Friday, 15 February 2013

SEASONS ~ The Snow Drop Fairy has come

We love Autumn and Winter and have enjoyed being in our little snow covered village perched atop Wiltshire. Even though some cold remains after Valentine's Day the romance of it always seem to herald a new season, a warmer, floral one. The icy winds have turned more gentle, the snow has melted, the Thrush is singing.

1930 Cicely Mary Barker

During the cold and dark of Winter underneath the snow tender stems and blossom of snow drops were waiting and now they gift us with their Heavenly scent and delicate vision.  Even though they come each year, how could our hearts not be filled with a little joy at the sight of them?

Cafe tables are adorned with the buds of Daffodils, and soon the morning sun, just glinting briefly, will lengthen into hours. A perfect reason to wrap up warm and go outside. It is a lucky thing to be alive in Spring.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

CELEBRATIONS ~ On Valentine's Day

True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen.

- Francois de la Rochefoucauld

The Legacy of St. Valentine

True love is rare, and yet many of us experience it. If you have been one of the lucky ones, hold close and treasure your love. And do not forget to show gratitude on Valentine's Day!

It is easy to accept events and celebrations such as Valentine's Day without giving them a second thought, or knowing why we do celebrate them. It is impossible to recount the history of how Valentine's Day came to be but it is believed that it derives from one of three patron saints, or perhaps even an amalgamation of them.  Like most successfully long lived celebrations it has both christian and pagan elements.
The following definition on the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, which may well be related to our current Valentine's day, is from From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lupercalia most likely derives from lupus, "wolf," though both the etymology and its significance are obscure (bronze wolf's head, 1st century AD)
Observed byRoman Kingdom, Roman Republic, Roman Empire
TypeClassical Roman religion
DateFebruary 13—15
Observancessacrifices of goats and a dog by the Luperci; offering of cakes by the Vestals; fertility rite in which the goatskin-clad Luperci strike women who wish to conceive
Lupercalia was a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman pastoral festival, observed on February 13 through 15 to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility. Lupercalia subsumed Februa, an earlier-origin spring cleansing ritual held on the same date, which gives the month of February (Februarius) its name.
The name Lupercalia was believed in antiquity to evince some connection with the Ancient Greek festival of the Arcadian Lykaia (from Ancient Greek: λύκοςlukos, "wolf", Latin lupus) and the worship of Lycaean Pan, assumed to be a Greek equivalent to Faunus, as instituted by Evander.
In Roman mythology, Lupercus is a god sometimes identified with the Roman god Faunus, who is the Roman equivalent of the Greek god Pan. Lupercus is the god of shepherds. His festival, celebrated on the anniversary of the founding of his temple on February 15, was called the Lupercalia. His priests wore goatskins. The historian Justin mentions an image of "the Lycaean god, whom the Greeks call Pan and the Romans Lupercus," nude save for the girdle of goatskin, which stood in the Lupercal, the cave where Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf. There, on the Ides of February (in February the ides is the 13th), a goat and a dog were sacrificed, and salt mealcakes prepared by the Vestal Virgins were burnt.

~ ~ ~

In the history of the Catholic Church the various saints named Valentine or Valentinus were all martyred but their stories are lost to history and have passed into legend. One theory is that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first "valentine" greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl--possibly his jailor's daughter--who visited him during his confinement, and whose sight he is said to have restored. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed "From your Valentine," an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and, most importantly, a romantic figure.
By the time of the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Vintage Valentine Day cards

I especially love this little fold out Red Riding Hood card!

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) This is the translation from the French and I am certain it would lose some of the romance in translation.

I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine,
Since for me you were born too soon, And I for you was born too late.
God forgives he who has estranged/Me from you for the whole year.
I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine,
Well might I have suspected, That such a destiny,
Thus would have happened this day, How much that Love would have commanded.
I am already sick of love, My very gentle Valentine.

Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

Much of this text and research is from Here:

You can read more about The Duke of Orleans Here:

The early tradition of Valentine's Day was that it was the date that birds began to choose their mates, only later did the romance extend to the human population. The first reference in print to Valentine's Day is found in Geoffrey Chaucer's The parlement of foules [The Parliament of Fowls], circa 1381:
For this was on seynt Volantynys day Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
[For this was Saint Valentine's day, when every bird of every kind comes to this place to choose his mate.]
How the date of 14th February was selected isn't known. It may relate to the approximate date first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which Chaucer's poem was written to honour. The couple were both 14 at the time of the engagement, which took place on 2nd May 1381, not on 14th February. The betrothal of young lovers sounds promising as a romantic story bit, in fact it wasn't. The marriage was purely a political contract between Anne's brother, King Wenceslas IV of Bohemia and the English government - the partners were unlikely to have met prior to the marriage.
Perhaps in a throwback to the ancient tradition that birds chose their mates on this day it became the first day that thoroughbred stallions covered mares to produce the frisky foals as soon as possible in the New Year which would grow into strong racehorses whose pedigrees would be duly recorded on the pages of the General Stud Book started in 1791 by James Weatherby and still kept today at Weatherby's.

The Godolphin Arabian  (c. 1724 – 1753) one of 3 founding fathers of the throughbred racehorse.
painted by George Stubbs, here with his cat Grimalkin.

A stunning sight. Mares and Foals Disturbed by an Approaching Storm, George Stubbs

Footnote: The vintage Valentine Day cards were taken from those available to purchase on Ebay.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013


Pesky Pixies in the garden
I often post about Fairies and Pixies, they have been a fascination and inspiration all of my life. Once upon a time I thought I was growing out of them, they retreated to the shadows, behind day to day life, but they remained.

My childhood was spent in a series of uninteresting mass produced houses with white interiors and a constantly changing selection of modern furniture and objects.

My imagination was freed by the old china and books which were left forgotten on my Great Grandmother's display stand which had somehow managed to end up in a dark corner of our house. It's gnarled wood and chipped paint with it's 'one of a kind' bits and pieces had a terrific pull for a small curious child. Convinced as I was that the Fairies at the bottom of the garden had put it there just for me, I kept my passion for it secret. Those objects created a lifelong fascination for vintage items and later gave me a career. 

Our houses were devoid of personality but the gardens were always enchanted and full of wildlife. Father had green fingers and loved all living things, and they loved him back. Each time we moved he would begin again the process of planting trees for the birds, flowers for the Bees, Butterflies and Moths, vegetables for us and a pond which would magically become inhabited by insects, newts and Fairy Folk. He worked in a sawmill and had a bond with anything wooden. When I was 7 he built me a play house complete with running water. It was my own cottage in the woods of our back garden in suburbia. We had no money but Fairies really did live at the bottom of the garden, there was a white Wolf in the Woods, and the Pesky Pixies caused all kinds of havoc but would upon occasion agree to help with household and garden chores.

This enchanting image is from Here:
Grandparents lived in old houses filled with china, dark wood and paint colours, patterned carpets and overstuffed upholstered sofas and armchairs. When I visited I slept on a velvet drop arm sofa under antique handmade quilts.

It is funny how our past forms our future and makes us who we are today. I thank the teacher who gave me a great love for books, and those in my family who showed me that treasure can come from unexpected sources, and does not always have to cost a fortune.

As for those Fairies and Pesky Pixies ...... they are still with me, on china and at the bottom of the garden.

postcard by Lorna Steele published by Salmon Ltd England

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