Thursday, 13 May 2021

The Festival of Lemuria

Ancient Roman Festivals in May

Continuing with some of the Ancient Roman ones...

The Festival of Lemuria - 9th, 11th and 13th May


Being very superstitious people, and ruled in their daily lives by multiple gods and protectors, the people of Ancient Rome were scared of the Lemurs, the spirits of departed family members who returned and wandered around the household on May 9th, 11th and 13th. Some of these were considered to be ones who were ‘good’ in life– the lares. And the angry, evil ones were the larvae. (not sounding so pleasant) This included the ghosts of slaves since they were regarded as family property. Needing something to help them allay their worries, the Ancient Romans created rituals to appease the angry /evil spirits, to ensure them all was well and that the spirits should just go away and not bother the living.  
Lares

Rituals included walking around the house barefoot. There are a few versions of the following ritual. The pater familias, the head of the household, got up at midnight (if he had already been abed) and wore clothes without knots, presumably ruling out tunics that tied at the shoulders. Why? Perhaps no spaces that the spirits could be entrapped in?

The pater familias washed his hands with purified water and then walked through the house complex without looking backwards while making the ‘mano fico’ sign. This was an ancient rude gesture, a protection against the evil eye. [See site HERE for details]

On his walk around the house the pater familias spat black beans out of his mouth (or threw them over his shoulders) interspersed with repeating a prayer chant nine times. “These I cast; with these beans, I redeem me and mine."

Other household members, meanwhile, clashed metal pots and pans and importuned the spirits to depart. The noise, it was hoped would chase away the spirit. Why black beans?  It was hoped that the spirits would pick up the beans instead of claiming any souls from the live members of the house. Only at the end of the ritual would the pater familias look backwards to ensure no Lemures/spirits lingered. Can you imagine the furore if some were still behind him?

Sacrifice to Mania – 11th May

This is more difficult to research but it seems to have been a sacrifice perhaps more prevalent during the earlier Republican era, but one which was abandoned when human sacrifice became frowned upon. The Ancient Romans claimed to abhor human sacrifice but some of the practices they performed were somewhat more subtle.  Throwing hermaphrodite children into the River Tiber and leaving them to a watery fate,  or  burying alive Vestal virgins who indulged in sexual encounters, didn’t count as sacrifice. And other things like that! It is thought to have been rare yet it is documented that babies (probably boys) were sacrificed to Mania, a goddess of the dead, to ensure the prosperity of the family. In later times, the ritual only included garlic and head of poppies as offerings to Mania. Why those things? I’m afraid I haven’t yet found out. Manioe, wooden dolls, were hung on doors as a protection.

In the goddess form of Mania Genita, a dog was sacrificed in order that the goddess would ensure everyone in the family remained ‘good’ i.e. not claimed by her in death. As time evolved, little children were threatened with Mania –in a  similar way to the ‘bogey man’ who would snatch naughty children.

Mania might also be equated with Lara, Larunda, or Muta ( a dumb one). Lara, daughter of the river-god Almo, had her tongue removed because she had betrayed Jupiter, having told people of Jupiter’s love for the nymph Juturna. Lara was condemned to be the nymph of the marshy waters in the land of the speechless.

In many ways I’m also speechless. I think it must have been pretty difficult to have lived in Ancient Rome and to have been ruled by the constant superstition,  daily and monthly rituals.

Happy reading! 

Slàinte! 

Saturday, 8 May 2021

The Festival of the Furry Dance

The Festival of the Furry Dance 8th May

When I began to research this particular festival held on the 8th May (or close to if the 8th does not fall on a Sat.), I almost immediately realised I’d had a misconception that had lasted a lifetime regarding a song that’s associated with the festival. The Furry Dance Festival at Helston, Cornwall, is one of the oldest traditions in Britain, though the originals died out centuries ago and what is now held may only bear a token resemblance to the original.


Another name for the Helston Furry Dance is Flora Day. The Helston symbolic flower is the Lily of the Valley and may be seen worn by dancers and festival officials. The day is a long one and full of vibrant activity, singing and dancing around the streets a merry throng. One of the songs associated with the festival is "The Floral Dance" and this is where I now realise I’ve been wrong about it all of my life!

