The Mysteries of Dacre

Dacre is a small village located in Cumbria, just a few miles outside of Ullswater and not far from the stately home of Dalemain.

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This quaint and untouched village still has remnants of forgotten times, like the old school house which is now a private home.

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This village consists of houses, a pub, a church and the remains of an old castle.

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The village pub.

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This village is surrounded by countryside and hills, as it sits behind the beck of the same name.

Dacre castle was built in the 14th century and was used as protection from the Scottish raiders. The castle fell into disrepair and in the 17th century the castle underwent a full restoration where it was transformed into firstly a farm house and later on a private home. After the death of Lord Dacre in 1715 the castle and its lands were purchased by Sir Christopher Musgrave and through the marriage of his daughter to Edward Hasell, the castle and all its lands now belong to the Dalemain estate.

The castle is said to be haunted by a former owner’s wife and lover, whom the owner murdered.

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Like any village it is centered around a churchyard – the parish of St Andrew.

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The church was built on the site of a 7th century Saxon monastery.

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The churchyard is relatively small, with an obvious division between the old and the new.

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The old side is swamped by high trees, woodland and long grass that is almost covering the gravestones.

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I often visit churchyards and burial sites, this by far is one of my favourites. I love the way the old gravestones have been left, almost frozen in time and engulfed back into nature.

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There is definitely air of mystery about this churchyard and there’s just something special about walking through the narrow pathways trying to spot the hidden stones.

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There’s a huge variety of different shaped headstones here.

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My personal favourites have to be the ones tucked away hidden underneath the trees, overgrown by grass and flowers.

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But what makes this place really special is four stone bear carvings that can be found in the old side, one on each corner.

No one really knows the purpose of these or why they were placed here, so it’s a bit of a mystery. There’s speculations that perhaps they had something to do with a Pagan shrine, as we know all churches were Pagan burial grounds before Paganism was Christianised and it was the Druids that planted the Yew trees (where one of these trees can be found in every churchyard). Or it is suggested that these stones had something to do with the monastery, of which some of the remains were found here. However it’s more than likely these stones are pre-Saxon that would make them nothing to do with the monastery and the likelihood is that they were the markers of some Pagan ritual site.

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There are some other noteworthy things about this churchyard. There is a lock on the south door from 1671, that was given by Lady Anne Clifford, who is well known in the area. She presented keys to people she had become friends.

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This is definitely a beautiful churchyard with lots of history and hidden meanings, as well as lots to look at. There’s an air of magic about this place and I highly recommend a stroll around to look at all the gravestones.

Blessed Be )O(

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Pagan Origins of Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice takes place on June 21st and it marks the first day of summer. It is also known as Midsummer as this is when the sun reaches its peak, resulting in the warmest and longest day of sunlight of the year. After this day the sun loses its strength and slowly begins to descent back from the height of the sky as the days begin to slowly shorten once again.

Also known as Litha to some, Summer Solstice will find people gathering around the most famous place of Stonehenge to watch the sunrise and sunset.

Traditions of Summer Solstice.

Bonfires. 

The Solstice is about the celebration of light defeating darkness, and about honouring the longest day of the year.

Get those bonfires roaring, get those barbecues on or light a candle – anything with fire will do.

Ash remains from the fire can be used in protective talismans and this the best time of year to create or renew your talismans with the strength of the sun.

Get outdoors. 

Watch the sunrise, watch the sunset, use the longest and warmest day of the year to your advantage by planning an outdoor trip. A day at the beach, go swimming, a walk in the forest, flower picking or some light gardening. Whatever it is just enjoy this time.

Handfasting season.

Since Beltane we entered into the popular time of the year to get married. The strength and warmth of the sun is a symbol of love and fertility, this is of advantage as it can bless the marriage with prosperity, love and fertility.

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Decorate your altars or homes with flowers and sun symbols, lavender is common and oak leaves are often used to represent the Sun God. Gather your family and have a feast or find solitude in meditation, give thanks and use the abundance of herbs and flowers of this time of the year to your advantage.

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How ever you choose to celebrate, remember to stop and smell the flowers. Each day is a gift and every moment should be embraced with fresh eyes and an open heart.

Blessed Be )O(

 

 

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Pagan Origins of Beltane

Beltane or May Day takes place on May 1st and is another cross-quarterly festival that marks the mid point between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. This is also exactly six months since Samhain and is the half yearly festival.

