Olde Scottish Shortbread

Olde Scottish Shortbread is a delicious, buttery biscuit everyone loves! This makes 8 fingers (as in the photograph) or an 8″ round that can be cut into 8 triangles.

Shortbread

Ingredients:

3oz butter

2oz sugar

3oz plain flour

1oz cornflour

Method:

1. Heat the oven to Gas Mark 4, 350 F, 180 C.

2. Lightly flour a baking sheet or pan.

3. In a large bowl cream (whisk) the butter with 1 oz of sugar, work in the flour and cornflour, then add the remainder of the sugar.

4. Knead well until a smooth  dough forms.

5.  Shape into 8 fingers and place on baking sheet OR press entire dough into the floured 8″round baking pan.

6. Cook for approximately 20 minutes in the center of the oven.  Remove from the heat.  Cool in the tin.

Extra Suggestions:

* Jammy Shorts: Make 8 rounds (instead of 8 fingers).  Press thumb in center of raw dough.  Add a half-spoon of raspberry jelly. Bake as above.

* Fruit Sunflower: Cover a round of cooked shortbread with fresh fruit slices (peach, strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, pineapple) and scoops of vanilla ice cream.  Sprinkle with chopped nuts.  Serve at once.

* Shortbread Surprise: Add 1oz of glace cherries, raisins, chocolate chips, OR macadamia nuts to the raw dough.  Stir and knead well.  Cook as above.

Paws For Thought

Black cat         The phrase domestic cat is an oxymoron” (George F. Will)

Ever since hunting communities turned to farming, the advantages of keeping cats around was obvious – they kept down the rodents that ate the precious grain supplies.  As cats became more domesticated people grew fond of these playful balls of mischief and started making them pets.  Cats were revered by the Egyptians, Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Romans, and Vikings for hundreds of years.  If a black cat crossed your path you would be lucky, and to dream of this creature was a good omen.  Mummified cats were buried in houses as a spiritual protection against rats and mice.  But something happened in the Middle Ages that changed public opinion so that cats suddenly became demonized and were actively persecuted.  Why did this happen?

Evil Dukie 2

The cat is an ambivalent creature, wild by nature and perhaps never fully tamed.  They are not easily befriended, roam about in the night, and are sexually promiscuous.  Cats are stealthy, sneaky, silent, clever, inquisitive, and almost invisible in the darkness – except for their scary eyes.  All felines are hunters and killers, and their eerie howls and cries can sound quite chilling.  They are said to have nine lives and be difficult to get rid of.  And some old wives’ tales claim cats kill babies – either by sitting on their faces or by sucking the breath from their noses.

The Celts believed cats were the souls of wicked people unfit to be reborn as humans who were changed into animals instead.  Perhaps this notion of evil lived on in the European psyche because when the early medieval witch hunts broke out, common animals became firmly associated with witches – particularly black cats.  Cats were said to be their familiar spirits.   Felines were seen as either shape-shifting witches or devils in disguise, or as the bad souls of former witches reborn.  In 1484, a Papal decree denounced all cats and their owners as devil-worshippers, opening the floodgates for The Burning Times to begin.

Evil Zig

This persecution lasted hundreds of years.  And just as the cunning folk were condemned to terrible deaths, so too were their pets.  Thousands of cats were hunted down during Lent and burned on huge public bonfires.  At the coronation of Queen Elizabeth I (1558) live cats were stuffed inside a wicker effigy of the pope and set ablaze.  It is said that loud songs and music were used to drown out their pitiful howls, but no one spoke out against the atrocity because cats were the most feared and reviled of all common animals.

The Age of Enlightenment gave rise to a more logical and scientific way of thinking that eventually overcame these fears and superstitions.  And when people started questioning the existence of witchcraft they began seeing cats through different eyes too.  They were no longer the public enemy.

As a life-long cat owner I have grown to appreciate the independence and intriguing ambiguities of my kitties, but if yours ever lets you think they are truly domesticated – enjoy the illusion!

Old Demdike: Forty Nine

Put To Question: Pressing

Torture isn’t allowed under English law –
but some folk still get pressed to death by the peine forte et dure!

“he will lie upon his back, with his head covered and his feet, and one arm will be drawn to one quarter of the house with a cord, and the other arm to another quarter, and in the same manner it will be done with his legs; and let there be laid upon his body iron and stone, as much as he can bear, or more.”

