Summer Solstice

Hark! hark! The lark at heaven’s gate sings, And Phoebus ‘gins arise, His steeds to water at those springs On chalic’d flowers that lies; And winking Mary-buds begin To ope their golden eyes; With everything that pretty is, My lady sweet, arise: Arise, arise. Cloten Scene III Cymberline

Arise, O Sun!
Let the Darkness of Night
Fade before the beams of your glorious Radiance

Midsummer, astronomically is here, and summer has started. Meteorologically speaking it has been here since the beginning of June. In Christian London celebrations were at their height on the Church’s Midsummer’s Day, 24th June, on the Vigil and Day of St John the Baptist (23rd, 24th June). Stow points the way:

‘every mans doore being shadowed with greene Birch, long Fennel, Saint John wort, Orpin, white Lillies, and such like, garnished upon with Garlands of beautiful flowers, had also Lampes of glasse, with oyle burning in them all the night, some hung out braunches of yron curiously wrought, contayning hundreds of Lampes, light at once, which made a goodly shew, namely in new Fishstreet, Thames Streets, &c’

Survey of London, John Stow

Bonfires from the night before were smouldering, where the ‘wealthier sort’ set out tables, furnished with ‘sweete beade and drinks plentifully’ where ordinary people could rub shoulders with the rich and ‘be merrie with them in great familiaritie’. There were large processions of ‘Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants, Corporals, &c Wilfers, Drummers, and Fifes, ….Ensign bearers, Sword Players, Trumpeters on horseback, … Gunners, …. Archers, …Pike Men, ….Pageants, and, poor people in straw hats holding cresset lamps to make a show in exchange for a wage. All accompanying the Lord Mayor, Sheriffs each with their own Giants, Henchmen and Pageants from the Little Conduit in Cheape to Aldgate, and back via Fenchurch Street.

Midsummer was a mix of May Day, Halloween and a street festival with ‘Robin Hood games’, bale fires, the ‘summer pole’ dancing, merriment and pervading sense of he uncanny.

Distilled Wild Strawberries – a sovereign remedy against palpitations of the heart

Photo by Sergiu Nista on Unsplash.jpg

The Perpetual Almanac of Folklore by Charles Kightly reminds us that

‘The water of these strawberries distilled is a sovereign remedy and cordial in the palpitations of the heart, that is the panting and beating thereof’

William Coles Adam in Eden 1657

Mrs Grieve tells that it is good against feverish conditions, for the stone, gout and dysentery. The fresh fruit removes discolouration of the teeth if the juice is allowed to remain on the teeth for 5 minutes (then clean the teeth with warm water and bicarbonate of soda).

Wiping the face with a cut strawberry will whiten the skin and remove slight sunburn. Tougher sunburn rub the fruit well into the skin, leaving it on for 30 minutes, wash off with warm water with a few drops of tincture of benzoin (a balsamic resin.

Warning, the remedies are ancient and I have no idea how effective they are!

The London Equinox and Solstice Walk

Druids at All Hallows, by the Tower
Druids at All Hallows by the Tower


Tuesday June 21st 2022 7.30 pm Tower Hill Underground Station
(meet by the Tower Hill Tram coffee stand) |


We explore London’s History through its celebrations, festivals, calendars, almanacs and its myths and legends.


As the Sun and Moon move around our skies we look at how Londoners organised and celebrated their year throughout history.

The tour is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, Curator and Lecturer

One of the most popular forms of publication in London was the Almanac. It was full of seasonal advice, of prophecy, traditional wisdom, and important events past and future. Different cultures, religions and institutions had their own methods of organisation and celebrations. We explore the varied calendars that ruled people’s lives from the prehistoric period to the present.

On the way we look at customs, and folklore of the Celts, Romans, Saxons, and into the Medieval and Modern period. We look at different calendars such as the Pagan year, the Egyptian year, the Roman, Christian, Jewish, Church and Financial years. On the route we discover the people who lived in London and walk through fascinating areas with their deep histories.

This is a London Walks Guided Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks

To Book: click here

BECKET PAGEANT FOR LONDON

Brangwen A City Pageant .jpg
A City Pageant in Olden Times’, Frank Brangwen, Skinners’ Hal

17-18 June 2022: Guildhall Yard, London

This looks like it might be fun! I was hoping it would be the full recreation of the Becket Pageant in in 1519 but it a day of ‘performances inspired by the 1519 Midsummer pageant, and accompanied by a Livery Crafts Fair organised by the Skinners Company.’

Further Details are here:

TODAY SPRING SPRUNG

HAGGERSTON. LONDON

The first sunny day of the year inviting enough to eat in the garden, partly because is is north facing, and its only now getting a decent time in the sun; and partly because it was a stonking warm sun. The Haggerston Rivera in the background is full of people deciding that this is the day to get it all out out in the sun. But also there is still a small proportion of people dressed ready just in case a chill north wind arrives unexpectedly.

Its also the death of the daffodils day – at least in my garden. Still a few tulips and even one or two yet to bloom. But the star of my garden at the moment is Honesty, which you can see to the left of the table (an old door repurposed). I first grew it on the balcony and it has now spread down and appeared in three places, and is rather lovely.