I grew up listening to an old 78 rpm record of this song played by a brass band that I now can’t remember the name of, but read on because I do remember the name Peter Dawson. I still have a carton full of old 78 rpm records but sadly, The Floral Dance is no longer among the survivors of the pre-vinyl era. I always thought that it was a northerners song, e.g. from Yorkshire or Lancashire, since some of my family collection of records were of brass bands (my dad/aunt/uncle’s records) from those areas. But now I find The Floral Dance song is associated with the town of Helston, in Cornwall.

Kate Emily Barkley ("Katie") Moss (1881-1947) was a professional violinist, pianist and concert singer. She was brought up in London and studied at the Royal Academy of Music. The story goes that on a visit to the Helston festival of The Furry Dance, she enjoyed the event so much that she composed the lyrics and the music to her famous song on the train home in 1911.

It states on the original songbook cover that she founded her music on an old Cornish tune. Her words are not strictly accurate, though, since the traditional band of Helston is a Brass Band which did/does not include stringed instruments, or woodwind. "The Floral Dance" was first recorded in 1912 by the Australian bass/baritone Peter Dawson. I’m pretty sure that was the singer on my aunt’s record because I do recognise that name as being part of the original family collection.

Skip forward from me listening to Peter Dawson singing ti in the 1950s and early 1960s, to 1978 when Terry Wogan did a rendition of it, which was not nearly as impressive as Peter Dawson but it rocketed up the Music Charts at the time.

And…just last year during the Covid 19 lockdown a brass band made an incredible version of it – each of the band players playing in their own living rooms and the whole recorded via a ‘Zoom’ like online-process. 


 

If you’re like me, old enough to have heard this song, I think you just might be singing it if you read the lyrics below! 

It's sad that the festival is cancelled again for a second year but that's how it has to be till it's safe for people to enjoy such events- even when in the open air. There's a lot more details HERE for the festival. 

Music and lyrics by Katie Moss, 1911

"As I walked home on a Summer night

When stars in Heav'n were shining bright

Far away from the footlight's glare

Into the sweet and scented air

Of a quaint old Cornish town

Borne from afar on the gentle breeze

Joining the murmur of the summer seas

Distant tones of an old world dance

Played by the village band perchance

On the calm air came floating down

I thought I could hear the curious tone

Of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone

Fiddle, 'cello, big bass drum

Bassoon, flute and euphonium

Far away, as in a trance

I heard the sound of the Floral Dance

And soon I heard such a bustling and prancing

And then I saw the whole village was dancing

In and out of the houses they came

Old folk, young folk, all the same

In that quaint old Cornish town

Every boy took a girl 'round the waist

And hurried her off in tremendous haste

Whether they knew one another I care not

Whether they cared at all, I know not

But they kissed as they danced along.

And there was the band with that curious tone

Of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone

Fiddle, 'cello, big bass drum

Bassoon, flute and euphonium

Each one making the most of his chance

All together in the Floral Dance

I felt so lonely standing there

And I could only stand and stare

For I had no boy with me

Lonely I should have to be

In that quaint old Cornish town.

When suddenly hast'ning down the lane

A figure I knew I saw quite plain

With outstretched hands he came along

And carried me into that merry throng

And fiddle and all went dancing down.

We danced to the band with the curious tone

Of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone

Fiddle, 'cello, big bass drum

Bassoon, flute and euphonium

Each one making the most of his chance

Altogether in the Floral Dance.

Dancing here, prancing there

Jigging, jogging ev'rywhere

Up and down, and round the town

Hurrah! For the Cornish Floral Dance"

I sincerely hope that the Festival of the Furry Dance will return in 2022. 

Slàinte! 

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

A Beltane Excerpt from The Taexali Game

Happy Tuesday to you!


My Beltane theme continues and as mentioned a couple of days ago, my novel The Beltane Choice isn't the only novel I've written that contains a Beltane scene. 

