A Cemetery Stroll

Photo of chapelAs it is nearly All Hallow’s Eve, the night when the souls of the dead are supposed to return to the mortal realm, I though it would be apposite to post about a cemetery stroll. This is especially true as I believe I am acquainted with more souls in Hereford Cemetery than in the rest of the City!Photo of cemetery

The last time I took you on a Graveyard Bimble it was the middle of summer. Now as we are well into autumn the place is even more windswept and barren.Photo of cemetery

I visited shortly after dawn on a rainy morn.Photo of tree

There is still autumn colour to be found.Photo of autumn leavesAnd the gardener had made good use of some ornamental grasses.Photo of cemetery gardenThe nearly bare trees made beautiful outlines against the moody skies.

“Grandpa Ratz” is the latest family member to book in to Hereford Cemetery’s bed and board. His flowers survived Storm Brian and added a splash of colour to the bleakness.

He loved flowers and I’m sure he would have approved of these.

So here’s to all souls past and present; have a safe and enjoyable Hallowe’en.Photo of sunset

All Hallow’s Eve 2016

I wish you all a happy All Hallow’s Eve. Have fun, stay safe, and remember to clean your teeth after eating all of that candy.Photo of sparkler pumpkin

I “painted” these rough estimations of pumpkins with a sparkler. Using the camera’s manual settings of ISO 80, f8 and shutter speed of 15 seconds and manually focusing beforehand using a torch. I then lit a sparkler and waved it about in what I thought was a pumpkin shaped pattern. I’m sure most children will be able to paint a better pumpkin than mine.Photo of sparkler pumpkin

Hallowe’en 2014

I wish a happy Hallowe’en to all of my friends around the world.Illustration of Rambling Ratz being turned into a frog by a rat witch

For more information about this and related festivals, you might like to read last year’s blog post, here.

As you can see from the image to the right, I made the mistake of buying cheap candy to fob off the “trick or treaters” and now my hat keeps slipping off my head.

photo of frogWhile on the subject of frogs; I encountered a common frog last night who had come in out of the rain. Frogs are obviously getting more nesh these days. They should be starting to hibernate at this time of the year, but the weather has been rather mild recently. Actually, the frogs come in to this passageway in search of slugs, which in turn are attracted to the bag of bird seed that is kept there. Gardeners, frogs are your friends, consider a pond, even a tiny one and a log pile to encourage frogs and toads to eat up your slugs and snails. There is a useful website about attracting frogs to your garden, here.

All Hallows’ Eve

Illustration of Rambling Ratz

An embarrassing selfie of me with a pumpkin stuck on my head

As I am sure you all know the 31st October, All Hallows’ Eve, is the celebration of the night before All Saints Day (a saint being a hallowed or holy and sacred person).

Such celebrations take different forms around the World. In Germany they hide all the knives so the spirits can’t be mischievous with them. In Hong Kong they leave gifts for hungry ghosts. In the United Kingdom people would light candles to guide the spirits and leave a glass of wine and a soul cake for them. Children would go door to door singing songs for the dead in exchange for these little cakes in a tradition known as “soulling”. This has developed into the modern day “trick or treat”.

It was the Scottish who shortened the name to Hallowe’en in the sixteenth century. They would light lanterns with scary faces carved from a turnip (or neep) to keep the souls of the dead away. As you may have guessed, Robert Burns wrote a poem about it, you can read the full poem here, but how about a wee snippet for ye:

engraving of Halloween celebrations

Engraving by J.M. Wright and Edward Scriven
Courtesy of Wikimedia

The simmer had been cauld and wat,
And stuff was unco green;
And aye a rantin’ kirn we gat,
And just on Halloween
It fell that night.

Before Christianity took hold in Europe, the festival was known as Samhain. The transition from October to November marked the end of the harvest, and the commencement of shorter darker days. It was believed that the souls of the dead returned to the mortal world on this night.

The Puritans who fled religious persecution in Europe and established themselves in North America were suspicious of the Pagan element to Hallowe’en and it was not widely celebrated there until the nineteenth century. However, it has now become the second most popular festival involving decorations after Christmas. The American way of celebrating Hallowe’en has been exported back to Europe and spread to Australia, Japan and South America. It involves much carving of pumpkins which has become an art form in itself, dressing up and “trick or treating”.candles-f8-1sixth

Meanwhile, in India and in other Hindu and Jain communities the five day festival of lights known as Diwali is celebrated. It signifies the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness. This is an over simplification of a very complicated festival, but it is interesting that all over the World at this time of year people are lighting lanterns for one reason or another.

The Ivy is A-Buzz

Ivy is an evergreen climbing plant that will quickly cover walls and trees if left unchecked. Needless to say, in Rambling Ratz’s garden it is left unchecked.

photo of bee

Honey Bee

However, before you leap to judgement about my scruffiness, allow me to explain how useful ivy is. The leaves provide food for caterpillars; the flowers produce nectar for bees, butterflies, hoverflies and other flying insects and the berries sustain the birds through winter. These berries are mildly toxic to humans, but poisonings are rare as they taste so bitter.This is not the same as Poison Ivy found in North America.

hoverfly on ivyHoverflies are true flies that have evolved to mimic wasps and bees to deter predators. They do not sting. There are over two hundred and fifty different types in the UK. This site has a useful gallery of them, I believe the hoverfly in these photos is a type of Epistrophe.

As you may have guessed, there is some folklore involving ivy. Dissolving ivy berries in vinegar and drinking the concoction before imbibing alcohol was supposed to prevent a hangover. The Greeks named the plant, Cissos after the dancing girl who danced herself to death for Dionysus the god of wine and merrymaking. He was so impressed by her twirling that he immortalized her as an ivy plant.photo of hoverfly on ivy

It is one of the Christmas evergreen decorations along with holly and mistletoe, but you mustn’t cut it before Christmas Eve or there will be disharmony in the household; this could explain many a festive falling out. People are unsure about how lucky ivy actually is, so to be on the safe side it is best to decorate only the outside of your house with it.

photo of hoverfly on ivyAnother fun thing you can do with ivy, as Hallowe’en approaches, is for each family member to write their name on an ivy leaf and leave it overnight in a bowl of water. When the leaves are checked in the morning, if someone’s name has turned into the shape of a coffin, their death is imminent; that’ll be a nice game for the kids! A cheerier thing to do with ivy at Hallowe’en is for a man to pick ten ivy leaves and place nine of them under his pillow so that he will dream of his true love. Finally an ivy wreath placed on the grave of a loved one at Hallowe’en will apparently protect their soul.

As ever Rambling Ratz does not endorse the above folk remedies, drinking to excess or accepting bookings from Greek gods to entertain them.DSCN0146-hoverfly