Wednesday, March 31, 2010


The village of Sheeps Tor, Devon. A known haunt of Pixies.

It's Spring. Spring must mean it's time to clean all the kitchen cupboards. So, I am doing that. This is not fun, but it is interesting. I did one cupboard today. I know it doesn't sound like much, but for me, it's a lot. I washed all the plates. These aren't what we use every day. There's an old set of Poppytrail that Shirley gave me. They're from the 1950's I think. .... hold on, i'll see if I can find out ... Well, apparently I'm wrong. This particular pattern seems to be from the late 1940's.

Anyway, I washed it all up and put it in better order. Somehow an open spice jar got shoved behind the dishes. The spices don't go in the cupboard at all! So this is a mystery worthy of Nancy Drew. I threw it away. I also washed up and put pack some odds and ends I keep in there. Some of this stuff should go in a yard sale I suppose. There is a "Chicken of the Sea" tuna plate. It was a give away to promote that brand of tuna. One sent in six labels and twenty-five cents and received back this plate. I think I've used it twice in the time I've had it. I don't know why I keep it. This was from the 1950's. I found it in a thrift store and bought it on impulse. I may sell it. Dunno. But for now, it's back in the cupboard.

That's pretty much it, except I washed up all the plactic containers that I use for the frig and for Knobby Knees' lunches. Oh, that reminds me. I need to find him a new Thermos. He takes two to work when he's away from his office and the coffee maker. One is leaking around the seal.

I'm saving the pantry for last. I absolutely hate organizing the pantry. I may set my oldest to that task - if I can live through the moaning and groaning. I'd rather tackle the sliver polishing.

I like the feel of silver. We use silver plate dinnerware. Sounds fancy, huh? I buy the peices from thrift stores. One of the stores I visit keeps large tubs of silver plate (occasionally a stirling silver piece will slip in) in tubs. I go through and pick out things that match what I have or that I just like. It takes careful inspection because tarnish can hide wear. But it sets a nice table and I like the look and feel. Call it cheap elegance.

Anyway, I'm done with the kitchen spring cleaning for now. I may go back later and do the high cupboard that's over the stove. That takes a ladder.

Now, I'm at my computer, of course, and thinking about writing a bit more. ... I don't know why this story is so difficult. I think I want to drive back up river and visit my "field of blood" location. The name is iffy. I know a similar term is in the Gospels. I may change it if I can think of a better name for the place.

Verizon is pulling away from it's email partners. My verizon/yahoo is dead though I keep the same email address. Verizon's email portal is poor. I'll miss the yahoo access. I can't get a wardancing pixie mail at yahoo because the name is taken ... by me ... and i messed up the password, and can't remember the exact postal code from when I singed up for it way back when. We were umm "over there" when I signed up and I used one of three "foreign" postal codes none of which I can now remember or retreive. They won't let me in and they won't let me use the name again. Dirty!

I talked to a friend of mine who was recalled to active duty three years ago. He's about ready to retire, if they let him. He's been back and forth to Iraq and Afghanistan several times. I'll be happy if he returns home to stay. He's showing his age.

I'm still playing with the scrap stamp album I wrote about earlier. I'm really surprised at what I'm finding. As I said before, there is nothing really scarce, but there have been some really nice surprises.

Okay, I have things to do, words to write, frowns to frown, deep thought to think, laughs to laugh and jibes to throw.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


“The pixies ‘can’t abear those whom they can’t abide.’” – The West Country Pixies By Archibald Ballantyne, The Argosy, Volume 64, 1897.

The Field of Blood

It’s almost time for me to teach my Creative Writing class. I do not feel up to it today. I feel more or less like dirt. However, I have some very, very talented students this semester. We’re doing a “line edit” of one of my student’s chapters today. I write bits on the white board; the class does a collective edit. This can be an uncomfortable process, so I keep a tight rein on it. The goal if two fold. They learn to self-edit, and their grammar improves.

Be back in a sec … gotta find my socks.

… Back … did you miss me?

I notice that two of my students don’t understand the function of a chapter. We’ll concentrate on that today too. A chapter serves much the same function as does a paragraph. It contains one thought, one segment of the story, but as with a paragraph, it can contain various aspects of a thought. Two of my students make a new chapter for each change in action. If it comes next, it must be a new chapter. This is misguided.

I’ll get them to define a chapter today. (My oldest daughter just asked me why I was getting dressed for school … since it’s spring break. Sigh. Oh well, I’ll go shopping or something if I can get Shirley to go too.)

(I have a tooth ache. Owie)

I’ve been researching the area where the last bit of story four ends. I’ve picked a small town in Eastern Washington that I more or less know. Don’t ask me why. I’m not sure I know. Evil and good have to happen somewhere. This bit of redemption happens in a little town that sits on the Columbia River. It was incorporated in 1934 and has never grown much. It had a sister town that was some older but is now under the McNary Pool. At low water you can see some of the old foundations.

I’ve misstated things a bit. This isn’t the last scene. That takes place elsewhere, but it’s the last redemptive act, an act of love played out by a distant granddaughter. She doesn’t know what she really is. We seldom do know what we really are. I see people as the sum of all their ancestors. Our genetics are put in a huge jar and shaken, and we’re poured out. The mix can be happy or disastrous.

I’ll not discuss nature versus nurture. I’m writing this story, and I get to have it my way, thank you very much! But … what if our human heritage is not what we always think. My mom had this lovely chart showing our ancestors back for many generations. There’s a book that has pages and pages of charts and write ups. What if not all of these ancestors were really human or if they weren’t fully human. What possibilities would there be?

I see my main character sitting at her grandfather’s computer, reading his last wishes … and last revelations. She is sent on a modern-day quest. “Get comfortable, Rachael,” he writes. “There is a lot to read, and once you start you will not want to stop. Let me draw your attention to the deal cabinet. There is a cordial in there and a tin of cookies. They’re for you. You’ll enjoy the cordial.”

Devious man. What if that cordial is – not magic – but changing. What if it speeds to the front what might lay dormant in human genetics? What if it shows as a need for more of the drink? (If it’s not gong to work, perhaps you’ll hate it and drink no more.) What if she finds her back itching? Maybe there is a persistent rash. Later two long welts and some swelling. … What if other symptoms develop? Nice things, maybe and disturbing things show up?

I think there is going to be a play off of Gringot’s Bank. I like the Harry Potter books except for the last two. I also enjoy poking gentle fun at bits of them.

So … I’ve been researching this little town. I’ve driven up there twice. If you look carefully, you can find bits of roads now disused. Off to the side of the state highway is half buried pavement from a road built in the 1920’s. There is a small stretch of narrow-lane concrete road that seems to be from the first federal road in the northwest, but I’m not certain I’ve really got that identified. A series of industrial plants are scattered between small homesteads. An abandoned house stands on a hill. There is a row of nearly dead tress that mark a disused road and the location of a long-gone farm house. And there is this one field. That, dear hearts, is the Field of Blood. Salana died there protecting her family and those she and her mother rescued. Salana … Salana is lost. Her child lived, but Salana did not.

The field is numinous. To the natives who lived there when Lewis and Clark followed the river to the sea, it was a place of deep magic and fear. To them it was the field of blue smokes and a cursed place. But it is holy ground because Salana died there, even if the curse of spilled fairy blood taints it.

Okay, so that’s where I am with this story.

Little Dancer - Argentina - Undertain Date.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Some people ...

This is too funny. From today's search field: "all spirits demons pixies evil get rid pixies"
This comes from the google, inc. ISP in Mountain View, California. The ultimate source is a Comcast address in Minnesota.
This person is so misguided. Pixies are not demons, though our enemies might think us so after we're through with them. We're not spirit creatures.
You can't get rid of us. We come and go as we wish.
Wake up, boy (or wicked old woman)!
His father was a Swede. His mother was ... well ... wooly.
This explains the pinup of Dolly the Sheep on his bedroom wall.

I am interested in what draws people to my blog. Unless they leave a comment, the only clue I get is in the search details. Some of my visitors are profoundly disturbed. Little Swede boy is one of those. He visits this blog to look at the photos of the little girls and boys that I post. He finds them sexually stimulating. I cannot begin to tell you how disturbing it is to me to know that the photos of cute children that I sometimes post stimulate this boy sexually.

