Azorean Folktales: The Girl of Oranges

A folktale from the Azores tells how there was once a Girl of Oranges who lived a solitary and lonely life in a world full of sorrow and dreams.  You see there was once a time when she had been in love with a handsome prince.  They had loved each other with all their hearts and had believed they had been made for each other and were full of happiness and hope for their future together.  Sadly he was taken from her by unfortunate circumstances beyond either his or her control and although life went on for the Girl of Oranges it was never as it had once been.

This had a devastating effect on her and she came to believe that she could never love again.  She looked around and saw lovers walking and holding hands, getting married and raising children and she worried about being on her own for the rest of her life.  It seemed to her the door to happiness had been forever slammed shut and she became anxious and depressed.

She dreamed many dreams and in those dreams created many wonderful scenes of love and came to live in a fantasy world but she could not escape the real world. The strange thing was that the real world she imagined became gray and sad but the beautiful world she dreamed in her dream world never materialized and hope began to fade in her heart.

All around her, she saw many open doors that led into magical realms and many people entered these realms and were happy but as soon as she even thought about entering they were slammed shut.  Despair and despondency fell upon her and she sank into a dark and lonely place keeping herself alive purely by her dreams but she came to no longer believe in love.

Seeing her sadness the gods came to her in one of her dreams and suggested that she go to the oracle to ask her for advice.  She thought that she had nothing to lose and so went to see the oracle seeking her aid.   The oracle was a kindly old woman who had been born with the gift of foresight which she used to help the people.

The girl talked to the oracle about her problem.  The oracle listened to what the girl said and was greatly touched.  She offered her all her sympathy and tenderness and by counseling her wisely and cleverly she succeeded in lifting the spirits of the girl.  Indeed she took her to  another place that was beautiful beyond compare and full of light.  In this place the Girl of Oranges was reborn and she was able to begin to recreate her life again like a beautiful work of art.

The Girl of Oranges looked again at all the doors that had slammed shut and realized that none of those doors had locks and that when she approached one it would open up on its own, or only needed a push.  With this discovery, she began to open the doors and explored the paths beyond and found new and magical places she had never heard of or dreamed about.

One day she opened a door and walked down a narrow path between beautiful flowers and amazing trees and to her wonder she saw lying in the middle of the path a big beautiful orange covered all in gold.  The girl was astounded and ran to the golden orange and excitedly looked at it admiring its beauty.  She looked around but could not find the orangery that it had come from so she went back to the oracle to asked her advice.  The oracle told her that there was a magical and wonderful orangery that the golden orange had come from and that it was a long way down the path from where she had found it.

So she went back through the door and down the path carrying the golden orange in her hand.  She walked and walked and walked along that path and eventually she found the wonderful orangery.  When she found it she discovered that she was suddenly free and knew she was safe.  Looking at the golden orange she carried in her hand she saw that it glowed gently and emitted  a glorious light.  In that light, she saw the face of her beloved and his lips whispered,

                              “Believe!”

© 30/08/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright August 30th, 2016 zteve t evans

Advertisements

Pima Legends: The Great Flood of Cherwit Make

collage-848542_1920

Pixabay – Image by geralt – CC0 Public Domain

Around the world, there are many myths and legends in many diverse countries that tell of the creation of humanity and how the creator god became disappointed and angry with his creation through their immoral behavior.  To put the earth right and to punish the immoral majority he sends a Great Flood to drown them while saving a few of the worthy to repopulate the earth.  The following is an example of such a legend from the Native American Pima people of Arizona, USA.  It  tells of the creation of humanity by their god Cherwit Make and how he sent a Great Flood against them when their behavior came to displease him.

The Creation

In the sacred traditions of the Pima people, the creator of all humans and animals was Cherwit Make, the earth-maker, who was the butterfly.  Cherwit Make had fluttered out of the clouds in the sky to the place of the Blue Cliffs where the Verde River and the Salt Rivers meet.  From his own sweat, he made humans.  The people thrived and multiplied but grew argumentative and selfish towards one another.    Cherwit Make was disappointed and disgusted at  his creation and decided he would bring about a great flood of the earth to drown them.  Despite his dissatisfaction with them, he thought he would give them a chance to change their ways.

