Monday, July 21, 2008

St. Anne - 1st century saint - July 26th

Saints are those strange creatures that belong in the rote of church festival days, they seem at first glance rather boring, but it is a good idea to look at their background, and see where they actually come from.
St. Anne is a first century saint, she belongs fully in the Celtic tradition, of transferred pagan goddess to christian cult saint. The early 'desert' monks will have taken the stories of the old pagan gods and moulded christian figureheads on them.
St. Anne is also remembered on Tan Hill, in the Pewsey Vale, Tan being corrupted into Anne, and it is here on this hill that up to the 19th century livestock fair was held on her date.
it challenges the assumption that Lugh was always bound up in the Lughnasa festival of August 1st, here we have St.Anne fair being held on a date very near to the harvest festival...
St.Ann may possibly derive from the Celtic goddess Anu, described in Cormac's Glossary as the Mother of the Irish Gods, and Anu's identification as an 'earth mother' is brought out more explicitly in the name of a Kerry mountain 'The Paps of Anu'(Da Chich Anann). There is of course another goddess that vies for attention here, this is Aine, seen also as a fertility goddess, though with a more varied background, and of course the two could be one goddess., with there stories interchangeable in Irish mythology.

Her christian counterpart is seen as the apocryphal mother of the virgin mary. There is an ancient carving at St.Anne's Well at Llanfihangel, the well here used to feature water spouting from her breasts, but her breasts were later smashed off.
There is a St.Anne's Well at Malvern Wells (formerly Welsh territory), and another famous votive well dedicated to her at Trellech in Monmouthshire. Trellech of course has three great megaliths - Harolds Stones, nine wells, and a tumulus, but her most famous shrine is in Buxton, Derbyshire, and many dedications can be found in Brittany.
ref; Book of Welsh Saints - T.D.Breverton.

There is another Anna - 5th to 6th, mother of the great saints Samson, Tydecho and Tathan, and her saints day also falls on the 26th July.

This link.... talks of a small circle below Tan Hill, and also a White Horse, that no longer exists. When the circle was made is difficult to say, but there is the same pagan theme that seems to exist around the hills and valley of Pewsey, and of course why was a nearby hill called Milk Hill, a winding thread that leads back to the Goddess Aine patron of cattle......

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Gold discs

Gold Disc found on Lansdown

Representation of Lansdown disc

Jugs grave gold disc


Photo of Bathampton Downs as seen from Solsbury Hill, Iron age lynchetts and 'celtic fields' can just about be seen

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Letter from Gregory taken to England by Mellitus;
When almighty god has brought you to our most reverend brother Bishop Augustine, tell him what I have decided after long deliberation about the English people, namely that the idol temples (fana idolurum) of that race should by no means be destroyed, but the idols in them. Take holy water and sprinkle it in these shrines, build altars and place relics in the. For if the shrines are well built, it is essential that they should be changed from the worship of devils (cultu daemonum) to the service of the true god. When these people see that their shrines are not destroyed they will be able to banish error from their hearts and be more ready to come to the places thaey are familar with, but now recognizing and worshipping the true god.

Gregory's answer to a letter from Augustine which must have been outlining the English religious customs;

Because they (the English) are in the habit of slaughteringmuch cattle as sacrifices to devils, some solemnity ought to be given in exchange for this. So on the day of the dedication or the festivals of the holy martyrs, whose relics are deposited there, let them make themselves huts from the branches of trees around the churches which have been converted out of shrines, and let them celebrate the solemnity with religious feast.
Do not let them sacrifice animals to the devil, but let them slaughter animals for their own food to the praise of god, and let them give thanks to the giver of things for his bountiful provision.

Martin Biddle Widening Horizons - relationships between Celtic overlap into Roman period and also pagan Anglo-Saxon...

Roman evidence in christian churches have been found in a considerable numer eg....
St.Martin's church Ancaster 1831 record;

Sculpture of Romano -celtic Mother-goddesses in triple form
Was still standing upright, facing south and had been placed on top of a rough stone block at one end of a massive 6 x 4 foot stone slab. At the southern end of the slab was a small, elaborately carved stone altar....
"Reason for singling out a stone would be because it had be venerated in the past, This raises the question of whether churches were ever deliberately positioned in close topographical relation to megalithic monuments, or built from the debris of such structure"
quote from Churches in the landscape; Richard Morris

Evidence, mostly Brittany, some Cornish; Church of St.Michael Awliscombe (pagan stone at the threshold of the west door.

St.Tysilio at Llandysiliogogo ;
In 189o renovators of the church of uncovered a huge stone buried in the nave, they were unable to remove it.

Similar incident in Guernsey, 12 years later when a stone of unusual size was discovered beneath the chancel floor at Catel...

On Bernera in the Hebrides there is a pillar in the church which is said to be part of a stone circle. This is an Ogham stone
The scanty ruins of Kilchattan Church, behind the hotel, date from medieval times. In the kirkyard are some old grave slabs showing knights in armour. One is possibly of Malcolm MacNeill, Laird of Gigha, who died in 1493.
And behind the church, atop the Cnoc A’Charraidh (Hill of the Pillar) is the Ogham Stone dating from the time the island formed part of the kingdom of Dalriada. It carries a carving that reads Fiacal son of Coemgen, and probably marks a burial.

At Midmer Kirk Abd there is a stone circle in the churchyard (Burl 1976)

Two large stones which lie in the churchyard at Bolsterstone may be the vestiges of a megalithic structure...

Ysbity Cynfyn (C.s.Briggs 1979)

Alton Barnes church: WANHM 68, 71-8;

This Nicker pool belongs to an earlier blog under Mildenhall.......

