The Home of Irish Mythology

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... where the past and present are stitched together by threads of magic, if we could only open our eyes to see them. Thank you for stopping by.

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Annual Bloggers Bash Awards – NOMINATIONS NOW OPEN

Ali Isaac:

Nominate your fave blogs for an ABBA! What’s an ABBA? Not a member of a well known Swedish pop group, that’s sooooo yesterday! These days an ABBA stands for an Annual Bloggers Bash Award, and while you’re at it, why not join us in London on Aug 1st to find out the results?

Originally posted on Sacha Black:

NominateIt’s the 1st of July, know what that means? It’s ONE MONTH TO GO till the first ever Annual Bloggers Bash Party which is going to be in London on the 1st of August. To find out more visit the Annual Bloggers Bash Page.

Now, not all of our wonderful community can make it. The joy of blogging is that we can meet new friends from far away lands. So I thought we would do something that CAN include everyone. I am please to announce the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards.

Is there a blog you simply love? Has someone made you smile week after week? Maybe they have super helpful and informative posts? Or perhaps you have been inspired by them. Now is your chance to nominate a fellow blogger for one of these six awards. Winners will be announced on the 1st August at the bloggers bash and for all those not…

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Three Day Quote Challenge

I love blogging

There’s a lot of these challenges rippling through the blogosphere lately. I was tagged in this one by my lovely blogging friend and fellow author, Craig Boyack… cheers, mate!

Craig writes amazing science fiction, fantasy and paranormal YA, so if you haven’t encountered him yet, please drop by his writing cabin, where he and his muses will make you most welcome, and proceed to quickly blow your mind.

The rules of this one are simple…

1. Thank the person who nominated you. (Check)

2. Post your quote.

3. Pass it on to three other victims  friends.

I nominate Jane Dougherty, Sacha Black, and Helen Jones.

And here is my quote…

Quote

Ancient Stones

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Yesterday, I wandered the ancient site of the Valley of the Temples near Agrigento… It is a jaw-dropping experience!

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There are temples to Hercules, Hera (Juno), Demeter and Kore, Zeus (by far the largest but now lying in fragments which have never been pieced together), amongst others.

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The most impressive building, simply because it is the best preserved structure on the site, is known as the Temple of Concordia.

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But this wasn’t just a place of devotion; it was a great and complex city, too. There is evidence of many homes, public spaces, burial grounds, and an intricate system of aquaducts fed from two diverted rivers, which supplied water for drinking, bathing, and the huge fishing pool.

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Today, it is a beautiful, peaceful location, shaded by stunted olive and graceful pine trees,  overlooking a grand vista of mountains on one side, and a wide panorama of the sea on the other.

Despite this, as I moved between the crumbling stones, marvelling at what I saw, I felt a faint but definite edge.

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Perhaps it was just something within me. Perhaps a part of me recognised that there was something of a forlorn air about the delapidated monuments, a wistfulness to return to their former grandeur. Perhaps it was something more sinister, and totally out of place beneath that bright sky and sunlight.

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I couldn’t shake the fact that those temples were founded on the blood and sweat of thousands of slaves; they were raised to Gods who were haughty, often cruel and cold; worship in those lofty spaces involved the ritual of animal sacrifices.

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The city itself fell victim to a repeated cycle of attack, plunder and rule by a succession of covetous tyrants. It rose and fell, rose and fell with each tyrannical regime, the lives of its citizens carelessly snuffed out like the fragile flame of a candle.

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Then the Christians came, and made their mark by turning the Temples into churches, followed by the Arabs and the Normans. By which time the old places had long fallen into disuse, claimed by the slow encroachment of time and a return to dust.

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Rediscovered by C19th adventurers and antiquarians, the site is now a Mecca to tourists and archaeologists alike, and the past and its legends live on in our modern era.

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Irish Mythology | The Rough Month of the Cuckoo

storm over crops2The Scairbhín ( pronounced skara-veen) is an Irish weather phenomenon I know only too well, but until very recently, did not know it had a name. It translates as ‘the rough month of the cuckoo’ from the phrase garbh mi na gcuach, and refers to the period comprising the last two weeks of April, and the first two weeks of May.

These few weeks are often rampant with changeable extremes of weather patterns. In Ireland, we say you can expect to experience all four seasons in one day, and this is certainly true of the Scarbhín.

Our ancient ancestors who worked the land and were much closer to the seasons knew this as ‘the hungry time’ of the year. This is because they were busy planting and tending their crops which were too young and immature to produce food as yet.

