Sunday, December 11, 2005

red umbrella day

market day in the Lemurian archipelago and today red umbrellas were very much in evidence

Sunday, November 27, 2005

woodcutter's tale

Once upon a time there was a village of woodcutters. It wasn't a large village but it was close to several forests and the inhabitants had naturally become woodcutters and had cut down trees for centuries. In the fullness of time, due to an increase in demand for wood, they had cleared the forest and replanted but the new trees had not grown well and now the woodcutters were all out of work. Only one forest remained untouched and legend had it that it was enchanted and therefore dangerous to go into; so nobody ever did. Some of the woodmen sought work elsewhere and some stayed and did other things and the village became very poor.

One day, a woodcutter travelling from another area, arrived in the village and saw the enchanted forest and did not understand why it was still there. The villagers patiently explained that the forest was enchanted and nobody dared enter it. The new arrival scoffed at this and thought he would have a bit of a laugh. He didn’t believe in enchanted forests so he made himself a grotesque mask and declared to the villagers that he would show them that he could go and cut down some trees and that nothing would happen to him. So he strode off to the forest. At the edge he put on his mask and walked in among the trees and, a short while later, strode out again. All the villagers, seeing his grotesque face, fled in terror. He thought this was hilarious and made his way into the village.

By now his face was getting sweaty from the heat of the mask so he walked up to the water fountain in the middle of the village and took off the mask to wash his face. When he looked in the water to wash his face, his face under the mask was exactly the same as the mask he had just removed.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Soulfood chocolate - dragon

I chose my chocolate because it was wrapped in metal foil with an oriental design on it and this is what I found inside:

'"Colouring dragons
To enter simply click the image of the beautiful Chinese Dragon and print out an enlarged copy. Colour it. Write the phrase "Once upon a time in a faraway village..." and then put some action words in your draft book." Actually my dragon is one which I embroidered on a dressing gown I made for my husband,

Once upon a time in a faraway village on the other side of the world there lived a little boy called Yan. He lived in a small fishing village on the banks of the river.

One day Yan was sitting on the riverbank fishing. It was a warm, sunny afternoon. The fish didn't seem to be biting much that day and he was beginning to doze. So he wasn't surprised to hear the sound of sobbing coming from close at hand. In his dreams he thought it must be his little sister, who had fallen and hurt herself but the sound became so persistent that he completely woke up again. It seemed to be coming from behind a pile of rocks. He crept closer until he could peer round them.

Sitting on the river beach was a small, brightly coloured dragon; sobbing as if its heart would break. Yan was a kind boy who hated to see anyone in trouble and he didn't seem the least bit surprised to see a dragon. He climbed over the rocks and went down on to the beach.

"Hello" he said to the dragon which lifted its head mournfully, looked at him with huge, tear-filled eyes and carried on crying all the harder. "Who are you?" asked Yan, and then "what's the matter?" The dragon wiped a five clawed foot across its nose and whimpered "I've lost it. They're all so angry". "Lost what and who will be angry?" asked Yan, deeply perplexed. "Why, the flaming pearl, of course. What else do you think I'm talking about?"
Yan realised that this was going to take a while and sat down on a sun-warmed rock. "Please start from the beginning and tell me who you are and what's happened, otherwise I can't possibly help you". The dragon sniffed and appeared relieved that someone was willing to listen to it and it started to recount its tale of woe.

His name was Rang Chu and he was an imperial dragon - as anyone could see who knew anything about these things because he had five toes. He lived in a celestial palace, decorated with all the colours of the rainbow, with his imperial parents, brothers and sisters. It turned out that, just for a lark, he and two of his brothers had "borrowed" the flaming pearl and had been having a game of football with it. In a fit of enthusiasm he had kicked it too hard and it had flown out of the window and had now disappeared. In everyone's bad books, he had been temporarily banished from the heavens until he found it. This was how he came to be sitting on the riverbank.

Yan knew enough about rivers to know that anything that fell into the river would eventually find its way to the sea.

"My father has a boat which we could sail down to the sea. Come with me and I'll help you look for the pearl". Rang Chu gratefully accepted his offer. "But you must promise not to breathe any fire while you're in the boat or it will catch fire and we'll both be drowned". The dragon agreed to this condition.
Together they got into the boat, which leaned dangerously to one side with the weight of the young dragon prince. As an afterthought Yan said "wait a minute, I'm just going to fetch my cormorant. He might be very useful". So saying, he climbed out of the boat, ran up the beach, untied the cormorant from the piling on which it was perched and carried it back triumphantly to the boat. "If the pearl has fallen to the bottom of the sea he will be able to dive for it", he explained to the dragon.

The current took them swiftly down river, through the flat marshy estuary and finally to a beach of fine white sand. They tied the boat to an old tree and set off to look along the tide line to see if the pearl had been washed up. As they kicked the piles of seaweed to see if it was hidden underneath, Yan found bits of coloured sea glass, shards of broken porcelain and brightly coloured shells. Soon his pockets bulged with his trophies. Rang Chu had no pockets but he had good eyesight and eagerly scanned the beach for anything he thought Yan might like.

After several hours of fruitless search they began to feel hungry. Yan's cormorant caught them some fish which Rang Chu carefully grilled with a blast of fiery breath, so as not to scorch it. In the meantime Yan explained the problem to the cormorant. It asked Yan leave to go and consult the shore-dwelling cormorants.

It was quite excited when it eventually returned. The mermaids have got your flaming pearl. Except that it's not flaming anymore", it added. Yan was aghast to hear this for he knew how difficult it was to get back anything lost to the mer-people. "Do you have any ideas?" he asked the cormorant. It thought for a while and then said that the mer-people would return it if they were given something in exchange. Yan racked his brains to think of something. "Why don't you fashion a necklace?" asked Rang Chu at length. "with what?" "Well, you've got pockets full of stuff" replied the dragon, whose eyes had just fallen on a piece of slivery wire. "Use the wire to wrap round some pieces of sea glass and put the wire through the holes in the shells. Then you'll have a wonderful necklace". Yan thought this was a great idea and found a large, flat stone to use as a work surface. He selected bits of green glass and pink shells and, in no time, had assembled a necklace fit for a queen. He proudly showed it to the dragon and the cormorant. The cormorant agreed to act as go-between and flew off with the necklace safely wedged in its beak.

Yan and the dragon eagerly scanned the horizon for the cormorant's return. They waited and waited. The sun was just beginning to go down and the beach was flooded with pink and gold when the bird returned. He flew down to join them and carefully put the pearl on the sand before them. The dragon was so pleased he could hardly restrain himself from breathing a veritable fire ball. "Careful" warned Yan. "It's all very well to dry the pearl but you don't want to incinerate it". The dragon agreed this that this would not be a good idea and asked Yan to look after it for him. He would return to the celestial palace next morning but, for now, he wanted to spend some more time with his new-found friends. They had another meal of fish and then settled down for the night, with Yan leaning against the dragon's side to keep warm.

At dawn the next day Rang Chu took his leave and flew into the sky. Yan and the cormorant stared after him until their eyes hurt and he was no more than a speck in the sky. "Do you think we'll ever see him again?" asked Yan. "Depends on whether he plays football again, I suppose" smirked the cormorant who was feeling very pleased with its role in the story.

Although Yan and the cormorant watched for him, all they ever saw, or thought they saw, was a dragon shaped cloud apparently chasing the sinking sun from time to time.

the cherubim's tale

On my journey to the House of Serpents you will recall that I was removed from my donkey Ariel by a hooded rider and that I only discovered its identity when its hood slipped off as it was leaving me. Well, while we were flying, my cherubim decided it wanted to talk. In fact it proved to be a very talkative cherubim, what with having a captive audience and all that. I’m always eager to hear other people’s stories so this way I was killing two birds with one stone.

The cherubim told me that when it is not helping out lost strangers in the outlands of Duwamish, it normally resides in a fresco in a church that goes by the odd name of St Nicholas of the roofs on the island of Cythara. I’d heard of this island and of this particular church. In fact there is another curiously named church on the island called St Nicholas of the cats. Apparently St Nicholas kept cats to keep the serpents away. Does the House of Serpents have a resident cat, by any chance?

St Nicholas of the roofs is so called because the church has two roofs, one on top of the other but nobody seems to know why this is and the church is full of frescoes peopled by all sorts of creatures, many of whom are employed in a similar fashion to the cherubim, who was currently acting as my flying taxi. Unfortunately the contributions from the tourists were not enough to keep them all in the pristine condition they could wish. My cherubim pointed out that the price of armour oil being what it was, it was no wonder its amour was starting to go rusty and that this was why a number of them had sought employment elsewhere – being a pretty face just didn’t hack it. Although I had my trusty digital camera with me the cherubim wouldn’t allow me to take a photo of it, as the bright light from a flash was harmful to frescoes and it was already looking a bit faded around the edges.

It recounted to me all the marvellous things it had seen, it had been present when Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified and had ascended into Heaven. It had seen the arrival of many of the other frescoes over the decades. I asked it if it had a favourite fresco and it replied that its favourite was the Tree of Jesse. It passed the time of day by inventing histories for all the people depicted there. I asked it to describe the church for me. It explained that this particular church was considered so special that the people from Unesco had declared it to be worthy of being nominated to cultural heritage status and that there were a total of ten such churches on the island. It personally had not visited any of the other churches, not wishing to know what the competition was, but it assured me that hearsay had it that the others were pretty good too, although of course, not in the same league as St Nicholas of the roofs. St Nicks had the added advantage of being situated in a woodland spot, not in the middle of some baking hot village in the middle of nowhere, although St John’s did benefit from the river running by. St John’s was also inhabited so there was a constant to-ing and fro-ing of resident monks, priests and visitors, which made life all the more interesting.

