Friday, 19 August 2016

Summer Break

Not a ‘Fantastic Friday’ post but just to say that I’ve decided to take a break for the rest of August. Apart from getting ‘Moon Goddess’ ready for publication, there are a few other things I want to get done, one of which is setting up an actual author website. If all goes to plan, I’ll be transferring the blog over as well, but I’ll let people know before I finalise it all. After I’ve spent a day lying in a darkened room, calming my frayed nerves!!

Enjoy the rest of the summer!

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time” ~ John Lubbock

[photos - Brownsea Island Aug 2013]

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Midweek Writer-Rummage: The Wild Hunt

I’d heard of the ‘Wild Hunt’ before, in relation to the goddess Diana, referred to in works of fiction and non-fiction. The images conjured just from the name alone has always fired my imagination. I didn’t think of it straightaway but at some point in the writing process, I decided I wanted to include an element of it in the story.

'The Wild Hunt' - Johann Wilhelm Cordes
Wild Hunt mythology stretches back to Germanic folklore, when Odin was said to lead the Wild Hunt around the time of the winter solstice, chasing wood elves. 

'Åsgårdsreien' (The Ride of Asgard) ~ Peter Nicolai Arbo
But the goddess Diana has always been the classic leader of the Hunt, accompanied by her night-riders, the Furious Horde. The Horde was made up “people taken by death before their time, children snatched away at an early age, victims of a violent end”.

Unfortunately, during the time of the Inquisition, her followers were wrongly condemned as witches and suffered atrocious persecutions despite Diana the Huntress being a goddess of the hunt, not a witch. But the 1486 publication of the Malleus Maleficarum (treatise on the prosecution of witches, translated as ‘Hammer of [the] Witches’) stated:
It is also not omitted that certain wicked women, perverted by the devil and seduced by the illusions and phantasms of demons, believe and profess that they ride in the night hours on certain beasts with Diana, the heathen goddess, and an innumerable multitude of women, and in the silence of the dead of night do traverse great spaces of the earth.

Britain has various versions of the Wild Hunt, dating back to the 12th century. Because these early reports were recorded by clerics, they were believed to be diabolical occurrences. An actual account of the Wild Hunt can be found in one of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, the Peterborough Chronicle:
Many men both saw and heard a great number of huntsmen hunting. The huntsmen were black, huge, and hideous, and rode on black horses and on black he-goats, and their hounds were jet black, with eyes like saucers, and horrible. This was seen in the very deer park of the town of Peterborough, and in all the woods that stretch from that same town to Stamford, and in the night the monks heard them sounding and winding their horns.

In late medieval romances, however, the participants of the Wild Hunt are portrayed as fairies. The leader of the Hunt differs, depending on the region and the story; they include Arawn, King of Annwn, the Underworld in Welsh mythology (or Gwynn ap Nudd in Arthurian legend); Woden; the Devil; King Arthur himself in Somerset – it is said that, on wild winter nights, the king and his hounds can be heard racing along an old lane near Cadbury Castle.

Herne the Hunter is also said to lead the Wild Hunt. Herne was the royal Master of the Hunt during the reign of King Richard II, from 1377-99, while he was resident at Windsor Castle.

One morning, while the king and Herne were hunting in the Royal Forest, they spied a white stag in a clearing. To the surprise of all, the stag did not run. Instead, it faced the huntsmen and their hounds, and charged at Richard’s horse. Startled, the horse threw the king. Without any hesitation, Herne rushed forward, placing himself between the king and stag. The huntsman was able to kill the beast but not before he himself was severely injured by the stag’s antlers.

(Ruth Sanderson)
As Herne lay dying, a stranger on a black horse appeared. He gave his name as Urwick and said he was a wise man and that he had the power to heal Herne. With the king’s permission, Urwick affixed the stag’s antlers to Herne’s head, and carried him away, melting back into the forest.

Richard and his entourage believed they would never see Herne again. But, in time, Herne returned to Windsor. The king was overjoyed and, as reward for saving his life, Richard gave his Master of the Hunt treasures and a royal apartment. But Herne’s new wealth and royal favour only served to make his fellow huntsmen jealous. Two, in particular, started a rumour that Urwick was really a dabbler in the dark arts, and that Herne was now practising evil magic. Due to pressure from the majority of his people, Richard had no choice but to dismiss Herne despite the man insisting he was innocent of the charges.

Later the same night, Herne was discovered hanging from a large oak tree. No one knew if he’d taken his own life or if he’d been murdered. There was a fierce storm and the oak tree was struck by lightning. Come the morning, Herne’s body was gone.

