Yes there is another place to go when you die. It is real. It was believed in. It has come from my imagination. Shall we say; it has been posited so therefore it was so.
I do a story, ten places to go when you die, in fact contributions from onlookers has increased the number. I think we came up with fourteen at one course session (over a beer). There is another one. I may be the first to document this, or make it up if you prefer. Logic has it though.
Let us call this Viking heaven The Hunting Lands. A believed in land or island across a great sea. Here there were mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, dwellings and loved ones.
How do I know this when it has never been mentioned by anyone before? There is evidence. There is proof. The boat burials make it so.
You are put in a boat so you can rise up and sail to somewhere. The contents of the boat show what you are expecting to find when you get there.
You are all dressed up in your finest with your wealth adorning you; so there will be people to meet you. They most likely will be your family and loved ones. There will definitely be friendly people awaiting your arrival because you are carrying gifts of fine quality. There may be others who are not so friendly because you are wearing your armour and weaponry.
If you are well respected for your skills you will have your tools and equipment with you so you can continue crafting for the others who are there.
You will be in a dwelling and trading and visiting others, you will be living. You are going to need your servants to look after you and there they are rising up out of the boat alongside you. You may need your warriors so their essence has been brought along within these servants; presumably to rise up alongside you. We do after all, in the Viking belief system, have multifaceted souls, some of which stays in those left behind, some of which goes back to the animal it was from, and some is you up there in the afterlife (or down).
What will it be like upon this coast? There are wild lands and waters. You have your sledge, your boats and your hunting dogs. You will be sitting upon your horse and racing after wild and dangerous creatures with your hounds running along. You will travel far in snow and rain and through deep forests. You will camp and sail and ski.
The Hunting Lands are where the boats were built for. They were equipped to go there. The souls were believed in and expected to rise up.
I did not plan to do a blog which was about recipes, not at all, and I have many aspects of my life and writing bubbling away ready to share as soon as I get them down. But, I am being asked for the recipe for my favourite dish so I must oblige.
It is hardly Viking or life at the festivals or such, but we all gotta eat…
And look at this!!!!
The first thing I’ve got to tell you is that I never cook the same thing the same way twice. There won’t be any measurements in here either. There will be love, and yumminess.
Ingredients; well you are going to need courgettes! (baby marrows for those of you who have heard of marrows, or don’t they call them zucchini in some places?), and cheese and eggs. The rest is mainly to do with what I have in, bear with me, it will work.
Saute onions and garlic, I like a mix of butter and olive oil. Steadily brown them. What else have you got? I’ve added mushrooms, herbs, and last time I thinly sliced parsnip and potato because they needed eating up. It worked great, as long as it is all well browned.
Then tip them into your oven dish leaving the oil to fry the chopped courgettes. I think last time I did the courgettes a little too slow because they are going to go in the oven too. They do need to be browned though. Then pop them on the onion mix.
Pour over something tomatoey, a pasta sauce you like, or chopped tinned toms, maybe add a little chilli and some herbs.
We are going to make the thing work. Crack three or four eggs into a bowl, add a small tub of cream (milk will do), salt and pepper, and loads of grated cheese (enough to make the mix fairly thick). Then fold that over the other stuff carefully.
Pop that in a moderate hot oven for twenty minutes or until it is golden brown.
Yes there are, and they have been seen – elves. Little childlike figures with elven faces skipping around a waterfall, appearing and disappearing. Credible sounding witnesses too. This, I am sure, will be great news for many of my readers; for the many who have approached me to tell me of their experiences. I now wish I had interviewed lots of you personally as it may well have been worthy of an international news feature as in the case of this latest sensational sighting.
Now. I tell stories, and often silly stories, so I am perhaps not one of those credible witnesses, but I am, it seems, a credible pair of ears. I skip about trapped in a fairy ring turning my hat inside out and people come up to me afterwards and tell me very serious accounts of their experiences. Trolls in particular, the littler variety usually; giggling and peeping and following and such (and turning up again later somewhere completely different to remind you); other creatures too, some quite large and all are not humanoid. These tales are most often told to me among the heady environment of Gudvangen in Norway by my Viking friends or by passing tourists, but I do hear tales of places elsewhere; small people of Iceland and the alternative world human sized helpers who wait for you to step through for instance, or the nature spirits fluttering to follow the song-lines of Aboriginal lands. There are lots of sizes and types I am told.
Well. Do any of you identify with the latest creatures to be reported in the news? If any globetrotting fairy searchers are reading this and already have their bags half packed (I am serious for I know a few like this) hold fire. Do not head off to Gudvangen, well do by all means it is a magical place, but read on; we are heading to a far different part of the world.
