Saturday, 26 April 2014

Poisonous & Beautiful: Stargazer lily

This will be a series of twelve posts about all the loveliest prettiest natural wildlife things that are also deadly and toxic. I'm starting with Stargazer lily, mostly because it's my favourite flower, I've got hairclips of fake Stargazing lilies and it's the same age as me!

The flower was bred in the 1970's by a hybridiser called Leslie Woodriff. Stargazer lily got it's name because it always looked towards the sky, and appears to do the same at night. They are born from Oriental lillies.

The flowers love to thrive in subtropical temperatures with plenty of sunlight. These flowers are wonderfully scented fragrant flowers. It's appearance is of a perfect elegant star in six large petals, striking spotted pattern detail, coming in different colours of pink, red and white. Long slender filaments and fiery stamens burst from the middle. The pollen is thick and golden, so beware, it can stain clothes.

These beautiful flowers are popular with gardeners and celebrations. The Stargazer lilies are favoured at bridal ceromonies. Many brides and bridesmaids wear them in their hair and carry these Stargazer lily boutiques. Even decourations on layered wedding cakes are stargazer lilies, real or fake. Girls like to wear a Stargazer lily at parties, and sporting tattooes of Lillium Stargazer flowers is something personal and a growing trend too. Despite how pretty and perfumed they are, and how nice they look on food, Stargazer lilies are pretty poisonous!

They've got a reputation of being cat killers. These flowers are noxious towards cats, who've eaten them in their owners gardens. Cats suffer a load of illnesses, kidney failure, heart attacks and death from eating a Stargazer lily. Anyone with these flowers should be careful of the serious hard it will do to your kitties. To avoid this, place a cat scarer (in the form of a feline statue) close by the Stargazer lily to put off any wondering cat from going near the poison flowers. Although it's not been reported of harming humans and other animals, eating them should be avoided.   

Friday, 18 April 2014

Fairytale grimoire: Rapunzel

This is one of the Brothers Grimm's most strangest stories. There are different versions of the tale and modern storybooks are cleaner and less dark. However, it's still full of dream symbolism and historic traits.

The heroine princess is called Rapunzel. Unlike the princesses of other fairytales, Rapunzel has unusual features and that comes in the way of her having extremely long hair. Rapunzel's hair is strong enough to act like a rope ladder for people to climb up. She doesn't get injured and seems invincible. Her tears have healing properties that can cure blindess. Her voice alone attracts a lover way out into the forest. She lives alone in a tower and was raised by a cruel witch. Her own mother feasted on vegetables while pregnant with Rapunzel and the special plants were called Rapunzel.

The name Rapunzel is from a real plant called Campanula Rapunculus, or rampion, from the bellflower family. It was a popular to grow and eat during meals hundreds of years ago. It's a plant that is a herb, flower and a vegetable. The root of Rapunzel can look like a turnip and cooked like one mainly in boiled water until ready to eat. The flower of this same plant is star shaped and lilac, light blue to purple in colour, containing a milky sap that was, centuries ago, used as a cosmetic. The leaves of the plant contains Vitamin C and tastes like spinach.

There are also myths about the rampion Rapunzel plant that distorts the behavour of children, turning them wild and quarrelsome. One legend tells of a girl from Calabria in Italy, who pulled up a rampion bellflower from the soil. Then the ground opened to reveal a secret staircase descending down into the earth. But this rapunzel plant has its mythical roots in death, funerals and bad luck.

The story outline
 (my version based on traditional and modern versions):

Once upon a time there was a pregnant woman who lived with her husband. They both lived in a cottage almost virtually next door to a witch that grew rampion in her garden. The witch's garden was not easily acessable as it was surrounded by a high wall. 
The woman was becoming ill with hunger as she wanted nothing else to eat but the rapunzel from the neighbour's garden. She pleaded with her husband to climb over the wall and fetch some rapunzel. The man didn't want to see his wife suffer, and at night he would climb over the wall and enter the garden, and pick some of the plants. He carried the rapunzel back over to his house and gave it to his wife. She enjoyed the taste and wanted nothing else but the plant. 
One night as the man was picking rapunzel from the garden, he was caught by the witch. He was so afraid of her that he made a bargain. He would continue to have the witch's plants so long as the baby is handed over to the witch after birth.
When the baby was born, it was a little girl and she was named Rapunzel, after the same vegetable that her mother always ate. 
The witch took the baby from her parents.
Rapunzel became a beautiful young woman but she lived in a room at the top of a tower. The tower had no doors or stairs. She was not able to get out and only the witch, who raised her, could get in through the window at the top of the tower. Rapunzel would be called to lower down her long long hair so that the witch could climb up it.
Rapunzel was a prisoner and she was also very gifted at singing.
One day, a prince rode by on his horse and he listened to Rapunzel's sweet singing voice. He was so enchanted that he followed the sound and came to the tower. 
Then he heard someone coming and he hid behind trees. He watched the witch call out, "Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!"
Soon a long rope dangled from the tower top. The witch climbed up and entered a window high up. The prince waited and eventually the hair rope dangled down the tower and the witch was descending. He waited for the witch to disappear through the forest. When she was gone, he left his hiding place and called out, "Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair!"
He climbed up the rope of hair and entered a window at the top of the tower. He met the beautiful Rapunzel. They soon fell in love. The prince visited her every day.
Then one day, as the witch was climbing Rapunzel's hair, it felt painful as the witch tugged and pulled her hair. Rapunzel said "Owch! You're not as gentle as the prince".
Knowing that Rapunzel was seeing a man, thje witch became furious and cut off Rapunzel's hair. She banished her into the forest.
Later that day, the prince called for Rapunzel. The witch dropped down Rapunzel's hair rope. The prince climbed but when he reached the window and saw the witch, she let go of the hair and the prince fell to the ground. He landed in thorns and cut his eyes. He wandered blind and sad, looking for his lost love.
After so long, and years passed, wandering through the desert, he heard sweet singing. He was drawn to the lovely voice, and it was Rapunzel.. She recognised the prince after all these years. She was so overcome with joy at finding him again that she wept tears of happiness. Her tears fell into his eyes and his sight returned. Both Rapunzel and the prince returned to his palace where they lived happily.
The end. 


