When I was on the farm in Indiana, my grandmother had me gather eggs from the hen house, but my favorites were the smaller eggs the "baney" hens would hide under the maple tree, lilac bush, hollyhocks and the four o'clock bush by my grandmother's water pump. I never knew where I'd find them so every day was an Easter egg hunt.
Technically they are Bantams, a smaller version of poultry, The miniatures are usually one fifth to one quarter the size of the larger breeds. Plymouth Rocks, with their black and white stripes, were the other chickens she raised. It wasn't until years later that I expanded my knowledge through some very unusual circumstances, and ended up with a large variety of poultry, including the gorgeous naturally pink, green and blue Araucana eggs. In addition to being beautiful, they are lower in cholesterol.
But we aren't all fortunate to have a place for chickens and to run free. Now that I'm living within the city limits, and I'm fairly certain my neighbors would be unhappy if I began collecting chickens to roam the property, I've turned to nature's next best natural Easter egg dyes - herbs!
Over the next few days, in celebration of Easter, I'll be posting more on the miraculous egg. The symbolism, significance in history, religion and art,
St. Patrick wasn't Irish, he wore blue, not green and there were no snakes.
But there were vampires and leprechauns and witches. Oh my!
In celebration of St. Patrick's Day, I'm using my alphabet prompts to learn more about all things Irish. I'm only doing one or two topics per letter, even though I can think of many more for some.. Even so, be warned. This will be a long post. Happy St. Patrick's Day!
A - Abhartach - the Irish Vampire
Let's start with something light and fun! Ha!
A is for Abhartach, the Irish Vampire.
Even though Dracula, the character created by Bram Stoker, is most often associated with Transylvania, in reality he may have been based on an Irish king, Abhartach. He was said to be a dwarf and considered to be evil and feared by all who knew him.
He was a very jealous man and was suspicious of his wife, convinced that she was having an affair. While spying on her from a high castle window, he fell to his death. The entire kingdom was relieved.. They buried him upright, apparently the correct burial position for royalty, and enjoyed a peaceful night's sleep. One. Just one.
Because the next day, he rose from the dead, and demanded that all of his subjects slit their wrists and drain their blood into bowls. Well, you can imagine they were upset, so they traveled to the next village seeking help from another king, Cathan, who came, killed him and buried him once more.
You guessed it. Up he came, ready for yet another snack.
This continued until Cathan decided to seek help from a saint who explained there was no way to kill someone who was already dead!
His suggestion was to bury him upside down, cover him with thorns and ash branches, and top it off with a huge boulder. As far as we know it worked, and peace returned to the kingdom. He served as inspiration for Stoker's Dracula, and all lived happily ever after!
B - Banshee
A banshee is a terrifying, wispy, floating specter with a piercing scream who warns of a coming death in the family. First reports were in Ireland in the 8th century. This alarming figure, usually female, varies in age from a young maiden to an old woman. Some families were reported to have their very own banshee, possibly having been a family member who had passed. They were known for their keening, mournful singing and wailing, as they lamented the death of loved ones.
C - Children of Lir
King Lir, Bobd Derg, was left with four motherless children, one daughter and three sons, when his wife Aoibh, the queen, unexpectedly passed away. The king decided to marry Aoife, his wife's sister
St. Patrick's day is almost here and the timing is perfect since i'm working on my Rainbows course!
This is prompting me to begin an alphabet list for St. Patrick's Day! This will be my first holiday list and my mind if over flowing with ideas! I'll be ready to celebrate early this year!
Since moving to Baltimore and becoming acquainted with Irish Railroad Worker's Museum I've gained a new perspective on the holiday. The challenges of the Irish immigrant's frustrations in Ireland, journey to this country and injustices suffered working on the B & O Railroad were heartbreaking. Their tenacity, faith, work ethic, and commitment to community enabled them to over come and prosper.
This year they are having an event for Grandparent's and their grandchildren, ages 5 - 10 years old), from 11;00 to 1:00 on St. Patrick's Day featuring arts and crafts, face painting, story telling, Irish music and dance. There will be an introduction to Irish instruments and light refreshments, with donations welcome. Visit their website for more information.
Our Renaissance chorus is singing Look to the Rainbow from Finian's Rainbow in our spring concert. The words are just as meaningful now as they were when the song was first released.
Years ago I wrote and piloted a curriculum for middle school students in the Harrisburg School District. It began in 5 schools and I worked with 180 students for two years. It was later funded in all schools through out the district.
When Christmas arrived, I wanted gifts for all of my students and hoped to find something useful and meaningful. My budget was already strained and even at $1 a present, the cost would have been almost two hundred dollars. I had no idea how I'd ever afford anything worthy of such wonderful kids.
Then one December weekend I traveled to Upper Dauphin for a sale on fabric at an arctic wear store that was going out of business. They had a sign for free scarves! Lots of free scarves! Enough for me to gather 180! II wish I had a photo of my car - there was barely room to sit! It is surprising the amount of space that many scarves will take up!
This photo inspires me to remember that thoughts become things. We can manifest from nothing if we have faith. At the time I didn't really understand manifesting, but wishing with all my heart for something special for these young people, and having it materialize, was a first step in understanding. And as I've learned over the years, the universe always gives me much more than I could ever imagine for myself.
The scarves represented warm hugs! This photo also represents why I love working with kids! Each young person had a different creative interpretation for their scarves! Adults would have probably draped them predictable around their necks, but not these kids! Every day - every moment - we have opportunities to interpret things creatively and express our own unique point of view. Striving for new ways to use the things in our lives can create dramatic results. (Remember my story about the young person who changed the economy of an entire town in W.V. when he realized the temperature in a coal mine was the same as the temperature to raise fish?) We should never underestimate the power of creative thinking.
Oh, and years later, I occasionally get a call from a friend mentioning they have spotted one of the scarves on someone walking by!
The Queen of Flowers - the Rose
Over the next few days, in celebration of Valentine's Day, I'll be revisiting some of the herbs associated with love and romance.. When it comes to matters of the heart, there are no limits to the human imagination in pursuing, wooing and attempting to ensure their love will be returned. Some of the uses are romantic and beautiful, elegant and sublime. Some are tender and heart warming. Others border on lunacy!
Herbs can add a sensuous dimension to all aspect of life. Their beauty, aroma, flavors and touch delight. Some are showy and enticing with an distinctive and noticeable fragrance. Others you might walk by, or even step on, and not even notice! Often the greatest gifts are found in herbs you might not immediately notice. Hopefully these little snippets will entice you to learn more about the endless history and legacy of these treasures.
Our 'Romancing Herb" series begins with the Rose, the Queen of Flowers and the undisputed floral symbol of love. The Society of American Florists predicts that nearly 198 million roses will be sold for Valentine’s Day. There is so much information about roses that one could write a book about their origin, symbolism, legend and lore. So I did! Ode to a Rose is my tribute to this glorious flower.
The rose is a perfect example of beauty, romance and sensuous living. She is a vision of delight, her petals are velvet, her fragrance is divine and her delicate flavor is sublime. For Valentine's Day, i wish you all the gifts the rose offers - love, friendship, beauty, romance and sensuous pleasures. Happy Valentine's Day!
"Gather ye rose buds while ye may,
"My mission is
to help others see and cherish the beauty,
romance and treasures within and around them
that are often dismissed or completely overlooked."
Mikell is a writer, artist and professional treasure hunter, finding the greatest treasures in the wonderful people who enter her life!