My recent fascination with tree spirits was renewed with my photographing a tree root, which to me looked like a mole face trying to peer through. And I passingly wondered if tree shapes were what invoked the human imagination to populate them with spirits? Or, if in some cases, the spirit of the tree shaped its outward appearance? However, no matter the origins, there are stories and believes from all over the world that celebrate the spirits of the trees.
Ireland has given the popular lore an abundance of tree lore; with the "fairy tree" being one of the best known.
An author that collected several of these, from sources known to him, was Diarmuid MacManus, who was a friend of Yeats in the poet's later years.
So when I want to "hear" a more authentic voice I often return to reading MacManus's The Middle Kingdom, and his Irish Earth Folk. It was the later that I just finished rereading. He discusses the family lore of The Killaeden Fairy Thorn, which his grandfather decided would look fine in the front of his house. Mr. MacManus remembered his grandfather as a "practical Victorian gentleman," who had little patience for the "Irish ways." So, when none of his help, or neighbors, would do the move for a fee he dug up, and moved, the tree himself. This, the author says, was in 1851, and for several years thereafter his grandfather lost both stock and money. All attributed by the locals to the move of the tree.
At the time of the book's publication, 1959, the tree had grown to a large, venerable landmark, but there were still some who thought the tree should be returned to its original place at Lis Ard, a fairy fort.
Mr. MacManus continues on with stories of "demon trees," which he says are of a different nature than the fairy trees. The fairy trees, and their guardians, are not provoked unless the tree(s) are tampered with, but some trees seem to have a more malevolent, primal, nature. These, be it due to murder or elemental, cause people to hurry on - the sheer nature of the darkness and rage awakening in the travelers a strong desire to flee.
One of the things I love about Diarmuid MacManus's books is that he respected the beliefs, his sources, and the past. And was willing to acknowledge that there may well be something beyond modern ken. And whether one believes in the fairies, or elementals, it can still be said that these beliefs challenge individuals to stop (even for a second), and consider a tree's individuality and right to peace.
This is a new blog series that focuses on life stories that have caught my attention. With some being better known than others.
The thread of this series began when Amazon offered up one of their "Recommendations," which was Steve Blamires, The Chronicles of the Sidhe. I am always interested in new books about fairy folklore, and decided to look at the review. It turned out to be intriguing in that Mr. Blamires offered the theory that the biographer/poet, William Sharp, was possessed by a Fairy spirit, who had taken on the name Fiona McLeod. And through her abilities wrote volumes of powerful poetry.
NowI wasn't too sure about the theory, but I was intrigued by William Sharp's story, because it was a fact that he did write poetry (some said it was better than his own) under the name Fiona McLeod. He also carried on quite a elaborate plan, for many years, to make her seem to be real individual.
Mr. Blamires also wrote one of the few biographies on William Sharp, entitled, The Little Book of Great Enchantment, which is a more standard biography. What also makes William Sharp's life interesting is that his life overlapped so many other fascinating people - Y. B. Yeats, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Wellesley Tudor Pole (via Glastonbury and the blue chalice).
While I don't subscribe to Mr. Blamires' theory of fairy possession I will admit that William's Sharp early death did remind me of the legend of the Leanan sídhe. The Leanan Sidhe being a fairy lover/muse who inspired their chosen lover to great heights of artistic fame - before cutting their lives short.
Be that as it may, the books on William Sharp brought to my attention other life stories I wanted to follow, and I will write more about these later.
I am including some links to Fiona MacLeod's poetry:
I always look forward to performing storytelling at the Elijah Iles House's Clara Irwin Strawberry Party. This year I had a little more time to help out, both before and after, the event.
Wednesday afternoon was the day for festivity preparations, and many of the volunteers were on hand to get everything ready. My occupation was to help "stem" the strawberries so that they could be later washed, cut up, and sugared. Someone had gotten creative, and came up with the idea of using plastic straws to push the stems out. It really helped to make short work of the many pounds of berries - though the table and the people were both sticky and berry colored.
The next evening was perfect - still clear, but with mild temperatures, and it stayed that way from the beginning of the party till its end.
It was as if the weather was trying to make up for many so incredibly hot and grouchy last year!
The Clara Irwin Strawberry Party ended about an hour before the city's fireworks were to go off. This time was filled with clean up, and afterwards, a few volunteers settled on the front porch to watch.
To me this was a perfect way to spend the last of Independence Day. What better way than watching fireworks on the steps of one of the oldest houses in Springfield?
Even more poignant was that one of our volunteers was an exchange student from China. And I couldn't help but wonder if there was any better way to show off our city by offering both a gentle, but fun, part of our history, and a evening of companionship to end the day?
Somehow it all made me feel as if we had been woven into a tiny part of the house's long history.
On this 2013 Independence Day I began reflecting back to a chapter I had read in Duncan Emrich's Folklore of the American Land about a mountain main named Jim Bridger.
This was a man who in his long career was one of the first to see the geysers of Yellowstone, and the Great Salt Lake. He came back from his various expeditions with tales of wonders - the Obsidian Cliffs and the Mammoth Hot Springs (with its bubbling mud, and water so hot you could cook in it).