Suha the Prophet

One night, using the voice of the north wind he told them to live in honesty and peace.
Only Suha the prophet heard the voice of the north wind and interpreted the message for his people. They would not believe him and told him he was a fool to listen to the wind.

The next night Suha heard the voice of the east wind which brought the same message but which also warned that they would all be killed if they did not change their ways.  The people laughed and called him a fool again for listening to the wind. The following night Suha heard the same message from the west wind and again the people laughed at him and ignored him.

On the fourth night came the south wind and whispered into Suha’s ear that because he alone had been good and honest he and his wife should be saved from the coming deluge.  The south wind told him to gather spruce gum and create a hollow ball that would be watertight and would float and be their ark and would save them.  When the waters rose they should climb inside the ark and float safely upon the water until it receded.

Suha and his wife set to work gathering the spruce gum which they melted and shaped into a large hollow  ball with one entrance which could be quickly sealed when inside.  They gathered supplies of nuts, acorn meal, venison and bear meat so that they would not starve while the land was in flood.

The Great Flood

When the fateful day finally arrived Suha and his wife were stood by their ark which they had built on a high ledge overlooking the valley below.  From their high place they looked out and saw the people at work and heard the songs of the harvesters and they grew sad to think that it would all soon end.  As they watched, a fist of fire punched downwards from the skies and struck the Blue Cliffs with a thunderous boom.

Then the sky rapidly darkened and the rain began to fall.  Quickly Suha and his wife climbed into their ball and sealed the door shut.  The rain fell in continuous torrents for days on end and the water crept up the sides of the Blue Cliffs.  Their ark was soon taken up by the water and was carried safely for days untold.  Eventually, their provisions ran out and they thought they would surely starve or be killed by the wild buffeting of the water on their craft.  At last, the ark stopped being thrown to and fro by the waves and wind and came to rest on solid ground.  Breaking the door open Suha and his wife gladly stepped out of the confines of the ark.

Superstition Mountain

superstition_mountain_56

Superstition Mountain – Image by Mikesanchez1109 – CC BY-SA 3.0

They found they were high on Superstition Mountain looking over a sea of water. There was cactus growing nearby so they ate their fill.  When night came they went back to the ark, which was their only shelter and slept.  They may have slept for a day, a week, a year even a thousand years, they did not know.  When they finally awoke the water had gone and there were verdant valleys filled with all kinds of plants, birds and animals and there were woods with bears and deer and birds singing in the trees.  Together, they left the ark and went down the mountains to live in the green and fertile valleys below. There they dwelt for a thousand years and from them came a great family of people.

The evil of Hauk

The flood sent by Cherwit Make had devastated the world but not completely cleansed it of evil.  A devil of the mountains named Hauk still remained to haunt and persecute the people.  He had his lair the other side of Superstition Mountain and every so often he would come forth  to steal the daughters of Suha and kill his sons.

There came a day when the men were all out in the fields harvesting maize.  The women remained at home spinning cactus fiber and flax. Hauk came over Superstition Mountain and into the village  and kidnapped yet another one of Suha’s daughters.  When Suha returned home and was told what had happened he vowed to kill Hauk.  He bided his time and watched Superstition Mountain.  At last, he saw Hauk going over the mountain and followed him to his home.

He then put a sleeping drug into the drink his daughter served him and Hauk fell into a deep sleep.  While he was asleep, Suha struck him over his head killing him and causing his brain to splatter over the earth. The greatest part of Hauk ‘s evil was killed but the seeds of evil from his brain fell upon the earth, took root and grew and although it grew, it was less than it had been before.  Suha took his daughter back home and taught his people many good and helpful things.  He taught them how to weave, how to make and use tools and how to avoid and prevent wars and to live in peace.

The Prophecy of Suha

The time came when he knew he must die and on his deathbed, he prophesied that his children would grow arrogant and greedy for wealth and material things.  They would try and claim the lands of others and would wage wars for greed and gain. He told them that when that time came the good would be removed from the earth and live in the sun.  The bad would perish when the flood returned and not one of them would survive.  Slowly and surely the prophecy of Suha unfolded.  Although humans made many great achievements their pride grew and they saw themselves above the creatures of the earth forgetting where they had come from and they thought themselves invincible and above the gods.