St Nicks, as it affectionately described its home, was also home to a large collection of icons. The icons were housed on an iconostasis (posh name for a wooden screen), but they were an arrogant lot – too much gold – and didn’t have much to do with the frescoes. The icons were actually convinced that they were the sole reason tourists visited the church. The cherubim sniffed in disgust at this. I could see its point. All that glitters is not gold. The icons were also considerably smaller than the frescoes and from their lofty perches looked down upon the frescoes. Poison comes in small packages they say and the cherubim didn’t have a good word to say for the icons, snooty lot that they were. They disregarded the frescoes, who were afraid of the light and lived in the dimmer recesses of the church. They didn’t wear rich clothes either, for their clothes, such as they were, were distinctly threadbare. No bright colours either, their colours having faded in successive washes as misguided restorers had sought to renew their colours. Nor were the frescoes decorated with silver or gold. What they did have however, was the detail with which their clothes had been painted and the liveliness of their facial expressions, particularly those who dwelt in Hell. The angelic ones, on the other hand looked stiff and uncomfortable. Who was to say which were the better off. My cherubim explained that it was perfectly happy where it was, on one of the columns just inside the entrance to the church so that it had a good vantage point from which to observe all the visitors to the church. On a good day, you might get half a dozen. The individual visitors were by far the best contributors, the coach tours were just rabble. All they wanted was to be able to boast about how many churches they’d visited and to buy a T-shirt. Sniff.

I asked why it was wearing a hooded cape. Oh that’s just a gimmick it replied handing me a business card on which I read the logo “Black Cape Enterprises. Flying Taxi Service. We take you beyond”. Beyond what, I wondered but thought “well I have already gone beyond my normal boundaries, so why not?”

forthcoming events

10th of December. It is Red Umbrella Market Day and we will be having special night market at the Archipelago to view some potential goodies for Christmas. The market will have many stalls, under red umbrellas of course, and sideshows and the divination tent will be open.

17th December is Baba Yaga's Masque Ball.

The idea will be that on those days there will be material and links to specific event blogs so that everyone can post something 'simultaneously'

Masques and masks

"MASQUE" courtly form of dramatic spectacle, popular in England in the first half of the 17th cent. The masque developed from the early 16th-century disguising, or mummery, in which disguised guests bearing presents would break into a festival and then join with their hosts in a ceremonial dance. As the form evolved, the important elements retained were the use of the mask and the mingling of actors and spectators. Reaching its height in the early 17th cent., the masque became a magnificent and colorful spectacle, presented in public theaters and, with more splendor, in the royal courts. The actors personified pastoral and mythological figures, with great emphasis placed on music and dance. The foremost writer of the masque was Ben Jonson. However, it was his collaborator Inigo Jones, the theatrical architect, famous for his elaborate costume designs, settings, and scenic effects, who gave the masque its greatest popularity. Some of their more successful masques include The Masque of Blackness (1605) and Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue (1618).
from - the Colombia Encyclopaedia

Pandora is hoping to have some very special masks delivered in time for Baba's Bal Masqué.
Please put a picture of your mask and your costume into Pandora's Costume Box of Performances, together with anything you might wish to perform

Baba has been thinking about a masque bal

Baba has been thinking and when Baba thinks anything is likely to happen. She has been wary of all these artistic types who have descended upon her and has decided to test them a little. She is planning to have a Masque Ball in her Boudoir. Everyone is expected to come in full costume, make a grand entrance and amuse Baba with a short act. Is that a distant cackle I hear or that old rooster crowing joyfully?

Pied piper's call

When le Enchanteur is in Pied Piper mode there is electricity in the air and Pegasus cannot resist coming to take someone with her, on the wings of imagination. Le Enchanteur is playing a tune that the hardiest of travellers will find hard to resist. Follow her and go for a night ride, beyond that Harvest Moon, with Pegasus. Pegasus will take you anywhere in the world. He is yours for the night.

Get yourselves up and moving off early to the Sunday Market at the Archipelago.
Le Enchanteur is offering a special divination deal this Sunday. You will have to contact her to enter her tent and participate and gain self insight.

All roads lead to the Market Place on Sundays. Catch a raven, a donkey, a ferry or whatever means of transport available.

And now! Simply enjoy the realm. We will have a Maidens jaunt to the Amazon
Queen's palace for old time's sake but not for a week or so.

Raven courier - postcard home

Dear Mum and Dad,
just to let you know that I’m still travelling. I’ve been staying in a place called Duwamish for the last couple of weeks and last night a whole group of us met up to go to Vi’s festival of lights. We danced the night away. I don’t think I’ll be able to walk again for a couple of days. We should be moving off to the Amazon Queen’s camp in a week or so.

Vi's festival of lights - the party

A hunter’s moon had risen earlier in the evening. Initially a deep orange as it appeared over the horizon, it was now the colour of clotted cream with indistinct patterns on it that could have been celestial landmasses. Moonlight flooded the woods and the autumn trees stood in silhouette, their leafless branches making a lacy tracery against the moon.

Lights of all descriptions had been hung in the trees round the glade. Huge pumpkins that had been hollowed out were placed in a large circle. These ones didn’t have the garish Halloween faces carved in them but lots of round holes in symmetric patterns, which allowed the light to spill out. Gourds, which had been hollowed out too and had patterns pierced in them, hung from branches.

A large trestle table had been set up in the centre. Covered in a white cloth, it was already groaning under the weight of the food that had been piled on it. All the gypsies in the camp had been busy cooking for days in preparation and a sharp spicy smell hung in the air.

In the camp the fires burned brightly casting shadows over the coloured wagons. At Lavengro’s suggestion, one of the gypsy women had gone with Vi to Pandora’s Wardrobe to help her choose something to wear for the evening. It had been a difficult choice and she was just putting the final touches to her costume. She now appeared at the top of the steps of the wagon. She was wearing long heavy silk pants, a long sleeved silk shirt, a jewelled waistcoat and jewelled slippers. A kerchief covered her hair edged with little golden coins and she also wore a large cape, which billowed as she moved. She came carefully down the steps and immediately four children seemed to appear from nowhere. Each of them carried a lantern. A woman behind them carried a glass pitcher of water, which would be sprinkled in libation before the meal began. Other figures now drifted into the firelight and sounds of laughter filled the air together with a multitude of different accents. The firelight lit their faces and their gaily-coloured costumes for everyone had rummaged to the bottom of their clothes chests to get out their finery for this festival. The air was still and the fires burned with steady flames.

When everyone had assembled Lavengro called for silence and as the last chatter died down his strong voice resounded round the camp “welcome travellers one and all to this festival of lights for Vi”. Loud applause greeted this announcement. “We will proceed to the glade of enlightenment where we will make the blessing and give thanks. The meal will be followed by music and dancing. Michael will now play the proceeding song” and a man standing on his left shouldered his violin and bowed out the first notes. As the last notes faded away the crowd processed towards the glade and in the silence that followed only the night birds could be heard.

There was a gasp of awe from the children as they entered the glade and saw all the lights. They fanned out in a large circle around the table. The woman carrying the glass pitcher walked into the centre of the circle. She poured water first on the ground and then on her hands and threw the water up into the air, droplets spinning out in all directions. “For and with this water we give thanks for our food and for our lives”. Lavengro, taking Vi’s hands in his own and holding them up in the air, added “and for Vi." He clapped his hands and said, “let the feasting begin”.

There were purple figs, with their masses of red seeds gaping through slits in the skins, golden persimmons glowing in the light and fat dark dates. Stews flavoured with wild mushrooms, wild duck eggs, and a hot dry goat stew flavoured with red chillies vied with each other in the aromas they gave off. The Indian gypsies had provided mounds of sweetmeats, wrapped in the fine edible silver foil. There were baked apples with walnuts and cinnamon, desserts of wild damsons and jugs of ruby wine. The crowd fell to with a will and for a while, only the sound of people eating broke the silence that had descended over the glade.

At length, when all the food had been cleared away the crowd moved back to the camp for the music and dancing. As the feast was in Vi’s honour, Lavengro led her in the first dance – a slow, graceful dance involving lots of swirls, which showed off Vi’s costume. After that the dancing and music began to speed up and would get wilder later on. Carpets had been dragged out of the wagons and colourful cushions were piled up so that the non-dancers could sit and watch the fun.

The Enchantress was one of the first to get up and dance and looked stunning in her blue dress from Pandora’s wardrobe. Anita Marie had decided to wear her skin-tight black leather “Avengers” cat suit with black high-heeled boots, which unfortunately hindered her dancing as they stuck in the earth. Gail was wearing a flowing multi-tiered red skirt, a black top, gold hoop earrings and soft black shoes that seemed to be moulded to her feet. Karen was dressed in wood green and had garlands of wild flowers twisted in her hair. Monika, the hermitess, wore a pumpkin coloured gown with necklaces of seeds and Traveller wore a dress of green and purple, echoing the fluorite necklace she wore.

The musicians played their assortment of pipes, drums and stringed instruments until people could dance no more and their voices had grown hoarse from singing. Many hours later when the fires had burned down to embers the last musician wiped his violin and, wrapping it up in a soft cloth, walked slowly back to his wagon. A dog barked once and it, too, lay down to sleep.