Then there is the man in California … He never leaves a comment, but I know who he is from another context. He uses a name that reminds me of an illustrator and author of young adult books back in the early 20th Century, Hugh Pen-Dexter. It is possible that the resemblance is intentional.

When I first met this person he sat himself down in a virtual chat and protested loudly that cheating on one’s wife in a virtual environment was as bad as real life fornication. He’s now paired up with a dominatrix. He visits my blog to find information to further her abusive behavior. Of course, while he’s cheating on his wife (his expression. Remember what he said?) with his “Lady,” he’s cheating on his “Lady” with Jane what’s-her-name. So sad. Don’t believe me? You should …

I get visits from people in the Middle-East looking for photos of young Arab girls. Inevitably, if a visitor is from the Middle-East, they’re looking for something sexual, often involving very young women. It shows in the report that details their search.

One search phrase that made me laugh was “how do I get rid of pixies.” You don’t. We don’t go away unless we want to.

One person confuses me with someone who uses Deviant Art because there’s a pixie story over there. That’s not me; it’s not my writing style, and the story isn’t the story I tell. He comes in looking for “Belly Button Pixies.” He is a belly button pervert. Then there’s the man who visits – eternally hopeful that he’ll find something – searching for “boys in skirts.” That search line will bring up my blog because of a photo of a young boy in an infant dress, typical of the late 19th and early 20th Century.

One silly post on male goat behavior has led to an endless stream of visitors to that one post … some of the search terms are not printable on a PG blog … let me tell you … probably it’s all searches by little perverted boys from Sweden and their friends … Or by Mr. fan of Hugh Pen-Dexter. He pixel fornicates with his Lady … and that’s doing about the same thing as that for which these people search.

I get many visitors for the antique photos. I have some exceptionally nice regulars. Some talented writers and artists visit my blog … and I get more than my share of the truly odd, mentally disjointed and corrupt.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Maybe just one ...

British Postal Card, About 1910

First Kiss


Front and Back of an Envelop Mailed from Germany to France.
Four Billion Marks Postage Paid

I haven't played with my stamp collection for a long time. A few years ago I found someone's childhood album at a sale. There wasn't much in it, but it ended about 1956 and had a few interesting things. I bought it for the ten dollars asked and put it away.

I got it out this week and started cleaning it up. I won't save the original album. It's ratty and the paper is not archival. While I have many of the stamps that are in that album, I'm finding a surprising number that I don't have. This is fun.

Oh, there isn't anything rare - just some that I don't have. Most of those are from the 1940's. I don't really collect anything from the 1940's, but I do have Scott International (The Blue Binders) part two and part three. And if I run across something that fits in there, I save it.

So, what did I find? I found some interesting post-war Poland. Bits and broken sets from Norway. A few from Portugal found spaces too. There are some scattered British Colonies, mostly as singles from larger sets. I think the person who owned this album bought the old H. E. Harris packets. They were cheap and contained interesting stamps. Of course not all of them are inexpensive today. I bought a box of those once from an old time collector who thought them not worth more than the original price. I took him at his word and paid very little. He and I were both wrong. The nicest stamps to come out of this album are postally used German inflation era stamps. Used examples of some of these are hard to find.

So, this was my relaxation today. I needed it. I don't feel at all well. But ... there is always someone worse off. Shirley brought over mushroom soup and managed to drop the entire thing on her foot. Cleaning the carpet was a bit nasty, but that is manageable. (With a little help for Knobby Knees who figured out why the carpet cleaner wasn't picking up water. Who knew you had to clean out a little red filter? Pixies are supposed to know these things?) Shirley broke her toe. Heavy soup, huh? Poor Shirley.

The up-side is that the carpet by the door is all nice and clean. Bad side is Shirley limps a lot.

Westwood, Lassen County, Cemetery

Photo borrowed from another web page. Family are here.

This is where I would like to be burried.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Pixie's Birth Place

The House where Sha'el, Princess of Pixies was born in the winter of 1918/19. From Pixie Warrior by umm Me.

Westwood, Lassen County, California.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Writing and not writing ...

The South-West Corner of my Work Room
Work that lets one avoid other work can be such a comfort. … So, I’m supposed to be writing, and I have done some. But I’m in a lot of distress today and not really in the mood. I’m taking breaks, filling the time by putting order back into my writing area.

I have piles of books I’ve bought over the last two weeks. None of them have a home on a self yet, though I’ve read most of them already. You understand that the room I use for most of my books, my desk, my computer and my research folders is a large square. In the middle (who knows why) is a large closet. Yup, smack in the middle. I’ve created a wall with book shelves so there is now a short hallway where it was once open space. Walk down that hall and you pass double doors into a storage area. Once upon a time it was a coal bin. Now it has electrical utilities and a sink and storage shelves. Past that are the north stairs. At the foot of the stairs one finds my, “okay I bought these books but I don’t know where to put them yet” book shelves. Most of these are going on that shelf for now.

Want a sample? I’m happy to oblige: 1. Buff: A Collie; 2. The Keeper of the Bees; 3. Ruth Fielding on Cliff Island; 4. The Littlest Rebel (photo-drama edition with pictures from the silent film); 5. The Black Thumb Mystery (Ken Holt story); 6. Tall Men; 7. The Sheik; 8. Doctor Hudson’s Secret Journal.

Those are all oldies. I like old fiction, even badly written old fiction. Reading this stuff has introduced me to some sterling but mostly forgotten writers such as the Canadian author Ralph Connor. I love his books. If I see one reasonably priced it goes in my cart.

I read an immense amount of fantasy and science fiction. In my “I bought it and read it and I’m going to keep it but where the heck am I going to put it” pile are: 1. M. Lacky, Exile’s Honor. 2. Brown: The Unlikely Ones (This was fun to read); 3. Bujold: Diplomatic Immunity. (Ann McCaffrey said, “Boy can she write.” I agree.) 4. Saberhagen: The Lost Swords – Second Triad. (so so, but I’m keepin’ it.)

So … I spent a part of my morning finding shelf space for these piles of books. I can now see the top of my table. Always nice to see an old friend again!

I can’t seem to work and not make and un-Godly mess. I always know I’m making progress on a project by the depth of the piles of books and file folders. But, at some point I have to clean it all up just to make sense of what I’m doing.

Etude d'apres nature

Photo by Louis-Camille d'Olivier - About 1855.

The Medal

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Keziah - 1881

People used to live more familiarly with their dead than they do now. In the medieval era the dead were buried under church floors. A hole was cut in the bottom of the vault for the body fluids. (The rest of this post is just as icky. You should probably stop reading now.) But on a hot day, the churches must have smelled of death for a considerable time after an entombment.

There were no real morticians in the medieval era. Family and friends died and were buried. They might have been washed. Death is vulgar, an insult to ones affections and senses. When you die your body will release fluids. In the ancient and medieval eras, relatives washed the dead and put them into their death sleep cleaned from the filth of death.

The dead were sometimes placed on display. In the 19th Century and into the early 20th Century it was not unknown, and in some places it was common, for a family to prop the dead up in their coffin and place them in front of a window or on a porch for any to see.

When photography became common, photos of the dead were sometimes the only photo preserved. When a dollar represented a good day’s wage, spending it on a photograph was a luxury. The only known photograph of my great great grandfather is a post-mortem picture. I do not display it, but it is in our family archival albums. It’s all we have other than a brief memoir and some family papers. It’s an old age photograph. He died in 1893 at seventy-one.

The saddest of the post-mortem photos are those of children. Because a photo was a luxury for most families, especially at mid-nineteenth century, these were sometimes the only visual memory of a loved child. They bring tears to my eyes, even though I did not know these children. Some are startling because there is a family resemblance. That could have been me, had I been born then.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Swede Boy ... You're so special ...

His name is Oscar. Poor little Oscar is from Sweden. He’s flabby and wears his hair in a fashion common to gay-boys … five years ago. So out of date! He’s twenty-one, he says, though he acts more like a petulant fourteen year old. I wonder if his parents know. … Oh of course they do. … I notice that he slipped up and gave his real age as eighteen. I’d love to see his birth certificate. I’m positive he’s either fourteen or a mental midget.

Someone told me his last name and sent me a photo of him holding a guitar and another of him on his skate board, but I’ll omit them from this post. Let’s just say that if I want to run him to ground, down to his street address, there is no where for this pervert to hide.