Its latin name is Lunaria annua because the silver seed pods look like a full moon, but they also look like silver coins. Therefore it symbolises wealth. It’s name Honesty is said to come from the translucent pod revealing the seeds beneath, honestly.

The book you see on the table s written by a friend from my Museum of London days who has recently published a book on Shakespeare’s time living in the Parish of St Helen’s near Bishopsgate.

Photos taken by the author last night.

MARCH 13TH – TIME FOR NETTLE SOUP

Nettles Photo by Les Argonautes on Unsplash

Now is the time to make that Nettle Soup. According to William Coles in Adam in Eden (1657) it will ‘consume the Phlegmatic superfluities in the body of man, that the coldness and moistness of the winter have left behind.’ He also suggest that it is said that the juice of the roots mixed with ale and beer and given to one who is suspected of losing her maidenhead ‘if it remain with her she is a maid, but if she spew it forth she is not’.

The Egyptians used them to treat lower back pain, the hardy Romans used it to keep themselves warm. Some suggest it is useful for treating enlarged prostate, and for lowing blood pressure and generally very rich in all things good for you. Just don’t eat them raw! The suggested benefits of eating Nettles are listed on this web site. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/stinging-nettle

PLOWONIDA – LONDON’S ORIGINAL NAME & THE LONDON ‘RITUAL LANDSCAPE’

https://www.etymonline.com/word/*pleu-

Definition of the proto-indo-european route "pleu
https://www.etymonline.com/word/*pleu-

Richard Coates in a ground breaking article ‘A New Explanation Of The Name Of London’ Transactions Of The Philological Society Volume 96:2 (1998) Pgs 203 – 229 suggested the original name of London was Plowonida – or settlement by the wide flowing river. He deduces its name by comparing different versions of ‘London’ in different Celtic dialects and traces them back to what he believes is the common origin. This is the root *pleu meaning fleet flowing river, and onida which means ‘settlement by the’.

So, in the 2nd Millennia BC – the Bronze Age, there was a settlement by the flowing River. He thinks the Thames was the name for the river upstream of the Pool of London, and where it widened into an estuary it was called the Pleu. Etymonline.com says of the name Thames:

Thames – River through London, Old English Temese, from Latin Tamesis (51 B.C.E.), from British Tamesa, an ancient Celtic river name perhaps meaning “the dark one.” The -h- is unetymological (see th).

https://www.etymonline.com/word/thames

So, in the Bronze Age there must have been a small settlement probably in the area of the City or on the south bank in Southwark. It’s possible we have already found it in the occasional findings of post-holes, gullies, plough marks, brushwood platforms and burial mounds (particularly in Southwark) that have been found or we may be yet to find it. Or we may never find it. And if we do, unless it is significant in some way or has a signpost on it saying (“You are entering Plowonida”) we will never know.

Of course Coates may be wrong, but he is the most distinguished linguist of recent years to put his head about a dangerous parapet. Antiquarian journals were full of suggestions for the name of London. Previous suggestions include Lake Side Town, Lud’s Castle, Londinos’s settlement. None have survived scrutiny, and very few people were willing to make a guess after the late 70s, until 1998 and Richard Coates. However they all seem to accept that the name is pre-Roman in origin.

Archaeologists since the 1970s have been completely convinced there was no City before the arrival of the Romans. So, why bother finding the original name of a place that did not exist? However, last year in an excavation underneath Amazon’s new HQ, Principle Place, just north of Liverpool Street station, was found over 400 pieces of neolithic pottery, and evidence of extensive feasting. If you put this together with the burials found in the water margins of the River Thames, and the incredible finds of prestige metal objects: helmets, shields, swords, cauldrons, etc. from the River a case is beginning to be made (by David Keys in the Independent for example) that the area of the City of London might have been an important place for gatherings. So is it possible that the origins of London are as part of a ritual landscape?

If this is taken seriously it has a lot of implications for received opinion.

I discuss this and other issues in my Myths and Legends Guided Walks for London Walks. Click here to see the details

Bran's head taken to Tower Hill
King Bran’s head buried at Tower Hill

MYTHS, LEGENDS, & CELTIC FESTIVALS GUIDED & VIRTUAL WALKS

Bran's head taken to Tower Hill
King Bran’s head buried at Tower Hill

MYTHS, LEGENDS, & CELTIC FESTIVALS LONDON GUIDED WALK

Sunday30th January 2022 2.30pm Tower Hill Underground

The walk tells the story of London’s myths and legends and the Celtic Festival of Imbolc.

The guided walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, who has an interest both in the archaeological evidence as well as the myths and legends of London’s origin.

The walk is one of a series about London’s Myths and Legends which take place on or around one of the significant festivals of the Celtic calendar. On this tour we celebrate Imbolc, the festival half way between the winter and the Summer Solstice that celebrates the first signs of the coming of spring. The day is also dedicated to St Bridget, or St Bride.