Nykerpole : here be dragons
Nykerpole is a very obscure well. Indeed, it is now not a well at all, but a mediaeval place-name, recorded first in 1272, indicating a well now lost, at Mildenhall near Marlborough. Nevertheless, I include Nykerpole here because, like Puckwell, the place-name recalls a legendary well-dwelling creature.
Mildenhall (pronounced Mine-all) was Roman Cunetio. Two Roman shaft-wells have been found in the area, one of which contained a Saxon burial, the remains of a female skeleton with a knife, pins, buckles and beads. Black Field is the site of the Roman settlement, and Roman ghosts have been seen here (
Wiltshire 1984, pp. 25-6). Nickamoor Field lies just west of Black Field beside the River Kennet. A placename of the sixteenth century, Nicapooles Croft, may refer to this very field, or to another associated with it. Centuries have passed, and we will probably never know the exact location of Nykerpole, the nicor-pool of Anglo-Saxon times which gave its name to Nicapooles Croft and Nickamoor Field (Gover 1939, p. 499). The nicor was a great water-dwelling monster of the dragonish or sea-serpent type: two nicras are described in Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon epic poem of the early eighth century. Nowadays the nicor lingers most notably in the Knucker Holes of Sussex, great deep pools of water in whose bottomless depths lurked the Knucker itself (Simpson 1973, pp. 37-42). But it is clear that, centuries ago, Wiltshire too had its Knucker which perhaps, like its Sussex cousins, would come crawling up out of its pool to terrorise the people of the gentle Kennet valley.
Location: Nicamoor Field is at SU 214 694, Sheet 1186. Footpaths run either side of the River Kennet.

Berwick Bassett - no church before 1300 VCH il 155

WAM l 1XV11; Few traces of prehistoric activity have been found in the parish. 2 barrows in the N/E corner and a paelolithic axe found;

SU1198 7387 Bowl barrow 500 m N/W of Berwick Bassett camp;

Pewsey group of barrows S/E of Down farm (Roman?)

Winterbourne Bassett 580 SU 0980 7530

Winterbourne monkton Collection of R/B pottery fragments

Church of St.Nicholas; chancel 13th c; wooden tower in 1807 13th c font. Built between 1191 & 1221

Monday, July 14, 2008

St.Marys Church Bartlow

Rare round tower for Essex

There be dragons, St George has disappeared but his horses head can still be faintly seen

Another mythical beast stands below the saint and St.Mary trying to tug the balance used for weighing the souls of men.
5th Century Book of Beasts was the base line from which most of the mythical creatures found in medieval art is copied into our churches, the christian stories have been woven round these myths.

"The Bestiarius, De Bestiis, or Book of Beasts consists of descriptions and tales of animals, birds, fantastic creatures, and stones, real and imaginary, which are imbued with Christian symbolism or moral lessons. The rising of the phoenix from the pyre, for example, is related to Christ's Resurrection"
Taken from the British Library catalogue of books

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Walking the dog

Today the weather has decided to be warm and sunny, up on the Downs, the fields have been cut for hay, and all that is left is a green stubble, but around the edges the wild grasses are still there. Interspersed amongst great patches of nettles, their delicate seed heads shine with the early morning light. The finest of them is a mist of brown and purple, even the spider cannot create such an intricate tapestry, taller grasses are golden coloured hanging heavy with their seeded heads. The sky is that incredible blue overhead and three balloons that must have been launched in Victoria Park below are strung out in a line hardly moving in a calm morning.
Walking round near the wood, under the old ash trees, the grasses here are filigreed silver-gray, moon-coloured because of the shade of the trees. There is a quiet peace, even the birds in the grasses, are talking softly amongst themselves.
I come to my ash tree, the one I have often stood by and wondered what to do, the dog will throw himself down in the grass impatient that we are stopping, but touching its branches gives strength, it is old, and new growths have started round its base, their branches curving low to the ground, its roots are embedded in a steep hill, strong against the winter gales. Below is a small valley leading eventually to a cottage tucked under the hill, through these woods you can often see deer as they make their way from one place to another always on the move.
The land is calm, cows pastured below, yet the human world is in another fever, food is short and so is oil, calamity looms in stock markets; what edifices, what pyramids do we build to prove we are the superior species and yet all of it is as nothing compared to the intricacies of the natural world around us, we could shed nine-tenths of our lives here in the west and still not miss much.

Friday, July 4, 2008


A dye I have'nt used yet, but its supposed to produce good yellows and oranges, mainly grown for oil, it needs to be grown in a warm dry climate such as southern Europe.
Dyers Weld
This I have tried from dried plant material, mignonette does grow up on the downs, but there is not much, so I don't pick it. Again a yellow dye, my efforts came out a pale yellow, though used equal weight plant/silk. Alum mordant.
Again a yellow dye, the silk came out strongly dyed, in fact the dyewater can probably be used again. Alum mordant used.

Kihada contrasted against natural tussah silk;
the last is a Japanese dye, which dyes purple. The wikipedia information tells me that it is a strong dye, but needs plenty of alum for the mordant. My effort came out a soft creamy pink.
Need to go back on this one.
Gobaishi dye
Another Japanese dye, oak galls, rather black and horrible, when simmered they become soft and snail-like but produce a very dark dye. This time iron mordant was used, and somewhere in the following link, the American student who has been studying dyes and felting in Japan says that she produced a 'heather' colour,. In the dyepot at the moment and a dark grey, but the purple is there.
Gobaishi dye- soft dark purple

Some Japanese dyes and mordants