The Blackthorn, which is widespread and abundant in woods and hedgerows throughout the British Isles, has the most sinister reputation within Celtic folklore, in ancient Ireland it was known as Straif, thought to be the origin of the word strife.
Although associated with trouble and bad luck, it is also associated with the overcoming of these negative aspects and the transformation that this struggle can bring.
Cailleach the Celtic goddess of winter is depicted as a blue veiled old woman with a raven on one shoulder and a blackthorn staff which she uses to summon storms. She emerges at Samain and takes over the year from the summer goddess Brigid.
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Dr. John Dee, Elizabethan Scholar, Astrologer, Occultist and Alchemist.
John Dee was a much respected mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, alchemist and adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, but subsequently derided as a conjurer and a trickster.
Dee became Queen Elizabeth’s trusted advisor on astrological and scientific matters, choosing her coronation date himself. From the 1550s through the 1570s, he served as an advisor to England’s voyages of discovery, providing technical assistance in navigation and ideological backing in the creation of a “British Empire”
Dee’s library, at 4000 volumes, was the largest philosophical and scientific library collection in Elizabethan England.
Queen Elizabeth finally made him Warden of Christ’s College, Manchester, in 1595.
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Sir Bedivere, in silence, watched the barge
That bore away King Arthur to the vale
Of Avalon, till it was seen no more.
Then, on the beach, alone amid the dead,
He lifted up his voice and sorely wept
” Alas ! ” he cried, ” gone are the pleasant days
At Camelot, and the sweet fellowship
Of noble knights and true, and beauteous dames
Who have no peers in all the living world,
Is quite dissolved for ever, and the King
Has gone and left none like him among men.
O happy, thrice and fourfold, ye who rest,
Both friends and foemen, in one peaceful bed,
While I am sick at soul and cannot die !
Oh ! that the battle might be fought again !
Then would I surely seek the way to death,
And bleed and sleep like you, and be at peace.
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In times past there lived in Penllyn a man of gentle lineage, named Tegid Voel, and his wife, Caridwen. And there was born to him of his wife a son the most ill-favoured man in the world, Avagddu. Now Caridwen thought that he was not likely to be admitted among men of noble birth, by reason of his ugliness, unless he had some exalted merits or knowledge.
So she resolved to boil a cauldron of Inspiration and Science for her son, that his reception might be honourable because of his knowledge of the mysteries of the future state of the world.
Then she began to boil the cauldron, which from the beginning of its boiling might not cease to boil for a year and a day, until three blessed drops were obtained of the grace of inspiration.
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A factually based novel centred around the Lancashire Witch Trials.
The novel is based on the true story of the Pendle witches, who were executed in 1612 for causing harm by witchcraft. Modern critics such as David Punter consider the book to be Ainsworth’s best work.
The subject of the Pendle witches was suggested to Ainsworth by antiquarian and long-time friend James Crossley, President of the Chetham Society.
During 1846 and 1847 Ainsworth visited all of the major sites involved in the story, such as Pendle Hill and Malkin Tower, home of the Demdikes, one of the two families accused of witchcraft.
He wrote the story in 1848, when it was serialised in the Sunday Times newspaper.
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Within a narrow gorge known as “The Thrutch” within Healey Dell nature reserve and now overshadowed by the viaduct hides a pool and waterfall, before the flood of 1838 which destroyed it, it also contained a cavern in the rock which had a pulpit, reading desk and seats, formed by the action of the water. This is still known as the Fairies Chapel.
In local folklore the Chapel was formed when the King of the Fairies, aiding Robert of Huntingdon to overcome a curse, turned a local coven of witches to stone.
“There” the King said, “practice your unholy rites. There you have a chapel for your evil worship. And long may it be ere any mortal be so foolish as to seek you out in your wicked den.”
In overcoming the witches, Robert was forced to sacrifice his uncle’s ring which was the only proof of his claim to the title of Huntingdon and thus took his first step towards his destiny as the outlaw Robin Hood.
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