Some modern versions don't include twins that Rapunzel and the prince had. Rapunzel the story is older than the Grimm's tale as they wrote down oral stories and many other storytellers have been doing the same long before.

First of all what sounds to be happening at the beginning of the story is that Rapunzel's pregnant mother was experiencing a pica condition, where pregnant women are overcome by unusual food cravings. Some women desire non-food. So the story outlines a truth that a pregnant woman craved a particular food. The parents of the heroine seem scared of approaching their neighbour so the man resorted to stealing from the witch's garden. The witch contains her veggie garden within a high wall, as she contains her adopted daughter in a tower. The witch is nasty by character because she's stolen the girl from her parents and locked her in a tower. To the witch, the garden is as precious to her as the girl Rapunzel.

I can guess that further back in history, the witch of the story might've been based on a benign herbalist grandmother figure, who took custody of Rapunzel when the mother died during childbirth. Death during childbirth was far more common in the past. Elderly women with their wisdom and healing gardens took over roles as midwives, nurses, healers and carers. However, the message of the story changed over centuries because superstitious people feared anything to do with natural medicine, elderly women, magic and nature because of witchcraft. The old woman or forster mother became the witch.

Now Rapunzel as a heroine is often a recurring figure from older fairytales and myths, the maiden in the tower and the imprisoned princess.Here are some older versions of the fairytale.

"Saint Barbara" - A 3rd Century tale of a princess who was locked in a tower by her father. When she refused to follow his religious beliefs, he beheaded her. She was turned into a saint and appears in many countries as an icon.

"Petrosinella" - A woman steals parsley from an ogress' garden and is made to give away her baby daughter, who was named Petrosinella (it means "parsley" in English). The ogress locks the girl in a high tower and only visits her by climbing up the girl's long hair. A prince listens to her singing and rescues her.

"Persinette" - Similarly, a girl named Persinette (parsley) locked in a tower by a sorceress. Once, her own parents lost their daughter after being caught stealing parsley from the sorceress's garden. She visits the girl by climbing up her ladder hair. A prince visits her and the rest is similar to the story we know.  

"Danae" - From Greek mythology. A princess named Danae is locked away by her father. The god Zeus visited her in a shower of gold and then she became pregnant. She was thrown out of the castle with her baby son, who after many years later later, grew to be the hero Perseus.

A maiden in the tower could also be interprated another way. Perhaps Rapunzel is a symbol of the Divine Maiden at the axis point, on top of the mountain, at the highest peak, nearer the clouds, sun, moon and stars. She lives at the highest places, not as a prisoner but as a goddess. There is never an easy way to reach her. The hair is a symbol of trees, branches, ladders, ropes, all with the means to climb upwards.

The idea of a Divine Maiden on top of a building has existed since time began and she's regarded as a holy figure. She is the sun, the moon, stars and sky. Throughout history there are pieces of architecture revealing such Divine Maidens in the form of statues on buildings, rooftops. pillars and walls. These are called Caryatid. These maidens have been around since ancient times. It's no different to the seasonal decourative pretty sparkling girls (the dolls of fairies and angels) on the tops of trees.

By SheWolfNight

Monday, 14 April 2014

Blood Eclipse

It's supposed to be a blood moon, a full moon with the appearance of looking like blood and it coincides with the season of Easter/Eostre/Ostara. Most people like to associate blood moons with disaster and death. The sight of a blood moon is an effect caused by a shadow of sunlight during a lunar eclipse. Then there is the mystery of a lunar eclipse and strange things that have happened during it. Once you presume that, you look for things that are not even there. The moon has been very bright last night and I couldn't sleep at all. I was too busy running through the woods on all fours, howling, or maybe not. I was just kidding. I was having strange visions though.