He used to skateboard. He had skateboard buddies. They were all better than he was, and he resented it. He’d like to think of them as his friends, but they laugh at him behind his back. Does he still get on the ol’ skateboard? Dunno. The memory of false friends probably keeps him off it most days.

His life is gaming. He has no other life. He’s unemployed, living off his mommy. Poor mommy. Oscar thinks a temper tantrum gets him attention and forces others to give way. Unfortunately for him, in real life a temper tantrum doesn’t work. He is hesitant with his peers. “I hope you guys think I’m alright,” he wrote. Oh my loving God and little rabbits! Of course we don’t think you’re all right. We think you’re a temperamental, unrestrained twit who lacks social graces, employable skills (other than being adept at the gentle art of making enemies and being a second rate stake-boarder.)

He’ll never get that job because he sits for hours in front of his computer playing silly little-boy games. In the past week he spent 37 hours, the equivalent of a full-time job, playing one game. … That doesn’t count the time he spent on Second Life. Oh my Sweet Lord! No wonder the boy’s belly is going to flab. … Of course, his mind was never anything but Jello with a moderate flow of electrical pulse.

Oscar moves from gaming site to gaming site. He’ll tell you it’s to find a more exciting, challenging game. It’s really to escape the ridicule he receives on each site. “We went our own ways,” is his excuse. They drove him off is more in tune with truth.

He finds the Second Life virtual environment to his liking because it lets him “be part” of something. Only trolls, morons, the sexually challenged and fools associate with him. Oh and the old woman who tries to seduce little boys likes him because she can manipulate him. He doesn’t even see it.

He plays guitar, he says. Ever hear him? My six year old can play guitar that well without ever having had a lesson. His musical tastes run to Snoop Dogg, Doctor Dre, and 50 Cent. The boy needs some culture, but then he needs an education, a paying job, and to stop sponging off his parents and the state. None of those things will come his way. He’s too busy killing pixels on game sites.

Pitiful Oscar lives near Västerås. There must be some cultural resources there. Too bad he can’t find and use them. Though I haven’t checked yet, I understand that his actual residence is in Kungsbacka, but he avoids what little social scene they have. He was banned from the internet coffee house for being ugly. He hangs out in the skate park with the little and underage boys. Draw your own conclusions.

Oscar sees himself as a comedienne. “I provide lots of lulz,” he says. Ignoring the poor grammar and “internet speak,” how he would ever see himself as having a talent for humor is beyond me. I’m sure there is someone as moronic as he is who finds picking belly button lint and shouting vulgarities funny. But real humor escapes him, probably because he leads his life in virtual worlds and can’t face reality. Or his lack of humor and good judgment may come from his oft repeated phrase (You can’t call it a thought. He doesn’t have those.) “I wish I had some alcohol.”

Oh, and Oscar, dear, do take down the pinup photo of Dolly the Sheep before your mother notices.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Guest Post: Maggie!

My name is Maggie Mustico. I am a Voice Over Artist, Singer, and Actress. I have had the privilege of voicing the Audio Book “Pixie Warrior” by Rachael deVienne.

I was thrilled when Rachael asked me to write a guest blog and relay my experience in doing the narration for her book, “Pixie Warrior”.

How it all started:
I was approached by Action Audio to be on file as a narrator for their audio books. When I saw there was a posting for a Narrator needed for Pixie Warrior I went to the link provided and ... I loved it! I was drawn to it. I knew I had to narrate this book......So, submitted a sample of the prologue. After a short wait for a response, I was thrilled to learn I received the job I began work as soon as I received the full book.

It all starts with familiarizing ones self with the book. I usually take a couple weeks just to read and re-read the book, making notes on how many characters there are, where they appear and what their purpose is within the story. I also make a list of any names of characters, places, andvocabulary for which I need correct pronunciation.

Science Fiction / Fantasy books contain a lot of creative names and words that the authors pull from their incredible imagination. There were a lot of these in “Pixie Warrior” including a short song in Pixie language. Rachael was wonderful in explaining how each name was to be pronounced.

I take the list of characters - and notes I‘ve made regarding each character - and create the voices that I will use to distinguish them within the book. For “Pixie Warrior” I had at least thirty-four different characters. It was a daunting but exciting challenge. I fell in love with the story and with the characters -- especially the Pixie Warrior herself, Sha’el.

The story of the “Pixie Warrior” is told by Sha’el, so the entire book is in character. Besides the voice of Sha’el, some other favorite-character voices I created were for Mother Dragon, Cookie, and Old Mother Lai. I found Old Mother Lai to be fun and feisty for an Elder Pixie!

I always record from the beginning and work my way through the book. Each chapter can take many hours of work. This includes recording, doing some re-records if needed, and any editing.

I not only recorded the narration but meticulously edit what I record with editing software in my Professional Home Studio. I even sang in three of the chapters (two prophecies and one short pixie song. ) Action Audio provided me with the background music; I in turn wrote the vocal music notes for the songs, sang and recorded them and laid the music underneath the vocal tracks.

It was a very rewarding experience. I had a lot of fun being drawn into the world of the “Pixie Warrior.” Thank you Rachael!!

It’s a fun & fantastic story! Check it out at where you can purchase a download of the audio book “Pixie Warrior,” read by Me -- Maggie Mustico.

You will be mighty glad you entered the world that Rachael de Vienne created in “Pixie Warrior”.

My website:

~ Maggie Mustico

That is the question ...

Are Pixies and Fairies real? Of course they are. I’ve seen both. Pixies are easier to see. We don’t exactly hide, but we can and do alter our appearance. We can walk among you, and you take us for a child at least from a distance. In closer view you may take us as an exceptionally short adult. You don’t see our wings, but they’re there.

Fairies are harder to see. They disguise themselves in ways pixies do not. If we wish to be unseen, we blend out. It’s practical invisibility. Fairies are masters of disguise. My first experience with them was surprising. I trekked into lands that used to be fairy but which are now abandoned by the large and dominant of their species. The small ones never left. They were abandoned there when Salana, an Urisk (half pixie and half fairy), gave her dagger to her mother and Talasan was slain. Great slaughter followed, and the fairy mound was abandoned, except by the small, single (and simple) minded, devious ones.

The place is over grown. On an old ordinance map one finds the word “tower.” It’s a heap of rubble, but it’s there. It takes a clever eye to see the entrance to what is below. I knew it was there. I was looking for it, and did not see it on the first visit.

But I did see the small ones. They blew as stray leaf and leaflet at my feet, losing their disguise briefly, only to return to it when they paused. Only leaves blowing in the wind, you say? There was no wind, not even the slightest breeze. They were fairy. They skittered malevolently around my feet, but they didn’t bite me. Perhaps it is my scent. I would smell of Salana, though she is dead.

She died on the Field of Blood what is for you ages ago. But I would still bear her scent; so the little ones would fear. They were never far off though. …

Steamship and Tug - San Francisco - About 1900

Changelings, Pixie and Fairies

Artist Unknown

Devonshire is above all other lands, the land of changeling boys and girls, and the pixies had a great deal to do with these transformations. I recollect hearing the history of one who had the gravity of an ancient woman from her very childhood, who talked as if she wore fifty years old, when she was only five. They called her "The Bee” and she” gathered honey every day." It must have been a portion of the ambrosia, and helped to furnish the metheglin of the pixie court. Certainly it must have been for one of those precocious little creatures, full of wit and wisdom, brains in their toes and in their fingers' ends, that the Fairy Queen expressed so strong an affection. Out of a "changeling” Shakespeare might have created an Arid to meet the pixies: —

On hill, in dale, in forest, or in mead,
By pav'd fountain, or by rushy brooks,
Or on the beached margent of the sea,
To dance their ringlets to the whistling wind.

The pixies were great explorers, familiar with the caves of the ocean, the hidden sources of the streams and the recesses of the land; but they had their favourite haunts for their routs and revellings; they had a hierarchy of rank ; and the subordinates had their tasks appointed to them by the superior authorities.

From: The Devonshire Pixies, Once a Week, February 23, 1867.

