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Welcome to Mrs Darley's Blog

This blogspot has been created especially for those who wish to share their ideas and thoughts about the natural world as the year turns and the ancient Pagan festivals that were once celebrated by our ancestors.

Poetry, prose craft work, ancient cure craft and general thoughts and feelings on how the change in the weather and seasons makes you feel are all encouraged and welcomed.

Mrs Darley was my once next door neighbour when I lived amongst the wilds of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall back in the early 1990's. Her charismatic ways and unending wisdom lead me on a journey of self discovery as I spiralled ever further into her magical world.

She has since become the central character in the 'Mrs Darley' series of books.

Mrs Darley's Pagan Whispers

Mrs Darley's Moon Mysteries

Mrs Darley's Pagan Elements

Mrs Darley's Pagan Healing Wisdom






Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Wells of Fertility


Wells have been used by the native people of these islands for thousands of years and many are dedicated to the once Irish Goddess Bride or the now Christianised, St Bridget. They have been used for a myriad of reasons, although many would visit Bride's sacred wells for a specific purpose; that of fertility.

As late as 1860, it was recorded that a group of women were seen dancing around St Bridget's well in Grampian, Scotland, whilst an old crone stood in the centre and sprinkled the dancers with water with which to sweep away their bareness. Another story from the same well tells of brides visiting the well the day before their wedding to ensure they would be fertile and bare children.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Holy Wells


The Bronze and Iron Age people saw water as having supernatural powers, whilst its mysterious, dark depths were seen as the entrance to the underworld. People felt compelled to make offerings to the Deities, which they believed inhabited these sacred places, a fact that has been evidenced by many archaeological finds. Items such as jewellery, plaques, coins and animal and human remains have all been discovered in these watery places where springs mysteriously burst forth from the land and were no doubt the wishing wells of early man.

Springs and wells were also seen as places of healing, of communing with the Gods, of worship, of purification and divination. There was however, a darker side to some requests thrown into the waters as findings from the Celtic/Roman shrine of Sulis Minerva in Bath show, for here lay plaques that not only had for healing but many were inscribed with curses and hexes.

Perhaps little changes within the human psyche over millennia after all?

Monday, 14 February 2011

Romance, Love, Lust and Fertility


The 15th February was the time when the Romans celebrated their purification festival of Lupercalia, when the priests of the Goat foot God, Pan danced through the streests dressed in wolf skin thongs and whipping the women with goat skins as an act of both purification and fertility.

A popular aspect of this festival was to invite single women to write their names on a piece of paper and place it in a box. The men of the town would then draw a name and subsequently take that woman as a lover for the forthcoming season. This tradition survived into Christian times, at which time the pieces of paper were called 'Valentines' after the Christian Saint and eventually became the valentine card with which we are all familiar today.

Enjoy both days of romance, love, fertility and lust!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Snowdrops


Snowdrops have always been recognised as the first harbingers of spring, but folklore dictates that to bring them into the home is often asking for trouble.

If snowdrops are brought into the house before Valentine's Day, then any unmarried females will be destined to remain spinsters. Any hens that happen to be sitting when the flowers are indoors will not lay, whilst the milk from cows will be thin and the butter colourless.

Snowdrops are symbollic of the return of the maiden Goddess and for all their delicate appearence are strong and independant, both of which are necessary qualities for these first flowers which appear above the earth to face the harsh winter weather.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

A visit from the Goddess


In Ireland as late at the mid 18th century, Imbolc, or Bridget's night would have been of the utmost importance. The belief was that the saint would only visit the most moral of houses and bless all those within as they lay sleeping. It was vital therefore that suitable preparations were made before retiring.

An off centre cross made from rushes and known as St Bridget's cross was hung above the door as a sign of welcome, small cakes were baked as an offering and the last task would be to make up St Bridget's bed. The women of the house would take a box or a drawer and decorate it with ribbons before placing in the 'Bride doll', usually fashioned from cloth or sheaves, which was symbolic of the Goddess. Alongside the doll, was placed a phallic symbol such as a wand or stick of hazel, ash or birch, in the hope that the male and female energies would unite to bring fertilityand abundance to the home during the year. The ashes of the fire were then smoothed over, a candle lit and the woman of the household would call 3 times from the door, 'Bride is come. Bride is wecome.'