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Beltane is the Pagan Spring fertility festival. This is the time of year when new life in the ground and the trees are taking hold and flourishing. The early Spring daffodils, crocuses and snowdrops have now all gone without a trace of them ever being there. Instead they are being replaced with the glowing green hedgerows, new shoots on the trees, woods full of bluebells, colourful tulips and most symbolically are the cherry tree blossoms showering the ground with their pink snowflakes.

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This festival is all about honouring life and this is the time when the Earth is starting to reach its peak of fertility.

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Traditions of Beltane. 

Fires. 

Fires represent the sun. To light a fire is to give energy to the Sun God, for him to bless the harvest and the fertility of the crops and land. Fires are also very cleansing and to jump a fire is said to purify oneself. Fires support fertility and couples use fire jumping or running around fires to bless the marriage with prosperity and children. Charcoal and remains of the fire would be taken to light the next one.

Handfastings. 

Beltane is the union of the God and Goddess who bring life to the land. Therefore this is the season of handfastings. Marriages are blessed with fertility, prosperity, good fortune and new beginnings.

Maypole.

The Maypole is a fertility ritual. The pole representing the phallus, sticking the pole into the ground is a symbol of the God giving potency to the Earth. The flowers and greenery represent the Goddess and the spiralling of the ribbon around the pole represents the union of the God and Goddess.

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Maypole decorations like this can be found here.

This festival is a celebration of love. Flower collection is abundant, headdresses of flowers are made and hawthorn is collected. Beltane is the only time Hawthorn is brought into the house for decoration. Throughout the year it’s thought to be bad luck except for Beltane where it brings good luck.

As I mentioned Beltane is exactly six months since Samhain, where Samhain is said to be the most important festival in the wheel of the year, Beltane is the second. This is because like Samhain, Beltane has the thinnest veil between the two worlds. Let’s not forget Paganism is a nature religion and going by the seasons then Samhain is celebrated on 1st May in the southern hemisphere. Thin veils make for mischief. Beltane is all about the faeries and fae magic.

Blessed Be )O(

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The Pepper Pot

The Pepper Pot is an old Victorian monument that was built at the summit of Eaves wood.

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Eaves wood is located in Silverdale and is known as the Victorian wood. The woods itself is incredible beautiful. There’s lots of paths hidden within this dense woodland, as well as there being some steep paths there are lots of limestone scars and cliffs.

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The summit is known as Castlebarrow and there lies a circular stone tower which is now called the Pepper Pot but used to be called the Pepper Box.

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This stone monument was constructed in 1887 by a local man to celebrate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria.

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The views from the top are pretty breathtaking. Overlooking the local town of Silverdale there are some clear views of up and down the coastline too.

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Blessed Be )O(

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The Witch of Woodplumpton

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The most famous of witches in my general area is that of the Pendle Witches. However through my love for myths and legends, last summer I discovered a legend of a witch a little bit closer to home.

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The Witch of Woodplumpton is that of a legend of a woman named Meg Shelton. Who was accused of witchcraft and buried in a local churchyard.

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The “Fylde Hag” that was Meg Shelton was accused of stealing milk and transformation of herself into objects. She was seen as a nuisance to the local farmers, as she would often transform herself into objects on the farm in order to avoid detection. There is one story of her changing herself into corn sacks, as the farmer noticed the sacks – where there should be none. He poked the sacks with a pitchfork and stabbed the bags. One of the bags let out a scream and changed back into the witch.

There is another story of a farmer noticing a goose in one of his fields with the cows. It’s said that from the goose bill there was milk dripping. The farmer saw the oddity in this and kicked the goose, changing it back into a bucket. Enraged at the spilling of the milk she was trying to steal Meg flew off in anger.

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One of the stories around her death is said that she was crushed to death between a wall and a rolling barrel that was pushed in her direction.

Some of the other stories revolve around Meg not actually being a witch but a scorned mistress. Said to be having an affair with the local lord of the manor and the possibility of even an illicit child involved, there was cause for this lord wanting Meg out of the way.

Was Meg murdered or was her death merely an accident?

There is also the question of why a witch would be buried on consecrated grounds.

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But the tale doesn’t end at Meg’s death. After she was buried it’s said that Meg rose from the grave at least three times. Resulting in her body being buried at midnight, vertically with her head facing downwards so that if she tried to scratch her way out again she would be scratching deeper into the Earth. A heavy boulder was then place on top just for good measure.