Cherwit Make

Cherwit Make, the butterfly, rests on the Blue Cliffs until the time comes when his patience finally runs out and he will unleash the great waters once again.

© 23/08/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright August 23rd, 2016 zteve t evans

The Legend of Saint Winefride and her Holy Well

saint_winifred_-_stained_glass_windos

St. Winefride – Copy94 – CC BY-SA 3.0

Saint Winefride’s Well is situated in Holywell, Flintshire in Wales and is named after a 7th-century local Welsh woman named Gwenffrewi in Welsh or Winefred, or Winefride in English.   Today it is classed as a grade l listed building and is a major place of pilgrimage for Catholics though all faiths are welcome as are people who have no religion.  The market town of Holywell is named after Saint Winefride’s Well which is an ancient place of pilgrimage and there is a remarkable legend that tells the story of how this came to be

Who was Saint Winefride?

Welsh legend tells that Winefride was the daughter of Tyfid ap Eiludd who was the lord of Tegeingl, a cantref, or division of land, in north-east Wales which later became part of the county of Flintshire.  Her mother’s name was Wenlo and was the sister of Saint Beuno who had associations with the Welsh kings of South Wales.  Winefride was thought to have a brother named Owain.  According to legend, her family were  distant descendants of Vortigern, a warlord of 5th century Britain.

Winefride

The legend of St Winefride is pieced together from information from historical documents and local legend and tradition.  A picture emerges of Winefride at about 15 years old as being a gifted intellectual with a studious nature who was dedicated entirely to the Christian Church and way of life.  Her uncle was St. Beuno, an abbot,  and her mentor.  By all accounts, she appeared to a highly attractive and charming girl with a strong personality who was preparing to dedicate herself to a life of austerity and devotion to the church at an early age with her parent’s consent.  She stayed with Beuno at his church and flourished in her chosen vocation under his mentorship and teaching.

The legend of St. Winefride

As an attractive girl, she naturally had her share of suitors.  When one of the neighboring princes by the name of Caradoc heard about her he decided he would ask her for her hand in marriage.  When Caradoc arrived with his proposition Winefride was alone as her parents had left early to attend the church where Beuno was celebrating Mass.  Although she told him that she was dedicating her life to the church, he begged and pleaded for her hand in marriage and became angry at her polite but firm rebuttals and he began threatening her.  Winefride became frightened and ran to the church where the Mass was being held hoping she would be safe with her parents and uncle there.

It was not to be.  The rejected and angry Caradoc followed and quickly caught up with her on sloping ground and drawing his sword cut her head off.  Her head rolled down the slope and eventually came to rest.  As soon as it stopped rolling a spring of water bubbled up out of the ground.

On hearing of the terrible murder as he was giving Mass,  Beuno left the church and went to the newly formed spring where her head still lay beside it.  Gently and carefully picking her head up he took it back to her body and kneeling, placed it upon her shoulders and covered the dead Winefride with his cloak.  He then returned to  the church where he prayed to God for her and calmly finished the Mass.  After Mass, he returned to her body and once again kneeling beside her prayed to God and then uncovered her body.   Legend says that Winefride sat up as if she had been in deep sleep, her head firmly on her shoulders with only a thin white scar circling around her throat and neck that showed the signs of her decapitation.

Beuno then turned to Caradoc, who had remained nearby, and called upon God to punish him and according to one legend he was struck dead and swallowed by the ground. However, some historians think that he was killed by Winefride’s brother Owain out of vengeance but whatever happened to Caradoc, Winefride was alive again.  After her resurrection Winefride dedicated herself to God and his church, living in poverty and virginity.  She eventually became the abbess of a convent  and chapel was eventually constructed over the spring.