The reason I was prompted to write about the beings from the Americas is my surprise reaction. I was scared! I am not sure if that feeling will transfer to you as you read on, but you have been warned. There are surprises in store for you, that is for certain.
Yes the Americas, the middle strip. Head there with me now for a few encounters.
The ‘children’ the account of which scared and excited me were spotted in a storm in a national park. They are not the only mystical creatures to be reported credibly in the region however. As well as these particular playful little people there are many reports of ‘Duende’, fantastical spirits or elves, and of course there is folk-lore; long long have people talked of these beings, most often as household spirits, very similar to the Hobb of Yorkshire farms. These creatures are most often talked of in their rural areas, but ‘Duende’ can be complained of in town houses too. They tend to frolic though often cause mischievous disruption. Things go missing, there are sudden bangs to wake you up or right behind you. They are cheeky to say the least. They are no doubt blamed for many a thing which is amiss and unexplainable. Not actually spotted that often, when they are they are described as elf or gnome like and wearing green, sometimes with a red top or cloak.
So it is with the being seen in the nearby Bijagua de Upala who was wearing a red cloak, almost covered by it in fact; a child-like being sat upon a rock by a volcano. Officials from the park say many report being worried for the welfare of this little guy all alone smiling away in the middle of nowhere. The latest sighting of beings cause greater concern.
Although people seem unsettled and challenged when reporting these concerns, there is far more fear associated with the very many reports of Duende visitations. The military academy of La Glorieta has catalogues of sightings and reports with a great deal of fear and worry among the officers and men. This highly respected institution based in a large old castle has the goal of instilling civil, moral and spiritual values. They are connecting with the spiritual certainly!
Reports from all grades are starting to be made public and there are many who fear the guard duty of the early hours, with some quite disturbing repercussions. Residents and guards alike hear whisperings behind them, see objects moving about, and are suddenly touched by unseen hands. Cadets report a heavy and intense atmosphere throughout the area, from the river bank to the depth of the castle. Sudden apparitions. Los Duendes.
Eufronio and Jhonny sat listening from their guard station to bangs and the sound of picks down by the river for long moments, then all went quiet. Then there was the sound of something being dragged towards them. They reported that they knew they should have investigated (one of them is now of the rank of Captain) but they felt such unearthly fear that they hid under blankets. Presently they felt the heavy chains being dragged over them and they lost consciousness.
Not too pixy–like perhaps but the worlds of fearie hold many beings of many forms and motivations. Some are seen. Walter a cadet officer at the time reports small figures appearing, sometimes floating, shadows of smaller beings in dark corners. Talcum powder left sprinkled reveals very small foot prints. Objects appear from nowhere and are missed in another part of the castle. The lightning flashes! This is dreaded. For when there is a storm and a flash of lightning comes, small figures are seen. These figures carry swords.
Mainly they are diminutive but there is also a womanly figure which floats right through you in a long flowing gown; a queen of the fairies perhaps. These are not glimpses into a magical world where one might be enchanted; these are terrifying to the beholders with a real sense of intimidation. This phenomenon is intensifying over recent years and one cadet was admitted to hospital following seizures and talking in a strange language.
We shall put this place behind us, yet for those of you who perhaps would like to know more I refer you to the writings of Alan Murdie in the magazine of those interested in the philosophy of Charles Fort – Fortean Times (you might well read elsewhere, but this is the account I recommend).
Let us move now to somewhere beautiful, to the place I actual intend to report upon; the pathway by the waterfall on the Rio Celeste. Come with me now to the Tenoria Volcano National Park where guides and officials and visitors have had some very magical experiences. Giggling small beings, holding hands and skipping and dancing. They are dressed all in green, bright green, with little dark green hats. The torrential storm and the wildness of the area had no effect upon them, they were happy and lively and going about their own experiences. They were seen and then they were gone.
Gone from sight of humans at least, it seems they are still there living their way in their world which overlaps our own. They step through into vision for many, and there are some among us, I know for a fact, who see such beings more clearly and constantly. I await feedback from my readers who are of this persuasion for further details of these creatures way of life and demeanour.
Yet I should not encourage visitors there. There is another side to these visitations. A chilling aspect. No contact has been made, not even eye contact or acknowledgement of our existence upon this plane, there are interesting reactions however from those privileged to witness.
There is an atmosphere, it is as if you know you should not be part way through to their world. An unaccountable feeling of fear. This feeling comes on before you are witness to the other lives. Homer, one of the guides who has walked that fearful trail tells us how chilled and frightened he felt. He didn’t know quite why he felt this way, but he was shortly to become rooted to the spot. There had been a sudden storm and he had advised his party to join him in taking a short cut at the end of their trail to enable them to return to base quicker. The rain came sudden and heavy, they were instantly soaked, so they went with him, some slightly ahead of him, down a little used path. There is an old path which traverses the bushy growth and comes very near to the entrance to the waterfall where a darker area can be seen within.