But the Scairbhín was actually nature’s way of ensuring the crops success. Initial ‘unseasonal’ warm weather would enable seeds to germinate, a sudden cold snap would then serve to ‘harden off’ the young plants, and the howling gales which followed would distribute pollen.

So what has this to do with cuckoos?

Well, the Scairbhín coincided with the return of the cuckoo. The call of the cuckoo is often heard when the bird itself cannot be seen, which lends it an air of mystique. It was therefore seen as something of a herald of early spring and the milder weather which was sure to come, but which had not yet quite appeared.

Of course, the ancient Irish had quite a store of cuckoo lore; it was considered lucky to hear its call whilst out walking, but if you were to hear it whilst lying in your bed, you were sure to experience illness in the family before the cuckoo departed Irish shores for the winter.

If you heard the call whilst you had no money in your money, you were likely to remain poor for the rest of the year. Hmmm… so that explains it; I hear cuckoos most often whilst out walking with Indi, and I never carry money on me when walking the dog…

There are places in Ireland which have acquired their names through their connections with the weather. One of my favourites is Magha an tSamraidh, which means ‘the Plain of Summer’, and is located in Co Kerry within view of the twin peaks of the Paps of Anu, I believe. Incidentally, Tir na tSamraidh means ‘Land of Summer’, and is the name of one of the Otherworld lands… heaven on earth, perhaps?

Cnoc Firinne in Co Limerick means ‘Hill of Truth’, and is so named for the accurate weather predictions made on it over the millennia, based on cloud cover and formation, visibility,  and such like.

Closer to home, Loughcrew, also known as Sliabh na Caileach in Irish, or ‘Mountain of the Hag/ Crone’ is the site of a quaint Spring legend. It is said that if Imbolc (the Goddess Brigid’s feast day and first day of Spring, February 1st) dawns fine and bright, it means that winter has not yet relinquished its cold wet grip, and the crone is out and about collecting firewood to keep her warm. If, on the other hand, Imbolc dawns cold, wild and wet, it is a good sign, for it means the crone has no need of extra firewood, and is sleeping in her bed.

The Friday Fiction featuring Alexes Razevich

Khe_alexes


Extract from KHE by Alexes Rasevich

I pulled my cloak tight, as though that could keep me safe if she awoke from her trance and grabbed for me. On my knees, moving slowly, I began to gather my few things. If the snow had stopped, I’d try to make it to the kler. Even that fearsome place seemed better than staying here with her. All I had to do was get past her to the cave opening.

The babbler sighed deeply. I swung my head around to look at her. My hands were clenched into fists. Her eyes were open and clear. She stared as if waiting for me to do something she both dreaded and expected.

“The storm is full-fledge,” she said calmly. “It won’t stop for three days. You head out into it now, you will freeze to death.”

“I see mud on your foot casings. The snow probably turned to rain awhile ago.” I cocked my head and listened, but heard no telltale drip of water. “Has the rain stopped, too?”

The babbler picked at the mud on her casings. “I was hungry. The stream plants are delicious, but you get dirty fetching them out. I found that sled and those goods while I was out.” She tilted her head back and stared at the rocky ceiling. “You do remember that I was a weather-prophet. Long, long ago. Before—” Her emotion spots erupted brown-black with anger.

As quickly as it had come, the color vanished from her neck. When she spoke again, her voice had the flat cadence of weather-prophets on the vision stage. “The storm will rage three days, then lessen. On the fifth day, it will rain slightly. On the sixth day, the sun will warm the land and cloaks will not be needed.”

The fire had nearly died out. I fed it more branches and sat back. I stared at the babbler, trying to judge how much of what she said was true, how much was madness speaking—and how frightened of her I should be. Had she really been a weather-prophet? Could she still do it?

“The storm will be at its height tomorrow at mid-day.” She waggled a long, pointed finger at me. “I wasn’t just a prophet, you know. I was First. I could always taste the weather before anyone else—better than anyone else.”

The emotion spots on her neck flared bright green, the color of pride. If she hadn’t really been a prophet, she certainly believed she had been.

Her mouth crinkled, spreading her lips over her teeth. “I’ll tell you a secret. Coming snow doesn’t taste cold at all.”

Best to let her talk and stay on her good side. If she were right about the storm, I’d be stuck in our shared shelter for several days.

“What does snow taste like?” I asked.

“Like blood—what did you think?” She laughed and hugged herself.

