Sunday 24 December 2023

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Hello Friends

Because it is difficult now to handle fragile things as I drop them, I have not decorated this year, so here are a few photographs of Christmases past to wish you One and All


one of my many trees back in the day

Annual Lilies of Remembrance

The organ loft St Davids Cathedral


Several images of my various collections:  Santas, Sleighs, Snowglobes

The Famous Singing Penguins raising money for charity

Nativity St Davids Cathedral

Nativity St Non's Chapel by the Sea

made for me by a dear friend

Home made fresh cranberry relish 

Vintage cake decorations

Christmas reading samples in Christmas colours

My Special Nativity

I hope you all have good food, good friends and fellowship to share your day, and may your Christmas dreams and wishes all come true.

Nadolig Llawen
chi gyd 

Friday 22 December 2023

The Winter Solstice and The Deer Mother

Hello Friends!

With the advent of the Winter Solstice, I have been doing a little research which led me to a very interesting discovery of a new to me mythology.

It began when I asked Google to find me the date and time of the Winter Solstice 2023 and I was told it is on Friday 22nd December at 0327. I have learned over the years that the Solstice isn't on a fixed date but falls on or around the 21st of December, varying slightly annually.  This prompted me to ask Google how the exact time and date is calculated, much in the way that Easter is not a fixed feast in the Christian calendar. It's a complicated {well, to me it is complicated} calculation.  I won't go into details for fear of embarrassing myself, but if you are interested you can look here.

While I was pootling about, I stumbled across some interesting articles referring to the mythology of the Deer Mother.  I was immediately pulled in as I have never heard of this mythology.  So what is this mythology?  

The Deer Mother is an antlered female shamanic spirit of Winter in which one of our most beloved traditions of Christmas is founded.  As this unfolds, no explanation of what that tradition is will be needed.

The Legend of the Deer Mother

Once upon a time in the snow covered North of long, dark nights, lived a tribe who honoured the spirit Deer Mother, guardian of wild places and bringer of the light during the darkness. During rituals surrounding the Winter Solstice she would appear to the tribe as they gathered to honour her in a sacred grove, her hooves barely touching the snow.  As she danced her antlers sparkled and snowflakes flowed in intricate patterns about her head.  The tribe knew she brought protection, hope, and fertility with the coming of Spring.

It is said that the Deer Mother’s antlers held a secret hidden star that could guide lost travellers home and that those who glimpsed it were forever changed, their hearts filled with wonder and purpose. Some say that the Northern Lights are but reflections of her celestial antlers, a reminder that magic still exists in the world.

She is said to drive her sleigh across the skies during the longest night, to drive away the darkness and ensure the return of the light.  

Long before we told the story of Si么n Corn, Father Christmas, Santa, or whatever you call the jolly old man in the red suit and white beard, the Deer Mother was racing across our Winter Solstice skies.  How many realise that the sleigh is pulled not by Rudolph but by a female reindeer?  Male reindeer shed their antlers while the does retain theirs.  Si么n Corn's lead reindeer has antlers, and is therefore female.  The herds of reindeer are led in Winter by does and every time we tell stories of Santa and his flying reindeer we are actually telling the story of the ancient Deer Mother of old for it was she who once flew through winter’s longest darkest night with the life-giving light of the sun in her horns.

The legend of the Deer Mother is present in many cultures across Northern Eurpe and Russia.  I have given you a brief glimpse of one, so this Christmas season, on the Winter Solstice, take a moment to remember the winter goddess of old and her magical reindeer on the sacred night when the sun is reborn, look for the Deer Mother flying across starry skies.

May the Deer Mother’s light shine upon you, dear traveler, and may your path be guided by her gentle wisdom.

Until next time
Stay safe stay well
Debbie xx

Saturday 16 December 2023

More Crafty Makes

Hello friends!

I know I promised you a special post leaving you with a bit of a cliffhanger and keeping you in suspenders. However, life, or in this case Christmas gets in the way and that might be a post or two away now. I hope to get that special post up before Christmas.

This is just a quick share of some crafty makes I've been doing, this is what got in the way of the special announcement post. I love making small boxes and custom envelopes to accommodate gifts. I do my best to make the boxes reusable. I've made quite a few for myself for different purposes. I put my index card art in them and they fit perfectly because I customize the size to fit.  Anyway, I hope the recipients will either reuse the boxes for gifting or better still use them for storing small bits and bobs in maybe in their dresser drawer.

I made this box using 300gsm cardstock and strengthened it by lining it with the same card. So I suppose that makes it 600 gsm. I used a Martha Stewart Snowflake border punch and I colored in the band using alcohol ink and then I stuck that to the box which also gave extra rigidity.

I then had to make an envelope for a CD. I used a different type of punch to make a band around the outside.

