Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween ramblings

Halloween, there is so much more to it than Tricks or treat, ghosts ghouls and goblins, it has a spiritual and a secular side, one could choose to celebrate either, both or neither.

Men say that in this midnight hour,
The disembodièd have power
To wander as it liketh them,
By wizard oak and fairy stream.
~William Motherwell

 by David Shane Odom
Happy Halloween

Viva~ Dia De los Muertos     
Samhain Blessings and great joy in the new.

The Isle of Man,,  celebrates the holiday in a particularly magical way I think.

Hop-tu-naa Turnips
Hop-tu-Naa is an ancient festival celebrated on the Isle of Man on 31st October, the date of the Celtic New Year's Eve (Oie Houney), also called Hollantide Eve. 'Hop-Tu-Naa' is commonly thought to be derived from the Manx Gaelic 'shogh ta'n Oie', which translates as 'this is the night.' The Scots' Hogmanay is of the same origin.
Children and Hop-Tu-Naa
On Hop-Tu-Naa night, for the last 100 years or so, children have carried out the ritual - echoed by Halloween - of going from door to door, sometimes in ghoulish costumes, singing traditional songs (see Hop-tu-Naa song for regional variations) and asking for sweets or small change. Instead of pumpkins, they carry hollowed-out turnips illuminated by a candle or torchlight. Turnips are also popularly used in Scotland, where the practice is called 'guising.'
In olden days, it was customary for children to hammer on people's doors with turnip stumps, or cabbages on sticks. Instead of sweets or money, they would have been given pieces of bonnag, potatoes or herring to send them on their way.
Who was Jinny the Witch?
One Hop-Tu-Naa song sung by children to this day includes references to 'Jinny the Witch', who may have been a real-life character. Joney Lowney was a native of Braddan in the 18th Century who was believed to be a witch and consequently tried for witchcraft at Bishopscourt in 1715-1716. Amongst other crimes, she was accused of hindering the production of corn at Ballaughton Mill and mysteriously procuring fishes during a nocturnal disappearance. According to reports, she received a sentence of 14 days' imprisonment. She died in 1725 and is buried in Old Kirk Braddan churchyard.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What could be more restful to a troubled mind than sitting in a pumpkin patch?

The warmth of autumn sun, the sound of falling leaves raining down from a cloudless blue sky, Surrounded by the ripening pumpkins and , off in the distance chickadees singing.

Time almost stands still, Pumpkins inspire us with their determination to grow. And at Halloween they inspire our creativity and competition. the jack-o-lanterns carved from the light our way with fierce, menacing or laughing face, and remind some of us years gone by.

Pumpkins are the stuff of fantasy, remember Cinderella's pumpkin coach, and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Symbols of the harvest, they feed us well, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread. the sweet and spicy taste of pumpkin butter, there are even pumpkin juice drinks.

But sitting there surrounded by a sea of giant pumpkin leaves gently fluttering in the breeze, with the warmth of the Autumn sun on your face, and the satisfaction of a job well done, helped by the big orange globes, of course, and so all is right with the world.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"a poorer one" indeed

The world is full of wonderful things, there is always something new or old to see and wonder about. Like this from BBC News.

What's the difference between Hop-tu-Naa and Halloween?

Emily Jones, 11 and Lizzie Jones, nine, carving their Turnips at Cregneash Turnip carving is a Hop-tu-Naa tradition on the Isle of Man

Related Stories

As the rest of the British Isles prepares to celebrate Halloween on 31 October, many Isle of Man residents will instead celebrate Hop-tu-Naa.

Historically Hop-tu-Naa has been considered to be the Celtic New Year, marking the end of the summer and the beginning of winter.

It was traditionally a time when people would celebrate the safe gathering of the harvest and was a sign that all preparations had been made for the long, cold winter ahead.

While 31 October may be known to many as Halloween, any Manx person worth their salt will give a stern look and say the festival in question is Hop-tu-Naa.
No connection
This custom of singing around the houses goes back into history, although the turnip lanterns, now irrevocably linked with the practice, only seem to appear about 100 years ago.