Duwamish chronicle

Last night saw the annual celebration of the festival of lights, this time in the gypsy camp. Travellers from all points of the compass had assembled and Vi was the guest of honour to celebrate her recovery to good health.
Residents of Duwamish commented that this particular festival had produced some of the best music that had been heard for years. The local food suppliers complained that the shelves had been swept clear as if a horde of locusts had descended on the town but they happily jingled the resultant coins in their pockets. No arrests had been made although there were reports of very curious smells emanating from the woods. Sales of violins had apparently also increased.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Festival of lights and more

Hello Everyone
Gail has been planning a Festival of Lights in the Gypsy camp and we agree that while it may not be Vi's birthday on Nov 1 we will simply celebrate her good health, along with others who have not been well and are still here to

This time last year, as many of you will recall, we had the ravens up on Soul
Food looking out for Vi. I sent a host of them out from the rookery and the
good news is that you are well Vi. So we will save the birthday celebrations
until the 22 when you have your birthday Vi.

Now the festivities are going to be quite substantial. Here is a sneak preview
of just some of what is planned.

1. A special trip to the Isle of Ancestors for November 2nd. Folk will be taken on a night ride, leaving from the camp, to meet the Ferrywomen who do this trip.

2. Halloween Party in the camp. There has been a lot of planning and the aim is to have everyone come in costume and do a presentation. It can be something borrowed so don't get stage fright but remember, Soul Food's main purpose is to provide a stage for you all.

3. Show off projects like the Altered Book for Frida Kahlo that Gail has been doing. See Baba's Soul Day to view this project.

4. A Footprint Challenge - to create a footprint for a friend or ancestor who
has greatly influenced you and your creative work.
See to see some samples of things people have done on shoe insoles.

5. Muse giving! Thanksgiving is such a lovely festival. We don't have it in
Australia but I have often had a Muse Giving at this time of the year and
encouraged people to offer things that people might be interested in doing. For example someone might ask the Amazon Queen to take them to the Reflective Lake and leave an offering for the muse.

and so much more. It is all beginning. And then there is the Advent Calendar in December. My goodness! And I am supposedly retired.

love to all

Lemurian archipelago - a visit to my own island

The enchantress has waved her magic wand again and each of us now has an island in the Lemurian archipelago. Mine is called Laroc.

Yesterday I went to visit it. Alec, who had taken me to White Owl Island, very kindly agreed to take me there. As it happened it's close to where he had left some of his lobster pots so he was happy to take me as it gave him a chance to see if he had caught anything. The island is close to the mainland but not close enough to swim across to it nor to walk across the strand at low tide. It's small - you can walk round it in a couple of hours - but is home to a host of seabirds, a particularly rare vole and masses of wild flowers. There is only one small pebbly cove and a single white painted cottage with blue window frames sits huddled up under the cliff for protection from the occasional spells of bad weather.
Alec dropped me off and said he would return for me, after having checked his pots. The pebbles scrunched under my feet and brought back childhood memories of one particular Easter seaside holiday.

My parents had rented a holiday cottage at a place called Bee Sands on the North Devon Coast. We were quite a houseful with my parents, my younger sister and brother, three of our cousins and me. I must have been about 12. The cottage was right on the beach, which was a shingle beach. I remember that the weather was not particularly kind to us but that didn't stop us from spending hours on the beach collecting shells, coloured pebbles and sea glass and returning to the cottage with our wellington boots full of water. They never had time to dry out before the next soaking and there was always a row of boots with newspaper stuck in them by the door. The cousins showed us endless card tricks and we spent a lot of time sketching. Cousin Robin went on to become a graphics artist and my sister is now a well-known watercolour and mixed media artist in the US. My brother and I, whilst we could both draw and paint, didn't possess the skill of our sister or of our cousin.

I looked down at my feet as I crossed the shingle and knew I could spend hours here, beachcombing, too. Coloured bits of glass caught my eye and I bent down to pick some of them up and tucked them away in one of my pockets. If I wrapped each piece in wire I could fashion a sort of necklace with them. I walked up the beach to the cottage and went in.

It was warm and dry inside. White painted walls and cheerful red and white checked curtains greeted me. There was a fireplace with a fire already laid in it, a table, a chair, a bed with a colourful patchwork quilt on it and a small cooking range. Someone must have been expecting me for the kettle was singing merrily on the hob and a china mug had been set out nearby. A stone jar, with a handwritten label marked "inspiration tea", contained a number of muslin bags with crushed dried leaves inside. I sniffed one but couldn't identify the smell. Even when I poured the boiling water over the little bag I didn't immediately recognise it. It was only when I had taken a couple of mouthfuls that I realised that it reminded me of cinnamon and chocolate.

A driftwood sculpture - a sort of figure I guessed to be a representation of the spirit of the place with seaweed for its "hair" - hung on the wall and there was a pile of driftwood in a basket near the hearth.

I carried the mug of "inspiration tea" outside and sat on the bench, leaning back against the cottage wall. It was warm in the sunshine and I nearly dozed off. I would endeavour to return here to spend a couple of days in writing and contemplation, if I could, before we moved off to the camp of the Amazon queen.

High above me the gulls carried on an incessant chattering and squabbling, the black and white guillemots were lined up against the cliffs facing each other in serried ranks and I caught the occasional glimpse of a puffin - or sea parrot as it is affectionately known because of its huge multi-coloured beak. The island was mined with rabbit holes which were also home to the puffins and you had to tread carefully if you did not want to end up with a twisted ankle from catching your foot in one of these holes. Sea pinks covered the cliffs in their green pincushion tufts and the coconutty smell of the yellow gorse wafted over me.

I could hardly believe it when I heard Alec's shout announcing his arrival. I rinsed the mug out and replaced it in the kitchen, closed the door behind me and walked down the beach to the little boat. Alec had two glossy blue lobsters in the bottom of the boat and was pleased with his catch. I too was pleased with my catch and the inspiration tea was already bubbling away inside me.

Traditional Irish wake at the gypsy camp

All the travellers on their way to the Gypsy Camp are invited to take part in a traditional Irish Wake to celebrate the life of Megan's mother.

The dear lady will be celebrated with song, story and poems. The Gypsy Chief will sing the traditional Wake song The Parting Glass.

An Irish Wake is a joyous occasion, to give thanks for the life that was lived, and the time shared, with a beloved person.

All are welcome. Sing her on her way to Heaven!


In memoriam

the wheel of life spins slowly on and spinning takes us with it. At first it's slow, as a child you wonder whether you will ever reach the end of your journey. As the days flow into years and tens of years, the end approaches all too fast until you career like a rollercoaster towards the mouth of the tunnel and disappear in a flash of golden sparks, a catherine wheel that gives one final gaudy show and is then eclipsed.
Let us raise a glass and wish Megan's mother safely on her way to the other side.

Vi's Festival of lights the gypsy camp

The next traveller's celebration day at the Gypsy Camp will be Vi's birthday on November 1.
I have just been down to the Gypsy Camp for a cup of tea, and they tell me that as November 1 is also Diwali, the Indian Festival of Lights, they will be hanging up lights through the trees and the
caravans in honor of the Goddess Lakshmi, who brings good fortune.

The Gypsy King has decreed that Vi will be a Goddess for her birthday and that it will be celebrated with lights - doesn't matter what kind, candles, stars, sunshine, sparkling gems, lanterns,
campfires - Vi will be bathed in the light of our love and respect for her.

It sounds like it will be a lovely night and though I know October 31/November 1 will be a busy time with all the activities planned, I hope you can make it.
If you want to know more about Diwali, try

I'll be reminding you all again before the event. I have also posted this at the Gypsy Camp and L'Enchanteur.
In the meantime, of course, everyone is welcome at the Gypsy Camp at any time. Just loll around and listen to the songs and stories or share some of your own.

Party On!



There are 30 pearls on the string, uniform in neither colour nor shape. They slip through my fingers like a rosary as I chant my litany of memories. The 2 green pearls represent the envy I felt when my sister gave birth to the two children I could never have. The black ones represent the loss of loved ones. The irregular freshwater or baroque pearls - depending on how you look at them - represent the times that things didn't go according to plan and went completely pear-shaped and the brightly coloured, almost iridescent ones represent the wonderful holidays we have been lucky to have abroad in exotic places. I note with sadness that the black ones are more frequent now. In between are the plainer pearls untinged by sadness or excitement but happy nonetheless. I count my blessings.

Passing the time in Duwamish

Sunday market day

Hello Travellers
It is Sunday Market Day over at the Enchanteur's Island on the Archipelago and all passport carrying travellers are welcome to join in and participate freely. The Enchanteur has organised an Ozzie style bar-b-que and the Ferry Women are taking people across to show off their wares. Talent Scouts and Gallery owners will be there checking things out what is new and quirky.

So if you have a piece, advertisement, photograph or idea that you want to put up for travellers of the Silk Road to see make for the Island post haste. One blog per person please.

If in any doubt about the location of the Archipelago in relation to where you are in the realm check the map on the Grotto Blogger. It takes an hour by boat and five minutes by Raven. Pegasus does free rides on Market Day and if you say the right magic words he will come and take you.

Travellers from all corners of the realm will be making their way to the Island.


Gusari camp - just six places

Hello Everyone
You better get on your bikes folks because faucon is only offering six 'soundings'. Given how much work is involved, given his integrity I think this is an incredibly generous offer. So the first six to knock on his door will be the first to receive his soundings. The condition is that these people will have to report on this experiment to the rest of us on the Gusari Blogger. Seems fair to me don't you think?

Now no stampeding darlings!


Two weeks in Duwamish

Dear Travellers
After having been on the road for eight weeks le Enchanteur has decided to let us stay in Duwamish for two weeks before moving on to the Lemurian Abbey for the performance in the banquet hall. By all accounts highwaymen have been marauding up and down the roads to the Abbey, kidnapping travellers and plundering and stealing things so it would not be a good idea to head down there for awhile. Hopefully they will get bored or the Amazonians will drum them out of the realm.

