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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Home and Hearth

At this time of the year we are aware that we have entered the winter season.  The winds are blowing strongly and most of the leaves have fallen away from the trees, leaving them bare and lifeless looking. It is a time to close in, shut the curtains and stoke up the fire.

When I was small we had an open coal fire.  By now my mother would have the coal bunker filled with lumps of black shiny coal.  She bought what she could afford, sometimes a luxury brand of coal, sometimes coke and sometimes a mixture of both.  I used to watch her light the fire in the morning.  First she would rake out the ashes from the day before.  These would go into the garden.  Next she would put a layer of newspaper and small sticks in the grate and on top of that a layer of the coal.  She lit the newspaper with a small flare and that would light the wood.  The wood, once it got going, would set light to the coal and then the trick was to keep it going and not let it go out.  For that you needed a draft up the chimney.  That was provided by a large sheet of newspaper held against the fireplace space.  A fast draft was sent up the chimney, often accompanied by a loud roar, which I found very frightening.  

That usually did the trick and within half an hour the room was warmer.  Of course we had to keep the fire fed with coal all day but it provided a very comfortable warmth which I remember vividly to this day.

I always try to have some sort of small fire in the house on a cold night.  Even the humble candle can give out the effect of warmth - so important to our well being.


Friday, 5 November 2010

Samhain

It is a week nearly, after Halloween or Samhain as it used to be called.  At this time of the year we need to be on guard because forces from the other world are at large and liable to come and visit us.

It is the time of the Wild Hunt when the Sidhe are abroad, collecting up the souls of the dead to take back to the land of the dead.  There is not much to separate us from the other world at this time and we need to be on our guard and listen for the approach of thundering horses hooves and a loud trumpet call.

You might like to read about the Legend of Sleepy Hollow here. There are many interpretations of this time of misrule.

'Possibly the best known Wild Hunter is the Germanic god Odin and his Furious Host.  Usually lame, attended by horses and dogs, he runs through the night collecting the souls of the dead - specifically the dead that were evil-doers in life.  Sometimes, instead, Odin is thought to hunt a boar or a wild horse, or even a woman.  But Odin was far from the only leader of the hunt.  Depending on the country or region, King Arthur, Sir Francis Drake, Gwydion, and even demons were claimed as leaders of the hunt. - Diana Rajchel'

So if you feel you are not alone some dark night soon while you are out walking, it might be best to go indoors and shut your door and turn out your lights...