The next morning would tell whether the household had been blessed by a visit from St Bridget. If there was a footprint in the ashes on the hearth, or the mark of a phallic wand the house holders could rest assured that they had been blessed. If however, the ashes remained smooth the inhabitants knew they must have done something to offend their saint and would bury a cockerel at a place where the 3 roads met in order to appease Her.


Sunday, 6 February 2011

The Daughters of Fire


Upon the arrival of Christianity, the much loved Goddess, Bride became St Bridget, who took over the jurisdiction of Bride's shrine at Kildare by becoming the Abbess of the newly formed christian convent.

The original shrine was tended by 'the daughters of fire', who ensured that the flames, which burned in Bride's honour would never go out, a custom that was tranferred into christian tradition. The abbey's fire burned for a thousand years; it never died and never increased in ashes, a fact that was witnessed by Gerald of Wales in the twelfth century who described it in his writings.

Each night for 19 nights, a nun would stoke and watch the fire through the night, whilst on the 20th night the nun would leave logs beside it and say, 'Bridget, guard your fire, this is your night,' she would then leave the room and in the morning the logs would be gone and the fire would be burning brightly.

In the 13th century the papal envoy ordered that the fire be extinguished, but so enraged was the public that it was reinstated and continued to burn until the reformation under Henry v111.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Who was the Goddess Bride?


As previously mentioned, the Goddess Bride has become synonymous with the midwinter festivals of Imbolc. We know she was the daughter of the Divine being Daghda and that she was the patron of healers, smiths and poets, but in order to have an affinity with her it becomes important to discover who she really was.

Some say Bride was brought up as a wizard and acquired the enviable skills of multiplying both food and drink and having the ability to turn her bath water into wine (a familiar story?). She was revered as the Goddess of light and her domain in the house was the hearth, where many an altarwas set up in her honour. She also presided over the harvest, livestock and was often depicted with a bird of prey.

Bride, rather appropriately, looked after brides on their wedding day and was often called upon to assist those in child birth as well as being the guardian of children.

It comes as little surprise then that when christianity came to these islands, the Goddess who was held so dear in the hearts of the Celts should be embraced and christianised by the early church. More later about her christianised role and her association with fire.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Celtic Goddess Bride


Today until sundown is the festival of Imbolc which has, overthe years become synonymous with the Celtic Goddess Bride (christianised as St Bridget).

Bride is often depicted as the gentle maiden Goddess, who's return brings a promise of spring at this lovely winter festival. This image however, belies her true character and tenth century Irish writings provide a far more accurate description when they say she was; 'The daughter of Daghda, the great God of Tuatha de Danann, a woman of wisdom.'

The Tuatha de Danann were thought to have been a race of Divine beings who inhabited Ireland long before the time of the Celts. Bride therefore came from good stock and was indeed a woman of wisdom, often depicted as a triple Goddess in so much as she was, and still is, recognised as the patron of healers, smiths and poets.

To simply celebrate this festival, light a white candle, bring an offering of craftwork, a poem or a promise of helping someone in need and sit quietly in order to give thanks to a Goddess who's return heralds the return of life to the earth.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The festival of Imbolc


Sundown today sees the beginning of the Celtic festival of Imbolc, although in truth, the Celts did not have a fixed date, but celebrated in style as soon as the lambing season began. Imbolc was a time of the utmost importance to the Celtic tribes as the quality and amount of new born lambs meant the difference between survival and extinction.

The word Imbolc (pronounced 'im-olc') actually means 'in the belly' and refers to the stirring of life within the earth's womb. An alternative term for this festival is 'Oimelc', meaning 'the first flowing of ewe's milk, both of which are appropriate words for this exciting time of year.

When christianity came to these islands this festival became 'Candlemas' and commemorated the time when Mary went to the temple to undertake a purification ceremony forty days after the birth of Jesus.

Imbolc is still celebrated by Pagans and witches alike today and has become synonymous with the delightful Celtic Goddess Bride (christianised as St Bridget), who I will look at in greater detail as the week progresses.

Enjoy celebrating over the next few days. Decorate your home with white flowers and candles and arrange to share an Imbolc meal with friends or family to celebrate the return of the Goddess and the eternal hope of spring.