He was trying to catch up with the tourists who had got ahead of him when he saw other movement. He stopped, he stared, he could not move. Those before and behind him were also fixed to the spot. Some remembered nothing of this experience whilst most had detailed accounts. It was strange. It should not be happening. It was from somewhere else and yet from right here.
How incongruous to see happy small people in such a wild place and especially in such torrential weather. This environment was not affecting the beings at all. Party members Jennifer and her mother found it strange that a group so small should be alone and unaccompanied. They leaped and skipped as they moved, you could see that they were very very happy. This was not the feeling of the viewer however, especially when one looked into their faces. These were not the faces of children, they were gnome like, like dwarves, beautiful yet ancient in appearance. Her mother later said that a chill had ran through her body for the brief while that she watched these entities traversing the path ahead of them. They were there, they will always be remembered, then suddenly they were gone.
I will not be visiting such a place, but if you do I look forward to hearing from you upon your return.
And to my friends who are spotters of the world of faerie, I am on my way to interview you now…
The nosegay experience continues, and as promised in the first instalment, we will be visiting alternative realities, plus jumping hoops and drinking mud (participation is optional).
If you haven’t read the beginning of the Nosegay Blog it is strongly recommended that you tap this link The Nosegay blog
We will begin our journey, not in Barley Hall at all but in Whitby.
The wonder of Barley Hall transported a family there. A love of oak and craftsmanship in wood in general brought recollections of a few places, one of which is the swing bridge in Whitby. Fine old oak props were being admired when a plaque was noted: someone had bequeathed in their will one oak; this tree being for the repair of the bridge as required.
Mention of Whitby brought us the meeting of a man in Whitby who claimed to be the first person born in the town whose parents were from opposite sides of the river. At one time in this coastal town which is split in two by the river Esk the people of the north side of the river would have nothing to do with the folk of the other side and vice versa. So separate were they that at one point the locals of this split in two town were practically two distinct races. Then a young couple dared to meet upon the bridge, and of course, they fell in love. When this was discovered they were chased out of their meeting place on the south side of the river, were not accepted by the other side and for a while were stuck upon the bridge.
From Whitby we return to our topic of wood craft where we are told of Alfred the Great. He saw a man coming out of the forest and stopped and asked him what he was about. He was a house maker and he saw a part of a house in every tree ‘That’s not a forest to me, it is a town’.
A landscaper who manages an arboretum verified this. She worked her eye across the Barley Hall beams seeing how they had been selected for their shape. Tree which are allowed to seed and grow naturally tend to shape more than the closely planted trees of modern woodland.
When you saw a light ahead of you it was to be sure you were about to be safe, safe in the centre of the great vale, safe within the walls of the great cathedral city itself. For there were risks along the way. If asked, your list of concerns would be a jumble of the real and the mystical; creatures, vagabonds, spirits – all looked upon equally. There were other worlds and one could step through to them, or fall through or possibly be lured. Scarborough Fair sings of the herbs I have here. The older version of the song advised stuffing your pockets or pouches with them as a protection, a way to avoid being lured away. Small wonder that one upon arriving at the great city was willing to step through the hoop.
It is all well and good saying the walls kept you safe but on arriving you would be fore warned of the dangers by the leak! The stream flowing out from the walls was a sewer and a rubbish dump; a hint of the stink and the suffering within.
Rumour would also warn you of the plague-ridden nature of the world within the stone. At the city gate you would be offered an alternative. No, two alternatives. Many believed in the power of the nosegay but for others the way to keep well was to experience the bad smells. You might not want to join then, as every morning, so I am told, they gather by the stream of leakage and take a good deep breath.
The second alternative by the gates is much sweeter, cute almost. There by the King’s Way stands a girl, who for a small fee, offers a cure which is quite entrancing. She holds a large hoop all gaily decorated with garlands. If you were to choose to step through it would be to a better world, an alternative world where there is no plague. A perfect way to keep safe.
Once you are through the gates you might benefit from the guided tour that I have been on; one provided for me in the comfort of Barley Hall parlour. My guides are my visitors who tell me favourite places; one of these being Duttons for Buttons, the top floor is medieval with beautiful beams, others strongly recommend the House of Trembling Madness, up in the bar above the beer shop you are transported back in time. I cannot say which is the better experience, but I do recommend that if you visit you buy something, so from one you may buy a button and from the other a glass of ale – you choose.
