International Fairy Day!

 

Shakespeare was a believer. Are you?

June brings a long line of holidays. Not only do we have the Solstice, but also Saint John’s Eve (June 23), International Pink Day (June 23) and finally, the grand slam, June 24, International Fairy Day!

It’s a heady time of year.  Everything is in bloom, the seasons are changing, the air is full of lush, hypnotic smells and the veils are lifted. Everyone gets a little crazy.  Poets dream and lovers love. June is still the most popular month for weddings.

Ever wonder where we get the name ‘honeymoon’? Honey that is gathered under the full moon in June is said to be the most potent. In Medieval times it was used to make a magical mead served at weddings, specifically designed to bless the newlyweds.  Hence the name ‘honeymoon’.

The magic of the month did not escape Shakespeare. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he created three weddings and a reunion between Oberon and Titania, the Fairy king and queen.

Shakespeare had a lot of inspiration.

In the sleepy, backwoods town of Stratford, fairies were never far away.  Folks believed in  all kinds of superstitions, including changelings. Fairies were said to kidnap healthy human children and in place of them leave a sickly ‘changeling’.  Boys were particularly in demand, and families took precautionary measures to guard them.

Terrified that the fair folk would come and kidnap their male children, mothers in Stratford kept their sons dressed in gowns and did not cut their hair till the child’s seventh birthday! (Seven being the age of reason.) The boy was then finally put in pants. This was called ‘breeching’. They even had a little ceremony for it.  (Apparently, they thought the fairies would somehow miss this…)

Have you ever wondered about those weird, overlapping, thatched Tudor roofs? Well, there’s a fairy superstition behind them!

Some historians say that overlapping roofs  were designed to block the moonlight. This was because people believed the fairies could manipulate moon’s energy to cause insanity — or at least pixie-lead them for the night. The fairies could cause illusion, make you mad, turn you into an animal or bring you into the Other-world.

And then you never know what might happen!  Titania has been known to trap a man or two in her bower…

But it wasn’t all bad. Shakespeare’s fairies may have gotten a bit mischievous, yet they always gave a blessing in the end. Indeed, some of the fairies were more humane than humans! (At least they did not stab Caesar in the back…)

TITANIA: “First, rehearse your song by rote 
To each word a warbling note: 
Hand in hand, with fairy grace, 
Will we sing, and bless this place.”

OBERON: “Now until the break of day, 
Through this house each fairy stray. 
To the best bride-bed will we, 
Which by us shall blessed be.” — A Midsummer Night’s Dream, V.I

For more about fairies, witches, aliens, and their symbiotic relationships, click here.

Have a fantastic fairy day, and count your blessings!

 

 

 

 

 

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Executioner’s Song

 

 

Violets are blue my dear, roses are red

Henry loved Anne but he chopped off her head.

 

They called her a witch and a sorceress too

Her web of six fingers as proof it was true.

 

She swore her own innocence till her last breath

Yet slice of the ax brought her to bloody death.

 

Some say she still haunts us, more angry than most

All guests at the Tower, beware of Anne’s ghost!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saint Agnes and the Virgins

 

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 “They told her how, upon St. Agnes’ Eve, 

 Young virgins might have visions of delight, 

 And soft adorings from their loves receive 

Upon the honey’d middle of the night, 

 If ceremonies due they did aright.”    — John Keats

 

Single ladies, you might want to pay special attention to your dreams tonight. Legend has it that after midnight on the Eve of Saint Agnes Day (January 21st) young women are likely to dream of their future husband.

Of course, you will have to perform a few rituals in order to make this happen.

First, take one sprig of rosemary and one sprig of thyme.

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Sprinkle them with water.  Put the rosemary in your left shoe and the thyme in your right. Place each shoe on opposite sides of your bed.

Next, make sure you go to bed without any supper. (Apparently hunger is a good state to induce psychic dreaming.) Then, take off all your clothes, get in bed and lie supine with your hands underneath your pillow.  Look up to the heavens and do not look behind you. Before falling asleep say,

“Saint Agnes, that’s to lovers kind

 Come ease the trouble of my mind.”

