Well Dressing

Well Dressing PosterLast Saturday, 1st July, a village near where I live in Staffordshire held its biannual Well Dressing. This custom was revived in 2012. The second local event was held a year later in 2013 and since then it has been held with a two-year gap, in 2015 and again this year.

The custom of well dressing is believed to have its roots in pagan times when the local community would decorate and bless the wells to give thanks to the gods for clean water. Some people believe that, rather than being a pagan custom it stems from the time of the Black Death (1348) when people would give thanks, again for clean water.

Originally the ceremony was confined to one or two villages in Derbyshire Peak District in the 19th century, having been introduced in Buxton in 1840 but it has since spread to  other villages, mostly in the neighbouring counties of Staffordshire, South Yorkshire and Cheshire but it has also spread to a few villages in Shropshire and Worcestershire, as well as the village of Kemsing in Kent where it was introduced in 2011.

The Croxton event near my home celebrates a different theme on each occasion. This year it was ‘Supporting the Community’. There is a trail of about 5 wells which have been refurbished in recent years and are dressed by different organisations within the community. The main well is blessed by the vicar of the local church, linking it to Christianity for modern consumption, and there are other events and activities available on the day to celebrate the occasion, as you can see from the poster.

First Croxton Well DressingThe  dressings are created on a board, usually a pallet filled in with clay, making them very heavy, and the are ‘coloured in’ with petals – hence the alternative name ‘well flowering’. Here is a photo of the very first Croxton well dressing (2012) at the main well and sponsored by the local Women’s Institute who are very active in encouraging the tradition to continue.

I did not manage to go along on the day but hope to follow the trail before the boards finally fade. There is a walking and cycling route established to view them so perhaps it will be out on the bike.

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Madness and Magic

Book Cover Image

The Madness and the Magic

by Sheena Cundy.

Published by Moon Books. ISBN 978-1-78279-988-7

Having met Sheena Cundy on several occasions and enjoyed her company I am pleased to call her a friend. As well as being a writer she is a musician with her own celtic/folk music band ‘Morrigan’s Path.

This, her debut novel, is a wonderful and funny, fast-paced, page-turning romp set firmly in and around the area local to her home, on the east coast of the UK  at Bradwell in Essex.

The book deals with some serious issues and has a pagan theme but it never takes itself or its paganism too seriously. The central character, Minerva, is a modern-day witch who is struggling with single motherhood, menopause and the problems of her teenage daughter while also dealing with her own attraction to the new dishy, guitar-playing vicar. Her attempts to use magic to influence the outcome of events are hilarious, but the book also has its moment of sadness and this too is handled with a lightness of touch that ensures it never becomes maudlin. The characters are well drawn, from over-the-top Minerva to her insecure friend Isis, from Rhiannon, her daughter, trying to find her own place in the world, to the refreshingly open-minded vicar.

I laughed, I cried, I couldn’t put it down and I didn’t want it to end.

Sheena is herself a modern-day witch, a pagan, but you don’t need to be pagan to love this book. It is a very human but ultimately uplifting tale that will be enjoyed equally by all women of ‘a certain age’ and no doubt by their open-minded male partners too. I can’t wait for the promised second instalment.

The publisher, Moon Books, produces books on all aspects of paganism and as such the book is largely directed at a pagan audience, but this is to pigeon-hole it in a far to restricted fashion – this book will be enjoyed by anyone with an open mind, an appreciation of the magic of life and a sense of humour, regardless of religious persuasion.

You can buy the book direct from Moon Books or from Amazon, or indeed you can order it from your local bookshop.

Find out more about Sheena, her writing and her music from her websites at Chapel Witch and at Morrigan’s Path.

Veneer

Chocolate
Easter Eggs.
Pagan memories stir
under veneer of Christian
festivities.

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