Lancaster Castle

Since 1093, Lancaster Castle has protected the north of England from a Scottish invasion.  Built on the site of an old Roman fort, it was confiscated by the Crown following an unsuccessful rebellion against King Henry I.  Today it belongs to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

Lancaster Castle has a long history of dealing with criminals.  The first Assizes (law courts for serious cases) began in 1166 and were held twice each year.  And although the castle is still used as a Crown Court today, it recently stopped serving as a prison in March, 2011.

CastleThe trials of the Lancashire Witches took place within these walls on two days of August, 1612.  According to local legend the prisoners endured horrific conditions while imprisoned in the dungeons of the Well Tower.  One of the matriarchs – Old Demdike – did not survive her incarceration.  It is also estimated that around 200 official executions took place here over the centuries.

Lancaster Castle is a fascinating tourist attraction for anyone interested in medieval history, crime and punishment, witch hunts, religious persecutions, and British heraldry.  Yet children growing up in the area were told, No one comes out of that place the same way they went in – most of the prisoners supposedly turned mad.

Today, the gray, daunting castle still dominates the quaint city of Lancaster from its perch on the top of the hill.

And within its chilly walls lie many dark, unspoken wonders.

 

Source Material:

Champness, John.  Lancaster Castle: A Brief History (Lancashire: Lancashire County Books, 1993)

Do You Believe In Ghosts?

The Ghost Club

sceance

The Ghost Club is the oldest organization dedicated to psychical research.

It was started in 1862 and is still in existence today.

Past members include: Charles Dickins, W.B. Yates, Siegfried Sassoon, Peter Cushing, and many other famous enquiring minds.

Want to join? Check out this link for details: http://www.ghostclub.org.uk/

Happy hunting!

Fabulous Fire

Fire Magic

Fire is the element of heat and light associated with transformation.

It symbolizes civilization – wisdom – fellowship –

fertility – rebirth – and passion.

There are close connections with the sun.

Fire brings comfort and illumination.  But this powerful energy can

also be furious, painful, and destructive.

Old Demdike: Forty Seven

Put To Question: The Thumbscrews

Torture isn’t allowed under English law –
but the thumbscrews or pilniewinks crush even the strongest will!

“. . . in 1596, the son and daughter of Aleson Balfour, who was accused of witchcraft, were tortured to make her confess her crime in the manner following: Her son was put in the buits where he suffered fifty-seven strokes; and her daughter about seven years old, was put in the pilniewinks . . .”

Blessed Be

Don’t overlook me

   or underestimate my power –

I rock in the darkness of night

   on a misty bower.

Moon

The clouds troll my words

   and carry my message on air –

slashing the canvas of space with

   a shadowy tear.

There’s fascination

   veiled in many disguises –

but some seek only the darkling

   feral surprises.

I glow beyond time

   like an ancient wayward daughter

birthed of the moon  – You can simply

call me an author.

Olde English Hotpot

Hotpot was traditionally cooked in a cauldron on an open fire.  Nowadays it’s made in a non-stick pan on the stove.

Hotpot

Ingredients:

Large can of best Stewing Steak

5lbs potatoes

1lb carrots

2 large onions

2 cups beef stock

2oz butter or margarine

Salt

Black pepper

Method:

1. Peel all the vegetables.  Fry the chopped carrots and onions together in the melted butter or margarine until soft.

2.  Add the Stewing Steak.  Stir well.

3. Cut the potatoes into 1-2″ cubes and add to the pot.  Stir well.

4. Cover over the top of the potatoes with beef stock (adding more water if necessary).

5.  Bring to the boil.  Reduce to a low heat.  Simmer for 1-2 hours until the mixture is reduced and all of the vegetables are fully cooked.  Stir frequently.

Serve with red cabbage, pickled onions, mushy peas, or crusty bread.

Enjoy!

The Hill

There are few place in England older, or more shrouded in mystery, than Stonehenge.  The famous stones in Wiltshire have aroused much speculation throughout the centuries – that they were built by alien gods – conjured up by Merlin – designed by the Druids for ritual sacrifices – or were part of a mystical system of Ley Lines.  This magic circle still draws thousands of tourists every year from all parts of the globe.  It is a place of natural energy and stunning design.

