Tuesday, 19 January 2010


It seems I kind of forgot to post about Hogmanay...

There's no denying I've had a lot of things going on in the past year that I'm glad to see the back of, if at all possible, so I was quite keen on celebrating Hogmanay. To me it's about renewal, as much as it's a farewell, and I suppose you might say I'm deeply superstitious about some things. Starting the New Year is one of them: I'd like to start on a positive note in the hopes that it carries through for the year, at the least.

So on the 31st, as the bells approached, Mr Seren and I were together, waiting for the bells. We rang them in with BBC Alba, drank a toast and did the usual, and then I ran outside to see the fireworks. I had some offerings to put out too, so it was good timing, and evidently all the noise had disturbed a bird or two because a crow flew down and perched on the fence right in front of me - some coincidence, I'd say. We looked at each other for a moment, and there was one of those pregnant pauses before the moment broke. It felt like Badb was making herself known and I wondered what that meant (and I've been pondering since). I stayed outside for a bit, but nothing else happened.

I did my devotions, sained the house and everyone in it, and eventually went to bed. I couldn't get comfy though, I had a cold coming on and I was achy and still hyperactive from everything. In the end I got up, without having had more than an hour's broken sleep, and pottered about the house, meditated, and eventually saw the sunrise in. Mr Seren lasted until about 3am - he was trying to stay up too, like he usually does, but he was just too tired and we were going over to the in-laws the next day anyway, so he needed to be fit to drive.

I was hoping to perform the frìth again, but I was in two minds about it. On the one hand I felt that my crow-sighting was a sign enough, but on the other hand I wanted to do it 'properly'. The kids were up before the sun was, though, so in spite of my best efforts it just didn't work. Unless you count being interrupted by Rosie because she wanted help putting her fairy wings on (in which case...fuck). I swear, those things breed in this house. I did see the moon setting, though, which made a nice symmetry to how I started my celebrations the night before - seeing the moon rise, and then the partial eclipse. But all in all it wasn't so much portentous - or as portentous - as just rounding things off a bit.

I managed to grab a catnap or two before we went to the in-laws, with some freshly made Yethol bannocks as a first-footing gift, and we had the obligatory steak pie, lots of chat about the impending wedding, and (for the kids at least) far too many sweeties. It was good fun, even though I was absolutely knackered by the end of it all. Rosie had to have a reassurring cuddle when Doctor Who started regenerating, it was all a bit confusing for her (not least because we were shouting at the TV because it was so overblown...GET ON WITH IT!!!!).

Anyway, seeing as my mother-in-law gave me a surprise windfall, I've spent most of it on some new clothes (that fit, yay!) and so on, but I also allowed myself a little splurge on some books. I got a Gaelic book to help me with my studies, and a book on Irish Food and Folklore (which sounded good, but is mostly disappointing. I tried the recipe for an Irish Curd Cheesecake and as I was working through the instructions, realised the author had neglected to mention when the cottage cheese was supposed to be added. It's the main bloody ingredient! Not hard to figure out, though, but shoddy work. The folklore was thoroughly lacking, superficial, and poorly researched for the most part, too). I also got two books on Scottish fairies - academic books, so I was bit more confident that they'd be good and meaty, and happily it seems I'm right. The first is Scottish Fairy Belief by Lizanne Henderson and Edward Cowan, which is kind of an introduction to the subject, and the second is Fantastical Imaginations: The Supernatural in Scottish History and Culture by Lizanne Henderson (edited by, anyway), which is a collection of essays on the subject. I'm nearly finished with the first and was pleased to find something that comes with good timing:

"The most interesting name of all, used to specifically denote the queen of the fairies, is NicNiven or Neven, which appears to derive from Neamhain, one of the Gaelic and Irish war furies better known as Badb. The matter is complex since Neamhain and Badb may represent different aspects of the same persona, but badhb in some Irish dialects is the word for the supernatural death messenger more familiarly known in Ireland and Scotland as the banshee, bean-sithe literally 'fairy-woman' in Gaelic. Badhb also means a hoodie-crow and carries the sense of 'deadly' or 'ill-fated'; it can also translate as 'witch', which is apposite since Scotland NicNiven was also queen of the witches. This intriguing name therefore, originated in the Gàidhealtachd whence it was imported into the Lowlands and even found its way to Shetland. W. B. Yeats was therefore incorrect when he stated that 'the gentle fairy presences' which haunted the imagination of his countrymen became 'formidable and evil as soon as they were transferred to Scottish soil', since this truly terrifying death messenger seems to be shared by both Ireland and Scotland while her associations give some indication of how the Scots regarded the fairy queen."

So lots for me to ponder, I think. I have to say, I'm really enjoying Scottish Fairy Belief, which is always happy-making.