Pixie War

'Ever so long ago, the Pixies were at war with the mine spirits •who live underground all about the forests and the wild hill-country round. Now, the Pixies being perfectly harmless, and withal good natured to excess, weren't at all a match for the evil-nurtured earth demons, who were always forging all kinds of fearful weapons in their underground armouries, and overcoming their poor little foes by all manner of unfair and unexpected stratagems. But the Pixie queen of those days being, like all women, fertile in resources, bethought her of a means of escape from the unbearable tyranny of the oppressors. Ever since the days of Merlin, running water, the numbers three and •even, and the mysteries of the emblematic circle, have been sure protections against the machinations of the foul fiend and his allies. And the fairy queen, like a wise woman, recollected this fact, and like a wiser woman, applied it; for she assembled all her subjects, and bade them build on the summit of this, central Exmoor peak that strange circle which you have seen to-day. But it was no common building this, for with every stone and tarr that the builders hud, they buried the memory of some kindly deed which, the good Pixies had done to the race of men; and so, when the magic ring was completed, the baffled demons raved and plotted in vain around its sacred enclosure. Nor was thia all, for when the grey morning broke upon that first night of victory and repose, as the driving mists rolled upwards, and swept along the hill-tops like the advanced guard of a victorious army' … from the summit of the fairy fortification there rose ring after ring of faintest amber-tinted vapour, and floated away in the brightening sky, each on its own mission of safety and of peace.

' For these tiny wreathlets wandered hither and thither all over the broad expanse of the Exmoor country, and wherever the grass was greenest and softest, and the neighbouring stream sang most merrily, and the sunlight was purest, and the moonbeams brightest, there these magic circles sank down softly on the level sward, and left no traces behind them of what they had been, or whence they had journeyed.

' But from each soft restiugplace there sprang a ring of greenest grass, which flourished and grew year by year, and within whose safe enclosure the Pixies danced on moonlight nights in peace and security, unharmed by the demon rout, who were never seen above ground after that memorable morning. So you see that kind hearts and actions do not go unrewarded, even in other spheres than our own. -- Frazier's Magazine, Vol. 56, 1857, page 491.

Newly Married - Breslau, 17 Mai 1929

Pixies in the Garden

For the two above Artist Unknown to me. I'd love to hear from them.

Evelyn Myers Hartley
Simply Lovely!

Sold as Garden Fairies, we all know these are really pixies!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fairy Hills

Fairy Glen by Conner

More than one fairyhill of the present day, not yet explored, has a small hole on its summit, and when a stone is dropped therein, it is heard to rumble and fall into some unknown cavern below. And the existence of such “craters " was well known (we are told by Scott, in his Introduction to the Talc of Tamlane) to the people of Scotland. " Wells, or pits, on the top of hills were supposed to lead to the subterranean habitations of the Fairies." Legendary stories in connection with these there are many—of men descending such “pits," sometimes well knowing what to expect, and of having hand-to-hand fights with the natives of these abodes. At other times the attack was made by those "hillmen " themselves ; who seem to have emerged by this entrance as often as by the other. " A savage issuing from a mount" was once a well-known bearing in Scottish heraldry. Mr. J. F. Campbell records a Rossshire tradition of a dwarf who inhabited Tombuidhe Ghearrloch, “The Tawny Hillock of Gairloch," and who was the terror of the neighbourhood (whose chief inhabitants, in his day, belonged to another race). Before he was himself slain, this formidable dwarf had killed many of the latter race; none of whom (with one exception) dared to venture near his “hillock" after dusk. He was at length killed by a local champion, still remembered as "Big Hugh " (Uistean Mor, MacGhille Phadrig) who was celebrated as a slayer of dwarfs ; and who appears to have devoted himself to their extermination in that particular district. And in the story of the killing of this noted dwarf, it is stated that Uistean climbed to the top of the hillock (Tom-buidhe] and attacked its inhabitant, who emerged from the foot of its “crater" or "pit "; in other words, from the roof of his dwelling.

-- David MacRitchie: The Testimony of Tradition, London, 1890.

Translating Life into Words - A Kiss

I’ve been kissed many times, just “lots and lots” as one of my children would say. Kissing is nice. I like to do it. I love a baby’s first open-mouthed kisses and the laughing smiles that come with them. I cherished my grandmother’s pecks on my cheek. The memory of her parchment dry lips pressing gently into my cheek will never leave me. My lover’s kisses are varied, pleasurable, erotic or chaste, passionate or gently loving.

There is one kiss that rests in my mind more than all others. I’m not sure how to describe it. In cold clinical fashion I was surprised by a lover’s gentle kiss, loving eyes and a whispered “I love you.” Our lips touched lightly and clung together as they parted. The feeling was intense, lovely, even if it was caused by sticky spit gluing our lips together, making them reluctant to part. This wasn’t a closed eyes kiss. It was too quick for that. But it, above all others, is the kiss I remember most. Another one of those and its character would have changed from gentle love to urgent, needful mating.

I intend two of my characters to share a similar kiss. Describing it effectively eludes me. How do I put on paper the sense of surprise – maybe unexpectedness is a better word? I knew my mate loved me. How do I describe the surprised contentment and lingering passion left behind by this one gentle and brief kiss and the feeling of pleasure and regret left by the parting of our lips, even if it was only a bit of spit that sealed them together?

A kiss isn’t always just a kiss, and a sigh isn’t always just a sigh.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Wreck of The Plymouth Shrouded in Ice

Near Marquette, Michigan - 1886

USS Arrow Wrecked at Long Beach, Washington - 1947

Fairy Mounds

Fairy Mounds

By David MacRitchie, F.S.A. Scot.
From The Antiquary: Vol 36, 1900.
Many would reject his conclusions, but this is very interesting! -Pixie

WHEN Thackeray was making his tour through Ireland in 1842, he spent a day in the little town of Louth, and there he made the following entry in his Sketch Book: " In the handsome grounds of the rectory is another spot visited by popular tradition—a fairy's ring; a regular mound of some 30 feet in height, flat and even on the top, and provided with a winding path for the foot passengers to ascend. Some trees grew on the mound, one of which was removed in order to make the walk. But the country people cried out loudly at this desecration, and vowed that the ' little people' had quitted the countryside for ever in consequence." Thackeray, however, was not the first to record the existence of this mound, for Gough, in 1789, had already included "the Fairy mount at Louth" among his Additions to Camden's Britannia. And, earlier still, Thomas Wright had published two views of it in his Louthiana, London, 1748, Book I., Plate XII.

But Thackeray's words may remind visitors to North Wales that a similar mound may be seen at Bala. "The Tomen Bala stands at the northern end of the town. It is apparently formed of clay, is steep and of difficult ascent. In height it is about 30 feet, and in diameter at the top about 50. The Tomen is about the same size as Glendower's Mount on the Dee, which it much resembles in shape. Both belong to that brotherhood of artificial mounds of unknown antiquity found, scattered here and there throughout Europe and the greater part of Asia." So says George Borrow, who further made inquiry of the inn waiter regarding its supposed origin. "What do the people here say of it ?" he asked. “All kind of strange things, your honour." "Do they say who built it?" “Some say the Tylwyth Teg built it, others that it was cast up over a dead king by his people. The truth is, nobody here knows who built it or anything about it, save that it is a wonder." Now, the Tylwyth Teg (literally, " the fair family ") are the Welsh fairies, so that here we have these two similar mounds, one in Wales and one in Leinster, each having a tradition that they were built by the fairies. Mr. A. G. Bradley, in his Highways and Byways in North Wales, speaks of the Tomen of Bala as “the first of a long line of such mounds stretching down the Dee valley, erected by a race forgotten and for purposes unknown." It would be interesting to learn whether a like tradition to those of Bala and Louth lingers around any of these other mounds.

A third example of the same kind of mound exists in western Perthshire, in the Winding Glen of the Stones, otherwise Glen Lyon ; and it, too, has associations that link it with the Tomen of Bala and the Fairy Mount of Louth. It is situated on the farm of Pubil, 4 miles down the glen from the lower or eastern end of Loch Lyon, on the left-hand side of the road as one goes towards Meggernie Castle and Fortingall. The Ordnance Map marks its site by the word "tower," thereby indicating a small circular fort upon its summit. This “Fairy Knowe,"* for so it is called, is not cone-shaped; at any rate when viewed from the west. But its slope on the side next the road is as acute and as suggestive of an artificial origin as that of the Bala "Tomen." The local tradition regarding it was obtained by the present writer from a very old man, a native of the glen, as his forefathers were. “Some say that it was a court-house," he replied, in answer to a question as to its origin. "The fairies used to be there. They used to be coming about a farm, yonder down the glen. They were little people, dressed in green. They used to carry off women. People had to be careful of the women, in case the fairies carried them off. These are very old stories," he added.