Stonehenge  But there is another place of wonder in the North of Britain, far more ancient and equally fascinating, called Pendle Hill.  Almost the size of a mountain, it rises 1,829′ above sea level in the Pennine Range, separating the ancient seats of Lancaster (Lancashire) and York (Yorkshire).

Hill

The hill is a place of stark, feral beautiful, often mysteriously shrouded in mist.  A Bronze Age burial site has been discovered on the summit, and it is said that the Druids once lived close by.  For as long as men and women worshipped the rising sun there have been celebrations on this thirsty earth, a soil demanding human blood.  There are rumors of wicker-man sacrifices – fertility rites to bring in the spring – priestesses who could raise storms and conquer invading enemies.  Even the great Julius Caesar admitting to fearing these weird conjurers.

Although little of Pendle’s history is certain before the Norman Conquest, the land was then given to the De Laceys and they established two “royal” hunting grounds, one in the Forest of Pendle and the other in the Forest of Trawden.  Throughout the Middle Ages  this area was a center for sheep farming and wool production, and despite Henry VIII’s Reformation the people clung to their old beliefs – probably a little Celtic paganism mixed with Catholic ritual and a hefty dose of superstition.

It is still an awesome place today.  From the top of the cairn you can often see as far as the sea.  The air tingles with a hidden current, like the pulse of an ancient heartbeat.  This peculiar energy cannot be explained but it has been interpreted in two important, yet widely opposing ways.  In 1652 George Fox climbed to the top of Pendle Hill and had a vision of many souls coming to Christ. This compelled him to start the Quaker Movement and dedicate his life to the service of God.

A few years earlier, however, this same land was thought to be riddled with witches and demons, which triggered the Lancashire Witch Trials of 1612 and 1634.

If you are ever in Lancashire, it is well worth a visit!

 

Queen’s It’s A Kind Of Magic

It’s A Kind Of Magic

(Roger Taylor)

Trick

It’s a kind of magic.
It’s a kind of magic.
A kind of magic – no way.
One dream, one soul, one prize,
one goal, one golden glance of what should be.
It’s a kind of magic.
One shaft of light that shows the way.
No mortal man can win this day.
It’s a kind of magic.
The bell that rings inside your mind
is challenging the doors of time.
It’s a kind of magic.
The waiting seems eternity,
The day will dawn, of sanity.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh.
Is this a kind of magic ?
It’s a kind of magic.
There can be only one.
This rage that lasts a thousand years
will soon be done.
This flame that burns inside of me,
I’m hearing secret harmonies.
It’s a kind of magic.
The bell that rings inside your mind
is challenging the doors of time.
It’s a kind of magic.
It’s a kind of magic.
This rage that lasts a thousand years
will soon be, will soon be, will soon be done.
This is (this is) a kind (a kind) of magic (yeah).
There can be only one – one –  one – one.
This rage that lasts a thousand years
will soon be done – done.
Magic – it’s a kind of magic.
It’s a kind of magic.
Magic – magic – magic – (magic)
Ha ha ha haa – it’s magic.
Ha, haa.
Yeah, yeah.
Wooh.
It’s a kind of magic!

See Freddie’s performance:

It’s A Kind Of Magic

Old Demdike: Forty Six

Put To Question: The Rack

Torture isn’t allowed under English law –
but some folk get stretched on The Rack:

“We went to the torture room in a kind of procession, the attendants walking ahead with lighted candles.
The chamber was underground and dark, particularly near the entrance. It was a vast place and every device and instrument of human torture was there. They pointed out some of them to me and said I would try them all. Then he asked me again whether I would confess.
‘I cannot,’ I said.”
(Father John Gerard, 1597)

In The Beginning . . .

Throughout the Middle Ages,Lancashire was ripe with tales of cunning folk.  In 1595 a conjure man called John Hartley convinced the Starkies of Huntroyde that seven members of their household were possessed by demons.  The Starkies were related to Roger Nowell, a Justice of the Peace from nearby Read who spearheaded the infamous Lancashire Witch Hunts of 1612.

Devil

James 1st became King of England in 1603 – the same year Jennet Device was born into the Demdike Clan at Malkin Tower – and the same year that a terrible plague swept the land.  Two years later Guy Fawkes’ Jesuit Gunpowder Plot failed to blow up Parliament, but it did trigger a nation-wide persecution of priests at a time when Lancashire was still a Catholic stronghold.