Finally, using the same type of punch, but with a different design I made this greetings card. It's a very clever punch. It's just one motif, but it comes with instructions on how to place it to make an all over pattern. After I punched it out in the red card I cut a piece of plain glitter paper for a liner underneath. I used the same type of glitter paper to back the motif, which was cut out on the back of the envelope. I do like to do things that coordinate or tie in with each other. and punching the motif on the back of the envelope ties it all together.

I've had these punches, and many more Martha Stewart products, for years and not bothered using them. So it's high time I did something with them, don't you think? I am notorious for buying things that seem like a good idea at the time, then they languish in boxes and drawers.

Had the pandemic not happened, and had my health not failed me so, it had been my intention to set up a small cottage industry making custom designed cards and boxes for sale as a supplementary income. It was not to be.

Until next time.
Stay safe stay well.
Debbie.  xx

Tuesday 12 December 2023

Handmade Tags

Hello Friends!

Thank you to everyone for your lovely comments on my previous blog.  I was apprehensive over the subject matter, but your responses gave me a Big Thumbs Up!  I'm so happy so many of you enjoyed what I feel is a fascinating subject.

I came across a very simple technique for making tie on tags using recycled tissue paper, so thought I'd share it.  All you need is some clean, used tissue paper preferably the absorbent kind, not the coated kind although that will work. Some pva glue, a paintbrush, spritz water bottle, and a rubber stamp. You will need something to punch a hole and something to tie the tag with, and optional gilding wax.

Here's what I did.

First, I scrumpled up the tissue paper into a ball, gave it a good squeeze to get it all wrinkly, which helps make it absorbent. I then flattened it out and put a couple of layers down on a non absorbent surface, such as a glass craft mat and spritzed it with water. Damp it, don't soak it.  I then took some lightly diluted pva glue and lightly brushed over the damp tissue paper then added a couple of more layers of paper, spritzed and glued, and repeated this until I had about eight or ten layers of paper stuck together every two layers with some PVA glue.  Finish with just dampened paper.  I then took the stamp of my choice and pressed it down firmly into the damp paper until it made a good impression. I then left it all to dry overnight.

Once it was fully dry, I cut out around the round the shape  then using a bradawl I carefully pierced a hole for the tag. You can use the whole punch if you have one. The design wasn't showing up as well as I would have liked it too, so I took some of my gilding wax and just lightly brushed it using my fore finger.  You could just lightly sponge on some "dry" paint if you don't have gilding wax

Using the thread of your choice, secure the tag to your present. Simple. but very effective.  Here's my finished tags

Until next time.
Stay safe stay well.
Debbie.  xx

P.S. I'm "really excited" about my next blog to be published, so keep an eye on this page in a few days!

Friday 8 December 2023


Hello Friends!

One of my lesser-known interests, I don't call it a hobby, is hagiography.  

Hagiography is the history of the lives of the Saints, a sort of biography of holy people.  I developed an interest in hagiography when I was studying art history for one of my degrees.  It is a fundamental tool for any studies involving the art of the Rennaissance, where images are full of symbolism which would have been as well known to the contemporaries of the era on all levels of society in a way that we, for the most part, do not relate to.  

During the Rennaissance very few people could read, so pictures and paintings depicted stories to educate the masses much in the same way comic books illustrate a story without words today.  Churches were full of illuminated images of biblical stories, and everyone could read the story depicted knowing the central characters by identifying their attributes.  Art was a way of teaching, as well as giving people something to focus on when attending services in the days before printed Bibles and hymnals.

Colour was important, as I will explain, and every saint is depicted holding an attribute which is something particularly associated with each individual.  For example, a symbol of their martyrdom or something that was a dominant feature of their life.

The palm, frond or branch, is sacred to many religions, and to most of us is probably best known for being cast before Jesus as he entered Jerusalem on what is now known as Palm Sunday.  Consequently, most Christian saints are depicted holding a palm frond as an attribute of their faith, and distinguishing them from lay people in crowd scenes.  It is symbolic of triumph, victory, peace and eternal life.

Probably the most important colour in hagiography is lapis blue.  Lapis blue paint is a pigment made from the expensive and highly prized mineral composite Lapis Lazuli.  Due to it's costly nature, it was reserved only for the most important saints, so the most important of all saints, the Blessed Virgin Mary is immediately identifiable as she is almost always depicted in Lapis Blue.  Amongst other things Lapis is symbolic of transcendence, purity, royalty, and the divine. 