I'm posting an excerpt from my Historical Time Travel novel The Taexali Game. My time travelling gamers  - Aran and twins Brian and Fianna - are invited to join the tribespeople of Balbath who are heading out of the hillfort to the special ceremony that is about to take place. The intrepid trio, from our contemporary times, have had some warning that a Beltane ceremony is about to happen but they have yet to find out what that is like...

~~~

Outside the roundhouse was a revelation. Many torches burned in high stands like the flambeau he’d seen on Caribbean holiday beaches, giving the growing dusk a festive air. People milled around chattering excitedly.

The unearthly beating of skin drums cut short the hubbub, the signal sound sending everyone scurrying towards the settlement opening. Aran sensed the restrained excitement around him as he and the other two trotted after Orla who clutched Caitlinn’s hand very firmly with one hand, a lit torch brand in the other. Apart from a sizeable number of young guards who were left at strategic places, everyone followed the drumbeats, surging outside through the zigzag walkway and on towards the training ground. Burning flares at the far end of the field beckoned the crowd.

When they reached the area, the brands he’d seen were markers indicating where the stacks had been laid. He grinned at Brian and Fianna, all of them caught up in the general excitement. It was the same sort of anticipation he always felt when he stood around the local bonfire. He was desperate to see what would happen since this was Guy Fawkes Night with a huge difference.

The swell of people came to an abrupt halt well before they reached the stacked wood; waiting for something. It wasn’t long before the crowd parted to allow someone to pass forward to the stacks.

Tuadh: a splendidly dressed Tuadh whose gold torque gleamed in the flare of his torch brand, the hilt of his sword and his unsheathed axe twinkling below. When the chief got to the first of the bonfires, he raised his arms high above him and began to chant. Though the words were difficult to make out it seemed he was incanting a spell to every bonfire as he approached it. One by one, he lit each stack, flickering them into action as the dry tinder ignited. When each fire was lit, Tuadh cast the marker flare into the flames making the corridor between the fires even wider. Soon eight roaring blazes lit up the darkening blue dusk, four to each side of Tuadh.

To more ceremonial drumbeating, Aran watched the elders of the tribe proceed up the now well-lit walkway towards the chief. Eventually coming to a halt, they arranged themselves alongside or behind Tuadh, a few rows deep, facing the awaiting tribespeople.

The drumbeat changed very slightly.

“Follow me!” Caitlinn in her firm grip, Orla moved through the noisy clutch of people and gradually made her way along the fire corridor, to her hearth-husband.

Aran and the twins towed at her heels, among the many people who now surged through the fire curtain. It seemed to be the turn of important warriors, those of high rank but who had not reached the status of being an elder of the tribe.

Orla whispered to Tuadh on reaching him. After the chief nodded, she turned back to Aran.

“Follow.”

Orla was a woman of few words. The twins at his side, he trailed after her and Caitlinn as she went to one end of the row of elders, the bulk of the important tribespeople now clustered alongside the chief.

“Stand next to me, Warrior Aran.”

Another order from the chief’s wife but Aran wasn’t too bothered since the view was good. Fianna stood next to him, Brian on her far side.

Tuadh raised his hand, the torch brand held aloft. He said nothing, yet at his signal, the crowd at the far end quietened till the only sounds to be heard were the spitting and crackling of the fires. They burned brighter and brighter as the flames licked their snaking tongues to the topmost wood. The sparks flew high, and the cracking and popping filled the now deepening dusk. A column of puffing smoke rose majestically from each blaze, since there was no wind to speak of. The wood smells were unmistakable as damp fiery debris floated into the air around their cheery brightness.

Anticipation was palpable, an edgy strain circling all around. Aran just knew something fantastic was about to occur. Then, as though no mortal person started it, a different thrumming rippled around him. From somewhere he couldn’t see, the low beat of the skin drums rumbled through the air – sending an even deeper expectancy over the throng. Eventually, when the tension had become almost unbearable, the faraway crowd silently parted and from out of the inky blue dusk came the strangest, most alarming figure he had ever seen. It walked with the body of a man, though the head was a huge stag with glittering rings adorning the twisted full-grown antlers.

It was fantastic!

It towered over the mass of people who parted to allow the figure to be visible by Tuadh.

Aran shared a quick glance with the twins. Fianna looked beside herself with glee. Brian all but hopped in his enthusiasm, as well. Nobody else grinned around him, though. Whatever was happening was a serious business to the people of Balbath. He suppressed the smirk that wanted to escape; his stomach flutters of pure exhilaration and expectation.