“I see by your clothes that you’re a country doumana,” the babbler said. “No doubt you stare up at the sky and watch the clouds, judge how the wind is blowing, see what colors circle the moon, and guess your weather that way. Then you consult the vision stage and let a weather-prophet tell you how close to right you’ve come. But if you’ve got the knowledge, you just open your mouth and taste. Rain is like sour fruit, makes my mouth pucker. Heat taste like dirt.” She patted my leg with her filthy hand. “There now, isn’t that a good gift I’ve given?”

She’d given me nothing, but I said, “Yes. Thank you.”

“Oh, the doumana thanks a babbler. That’s a pretty bunch of manners they taught you at Lunge commune.”

Before I could say more, her eyes rolled back in her head and she went rigid again. I couldn’t know how long this fit would last. I crept past her out the large chamber we shared, to the smaller front cave. Snow was falling hard and fast. I wasn’t going anywhere for a while.

The babbler’s voice came from behind me.

“What did you say your name was?”

I made my way back into the large chamber.

“Khe,” I said, and suddenly very much wanted for her to have a name. When babblers were cast out from their communities, they left everything, even their names. Babblers didn’t mind, so they said. Insanity robbed them of the will to care. They said babblers didn’t even care about their own lives and died quickly once they’d departed. But the state of this babbler’s clothes and body made me think she’d been away from her kler a long time.

“When did you leave your community?” I asked.

The babbler’s full lips curled back from her teeth. “Long ago. Two years? I’ve forgotten.” Her eyes lit with a sudden thought. “I was fourteen then. How old am I now?”

She licked her fingers to wet them, turned her left arm so the inside faced up, and smeared away the dirt covering her wrist. I leaned close to her arm, to see. We both stared at the cluster of small blue dots on her skin, two rows of seven and a third row with four.

“Eighteen.” She seemed delighted with the discovery.

I blew out a breath. She’d survived four years on her own. Maybe I could survive the Barren Season and into First Warmth.

“How old are you?” she asked.

My emotion spots flamed. I didn’t know how to answer her. I turned over my arm so she could see the dots on my wrists, four rows of seven and a fifth row of six.

“Thirty-four,” the babbler said and wiped her hands against her mud-splattered hip wrap. “One more year and you’ll return to the creator.” She stared at my neck. “Not too happy about that, are you?”

My heart clenched like a fist. To return to the creator was a joy, but not when almost two-thirds of my life had been stolen away, my span unnaturally shortened not by accident or illness, but by greed. Lifetime I wanted back.

I glanced away and took a deep breath, drawing the stale air of the cave into my lungs and holding it, then letting it out slowly, the way Tav had taught us to calm ourselves, back when we were hatchlings. Long before my defect was discovered. Before my abilities set Simanca’s eyes aglow.

“Put some wood on the fire,” the babbler said. “It’s almost out again.” She hugged her arms around her thin chest. “I haven’t had a fire for…who knows how long? No firestarter. Lucky for me to have found this sled with so many useful things packed on it. I’ve been cold.”

“It’s my sled,” I said. “I built it. Those are my things.”

“Hmm,” the babbler said. “Put some wood on the fire anyway.”

I fed small sticks to the embers, glad for the warmth. When they caught and flared, I added a few broken branches. We’d have to conserve, though, if the storm was really going to last as long as the babbler predicted.

“You can stay,” she said. “It never gets wet in here. And the wind doesn’t blow through.”

I rubbed my neck, comforted by the familiar touch of my own skin. “Thank you.”

The babbler bit the tips of her dirty fingers. “Are you going to stay?”

“Until the storm stops.”

“Are you going to pay?”

“What?” I asked.

“There’s a cost for hospitality.”

My stomach tightened and my neck itched.

The babbler hummed under her breath, a long low sound: arrumm, arrumm.

“I don’t have food to offer.” I said. “I only have what’s on the sled.”

Arrumm. Arrumm.”

“I could maybe spare one of the knives.”

The babbler stopped humming and pointed one dirty finger at me. “All this time, I’ve been alone, without the sound of another’s voice.” She leaned close. “You must tell me your history as it happened, completely and in detail. Then you must listen to mine. Conversation and companionship is the price I ask.”


 

 

 


About Alexes

 

Alexes Razevich was born in New York and grew up in Orange County, California. She attended California State University San Francisco where she earned a degree in Creative Writing. After a successful career on the fringe of the electronics industry, including stints as Director of Marketing for a major trade show management company and as an editor for Electronic Engineering Times, she returned to her first love–fiction. She lives in California with her husband. When she isn’t writing, she’s probably playing hockey or on a trip somewhere she hasn’t been before.