Death and destruction happens all the time and a blood moon isn't a post. It's a mirror and a clock. What's been around and goes round in a circle comes back again. Time itself is round and just like a clock, and just as the cycles of a year and the orbits of the worlds, we go around in a circle.

Many modern people are wary of blood moons. Blood moons are just like the numbers on a clock. People shouldn't be scared of blood moons as much as they shouldn't be scared of 12:00 hrs but some really are!

Yes the moon has an effect on people. The full moon certainly turns people a bit funny and crazy. Werewolves come out during the full moon. It's when people are prone to aggression and carnal madness, and when sleep patterns are disturbed and when the water changes.

When a woman is menstruating during a lunar eclipse, and even during a blood moon, it's called a Sanguine Moon and a Fire Moon. The triple goddess mothers (Earth Mother/Erda, Solar Mother/Sunna and Moon Mother) make that rare visit to observe life and do work. So it's advisable not to practice any form of occult magic during this phase but to rest, labour as normal and chill.

However humans are prone to let their instincts take over and behave unrestrained, very paranoid, disrespectful of others, manic, hungrier, insomnia, anger and yes lycanthropy. I'm probably guilty of this if I'm not careful.

Tips on how to survive a blood moon: It's best to shut the curtains or blinds. Hide out the view and read a book or watch TV. Don't go out or make any spells. Avoid alcohol and other drugs. Drink plenty of water and have some salad.


Monday, 7 April 2014

Enchanted flowers: Forget-me-not

Spring is here and already dozens of new flowers are appearing. Wild flowers of many varieties cluster on the lawns, gardens, woodlands, riverbanks, parks and pathways. There are also blossoms on brambles and trees, that rain petals of honey scented confetti, and bees and butterflies swarm to them.

The common feature on the grasses in April are various blue flowers, violets, periwinkle and forget-me-nots. These flowers are the colour of the sky. As there are many flowers in Spring, and many more flowers yet to bloom, this subject shifts onto any flower, and not just about a flower that appears right now.

Forget-me-not appears in April and onwards. It's other name is Myosotis, from the Greek word meaning "mouse ears". These are small delicate blue flowers with tiny yellow centres (stars) that grow in clusters and they like moisture and shade.

The flower is not actually associated with healing properties because of rumours that it may cause illness. Yet the flower has had known healing abilities. It was said to cure a dog's bite and a scorpions' sting. It's often symbolic of love, luck, charity and remembering. Once, people wore forget-me-nots to deter witches and bad spirits.

A story about a Medieval knight walking along the riverbank near Danube. He was with his girlfriend and he tried to pick forget-me-not flowers to give to her. His armour was so heavy that he fell into the river. As he was drowning, he clutched onto the flowers in his hand and called out "Forget me not!" Forget-me-nots are linked to royalty. Henry IV had forget-me-nots as his emblem in 1398. Forget-me-nots have been used as emblems for masonry, Alaska and the Alzheimer Society.  



Thursday, 3 April 2014

Valkyrie Mist

One of the lesser known Valkyries of Norse and Germanic mythology is called Mist. Her name could be linked to an Old Norse word/name mistr to mean "cloudy" or "foggy".

The horses of the Valkyries were said to have manifested from air and water. Some of the Valkyries rode through mist and others appeared to be sunlike, bright, white as snow, feathers of white, swan maidens and white goddesses.

Mist was a "swan maiden" Valkyrie who was dressed in a long flowing white gown and a cloak of white feathers. Her hair was a golden honey colour and her eyes were pale grey. She was one of the "swan maidens" of ancient stories. She appeared on earth (Midgard) to bathe in pools and streams. She took on the shape of a swan, or looked like a swan when she was seen in her cloak. A shroud of mist enveloped her.

As the legend went, a man who sees a nymph, goddess, Valkyrie and swan maiden bathing is usually blinded. However, the swan maiden is vulnerable. If a man steals her cloak of feathers, she remains trapped on Midgard and is bound to the man as his wife. There are stories like this but nothing to indicate it happened to Mist.

It's said that a wish can come true if you're holding a white swan's feather. The swan maidens were also called Wish Maidens. These maidens had mystical abilities that they were born with. They were immortal and virginal, and remained pure by their feathers and protected by their luminous armour whenever they wore those. They rode across the sky and settled to drink and dip in waters on the earth.

Mist appears in two poems: Grimnismal (Sayings of Grimnir), of the Poetic Edda, and NafnaĆ¾ulur of the Prose Edda. Those are epics and adventures of giants, monsters and men with references to the Valkyries.

Prose Edda
Poetic Edda 
Valkyries, wish maidens and swan maids
Swan Maidens
Picture is by artist Kirk Reinert