One might go on citing many other similar instances without leaving Scotland. Mention might be made, for example, of the Elf Hillock of Brux, Aberdeenshire, situated near the Kildrummy earth-houses or weems, but on the southern side of the river Don. Even yet this Elf Hillock is held in awe by the countryfolk, on account of its former denizens, according to tradition. But it is unnecessary to multiply instances. The point to be noticed is that in all these cases in Ireland, in Wales, and in the Scottish Highlands we have very similar mounds, all alleged to have been reared and occupied by a race of " fairies." For what purpose they were actually reared — there seems every reason to believe that they are not natural mounds—and what is the nature of their inner construction, these are matters as to which we are at present in ignorance.

In other instances, however, successful attempts have been made to break the outer crust and penetrate the hidden mysteries of the fairy mounds. On the Perthshire estate of Coldoch, 4 miles south of Doune, there formerly stood a mound of the same description, locally known as “the Fairy Knowe." But in 1870 some inquisitive antiquaries dug into the “knowe," and discovered that it was no natural hillock at all, but of artificial construction down to its very base, and that it had once been a habitation. A similar history attaches to an alleged residence of the fairies in the Island of St. Kilda. This also was, to all appearance, a hillock. But about the year 1837, as we are told by the late Captain Thomas, R.N., when some people were " digging into the hillock to make the foundations of a new house they discovered what seemed to be the fairies' residence, built of stones inside, and holes in the wall, or croops (sleeping-places), as they call them, as in " another similar dwelling in the same island.

Then, again, Sir Arthur Mitchell states that at Dunrossness, in Shetland, there is (or was) a mound “called the 'Fairy Knowe,' which is about 14 feet high. It appears to have been opened, and seems to me to have contained a stone-built chamber."*

Another hillock of the same general character, situated near Kirkwall, is thus described: "All that meets the eye at first is a green, conical mound, with an indescribable aspect of something eerie and weird about it, resting silently amid the moorland solitude. On closer inspection we discover an entrance passage, about 18 inches high and 2 feet broad, leading from the lower side into the interior of the prehistoric dwelling."* It was only in 1849 that the real nature of this mound was made known to modern people. In the autumn of that year Mr. G. Petrie, who had previously noticed it as "a green knoll, contrasting pleasantly with the surrounding heather," decided that it might be worth examining, and accordingly he employed a couple of men to cut into it. The result was that this innocent-looking knoll proved to be wholly artificial, concealing beneath its grassy exterior a stone-built house of several rooms, of which the largest, situated in the heart of the mound, rose to a height of about 12 feet, in a species of dome, the apex of which was "a regularly-built hole, resembling the top of a chimney. The roof was otherwise continuous, and was merely covered with a layer of turf."

Dr. James Wallace, the son of a seventeenth-century minister of Kirkwall, quotes Sir James Ware to the effect that "some round Hills are found, the inner parts whereof are formed into chambers, and served the Danish Princes of old for Houses." That statement refers to Ireland, but Dr. Wallace continues thus: “Many of these Hillocks are found upon the Sea-side of almost all the Islands of Orknay, though no one of them that I know was ever fully opened and examined. Eastward of the House of Cleat in Westray there is one, on the east side of which I found a subterraneous passage about 40 Feet in length from the center of the Circle. . . . West and by north of the old manse of Westray is such another Hillock, called the Know of Burrista, near the middle of the South-side whereof, and about 16 Feet from the Center of the Round, is a Door fronting the West-Sea, with a Wall on each side, about 30 Feet in Length, and then choack'd with Rubbish. This Passage is near as broad again as that at Cleat, and covered in the same manner, but so high that one may almost stand upright in it."*

It will be observed that the name of one of these mound-dwellings, the Knowe or Knoll of Burrista, shows that it had been long assumed to be a natural hillock, as in the parallel instance of the Fairy Knowe of Coldoch, in Perthshire. A third example of the same kind is the How of Hoxa in the Orcadian island of South Ronaldshay. In the south-east of Scotland a "howe" is a depression in the land ; but in the Orkneys a "how" denotes an eminence, the word being the Norse haug or houg, a hillock. This, then, was known as the Hillock of Hoxa. Like the Knowe of Coldoch, it bears a close resemblance in its ground-plan to the round-towers known as "brochs" and "doons," as will be seen from the drawings of it reproduced by the late Captain Thomas in his “Celtic Antiquities of Orkney," p. 35 (Archczologia, vol. xxxiv.). But, unlike these, and like the similar "round-houses" described by Pope, to be presently referred to, its walls are devoid of any staircase, presumably for the reason that they never rose more than a few feet above their present height.

Among other specimens of the Orkney mound-dwelling is that on the little islet called the Holm of Papa Westray. It is a long mound rather than a hillock, for it only rises some 10 or 12 feet above the surrounding land. Its interior, which has been fully described by Captain Thomas (pp. cit., pp. 42-44), consists of a long gallery with many little rooms or cells leading off from it.

Then in 1855 Mr. James Farrer, M.P., explored another “how" situated on the Holm of Eday. "Its external appearance was that of a circular hillock," says Mr. Farrer. “The entire length of the building [within the 'how'] was found to be 16? feet; the entrance was very narrow, and a large stone was placed at the mouth. There were four chambers, the largest being at the end of the building, and measuring 6 feet 2 inches long, 4 feet 6 inches in height, and 2 feet 6 inches wide. . . . Whilst the size of the stones used in its construction is evidence of great personal strength on the part of the builders, the small and narrow rooms seem to indicate a diminutive race."*

Mr. Farrer's deduction is quite in agreement with popular tradition. For the hang-folk, or hillock-people, are invariably described in local folk-lore as of very small stature. Nor is the locale by any means confined to the Orkney Islands. When Sir James Ware states that "some round Hills are found, the merely a swelling green mound, like so many others in Sylt," observes Mr. W. G. Black,* " entrance is gained by a trap-door in the roof, and descending a steep ladder, one finds himself in a subterranean chamber, some seventeen by ten feet in size, the walls of which are twelve huge blocks of Swedish granite; the height of the roof varies from five feet to six feet. The original entrance appears to have been a long narrow passage, seventeen feet long and about two feet wide and high. This mound was examined by a Hamburg professor in 1868, who found inner parts whereof are formed into chambers, and served the Danish Princes of old for Houses," he may be perfectly accurate in every part of his statement. In that case, we must assume a very different race from that to which modern Danes, princes and peasants, belong; such “Danes," in fact, as those who have left similar mounds in Denmark, and of whom similar tales are told by modern Danes. For example, one of these “hows" may be inspected in the island of Sylt, off the Schleswig coast . “Externally remains of a fireplace, bones of a small man, some clay urns and stone weapons."

Although nothing definite is known of the past history of this " how," Mr. Black suggests that it was the home of some of the dwarf people alleged to have been the aborigines of the island when the ancestors of the present inhabitants came there. "They lived underground, wore red caps, and lived on berries and mussels, fish and birds, and wild [birds'] eggs. They had stone axes and knives, and made pots of clay." The account given of them is, he adds (op. cit., p. 72), "evidently one of those valuable legends which illuminate dark pages of history. It clearly bears testimony to the same small race having inhabited Friesland in times which we trace in the caves of the Neolithic age, and of which the Esquimaux are the only survivors." From their underground abodes they were called "earth-men," a name given by the Dutch to the little Bushmen of the Cape, for the same reason. But as those underground abodes frequently took the outward shape of hillocks, they were also styled " hillock " people.

Many other mounds in Denmark are traditionally said to have been their abodes, of which the following may be cited from Thiele : Two hills, Mangelbierg and Gillesbierg, in the environs of Hirschholm, on Hosterkiob Mark ; a hill called Wheel Hill, at Gudmandstrup, in the lordship of Odd ; a large knoll called Steensbierg, at Oun'ie, near Joegersptiis; the high ridge on which the church stands at Kundebye, in the bailiewick of Holbcck ; and in the same bailiewick, at a place between the towns of Mamp and Aagerup, near the Strand ; Gultebierg supplies yet another to the list; while between Jerslose and Sobierg lies Sobierg bank, "which is the richest knoll in the land." No doubt in several of these instances, assuming tradition to be fairly accurate, there has been some confusion between natural hills and hypothetical habitations on their sides and summits ; as though Wideford Hill, near Kirkwall, had been confused with the mound-dwelling on its slope.