Pumpkins Pumpkins are more traditionally linked with Halloween

With the passing of time and mixing of cultures as "incomers" to the island bring their own customs, things do become rather confused and today many see Halloween and Hop-tu-Naa as one and the same.

In reality there is no connection. Hop-tu-Naa is really a celebration of "Oie Houney", the original New Year's Eve.

As such it is a sole reminder of these ancient times and the words Hop-tu-Naa are a corruption of Shogh ta'n Oie, meaning "this is the night".

However, the Celtic New Year was moved to the secular new year on 1 January, a move still remembered in Scotland where "Hogmanay", from the same root words, is still celebrated.

The Celtic year was divided into quarters and Sauin, or new year, was celebrated in Mee Houney, the Manx for November.
Ginnie the Witch
The fact remains, like it or not, that the two festivals are very much linked for many young practitioners.

How many Hop-Tu-Naaers know the words to the traditional Manx Gaelic song?

The answer is very few - although it is to be hoped a recent resurgence of interest in Manx Gaelic and the formation of a Manx speaking play group and primary school may help rectify this situation.

Today the chances are you will be treated to a rendition, or more likely part-rendition, of Ginnie the Witch, a song which seemingly adds to the confusion between Hop-tu-Naa and Halloween despite having been around for a good number of decades.

If you are less lucky, you may be assailed with another presumably none Manx variant, The Witches of Halloween, but few will be serenaded with the original Manx Song Shoh Shenn Oie Houiney, Hop-tu-Naa, T'an Eayst Soilshean, Trol-la-laa or This is old Hollandtide Night/The Moon Shines Bright.

Children with their turnip lanterns at Cregneash in 2009 Children with their turnip lanterns at Cregneash in 2009

And what of the lanterns? A proper Hop-tu-Naaer will have a hollowed out turnip the size of a man's head, with flickering eyes and jagged mouth illuminated from within by a candle.
Burning turnip
A good turnip lantern is worth a pound of anyone's money, safe in the knowledge that someone, though probably not the little cherub on your doorstep, has suffered sprained wrists and blistered thumbs scooping it out.

Tragically there is now a much-preferred soft option, the pumpkin.

True, they make very nice lanterns but they are really not in the same league. Cut the top off, turn it upside down and the insides practically fall out.

This American import goes hand-in-turnip with that other transatlantic custom, Trick or Treat, in which a devil mask and bin liner are all that are needed to do the rounds, with the threat of a trashed flowerbed if the homeowner is not forthcoming with a treat.

Three customs muddled into one night - it can only be the Isle of Man.

Hop-tu-Naa, it seems, has a confused present and an uncertain future, but it is to be hoped it does survive; a generation of children deprived of the smell of burning turnip would be a poorer one indeed

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bewitching smiles

photo from~~

In It's the Great Pumpkin , Charlie Brown" Lucy, the quintessential Miss Bossy Boots, declares that one should pick a costume that is in direct contrast to their personality, so that explains why she is a a witch???? Well may-be.

All dressed in a similar costume , I wonder what these women are doing, they are in an enthusiastic mood, to be sure. Are they waitresses at well heeled party, on their way out to a "girls night out", do they even know each other? Are they up to some sort of mischief, or are they going to a family reunion? Are they are group of college girls and  chaperones, pretending to be a coven of witches?

Anticipation, and a glint of mischief, and a smile on the lips of all, could it be that even the chaperones were going to have fun this Halloween. I like to think so.

If you were one who follows tradition, your Halloween costume would reflect the things that you would like to come your way during the month before next Halloween. In the later 1800s and early 1900s, the Halloween witch could be considered a glamorous figure, often portrayed on postcards of the time as a bewitching beauty. Makes me wonder.



Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pumpkin ramblings

When I was a kid we grew our own pumpkins, carefully watching over them as the got plumper and rounded , or long and heavy bottomed, the rounder ones made better pies so the elongated ones were for Jack-o-lanterns.
Some years the frosts came early and the pumpkins that were to end up as Jack-o-lanterns were brought in doors to finish ripening in the corner of the unused room upstairs, next to the carefully stored "longkeeper" tomatoes.
At last the night cam when after the dinner dishes were all washed and the kitchen table was covered with newspaper, the largest butcher knife was brought out, it was time to carve the pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns. A huge spoon was used to scrape out the seeds and "guts", a job I relished, but my sister hated.
First my father cut out the lid, then we scraped them clean, out hands were covered with the sticky, fresh smelling seeds and innards. Then we were allowed to cut in the faces with smaller knives. we carried our creations out to the front porch and put candles in then, then walked down to street to admire our work from a distance.

My son preferred his pumpkins with painted faces, sometimes he can be too sensible. But just the same he looked forward to them. Painted pumpkins last longer, and even if you are only three you can do the decorating yourself.
Nathanial Hawthorn is credited with the first mention of using a pumpkin as a lantern,in his 1837
story, "Feathertop", about a scarecrow who was bewitched and appeared to be a real man.
The Jack-o-lantern became associated with Halloween during the Civil War Era, but as late as the early 1900's it was still a part of h Thanksgiving decor

The Celts probably had no idea what a pumpkin was, as pumpkins were a crop found mainly in the Americas. but they did have turnips,mangles and other root vegetable. there is no record of them carving faces into them, hollowing out a rutabaga would be quite a chore, just cutting up and uncooked one is not a easy task. But the story of Jack, who was later called Jack of the Lantern,a story sometimes used to scare a misbehaving child. is credited with the origin of our favorite pumpkinhead.

The Story of Stingy Jack
Legend has it that, long ago, there lived a mean and greedy man named Jack who liked to steal and play tricks on everyone. One day, the Devil appeared before him and said it was time for him to collect Jack's soul. Instead of going with him, Jack tricked the Devil into climbing a tree to reach a piece of fruit, and then carved a cross into the trunk when the Devil wasn't looking! Since the Devil was not allowed to pass the cross he could not get down from the tree without Jack's help, something Jack wouldn't offer until the Devil promised that he would leave Jack's soul alone.

When Jack died years later, he was told by God that he wasn't allowed into Heaven because he had been too mean and greedy when he was alive. Since the Devil kept his promise and would not take Jack's soul into Hell either, Jack was stuck in the darkness between the two. When he asked the Devil how he would be able to see, the Devil tossed Jack a burning ember that Jack kept safe in a hollowed out turnip (his "lantern") before beginning his journey to find a final resting place.~~WHYZZ

I love to carve pumpkins. Nothing fancy, I like mine plain, classic if you will.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Winding down

I think that Gia is growing weary, her patience is wearing thin, she wants only to sleep and renew herself.

She drifts off into slumber and we are launched ahead into winters chill. When something rouses her, we are propelled back into the warmth of early autumn Sunrise comes late and sunset is early, she is impatient for the long slumbers under her blanket of snow.

The end of the growing season, and the beginning of the dark months, make it easy too see why the ancient Celts would begin their New year on the first of November. The old year is done and spent, nothing remains to be harvested, the trees have lost their leaves, nothing grows, it is warm indoors by the fire, but cold and wet outside. In fact the earth is not producing any thing more, neither food or materials for a few months, a time of rest and renewal, and thanksgiving before the cycle begins again. Also it was a time to finish up tasks and prepare for the next year, and winter. And a time to think back and honor the ancestors, those who have left us behind this year

One can still use this time to tie up loose ends, and prepare for the long nights ahead. Looking forward to reading, or working on a hobby or enjoying the company of friends and family. learning something new. and a time to reflect on what has past, and look forward to what might be.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

who knows what a jack-o-lantern might do

Mixed in with the scent of woodsmoke, there are wisps of magic in the air.

There is something eerie and mysterious and fun, hiding in the bushes and, along the leaf littered street.

