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Almanac – May 15

913 – Hatto I, Archbishop of Mainz, died.

One account of his death claimed he was struck by lightning,  another that he was thrown alive by the devil into the crater of Mount Etna.

His memory was long regarded in Saxony with great abhorrence, and stories of cruelty and treachery gathered round his name.

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1718 – James Puckle, a London lawyer, patented the world’s first machine gun.

Puckle demonstrated two versions of the basic design: one, intended for use against Christian enemies, fired conventional round bullets, while the second variant, designed to be used against the Muslim Turks, fired square bullets, which were considered to be more damaging and would, according to its patent, convince the Turks of the “benefits of Christian civilization.”

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1948 – Brian Eno born. English musician, composer, record producer, singer, and visual artist,  one of the principal innovators of ambient music.

He joined  Roxy Music as synthesiser player in the early 1970s, but  soon tired of touring and of conflicts with lead singer Bryan Ferry.

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1956 – Austin Osman Spare died.  English artist and occultist who worked as both a draughtsman and a painter.

 Influenced by symbolism and the artistic decadence of art nouveau, his art was known for its clear use of line, and its depiction of monstrous and sexual imagery.

In an occult capacity, he developed idiosyncratic magical techniques including automatic writing, automatic drawing and sigilization based on his theories of the relationship between the conscious and unconscious self.

Spare’s esoteric legacy was largely maintained by his friend, the Thelemite author Kenneth Grant in the latter part of the 20th century, and his beliefs regarding sigils provided a key influence on the chaos magic movement and Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth.

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Spanish Sunday (Palm Sunday) Customs

Spanish Sunday is an old name for Palm Sunday in the English Midland counties, and in parts of the West riding of Yorkshire.

It’s derived from a children’s custom that flourished there as recently as the first two decades of the 20th century, and of which traces may still remain in a few districts.

A sweet drink was made for the festival from broken pieces of Spanish liquorice, peppermint or lemon sweets, brown sugar, and well-water. The solid ingredients were put into glass bottles on the previous evening, and a little water was added to make a thick, rich sediment.

On Palm Sunday morning, the children went to some local holy or wishing-well, walked round it once (or in some places three times) and then filled the  bottles with its water. Almost every region had some particular spring  which was visited for this purpose, and to it children came from surrounding parishes in quite considerable numbers.

When the bottles were filled, they were vigorously shaken, and as soon as the sweet sediment was sufficiently dissolved to flavour the water, the ‘Spanish’ drink was ready to use.

For more on this subject, view the thread dedicated to it on the Holy Wells & Water Lore Forum –  here.

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St. Mary’s Well, Jesmond, Newcastle Upon Tyne

More photos of St Mary’s Well at Jesmond, Newcastle Upon Tyne…

 

The dimensions and shape of the site make it difficult to get a decent photograph of…but we try.

More photos, site history, etc at this thread on the Holy Wells & Water Lore Forum –  http://holywells.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?id=74&p=1

 

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Almanac – December 12

1098 – First Crusade: Massacre of Ma’arrat al-Numan – Crusaders breached the town’s walls and massacred about 20,000 inhabitants – despite having  promised them safe conduct if they surrendered.

After finding themselves with insufficient food, some  Crusaders reportedly resorted to cannibalism, feeding on the dead bodies of Muslims.

A chronicler, Radulph of Caen wrote:

    “Some people said that, constrained by the lack of food, they boiled pagan adults in cooking-pots, impaled children on spits and devoured them grilled.”

These events were also chronicled by Fulcher of Chartres, who wrote:

    “I shudder to tell that many of our people, harassed by the madness of excessive hunger, cut pieces from the buttocks of the Saracens already dead there, which they cooked, but when it was not yet roasted enough by the fire, they devoured it with savage mouth.”

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1948 – The Batang Kali massacre –  the alleged killing of 24 unarmed villagers by British troops on 12 December 1948 during the Malayan Emergency. The incident happened during counter-insurgency operations against Malay and Chinese communists in Malaya – then a colony of the British Crown. It is sometimes described as “Britain’s My Lai”.

Despite several investigations by the British government since the 1950s, as well as, a re-examination of the evidence by the Royal Malaysia Police between 1993 and 1997, no charges have ever been brought against any of the alleged perpetrators.

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1987 – Clifton Chenier died. Louisa born musician, known as the King of Zydeco.

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2007 – Ike Turner died.  American musician, bandleader, songwriter, arranger, talent scout, and record producer. In a career that lasted more than half a century, his repertoire included blues, soul, rock, and funk. He is most popularly known for his 1960s work with his then wife Tina Turner in the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, but  his first recording, “Rocket 88” with the Kings of Rhythm credited as Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats, in 1951, is considered a possible contender for “first rock and roll song

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Holy Wells & Water Lore

 

 

http://holywells.boardhost.com

HOLY WELLS & WATER LORE is a new forum decicated to…. holy wells and water lore – rivers, lakes, pools, etc. Yeah, including the Loch Ness Monster – that’s water lore.