From the use of the term " Neolithic age " in the above paragraph, it might be supposed that Mr. W. G. Black understood those Danish mound-dwellers to have lived at a very remote period. But the expressions commonly employed to denote a certain stage of culture are avowedly used with the reservation that the "age" referred to may have been concurrent with other "ages." Thus, one race whose implements were neolithic may have been the contemporaries and neighbours of another race using bronze or iron.

From the Heimskringla* we learn that the building of mound-dwellings was in vogue in some parts of Norway as recently as the ninth century. The passage which illustrates this tells us of such a structure in Numedal which took three summers to make. It was built by the orders of two chiefs or kinglets, who appear to have ruled the district as independent princes, until Harold Haarfagr invaded their territory at the head of his army, and transformed their kingship into a tributary earldom. Whether they differed in race from Harold and his followers is not evident. During Harold's visit, their mounddwelling was inhabited by one of the chiefs and eleven of his men, unknown to the invaders. This mound, however, must have been of a very superior kind, not only because it took three years to build, but also because slone and lime and also wood were used in its construction. Evidently, therefore, it was a more ornate affair than those specially under consideration.

But although lime seems never to have been used in the stonework of our British mound-dwellings, yet Mr. George Petrie mentions one instance in which his work of investigation was much impeded by " the great quantity of clay used in the construction of the building." This was on that occasion in 1849 when he was cutting into the “green knoll" on the slope of Wideford Hill in Orkney, with the result that the "knoll" revealed itself as "a structure of the description so generally known by the appellation of a Pict's house." With regard to which term something must now be said.

IN JAMES WARE'S statement that " some round hills are found the inner parts whereof are formed into chambers, and served the Danish Princes of old for houses," is not only endorsed by the writer of the year 1700 previously quoted, but also by Dr. Thomas Molyneux, F.R.S., who published a Discourse on the subject in 1725.* "As to the outward shape of these mounts," he observes, " they are made in form of a cone, lessening gradually as it rises from a large basis, till it terminates at the top, not in a point, but a flat surface." A large number of these, he informs us, are sepulchral. “But besides these tumuli, or funeral piles, there is another sort of ancient work still remaining in this kingdom [Ireland], and to be met with in many parts of it, that by their round make, and resemblance to these mounts, as well by the tradition of the inhabitants, show that they derive their original from the same Danish nation. These are the Danish forts, or raths. . . . Many of the larger forts have caves contrived within them underground, that run in narrow, strait, long galleries, some of these above 26 foot in length, 5 foot high, and as many broad;" and in the detailed description which he proceeds to give one easily recognises the subterranean structures known in Ireland and Scotland by various names.

"All this part of Ireland," says a later writer (Thomas Wright, 1747), referring to County Louth, and in connection with the souterrain near the banks of the River of Ballrichan, a tributary of the Dundalk or Castle Town River, "abounds with such caves, not only under mounts, forts, and castles, but under unsuspected plain fields, some winding into little hills and risings like a volute or ram's-horn; others running zigzag, like a serpent; others again right forward, connecting cell with cell. The common Irish tell you they are all skulking holes of the Danes after they had lost their superiority in that island. . . . Others there are who confidently affirm that this country was once infested with a race of giants, and that these were the burrows of the common men."* From which it is evident that the word translated " giant " was not understood to denote a man of large stature, for the " burrows " in question are too restricted in their dimensions to be of any practical use to the average Irishman of the present day. Indeed, the Irish word famhair, or fomhair, often Englished as " giant," really signifies a " moleman ;" a term still applied, under its variant " moudiewart," to Lancashire miners, in allusion to their underground life. Thus, the “giants," or “mole-men," of one tradition may have been identical with the “Danes" of another.

As to those " Danes" themselves, it appears to be generally recognised by modern students that they were not the invaders of the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries, but a much earlier race, known as the Tuatha D'e Danann, or "the Dananns." They are traditionally stated to have preceded the Gaels in Ireland, and one of the Gaelic names given to them is that of daoine-sithe, or “mound people," owing to their residence in the chambered mounds described by Sir James Ware. Whatever the date of their arrival in Ireland, they are stated to have come thither from the region lying between the Rhine and the Elbe. So say the Irish records.

But the same records also derive the Cruithni, or Picts, from that very region, somewhere about the same period of time. And when one examines the chief attributes ascribed to the Picts, one finds that they strongly resemble those of the "Dananns." This resemblance becomes identity when we consider their dwellings.

The name of “Pict," however, is popularly so much more associated with Scotland than Ireland, that it will prove convenient to turn again to the former country in considering the Picts. In the first part of this paper it was noticed that the "green knoll " on the slope of Wideford Hill, Orkney, opened by Mr. Petrie in 1849, was found to be "a structure of the description so generally known by the appellation of a Pict's house." Chambered knolls of this sort, "beehive" houses, and underground galleries, have all been popularly styled " Picts' houses" in Scotland; but a writer of last century, who describes " the round houses called Pictish houses," seems to have had specially in view the first and second of these classes, which are closely allied to one another. This writer was the Rev. Alexander Pope, minister of Reay (died 1782), who furnished an account of Caithness and Sutherland to Pennant's Tour in Scotland, in the fourth edition of which (London, 1776) he supplies illustrations of two of these structures. One is a round, or beehive-shaped house, having a ground-plan identical with that of the tall circular towers known in Scotland as "brochs" and " doons "; but, of course, without a staircase in the wall, as the wall proper is only 12 feet high, and the total height of the building about 28 feet . The other, situated at the Mill of Loth-beg, in Sutherland, is outwardly a green, conical knoll, in height and other dimensions resembling the Fairy Mounts of Louth and Bala, with an interior plan akin to that of the Wideford "Pict's house" explored by Mr. Petrie in 1849. This second specimen, which was examined by Mr. Pope in company with the then Bishop of Ossory, represents a subdivision of the round-houses thus referred to in his description: " It is to be observed that where the stones were not flat and well bedded, for fear the outer wall should fail, they built great heaps of stones to support it, so that it looks outwardly like a heap without any design." It seems more likely, however, that concealment was their chief motive in such cases, as, except when smoke was issuing from the vent-hole in the apex of its domed roof, such a "Pict's house" would be mistaken for a natural knoll by any passing stranger. For Mr. Petrie adds, what the minister of Reay omits, that this apparent “heap without any design " was " covered with a thick layer of turf, a foot or more in thickness."

It will be seen, then, that many of the dwellings built by, or attributed to, the Picts were practically mounds when viewed from the outside. Consequently, to their contemporaries of other races, who would eventually discover the real nature of those seeming hillocks, the Picts would appear as mound-dwellers. This is strongly emphasized in Gaelic lore. Dr. Hayes O'Grady gives us two parallel passages from Gaelic MSS. which relate to a certain Pictish woman, Nar, daughter of Lotan. The one reference will be found in a manuscript, now in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh, which formerly belonged to the Argyllshire family of the McLauchlans of Kilbride, and which is supposed to be a portion of the lost library of Iona. In this manuscript Nar is spoken of as " daughter of Lotan of Pictland ; but in the famous Book of Ballymote, a compilation of the latter half of the fourteenth century, she is called " Nar out of the mounds, or of Pictland (a sidaib no do Chruithentuaith)."* Then, again, there is a reference given by the late Mr. Horef to the effect that " in an ancient genealogy we read of a wife [the wife of Tuathal teclitmar] who was obtained from the mounds of the son of Seal the stammerer, otherwise the King of Pictland ;" in the original Gaelic, " A sidhaibh mic Scail Bhailbh, no ri Cruithentuaithi." Both of these women, therefore, were Picts, and both came " out of the mounds—a sidhaibh" from the Gaelic word sid, sidh, or sith, a mound.

But it is further stated that "Nar was of the Tuatha Dea," by which term is signified the Dananns, or Tuatha De" Danann already referred to. Thus, Nar was alike a Pictish woman and a "Danann;" and, under either name, she was a bean-sithe, or "moundwoman." For we have seen that the Dananns and the Picts were each styled daoine-sithe, or " mound-people," on account of their residence in chambered hillocks, or knolls. That " Danann " and " Pict" were different terms applied to what was practically one people appears tolerably evident from what has just been stated. Nor is there anything new in this deduction. An Irish writer of fifty years ago* refers to " the life of St. Cadroe (Colgan, Acta Sanct., p. 494), according to which the Milesians found the Picts—' gentem Pictaneorum'—in possession of Ireland," and, continues this writer, " Colgan {ibid., n. 25) says that he would, in another place, endeavour to explain how the Tuatha De Danann could be called Picts, but I know not whether he redeemed his promise."