Find Alexes here

Khe

US: http://www.amazon.com/Khe-ebook/dp/B00987OLVU
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/tags-on-product/B00987OLVU

Ashes and Rain

US: http://www.amazon.com/Ashes-Rain-Sequel-Ahsenthe-Cycle-ebook/dp/B00WDQSL3W
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ashes-Rain-Sequel-Ahsenthe-Cycle-ebook/dp/B00WDQSL3W

Shadowline Drift

US: http://www.amazon.com/Shadowline-Drift-A-Metaphysical-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00JEP2GBI
UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadowline-Drift-A-Metaphysical-Thriller-ebook/dp/B00JEP2GBI/

Website

http://www.alexesrazevich.com/

Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/AlexesRazevichAuthor

New Releases Mailing List

http://eepurl.com/08229

The Sign on the Ivy-Wrapped Tree

A few weeks ago, I posted about my Walk of Wonder, and among the photos I posted was this…

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I was intrigued by the cords of the ivy which had wrapped around the tree trunk; they reminded me of the twisted knots of blood vessels and capillaries. They had clearly been climbing their host for a very long time, because they had woven themselves over a sign which had been nailed to the trunk at some point in history. Some of you asked what the sign said, so for the curious amongst you, here it is…

And here’s a closer view…

Nope... none the wiser!

Nope… none the wiser!

If anyone can shed any light on this, please put us out of our misery in the comments below!

I've got my eye on you...

I’ve got my eye on you…

Hibiscus

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In Ireland, my favourite flower is the wild yellow gorse, as those of you who have read my post on it will realise.

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But elsewhere, it is the Gorgeous, vibrant crimson Hibiscus.

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It has no scent, but I love it anyway. There’s something so joyful about it, as if it is determined to make the most of life.

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Which is just as well, as each beautiful bloom only lasts a day, then fades away with the dusk into obscurity.

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There’s much we can learn about living from that.

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Irish Mythology | Tree Lore (Part Two) – The Hawthorn

hawthorn1

In the last few weeks, the fierce golden blaze of yellow gorse which swept through Ireland’s hedgerows like wild-fire, has given way to the gentler, creamy-white froth of hawthorn blossom. In Irish mythology, tree lore features in many of the old stories and legends, and perhaps none more so than the hawthorn tree.

The hawthorn is a small, bushy tree which grows up to six metres in height, which can live to a grand old age of four hundred years. It is native to Ireland, where it is mostly used to mark field boundaries, and roadside hedgerows.

In Irish, the hawthorn is known as Sceach Gheal, from sceach meaning ‘thornbush/ briar’ and geal meaning ‘bright/ lumnious/ radiant’. According to the ancient Brehon Law, it was classified as a Peasant tree. In Ogham, also known as the Tree Alphabet, the hawthorn is represented by the sixth symbol called Huath (pronounced Hoo-ah).

hawthorn ogham

Ogham symbol for hawthorn, Huath.

At the end of March, the first leaves start to appear on new twigs, usually of a reddish hue, which mature into grey, and then pinkish brown stems. This is followed by an overwhelming milky white profusion of blossoms in May and June, the branches so heavily laden with flowers, you can barely see the green of leaves.

The flowering of the hawthorn tree was considered a sign that winter was finally over and spring had sprung. The tree was therefore thought of as an indicator of changes in the seasons, or a weather omen.

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The flowers are said to give off a faint smell of rotting meat. This is to attract flies, rather than bees, to enable pollination. I am surrounded by hawthorn where I live, and have never noticed such a smell.

In September, the pollinated flowers produce deep red edible fruits called haws, containing up to five seeds.

Hawthorn berries

hawthorn berries. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Our ancient ancestors made much use of the hawthorn. Young leaves could be included in salads, or mixed with speedwell and made into tea. Jelly or wine was made from the berries, and the seeds were ground into flour to make a substitute for bread. Steeped in brandy with sugar, the blossoms make an extraordinary liqueur, apparently.

In fact, hawthorn flowers were once so highly prized, they were exported  all around the world.

The lone hawthorn standing in the middle of a field was treated with much respect, and some suspicion by farming communities. Whilst it was thought to be auspicious, bringing good fortune and prosperity to the landowner, it was also thought to belong to the magical folk of the Otherworld, the Sidhe. As such, it was never to be cut or harmed for fear of bringing their wrath upon the perpetrator.

In fact, some farmers would go so far as to pile boulders around the base of the tree so as not to accidentally cause damage to the trunk whilst ploughing or reaping around it.

hawthorn3The Maguires were chieftains of Fermanagh since 1302, descended from High King Cormac mac Airt. Their inaugural site was at Linaskea, where they were crowned beneath a hawthorn tree.