Anyone interested in these subjects welcome to share their knowledge, photos and videos.  Although the site will probably attract more attention from British and Irish holy wells, it’s not limited to them. Anyone, anywhere welcome.

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Well-Dressing At Bisley, Gloucestershire

If you’re smart enough to regularly consult the Almanac section of this blog, you’ll know that yesterday was  Fontanalia, the ancient Roman festival of Fontus (or Fons), a god of wells and springs, and celebrated by decorating springs and well-heads will garlands.

This brought back memories of a well-dressing ceremony I  attended in May 1986 at Bisley, in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds.

The following are photos I took at the time (touched up with technology I couldn’t even have dreamed of in 1986) and the description I wrote and which was subsequently published in Source – a small press magazine spoecializing in Holy Wells and allied subjects.

BISLEY WELL DRESSING, 1986

Bisley, Gloucs, is about four miles from Stroud. It holds its well dressing ceremony every year on Ascension Day.

The Seven Wells gush from a hillside into a lane in the village via a system of spouts set in a semi-circular stone enclosure, which has weathered nicely  and looks like it might have been there forever, although in fact, both the current structure of the wells and the ceremony   itself date back little over 120 years, and owe everything to the Revd. Thomas Keble, who became vicar of Bisley in 1827.

He appears to have been one of those Victorian worthies blessed with unlimited energy and ideas – apart from a programme of building and restoration around his church and local school, he channelled the wells into their present form and introduced the well dressing in 1863… it appears to have been his idea entirely, rather than a revival of an earlier local custom.

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The ceremony started with a church service (which I opted out of), after which a procession wound its way down to the wells, led by a brass band, schoolchildren bearing garlands of flowers, the vicar and church officials, followed by the general public.

At the wells the garlands were placed around the enclosure and when all in place they were seen to read Ascension Day 1986.

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A short outdoor service was then held, lessons read, the wells blessed, hymns sung, before the procession retraced its steps, leaving the onlookers, probably around 200 strong, to drift away or stay and admire the dressed wells at close quarters.

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That’s not  a ghost in the bottom right hand corner of the third photo…. at least, I dont think it is…

Another tale from this expedition –  not knowing what time the event was due to start, I got there far too early  (in the days before the internet, such details were often hard to come by. I recall asking at the Tourist Infomation office in Cheltenham, about 20 miles from Bisley. They didn’t know, and didn’t seem inclined to find out for me either). So I took a chance, cycled there and, as I say, got there far too early.

Having ascertained the time it kicked off, and Bisley being a bit of a dead place, I cycled around a bit before heading off down a quiet country lane and stopping to have a cup of tea and some food. I found a nice spot in some trees next to a high stone wall and settled down to the business in hand, when along came a car, which parked on the verge nearby, and it was quite obvious the driver was observing me in his rear-view mirror. It was also quite obvious that he was a plain -clothes cop.

I know… a plain-clothes cop should be indistinguishable from the mass of the population if there’s going to be any point to it, but somehow back in those days they could be dressed in civilian garb and still manage to look like they were wearing a blue pointy helmet. It was a kind of negative talent, I guess.

Anyway, this guy was an obvious cop. He observed me for a few minutes, then drove off again. His departure wasn’t followed by the arrival of the police helicoptor, an armed response unit or anything, so I guessed I hadn’t been classified as a threat.

A threart to whom ?  Later, after I’d returned home, I got out the Ordnance Survey map of the area and retraced my route. It seemed I’d taken my dinner break outside the back wall of some minor member of the royal family. I cant now recall which one, it might have been Prince Michael of somewhere or other – Kent ? This was before the days of widespread CCTV, but obviously I’d triggered some kind of alert and the royal bodyguard had been dispatched to check me out.

And me a republican too. If I’d known, I could have at least thrown my rubbish over their wall…

Bisley and royalty – the village was also the source of the so-called Bisley Boy story. Legend has it that Henry VIII entrusted his young daughter Elizabeth to the care of a family in Bisley. Unfortunately the girl took ill and died. Fearing, no doubt correctly – this was Henry VIII who’d execute a wife as soon as look at them, and he had six to practice on – that Henry would be displeased in a rather fatal manner, a cunning plan was cooked up. Luckily it seems that there was another child in the village who bore a remarkable likeness to the defunct prrincess (rumour has it it might have a bastard of Henry anyway). So they just substituted this kid for the original. There were a few minor differences, not least the fact that the new kid was male…details, details.  Anyway, the switch was made.

No-one would have expected Elizabeth to become queen, and I guess it got to the stage where it was easier to continue with the charade… but, well, Elizabeth I never married, did “she” ?

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