Saint Winefride’s Well

 

st_winefride27s_well_and_chapel2c_holywell_-_geograph-org-uk_-_563437

St Winefride’s Well and Chapel, Holywell – By Tom Pennington – CC BY-SA 2.0

There is a tradition that Beuno left Holywell to live in Caernarvon and then went to Ireland.  Before he did so he seated himself upon a stone that now rests in the outer pool declaring that,

“whosoever on that spot should thrice ask for a benefit from God in the name of St. Winefride would obtain the grace he asked if it was for the good of his soul.” (1)

Winefride was said to have promised her uncle that as long as she lived at Holywell every year she would send him a token of her love.  Every year she would make him a sleeveless outer garment called a chasuble that Catholic priests wore when celebrating mass, or some other similar gift made from her own hand. This would be placed in the spring and the stream was said to carry the present to him wherever he was in the world.

When Beuno died about eight years later, Winefride, perhaps fearing the encroaching Saxons, sought a new refuge and with her companions moved to Gwytherin not far from the source of the River Elwy and joined a community of nuns established there.   She lived there as a nun  and an acknowledged saint on earth.  She  eventually became abbess and passed away on 3rd of November between 650 to 660.  Her grave became a place of pilgrimage and between 1136 to 1138 her remains were taken to Shrewsbury Abbey and translated.

Winefride became widely revered and Saint Winefride’s Well, at Holywell, became a popular place of pilgrimage.  It was said to have healing powers and called the Welsh Lourdes and is the only place in Britain that has an unbroken record of pilgrimage for over 1300 years.   Today the well is still open most days of the year and people still go there to bathe and there are daily and pilgrims services and Mass on Sundays. Further information can be found on the website of St. Winfride’s Well.

© 17/08/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright August the 17th, 2016 zteve t evans

The Legend of Saint Kenelm

st_kenelm27s_church_-_geograph-org-uk_-_392661

St Kenelm’s Church – Image by Geoff Gartside – CC BY-SA 2.0

The earliest known account of the legend of Saint Kenelm was given by a monk from Worcester named Wilfin a derivative of which was found in a manuscript from the 12th century at Winchcombe Abbey.  The legend tells how Kenelm inherited the throne of the English kingdom of Mercia as a young boy and fell victim to the jealousy of his sister  and was murdered by his guardian and became venerated throughout Anglo-Saxon England.

Quenhendra

When Coenwulf, King of Mercia died in AD 819 he left behind two daughters, Quendryda and Dornemilde and a seven-year-old son, named Kenelm who was his heir.  His sister, Dornemilde, loved him greatly and he loved her but Quendryda was jealous of her brother and wanted to be Queen and reign instead of him.   To this end, she brewed a poison and tricked her brother into taking it but the poison proved to have no effect on him at all and he remained hale and hearty.

Frustrated by her failure but still determined to  bring about her desire she hatched a plot with her brother’s guardian.  She gave him money and made him her lover and told him,

“Slay my brother for me, that I may reign’

and he being an evil man he agreed.

The Dream of Kenelm

One night Kenelm had a dream in which he climbed to the top of a huge tree brightly decorated with lanterns and flowers.  When he reached the top he looked out all around him and could see the four quarters of his kingdom.  As he looked he saw three of those quarters bow down before him, but the fourth quarter attacked the tree with an axe bringing it down.  As the tree crashed to the ground a white bird flew out of it safely out of it out of harm’s way.  When he awoke he told his dream to his nurse who was wise in such matters, but she wept and prayed for she knew the dream was an omen of his impending death.

The Murder of Kenelm

It so happened that an opportunity for this foul deed arose while Kenelm and Askeberd were out hunting in the Worcestershire forests.  As Kenelm and Askeberd passed the morning hunting Kenelm grew hot and very tired and told his guardian he would rest for a while under a tree.   He fell asleep and Askeberd set to task digging a grave ready for when he killed Kenelm.  When he was ready and about to do the awful deed Kenelm woke suddenly and told him,

You think to kill me here in vain, for I shall be slain in another spot. In token, thereof, see this rod blossom,’

and thrust his ash staff into the ground.  Instantly the staff took root and branches sprouted and leaves unfurled and it shot upwards to a great height and later became known as Kenelm’s Ash.

Askeberd was not impressed by this miracle and took the boy to the Clent Hills.  As Kenelm prepared himself for death by singing the Te Deum, a hymn of praise, Askeberd struck his head from his shoulders and buried him in a shallow grave he had scratched from the dirt.