At the far end of the fire corridor, the figure stopped in all its splendour.

Fianna gasped alongside and he felt her trembling fingers clutch at his cloak. Her eyes glittered with sheer excitement. Though it was an unearthly looking figure, he knew it was a real live man underneath the strange helmet. Mapon was long gone, but he’d said his acolyte would remain and what a substitute he was. The figure was magnificent. In the tense hush around him, he truly appreciated the difference between seeing something similar in 3D on a screen, and what he now experienced in real live, seeing, smelling, touching… living.

Callum’s interactive story was incredible.

He realised that he’d actually forgotten about it being a story, being so drawn into the life at Balbath. Right that moment, he was so glad to be experiencing it.

The druid acolyte carried a strange staff, not unlike Mapon’s, but this one had a shining silvery animal head atop the shaft. Huge twisting antlers made it easy for him to recognise the head as that of a full antlered stag, which matched the figure’s magnificent headdress. The staff-top glittered malevolently in the firelight as the acolyte held it aloft, the weight needing both his hands to hold it high. The billowing robe he wore trailed around as he headed for the fire corridor with long strides.

When the druid’s footfall passed the furthest away fire, a carnyx shrieked its terrifying resonance alongside Aran, notes that lingered in the gloom. The tension amongst the multitude was so powerful, he felt it ripple through him. It wasn’t a frightening feeling: more of an extreme exhilaration. Any of these objects – staff, headdress or carnyx – would be incredible evidence to take back to Callum. How could that happen though?

Without looking down, he became aware of Caitlinn who’d slipped from her mother’s grip. Sneaking in between him and Fianna the little girl bristled with anticipation. Orla nodded her approval when he glanced her way to indicate he was aware of her daughter. When the last resonance of the carnyx could be heard no longer, the acolyte’s voice replaced it from that furthest away fire, carrying mournfully up into the cloudless, now star-studded navy sky.

“Cernunnos, Lord of Darkness…”

Brian nudged Aran in the ribs as he mouthed, “Cernunnos strikes again.” His toothy grin shone white in the flickering firelight.

“Shut up and listen!” Aran whispered in his friend’s ear, wanting to be respectful.

The druid intoned a deep boom across the moonlight.

“Go with thanks. Yet come with blessings. With the mother-earth, Brighde, bring energy to our fires.”

The sounds of his chanting sent creepy shudders through Aran. Fianna dug her nails into his arm, her trembling transferring right through the fabric of his tunic. Caitlinn snuggled in even closer to him when the druid slowly paced his way up through the fire passageway, his eerie incantation increasing in volume as he walked towards them. Lamenting the passing of the dark winter moons his dirge was now addressed to Brighde, the name sounding a bit like the word bride – the name Aran knew to be the mother earth goddess. The acolyte came to a stop in front of the chief and his elders, and thumped the bottom of his staff to the ground.

So close now, Aran could see the mouth and chin of the mask had been cleverly cut away to allow the druid’s voice to be heard clearly. The man’s fierce eyes stared from eye sockets that had also been carved out. A soft hush came from the gathering then they all started to intone very softly in unison after he began to chant again.

“Healing fires. Burn brightly. Burn! Inflame us with your fiery strength. Bring us forth your fruitful blossoms. Let your sun shine brightly on us.”

The chant repeated itself as the trainee druid’s arms opened wide, first pointing dramatically to the right and then to the left. At the far end, the crowd parted. Still chanting, some of them moved off to the left and others to the right behind the fires leaving the far end of the walkway opposite Tuadh totally empty.

Aran looked around him. Everyone chanted quietly with only the smallest of children not joining in. Pretending to know the words Aran mouthed silently. Looking at Fianna and Brian he was thankful to see they tried to do the same. Better not to look too suspicious since it looked like they ought to know the words.

When the tribespeople were all settled well behind the fires, the high ranking warriors of the tribe came out and drove their spears into the ground, purposely set closely together like a barrier, alongside the staff of the druid. The line of weapons made a wall in front of Tuadh.

The people no longer chanted solemnly. Their pace had quickened, the verse growing louder and louder till it became a deafening roar. Yet, again, the sound of the shrieking carnyx stopped its momentum.

Into the immediate and dead silence came another disturbingly strange noise. Through the darkness, from beyond the rise at the far end of the training ground, came the loudest protest of bellowing animals that Aran had ever heard. The yelling of the farmers was impressive as they herded the poor beasts into a long funnel at the far end of the fire passage, a funnel created by a wall of warriors. The animals, clearly terrified of the flames and smoky smells ahead of them, lowed and snorted and bucked as they tried to evade their fate.

