Monday, December 31, 2012

May I take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year. Best wishes to you and yours and may the new sun shine down upon you and light your way. Please enjoy the celebrations but remember "Don't drink and drive" and think of your pets or stock as they may find the loud noises of fireworks a little frightening. I look forward to posting new and interesting bits and pieces for you and reading your comments (always appreciated).

Keep smiling,


Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Sluagh.

The Sluagh are dead sinners that return as evil spirits that hunt for souls.  They come from the west, flying in groups like flocks of crows and attempt to enter the dwelling of someone who is close to death in order to steal their soul. It is for this reason that west-facing windows are kept shut at all times. This allows the soul of the deceased to reach heaven before the Sluagh can intercept it.  The Sluagh are well known in Ireland and Scotland and it was a name that brought terror to those who lay on their death beds.  Stories of who and what The Sluagh were date back through our folklore and these stories would be handed down from generation to generation. The stories may differ slightly but the bones of the story is always the same. Be wary of the shadow in the corner.

Once upon a time, long, long ago. In fact so long ago that only the storytellers remember it. Witches and Wizards walked among us and Fairies and Druids were not as rare as they are today.  Magic was in the air and the gods/goddesses were honoured and death was but another path upon the journey.  It was a time when the world was new and everything was possible.

Even then tales of The Sluagh were told. They were described as the souls of the darkest sinners, sinners so evil that not even the fires of the eternal flame would burn them. They were so evil that the underworld spat out their rotten souls and the earth rejected their very presence.  They were cursed to soar above the earth like a flock of birds welded together for eternity. Never to set foot or claw upon the ground.

The Sluagh is an Irish word meaning host, and they continued in their evil ways even after death.  Drifting on the westerly wind they would watch and wait until they felt a dying soul and if they found a door or window left slightly open, the evil souls would enter and linger in the shadows over the dying and wait. If you were sat nearby you may have even hear the eerie sound of whispers as The Sluagh sucked the soul from the weak and dying body.

  Once the stolen spirit was captured a terrified scream would echo from the shadows and continue through the night slowly becoming farther way before growing silent. The soul of the dying would now be joined to the unforgiving dead,  now they too were cursed to roam forever through the dark night. Damned to an eternity of sorrow, innocent or evil, any soul would do, it did not matter to The Sluagh.

The Sluagh were said to be bird like with long thin fingers that were webbed with leathery skin (a bit like a bat). They had caped like wings that flapped in the night and long claws that protruded from deformed legs. They were said to smell like rotten meat and it was the sound of beating wings together with this smell that alerted you to their presence. If you then heard a knock on the door or a nail scratching at the window you would be wise to ignore it. When darkness fell it often brought death. It always brought shadows.

In modern day Ireland stories are just that, stories, to be laughed at or viewed as entertainment. Nothing more than superstition or bedtime reading. Stories told by the storyteller sending children to sleep before the Sandman sprinkles his magic dust or the bogeyman crawls out to get you. However take a minute and answer me this. Have you ever lain in bed, watching shadows creep across the room, but there is no light to make shadows? Have you ever heard a far away shriek? Was it a cat, wait a minute. It didn’t sound like a cat, Oh I know, it must be an owl. Or was it?  What about the time you woke up from a deep sleep with that scary feeling that someone or something was watching you. Sometimes you wake up in the morning feeling more tired and drained than when you went to sleep, your head hurts, your limbs ache, you feel thirsty. You think you may be coming down with something for that’s what it feels like.

 Perhaps as you lay sleeping The Sluagh came for you. Remember the shadows on the ceiling or in the corner of your eye? When you looked again they weren’t there. Could it be that The Sluagh was feeding but hearing the sound of a weaker soul they left you sleeping? However now they know where you are, they can hear you breathing, lock your doors and keep your windows shut. Look to the west at night, are they flocks of crows returning home to roost...or something else.

 Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore –
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door –
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door –
Only this and nothing more."