One variant of the Gaelic term denoting a mound - dweller is here worthy of a moment's consideration. This is the form siabhra, a corruption of siabhrugh, oxsiabhrog, which in turn are corruptions of the compound sidh-bhrugh, or, in the older form, sid-brug, signifying a mound-burgh, or moundbroch. In Dr. O'Grady's Silva Gadelica one finds many references to the sid-brugs and their inhabitants. When the word was applied, as it often was, to the dwellers instead of the dwellings, it represented a transference of meaning analogous to that seen in such words as terrier, redcoat, and bluejacket, where the earth-dog, the soldier, and the sailor became identified with their immediate associations. The simple form sid also received this twofold application, and "the side" may mean in one place the dwellings and in another the dwellers. It further seems probable that, although the two terms became interchangeable, there was originally a distinction between sid and sidbrug. Thus, a simple round-house which had been made to resemble a mound by means of the stones and earth heaped over it may have been spoken of simply as a sid (mound) ; while a more complicated structure, such as the mound-broch of Coldoch, may have been distinguished as a sid-brug. For the latter belongs to a class of "brochs " which, prior to examination, seemed to be grassy hillocks; whereas other Scottish brochs. such as those of Glenelg, Durness, and Easter Ross, have always been quite devoid of any accretion of earth and turf. In the arid East ruins become easily overblown with heaps of sand ; but it is difficult to account for the fact that some—and only some—of the brochs in Scotland had the appearance of grassy mounds, except by the supposition that their builders had deliberately concealed their exterior by heaping stones and soil around it, as they did with some of their " round-houses."

Time and popular misconceptions have done much to distort the original meaning of this word sid, sidh, or sith\* and its derivatives fir-sithe and daoine-sithe ("moundmen" and "mound-people"). The late Dr. Thomas McLauchlan, whose mothertongue was Gaelic, and who, moreover, knew the language as a scholar, protested strongly against the frequent interpretation offir-sithe as "men of peace," an interpretation based upon the fact that another Gaelic noun, identical in sound and spelling with the word for a mound (or, more strictly, " a conical hill," of any magnitude), signifies "peace." In reality, the characteristics assigned by the Gaels to the mound-men are the very opposite of peaceful.

It is now apparent that, in considering the chambered hillocks known as "Danes' mounts" and " Picts' houses," we have worked round to our starting-point. For the so-called Danes, or Dananns, and the Picts were alike styled daoine-sithe. And although that term had its origin in their mound-like dwellings, yet its most common English equivalent is "the fairies." Thus, the structures referred to were all " fairy mounts." In giving due consideration to this result, it is necessary to discard altogether the fantasies of poets and artists, and only to accept tentatively the traditional beliefs of the peasantry with regard to fairies. To enter upon anything like a critical examination of these beliefs in this place is out of the question.

Were popular tradition an unerring guide to the dwellings of the mound folk (and be it understood that both the traditions and the traditional dwellings occupy a vastly wider area than the British Isles), there would be no doubt that the mounds of Louth, Bala, Pubil, and Brux are earthcovered structures of the kinds described by Ware, Wallace, Pope, and others. But too much time has elapsed since such places were built and inhabited. The quasi-educated peasant of to-day fancies himself superior to his forefathers, and dismisses the whole question with pitying contempt; while even the most conservative of his seniors has only vague and hazy notions on the subject. Any conical hillock may be assumed to be a " fairy " dwelling, without the least warrant in fact. Two alleged Fairy Knowes in Shetland, which were examined in 1865, proved to be nothing but natural formations; and although the " Fairy Knowe of Pendreich," on the estate of Airthrey, Stirlingshire, opened in 1868, turned out to be entirely artificial, it was nevertheless only a sepulchral mound. These three instances alone are sufficient to show the unreliable nature of popular tradition.

To what extent the popular memory is at fault is therefore a question which has yet to be determined, and there is no other method of solution than a careful examination of the various mounds alleged to have been inhabited by the " mound-people." County Ixmth, the scene selected at the beginning of this article, itself furnishes many specimens of these mounds; representations of which have been extant for the last 150 years in the pages of Wright's Louthiana. With regard to one of these, Castle-Town Mount, near Dundalk, Wright observes: " The Mount itself is supposed to be hollow within (as other mounts of the like construction have been found to be), but I have not heard of any attempts that have yet been made to open it." A modern journal* states that another mound in the Dundalk neighbourhood " is said to contain a cave, or subterranean chamber, with a passage ending •in the little marsh between it and Fort Hill. There is said to be a similar passage from the fort at Fort Hill to the marsh. The two forts are connected by a ' fairy pass.' "

The question of these “fairy mounds " is a fascinating one. Perhaps some day a British Excavation Society may take it up; and beginning, let us say, with the mounds of County Louth, or of the Welsh Dee, ascertain the actual purpose for which they were reared.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Field of Blood - story 4 - unedited first draft intro

Field of Blood – Story Four

I was seven, I think, when I saw it.

Grandfather bent over his desk, magnifying glass in hand, and scowl on his face. He always scowled when he was puzzled or when he gave something his full attention. He adopted that look when he puzzled through a pile of stamps, deciding which if any of them were expertly made frauds. I expected to see a scattering of small bits of paper on his blotter. There were none. Instead there was a rectangle of yellowed vellum with carefully drawn letters, none of which I could hope to read.

Grandfather took his pen and jotted a line in an open notebook, returning his gaze to the glass and the writing. I went unnoticed. I hate to be unnoticed. I insinuated myself into his lap.

“Hi, lass,” he said.

I leaned back into his chest and turned by head back as far as I could. “What are you doing, Grandpa?”

“I’m deciphering a text, Lass.”

The text was in Latin, he explained, and the words of Dafydd of Wales, also known as David Red Hands, and Davidius Scolasticus.

To my questioning look, he said, “It’s a grand adventure. Here, let me show you.”

He stood me on my feet and taped sheets of paper to my back. Turning me to a the large floor to ceiling mirror next to the door, he said: “Here you are, Lass. You’re a pixie princess, and gorgeous you are!”

I was dubious.

He led me in a skipping dance around the Persian carpet. Pixies love to dance and sing, he said. “And you are the best of all dancers.”

I skipped and hopped, now well into the spirit of his story.

He stood as tall as he could and tried to look menacing. “And I …. I am the evil Fairy Lord. I eat pixies!”

He made a made a grab for me and I ran with a scream and giggle.

He caught me swung me up into a hug. “I shall eat you, Pixie! Ummm you’re really very pretty. Maybe I shall not eat you but make you my wife.”

I shook my head, laughing at Grandfather’s stern expression.

Grandfather shoved chairs together and put me behind them. “This is the fairy castle,” he said. “And now you are in it.”

I knew this story. It was Beauty and the Beast retold with different characters. “Are you an ugly beast? Grandpa?"

“Oh, no. I’m a wicked fairy, but I’m really quiet handsome. See?” He preened.

“Do we fall in love and I kiss you and you become a handsome prince?”

He looked serious for a moment. “No … the fairy prince was purly wicked. There was no love. … You!” he said, retunrning to the tale, “How dare you sneak in my lair! I shall punish you and your children. … What’s this?!” He lifted me up onto one of the chairs and put a ruler in my hand. “Would you dare stab me with that?”

I looked at the ruler for a moment. Then, falling back into the spirit of his tale, I jabbed at him. He grabbed at his heart and fell to his knees.

“You foul pixie! You’ve done for me!” He colapsed onto his side. “My fairies will hunt you down and make lunch of you!”

He closed his eyes and gasped his last, but in the next moment he was up and we dashed into the hall. We paused at a half table beneath one of the hall mirriors and snuck a pink mint or two from a bowl. He suck on his twice and caught his breath.

“Now,”he said, taking aonther slurping suck on the mint, “we free the captives, the half-pixies, and your children and escape.”

He found a seat on the hall tree. “I think I’m too old for flying today. But here’s what happened next. The princess freed all the evil fairies captives and they flew off to safety. In time the evil fairy’s friends found them and there was a huge battle. They fought for days and to the last breath of many. Finally they were free, though many died. The place where the battled was called field of blood because it was stained red with the blook of pixies and green with the blood of fairies.”