Your future husband will then appear in your dream, kiss you and join you for the dinner you so devoutly skipped hours before.

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This is an interesting tradition and it got me wondering: Just who was Saint Agnes and what qualifies her for this type of husband dreaming?

According to tradition, Agnes was a member of the Roman nobility. She was born in 291 AD and raised in one of the few early Catholic families, long before Constantine decided to convert the entire Roman empire to Christianity.

Agnes was a beautiful girl from a wealthy family and therefore considered a great catch for any man, since she had both good looks and money.  By the time she was twelve years old, Agnes was considered to be of marrying age. ( I know! Horrendous by our standards, but quite normal for the 3rd century.)  Many young men of noble status came calling but Agnes chose not to wed and was determined to keep her virginity.  The guys, insulted by Agnes’ devotion to sexual purity, submitted her name to the authorities as a follower of Christianity. This of course led to her arrest.

The Prefect Sempronius (head honcho) condemned Agnes to be dragged naked through the streets to a brothel. Legend has it that as she prayed, her hair grew long enough to cover her entire body. (She at least had it easier than Cersei Lannister!)

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It was also said that men attempted to rape her in the street, but all of them were immediately struck blind.

One of these men happened to be the son of Prefect Sempronius. He was struck not only blind but dead. However, he was revived after Agnes prayed for him. Even so, Agnes was still put on trial and sentenced to be burned at the stake.  She was bound, gagged and  tied down, but miraculously, the bundle of wood beneath her would not burn! The officer in charge then drew his sword and without blinking an eyelash, promptly beheaded her.

Agnes died on January 21, 304 AD, at the tender age of thirteen.

Perhaps you noticed a bit of irony here…  Why would a virgin martyr, famous for purity and chastity, be qualified to predict the future husbands of young girls? Some ideas about this were clarified by author Robert Ellsberg in his book Blessed Among All Women: Saints Prophets and Witnesses For Our Time.

Ellsberg states: “In the story of Agnes the opposition is not between sex and virginity. The conflict is between a young woman’s power in Christ to define her own identity versus a patriarchal culture’s claim to identify her in terms of her sexuality.”

According to the view shared by Roman culture at the time, if Agnes would not agree to be one man’s wife, she might as well be every man’s whore. (Hence the trip to the brothel.)

Ellsberg further claims: “Agnes did not choose death. She chose not to worship the gods of her culture. …Espoused to Christ, she was beyond the power of any man to ‘have his way with her’. ‘Virgin’ in this case is another way of saying Free Woman.”  It may be that because Agnes made a strong but painful choice, she was given the power to reveal a choice to others.

Saint Agnes’ story has inspired many artists including William Holman Hunt and  John Everett Millais.

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In the winter of 1819, poet John Keats wrote one of his most famous poems “The Eve of Saint Agnes”. The poem tells a medieval tale of a forbidden tryst between lovers Madeline and Porphyro, who, like Romeo and Juliet are both victims of their families ancient rivalry. The original text was reportedly so erotic that Keats’ editors made him tone it down before the poem could be published. Read the full text  HERE.

If you decide to do an Agnes ritual and find a future husband on your horizon,  please let me know!  Here are some further folkloric interpretations of Saint Agnes Dreams:

“If you dream of a man, that’s your future husband! 
If you dream of lots of men you are going to get married many times. 
If you don’t dream of any men it means you will live alone.
If you dream of thistles or thorny plants it means your husband will rarely shave.
If you dream of a puddle it means your husband will sweat profusely.
If you dream of poultry it means your husband’s breath will smell.
If you dream of a mouse it means your husband will be obedient.
If you dream of white clouds it means your husband will be old.
If you dream of eggs it means your husband will be young.”  — Adapted from “The Dark Dreams of the Fertile Woman’s Mind” – Sir Dalton Falsworthy 1831. 

Happy dreaming and happy Saint Agnes Day.

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