Friday, 22 September 2017

Stowe - Frigga, Baldur, Loki and Mistletoe - a tale told by Philippa Tipper

Frigga, Baldur, Loki and Mistletoe

Frigga, goddess of beauty, love and marriage and wife of powerful Odin, sat working at her loom. Frigga's gifts and strengths were many. She looked after animals, and when she shook her blankets, snow fell. She wove the clouds, creating rain and thunderstorms, and she also wove the fates of men and gods and divined their futures.

Frigga had a tender and nurturing nature, and when her son, Baldur, was born, it was not only she who rejoiced. Everyone loved the beautiful young god, and everyone celebrated his birth.
Then one day Frigga discovered her son was going to die a young man.

While Frigga could see the future, she could not tell others of their fate, nor could she change fate. Frantic, she decided she must do something, and so she ran about extracting a vow from everyone and everything that none would play a part in Baldur's death.

Frigga raced to the forest, sat at the foot of the trees and begged. "Protect my son," she cried, and the trees promised. She ran to the rivers and demanded their protection, and they too promised. She looked to the sky, to fire and iron, to every other metal to give its oath. "Promise none of you will harm my son," she cried, and everyone and everything so vowed.

"What else?" she wondered, looking about her, and then she called upon every disease, upon each beast and bird, upon every imaginable poison and everything that crept and crawled. "None will do harm to Baldur," she cried.

"We will spare him," they answered.

Seeing this, the gods were amazed. "He is the safest among us," they said, and so they sought amusement by hurling darts and stones and rocks at him, but no matter what they cast at the young god, he walked away unharmed.

After awhile this became a favourite sport among the gods. They would fling stones, attack with swords, throw axes at the young man, and no matter what anyone did, Baldur walked away, unscathed, not a mark upon his beautiful skin.

Soon tossing their spears and knives at young Baldur became a way of honouring him.
Loki, the mischievous, trickster god, watched the play, and he began to tremble with jealousy. "Why should Baldur be so fortunate?" he asked. "Surely someone can hurt him."

Determined to find out, Loki wrapped himself in a disguise as a young woman and went to Fensalir, Frigga's palace. "Good day," said Loki, in disguise, as he bowed to the goddess. "I came to say I worry for your son. The gods throw sticks and stones and rocks at him. I fear for his safety, and so I have come to warn you he may be harmed."

Frigga waved her hand. "Sticks and stones will never hurt my son," she answered, "for I have made everyone swear they will never hurt Baldur."

"Everyone?" Loki asked. "And everything? How is that possible?"

The goddess smiled. "I travelled everywhere."

"And everyone promised?" Loki prodded her.

"Everyone and everything except a little plant growing on the eastern side of Valhalla. It is so young and weak, it never could hurt a soul."

The moment Loki heard this, he departed. Turning himself back into familiar form, he raced to find the plant Frigga described.

"This," he said, seeing the mistletoe growing upon a tree. He cut a branch and, clutching it to his chest, returned to the sacred playing fields.

There he looked around and saw Hodur, god of winter and darkness, standing alone. Loki came to his side and gently asked, "Why do you not play with your brother Baldur? Surely you would like to join in these games."

"I cannot play," Hodur answered. "I am blind and I cannot hit him. Besides, I have nothing to throw."

"Come, I will help you," Loki said, and he placed the sharpened mistletoe branch in Hodur's hand. 

"Now," Loki said, "I will guide your arm."

And so, with Loki's help, Hodur cast the branch at his brother. The instant it hit Baldur, it pierced his skin. He fell to the ground, and everyone stared in silence and shock as Baldur died.

The sky at once turned deathly pale, and the world stood still as stone. Never had anyone seen such a vicious and terrible deed, and now everyone and everything began to weep and to wail.
Frigga heard these lamentations, and she hastened to the field. When she saw her son lying dead, she screamed in disbelief and collapsed in despair, for she saw that the fates had trapped her son in their grip.

Now some people say that after this, every element on Earth tried, for three long days, to heal their beloved god, and all this time, they say, Frigga sat and wept. Some say it was Frigga's tears that turned into the white berries that grow upon the mistletoe. And some say, too, that when Frigga placed these berries upon Baldur's breast, he came to life again.

And so, they say, Frigga praised the mistletoe as a symbol of love and of peace, and she promised that, forever afterward, whoever stood beneath this plant would be offered a kiss and forever protected.