Witches, ghosts, and boggarts were a part of English folklore, inspiring many weird and wonderful tales that included Shakespeare’s Macbeth  (1606).  The wise women of Pendle Hill worked the superstitious locals to eek out a meager living.  They offered a wide range of services from basic herbal  medicine to midwifery and abortion – concocting charms, curses, love spells, and potions – claiming they could heal, harm, and foretell the future.

On March 21st in 1612, Old Demdike’s teenage granddaughter – Alizon Device – set off to go begging in Colne.  On the way she met a peddler called John Law who refused to give her the pins she demanded and so she cursed him.  Moments later Law collapsed, paralyzed down one side of his body.  He pointed the finger at Alizon Device and his son went straight to the authorities.  Because Alizon was one of the notorious Demdikes the rest of her family were rounded up for examination and before long, the Lancashire witch hunts had begun.

Fear

 

I slid through the gap and into a spiraling whirlpool,

landed inside the gray with a nauseous splash.

Trees stood stripped of dignity, shuddering in the twilight

of winter, naked but broiling with torturous stakes.

Eerie

As branches drowned in the wake of death their fingers pointed

through ripples pungent with sulfur and blue, bruised blood.

Shock took captive my slipping heart, which spluttered against the

ominous fog creeping in to steal my good eye.

 

Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze

Purple Haze

(Jimi Hendrix)

images[7]

Purple haze, all in my brain,
Lately, things they don’t seem the same.
Acting funny, but I don’t know why,
Excuse me while I kiss the sky.

Purple haze, all around,
Don’t know if I’m coming up or down.
Am I happy or in misery?
What ever it is, that girl put a spell on me.

Help me.
Help me.
Oh, no, no!

Ooo, ahhh.
Ooo, ahhh.
Ooo, ahhh.
Ooo, ahhh, yeah!

Purple haze all in my eyes,
Don’t know if it’s day or night.
You got me blowing, blowing my mind.
Is it tomorrow, or just the end of time?

Ooo!
Help me.
Ahh, yea-yeah, purple haze.
Oh, no, oh!
Oh, help me.
Tell me, tell me, purple haze.
I can’t go on like this!
Purple haze.
You’re making me blow my mind.
Purple haze, n-no, nooo!
Purple haze.

Check out this version:

(Picture: Richard Riemerschmid)

Resurrection

Resurrection

Resurrection

On this page I recreate history

from the remnants of childhood –

This keyboard grows smooth with jabbering fingers

tapping the fear and wonder –

My screen glows white from the heat of knowledge

lighting the hidden shadows –

And free from the net that strangled my spirit

I resurrect Her wild past.

Contacting The Dead

A séance is an attempt to contact the dead either by conjuring up manifestations of spirits, from messages relayed through a Medium, or via a Ouija Board.

In ancient times only prophets, seers, and Cunning Folk were called on to access with the world beyond death, but after Baron Lyttelton published a book called Communication With the Other Side (1760) ordinary people were drawn to the idea of “penetrating the veil” for themselves.  The popularity of séances soon developed into a new religion called Spiritualism.

The early Spiritualists used a talking board at their camps in Ohio (1886), a device that became known as a Ouija Board.  This tablet gave everyone equal access to the world beyond.  The name Ouija was said to stem from the Egyptian word for good luck, though others have argued it is a combination of the French and German words for yes.  The first commercial board was created in 1894 by Elijah Bond.

ouija board

The flat board is marked with the letters of the alphabet, numbers 0-9, “Yes,” “No,” and “Good bye.”  A moveable marker or planchette – usually made of plastic or wood – spells out words when the participants place their fingers on it.  It is a form of automatic writing.

Over the years this form of communication has been criticized by the Church as a dangerous tool of Satan.  Other users argue it is simply a harmless parlor game.  And some modern day psychologists claim that the Ouija Board offers a fascinating insight into the minds of the players because they are unconsciously moving the marker according to their own secret thoughts, fears, and desires.

Sources:

Ghost Research Society. “Ouija: Not a Game,” at http://www.ghostresearch.org/articles/ouija.html

Psychicsuniverse.com.  “Holding A Séance: How To Do It Sanely and Safely,” at http://www.psychicsuniverse.com/articles/spirituality/living-spiritual-life/rituals/holding-s%C3%A9ance-how-do-it-sanely-and-safely

Smithsonian.com. “The Strange and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board,” at http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-strange-and-mysterious-history-of-the-ouija-board-5860627/

Wikipedia. “Ouija,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouija

“I See Dead People!”