The walk begins with the tale of London’s legendary origins in the Bronze Age by an exiled Trojan called Brutus. Stories of Bladud, Bellinus, Bran and Arthur will be interspersed with how they fit in with archaeological discoveries. As we explore the City we also look at evidence for ‘Celtic’ origins of London and how Imbolc may have been celebrated in early London.

The route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up at St Brides.

This is a London Walks Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To Book:

MYTHS, LEGENDS, & CELTIC FESTIVALS LONDON VIRTUAL WALK

Sunday 30th January 2022 7.30pm

The virtual version of the walk starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up at St Brides.This is a London Walks Virtual Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To Book:

MYTHS, LEGENDS, MAY EVE LONDON GUIDED WALK

Sunday 30th April 2022 2.30pm Tower Hill Underground

The walk tells the story of London’s myths and legends and the Celtic Festival of Beltane

The walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, who has an interest both in the archaeological evidence as well as the myths and legends of London’s origin.

The guided walk is one of a series about London’s Myths and Legends which take place on or around one of the significant festivals of the Celtic calendar. On this tour we celebrate May Day, or Beltane – the celebration of the coming of Summer.

The walk begins with the tale of London’s legendary origins in the Bronze Age by an exiled Trojan called Brutus. Stories of Bladud, Bellinus, Bran and Arthur will be interspersed with how they fit in with archaeological discoveries. As we explore the City we also look at evidence for ‘Celtic’ origins of London and how Imbolc may have been celebrated in early London.

The virtual route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up in the shadow of St Pauls

This is a London Walks guided walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To Book

MYTHS, LEGENDS, MAY EVE LONDON VIRTUAL WALK

SUNDAY 30th April 2022 7.30pm

The virtual version of the walk route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up in the shadow of St PaulsThis is a London Walks Virtual Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To Book:

MYTHS, LEGENDS, & HALLOWEEN VIRTUAL WALK

Sunday 30th October 2022 2.30pm Tower Hill Underground

The walk tells the story of London’s myths and legends and the celtic origins of Halloween

The guided walk is led by Kevin Flude, a former archaeologist at the Museum of London, who has an interest both in the archaeological evidence as well as the myths and legends of London’s origin.

The walk will tell the story of a selection of London’s Myths and Legends, beginning with the tale of London’s legendary origins in the Bronze Age by an exiled Trojan called Brutus. Stories of Bladud, Bellinus, Bran and Arthur will be interspersed with how they fit in with archaeological discoveries.

As we explore the City we also look at the origins of Halloween celebrations and how they may have been celebrated in early London.

The route starts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up in the shadow of St Pauls.

This is a London Walks Guided Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To Book:

MYTHS, LEGENDS, & HALLOWEEN VIRTUAL WALK

MONDAY 31st October 2022 7.30pm

The virtual version of this walkstarts at Tower Hill, then down to the River Thames at Billingsgate, to London Bridge and Southwark Cathedral, to the Roman Forum at the top of Cornhill, into the valley of the River Walbrook, passed the Temple of Mithras, along Cheapside to the Roman Amphitheatre, and finishing up in the shadow of St Pauls.

This is a London Walks Virtual Walk. Look at their web site for a list of other of their amazing walks.

To Book:

JANUARY 13TH – 18TH BLUE MONDAY, WOLF MOON, START OF LAMBING AND TWELFTH NIGHT, OLD STYLE

Hackney Marshes, Jan 2022, Chris Sansom

Third Monday in the year – traditionally the most depressing day. Traditional in the sense of the word meaning ‘made up recently as part of a marketing campaign.” * AD2005.

Wolf Moon is a recent introduction to mainstream culture and was borrowed from Native Americans as wolves are known to howl at the moon at this time of the year. (First full moon of the year.) So this year they are both on the 17th January. So is the wonder of the moon a counter to the depressive effect of a cold period when the joys of Christmas and the hopes of a New Year are encountering the reality of wintery bleakness?

In Jane Austen’s time winter socialising depended upon the moon. Generally, people would schedule balls and dinner parties on nights when the moon was bright to make their journey’s home safer. This is one reason why Almanac’s were so ubiquitous.

The 17th January is also the Day of Peace for the Goddesses Felicitas, Pax, and Concordia,

Lambing can begin about now in the south, and it gets progressively later as you travel north. Of course, it depends when the ewe is tupped by the ram. 5 months later the lamb, or lambs will be born – normally, one or two but occasionally more.

The country expression is ‘in with a bang and out with the fool’ which suggests an ideal time to tup, is November 5th, so that the lambs will be born around the 1st of April. Itinerant shearers, now often from New Zealand, travel the country shearing sheep. They will begin in the south and then progress north.

In the ‘Return of the Native’, Thomas Hardy has a character called Diggory Venn, he is a reddleman. He travels the country selling a red ochre dye with which shepherds mark their flock. The ram wears a collar with a marker full of reddle in it. When he mounts the ewe she will have a red mark on her back. Once she has been tupped twice she will be taken out of the field, to encourage the ram to impregnate the others. Reddle could also be used to mark lambs chosen for slaughter, or dipping, or weighing etc..

Twelfth Night Old style is the date of celebration of the last night of Christmas but according to the Julian Calendar which was replaced in 1752. Time to Wassail the Orchard.