So make yourselves comfortable here and consider whether you want to set up a peddlar's cart and if you are up to the final part of the journey. The final leg will take you to the Abbey, to Baba Yaga's and on, by caravans, across the little desert, by camel, to the Amazon Queen's Camp. At the Amazon Queens camp there will be great celebrations and preparations for the 2005 Advent Calendar which will be released during the 25 days of December.

Of course, the two weeks in Duwamish will not be boring. There is a trip planned to the Lemurian Archipelago and faucon has some Gusari Magic that he is going to provide for those who visit the nearby Gusari encampment. Trust me! le Enchanteur is not going to miss the Gusari Camp.

Just as well the Abbey has been put back for a few weeks is all I can say.

Night now thrill seekers

Out and about in Duwamish

Hello Everyone
I am not sure what you are all up to, how you are filling in your time in Duwamish but there are lots of 'activities' to choose from.

Let's see: The Duwamish Curiosity Shop has opened in the Duwamish Cemetery. It is inside a Mausoleum with an amazing angel, rescued from New Orleans, gracing the door. The Curiosity Shop will be a most interesting place to visit if the creator of 'Duwamish', Anita Marie Moscoso is up to her usual tricks. And given the story about Ballast Island I figure she is firing on all cylinders right now.

Then we have the Gusari encampment in a glade not far from the Gypsies. Ken (faucon) is offering fabulous stuff for us about these ancient wanderers and is even offering, as a Gusari, to provide private reading. Too good to miss! I will be sending out invitations to join this later tonight but first Ken and I have to get some links right so that you can read up on the Gusari.

Apart from this a boat ride is planned for later in the week which will take us past the eerie Ballast Island and on to the Lemurian Archipelago where travellers will be able to spend time being creative on their own magic island tops, in custom prepared boat style sheds.

And Hermitage Publications will be providing an evening at the inn and you will be able to learn more about what is offering from them.

Last but not least travellers who have not been to the Isle of Ancestors may just want to get to the ferry and go on this once in a life time journey. this is not something you miss.

Whooo whooo said the White Owl as she dipped her wings and flew back towards White Owl Island.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Baba Yaga's handmaidens

This picture sums up for me what we are as doorkeepers/handmaidens. The sculpture, by Auguste Rodin, is entitled the 'cathedral'. The hands are protective, enfolding, offering sanctuary. All who enter our doors will find peace from the world outside and inspiration for their lives.

White Owl Island

Shortly before 4pm I picked up my swansdown cape and my little pouch and set off for the quay.

It turned out that Madame Livia had been in communication with the Enchantress while I was in her bookshop and, by some special arrangement between the Enchantress and the Magiratha, had managed to organise a trip for me to White Owl Island to meet the Magiratha. She had told me to be at the harbour at 4 o'clock and to look for a boat with a white owl painted on it. So here I was, punctual to the minute, looking around for the boat.

The little boat was easy to spot and I walked eagerly to the edge of the quay and announced my presence to the young fisherman in the boat. He told me his name was Alec and that he would take me out to the island. His mop of brown curly hair lifted slightly in the breeze and a huge smile lit his sun-burned face when he talked. I handed him 5 owlets - special coins with a picture of an owl on them - the price of my trip.

He pushed the boat away from the quay and we were off. I installed myself in the bow of the boat and wrapped my swansdown cape around me to keep me warm and dry. Although it had been warm enough on shore, now out at sea there was a distinct chill. The water was a deep blue with little crests of white. Tall cliffs loomed on our left and sea birds called to us as we passed.

We were in open water now and headed towards a small dot on the horizon. Alec increased the speed of the boat and we soon reached the cliffs of White Owl Island. He took the boat into a small cove with a small rocky quay at which he anchored and helped me to climb out of the boat. He told me to make my way up the cliff path and I would be met. He told me that he would be waiting for me when I returned.

I slowly walked up the path, not really knowing what to expect. I soon became aware of a whisper of wings in the air and looked up to see first one and then two and then three snowy owls hanging in the air above me. They greeted me with soft tuwit tuwhoos and their big yellow eyes gleamed like lamps in the now setting sun. As I neared the top of the path I could see the outline of a woman silhouetted against the sky.

She waited until I had reached the top and then took my hands in hers. "Welcome to White Owl Island. I am here to take you to meet the Magiratha (or Owl as she is also known). Please come with me." By now the sun had gone down completely and the sky was lit with the most fabulous sunset.

Glow worms started to light up along our path and the moon slowly rose in the sky, a bright orange harvest moon. I hadn't realised until now that there would be a full moon this night. I could still hear the whisper of wings and knew that the owls were keeping us company. We were walking along a path of springy turf, which I guessed would be home to a multitude of rabbits by day. The sky was beginning to light up as the stars came out. It was going to be an exceptionally clear night. The woman's warm hand squeezed my own as she urged me on. My heartbeat quickened.

At length we came to an elevation with a single stone in the middle and a rowan tree. Four priestesses were waiting. After a short ceremony during which the stone was anointed with honey and a star sapphire touched to my forehead I was led to the entrance of the labyrinth. I passed between the stones that form the entrance. I bore in my mind the thought that a labyrinth is not a maze. "It's more of a spiral. A journey with no false passages. No blind alleys. Walking in a maze we could be lost. Walking a spiral path requires only the knowledge that it is a path and not a maze. The road may curve. Directions may change. Sometimes we'll be walking the opposite direction for a while". After only a few minutes I emerged in the centre.

The White Owl was standing before me. I bowed before her holding my hands, palms upwards, towards her. The question I wished to ask her is hovering at the back of my mind. She said softly "I am a mirror to those who come through the winding way. I vow to be the sealer as well as the revealer. What is your question?"

"How can I make the most of this journey?" The owl gave me this blessing: "travel with your eyes and ears open. Listen to the wind. Be aware. Speak not only with your mouth but your heart. You will see much and you should spread the word of what you have experienced. Go in peace with the wind oh daughter".

I thanked her with all my heart and left her a handful of seed pearls in reconnaissance. Unnoticed, the priestesses had followed me through the labyrinth and now led me out, along the turf path and back to the small stone jetty where Alec was waiting for me. As he took me back to Duwamish the sun was just rising, streaking the sky with crimson, pink and gold.

"I will go where the wild goose goes, on wings of joy, winging ever south to my heart's desire."

North Star Studios and the bookshop of chaos

I decided to visit the North Star Studios first. The blurb said that it was governed by Providence and that you had to make a wish. I was so busy wondering what I could wish that I bumped into the rickety garden gate knocking it right of its hinges. I immediately knew what my wish would be - I had the perfect gate at home sitting unused in a corner of the garden. I could wish its immediate transfer here, only after checking with the gallery owner of course, that such a gift would be welcomed.

I walked up the path through a truly exuberant garden and stopped to look in the window which was filled with mouth watering treasures - some raku sculptures, a magnificent ceramic torso and a Japanese doll. I couldn't wait to get inside.

The magic was upon me already. I stepped in to find a veritable Aladdin's cave of goodies ranging from wooden sculptures through glassware to jewellery, each piece more beautiful than the last. In a corner I found a silver horse prancing on a bed of uncut amethyst crystals. I just had to have that and duly asked the gallery owner if she would be kind enough to keep it for my return. It was only with difficulty that I tore myself away but I did want to visit the bookshop and the Wunderkabinett (the Old Curiosity Shop).

Madame Livia's Bookshop of Chaos was only a couple of blocks away. The doorway was very small and it was quite a squeeze to get in. Was the owner trying to discourage visitors from entering or leaving? Inside there were books everywhere, not just on the shelves but in tottering piles on the floors, a small table was completely hidden under a mountain of books and magazines and revues appeared to be in imminent danger of sliding off the chair on which they had been temporarily piled.

Madame Livia's appearance was as chaotic as her name. There was more than a hint of gypsy in her I thought. Her hair flowed around her in wild abandon and she was wearing the most exotic collection of jewellery - huge earrings, a veritable cascade of necklaces and bangles on both arms. In fact, she was wearing so much that the various bits of jewellery clinked against each other and tinkled like a myriad of bells whenever she moved. She wore layer upon layer of tiered skirts in a bewildering patchwork of colours and textures. I felt sure she must be related to Madame Eclectica in some way.

She scanned me shrewdly as I carefully made my way into the shop. "Greetings Traveller. Welcome to my little world of literary chaos". How was it that everyone in this land seemed to know my name? "Hello" I said and "thank you. Please tell me, how do you know my name?" "I can read it in your face" was her slightly unnerving reply. "You have been travelling for quite a while now and your adventures are leaving indelible traces on your face but only the aware can read them". I was beginning to think she must be related to Madame Rosa, the fortune teller, as well as Baba Yaga and all the rest and to suspect some sort of conspiracy. Were they all one and the same person but appearing in different manifestations in the different places we went to? I think I might have to have a quiet word with the Enchantress when I can finally nail her down. She seems to be so elusive these days.

I explained about the jigsaw puzzle map and asked her if she had any books on cartography. She told me to go and look under a dusty aspidistra plant in the back of the shop. "Would you like a cup of herbal nonsense while you are looking around?" she enquired. I replied that I would be delighted to taste a cup of herbal nonsense. She disappeared out to the back of the shop. When she returned a little later, Madame Livia was carrying a tray with two cups of herbal nonsense on it and a plate of fairy cakes. When I went to take one, the fairy sitting on the top of the cake flew off leaving a trail of fairy dust in the form of multi-coloured hundreds and thousands sprinkled on the top of the cake.

illustration of a fairy cake

The cake and the drink were delicious. "Do you know anything about White Owl Island?" I enquired casually as I drained my cup of herbal nonsense. "Indeed I do. Why, would you be interested in visiting it?" I told her what my research had turned up and explained that I was fascinated by these old rituals and would very much like to meet the Magiratha if that could be arranged. She told me she would see what she could do.