Standing in front of his staff, the druid’s voice roared above their din.

“Brighde, mother goddess, giver of life, purify our animals and bring bountiful fruit. Bring your sun’s energy to them through our conflagration.”

The crowd repeated the chant three times, and then stopped. They hushed again and waited for him to finish his entreaty. This time the druid’s voice was different. Not a chant any more as a druid, but the warnings of a concerned, mortal man.

“This Beltane must be different, people of Balbath. Let your animals be sacrificed again rather than yourselves.”

The crowd’s low moan was eerie. All around them Aran and the twins could feel the alarm of the people of Balbath…though they could also see determination in their faces. Were the animals going to be sacrificed on these fires? Aran felt Caitlinn burrow in closer to his leg.

“Are they going to burn these poor cows, Aran?” Fianna whispered in his ear.

Aran’s head shaking was her only reply as the druid returned to his prayers. In actual fact, he hadn’t a clue what was about to happen.

“Let these healthy animals aid us to fight our foe as they did last Lughnasadh.” After the druid warned another time, he walked to one end of the spears and gestured to the people ranged behind the fires on that side, his arms waving towards the sky in a wide circular movement.

His silent signal didn’t make any sense to Aran. It still made no sense when the druid walked to the opposite end of the spears and made the same gestures.

Returning to his staff, his arms and stag’s head rose skywards in open supplication. His voice reached epic strength as he bawled a prayer to the heavens.

“Oh, mighty Taranis, from your realm above, give our animals your blessing!”

On the last word, the corral of warriors holding back the cows began to split open. The first of the animals was lashed into movement, forced to launch itself down the avenue of fire towards the druid. The thwacking of birch switches, and the cries of farmers alongside the terrified beast, kept it in motion as it howled and screeched through the fire corridor. The rest of the animals surged forwards into the walkway on the hooves of the first. Running alongside the lowing beasts, to keep them in order, the farmers kept up their hollers.

I just wish I could draw.... but you can get the idea. 

It was like a mini-earthquake as the cows thudded their way up the glowing orange and red channel. Aran watched the people of Balbath kneel down at their place behind the fires as the beasts proceeded through the fire corridor. The tribespeople touched both hands to the earth below them to feel the pounding of the beasts. Women pulled down some now screaming and howling infants as the great charging of hooves rocked the soil beneath them, the reverberations rippling below the whole arena.

Aran felt Caitlinn tug him down, Fianna and Brian following suit mimicking the tribespeople, since the elders alongside him had knelt to the ground as well.

The terrified cattle reached Tuadh’s end of the fire corridor. One by one, they hurtled themselves right or left when they were confronted by the line of spears. Once they had turned, they loped away from the crowds to disappear out into the darkness, where other warriors waited ready to quieten them.

Now Aran understood the significance of the druid’s arm gestures. The acolyte had been ensuring the space was cleared for the beasts’ exit. When rounded up, the terrified cattle would be taken back to their enclosures.

As the last few animals started their charge, a huge and totally deafening roar went up from the crowd, drowning out the thunder of the cows as the people heralded the end of their cleansing ceremony. The few cows that remained bucked and swerved, here and there, trying to run off but were completely distracted by the human clamour around them. One bewildered animal escaped the handlers and swivelled between the last two fires instead of completing the journey along the whole fire corridor. Terrified shrieks rent the air as the beast trampled over two men in the front row, pounding them into the ground, smashing limbs to pulp as the creature blasted headlong for the darkness beyond the kneeling people. Panic set in as the throng scattered in all directions away from the snorting and crazy beast. Not knowing which way to go in its headlong flight, it constantly changed direction.

“Flee!” Orla cried as the beast whirled towards them.

Aran felt his cloak yanked back as he leapt to his feet, the warrior behind him dragging him away. Brian’s shout indicated much the same was happening to him as he, too, cried out.

“Run, Fianna!”

Caitlinn whimpered in front of Fianna, too transfixed to even get to her feet. Scooping her up by the shoulders Fianna whirled the little girl out of the animal’s path, throwing her aside like a Frisbee and straight into the arms of a warrior who rushed to help them.

Her back now to the animal, Fianna began to run but she’d only taken a couple of steps when its head pounded into her, pitching her high into the air like a rag doll before it charged off into the now cleared space around her.

Fianna thumped to the ground.