Spiritualism: Fact or Fraud?

spiritualism

Spiritualism is the belief that the souls of the dead pass over onto the first Astral Plane, and from there they can communicate via a Medium to warn, guide, and enlighten the living with the observations they have made from beyond the veil. The Medium communicates between the two worlds through séances.  God is the Infinite Intelligence, and when spirits pass over they grow and perfect by moving through a series of hierarchical spheres.

The first Spiritualists were radical Quakers who combined supernatural practices within their own religion. This belief system was hugely popular with middle and upper class Americans and Europeans between 1840 – 1920.  During the American Civil War period a lot of grieving parents tried supernatural sources in a desperate attempt to communicate with their lost sons, including President Abraham Lincoln and his wife Mary.  Another historical surge happened during The Great War too, for similar reasons. Unfortunately, trances, séances, and automatic writing developed into profitable showmanship for paying audiences and therefore became susceptible to widespread fraud.  The Seybert Commission discredited many famous practitioners.

Both Arthur Conan Doyle and Charles Dickens were members of the Ghost Club established in London, 1862.  These men undertook the scientific study of paranormal activities in order to prove or disprove their existence.  During the 1920s Harry Houdini campaigned to expose fraudulent Mediums.  And in 1921 Thomas Lynn Bradford committed suicide hoping to prove the existence of the afterlife, but no communication was ever heard from him again.

Although Spiritualism as a religion has been widely discredited there has been a continuing interest in Spiritual Healing.  This is a holistic practice where the Medium aids a sick person by transmitting curative energy that works with the mind, spirit, emotion, and body of the recipient.  Does it work?

What do you believe?

Sources:

Britannica.com. “Spiritualism,” at  http://www.britannica.com/topic/spiritualism-religion

National Spiritualist Association of Churches. “Religion,” at https://www.nsac.org/spiritualism.php

Wikipedia. “Spiritualism,” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiritualism

Olde English Mince Pies

Traditional Mince Pies used to contain meat, alongside the familiar fruit mixture found today.

Here is my Lancashire adaptation of Jeri Westerson’s recipe for the adventurous to try!

pie

Ingredients:

1lb lean minced beef, boiled thoroughly until reduced to small strands

4 green apples, cored, peeled and cubed into bite-size pieces

1/4lb suet, processed into fine granules

12oz raisins

12oz currants

2 lemons, with rind grated, squeezed, and chopped into small pieces

4oz brown sugar

4 tablespoons black treacle

8oz cooking sherry

8oz cider

8oz brandy

salt and pepper to taste

2 tablespoons mace

2 tablespoons allspice

2 tablespoons nutmeg

2 tablespoons ground cloves

4 tablespoons cinnamon

1lb pastry dough

flour to roll out pastry

1 tablespoon milk to glaze

nub of butter to grease pie dish

 

Method:

  1. Heat the oven 375/ 190 /Gas 5.
  2. Grease a large, deep pie dish.
  3. Place the cooked beef in large bowl.  Add the apples, suet, raisins, currants, lemons, sugar, black treacle, cider, salt, pepper, mace, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon.  Mix well.
  4. Allow the meat to cool. Stir in the sherry and brandy.
  5. Roll out half of the pastry on a floured surface and line the base of the pie dish. Pour in the meat mixture and press flat.
  6. Roll out the lid and seal the edges. Cut steam holes in the top of the pie crust. Glaze with milk.
  7. Bake for 30 – 45 minutes until crisp and golden brown.
  8. Cool on a rack.  Pies can be served hot or cold.

My version varies slightly from Jeri’s.  Check out the original below:

http://www.getting-medieval.com/my_weblog/2012/12/medieval-mince-pie.html

 

 

 

 

Old Demdike: Forty Three

Samhain, Halloween, All Hallows Eve, or Souls Night

Call it what you will – but the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest on October 31st.

Samhain means Summer’s End. Wise Women celebrate on the nearest full moon before November, after the harvest is gathered, halfway between Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. It represents the end of summer and the start of the spiritual New Year. Samhain comes from the Celtic Fire Festival when Druids remember their dead. Bonfires are built to cleanse and protect – and sacrifices offered to the gods. It’s a night of divination, mummers, feasting, guising, and young lads following the Hobby Horse about the village.