From that day, Herne’s ghost would appear, every night at midnight during winter. He would ride his steed through Windsor Forest, the stag’s antlers on his head.

Herne the Hunter - George Cruikshank
As for the King’s huntsmen, without their Master of the Hunt, they lost the ability to hunt and had to face Richard’s anger – at their incompetency and the loss of Herne. Desperate to get back in the king’s favour, the huntsmen went in search of Urwick. He told them they had to make right the wrong they’d done to Herne. He told them to go to Herne’s Oak with their horses and hounds. There, they were to join with their Master, to ride forever the night skies, hunting the souls of the dead.

The hounds which accompany Herne and his hunters are called Gabriel Hounds because, in old lore, it was the Archangel Gabriel who summoned souls to judgement. In Northern England, the hounds are known as Ratchets. In Welsh mythology, the spectral hounds are called Cŵn Annwn (‘koon anoon’), the red-eared white hounds of Annwn; not surprisingly, the appearance of these hounds was a portent of doom.

(Celtic Fairy Hounds - Cŵn Annwn) - Roger Garland

Sunday, 14 August 2016

The Sunday Section: Travel - Magical Medieval Arundel

The reason I didn’t post last Sunday was because I was away. It's been 3.5 months!! Finally, I got the chance, and I was going, regardless of the weather. The preceding week had been pretty dismal but, come the Saturday, the sun shone, and it did for the whole day; in fact, the weather all weekend was wonderful.

Arundel Castle - the view just after leaving the train station
Decided on the very pretty town of Arundel in West Sussex. I hang my head in shame and confess that I had no idea it was hardly any distance – under 60 miles – which is nothing compared to some of the places I’ve been. I could have driven but went by train, which took me under 2 hours; it meant I could read.

Just saying – this is a pretty hefty post as I didn’t stint on the picture-taking :)

Arundel was and still is a bustling market town. It also used to be an important port, with ships sailing to and from the town along the river Arun to the sea, about 5 miles away. With a formidable-looking castle and a magnificent cathedral, I expected the town to be quite large but it wasn’t; most everything was within walking distance. The quaint little hotel was only yards from the train station, by a fairly busy road, but with a gorgeous view of fields and grazing cows. And the town was about a 5-10minute pleasant walk away.

I hadn’t done my ‘homework’ as I wanted to be surprised by the place. In hindsight, I wish I had as there’s so much history. Arundel Castle was granted to Roger de Montgomery on Christmas Day 1067 by his cousin, William the Conqueror, as a reward for keeping the peace in Normandy while William was busy conquering England. It was a package deal – Roger was also granted extensive lands in the Welsh Marches, including one-fifth of Sussex. The portioning off of Sussex was referred to as the Arundel Rape.

After the death of Roger de Montgomery, the castle reverted to the crown under Henry I who left it to his second wife, Adeliza of Louvain (present-day Belgium). 3 years after Henry’s death, she married William d’Aubigny, also known as William d’Albini. Having fought loyally for King Stephen, he was made 1st Earl of Lincoln and then 1st Earl of Arundel in 1138. In 1139, Matilda, Adeliza’s step-daughter, stayed at Arundel for some time while attempting to win back the crown from her cousin, Stephen.

Adeliza of Louvain
It was at this point that I wished I’d read up on the castle’s history – I know this story, of Henry I, Adeliza and William, and of Matilda, Henry’s daughter – it’s the basis of the first Elizabeth Chadwick novel I’d read, ‘Lady of the English’.

Arundel Castle descended directly from the d’Aubigny family in 1138 to the FitzAlans in the 13th century, carried by female heiresses. There was the occasional reversion to the Crown, like in 1176 following the death of William d’Aubigny; first under Henry II, it then passed to Richard I, the Lionheart, who offered it back to the Aubigny family. After the death of the last male Aubigny, the castle and earldom passed to John FitzAlan of Clun through his marriage to Isabel Aubigny. The castle remained with the FitzAlan family until 1580.

With the marriage, in 1555, of Mary FitzAlan, the youngest child of the 19th Earl of Arundel, to Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, the castle eventually passed from the FitzAlans to the Howards, who hold the dukedom of Norfolk. The castle has been the principal seat of the Norfolk family for over 400 years to the present day. Sadly, Mary died a year after marriage, following the birth of their son.