Saints were immediately identifiable by their attributes.  In the main, attributes were symbolic of a saint's martyrdom, although not always as not all saints were martyred, sometimes they indicated the prominent events or characteristics of the venerated.  Some examples of attributes are:

Saint Catherine: a broken wheel {tortured and condemned to death in a spiked wheel which broke when it touched her; the origin of the firework that bears her name}
Saint Laurence: a gridiron {grilled to death}
Saint Barbara: chains and a tower {imprisonment and torture}
Saint Peter: keys {keeper to the Gates of Heaven} upside down cross {crucifixion}:
St David: Bishop with a white dove on his shoulder {appeared to him}
Hildegard of Bingen: book {prolific writer}
Francis of Assisi: Stigmata {first person known to experience this}
Joseph: Carpentry tools
John the Baptist: a lamb {the one chosen by God to baptise Jesus Christ}
Mary Magdelene: Alabaster box {a myrrh bearer; anointed the feet of Jesus}
Patrick: A shamrock, snakes {the Trinity; he expelled all the snakes from Ireland}

David depicted with a dove on his shoulder and a Bishop's crozier, rood screen St David's Cathedral

The Four Apostles are depicted thus:

Matthew: A winged man, or an angel
Mark: A winged lion
Luke: A winged ox or bull
John: An eagle

and they are depicted N,S,E,W positions of this beautiful Rose Window in the west wall of St David's Cathedral.

As mentioned earlier, a knowledge of hagiography and saintly attributes is an essential tool for any scholar of history.  I find it a fascinating area of study, and hope you have found it interesting.  It is something which without it, it can be impossible to understand many works of art, particularly pre the era of printed books.

Until next time
Stay safe, stay well.
Debbie xx 

Monday 4 December 2023

Christmas in Iceland

Hello Friends!

I thought today I'd share a little bit about Christmas in Iceland. In some ways, it is similar to Christmas in Wales but in other ways, it is very different indeed. First, we'll take a brief look at the National Folk Museum of Iceland in Reykjavik. It's a small collection of traditional Icelandic buildings constructed from wood and turf.

Please note: the majority of these photographs are photographs of the original 35mm film images.

National Museum of Iceland 

A small brass band entertains, while the guide in the foreground is wearing a traditional cloak woven from Icelandic sheep fleece.  She will be warm and cosy in her cloak, whatever the weather.  It was a very beautiful garment, of which I was quite envious!


A few various photographs of interiors. There is a traditional fir tree as we would know it, however, the majority of the decorations will be handcrafted. Very often they are made out of recycled materials.  Until fairly recently, post WWII, importing of manufactured goods to Iceland was often intermittent, unreliable and expensive, so there is a strong history of make do and mend, recycling and upcycling.  Improvements to transport may have changed all that now, but the museum continues to preserve the ethos of bygone days.

Trees were hung with paper cones of sweets, and small baskets made out of hexagonal shapes cut out of last year's Christmas cards and stitched together with yarn would be filled with cookies and other sweet treats.  These ladies are making cones and baskets to sell.  The homemade tree was commonplace, instead of a real fir tree.
The emphasis is very much on home made, recycling, good food, and above all, family time.

Knitted ornaments, shapes woven from straw, woven paper hearts, and candles are also traditional Christmas decorations.

A traditional food served at Christmas is Laufabrau冒, an unleavened flatbread {you can read more here} made using a special type of cutter.  The cuts are then folded into intricate patterns before the dough is cooked.

I purchased this paper cut replica at the museum, as made by the ladies, above.

This is a traditional cutting iron for sale in the museum shop {photo from site}

Another tradition in Iceland are the Yuletide Lads. These are the thirteen sons of the ogress Gr媒la and they come down from the mountains, one a day until on the 25th of December, all the boys are here. and then one by one they return to the mountains.  Each of them has an attribute for creating havoc, with Anglicised names such as Pot  Licker, Skyr Gobbler, Door Slammer, Sausage Stealer, and Window Peeper.   

You can read more about Gr媒la and her infamous Black Cat, and there's a full list of the Lad's names here.

Icelandic children do not put out Christmas stockings on Christmas Eve. But for the 13 days before Christmas, when the Icelandic lads are coming down out of the mountains, they put a shoe by the door or the window sill and if they have been good children they get a treat in their shoe, but if they have been naughty, they receive a potato.

Over the years, the fear of Gryla and her sons has softened somewhat, but in centuries past it must have been a very frightening time for small children especially in the deep dark days of an Icelandic winter!

A wonderful Christmas tradition they have in Iceland is the J贸lab贸kafl贸冒i冒. It literally translates to flood of books. in the weeks coming up to Christmas, all authors release their new titles. Then, on Christmas Eve, the tradition is that the family gathers in the living room by the fireside and they all read their new books while eating chocolate.  What could be better: It is a tradition that would be worth observing!

Speaking of books, I am making a donation to the Book Trust in lieu of sending Christmas cards this year. Books have always held a special part of my heart for all of my life but as a small child, Christmas wasn't Christmas unless I had at least one book And thankfully, I usually had many!  The gift of a book to a child is a very important thing, in my opinion. It encourages so many things, not only the basic skills of reading, but opens up a whole new magical world of the imagination. 

Well, I have just scratched the surface of Christmas in Iceland. I've put in a few links if you want to explore further, you can.

Gle冒ileg j贸l

Until next time.
Stay safe stay well. Stay warm!
Debbie.  xx

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