I continued browsing through the shelves which contained many interesting volumes. I picked up a book of beautiful floral illustrations and hastily put it back again when a picture of nettles stung me where I had been foolish enough to touch the page. I was lost in contemplation of some of the illustrations in another book when she came bustling back into the shop. "It's all arranged" she beamed, "you can go to White Owl Island this afternoon. Alec will pick you up at the quay at 4 o'clock." I thanked her and headed off to the Duwamish Inn as I still hadn't checked in, which I thought I ought to do if I was likely to be out all night. The Innkeeper recognised me from my very brief previous visit and showed me to my room on the first floor in the turret from where I had a wonderful view over the harbour.

Journey to Duwamish

I was sitting in the garden at Baba Yaga’s when a raven brought me the invitation to spend a couple of days in Duwamish. My last visit there had been so short, hardly a visit at all as I was in a hurry to catch up with the rest of my group. In fact had had no chance to visit the Isle of Ancestors or even have a look round. I had also heard that there was a wonderful bookshop there and an art gallery.

It didn’t take me long to pack up my things and as they weren’t heavy and I knew that Duwamish wasn’t too far away I decided I would walk. I needed the exercise after sitting over my spinning and weaving for many hours at a time. There was an autumnal feel to the air as I set off. Fire tipped the leaves of the trees and cobwebs strung between the trees were hung with crystals, sparkling in the early morning sunlight, from the heavy dew. I saluted the spiders in their webs as I passed, now conscious of the invaluable work they do.

Eventually I came to the stream that I knew would lead me down into Duwamish Bay. The water chuckled and gurgled as it splashed down the rocky bed causing rainbows to dance in the spray. Altogether it felt good to be alive. Even the birds in the thickets along my way were singing their hearts out.

At length I reached the village and looked curiously around me, for it was the first time I would have had the chance to look around. Immediately ahead of me was a sign announcing the presence of 'Ye Olde Tea Shoppe' with the most enticing smells wafting out from it. I went in and chose a corner table near the window, from where I could view the comings and goings of people. After sitting down and ordering a pot of Earl Grey tea. I picked up several of the leaflets that had been left on the table. The first was a guide to the more interesting shops in Duwamish. The North Star Studios immediately caught my eye as did Madame Livia's Bookshop of Chaos. There was also something called the Enchanter's Wunderkabinett. I would certainly try to visit all three of these. The second leaflet bore a picture of a magnificent snowy owl and advertised private boat trips to White Owl Island, by special arrangement with the Enchantress. The third one advertised boat trips to the Isle of Ancestors. Duwamish was obviously a fascinating place and I wasn't sure I would be able to fit everything in. The White Owl Island trips only started in the early evening so I would have plenty of time to explore to my heart's content.

The prayer of the donkey

O God, who made me
to trudge along the road
to carry heavy loads
and to be beaten
Give me great courage and gentleness.
One day let somebody understand me -
that I may no longer want to weep
because I can never say what I mean
and they make fun of me.
Let me find a juicy thistle -
and make them give me time to pick it.
And, Lord, one day, let me find again
my little brother of the Christmas crib.

From "Prayers from the Ark" by Carmen Bernos de Gasztold and translated by Rumer Godden

another article in the Duwamish Courier

Much interest has been aroused in the corridors of academia by the recent discovery, in the Hermitage art museum, of a hitherto unknown manuscript. The precise nature of which is not known at this stage. There is no text but illustrations in a series of interlocking tiles reminiscent of a jigsaw puzzle. The central tiles, against a background streaked in silver, covered in intricate blue patterns appear to be Islamic but they are immediately juxtaposed to a section of a Christian stained glass window. Furthermore the inclusion of a tarot card from the notorious Alastair Crowley set (he was a renowned warlock) make this even more curious. What is the significance of the snake, a donkey unseating its rider, the woman in the boat and the old woman with bunches of flowers in her hands against a background of what appear to be bones?

The eminent "fictional art" historian, Dr Able Carol, has been called in to conduct investigations on the document but she is unwilling to make any comment at this juncture. It is hoped that carbon dating may at least prove whether the document is genuine or an elaborate modern hoax.

a magic map

Just before I set out from Baba Yaga's to walk to Duwamish, Baba Yaga presented me with this map. "It's a magic map", she explained, "if the map falls into the wrong hands nobody will be able to read it for, as you can see, it is made up like a jigsaw puzzle and the pieces will move of their own accord into the wrong place. The blue pieces represent Mnemosyne Stream which will make anybody other than you forget they have seen it afterwards. Of course, when in your hands the pieces will always be in the right place. From the stream you will always be able to find your way". I thanked her profusely for this unexpected gift and tucked it away carefully. I wasn't expecting to have to use it, but you never know.....

News of forthcoming events and an update

The Gypsies are having a celebration on September 27, in honour of Carol's 30th wedding anniversary. As this is the Pearl Anniversary, the theme will be pearls - offer your pearls of wisdom, wear strings of pearly shells, dress up as pearly Kings and Queens. We'll have the
barn doors down, Blind Murty is tuning up his fiddle, and the Gypsy Chief will be flashing his pearly whites.

Be there or be square!

Dear Gail
I really feel that what we need before the 27th - which is many days away - is for people on the road to all gather in the Gypsy Camp for a rollicking get-together. If everyone presents something, be it simply a tarot reading or a song, we can all have a jolly good time. More importantly I can snare some folk and send them along the road to where they need to be and to where they have not been. Otherwise I fear I am going to have to send out a search party for those who have been kidnapped by hooded riders.

So! Raid Pandora's costume box and get thee to the Gypsy Camp. The Gypsy Chief is waiting for your performance.

The party is really shaping up over at the Chamber of Horrors!

Visitors will be able to enter various rooms and hear stories about the Many Uses for Graveyards (these will surprise you) you'll learn about the history of Halloween and meet a Serial Killer who has taken on the most unlikely of disguises.

And are you brave enough to take a challenge brought to the Party by the Baba Yaga Herself? Try if you dare....

Theses are only the most recent offerings our many hosts have planned...stay tuned and we hope to see All at know NOT parts of you, ALL of you.

Anita Marie

Hello Hardy Travellers As the first group and the first to take upresidence at Baba Yaga's house I am about to invite you to a few blogs that will be associated with her house. There is the Golden Spindle out the back, which I have already included you in but now there are three new blogs to keep sure you don't rest - to keep you working your fingers to the bone. There is: Baba's Soul Day Celebrations for all the things you would find in South American market places during October and November. Baba's Boudoir which will be a bit of fun. Just imagine what kind of potions and spells, clothes and furniture, things stacked in her art draws. I am going to love the Boudoir. Baba's Handmaidens. Karen has done a profile for me and I am setting up a little corner at Soul Food and this will be where she can showcase stock, such as her maps, on her shelves. We have Anita Marie's curiosity shop as well and I plan to set up something for each of you - a gypsy page for Gail, Pandora's Box for Carol and so on. By the time we reach the Amazon Queens Camp the caravan we arrive in will be full of so many things to show the tribe. And you thought I had been quieter later. Quiet is dangerous! Usually it means I have been thinking.
love Sibyl

First, we are all heading down to Duwamish for a big gathering so that everyone is in one place. From there we will go to the Abbey and then on to Baba's or back to Baba's depending on where you are right now.
Word is travelling around the realm that there is to be a gathering of all travellers at the Duwamish Inn. Riders are coming to bring you from wherever you are located to stay for a few days in Duwamish - before heading to the Lemurian Abbey for a grand festival.

Some of you have been here before and I know you will be keen to revisit Duwamish and catch up with old friends like the Inn Keeper and the Ferry Women. You need to bring a special outfit, a wig, a mask, an act to perform before the Abbess, The Gorgons and the Amazon Queen who are said to be staying at the Abbey at the moment. I suggest you rummage in Pandora's Wardrobe to find the perfect apparel.

The Abbess is organising a banquet to celebrate your visit and she has asked me if you could perhaps do a poetry reading, a story telling session, a tarot reading, tell a fairy story or an old wives tale (wash her mouth out now)... oh I don't know. Some presentation of some sort that uses your distinct voice. It is a stage you see and I agreed because I figured you are all here because you are looking for a stage door, eager to walk out into the spotlight and be heard - as often as possible. You could just tell the people in the Abbey about a memorable experience on the road - or share a piece that you have written while here.

Shakespeare in the Golden Grove

It is Winnie Cross's birthday on September 1 and I have set up a small Shakespearean Theatre for her in the Golden Grove. We want a crowd to be there on opening night so if you could sign in and post a comment or a congratulatory piece that would be wonderful

To flee, or not to flee: that is the question:
whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
the insults of angry Duwamish residents
outragèd by the nocturnal visitors
to their sceptored isle and from
that nether world
return once more to safety and the shore
and bid farewell to those brave ferrywomen
who, in their anger, all now have gone on strike?
Devoutly to be wish'd. To flee, to dream;
To dream: perchance to dream of that other world
wherein our heavy, mortal bodies lie.
Or ask wherefore we do desire to stay
in fair Lemuria, there to dwell
in pleasant creativity of thought.
To enter again that brave hermitage
where we have known such peace as cannot yet be found
here in our earthly lives unless we travel
to the flowing waters of the bath house
and, in sweet communion with dolphins bright,
wash all the cares away that wear us down.
Or quail before the Gorgon and prepare
a song or dance in which she might delight
and in return, each shall a gift receive:
a snake who will a true companion be.
No traveller returns, without that he
a visit to a nearby fountain makes
and in its healing waters seeks forgiveness.
But soft, who goes there? we hear a footfall
Of one who does approach for earnest speech,
us to the nearby gypsy camp to invite
where we, the lucky ones, will fortune find
inside the soft darkness of mad Rosa’s tent
for she will tell us what we need to know
and set us forth upon our path once more
when we will bless that fairest of enchanters
And sing Heather’s name aloud.