Whispered by the bed sheet ghosts and garbage bag witches, the scarecrows made from out grown overalls and Dad's old flannel shirt, who's silent. plastic, pumpkin grin speaks volumes. Those long awaited nights are here. Going door to door, getting treats, wearing costumes, being outrageous, mocking the cold and dark. looking for shooting stars, out past bedtime. and listening for owls.

Eyes straining to see what is in the darkness, beyond the circle of the streetlights. All in good fun scaring each other into giggles and silliness, Walking past the "haunted house" or through the little woods to the houses where the best candy is handed out. Talking loudly, so that no one can hear the owl or the rustling ofthe mice in dry leaves. A few boys who think they are much too old to "trick or treat" whistling past the cemetery on their way to some sort of mischief, whilst everyone else trudges home with their bag of treasure. And as the porch lights go out one by one the walk gets longer and quieter, the sky grows darker. The carved pumpkins with their candles burning down to stubs cast an uncertain light, through eyes that have seen more than they can retell, for who knows what a Jack-o-lantern might do, or might see.

At last reaching your own house, laden with goodies and may-be just a little glad to be indoors, the nights chill and mysteries outside. Masks off and face paint scrubbed away, one last look out the window, just in case there is anything to see.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

some days are like a poem

some days are really like a poem,
often the random images rhyme
the sunshine becomes the moon's shine, it would seem

a few fallen leaves shinnig brightly, up at the limbs they once clung to

the more things change, the more they stay the same, a daydream
there is always that surprise, just when things look dark

so leave the door open, hold tight to the spark

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Falling leaf Moon

October Moon names

Tugluvik (Inuit).
Kentenha (Mohawk).
Long Hair Moon (Hopi)
Ten Colds Moon (Kiowa).
Falling Leaves Moon (Arapaho).
Corn Ripe Moon (Taos Native American).
Hunter’s Moon, Blood Moon (Neo-Pagan).
Leaf Fall Moon (San Juan Native American).
Blood Moon, Wine Moon (Mediaeval English).
Blood Moon Falling :Full, Leaf Moon ark (Janic).
Hunter’s Moon, Travel Moon, Full Dying Grass Moon (Algonquin Native American/Colonia).

Other Moon names : Spirit Moon, Snow Moon, Shedding Moon, Winterfelleth (Winter Coming), Windermanoth (Vintage Month), Falling Leaf Moon, Moon of the Changing Season, White Frost moon

If you stand in a fairy ring, under the light of the full moon, and make a wish it will come true.
if something has been lost for a long time search for it under the Hunters' moon and you will find it.

This months Moon is sometimes called the Harvest moon, thought this year it falls so late that there is not much left to harvest. Potatoes , Brussels sprouts, cabbage.
In Europe this full moon is sometimes called the Hunter's Moon, and was used as it was by the Native Americans to add to the winter larder. The moon is not larger or brighter than any other moon, but it does rise earlier than than at other times of the year. Even allowing farmers to work in the field by moonlight.
Where ever you live, this marks the time of the final Hunts and Harvests for our ancestors, and even for us as we prepare for winter.

Today as I was working on putting the garden to bed, Each breeze brought a shower of leaves! It was raining leaves, as tomorrow a cold rain will fall from a low grey sky. It is after all the " Falling Leaf Moon", the days are growing shorter, colder and less inviting. The chickadee chirps its cheerful call, but other than that the woods and fields are silent.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Scarecrow, scarecrow!

In fact there is no scarecrow in my garden, there are no crows in my garden. Now there are deer, bears, raccoons, and probably a few critters I don't know about, but no crows to scare.

Over the years I have built many scarecrows for strictly decorative reasons, sweet and cuddly; tall dark and handsome; raggedy or elegant; sweet girls and wild women; even scarecrows with pet crows on their shoulders. every autumn I pour over the book "Scarecrows" by Felder Rushing, not because I intend to make any of the fabulous scarecrows pictured, but because I love to look at the fabulous pictures.

