).  They are not widely made or served today in the UK but in Australia they are a bakery staple, not related to any particular celebration. In Northern England and Scotland some preferred “Carlings”, pancakes made of steeped peas fried in butter.

It is sometimes said that Mothering Sunday was once observed as a day on which people would visit their “mother” church. During the 16th century, people returned to their mother church, the main church or cathedral of the area, for a service to be held on Laetare Sunday. This was either the church where they were baptized, or the local parish church, or more often the nearest cathedral.

Anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone “a-mothering”, although whether this term preceded the observance of Mothering Sunday is unclear. In later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. The children would pick wild flowers along the way to place in the church or give to their mothers. Eventually, the religious tradition evolved into the Mothering Sunday secular tradition of giving gifts to mothers.

It was often the only time that whole families could gather together, since on other days they were prevented by conflicting working hours, and servants were not given free days on other occasions.

Whatever its origins, it is now an occasion for honoring the mothers of children and giving them presents. It is increasingly being called Mothers’ Day, although that has always been a secular event quite different from the original Mothering Sunday. In the UK and Ireland, Mothering Sunday is celebrated in the same way as Mothers’ Day is celebrated elsewhere.

By the 1920’s the custom of keeping Mothering Sunday had tended to lapse in Ireland and in continental Europe. In 1914, inspired by Anna Jarvis’s efforts in the United States, Constance Penswick-Smith created the Mothering Sunday Movement, and in 1921 she wrote a book asking for the revival of the festival.

Its wide scale revival was through the influence of American and Canadian soldiers serving abroad during World War II; the traditions of Mothering Sunday, still practiced by the Church of England and Church of Ireland were merged with the newly imported traditions and celebrated in the wider Catholic and secular society. UK-based merchants saw the commercial opportunity in the holiday and relentlessly promoted it in the UK; by the 1950’s, it was celebrated across all the UK.

People from Ireland and the UK started celebrating Mothers’ Day on the same day that Mothering Sunday was celebrated, the fourth Sunday in Lent. The two celebrations have now been mixed up, and many people think that they are the same thing.

Mothering Sunday remains in the calendar of some Canadian Anglican churches, particularly those with strong English connections.

Found at: Wikipedia

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The Celtic calendar denotes February 4 as King Frost Day. This old English festival is designed to fight the boredom of winter with a celebration asking for a quick arrival of spring.

In London, a fair was held to honor King Frost Day. People would gather at the river Thames, which was completely frozen over, to petition the King of the Frost to bring on Spring. This annual celebration understandably came to an abrupt end during World War I. Along the Welsh border, some still celebrate this day by gathering snowdrops.

King Frost reigned with the Queen of the Snowflakes. Today is a good day to work Snow and Ice Magicks. You can also decorate your home and work spaces with representations of winter, icicles, and snowflakes.

If you’re in a cold climate, go ice skating, attend a hockey game, build a snowman, or go cross-country skiing—or sit inside by the fire with a cup of cocoa and watch the snow fall outside. If you’re in a warm climate, eat ice cream or build an ice sculpture and watch it melt. Take joy in the cold, clean attributes of King Frost.

Collected from various sources

New Year’s Eve is traditionally a time for assessing the past twelve months and for looking ahead to the New Year. Numerous customs are still retained in Europe and the United States, including the idea of kindling a new light from the old. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including the following simple ceremony.

first-footing

 

At a few minutes to midnight, put out all of your lights except for a single candle or a lantern (it’s important that the light be a living one rather than electric). Send someone outside (traditionally it is someone who has dark hair) with the light, which they must guard and protect from the weather. As the clock strikes twelve have that person knock on the door. Open it and welcome them in with some form of ceremonial greeting, such as:

Welcome to the light of the New Year
And welcome he/she who brings it here.

Go around the house with the candle and relight all the lights you put out. If these can be candles so much the better, but don’t burn the house down In Scotland this custom is known as “First Footing,” and the person who first puts his or her foot across the door is the one who brings fortune to the whole household. Often someone in the house arranges with a friend to come to the house at the exact time carrying a gift – called a handsel in Scotland and consisting of a lump of coal, or a bottle of whiskey – something that will ensure that more gifts come throughout the next twelve months.