Extract from The Raven (published 1845) Edgar Allan Poe 1809-1849.
Keep smiling and Happy New Year to you all.
                            I watched this the other day and thought some of you may enjoy it.

                                 I will put up a new post shortly, until then "Keep smiling" :).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

                                                                   Eru the Dragon (2).

Once upon a time, long, long ago.  High on a mountain there lived a dragon called Eru.  She was a very lonely and sad dragon because she had no friends.  Everyone in the local village was afraid of her but this was only because no one had ever tried to talk to her or get to know her.  Eru would love to make friends and if people would only give her a chance they would soon find out that she was the loveliest, friendliest dragon you could ever hope to meet.

Over the years many knights in shiny armour would climb the mountain hoping to kill Eru but they never managed it.  By the time they got to the top they were far too tired and their armour made so much noise that Eru heard them coming long before they got anyway near the top so she would just fly away and hide somewhere else until the got fed up and went home.

One night when all the people in the village were sleeping a very bad dragon called Shadow flew down on the village and stole some sheep.  In the morning the people woke up to find some of their sheep gone and they became very angry.  Guess who they blamed... Yes you 're right...Poor old Eru. However had they bothered to get to know Eru they would have discovered that she was a strict vegertarian and would never hurt any other animal never mind eat them.

That night the people of the village laid in wait so they could catch the dragon if it came back. Shadow had now got a taste for lovely wooly sheep so he did indeed come back, he flew down onto the village and started to attack the sheep but the people of the village came running out of their hiding places and started firing arrows at him. Shadow got very annoyed at this and turned his attention to the villagers, many ran away and hid but some souldn't run that fast and Shadow caught them.

The villagers were screaming and they made so much noise that they woke up Eru who was asleep on top of her nearby mountain.  She flew down to see what all the noise was about but when she saw Shadow she got frightened for she knew just how bad he was.  She was just about to fly away and hide when she saw that Shadow had caught some of the villagers.  Eru became angry, even though the villagers were always trying to hurt her and even sent knights up her mountain to kill her she knew she couldn't let Shadow hurt the villagers and destroy their homes.

Eru flew straight at Shadow, he didn't see her coming and when she hit him he crashed to the earth.  He hit the ground so hard his wings were damaged and the villagers rushed in and finished him off.  Eru landed on the ground,

"Are you alright?" she asked the villagers.

The people of the village didn't know what to do, they were shaking in fright expecting to be eaten at any minute.

"Don't be scared, I wont hurt you" said Eru.

One of the little girls of the village walked forward and said,

"Thank you for saving us, my name is Mary.  You are very beautiful, what is your name?"

"My name is Eru and you are very welcome" said Eru.

All the other villagers introduced themselves and thanked Eru for her help.  Eru became good friends with them and even let the village children ride on her back.  She lived happily and protected the village from harm.  She never felt lonely or sad ever again because now she had loads of friends who had got to know her and found out that she was the kindest dragon you cold ever hope to meet.

So if you ever meet a dragon called Eru be kind to her and you never know she might even let you ride on her back.

Keep smiling, and never judge someone by appearances.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

To all my readers.

May I wish you all a very Happy and Peaceful Christmas/Yule/Solstice. May the new sun shine down upon you and bring you light. I also wish you all a prosperous New year.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Winter Solstice.

Solstice literally means 'Sun Stands Still', for a few days around the time of the winter solstice the sun appears to stand still in the sky in that its elevation at noon does not seem to change. The winter solstice date is normally considered to be the 21st of December in the northern hemisphere; however at the winter solstice the position of the sun remains the same for three days. No one's really sure how long ago humans recognized the winter solstice and began heralding it as a turning point -- the day that marks the return of the sun.

Many cultures the world over perform solstice ceremonies. At their root, an ancient fear that the failing light would never return unless humans intervened with magical ceremonies.