The Church of Rome made this feast into All Hallows’ Eve – the start of All Saints’ Day to honor the Christian saints and martyrs. There’ll be Soul Cakes eaten instead of meat – candles lit for the dear departed – vigils – feasts – and the ringing of church bells everywhere.

The youngsters celebrate Halloween, short for Hallowed or Holy Evening.  They remember the frailty of life with skeletons, ghouls, cobwebs, tombstones, and demons, hoping to chase evil and death away by honoring the darkness. Some carve turnips into Jack o’ Lanterns for those lost souls who’ve been denied both Heaven and Hell. They partake in pranks to imitate mischievous spirits, costume feasts, processions, and mummers’ plays.

Aye, it’s a powerful time – so be careful to guard your own soul!

The Divine Comedy: Dante’s Demons

The Divine Comedy is an epic poem written by Dante Alighieri between 1308-1320 AD.  As one of the most influential books ever composed, this religious allegory about the importance of salvation marks the start of Italian literature.

The story begins at Easter in the year 1300.  There are three parts (cantiche) aligning with the Trinity’s Father Son, and Holy Ghost.  They are entitled Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio) and  Heaven (Paradiso).  Each section has 33 Songs (cantos), except for the first part which has 34.  These add up to a total of 100 Songs to represent Dante’s “perfect” number 10 (10 x 10 = 100).

Written in the first person, Dante imagines his soul’s spiritual quest as it ventures from darkness into light.

Dali 1 (Salvador Dali)

“Midway on our life’s journey, I found myself

In dark woods, the right road lost . . .”

The narrator wakes up one day to find himself in the dark forest of sin.  The spirit of Virgil appears and promises to lead him on the path of salvation through Hell, Purgatory, and into  Heaven.  Virgil eventually hands him over to Beatrice (the ideal woman).

Dante’s world is full of monsters and demons.  Each soul is punished according to its former deeds, which range from small self-indulgent transgressions such as a lack of willpower. to violent and malicious crimes.  Hell is portrayed as an underground funnel made up of circles.  At the bottom sits Satan who perpetually gnaws on history’s three worst traitors: Judas, Brutus, and Cassius.  The punishments inflicted on the travelers are vivid and relentless – the stuff of eternal nightmares.  Yet those sinners who have confessed to their crimes before death are eventually permitted to leave Hell and head through Purgatory in search of Heaven.

Purgatory is a mountain made up of 7 rings, with the Garden of Eden at the top.  Once cleansed of their sins, the wandering souls rise up toward Heaven where God appears as a vision of light.

Dante’s morality poem is a tale of justice and retribution.  The wrong-doers are punished for their past crimes with the worst torments imaginable.  They have to suffer alone and abandoned, devoid of help or hope.

Cerberus_Gluttony[1]

So why is this classic called The Divine Comedy when it is a full-blown scary vision of Hell?  Because Dante’s epic has a happy ending and therefore is not considered a tragedy in the standard literary tradition.

Sleep well!

Kit’s Crit: The Inferno of Dante (Robert Pinsky)

Dante

Robert Pinsky was the U.S. Poet Laureate from 1997-2000, and therefore my expectations for his translation of Dante Alighieri’s masterpiece The Inferno were very high.  I was not disappointed.

Pinsky recreates the medieval world view of religion and society -the original political subtext – the stunning imagery – and the 3-line interlocking stanzas of the terza rima rhyming scheme to great effect

Staying close to Dante’s intent, Pinsky underscores the symbiotic relationship between poetry and love.  He draws parallels between the narrator’s journey from Hell to Heaven with that of Ulysses’ adventures in Homer’s Odyssey, maintaining the power of the original poetry and making it accessible to the modern reader.  The Italian text is printed alongside the revised translation.

Dante’s work has influenced a wide range of intellectuals from Galileo through to the Modernists of the early 20th Century, particularly T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce.  Many artists have chosen to illustrate The Inferno in their own style.  This edition contains 35 interesting monotypes by Michael Mazur, although I personally favor the earlier illustrations of Salvador Dali.

The Mystica

untitled

The Mystica

In solitary non-compliant places

the Mystica rise

against the gravitational tug of nature

thwarting mortal will.

Gnarly limbs that grasp into consciousness

press the rub of time.

Their fingers grapple the swollen currents –

blasted and empty –

swimming away from treacherous  sandbanks,

unchecked by any tide.