Source: The Winter Solstice

 

First Footing Lore:

The first person to enter your home after the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve will influence the year you’re about to have.

Ideally, he should be dark-haired, tall, and good-looking, and it would be even better if he came bearing certain small gifts such as a lump of coal, a silver coin, a bit of bread, a sprig of evergreen, and some salt.

Blonde and redhead first footers bring bad luck, and female first footers should be shooed away before they bring disaster down on the household. Aim a gun at them if you have to, but don’t let them near your door before a man crosses the threshold.

The first footer (sometimes called the “Lucky Bird”) should knock and be let in rather than unceremoniously use a key, even if he is one of the householders.

After greeting those in the house and dropping off whatever small tokens of luck he has brought with him, he should make his way through the house and leave by a different door than the one through which he entered.

No one should leave the premises before the first footer arrives – the first traffic across the threshold must be headed in rather than striking out.

First footers must not be cross-eyed or have flat feet or eyebrows that meet in the middle.

Nothing prevents the cagey householder from stationing a dark-haired man outside the home just before midnight to ensure the speedy arrival of a suitable first footer as soon as the chimes sound.

If one of the partygoers is recruited for this purpose, impress upon him the need to slip out quietly just prior to the witching hour.

Source: Snopes.com

boxing_day

This holiday, celebrated on Dec 26,  derives from the Old English custom of giving Christmas “boxes” to tradesmen, postmen, and servants. The original boxes were usually made of earthenware and contained money, which could be retrieved only by breaking the boxes open. These days, a gift of money is usually contained in a greeting card and given before the holiday. Where celebrated (Great Britain, Canada, and Australia), Boxing Day is welcomed as a quiet day of recuperation from the season’s hectic festivities. It is also the biggest day of the year for soccer playoffs.

Source: Almanac.com

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Stir-up Sunday is an informal term in Anglican churches for the last Sunday before the season of Advent. It gets its name from the beginning of the collect for the day in the Book of Common Prayer, which begins with the words, “Stir up, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people”. But it has become associated with the custom of making the Christmas puddings on that day.

Why not blend the best of both worlds? Invoke the Goddess Hestia’s blessing in your kitchen and make some pudding for the whole family (or a gathering of friends). Traditionally, families gather together in the kitchen of their homes to mix and steam Christmas pudding on Stir-up Sunday. Parents taught their children how to mix ingredients for the pudding. Everyone took a turn to stir the pudding mix for each person involved is able to make a special wish for the year ahead. Practically, stirring the mixture is hard work, therefore as many as possible are involved.

By tradition the pudding mixture is stirred from East to West in honor of the three wise men who visited the baby Jesus.Have each person present stir the pudding clockwise for a few minutes as they focus on a wish. By next year at this time, the wish should manifest.

It was common practice to include small silver coins in the pudding mixture, which could be kept by the person whose serving included them. The usual choice was a silver threepence or a sixpence. The coin was believed to bring wealth in the coming year. Other tokens are also known to have been included, such as a tiny wishbone (to bring good luck), a silver thimble (for thrift), or an anchor (to symbolise safe harbour).

On a historical note:

The Christmas pudding is one of the essential British Christmas traditions and is said to have been introduced to Britain by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria (the reality is that the meat-less version was introduced from Germany by George I in 1714.). Most recipes for Christmas pudding require it to be cooked well in advance of Christmas and then reheated on Christmas day, so the collect of the day served as a useful reminder.

About Hestia:

The Greek goddess of household affairs, Hestia watches over our cookery today to help manifest family unity and ensure tasty outcomes. As a hearth goddess, she provides the spiritual energy necessary to keep our faith sure and the inner fires burning bright. Greek art did not try to portray this goddess, because she was considered the beginning – the source from which all else was ignited and set in motion.

Light a candle this morning to welcome Hestia’s unity and energy into your home. Or, carry matches in your pocket so the spark of this goddess can ignite in any situation where it’s needed. Throughout the day, when you need more commitment to your beliefs, just light one match to invoke Hestia’s aid.

Collected from various sources

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