(this is almost, consonant for consonant, my version of the famous speech by Hamlet).

Pandora and Shakespeare

One of the Enchantress' ravens has told me that a travelling Shakespeare company will be setting up in the Golden Grove on 1 September.

So, just to get you in the mood, I would like to invite you to delve in the costume box, choose something suitable and perform a favourite bit from Shakespeare's writing, whether it is an extract from a play or one of his sonnets. I know Heather is planning some suitably extravagant costume so why not come along and join the fun.
Wardrobe Mistress

Full Fathom Five

FULL fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them— Ding-dong, bell!

Wedding greetings to Faucon

Wedding present

In a far away land called “HEARTH” (pronounced ‘Heart’, à la française), the wedding, deep in a woodland grove, came to an end. The lovers had plighted their troth and exchanged rings and had been blessed by the Rowan lady. Now it was her turn to address them. She handed them something wrapped in a woven grass cover, decorated with the last of the year’s thistle heads, already turning to thistledown. Inside was a dream catcher.

She explained to them thus:
"Hang the dream catcher above your bed so that it will catch any nightmares before they can disturb your sleep. But there is more. The circle represents the circle of your union and will contain all that you put into it. When you feel sad, it will comfort you and, if you hang it in a tree out of doors, it will sing to you as the wind plucks the strings, like an aeolian harp."

And so the couple lived their married life with all the usual ups and downs, moments of true happiness and moments of deep sadness. As the years went by the beads lost their bright colour as they faded in the sunlight and the feathers slowly drooped, lost their lustre and, one by one, flew away until only the strings remained. In later years, on sad days, they hung the dream catcher in the apple tree and the wind sang its songs of happier memories and replayed their dreams to them once more, thus lulling them to peace again, for their dreams had become forever entwined in its threads and no matter how threadbare their lives or the dream catcher became, there was always something there to give them heart.

Now you will feel no rain,
for each of you will be shelter for the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
for each of you will be warmth for the other.
Now there is no more loneliness,
for each of you will be companion for the other.
Now you are two persons,
but there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling to enter into
the days of your life together.
And may your days be good,
and long upon the earth.

(native apache wedding prayer)

dolphin bath and rumour have it

Take you time and play with the Dolphins and visit that restless city Vi spoke of. We have a largish group going into the cave and coming down the road so we might just stay put until everyone has got here.
There is much to do. Gypsies to visit and baths to take and I do declare, I have heard a rumour, brought by ravens, that a Shakespearean Theatre has opened in the Golden Seed Grove. Stay tuned for details. It is scheduled to open on September 1. So dust off your good clothes, find a carriage and get yourself there. It is near the Lemurian Abbey. You won't miss it! The place will be aflood with candle light.
who is dressing for the opening.

a letter home

Dear Mum and Dad,
You will remember that I talked to you of Lemuria when we last met. Well, a number of travellers, including myself, set off at the end of July from the Lemurian Abbey with Heather as our enchanting leader, on a creative journey. So far we have been to the Sybilla's grotto in Umbria, to the House of Serpents where we saw the fountain of forgiveness and performed for the Gorgon. She was so pleased with our performances that she gave each of us a snake to be our guides for the week that we were staying there.
From there we went on the most exciting night ride imaginable. I went to the tree of crystal souls.

We were then encouraged to go and visit Baba Yaga who lives in an extraordinary cottage perched on chicken's legs and surrounded by a fence of human bones, topped with skulls. Unfortunately, while we were staying with her we were all kidnapped and carried off to Koshchey's lair from whence we were rescued by 3 knights. We're now back at Baba Yaga's where we will probably stay until the rest of the travellers have caught up with us. In the meantime we are busy working on a tapestry along the lines of the Bayeux tapestry.

Rumour has it that a Shakespearian troupe will be setting up tomorrow so hopefully we'll get some good entertainment.

So far the trip has been quite extraordinary. The other travellers have had a wide variety of experiences - some delightful, some not so pleasant. Heather is an excellent guide and the enchantress is something of a hard taskmistress.
That's all for now,
PS I hope to be trying out my skills as a cartographer

staying at Baba Yaga's

Important Crossroad

By now you must think I am a crazy person. Invitations to join bloggers keep arriving and there seems to be no end to the journey. Well, I guess we all knew when we set out that it would take us a long time to get to where we were going. Of course it would help if anyone really knew where we will end up.

The good news is that the final destination is in sight. If you go and check out you will learn that everyone is rescued from Koshchey the Terrible and that Baba has set up a special place where folk can gather together the things that they will carry with them in the Caravan that is to set out across the desert to the camp of the Amazon Queen.

When we finally arrive at the Amazon Queen’s Camp you will find it a bustling market place where people set up stalls and trade or simply enjoy the atmosphere of the place. Very exotic it will be. But first we need to pack things. You might put your prize pieces in Baba's Spinning place. You might weave some stories about the whole journey, make postcards, write travel articles, post photographs, display Tarot Cards, post sketches - it is up to you really. I am planning more sketches. My bath-house collection will be quite fetching I think. And then there is my Baba Yaga collection that I have to work on.

Ultimately, like the amazing Bayeux Tapestry which I saw in Bayeux France, we will have a story to tell and that, my dear friends is why we all clambered through that door, journeyed to the Abbey, explored Duwamish, visited the House of Serpents and so on.

Amazing really. Do you think there is another site out there, packed with as many exciting things as we have gathered?

So begin to consolidate, shuffle things around in your cases, prepare to pack, for we have a caravan to catch and miles to travel. Remember however, you do not have to keep up with everything. You are each initiates now so you have nothing to prove to one another or yourself. Just enjoy the adventure now and let what will be, be.
love Sibyl

Spinning and new travellers

Hello Folks
While some of us are working hard on Baba's Spinning Wheel there are quite a few folk wandering along the roads of this extraordinary world. Maybe we need to begin thinking about making some maps to show the way. I recall you doing something quite early in the piece Karen. Monika sent me a link and I drooled over this image
- golden spindle blogspot
There are some wonderful old cartography map sites with gorgeous things on them.

But I digress. It is my intention to have everyone stay here at Baba's for quite awhile. Baba's, as you have all gathered, is quite close, as the raven flies to the Hermitage, Duwamish, the Abbey and the House of Serpents so you can always go and visit those places whenever you like. And we all know those gypsies are camped nearby and the bath-houses in all these places are to die for. So just go on posting, writing, creating postcards, mail whatever takes your fancy really. Carol says she is sewing and I can imagine you embroidering something Leonie. Lois needs to get on with that spinning of stories of women and well, I have many sketches to do and things to write. The party over at Anita Marie's is really heating up and by Halloween we will all be in fancy dress and parading around in our best monster outfits. Too cool.
Now I will look and marvel as the magic happens.
Night now


Baba Yaga was not amused when Koshchey the Terrible attempted to kidnap the talented women who had been working for her so she sent her three knights, the Red, White and Black and they found the place where Koshchey had enslaved the women and put them in front of golden spindles.

After a few harsh words the knights bought back the troupe, together with their spindles, golden thread and beads and they are now working near Baba's, spinning, preparing to head off on a Caravan expedition to the camp of the Amazon Queen where they will be able to display and perhaps sell their wares. Just one of the things that they are working on is a tapestry that details the journey they have undertaken to date.

Of course, by the time their caravan finally reaches the Amazonian Camp they will have even more wonderful stories to tell.

Sibyl Enchanteur

Knights to the rescue

So I started to weave the golden and silver apples in the hope that help would come. I had only just finished the outline when the door crashed open and a knight on horseback bounded into the room.

On the marble, black and white, chess-patterned floor in the hall, I could see two more knights lined up behind him and a few pawns hovering in the background. Dear life, I thought, what now. It seemed to me that I was living a fairy tale, something dreamed up by those dreadful but aptly named Brothers Grimm.

The Red Knight looked down at me and told me to gather up my golden spindle, thread and beads together with anything else I might have with me. Then he leaned down and hoisted me up on to the saddle in front of him.

Outside in the hall, I could hear the most dreadful altercation taking place as palace servants came running to see what was happening. The Red knight turned and yelled “oi, you two, stop that at once, this is no time for games, there are other maidens to rescue. The Black and White Knights looked up sheepishly; never ones to miss the opportunity for a game; they were in the process of setting up more of their pawns and positioning them on the hall floor. Reluctantly they packed them away again and started to give Koshchey a piece of Baba Yaga’s mind and he resorted to answering them back in a decidedly insolent fashion, but to no avail. The knights were simply not taking any nonsense from him. In desperation, Koshchey tried to summon his dreadful sisters in an attempt to keep his captives in his domain but the Knights simply switched them off. They were, after all, only holographic images projected on to the wall of the room and therefore not to be feared in the slightest. As the knights galloped out of the palace, the Red Knight turned in his saddle and called out to Koshchey “You will be hearing from us. We meet at dawn. Beware of the golden egg”. As they leaped up into the sky all we could hear was Koshchey gnashing his teeth in helpless rage.

And thus, we were returned to Baba Yaga’s fold, where we spent the next few days weaving another chapter into our tapestries of life and making things that we might be able to sell, en route to the camp of the Amazon Queen.



Hello Travellers
You have been working hard at Baba Yaga's and each night you have fallen into your bed, your doll close by for safe keeping, and slept the sleep of the dead. Frankly the Baba Yaga has been demanding and her work is never done.

