Issue 29, Autumn/Winter 2016
A sand sculpture, photographed by Violetta
Articles & Fiction
by Stuart McHardy
In his book Egyptian Myth and Legend the great Scottish folklorist Donald Mackenzie mentioned that one of the stories of the Scottish Cailleach, or Hag, has her as the ‘chief of eight old women or witches.’ He goes on, “This group of nine suggests Ptah and his eight earth gnomes, the nine mothers of Heimdall, the Norse God, and the Ennead of Heliopolis.” Here he is clearly thinking about Egyptian mythology but his reference to Scotland and Norway is merely scraping the surface of a theme in myth and legend that is effectively world-wide.
My interest in what is best described as the Nine Maidens comes from the fact that a story of them survives close to where I was raised, on the north side of Dundee in Scotland. In this local tale the nine are sisters who were the victims of a dragon-like creature who was later killed by the betrothed of the eldest sister and the site is marked by a Pictish Symbol Stone, Martin’s Stone. The Picts, often cited as a mysterious, painted people, seem in reality to be the indigenous peoples of Scotland1. They left no literary records of their own and much of what we think we know of them relies on Roman sources. What has survived in Scotland from the time of the Picts - in previously accepted thinking the 3rd to 10th centuries of the Christian era - and been the cause of much discussion, and fantasy, is a vast corpus of carved standing stones with intriguing symbols, a considerable number of which are clearly pre-Christian. Some of the later Christian stones continued to use some of these earlier symbols. Just as Christianity spread by utilising previously sacred locations in many places so it seems that the early missionaries in Scotland co-opted an already established tradition of carving sacred stones to help spread their new message. (read more...)
Until quite recently, if you wanted anything but a standard Church of England wedding in the UK, you were out of luck unless the registrar could also come along, and even then only if the building were recognised for marriages.
In many churches and other recognised locations, the “ceremonial” part of the wedding is then followed by the legally required registration. And it’s not uncommon in the UK for even Christian clergy not to be qualified to perform this part of the wedding.
If you were pagan, or wanted to join with your beloved in sacred space before the goddess, you were out of luck altogether, and most people had to be satisfied with a handfasting and a quick trip to the registry office for the legal bit.
How wonderful, then, not only to have a Goddess Temple – Britain’s first for thousands of years – recognised as a legal place for marriages and but also two trained Priestess Registrars!
Goddess Pages interviewed Dawn Kinsella, Sharlea Sparrow and Iona Jones, the women behind Goddess Temple Weddings. (read more...)
Healing sweets: herbal honeys, syrups and cough drops - Part 2
by Susun S Weed
Herbal syrups are sweetened, condensed herbal infusions. Cough drops are concentrated syrups. Alcohol is frequently added to syrups to help prevent fermentation and stabilize the remedy. Cough drops and lozenges, having less water, keep well without the addition of alcohol.
Bitter herbs, especially when effective in a fairly small dose, are often made into syrups: horehound, yellow dock, dandelion, chicory, and motherwort spring to mind in this regard.
Herbs that are especially effective in relieving throat infections and breathing problems are also frequently made into syrups, especially when honey is used as the sweetener: coltsfoot flowers (not leaves), comfrey leaves (not roots), horehound, elder berries, mullein, osha root, pine, sage, and wild cherry bark are favorites for "cough" syrups. (read more...)
by Jill Smith
In the Spring 2012 edition of Goddess Pages I wrote of my visits to the Amazon House on St Kilda, which lies at least 60 miles to the west of mainland Scotland.
This archipelago has an almost mythical hold on many people, drawing them to visit, and in the past was almost legendary, as the islands disappear and re-appear faintly on the horizon like some version of Tir nan Og, tantalising viewers in the Western Isles of Scotland. I too was ‘called’ by them over several decades before finding an affordable way to physically reach them.
These remains of an ancient volcano, whose cliffs rise sheer from the clear deep bottle-green ocean, were inhabited from prehistoric times, being a likely stopping-off point as people hopped round the coasts from Scandinavia to Ireland. There is little early evidence as stone used in buildings was continuously re-used for later development, but advances in archaeology enable finds which push back the dates of habitation. (read more...)
by Carolyn Lee Boyd
For one glorious week each year, the rose and white-showered magnolia trees lining Main Street transformed the potholed, two-lane road into a processional as elegant in its own simple way as any gracing a medieval European or an ancient city. The town did festoon the street with flags and balloons for parades with the Mayor and town council, high school band, and Boy and Girl Scouts on special occasions. “But, it goes nowhere,” Mary reflected as she drove home on a Friday evening during that magnificent week one year, and, indeed, it ended in an empty concrete courtyard of buildings long since abandoned.
As the sun warmed her arm through the car window for the first time that spring, an unexpected memory came to her of summer Saturdays when she and her mother would gather in her grandmother’s kitchen to make jellies and jams from the fruits of her grandmother’s farm. The thought “I’m almost the age my mother was then. She had my grandmother and me. How did I get to be so old and end up so alone?” came into Mary’s mind unbidden.
Tucked into a strip mall at the corner where Mary waited for a green light was Demeter’s Supermarket, a small grocery that had been established by Greek immigrants decades ago when the neighborhood was mostly families who had immigrated from there. Their children had moved out a generation ago, but a few of the original businesses still served the surviving elders. (read more...)
Poetry & Reviews
Reviewed by Carolyn Lee Boyd
Reviewed by Geraldine Charles
Reviewed by Laura Slowe