~~~

I hope that whetted your appetite for The Taexali Game and made you want to read more of the novel. Here are a few reviews for The Taexali Game: 

“…this was one of the most original approaches to (time travel), by using developing technology we can all relate to.”

“The Taexali Game takes the idea of Time Travel and sets it in a computer game thereby making the concept wholly believable. I thoroughly bought into the idea.” 

“As usual, Nancy Jardine's characterisation is fantastic and the action never stops. You are gripped and have to read the next chapter.” 

It's available from Amazon in eBook & paperback. Paperbacks can be ordered from bookstores and from major online retailers like Waterstones.com. 

Slàinte!

 

 



Visiting the Ruins and Reading blog!

Happy Tuesday Greetings to you! 

I'm delighted to be hosted today by my lovely friend, Cathie Dunn, over on the Ruins and Reading blog. 

She invited me to  write a guest post, something related to The Beltane Choice which is the Ocelot Press featured Book of the Month for May. My topic is dear to me and it's about the use of descriptive language in my historical novels. 

Pop on over and find out   HERE 


Slàinte! 

Monday, 3 May 2021

Those May 1st festivals!

Hello again!

It may be the 3rd May now, but I still have a little bit of research that I'm sharing here. As well as looking into Celtic origin Festivals on the 1st May, I've also found some Ancient Roman celebrations for May 1st. 

May Kalends

Juno 

Kalends
 was the first day of each month and it was sacred to Juno.

The public were called to the Curia Calabra by the Pontifex minor. The Curia Calabra was a dedicated religious location, a temple used for the new moon ritual observation. The Pontifex minor (one of the College of Priests and not the High Priest who was the Pontifex Maximus) and the Rex Sacrorum ( a nominated priest of the patrician class) offered a res divina, a religious sacrifice to Juno. Janus was also invoked on the first day of May.

Maia’s Sacrifice - 1st May.

A priest of Vulcan sacrificed a pregnant sow to Maia, the usual offering to an earth goddess. This event seems to have been linked to the Bona Dea dedications.

 

Maia

Bona Dea temple dedications - 1st of May

Damia (Bona Dea) the  “good goddess”, was the Roman goddess of prophecy, chastity, fertility, healing, the protection of individuals, the Roman state and fauna. Honour was given in Bona Dea ritual sacrifices and they were women-only services. The priestesses of Bona Dea (Damniatrix) sacrificed a sow (a cow that had produced offspring and was named the Damium). The Bona Dea temple on the Aventine was decorated with snakes and herbs used for healing. Women carried honey pots into the temple, filled with ‘milk’- offerings of wine and they decorated statue of the goddess with vine leaves.

 

Lares

Lares Praesites - May 1st

The festival of the Laribius/ Lares Praestites  gave honour to the public lares as protectors of the city of Rome, and was held near the temple of Vesta. The Lares were also protectors of a personal home. The household occupants worshipped their own lares choice at the lararium, a dedicated area or niche which held the sacred image. Lares worship was expected on the kalends (1st day of the month); the nones (5th or 7th depending on how many days in the month); and the ides (15th or 13th depending on how many days in the month). Though it was recorded that many people gave offerings to their lares every day. 

Meanwhile the Floralia festival, which began on the 28th April, continued…

Slàinte!

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Iuno_Petit_Palais_ADUT00168.jpg

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pheneos_-_360-340_BC_-_silver_stater_-_head_of_Maia_-_Hermes_with_Arkas_-_Berlin_MK_AM.jpg

New 5* review for After Whorl Donning Double Cloaks

 Good Morning!