Tonight, you just closed your eyes when you were started by what felt like the wind blowing in the window. Before you can gather your thoughts you are snatched by none other than Koshchey the Deathless who fancies you as 'a bride'. (He thinks you are competition Alex).

Poor Koshchey may not know what he is doing methinkums.
Not to worry. Baba Yaga and I do love a show.
All you know is that Koshchey has you and is taking you somewhere. Somehow you have to get back to Baba Yaga's if you are ever going to get to the Amazon Queen's camp. Or maybe not???

Kidnapped by THAT??? - more info
In ancient times there were palace run societies and common women were actively involved in cloth, textile industries. Women, often captured and kidnapped in raids, were hauled away to become captive slaves. They were not treated badly, not beaten or fettered but were employed in palaces and temples. Often they married local men and had children and were too encumbered to run away. Women worked chiefly in spinning and weaving, not for pleasure but as a part of a substantial industry. The palace manipulated business like an orb spider. It had a range of talented people in its web. You are taken because of your talent, to a palace and presented with a golden spindle, gold thread and beads. The looms have half finished cloth on them. Your task is to weave a story much as those who wove the Bayeaux Tapestries.
Help will hopefully come, to rescue you - but it may take time.


After the long walk to get to Baba Yaga’s and the excitement of persuading the ants to separate the poppy seeds from the earth, I was ready for a little light refreshment. Baba Yaga put before me mouth-watering toasted teacakes, freshly churned butter and wild crab apple jelly together with a glass of elderflower cordial, but I had no sooner finished them than my head began to nod. Seeing this, Baba Yaga suggested it was perhaps time for me to get a little shut-eye.

She showed me into a minute room with a sloping ceiling, leading off the main room in the cottage. There was a small truckle bed almost hidden beneath a huge and colourful patchwork quilt. I climbed in eagerly and in minutes was sound asleep and dreaming.
Visions of trees softly blowing in the wind came to me and I seemed to float out of the casement window. A huge and ugly face peered into mine. “Got you at last” its owner growled. “I wanted you as soon as I saw you walking at the edge of Crypt Lake”. (Anita was right, I would have done better to have steered clear of that place but it was too late now). “And just who do you think you are and where are you taking me?” “I am Koshschey. You may have heard of me”. “I hadn’t, of course, not being familiar with Slavic fairy tales”. I felt Melita dig me in the ribs to indicate I should keep my mouth shut. “As to where I’m taking you, you’ll see soon enough. I intend marrying you three days hence”. This time I ignored Melita. “Marry me!” I spluttered. “You can’t possibly do that. I am married already”. “I care little that you may or may not be married already. That’s in your world, a thousand light years away from here and you’re in my world now and will do as I say”.

He spoke no more on the journey. I have no idea how long it lasted nor indeed by what method we travelled. I was aware of buildings in the far distance and, as we approached, I could see the onion domes on the tops of the buildings. We must be somewhere in Russia I thought, still in my dream. I’ve always wanted to visit Russia. We landed in front of a huge palace and he led me through vast doors into a marble floored room and then into the famous amber room. This is crazy I thought. This can’t be happening this room doesn’t exist; it was destroyed years ago. Yet the room seemed real enough. The walls were a warm golden yellow with intricate carvings everywhere. I have always loved the warmth of amber and I touched one of the carvings. It was the most beautiful thing I had seen in my life.

“I can see that you like this room. You will have plenty of time to admire it, this will be your home from now on, so you may as well get used to it” Koshchey said. “In the meantime” he continued," you can make yourself useful.” “Nikita” he called and a young peasant girl came into the room. “Give my future bride a golden spindle, some gold thread and some golden beads and show her how to weave a story.” With that, he turned and left the room, leaving me staring stupidly at Nikita.

“Weave a story?” I repeated, still dreaming, or so I thought.
I woke, burning with heat and threw off the bedclothes. But it wasn’t the patchwork quilt that I had had the night before. This was some fine soft golden fabric. I looked around me, appalled, as I realised that I was in the amber room of my dreams. “Melita” I called, “what has happened to me?” Melita’s soft voice answered me” you are in the palace of the four winds. You are to be married to Koshchey in three days unless we can find a way out of here. You had better do as he said and start weaving. It will take your mind off our predicament and it may turn out that what you weave will weave a magic of its own”.

I had never woven with a spindle, but Melita, who knows how to do such things, showed me what to do. She suggested I start to weave a picture of the golden apples of the sun and the silver apples of the moon as they have magical properties.

In the bath house

Hello Fearless Journeyers

It will be at least next week before we take off to the Amazon Camp, but knowing the Enchantress we could get waylaid. Mercifully she is busy organising donkey rides to the House of the Serpents so that should give all of us time to consolidate. Of course, it is about right that we should end up with Baba Yaga herself but personally I have found her to be just like Mrs Hair, an elderly woman I loved as a child. Coming to Baba Yaga's has been a bit like returning to the Arches and sitting with Edna for a few hours. She was the only grandmother figure I knew and she was there on the Ancestors Isle along with figures I did not really recognise but just knew to be related to me.

Anyway, the Gypsies have clearly heard that we are here for they are camped nearby and Gail tells us are planning a night of song and dance. Perfect!

In between visiting the Gypsies take some time to write some mail or articles for the Raven Courier. You can always hire a Raven to take you up to the Hermitage and that lovely Art Room or back to the House of Serpents, to Duwamish for a visit to the bookshop or to those stables that provide horses for night rides.

The Bath House is a tiny bit sparse, my dears. I have prepared a special treat: A Remembrance Bath. Soak in a rosemary infused bath which will return to consciousness one of your favourite memories. During this time of consolidation, if you feel you have the time and energy to share this remembrance, please post it at the Bath House.
Many Thanks. Your bath awaits...Eclectica

A mosaic for the bath house

(I made this mosaic some years ago at a mosaic course)
I lay soaking in the rosemary bath in the recently opened bath house, run by the expansive Madame Eclectica.

It was just what I needed after a somewhat stressful day, spent running hither and thither and seemingly not achieving very much in relation to the effort expended. Here in the baths all you had to do was lie back and allow the water to wash away all the physical and mental dirt accumulated over the last few hours. It was bliss. The smell of the rosemary oil from the crushed leaves was intoxicating. I had been looking at one of the mosaics on the wall and drifted off into a dream. The mosaic was a modern copy of a very ancient original, depicting two fish. Pisces. My zodiac sign.

Pisces, oh pisces
where are you going
drifting along on the crest of a wave?
I´m going to see what my true love will bring me
when I greet him at dawn on the sands of the brave.
What will you wear my fine fishy friend
when you slip out on to the strand?
why, a tail of sorts,
no need for shorts,
and a starfish to put in my braid.
What will he give you, my sweet mermaid,
as he touches the shells on your breast?
why a necklace for sure, from the isle of the blest.
A necklace of coral, beyond compare
that he stole from King Neptune´s lair.
And what will you do in return?
I will give him the moon and the sun,
a garland most rich and most rare,
to wear for a year and day
for we may not meet
each to each for to greet
without the enchantress shall say.
Are you sad
are you glad
are you mad
are you bad
I will temper myself as hot steel
and cool my heels
in the shallows
until Lethe allows
our return.

Soul hand

Hello Everyone
There is something to do while you are in the Baba Yaga's house. Of course, not everyone is there yet.
love Heather
Trace your hand and create a soul friend who will do your bidding

Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga - In the courtyard at dawn.

Everyone gathers, expectant, surprised that we have to go back to the House of the Serpents by foot. The Enchantress comes and tells us all that our guide is the doll she is giving each of us. (Find a doll or make one) Her final words are to use the things we had in our bag, the one she gave each of us at Duwamish and that if we should lose our way, or be in need of help, all we have to do is ask the doll what to do. She says that the doll will assist, that we must keep her with us at all times, that we must not tell anyone we meet about her and that we must feed her when she is hungry and give her drinks if she is thirsty. She tells us that it will be quite a few days before we reach the Camp of the Amazon Queen.

Amazon Queen? But what about the House of Sssserp....?

You greet your doll and introduce yourself and when you look up again everyone has gone. What is it with everyone rushing off like this? The doll says that you have to go through the woods and ask the old lady who lives by the lake the way to the Camp of the Amazons. She assures you that she will know how to get there. Having read all your fairy stories you realise that going to ask the Baba Yaga anything could prove interesting.

Baba Yaga is the fearsome creature, the crooked woman whose nose is hooked like a bird of prey. Her name means 'to know, to see, to foresee' and she is the seer associated with the moon crescent. The Baba Yaga has the power to transform herself into a myriad of shapes, often a toad, sometimes a hedgehog, frequently a bird. The Baba Yaga is often depicted as an evil old hag who eats humans, especially children, but she is known by many to be a wise, prophetic old woman. In appearance she is tall, bony legged, pointy headed and has dishevelled hair.

Worse the doll informs you that the hut she lives in has a fence around it made of human bones and topped with human skulls and eyes intact. The gate is fastened with human legs and arms instead of bolts and a mouth with sharp teeth serves as the lock.

According to the doll, who seems to be a fount of information, one person who lived to tell the story said that "she commands the sun and it obeys her, she changes the stars in their course, she causes clouds to form in the air and makes it possible to walk on them and travel the country. She can turn herself into a young woman and then, in a twinkling of an eye turn herself back into an old woman. She has the power to turn a man into an animal and she likes to move freely along roads and valleys and over mountains. Her business is to cast spells, gather herbs and stones, make pacts and agreements."

Right! You think. If this is the only way to get to the Amazon Queen’s camp....

You check your bag for the journal, sketch book, spectacles with fairy qualities of sight, anchor, unicorn talisman etc and find someone has added a card with the address

You head down the mountain, over the bridge that Heather sketched, past the mill and the gypsy camp, which is silent now bar for a barking dog.