Yule is the day of the winter solstice, the one of the longest night. This solar festival falls close to Christmas. As the Christians converted the Pagans, they adopted many of the country dwellers’ traditions to facilitate the acceptance of Christianity. The Celtic and Germanic/Nordic traditions are the biggest influence of Pagan plants on Christmas traditions. Some of the plants associated with this time of year are:


Holly berries, cloaked in sharp green leaves, are brightest in winter. The Druids revered this plant as sacred. It has been associated with winter magic and believed to repel evil. The Celts of the British Isles and Gaul believed the Holly King ruled over winter and death.

In Scandinavian mythology, the holly belonged to Thor & Freya. The plant’s association with Thor's lightning meant that it could protect people from being struck by his bolts.

Norsemen and Celts would plant a holly tree near their homes to ward off lightning strikes. The crooked lines of the holly leaves most likely gave rise to its association with lightning, as well as the fact that holly conducts lightning into the ground better than most trees.


Ivy is an evergreen vine symbolizing immortality. It had been a symbol of eternal life in many pagan religions, including Druidism. The Christians who converted these Pagans embraced it as a symbol for the new promise of eternal life.


Mistletoe is another plant that is sacred to the Celts and the Germanic/Norse. They believed the plant enhanced fertility because it stayed green in the winters.

The Druids believed the mistletoe's magical properties extended beyond fertility. It was believed to cure almost any disease and was known as the all healer.

Sprigs fixed above doorways of homes were said to keep away lightning and other types of evil. Because the plant has no roots it was believed that it grew from heaven.

Druid priests, five days after the New Moon of Yule, would cut mistletoe from the sacred oak with a sickle made of gold. The branches were divided into sprigs and given to people to hang over their doorways for protection. Mistletoe was placed in baby cradles to protect them from faeries.

The Mistletoe Magic:

From the earliest times mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; and an aphrodisiac. The mistletoe of the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. On the sixth night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the recipients of the mistletoe would prosper. Later, the ritual of cutting the mistletoe from the oak came to symbolize the emasculation of the old King by his successor.

Mistletoe was long regarded as both a sexual symbol and the "soul" of the oak. It was gathered at both mid-summer and winter solstices, and the custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian traditions.

The Greeks also thought that it had mystical powers and down through the centuries it became associated with many folklore customs. In the Middle Ages and later, branches of mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits. In Europe they were placed over house and stable doors to prevent the entrance of witches. It was also believed that the oak mistletoe could extinguish fire. This was associated with an earlier belief that the mistletoe itself could come to the tree during a flash of lightning. The traditions which began with the European mistletoe were transferred to the similar American plant with the process of immigration and settlement.

Kissing under the mistletoe:

Kissing under the mistletoe is first found associated with the Greek/Roman festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites. They probably originated from two beliefs. One belief was that it has power to bestow fertility. It was also believed that the mistletoe also possessed "life-giving" power.

In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up. Later, the eighteenth-century English credited it with a certain magical appeal and called a bunch of mistletoe 'a kissing ball'. At Christmas time a young lady standing under a ball of mistletoe, brightly trimmed with evergreens, ribbons, and ornaments, cannot refuse to be kissed. Such a kiss could mean deep romance or lasting friendship and goodwill. If the girl remained unkissed, she cannot expect not to marry the following year. In some parts of England the Christmas mistletoe is burned on the twelfth night lest all the boys and girls who have kissed under it never marry.

Whether we believe it or not, it always makes for fun and frolic at Christmas celebrations. Even if the pagan significance has been long forgotten, the custom of exchanging a kiss under the mistletoe can still be found in many European countries. Now if a couple in love exchanges a kiss under the mistletoe, it is interpreted as a promise to marry, as well as a prediction of happiness and long life. In France, the custom linked to mistletoe was reserved for New Year's Day: "Au gui l'An neuf" (Mistletoe for the New Year). Today, kisses can be exchanged under the mistletoe any time during the holiday season.

The Mistletoe Legend:

For its supposedly mystical power mistletoe has long been at the centre of the folklore tales of many countries. One such tale is associated with the Goddess Frigga. The story goes that Mistletoe was the sacred plant of Frigga, goddess of love and the mother of Balder, the god of the summer sun. Balder had a dream of death which greatly alarmed his mother, for should he die, all life on earth would end.