At Kilkeedy in Co. Limerick, there once stood a hawthorn tree which was said to have sprung from a thorn which St. Ita plucked from the hoof of a donkey.

Gallery

The Ancient Hill of Allen

Ali Isaac:

Last year, I visited the Hill of Allen, and had hoped to meet up with Ed Mooney there. Unfortunately, it was not to be, but it was an extraordinary visit nonetheless. Now Ed brings us the pictures and his own experience of the Hill.

Originally posted on Ed Mooney Photography:

Hill of Allen (9)

So last Saturday morning, I got up at the crack of dawn, to hit the road and get back on the Ruinhunting trail once again. With permission granted by the landowner, my mission was to finally explore one of the long outstanding ruins from my Bucket list, the ancient Hill of Allen and Aylmer’s folly which resides on the summit. I had planned to do this last year but for a number of reasons I just never got around to doing so. But thankfully I was able to point out my good friend and fellow blogger Ali Isaac in the right direction and she wrote a great piece on the subject along with her own unique way of writing, which I could only dream of achieving. She is an accomplished author, with a number of fantastic novels based on Irish Mythology. So when you’re finished reading this, I would highly…

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Freestyle Writing Challenge No4

SAMSUNG

I was nominated by Karen of the blog ‘In a Small Compass‘ to take part in this writing challenge. This was an interesting one, because there is no fiction writing involved, and so in it, I reveal a little more about me, and my background. Unfortunately, I ran out of time halfway through a sentence… oh well, that’s how it goes, and so here it is…

Karen’s challenge was;

LIVING IN THE CITY OR IN THE COUNTRY? WHY?

I am lucky enough to live in beautiful rural Ireland. Co Cavan is completely underestimated. It has mountains, lakes – one for each day of the year, so they say, and I well believe it – long rivers, hills and many trees, historic buildings, ancient archaeology and plenty of myths and legends… it’s the perfect place for me.

I haven’t always lived in the country. Before I moved to Ireland, I lived in Guildford, Surrey in England and commuted into the heart of London every day to work. Although some might say that a place like London doesn’t have a heart.

I spent a lot of time with friends in London, and it’s a great city, fun, vibrant, busy, exciting. But it’s not a place I’d choose to live. I remember coming home to Guildford every night, and my nose would be black with all the smog I’d breathed in. That’s not for me.

City life can be great, though, if it’s the right city. I lived in Bristol for a year. I loved Bristol. It was trendy, full of students, and had great bars and restaurants. The streets were lined with beautiful Georgian houses. For a city, it was quite laid back.

Moving from a city to the Irish countryside was certainly a huge culture shock. If you wanted a supermarket, or a cinema, or a new outfit, you had to drive a minimum of half an hour away to the next town, never mind tumbling out your door and strolling down the street. It took some getting used to.

But those things were never that important to me. Here, there is a small friendly community, no traffic jams, and so much space and light. At night, it is so dark because there are no streetlights; you can’t see your hand in front of your face, but you can see the stars. That’s what matters

10 minutes – 315 words

As you know, I have already taken part in a few of these challenges already, so I’m not going to nominate anyone… I think I’ve run out of people to tag, everyone’s tagged everyone else by now, so we’ve probably all taken part lol! But for anyone who hasn’t yet participated, consider yourself nominated, and here are the rules and my challenge to you!

The rules for the challenge:

  1. Open a blank document.
  2. Set a stop watch or your mobile phone timer to 5 or 10 minutes, whichever challenge you prefer.
  3. Your topic is at the foot of this post BUT DO NOT SCROLL DOWN TO SEE IT UNTIL YOU ARE READY WITH YOUR TIMER!!!
  4. Once you start writing do not stop until the alarm sounds!
  5. Do not cheat by going back and correcting spelling and grammar using spell check (it is only meant for you to reflect on your own control of sensible thought flow and for you to reflect on your ability to write with correct spelling and grammar.)
  6. You may or may not pay attention to punctuation or capitals.
  7. At the end of your post write down “# of words = ____” to give an idea of how much you can write within the time frame.
  8. Do not forget to copy paste the entire passage on your blog post with a new topic for your nominees and copy paste these rules with your nomination (at least five (5) bloggers).

So, are you up for it? Your challenge from me is…

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*

*

*

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Tell us about your favourite outfit… is it your wedding dress? An 80s new romantic confection? A simple pair of jeans that you cannot be parted with? What’s so special about this clothing, and why?

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