Meeting took place on Tuesday 8th March 2016
Image by http://www.igreens.org.uk
Cyberdragon led the talk after I had convinced (suckered) him into doing a talk for this year, being one of our new members and suggesting already a conversation on the subject- I thought it a prime idea for him to get stuck in.
He led a very interesting structure, starting with the ‘Druid Stone’ near Blidworth, Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. The name ‘Druid Stone’ was only attached as recently as the 18th Century when it was fashionable to pin Druids to any weird looking rock. The Druid Stone has a hole in its centre and there was the belief followed that passing children through the whole would cure them of Rickets. The beliefs themselves can be traced to the 18th Century and considering the health of people from that time, it is very interesting to see what people were willing to believe: Did it even work? Was it baloney? If it did work then was it the placebo effect (which kinda counts…. right?)
The same sort of beliefs were attached to St Catherine’s Well, in Newark. After murdering a rival in love, disgraced Knight Sir Guy Saucimere caught leprosy during his travels and pilgrimage to the Holy Land and in a vision was told to return home where the waters of a spring there can heal his ailment. He named it after the saint who had guided him home!
Being very careful to NOT include Robin Hood (doh! Sorry), Cyberdragon also went onto a bit more detail of the Hemlock Stone. Another rock with many strange and wonderful associations attached to it, some even believe that Druids used to light Beltane fires on it! But Cyberdragon told us a tale of the Devil who was so sick of the prayers and singing from Lenton Priory that he threw a great stone from Derbyshire… which subsequently missed. Of course, if we look into English folk tradition, we’ll find this story repeated to many standing stones that had churches built near them. The Devil! The enemy of God! The great tempter, devourer of souls…. one hell of a shit shot!
There was even a tale of witches- the wicked variety I’m afraid- where a young boy was captured by a cannibalistic old crone who got him no less than three occasions! He escaped every time, but by the end of it I couldn’t help but think “Why didn’t he just give her the buttermilk like she asked?”
In contrast and in keeping with the Corieltauvi landscape, there was also the tale of the Wizard of Lincoln: A wizard summoned to help solve the crime of theft by him using magic to make the shadows of the three thieves appear so the farmer could identify the culprits; and he did this all in the form of a ‘large black bird’.
What’s interesting about this apart from Witches = Bad (Boo!) Wizards = Good (Yay!) is the fact it gives a little bit of lore here: That whereas witches could shape-shift into hares, wizards were said to shape-shift into crows!
Now, if one was to run away with this theme and go all romantic with it then you could possibly think that this harkens back to the times when the Druids of old could use their magic for women to shape-shift into hares and cats and the men into birds. Birds were associated with the soul and because feathers were used as decorations of the bardic cloak known as a Tugen then this story contains a nugget, a seed, an atom of ancient lore. Working with shadows? Now that’s cool!
What I really liked about Cyberdragon’s talk was that apart from knowing the stories he used (we have the same source!), it was the encouragement of sharing the folk tales of other places: I told of the political meaning behind Sheffield’s ‘Dragon of Wantley’ ballad, Danceswithweasels told of Derby’s ‘Old Tup’ A ram so large that its eyes were the sun and moon, its teeth, the rocks on the Earth etc, Strider shared a little about the Lincoln Imp. It seems that everywhere has their own tales, customs and myths. Without them, I’d say the world would be a much more boring place….