It's already a great Monday for me since I can add a little post about a new 5* review for After Whorl Donning Double Cloaks. Book 3 of my Celtic Fervour Series is a little lacking in reviews, compared to Book 1, so it's always wonderful to get any new reviews for the later books in the series. 

My thanks to Dorothy.

5* - Here’s my review on this wonderfully gripping story of the fight for Celtic Britain.

This continuing story of the Brigante people from Garrigill is full of action. Bran still trying to find a leader for the Celts; is still living with the Roman forces as a slave; and both passing on information in the fight to battle the Roman legions. And yet still the battles go on with Agricola a seeming scourge, and yet still more people displaced. Refugees in their own land.

This continues to be a well rounded story of the Romano forces intent on subjugating the people of Britain and the fight to remain independent.

Happy reading to everyone! 

Slàinte! 

Sunday, 2 May 2021

May Festivals!

It's May 2nd - just one day late for this post!  

Yesterday, I posted about the Beltane festival being on the 1st May but there are/were lots of other festivals associated with May 1st. As such, I'm spacing them out, though I've also been making posts to Facebook groups with similar information.

Here are a few that are thought to be associated with ancient Celtic Festivals, the traditions of them passed down in various forms across the millennia in Western Europe, Scandinavia, India and perhaps even the Americas since the basis was, in some cases, to do with the equinoxes and other astronomical events.

May 1st Padstow, Cornwall


A very ancient festival had been taking place on May 1st in the town of Padstow (Cornwall, England), till the Covid 19 pandemic struck in 2020, when it had to be cancelled. And regrettably, the festival has had to be cancelled for yet another time, this year of 2021.

Till 2019, the festival began at midnight heralding in the first of May. People gathered outside a local pub to sing the special ‘Night’ song. One can only imagine it was pretty merry and folks were not ready to go to bed just yet.

However, in the morning when local folks were all up and about, the town would be bedecked in greenery and flowers laid at the foot of the central maypole.

Two ’obby ‘osses ( The ‘Old’ and the ‘Blue ribbon’) would then appear from different directions of the town wearing a very-creative stylised head of a horse and curtained body costume. The two ‘obby ‘oss parades wended their way around the streets, flanked by their masked ‘acolytes’ named the ‘Teasers’. The Teasers wore a black frame like cloak, their job being to snare young maidens under the cloaks- presumably for a snatched kiss?

After a fun day around the town, singing the ‘Day’ song the culmination was a meet-up around the Maypole in the evening. The poor ‘osses then listened to the ‘song of death’ and went away to their respective stables till being resurrected the following year.

The origins of this ancient pagan ritual have been lost in the midst of time.

More about the ’obby ‘oss festival here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%27Obby_%27Oss_festival

The video above was the 2017 festival but sadly, it's easy to see why tthe festival had to be cancelled in both 2020 and 2021, the crowds being so tightly packed around the Maypole in Padstow. I truly hope it can be restarted as soon as possible. 

May 1st Maypole Dancing

Maypole dancing has been a feature for centuries (probably millennia)  in many countries, in Europe, in India and perhaps even in the Americas.

I think the kids at this school are having a lot of fun! 

A tall straight trunk was hewn from the forest and erected in a prominent place accessible to the locals. Ribbons were attached to the top, ready for dancers to weave their complex dance patterns beneath. It’s believed that the dances were associated with ancient spring fertility rites, the most ancient of the ceremonies danced around a live tree. Some of these maypoles were left in situ for the next years an only replaced in the village when it became necessary.

It’s also thought by some experts on Ancient Rome that there may have been a similar festival there. It may have originated as part of the Floralia festival which was celebrated on the 28th April. The tree trunk was stripped of its branches and bedecked with ivy and clinging vines. Another school of thought has it that the stripped poles were hung with violets in honour of Attis and Cybele.

During the Puritan era hundreds of village maypoles were torn down throughout England and Wales. However, the attempt to wipe away the ancient pagan tree worship was in vain since the tradition resurfaced again when it was safe to do so. I’m sure that although the shared bonfire of the early Celtic tradition on May Day might have been abandoned for a while, the sneaking off of couples into the woods or the haystacks for a night of lovemaking probably continued in secret!