In an attempt to keep this from happening, Frigga went at once to air, fire, water, earth, and every animal and plant seeking a promise that no harm would come to her son. Balder now could not be hurt by anything on earth or under the earth. However, Balder had one enemy, Loki, god of evil and he knew of one plant that Frigga had overlooked in her quest to keep her son safe. It grew neither on the earth nor under the earth, but on apple and oak trees. It was lowly mistletoe.

Loki made an arrow tip of the mistletoe, gave to the blind god of winter, Hoder, who shot it, striking Balder dead. The sky paled and all things in earth and heaven wept for the sun god. For three days each element tried to bring Balder back to life. He was finally restored by Frigga, the goddess and his mother.

It is said the tears she shed for her son turned into the pearly white berries on the mistletoe plant and in her joy Frigga kissed everyone who passed beneath the tree on which it grew. The story ends with a decree that whoever should stand under the humble mistletoe, no harm would befall them, but they should receive a kiss, a token of love. What could be more natural than to translate the spirit of this old myth into a way of thinking and accept the mistletoe as the emblem of  Love which conquers Death?

Happy Solstice. Happy Yule. Happy Xmas. To all.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When I tell some of my stories I use puppets, just to entertain the children. This is a story that I wrote for use with a lovely gold and green dragon. Hope you like it as I value your opinions.  It was written for those who might be a little different in some way.

Eru the dragon.

Once upon a time, long, long ago in fact so long ago that only the storytellers remember it.

There was a beautiful green and gold dragon called Eru.  She lived in a secret cave in the side of a mountain with her grandmother.  The cave was so secret that only the dragons knew where it was.

Eru had lovely green and gold scales, flaring nostrils, and a long spiky tail.  She had beautiful shiny wings that opened up in the rain like an umbrella and kept her dry.

All of the other little dragons looked at her and sighed.... some even wished they could be just like her because she could run fast and fly very high as well as being very beautiful.

But Eru had a secret that made her very sad.  She was a little different from other dragons. She couldn’t breathe fire.

Every day Eru sat in the back of her cave where no one except her grandmother could see her and huffed and puffed but not a single flame appeared. Not a spark, not even the tiniest puff of smoke.  Grandmother would say to her, “Don’t worry Eru, it will happen all in good time”.  Eru was sad because she couldn’t toast marshmallows with her friends or play Catch the Fireball all she could do was sit and watch and pretend that she really didn’t want to play and she really didn’t like toasted marshmallows.

Poor Eru, she felt that she was so different that maybe she wasn’t even a proper dragon at all. Maybe she was something else.  Grandmother dragon saw how sad she was and asked her what was wrong and Eru told her about how sad she felt and that if she couldn’t find her fire then she would never be a real dragon. Grandmother dragon listened and an idea popped into her head. She told Eru about a holy mountain where the dragon god lived, it was a place that was known only to dragons and it would be there that Eru would find her fire. The holy mountain was far away and Eru would have to go on the journey alone, it would take her a few days to get there and she would have to travel through the dark forest hat surrounded the holy mountain.

The following day Eru set out and it didn’t take her long to get to the dark forest.  In the forest lived many strange looking creatures.  Hanging upside down in one of the trees was a small animal with teeth and small wings. He looked a little bit like a mouse but of course a mouse doesn’t have wings does he?

“Who and what are you?” asked Eru.

“Well, I was trying to have a nice sleep but if you must know, my name is Ding and I am a bat”.

Eru thought to herself

“I’ve got teeth and wings just like Ding.  Maybe I could stay here”.

Eru and Ding played together all morning and by lunch time they were a little hungry. After lunch they felt a little sleepy so Ding hung upside down on a branch but when Eru tried it the branch bent down because she was too heavy and she bumped her head on the ground.

“Ouch” she said.