A mysterious spell-binding graciousness

captivates the eye

and highlights the worn skeletal echoing

of constant pressure.

Their branches lie bare of verdant feathering

yet will bloom again

as they wrestle the constant drownings that

sap land-locked spirits.

Look! Out of even dead apparitions spring

promises of fresh life.

Bruce Springsteen’s Magic

MAGIC

(Bruce Springsteen)

I got a coin in your palm,
I can make it disappear.
I got a card up my sleeve,
Name it, and I’ll pull it out your ear.
I got a rabbit in the hat,
If you wanna come and see.
This is what will be.
This is what will be.

I got shackles on my wrists,
Soon I’ll slip and I’ll be gone.
Chain me in a box in the river,
And I rise up in the sun.
Trust none of what you hear,
And less of what you see.
This is what will be.
This is what will be.

 

magic

I’ll cut you in half,                                                                                                                                                                I got a shiny saw blade.                                                                                                                                                   All I need’s a volunteer,
I’ll cut you in half,
While you’re smiling ear to ear.
And the freedom that you sought,
Drifting like a ghost amongst the trees.
This is what will be.
This is what will be.

Now there’s a fire down below,
But it’s coming up here.
So leave everything you know,
Carry only what you fear.
On the road the sun is sinking low,
Bodies hanging in the trees.
This is what will be.
This is what will be.

And here’s The Boss himself:

What’s Your Poison? Foxglove!

Did you know:

  • The Foxglove plant has been called Bloody Fingers, Dead Men’s Bells, Witches’ Gloves, and Fairy Glove because of its toxicity.
  • It is part of the Digitalis family.
  • Its attractive flowers have tubular bell-like petals that hang from a long stem.   They blossom in a variety of colors – most often purple, pink, red, white, and yellow – and many have speckled throats.

Foxglove

  • Foxgloves like acidic soil, and because different varieties favor sun or shade they thrive in a range of places from woodlands, moorlands, hedgerows, mountain slopes, and sea cliffs.
  • Since the Eighteenth Century a medicine extracted from the Foxglove plant has been used to treat irregular heart conditions.  A modern derivative called Digoxin is still used by cardiologists today.
  • The entire species is poisonous.  They cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, altered vision, abnormal heart rates, weakness, seizures, and death.
  • All parts of the plant are toxic to humans, a range of other mammals, and poultry.  Drying does not affect the potency.  Symptoms last 1-3 days but recovery is likely with medical intervention.
  • Vincent Van Gogh’s “Yellow Period” may have resulted from taking a Foxglove medication that was given to control seizures!

Sources:

Botanical.com. “Foxglove,” at http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/f/foxglo30.html

MedicinePlus. “Foxglove Poisoning,” at https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002878.htm

Wikipedia. “Digitalis,” at  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digitalis

 

 

A Brush With Power

What do you call a motorbike that belongs to a witch?   

A brrroooommmm stick!

witch_on_broomstick_2[1]

 

According to folklore, witches fly on broomsticks to meet with other members of their covens.

Broomstick handles are made from strong woods like hazel or oak, and the bristles are usually birch twigs tied up with strips of willow bark.  It is the only magic tool considered to be both masculine (the handle) and feminine (the bristles).

Brooms have long been connected to women and domestic work.  They perhaps became associated with magic from the Beltane (May Day) tradition of blessing the fields. In many farming communities the women rode brooms around the newly-planted crops, leaping as high as possible to encourage tall growth and a good harvest.

Jumping the Broom is a common practice in pagan wedding ceremonies.  It represents the joining of two households by the crossing over from one to the other.

Yet witches have several other uses for this tool:

* The broomstick is used in cleansing ceremonies, to sweep away negative energy from the magic circle and help prepare the workspace.

* In the days when wise women were persecuted, its bristles made a good place to hide a forbidden magic wand.

* When hung on a wall it protects the home from unwelcome visitors.

* If placed under a bed it brushes nightmares away.

* And in even in today’s modern world there are many who still touch wood when seeking good luck.

But what does a witch do when her precious broom breaks?

Well then she has to witch-hike!

Sources:

Blake, Deborah.  “The Witches’ Broom” in Witches and Pagans #29  (Oregan: BBI Media, 2014)

Froome, Joyce. Wicked Enchantments: A History of the Pendle Witches and Their Magic  (Lancaster: Carnegie, 2010)