Thomas Howard 4th Duke of Norfolk
The Howards featured largely in English history, especially during the latter Plantagenet and Tudor period. Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, was one of the founders of English Renaissance poetry; he and his friend, Sir Thomas Wyatt, were the first English poets to write in the sonnet form that Shakespeare would later use. He was a first cousin of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Unfortunately, he and his father, the 3rd Duke of Norfolk, were imprisoned and sentenced to death by a paranoid and very ill Henry VIII who was convinced they were planning on usurping the crown. Surrey was beheaded but his father escaped execution only because the king died; however, he remained imprisoned. Surrey’s son, Thomas, inherited the dukedom of Norfolk on the death of the 3rd duke in 1554. Thomas, 4th Duke of Norfolk, having gained Arundel Castle through marriage, lost it when he was executed for conspiring to marry Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1572. The castle was later returned to the family.

During the Civil War, Arundel Castle was badly damaged. In December 1642, it was captured by a small force of Parliamentarians. One year later, it was captured by Royalists after a short siege but they then had to defend it against parliamentary troops; the Royalist defenders surrendered in January 1644.

The damage was gradually repaired over the years, with most of the restoration carried out by Henry, the 15th duke, and completed in 1900.

Walked down a footpath, by the river Arun, into town ...

Opted not to go into the castle rooms; not allowed to take photos and, to be honest, because the day was so glorious, didn't want to spend too long indoors ...

The FitzAlan Chapel, in the castle grounds, was the idea of Richard FitzAlan, the 10th Earl of Arundel, who’d fought at Crécy with Edward III, the Black Prince. The Chapel was built posthumously according to his will. The size of the building is deceptive; although large, on the inside it is split – it is one of the very few church buildings that is divided into 2 worship areas. The eastern end, the Chapel, is Catholic and the private mausoleum of the Dukes of Norfolk, and can only be accessed from the castle grounds; while the western side, with a separate entrance, is Anglican, occupied by St Nicholas Parish and Priory Church.

The Chapel’s main features are the beautiful seven-panel window, and the wooden vaulted roof, which, although rebuilt in 1886, still incorporates the medieval roof bosses. The brass ‘figures’ on the floor date back to the 15th century, while the tombs are 16th century.

The gardens … I personally think the gardens are worth the price of entry alone; I enjoyed them more than the castle. The garden by the Chapel is called the White Garden, and it’s filled with white flowers. Not to mention palm trees! That plus the balmy weather gave the impression of being somewhere on the continent.

This is named the Collector Earl’s Gardens, after the 14th Earl who was dubbed the ‘Collector’. Most of the treasures in the castle were collected by him including tapestries, clocks, and portraits by Thomas Gainsborough and Anthony Van Dyck.

The gardens include Herbaceous Borders and the Cut Flower Garden ...

Wildflower garden ...

This ... I wasn't sure what to make of it - it's a crown 'floating' at the top of a fountain

View of the Cathedral from the castle gardens ...

The Rose Garden ...

Some of the buildings around town … Had lunch at a pretty little restaurant, called Belinda’s; the building dates back to the 16th century.

Belinda's Tea Rooms and Restaurant

While walking around the town, stumbled on this little gem, tucked away from the main road. I stared at the sign that said ‘Public Garden’, wondering if there was a catch … not that I’m cynical or anything. But it’s as the sign says – a genuine public garden, for the enjoyment of anyone who wants to use it! If I lived in one of the houses close by, I’d be out there every fine morning and evening, with my coffee and a book.

The building in the next picture and the one below it apparently is the cinema!

Walked around to the other side of the castle, to the road leading to the Cathedral. Before the cathedral is the entrance to the Church of St Nicholas, another beautiful building. It still bears traces of wall paintings inside.

Church of St Nicholas ...

The Cathedral Church of Our Lady and St Philip Howard is fairly new; it was commissioned in 1868 by the 15th Duke of Norfolk, Henry Fitzalan-Howard. The architect was Joseph Hansom, the same man who invented the hansom cab. The Duke wanted a building that would complement the castle. Dedicated in 1873 as Arundel’s Catholic parish church, in 1965 it became a cathedral, serving Arundel and Brighton.

Henry Fitzalan-Howard

I have never seen an old 'police' lamp like this outside of films!

The view from the hotel room ...

The next day, had time to walk around after a late breakfast ...

Dominican friars were in Arundel, probably in the mid-13th century. Friars didn’t withdraw from the world like monks but went out to preach. This is the ruins of the Blackfriars Dominican Friary. Dominican friars were called ‘black friars’ because of the colour of their habits.

There’s a path up by the side of the castle that runs alongside the river ...

The brown building is the hotel I stayed at, viewed from across the river

Although a popular tourist destination, and there were people about, nowhere felt crowded. That surprised me as the town is fairly small. It is definitely worth a return visit, and I am so glad and so lucky that it isn’t far; methinks it would make a pleasant day trip.