“Your a lovely friend Eru, but you’re not really a bat are you?” said Ding,

“No” said Eru, “I’m a dragon”, and she gave a little sigh.

Out of her mouth came a small puff of smoke. Eru told Ding about her search for fire.

“I’ll have to be on my way” said Eru, “I won’t forget you”, and she gave Ding a kiss on his nose. She felt a little warm inside but still no flame came out.

The next day Eru woke under a big tree,

“Hello” said a voice.

Eru looked up and saw a strange looking creature with beautiful colours and sharp claws.

“Hello” said Eru, “Who and what are you?”

“Squawk, My name is Tom and I’m a parrot” said the colourful creature.

Eru thought to herself,

“I’ve got beautiful colours and sharp claws just like Tom. Maybe I could stay here?”

All day they played together chasing each other around the forest but by dinner time they were hungry. When they had finished their dinner Tom said,

“You know Eru you are a wonderful friend and I’ve enjoyed playing with you but you’re not really a parrot. What are you doing in the forest?”

“No” said Eru, “I’m a dragon”, and she gave a little sigh.

Out of her mouth came a small puff of smoke. Eru told Tom about her search for fire.

Tom listened and then he said

“Eru, your fire is inside you, all you have to do is believe in yourself and in time it will come”

“I’ll have to be on my way” said Eru, “I won’t forget you”, and she gave Tom a kiss on his beak. She felt a little warm inside but still no flame came out.

The next day Eru woke up in a clearing in the forest. She looked up and saw the holy mountain a short distance away. She thought of her new friends Ding and Tom and suddenly felt a great heat building up inside her. She flew to the bottom of the mountain, she felt all alone and a little bit frightened but then she remembered Tom’s words.

“All you have to do is believe in yourself”,

She thought of all her friends back in dragon land and she thought of her grandmother. Up the mountain she climbed, higher and higher. As she climbed she looked up and saw smoke coming from the top of the mountain. It seemed to shine in the sunlight and it looked as if the whole mountain was on fire.

She reached the top of the mountain expecting to see the dragon god, she was shaking all over, but there was no one there, no dragon just a big black hole.

“It’s a volcano” said Eru, “It’s just a volcano but there’s no fire, it’s gone out”

Eru began to cry. Now as we all know dragon tears are the most magical things in the world, Eru’s teardrops fell into the dark hole and a tiny flame appeared from the hole.  Eru gave a huge sob and before she knew what had happened she sucked the flame into her mouth and swallowed it. Oh dear.

Eru gave a little burp and out her mouth came a puff of smoke followed by... a bright orange flame.

Eru nearly fell into the big black hole, “What was THAT”, she said.

She tried to burp again, nothing happened, she coughed, she sneezed, she jumped up and down, but nothing happened. She was just about to give up when she remembered her grandmother’s words.

“Don’t worry Eru; it will happen all in good time”

“Well grandma, this is my time” shouted Eru and she gave a huge blow and from out of her mouth shot a bright orange flame.

“Fire” she cried, “I’ve found my fire”

Eru jumped up and down in excitement and the more she jumped the brighter the flame shone.  She stayed on the mountain top all night practicing and in the morning when the sun came up she flapped her wings and headed back to dragon land. She flew over the dark forest and looking down she gave a little puff of smoke and blew a little flame just in case Ding and Tom saw her.

She arrived back to dragon land where her grandmother and friends were waiting together with all the other dragons.

“There you are Eru” said the dragons, “Where have you been? We were worried about you; the dragon god has been blowing fire all night”

“That was me” shouted Eru in excitement.

“No it wasn’t Eru, everyone knows you have no fire” replied the chief dragon

Grandmother looked out from the door of their cave and smiled,

“All in good time” she thought.

“Was it like this” said Eru and she blew out a bright orange flame,

Eru’s friends clapped their wings and shouted “Dragon Fire”,

“No” said Eru, “Its Eru fire”

And that children is a true story, although it might never have happened.

So if you’re a little different just remember the words of Eru’s grandma and friends.

“Believe in yourself and one day your time will come”.