Document your time with the Baba Yaga who, of course, sets you tasks before helping you to reach the Camp of the Amazons where the Queen will greet you warmly and be anxious to hear about your journey. Do remember to send any art work by courier raven to the Hermitage Art Room for Leonie to display - when she is there and not at Baba Yaga's place.

Your tasks will appear on the Baba Yaga site or by mail.

In the courtyard at dawn

After a mere cat’s lick of a wash and a mug of tea, hastily swallowed down, I went to join the others in the courtyard as instructed. I just had time to say farewell to Hiss who gave me a beautiful little carved wooden snake which, he told me, might come in useful one day, if only to remind me of the few days we had spent together.

The Enchantress came to greet us and told us that our guides would be the dolls she was currently handing out to everyone. Her parting words were that we should use the things she gave us when we first set out on this trip and, if we need any help, we should ask the doll. She proceeded to give us further instructions about the doll and informed us that it would be quite a few days before we reached the Camp of the Amazon Queen.

What the **** I thought we were supposed to be returning to the House of Serpents, not gadding off to God knows where, when we’ve only just got here. She’s a hard task mistress is our Enchantress.

My hand wrapped itself comfortably around my bad angel. She fits neatly into the palm of my hand. She’s been carved from some honey-coloured stone. I have no idea how old she is. She is also accompanied by a doll. Perhaps it’s meant to be a symbol of myself holding my doll?

I told her who I am. She smiled and told me that “Traveller” was a good name for me. She introduced herself as Melita and the doll as Comino. I was tempted to ask her about her doll but decided that it might not do to ask possibly indiscreet questions at this stage. I was so engrossed with our conversation that when I next glanced up, there was no one else in sight. I was completely alone. Now where had they all gone? Gail and I had only just started reminiscing about childhood books and obviously had lots more to chat about and now everyone seemed to have gone off and left me.

Melita touched my arm and reminded me that she was still there. She told me that we would have to go through the woods and ask the old lady who lives by the lake (did she say it was called “Crypt Lake”?) the way to the Camp of Amazons. As an afterthought she told me the name of this old lady – Baba Yaga. I nearly fainted. Without taking any notice of my malaise she continued to regale me about Baba Yaga. I knew a fair amount already but what she added did nothing to reassure me. Baba Yaga’s house – a hut on chicken’s legs – sounded as if it had been put together by a pantomime stage set designer high on magic mushrooms. He wasn’t the only one I thought grimly as snatches of Mussorsgky’s music entitled “the hut on legs” from the Pictures at an Exhibition suite floated through my mind. Very disturbing pictures they were too, if I remembered right. I was not at all reassured.

I assumed that, yet again, we had little choice in the matter and the Enchantress obviously knew what she was doing (?). I checked the contents of my bag again and found a visiting card with an internet address on it for Baba Yaga. I would have a look at that website next time I came across a computer to see if it would provide any clues as to what I was letting myself in for.

I headed down the mountain, past Heather’s bridge and the old mill, with its wheel turning with a splash of water. Out past the gypsy camp, so full of life the previous night but now silent. A dog barked in the distance.

The first part of the route was easy going over level pastureland dotted with summer flowers reminiscent of the high Swiss Alpine pastures and I walked knee deep in perfumed waves. Bees buzzed in the sunshine. As we walked Melita filled me in on some of the more unpleasant facts she knew about Baba Yaga. It soon became apparent that they knew each other quite well although Melita refrained from telling me how they had first become acquainted.

From time to time we stopped to refresh ourselves at streams as we came across them and nibbled some of the fresh rolls cook had put in a red spotted handkerchief for me to bring on the journey. I would miss her tasty offerings.

I hadn’t taken much notice of our surroundings until I realised that we had been slowly climbing and were now approaching the edge of the plateau. I looked down and saw below me a bright green lake with steam rising from the surface. It looked an idyllic spot but Melita turned me away saying, “that is not the lake of our destination that is the lake of lies. Its beauty hides poison in its depths. Anyone who seeks to quench their thirst in it will perish”.

She led me down a side track, through a wooded copse and we came out on to a valley floor covered with stones and sparse bushes. The mountains in the distance had snow on them.

“This is Crypt Lake” said Melita and indeed I had never seen such a beautiful but desolate place and a cold wind nipped suddenly at my ears. As we walked along the valley floor we came across a notice board stuck in the stones with


written on it. Trespassers will what, I wondered, looking more closely to see if I had missed something. And I had. Down in the bottom right hand corner were three letters PTO. “Please turn over”. I walked round to the other side of the notice and the message now made much more sense


Tick where applicable.

I took out my pen with the everlasting ink and marked a large cross next to the first option. It was just possible that someone was playing mind games and "grilled" didn’t necessarily have any culinary connotations.

“Well done” said Melita, nodding approvingly. “We’ve no time to waste now, we must get to Baba Yaga’s cottage before nightfall or else it will be the wolves making a meal of us”. She started to walk so fast that I had difficulty keeping up with her. As we rounded the bend in front of us, the sight before our eyes was so incongruous that I came to an abrupt standstill. There on a patch of beautiful greensward – totally at odds with its surroundings – was a fence made of bones with skulls perched atop. But it was the cottage that really took my breath away. No ordinary cottage this for it seemed to have legs. As we approached, the legs stood up and the cottage waved somewhat shakily in the air as it leaned towards us, as if it was trying to get a better look at us. “It knows we’re here” said Melita, rather stating the obvious. “Now just remember what I told you about the food”.

We went through the little gate and I tried to make myself as thin as possible to keep out of range of the sharp teeth that formed the gate posts. I didn’t fancy being someone else’s meal. A rope ladder was let down from the front door of the cottage, now high above my head. “It’s alright, up you go” said my companion, “but just to make sure, I’ll go up first and give you the all clear”. So saying, she climbed the ladder with, what I thought, remarkable agility for a stone carving. Inside the cottage, the floor sloped dangerously and someone was desperately trying to prevent the crockery from cascading off the table. “Down” said a stern voice, and immediately the cottage began to descend slowly and somewhat unevenly as the legs folded themselves up again, hitting the ground with a slight bump.

“Greetings Melita, I see you have a traveller with you” said the owner of the stern voice. She was old, "as old as the hills" one might be tempted to say, for the wrinkles of her face had formed a most dramatic landscape in which her eyes were the merest twinkles of light in the shadows on a river at the bottom of a valley. Her nose was a jagged escarpment and her mouth a cavernous crater. Her hair resembled a hedge with an assortment of wild plants twining through it. Old man’s beard held sway amongst the hop vines and berries of red bryony adorned her ears. Her clothes were made of leaves bound together with grasses and on her feet she wore the husks from a horse chestnut tree, once summer green but now autumn hardened. “The spikes help keep my feet dry” she explained as if I had asked the question.

“But I haven’t introduced myself yet,” she said. “I am Baba Yaga and you are?” “My
name is Traveller and and thus I do” I replied. “Well, “she said, “you must be a little hungry by now. What was on the menu tonight? Let me see, grilled, pickled or roasted. Which is to be?” “Grilled” I replied hurriedly, hoping I had guessed right. ”Oh, so you want to be grilled do you, my fine friend. In that case, who are you really and who sent you here?” she shot her questions out like machine gunfire. ”I really am a traveller” I started, beginning to think a bit more about who and what I was. “When I first joined the Lemurian Abbey I was travelling in search of something although I wasn’t quite sure what it was I was looking for and since I was doing a lot of travelling at the time, the name stuck in preference to my other world name. I’m still travelling but of late, it has been more in my imagination. I started out with a group of people, most of whom I have still to meet as we keep getting separated, but that’s another story. We are on our way to the camp of the Amazon Queen and I’m told that you can perhaps point me in the right direction”.

A long silence ensued while she digested my reply. "If I tell you how to get to the camp of the Amazon Queen, in return, will you do something for me?" she asked. "Somebody has mixed earth into my poppy seeds and I haven't the time to sort them out for myself. Perhaps you could do that for me?" Before I had a chance to reply, she continued "just go back down the ladder and you'll find them in a basket at the bottom of the steps. You can throw the earth away of course, but please put the seeds into this handkerchief".

I climbed down the steps and Melita came with me. "How on earth am I supposed to do this?" I asked. "Oh, that's easy," she replied. "The ants will do that for you. All you have to do is ask them to help you." We set off to explore the garden to see if we could find any ants and finally found some busying themselves in a clump of poppies in the corner of the garden. "Go on, don't be afraid" encouraged Melita.

"Ahem" I started. "My name is Traveller and Baba Yaga has told me that I must separate the earth from her poppy seeds before she will tell me the way to the Camp of the Amazon Queen and I was wondering if you could help". Big intake of breath as I had uttered this request without taking one. Ant Number Two (ANT) looked up at me. "What will you give us in return?" Oh help, I thought, now I'm really stuck. But again Melita gave me the answer. Tell them you will give them the rest of the rolls Cook gave you. That should be sufficient. Ant Number Two decided that this was acceptable. "Bring the handkerchief and the basket over here, tip the contents of the basket on to the handkerchief and we will do the rest for you". I did as instructed and watched in amazement as hundreds of ants swarmed out from under the poppy plants and began to carry away the earth leaving just the tiny black seeds on the handkerchief. In no time at all there was not a speck of dirt remaining. I broke the rolls into tiny pieces and laid them on the ground for the ants to carry away to their lair and triumphantly carried the handkerchief of seeds back up the ladder where I restored them to their owner.

"Thank you, Traveller, that was well done", said Baba Yaga warmly. "Now I can get on with preparing for the next planting". "It has to be done when the moon is right, you see, and that is tomorrow. I'm so glad you came along".