“Faires have green blood?” I asked

“Or blue. I think some may have blue blood. …. “ He grinned. “That explains why all those blue bloods on Wisteria Way are so strange.”

Our adventure became one of many that I treasure and remember with surprising clarity. We refought Bull Run, we captured Troy, we crossed the Red Sea dry shod. But it was the brave pixie princess and her warriors who held my interest. I fantasized about them, making up stories and telling them to my playmates … and sometimes to my grandfather. He always listened attentively. Sometimes he would laugh. Occasionally he would say, “Oh, that’s not at all the way it happened.” And he would add a bit to the story.

Grandfather died. I was seventeen. He was too young to die and I was too young to lose him. I cried for days.

His memorial service held in Tannenberg Hall. It’s a cavernous place, and his casket seem small. I had no idea so many knew my grandfather; I knew almost none of those who attended. I didn’t want to know them either and sought protection behind my parents and a look that I hoped would tell everyone so inclined that I did not wish to speak.

That worked, mostly. I got a comforting pat from some of the more distant relatives. They were distant only in blood relation; close in tender feeling. I endured their affection and appreciated their kindness.

A tall, sallow man spoke briefly to my father. He was one of many who expressed their sympathy briefly and moved on, except he didn’t move to leave. He stepped back from the press of sympathizers and into the shadows.

“Here …” It was almost a whisper. “Your grandfather … He wanted this. He … I couldn’t get it to him before … It’s yours now.” He shoved an envelope into my hand.

His eyes were as yellowish as his complexion, and I was certain he was only a fraction way from the death into which my grandfather had already fallen.

I nodded and mumbled thanks.

He returned my nod.

I looked at the envelope. It was yellowed with age, one in colour with the man’s sickly skin and eyes. I sought for something to say, finding nothing. When I looked up he was already on his way out. His long coat swished behind him as if it were a cape, and he was gone both from my view and from my life.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Stories, restoration, cars, and stuff

I’m supposed to be reading my students’ work. I’m not, of course. I’m writing a blog post instead.

Story three of the new anthology has made me unhappy. I’ve set it aside and started outlining story four. The main character in story four isn’t a pixie but a pixie descendant. I’ll have to come up with a name for the non-pixie descendants, I suppose. …

The story, as I see it now, is a quest fulfilled. The main character – funny her name should be Rachael – has been following clues left in medieval documents and more recent diaries and letters she inherited from her grandfather. She’s looking for the field of blood.

Among the clues are bits of Native American legend that coincide with a Dafydd of Wales’ tale of the valley of blue smoke. Got that? Okay … now I need to account for the blue mist. Oh, I know why it’s there, but not how to account for it umm scientifically.

Fairies are hard to kill but not immortal. Once dead they decompose slowly and their bodies give off a blue mist in the summer’s heat. (As far as I know there is no basis in the mythology for this exact thing; I’ve made it up, mostly.) The mist grows faint as their bodies pass into their constituent elements and fainter still when only bones remain.

Most of the story, as I see it now, consists of a walk through the field of blood. It’s told through her observations and reflections. There is a find … that is she finds something and takes it with her. That’s where the story will end.

There is a conversation with the farmer who owns the field. I have imagined this three ways. The basics are easy. She seeks permission to visit the property. He is reluctant to give it because he sees the plot as a bad place. Cattle do not thrive on it. Wheat will not grow on it. It’s unlucky, and he’s rational enough to not want to describe it that way. He finally gives permission. She walks the field, making her observations and collecting bits of things.

This is an anti-magic story. Or more accurately, this is a “there is no magic” story. I see it as a fairly short story, but they have a way of growing that surprises me sometimes.

I don’t feel well today, and many things are annoying me that usually don’t. Fortunately, no one is home to see me this frustrated. I’ll take a nap soon.

I have a long list of things to do. We have a yard sale planned. I really need to get rid of more of the junk stored in our basement. I had the one room in order, but it’s backfilled with boxes from the last room. It is wrong that cleaning should make such mess!

I’ve been reading books from the 1940’s. We lose touch with good writing of past eras, and the 1940’s produced some great writing. Behind this is the need to prune down my library. I have dozens of books from the 1940-50’s. Most of them can go, but I want to keep the best of them. So, I’m re-reading some of them.

I spent parts of yesterday gossiping with a relative – about another relative, of course. Every family has its black sheep. Sometimes I think mine has more than its share. This particular black sheep is prominent in the financial industry. (Let’s call him a usurious banker.) He has finally managed to cut himself off from everyone else, including his own children. I used to find him a sad, even tragic, character. Now I see him as revoltingly greedy – in a common sort of way. I don’t know what to say to his oldest daughter, the last to suffer from his abuse. Probably I’ll say nothing more. She was his last “defender.” A daughter’s lost loyalty will not be easy to regain. He’ll die lonely.

I’ve been taking an alternate rout home at night. It takes me through parts of town I’d usually avoid, but I’ve seen some interesting things. This rout takes me past a collection of auto dealerships. I’m surprised how many people cruise up and down the street looking at cars at two a.m. This can’t be normal human behavior. …

As construction shifts and the rout changes, I see different bits of the old town. Two of the old hotels are being restored. The same company bought them both. The nicest was built in 1915 and has in more recent years been indigent housing. It has been empty for a year. They gutted it and restored the outside to original appearance, but with high tech materials. The outside is almost done, though the inside is still in disarray. I’m really pleased with what they’ve done.

The other hotel, really a motel, is down the street a block. It was built as a Travel Lodge in the mid 1950’s. For a while it was rent by the week apartments. The last four years it’s been vacant. It’s receiving the same treatment as the 1915 structure. I’m not sure of the financial viability of this second restoration, but I am please to see bits of old town coming back to life.

Going home by this rout takes me across two bridges. The interchange at the foot of the first bridge is nasty. It was recently redesigned and rebuilt. The result is less than desirable. I’m just waiting for the accidents to happen.

Oh … I ran some papers out to a specialty metals factory for Knobby Knees. While I was there I got a brief tour of the plant. It stinks. They lubricate the lathes and grinders and what ever those machines are with animal fat based grease. It really stinks. .. and it’s noisy.

There was one really fascinating bit. They have their own wastewater system. The coolant and waste water is processed through a series of large tanks to which various chemicals are added. The metals and pollutants are trapped in a goo that is squeezed out into molds, and clean water is returned to the system. There is a funny odor inside the plant, a very chemical smell, and the noise level is high. But it was the most interesting thing I saw on my tour.

Next to the plant is a row of nearly dead trees. They’re the remains of a farm stead from about 1900, I’m told. I’d like to see more, but the factory doesn’t own that land, and no one seemed to know who does.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Another Little Dancer ... Argentina, About 1950

Little Dancer - About 1922

See ...

Coir nan Uriskin

This is a very steep and most romantic hollow in the mountain of Ben-Venue, overhanging the south-eastern extremity of Loch-Katrine. It is surrounded with stupendous rocks, and overshadowed with birch-trees, mingled with Oiks, the spontaneous production of the mountain, even where its cliffs appear denuded of soil. A dale in so wild a situation, and amid a people whose genius bordered on the romantic, did not remain without appropriate deities. The name literally implies the Corri, or Den of the Wild or Shaggy Men. Perhaps this, as conjectured by Mr. Alexander Campbell, may have originally only implied its being the haunt of a ferocious banditti. But tradition has ascribed to the Urisk, who gives name to the cavern, a figure between a goat and a man ; in short, however much the classical reader may be startled, precisely that of the Grecian satyr. The Urisk seems not to have inherited, with the form, the petulance of the sylvan deity of the classics : his occupations, on the contrary, resembled those of Milton's Lubbar Fiend, or of the Scottish Brownie, though he differed from both in name and appearance.— "The Urisks," says Dr. Gnhamc, " were a sort of lubberly supernatural, who, like the Brownies, could be gained over, by kind attention, to perform the drudgery of the farm ; and it was believed that many of the families in the Highlands had one of the order attached to it. They were supposed to be dispersed over the Highlands, each in his own wild recess, but the solemn stated meetings of the order were irregularly held in this cave of Ben-Venue. This current superstition, no doubt, alludes to some circumstance in the ancient history of this country."—Scenery on the Southern Confines of Perthshire. 1806. p. 19.