[Now, I wonder why that reminds me of a scene in The Beltane Choice?]

This image from a festival in the Basque country
 shows howcomplex the dancing can be. 
Both images from Wikimedia Commons. 

Till the next addition to May Festivals, Stay safe and happy reading! 

Slàinte! 

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Beltane Greetings!

Happy Beltane greetings to all!

Beltane Fire Ceremony- Wikimedia Commons 

You will read other spellings of this ancient Celtic festival which marked the end of spring and the official beginning of the summer. (see other posts about Beltane on this blog)

Beltane literally means shining/bright fire and for the ancient Celtic tribes of Britain, the rituals of Beltane appear to have heralded a time of optimism and hope that the coming seasons would be fruitful for the land, the animals and the people. Abundant crops and productive animals were crucial to survival, living off the land the way of life as most Celtic tribes were farmers, and many of them subsistence farmers. The rituals of the festival were therefore designed to encourage successful growth for their animals and crops and to rid them of potentially deadly diseases. The blackness of winter is banished, the warmth from the bonfire flames emulating what is to come from the summer sunshine.

It also had a significance for the fertility of the tribes, a purification and dedication to renewal and rebirth. Celtic tribes appear to have marked the passage of time in nights rather than days and Beltane begins on the eve of the 1st of May which is approximately half way between the Vernal equinox and the Summer Solstice. Stargazers like to seek out the group of stars named The Pleiades when it rises just before dawn (sunrise) at Beltane.

In my novel The Beltane Choice, there is a Beltane scene where my Garrigill Clan pay homage to the sun god, Bel, to bless and protect the tribe. Nara of the Selgovae is at first a very unhappy participant at this ceremony, since the plans of Lorcan of the Brigantes has gone awry. The reader will need to read the result in the novel since I give no spoilers here!

Beltane traditions have come down to us in different forms. Like a Yule festival tradition, some have claimed that on Beltane eve the household fires were extinguished and they were relit from the Beltane bonfires-physically and not symbolically in ancient times. And like the festival of Samhain (now Halloween), Beltane was also a time when the veils between the worlds of the living and the dead are at their thinnest. This 'window of a few hours' allowed the spirits to intermingle with the living.

The Celts are said to have been very superstitious people and a rowan tree was planted near the threshold of the roundhouses/ houses for protection against malignant wandering spirits. To this day many Scottish people will not cut down a rowan tree and should their rowan tree die, they will plant another in its stead. I have a very old rowan on the drive near my house that isn't at it's best but I will never cut it down! 

During the coming month of May, look out for more short posts on other May festivals that were celebrated by the Celts, and by the Ancient Romans.  In addition, I'll be posting an extract from my time travel novel The Taexali Game which also features a Beltane Scene, though the purpose of writing about the Beltane festival in The Taexali Game is quite different from in The Beltane Choice. 


p.s. The Beltane Choice is the Book of the Month for May 2021 at Ocelot Press and will be 99p for the whole month, and the other four books of the series will be reduced to £1.99. You can buy them HERE 

Enjoy your reading... and Beltane!

Slàinte!


https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Beltane_2019_Edinburgh_Calton_Hill.jpg

The Beltane Choice is Book of the Month at Ocelot Press!

Happy Beltane!



I'm delighted to announce that The Beltane Choice is Book of the Month for May 2021 at Ocelot Press

In honour of this wonderful situation the eBook price of The Beltane Choice will be #99p at Amazon for the whole month of May! (equivalent prices on the other Amazon sites worldwide) 

As a further bonus, the eBook prices of the other four books in the series will be reduced to £1.99 across Amazon. (equivalent prices)

Should you prefer to read a paperback version, you can buy them from Amazon, or order them from other internet sites and bookstores.

Join us at the Ocelot Press Readers page on Facebook and there you'll see the ways you can receive additional May gifts, though you'll need to be a regular to catch any announcements about how you can be the person/ reader who receives my gifts. (Facebook rules are making posting the opportunities a bit of a mystery) 

Happy reading!

Slàinte!