I don't know how long scarecrows have been around, I think our ancestors figured out early on that having someone, even if he was stuffed with straw would keep the crows away, at least until the crows figured out that the ones that didn't move around and yell were also excellent for perches. The ancient Greeks believed that crows avoided the fields where Priapus, the hidious son of Aphrodite, who was huge and permanently erect, rested, so they erected phallic symbols in their fields hoping to fool the crows, the Romans also adopted this idea. Now that seems to be to be a good idea for a couple of reasons, it gave a lot of sculptors a job and it could also be used a a fertility talisman, and what farmer wouldn't like that?

The ancient Japanese farmers used. old rags and noisemakers like bells, affixed to a pole, later they put hats and old coats on those poles.

During medieval times children were employed to wander in the fields and make noise to scare away the crows. As population shrunk because of the plague and climatic conditions the farmers began to hang clothing stuffed with straw on poles, and add a rutabaga or pumpkin for a head. They found these creations worked pretty well
Here also. I think, is the origin of the term "looks like a half starved scarecrow"... which never made sense to me before.

because they scarecrows were supposed to protect the grain not eat it, or were they supposed to eat the crows?

The German emigrants brought with them the bootzamon, or boogeyman who often had a female counterpart at the other end of the field. Native Americans sometimes had adult men sitting on elevated platforms in fields to chase away the varmints.

So i guess the scarecrow has a right to exhibit some attitude, he/she is one hard working and under appreciated dude.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

First frost

The first frost of the season is predicted for tonight, the sky is is velvety expanse dotted with stars, and a crescent moon, there isn't even a whisper of wind. I am watching for a shooting star, so far I haven't seen one. The air is distinctly chilly, and is scented with the crispness of that chill.

I spent my time in the garden today, pulling out the tomato stakes and storing them away for next season, the gathering up the remaining few good tomatoes, and putting them into the "tomato convoy", then finally pulling out the plants and putting them in a heap, they will be burned along with the other garden waste that might carry disease.

There remain only potatoes to dig, and a few broadbeans that I hope will dry on the trellis. Of course there was also some time to sit back and enjoy the changing leaves and aroma of woodsmoke, a close up view of a spiderweb, the nostalgic feelings are overcoming me as I think back to picking acorns and apples, hickory nuts and milkweed pods, for that long ago time, when the world was a very different place. And so it goes.

On the passing of Steve Jobs

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” ~ Steve Jobs

"invention knows no boundary"

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"there are no old, bold mushroom hunters"

"There are old mushroom hunters
and there are bold mushroom hunters
but there are no old.bold mushroom hunters."

And you don't want to eat any of these, even though you might see a squirrel or a deer nibble on them, they are toxic to humankind.

Over time I have sampled a lot of wild mushrooms, from the tasty and delicate morrell to the "left in the corner to age sweatsox" puffball, the locally popular "pine mushroom" which is really the very tasty field mushroom, the stock from which the common found at the grocery store mushroom is derived.

I read somewhere that the rains from Hurricane Irene would make mushrooms more plentiful. Well they weren't just a kidding. there are mushrooms and varietal fungi everywhere, but i found these behind the tool shed. I was looking for a fairy ring, and there just wasn't one.

Monday, October 3, 2011

convoy in the snow

Yesterday, it snowed, and rained and it was cold and foggy, the tomato convoy, persevered through it all, but I didn't. I hid in the house where it was warm and cozy.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Thirty days had September. and most of them had rain.
Today was cold and windy, pelting rain and the occasional wet snowflake, there was the scent of wood and coal smoke in the air and the car was filled with the aroma of fresh picked apples, homemade oat bread, and newly dug potatoes.

,with it vibrant colors shrouded in misty rain, the mysterious transition begins.
I go vacant before the splendor of fall leaves and the crystal clarity of the night sky, the magical October moon and of course there is Halloween, Samhain.

Silent Sunday~~~Hedgehog Picnic

thanks Coleman