Returning to Quendryda he told her the wicked deed had been done.  She then forbade anyone to  ever mention her brother’s name on pain of death hoping that his memory would fade quicker.  As Queen, she then turned to a life of evil and wantonness abandoning herself to the pleasures of the flesh.  For a long time, the body of her brother Kenelm lay hidden and forlorn in that lonely grave in the Clent Hills.

The White Cow

Nearby the grave lived a poor widow who had one white cow which she would leave to graze nearby every morning as many local people did.  Without fail, it would make its way to the spot where Kenelm was buried and lay down beside and not move to either eat or drink but would rise at dusk and make its way home as the other beasts did.  Although it never appeared to eat or drink it appeared to grow fatter and fuller and gave much more milk than any other cow.  The cow followed this routine for years and everyone in the area learned of the cow’s strange behavior and the place became known as Cowbach, or Cowbage.

The White Bird

One day a white bird was seen to fly from the spot where the cow would lie upon and flew all the way to Rome bearing a message for the Pope which said,

‘Low in a mead of kine under a thorn, of head bereft, lieth poor Kenelm king-born’.

The Pope read the message and immediately sent word to the Archbishop of Canterbury to instigate a search for Kenelm.  The Archbishop obeyed and formed a group of monks into a search party. When the search party came to the locality where Kenelm was secretly buried the local people, realizing that the mysterious cow was a sign of where to look showed the searchers the way.  The search party found the grave.  As they uncovered the body a fountain burst from the earth and formed into a fast flowing stream which sped off into the distance.  All who drank from that stream were refreshed and brought to glowing health.

The Burial of Kenelm

The searchers made a stretcher and carried the body of the boy king solemnly back to Winchcombe which at the time was the capital city of Mercia.   When they came to a ford over the River Avon the party was met by monks of Worcester Abbey who claimed the body which was disputed.   Between them, they decided that whosoever of them should wake first the next morning should have the body.  Rightfully this proved to be the monks of the Archbishop of Canterbury but despite the agreement the Worcester monks took to pursuing them forcing them to a hard and exhausting march to prevent their pursuers from catching them.

st_kenelm27s_spring_28source_of_the_river_stour29_-_geograph-org-uk_-_806501

St Kenelm’s Spring – Image by John M – CC BY-SA 2.0

It was a hard march and the monks carrying the body of Kenelm were struggled to maintain their lead but eventually they had to rest as they came in sight of Winchcombe Abbey.  Striking their staffs into the earth they were astonished to see a spring of cool clear water leap forth.  From this, they drank and refreshed themselves and feeling fully revitalized pressed on to the abbey.  As they neared the abbey the bells pealed out though no man had rung them.

At the time of Kenelm entering the abbey his sister, Quendryda was reading from a book and asked her servants why the bells were being rung.  On being told of her dead brother’s return she exclaimed,

‘If that be true may both my eyes fall upon this book!’  

As soon as she uttered these words both her eyes fell out of her head onto the book she was reading.

Not long after both she and her lover Askeberd died miserably and their bodies were thrown into a ditch,   The remains of Kenelm were buried with great honor and respect  and many churches were dedicated to him and the date of his feast day was set as  the 17th of July.

Accuracy of the Legend

The accuracy of the legend is open to question in many areas. There are many variations of the story and some historians think the available evidence points to Kenelm being about 25 years old when he died and it is recorded that Quendryda was actually the Abbess of Minster-in-Thanet when her father died.   Nevertheless, there still remain some very beautiful churches dedicated to Saint Kenelm and his spring can still be seen.

© 09/08/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright August 9, 2016 zteve t evans

The Legend of Fair Rosamund

fannycornforthrossetti

Study for a painting of Fair Rosamund by Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Public Domain

Fair Rosamund Clifford

The legend of Fair Rosamund tells the story of the beautiful Rosamund Clifford who was the mistress of Henry II the king of England and who controlled large parts of Wales, the eastern half of Ireland and the western half of France.  Rosamund was a young woman who became caught up in an illicit love affair with the ruler of this empire.  As well as Rosamund, Henry had a long list of mistresses but it was Rosamund that entered into legend.

Who was Rosamund?