Barley Hall is of course by far the favourite, yet a visit to the pearl of York is also a high priority. St Margaret is said by some to be still present in her shrine on Shambles and may well whisper sage advice.
Others tell us of the Castle Museum, one lady who knew a great deal about medieval cookery volunteers there doing demonstrations so she knew a lot of the herbs. Gingerbread was her current activity, although not exactly bread: ginger, rosewater and marzipan – very good for sculpting edible roses.
Looking at the area of medieval gardens brought reports of enormous orders of seeds; twenty pound weight per seed type. When one visited a royal palace a huge travelling retinue was needed, around three hundred. They all needed to be fed and many such groups would visit. There was postulation that the idea that the rich did not eat vegetable was brought into question. If they were growing that many then it seemed logical that they were eating them too. That would be a lot more healthy than a cooked peacock put back in its raw skin!
One of the things they would not be eating at that palace was Morne bread. You could only get that in York, we were famous for it. Kings would return especially for the bread, or write to say they would not come unless there was some on offer. What was this bread? What was the recipe? I think we should bring it back. Let us have a campaign to discover the recipe.
It was not, as described at Barley Hall at one time, a spice bread we are informed. There was a council proclamation that bakers of the city must start baking it again and it had gone into decline since the in-coming of more modern spice breads. So it must have been a plain bread, and presumably the wonder of it was in the baking technique.
That would be nice with your live frog or your elephant’s horn, well maybe not. Both I am informed are cures for pestilence. There is talk of people swallowing frogs in old wives tales, and claims that this is where the expression having a frog in your throat came from. A visitor tells us they were not for eating in medieval times, they were for wearing in a gay (Gay meaning ornament). A live frog in a container on a chain round your neck would keep the plague away, so if you are afeared of turning purple or developing buboes in the lymph you might want to give it a try.
As for the elephant’s trunk, don’t try it. It’s a trick. As you come through the King’s Way there will be an apothecary and they will call you in. They will desperately seek to sell you a cure for the plague; ground elephant’s tusk in honey wine. Don’t drink it. Not because it is bad to eat their tusks. Don’t buy it. It is a fake. This is just mud in beer! That won’t do the trick surely.
Besides drinking beer might qualify you to visit the hound of hell. There he is right above us in the parlour. Up high is the Madonna and child but at the bottom of the lamp is that hound. He is baying for your soul.
The underworld is guarded by a hound of some sorts in a few cultures. In medieval times he was the gateway to hell. Theatre of the time was very often in the round. So round in fact there was hardly room for the audience. As well as a space in the middle to step forward to there was a circle of scenarios. Here was heaven, here a tavern, here an orchestra, here the hound, They were stationed all around looking inwards, so presumably you moved around to look across at the action. There was also the Jongler with his cane; like a baton and he would read from the script and point. When the cane pointed at you it was time to take action; play music or scream in a hellish way.
The screams came from the hound’s mouth. Deep inside were the lost souls and they would scream and wail in an eerie way. There are reports of many demons too. Often known by name. One, who made an appearance and who has been reconstructed as a costume was terrifying indeed. As well as being a demon with the horns and redness etc etc he also had demons all over him, his whole body was angry nasty fierce faces all screaming at you to follow him into the pit of vanities. There you would burn for sure.
All a jolly good show.
(On a lighter note in Nosegay Blog Three there will be a gift of flowering herbs from Uther Pendragon himself, the Lancelot of gardening will also make an appearance, Iranian and Native American history will join with Viking sagas and you will be warned about leaping into bed with your lover…)
We are safe here at Barley Hall, my nosegays will stop you turning purple, and my visitors will keep me informed. Fore-armed is fore-warned and I sought to defend my position with knowledge. There was little need, for every visitor had something to impart. Yes I did have plenty to say at the start of my summer holiday stint but this was nothing to the array of facts and anecdotes. Soon I was passing along the wisdom of one to another and I will gather here some of the best of this.
Some of my newly gained knowledge is debatable; this does not mean it is necessarily untrue, just that there will be debate. The very room I am in has become a convoluted topic. Refer to the notice boards for what is perhaps the definitive answer even though many in the discussion would disagree. Even the name, “No, it is not a parlour” – A solar; sit in there in the sunlight and treat this place as a retreat. A place to craft for joy, a place to make all which is beautiful: here you can write and some say learn.
A few have disagreed that the parlour was a place to receive visitors. Although another interjected that one visitor would be invited in here among the family; the tutor – here we would learn our letters and our lessons. Rhetoric, logic and astronomy are among the topics which would be enabled by this. But nay, this was not the reception say many who contributed to this on-going discussion. The way in was the proving point if this camp of thought. You entered via the stairs; from there you would be in Lord Snawsell’s bed chamber. Here in, it has been read, was his office and softer furnishings.