While he never learned to read and write he could speak several languages, and could map with such detail that his maps were highly valued. He offered vivid and accurate descriptions of what he saw, but soon discovered that the wonders he saw were too wonderful for people to believe him.
Colonel R. T. Van Horn, editor of the Kansas City Journal, had, in 1856, a chance to scoop everyone with a story about Bridger's Yellowstone experiences. However, supposed acquaintances of Bridger's told Horn that he'd be laughed out of town if he printed any of Bridger's "lies."
Many years later Horn did apologize to Jim Bridger.
Because of the prevailing disbelief Jim Bridger decided if people wouldn't believe him then he would create stories that were even taller. His tall tales are still remembered today, but even in his greatest whoppers he embedded some truth.
All of this led me to ask a question - where in our country does Wonder exist today?
In Jim Bridger's day the land offered many awesome sights. Some staggering. Others mysterious. All demanding that the nation's sense of wonder be stretched. Now, we can see the most distant places in the world on our computers - often in real time; most of the world's grand beauty lays at our fingertips. And I have to wonder how that effects visitors to those lands - is the impact less because they have already viewed the place online?
Movies and computer-generated images can not only bring places and times to a large screen, and offer a nearer semblance to "being there." The technology also offers a way to offer other-worldly images too. Wilderness, space, history, and fantasy are all there for a visual feast.
Granted, if we are appreciative of Nature, we can focus on the smaller wonders of nature. The daily beauty that is offered, and I am not belittling it. Daily wonder is a precious emotion.
Yet I still have to ask, where is there any great, awe inspiring Wonder left to be found? Is there still hidden, to be found, true stories of nature so new, and so beyond belief, that they seem fiction?
Yesterday was the Forever Home Feline Ranch's Open House, which I was definitely looking forward to. So I dutifully checked the address, checked Google, and wrote down all needed phone numbers. All of this was needed, because the truth is that I can get lost in a brown paper bag.
And off I headed for Rochester, Il.
While a hot day it was also a lovely day, and made for a pleasant drive. I made it to the older part of Rochester, and realized I may have not written the directions correctly. And the phone numbers were going to voice mail. So....
I logically stopped in one little store, Dollars and Cents, which is a lovely coin shop located, appropriately, in a 19th century bank. They weren't sure where Hobbs Road was, and sent me to the antique store.
A very gracious lady, who unfortunately wasn't from Rochester, sent me to the quilt shop next door, and they sent me to the vet's office. They, mercifully, were able to give me directions. Nor could I really complain about my little side trip through Rochester, since I learned of many interesting new places to explore.
Some further driving took me out to Buckheart, IL, and down a couple of country roads to the Forever Home Feline Ranch.
A breeze had kicked up, which made the day more pleasant, and I was situated under a large shade tree - all the better to appreciate said breeze. I had also brought one of my Folkmanis kitten puppets with me, a little ginger one, and as planned, it helped as an attention-getter. As individuals finished tours of the ranch, or finished with the games, they would come over to hear a story or two.
Popular tales of the day were "Jack and the Friendly Animals," and "Dick Whittengton and His Cat." Later I was able to go visit with the three ranch donkeys, and to try and get some photos of the ranch.
The donkeys, it is hoped, will one day be able to live at the Ranch, since they will help protect the farm against coyotes. To do this, however, ranch will need the funds to repair the barn. As I came over to their pen the donkeys vied for attention, but when I stepped back to get a picture - all three turned their tails to me. I guess they had had enough of that for the day.
The Ranch is neatly organized, and has lovely grounds. There are four small houses; three of which are homes for the cats; with two of the houses dedicated to cats who have transmittable diseases.
Mr Hugh Moore was there to perform his music, though I didn't get a chance to go over and hear him.
As the breeze began to blow harder it became apparent that rain was probably headed our way, and slightly before 3 pm folks began to pack up. However, that was at the end of successful day, since there had been a good number of visitors. Hopefully many will become volunteers for the ranch, or, at least, adopt one of the cats.
Sometime this evening I will get what pictures I have up. I won't swear to my photographic skills, but hopefully they will give some idea of the ranch.
I have been "nominated," and accepted, to become a MDA Jailbird for the August 6th, 2013, MDA Lockup.
And since it's at Scheels, Winston, my loyal coonhound will be coming with me. He loves going there, and loves the company, and hopefully more will want him out of jail. I figure he'll be much more popular than me - he really knows how to turn on the charm.
So, if anyone is interested in bailing us out, please go to
and do a "Find Jailbird" for Cathy Mosley!!!!!
This coming Saturday, June 22nd, will be the Feline Home Forever Ranch's Open House (http://www.felineranch.org), and in honor that I am doing a Feline-oriented blog.
While getting ready for a show I have been reading John Richard Stephen's book, The King of the Cats, and Other Feline Fairy Tales. The book has proved fascinating in that the editor has not only collected a lovely range of stories, from all over the world and centuries, but has compiled many of them in such a way as to show variations of a tale.