Rosamund’s date of birth is uncertain but she was thought to have been born about 1150 and to have been the daughter of Walter de Clifford, a marcher lord, and his wife Margaret.  Their main estate was  thought to be Clifford Castle in Herefordshire, on the banks of the River Wye. Rosamund was believed to have been born at the Manor at Frampton-on-Severn where the village green is still known as Rosamund’s Green.  She grew up to be a typical English rose and her beauty was to become the subject of many poems, ballads, stories and works of art all of which added to the legend and mystery of her life.

Rosamund’s Bower

399px-queen_eleanor_26_fair_rosamund

Queen Eleanor & Fair Rosamund by Evelyn de Morgan – Public Domain

According to legend, Henry built a complicated maze at his hunting park at Woodstock in Oxfordshire that led to a bower which housed Rosamund for his secret liaisons with her.  The maze was supposed to have been designed to foil any attempt by Eleanor to reach the bower and protect his lover and their privacy.  The legend says that Rosamund’s bower, possibly a cottage or lodge was surrounded by gardens and a maze with a pool known as Rosamund’s Well where she was said to have bathed.  In later times Blenheim Palace was built on the site.

As so often happens with secrets of this sort word must have got out of the secret love nest and reached Eleanor.  She was furious and determined to put a permanent an end to the affair. Traveling to Woodstock she apparently met Henry coming out of the maze.  A silk thread had become attached to one of his feet without him noticing and had left a clear trail around the maze to Rosamund’s bower.  Eleanor followed the thread through the maze to the love nest and confronted Rosamund about the affair in no uncertain terms.  Rosamund was said to have been given the choice of death by either poison or the knife and chose poison.

Authenticity

There are those who doubt the authenticity of the circumstances in the legend. Rosamund’s abrupt death does not seem to have been reported or mentioned at the time and it was not until the 14th century that the legend appears.  There are different versions of the story of how Eleanor murdered Rosamund.  Some say she was roasted to death, while others say she was put in boiling water with her arms or wrists cut and left to bleed to death.

Henry, Eleanor, and Rosamund

Henry and Rosamund were believed at least to be familiar with each other before his marriage to Eleanor and probably lovers.  There is also a school of thought that says Rosamund and Henry were actually married but no evidence has been found to prove this.  When Eleanor, divorced from Louis VII, the King of France, she became one of the most eligible, richest and most powerful women in Europe.  Henry wanted to use the marriage to strengthen his realm and claim to large parts of France.  Some say to achieve these aims he married Eleanor while Rosamund, who was said to be the real love of his life, was set up as his mistress.

Historians are divided over whether Rosamund was kept entirely in seclusion.   Although the affair became public knowledge in 1174 they may have been seeing each other as lovers for a considerable time before that. There is a view that she accompanied Henry as he traveled around England and the continent as one of his household. Some think Henry may have deliberately flaunted her in an attempt to get Eleanor to divorce him after his relationship with her faltered.

Death of Rosamund

For unknown reasons, Rosamund was said to have joined the Abbey at Godstow while  Henry began an affair with Alais of France who was engaged to Richard, his son.   Rosamund was believed to have died from unknown causes at Godstow in 1176 and was buried there.  Her tomb became a popular shrine and people would leave flowers and candles there. Later the clergy deemed her presence immoral in the church and  had her remains moved outside.

Seeds of legend

Although the church frowned upon her even in death, she was not forgotten and later in the reign of Elizabeth I, popular stories began appearing about the alleged murder of Rosamund.  In 1592 Samuel Daniel wrote the Complaint of Rosamund and in 1612 Thomas Deloney wrote the Ballad of Fair Rosamund, both of which provide a fictional narrative of Rosamund’s death and the circumstances that surrounded it.  The first mention of poison was in 1611 in a ballad. Eleanor was imprisoned between 1173–1189 for her part in a failed rebellion against Henry and Rosamond was believed to have died in 1176 but the seeds of legend had been set and grew.

Rose of the world

rose-_rosa_mundi

Rosa Mundi – by Schnurri – CC BY-SA 3.0

Rosamund was also often romantically called the Rose of the World and perhaps the best memorial to her is the Rosa Mundi (R. gallica var) a beautiful pink and white striped rose that has been associated with her since the 16th century.

© 02/08/2016 zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright August 2nd, 2016 zteve t evans