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Apparently the spooky apparition of Meg can still be seen floating about the graveyard and an appearance of an old hag has been seen on a number of occasions.

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There’s lots of folktales revolving around the boulder where Meg is buried beneath. It’s said walking around the boulder three times will make Meg appear, or that if you touch the boulder it will bring you bad luck.

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Blessed Be )O(

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Fairy Steps

The Fairy steps are located at a limestone cliff at the edge of a hillside woods in Beetham, Cumbria.

A short walk through the village to a field opposite a graveyard is where the trail for the Fairy steps begins. Once through the field to the edge of the woods is where the ascent to the top starts.

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Upon the trail you will find a ruined house, inside you can still see where the fireplace sat and even the outline of the garden where a stone wall still stands.

I live for these kinds of ruins. You only have to let your imagination think about someone living here hundreds of years ago in seclusion, on the hillside where no doubt they lived off the land.

Seen as this is a “Corpse trail” known for fairies, perhaps this could have been a witch’s house?

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Once to the top you will see the cliff edge, with a very steep and narrow passageway going down the rock. This is the “Fairy steps”.

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The Fairy steps are essentially an old coffin trail. This is where they used to take the recently deceased in the coffins from neighbouring villages (Where there were no burial grounds) to the village of Beetham. Hence the churchyard being opposite to where the trail begins.

There are still metal rings seen in this cliff face from where they used them to help pull the coffins up. How they managed to get coffins up this minute passageway is a complete mystery though.

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Legend has it if you can climb down the passageway without touching the sides the fairies will grant you a wish. There is also another myth about fairies making homes here from when they escaped from the witch’s cauldrons.

As you can see someone has indulged into keeping the fairy myth alive by sprinkling glitter all along the passageway.

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Blessed Be )O(

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Pagan Origins of Spring Equinox

Ostara or Spring Equinox takes place on 20th March and assigns the beginning of Spring time. The Spring Equinox marks the balance of day and night, or in essence this is when the the Earth’s equator passes by the center of the sun making equal amount of light in both hemispheres. From now on the balance is tipped and the days will grow longer, the light will become stronger and the sun brighter until it reaches its peak at Summer Solstice.

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Spring Equinox is most associated with the Christian festival of Easter, but Easter evolved from the Pagan festival of Ostara or the celebration of Spring Equinox.

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Traditions of Ostara 

Eggs, rabbits and chicks. 

The symbols most connected with this time of year are eggs, rabbits and chicks. These are all symbols of fertility, growth, new life and new beginnings.

One of the traditions is to paint eggs. If you’re vegan like me then any kind of egg symbol will do – paper, cardboard, foam… Once you are done display these around your house, at your altar, in your garden or add them to wreaths or garland.

Planting season.

Spring is about new crops and the preparation for planting new crops, flowers and herbs. So get out and tidy your garden up, sweep up, throw out any broken pots, rake your soil, change your compost and get planting those seeds.

Fertility rituals. 

Spring marks the time of new beginnings, the growth of new crops and new life being born in the form of animals and Spring is the perfect time for rituals of fertility and abundance for the upcoming year.

Figure out beforehand what flowers and herbs you want in your garden this year, mark out the best time of year to plant them and prepare well in advance.

One of the most common rituals at this time of year is the blessing of the seeds before you plant them, this is done by placing last year’s seeds or a packet of store bought into a cauldron and performing the ritual.

Meditation, focus and personal goals are best worked on at this time of the year. Set those intents, write down your goals and work out the best way to achieve them.

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Spring cleaning. 

New beginnings; out with the old and in with the new. Clean out what is no longer serving you, this applies to your home too. Don’t use it anymore? Donate it or give it away. If you want to make way for new flowers to grow, you first have to remove the dead ones. Metaphysically speaking, this works the same way for anything, your mind and your home.

Smudge your home and cleanse the air to welcome in new beginnings. Also placing fresh flowers around your home will welcome in the bright, clean air. This is also a great time to place flowers and herbs around your altar.

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Remember there is not right or wrong way to celebrate, just do what you feel is best for you. Most importantly remember every day is a new beginning and a new chance at life and to change what is no longer serving you.

Blessed Be )O(

 

 

 

 

 

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