An example of this is the oft-told tale, "Dick Whittington and his Cat," which is an English rags-to-riches folktale. The basic story is how a poor cook's servant, Dick Whittington, has only his cat to call his own, and is given a chance by the master of the house to sell something on the master's merchant ship. And since poor Dick's only possession is the cat he allows himself to be talked into giving over the puss.
The merchant ship ends up the port of a unknown land, which is over run by rodents, and the cat becomes the heroine of the day. So much so that the ship's captain is able to sell the cat for amazing price.
So young Whittington grows rich, marries, the merchant's daughter, and later goes on to become the Lord Mayor of London - three times.
The editor found the version he used in Andrew Lang's Blue Fairy Book, entitled, "The History of Whittington." The story is attached to a Richard Whittinton (1358- 1423), who was the Lord Mayor of London three times, but was of a well-off family.
Other versions told in the book are: "The Origin of Venice" (c. 1256), German; "The Genoese Merchant" (15th century), Italy; "The Island of Kais" (1299), Persia; "The Honesty Penny", Norway; "The Cottager and His Cat," Iceland.
I have to admit I found "The Genoese Merchant" ironically amusing. It is a story within a story, with a priest trying to teach a friend about supply and demand. At one point the priest tells the story of the cat helping a king, but his tale ends with another merchant going to the same land to try his luck. He goes with valuable presents for the (now mouse-free) king. The King is well-pleased with the presents, and gives to his new friend the most valuable thing in the kingdom - one of the new kittens.
The editor also does much the same type of treatment for "Puss in Boots," and offers a selection of lesser known cat fairy tales.
Mr. Stephens ends the section with a possible theory as to the popularity of the theme - of a land that doesn't know cats. He mentions that until 1500 B.C., when the Greeks stole a few dozen cat, that the Egyptian's had made it illegal to export the sacred cat. In Europe, before the arrival of the cat, pest control was done by skunks and weasels.
While I have been pursuing a social media strategy for my storytelling business for a while I never quite dreamed I would be creating a new division for it.
What sparked the move, though, was hearing so many business people say, "I know I need to do social media consistently, but I don't have time"
And I know from owning White Fox Productions, Ltd. that the social media packages are usually beyond the means of a small business.
So White Fox Productions, Ltd, and its resident storyteller, are bravely launching White Fox Social Media (http://www.whitefoxsocialmedia.com). All in an endeavor to help my fellow small business owners get there story to their customers.
Finally I have sometime to sit down and consider a few conversations I have had recently.
Back in mid-May I attended LLCC's "Welcome Visitors," which was the lead off to Community Learning's intensive Interpreter training week. (http://www.llcc.edu/commed/CommunityLearning/tabid/989/Default.aspx) The evening was very interesting, and the speakers discussed the role in customer service at historical sites. I wish I could have participated in the whole week of classes, but that weekend was already booked.
This was followed by Clayville's Spring Festival (http://www.clayville.org), and conversations with many of the volunteers about what all had needed to be done to prepare for the festival.
I had had a little sample of the preparation, since I had been out that week to help dust, and I have to salute all of those who had been at it continually.
All of this is on top of keeping the site open weekly, and for private functions, such as weddings.
Later, thinking over the week, I considered how fragile the support is for many of our historical sites, since so many of the volunteers are retired individuals; many of whom are elderly. The main thing driving them is their great love of history, and their particular site.
It's not just Clayville that faces this, but many of the smaller sites, where the main bulk of their volunteers are in their later years. And the work they do isn't just talking to people and taking them on tours - it can require cleaning and some heavy work.
Now I'll grant that for Clayville's many festivals there is help of all ages, but the normal, weekly, part falls to just a few people.
What happens when they can't do it anymore?
Who will step in?
Places such as Clayville, the Elijah Iles House, and the Grand Army of the Republic - to name a few - are staffed by dedicated people, but the demands can be hard. These individuals strive daily to see the stories of these places told, and that the sites live on for other generations to know where history happened.
It also made me wonder if we couldn't create a youth volunteer program for historic sites, such as what is done with the Henson Robinson Zoo (http://www.hensonrobinsonzoo.org/page.php?8) and Lincoln Memorial Gardens (http://www.lincolnmemorialgarden.org/programsatthegarden.html)? Maybe there is one. Hopefully there is. And if not, one should be created as we need one to train future custodians of these sites.
But foremost, I offer a challenge - take some time this summer to help at a historic site. They need people to help keep them clean and ready for visitors.
And to preserve the property.
Plus you are helping the city by showing our many attractions in their best light to visitors.
Recently I've noted that a lot of folks are searching for white fox folklore, and realized I didn't have much to offer on the site. Which seemed a shame since my website is White Fox Stories, and I do love foxes.
So a little web searching allowed me to discover a nice retelling of "The White Fox Wedding" from Tales of Old Japan.
The web site is - http://www.sarudama.com/japanese_folklore/whitefoxwedding.shtml
Along with that I have added a Fox Bibliography to the site.
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.