So therefore this is where he would meet with you. The logic of this is in the access and the fact you would feel you had been welcomed whilst at the same time you would be aware that by being in his realm he retained power. There is logic in the aspect of access too it is argued; from there to get to the parlour one would have to go through Lady Joan’s personal chambers and then get in the way of the busy journeyman all down the long hall. Not everything I hear, as I say, is definitely right and some things I hear are definitely wrong.
Barley Hall is loved, many revisit, many discuss, many compliment and recommend, but not all feel this way it seems. A passing hen party definitely didn’t like the look. As I was returning from a visit to DIG my way into the alley was blocked. I stood back to allow the party-wear ladies to leave the alley and they stopped suddenly. Looking up the street, “Oh we’ve been this way” – “We’ve been here before” – “We’ve been up there” – “We’ve been up there” – “We don’t want to go that way again” – “We’ve been this way”. Eventually they turned back and I had a path ahead of me, a slow path.
As they noticed the large window into the hall for the first time there were sounds of disapproval from one of these revellers. “Oh dear, I wouldn’t want to go in there” – “And I wouldn’t want to eat that” – “No, it looks awful in there” – “Ancient!” – “It’s like a museum”
Although most people are entranced by the peacock upon the table, the hen party in search of a meal and another drink were not the only ones to not fancy eating a bird which had been cooked and then repacked in its raw skin. “Never do that” visitors inform me, “Never mix cooked and raw”. “They certainly hadn’t heard of health and safety!”
Nosegays keep us safe, or at least perfumed. Gay meaning ornament back in the day; they were about the smell. Many report on the vast amounts of information on the medicinal, spiritual and nutritional uses of herbs; that is not a major concern when it comes to nasal orientated ornaments. It is all about the smell, the logic I am instructed, is that if the smell carried the disease you didn’t want it up your nose. The miasma must be refused access and to follow logic, if your nose was full of sweet smells then how could the horrid miasma get in! So visitors tell me it was not just about masking the smell, it was about keeping you safe.
If you wanted to be really safe, what better than a plague doctor mask. Fill that with herbs and strap it on. While you were feeling ultra-safe as a result of this constant experience of the sweet and beautiful you might want to go all out and get yourself a job.
Plague doctors are in demand it seems. An explanation of this which was given to me was that all the doctors were gone – in one way or another. It was a well-paid job I am told – while it lasted.
Not much in the way of skills was needed, according to some, all you needed was a stick, a big stick. With your mask on off you go, and prod people. Then all you had to do was tell them whether they are going to live or die (if in doubt go for the die option). The strange thing is, whatever the answer, they would thank you. I considered these offerings and discussed with other visitors. It is not so strange when you think, as I was asked to do, on the history of medicine. Throughout Europe ‘knowing’ was often more important than helping. ‘How long will they be?’ – ‘Will it be quick?’ – ‘Have you anything to make it easier?’ Another suggested this was still the main focus in many tribal cultures around the world.
I decided there and then, that once all my visitors had made a nosegay I was off to get a stick; the income would be most welcome – while it lasted.As not everyone wants a nosegay I will be here a while yet. Not that they are to be sniffed at, if you see what I mean. Much a sniffing and a pondering has there been.
Deciding of what aroma, of what herb one is holding a bowl of. Lavender is spotted by most, thyme only by a few and lemon balm by only one chap. Rosemary is spotted on sight by most, although one or two, including a rosemary grower, thought it was pine. The one which is most evocative is actually a flower rather than a herb as such. Some love it, most are reminded, reminded of something. A Greek flower which is gathered as a healing tea, camomile, just flowers, childhood memories, the bottom cupboard next to the pans; we were taken places. I was put off this bowl for quite a while when a girl said it smelt of hamster bedding. This smell was removed for me a little later by the power of suggestion; a lady said it made her think of her grandfather’s pipe tobacco. Now, whenever I hold the marigold bowl in front of me I am transported back to my childhood and the hint of sweetness within a heady aroma which would erupt into the room when granddad opened his pouch to stock up his pipe with baccie.
So far there are no reports of the plague coming to me from my visitors. No one has been spotted to be turning purple, well except for Mr Purple himself, but he is upon his bicycle platform out of the way anyway. The next edition will feature live frogs, alternative universes and elephants tusks among many other oddities of conversation. Remember when recalling this blog so far, it is all absolutely true – that people have told me these things.
Your tales and opinions can be added into the mix for discussion too. Be in touch.