The traditional Norse version of the myth of Baldur's death is more complex and ends differently, but throughout the world mistletoe is praised for its curative qualities.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Stowe - Jack, Mary the Devil and the Rabblewouldbegone - Philippa Tipper

Jack, Mary the Devil and the Rabblewouldbegone
Jack and Mary were travellers. They had tramped the highways and byeways all of their lives and finally Mary had had enough, “It’s time to find somewhere to live, to put down roots and make our own.”
They came to a broken down house, by a river, with a small town a mile or two away.
“This will do. Let’s find out who owns it and settle on a rent”. But no matter who they asked they could not find who owned the house and its land.
They set out fixing the house up and then turning the soil ready to plant seeds for lots of food to eat and sell.
Just as Jack was digging some rich manure into the soil, there was a terrible, sulphurous stench that wafted towards him. Looking up he saw a fine, green velvet be-suited creature, not quite man not quite monster. It had hooves where there should have been feet and boots and on its green bearded head was a tall green velvet top hot with horns sticking through the brim.
The Devil looked at Jack, “What are you doing in my house and on my land?”
“Why I’ve fixed up the house and I’m preparing the land for our first crop. It’s been hard work.”
“If you want to stay here,” laughed the Devil, “You must pay me rent!”
“But I have no money, only this penny to buy seed to grow our own food.”
“I will take your harvest in that case, so you’d  better work hard!”
“Ah,” said Jack, thinking fast, as he knew they would need as much of the food that they could grow to survive the year for themselves, “ Let’s split the harvest? We keep half and you have half? Would you be wanting the top half or the bottom half of the harvest?”
“What? why, why, why...the TOP half. Yes. That’s what I’ll have and I’ll be back after the Harvest to collect the rent. Work harder!” and in a puff of stinky smoke, the Devil was gone.
With the ground prepared and the deal struck with Devil, Jack and Mary went into the small town to buy seeds to grow.
They sowed the seeds, watered, weeded and worked hard all through the summer. Come the harvest they had a fine harvest of potatoes, turnips, carrots, radishes, beetroots, swedes, onions, sweet potatoes, celeriac.
They were sitting enjoying a delicious baked potato with butter oozing over it when the stinky stench announced the Devil’s arrival.
“Ah ha! Good. Looks like loads. Give me my half!”
“Certainly. Your half was the TOP half of the harvest. It’s over there,” and Jack pointed to a big pile of twisted stems and yellowing leaves.

“WHAAAAT? Right next year I’ll have the bottom half of the harvest. You won’t trick me again” and with a puff he’d gone.
Next year Jack and Mary set off to the town and bought seeds, sowed, watered and weeded and worked hard. Come the harvest they had a bumper crop of cabbages, celery, lettuce, spinach, pumpkins, courgettes, marrows, chard, asparagus, cauliflower.
They were sitting enjoying a sumptuous pumpkin soup  when the pongy puff of smoke heralded the Devil’s arrival.
“Ah ha! Even better. Looks like loads more this year. Give me my half!”
“Certainly. Your half was the BOTTOM half of the harvest. It’s over there,” and Jack pointed to a big pile of rotting roots and wiggly worms.
“WHAAAAT? Right next year I’ll have the top half AND the bottom half of the harvest. You can have what’s inbetween. You DEFINTELY won’t trick me again” and with a puff he’d gone.
Next year Jack and Mary set off to the town and bought seeds, sowed, watered and weeded and worked hard. Come the harvest they had a bumper crop of tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, beans, brussel sprouts, corn on the cob, and lots of berries and fruit. Everything that dangled inbetween root and tip!
They were sitting enjoying a colourful salad and juicy fruit  when the whiffy wind declared the Devil’s arrival.
“Ah ha! Soooo much better. Looks like even more this year. Give me my top half and my bottom part of the crop!”
“Certainly. Your top and bottom part of the harvest. It’s over there,” and Jack pointed to a huge pile of rotting roots and wiggly worms, twisted stems and yellowing leaves.
“WHAAAAT? No, no, no, no, no! You have tricked me out of my rent three times. Enough! Tonight is the final test. We shall meet at midnight on the bridge. I shall bring a creature and you will bring a creature. Who so ever can not name the other’s creature forfeits the right to the house and land. See you at midnight.” and with a puff of smoke he’d gone.
“What will do? The Devil can travel anywhere in this world and others. There is no way we will be able to name his creature or present him with a creature that he does not know. Better get packing now Mary,” said Jack.
“Wait a moment,” said Mary. Jack watched in amazement as his wife took out a great pot of honey, smothered herself in it, split open the feather pillow and rolled herself around in the flurry. Then she smeared soot on her face from the fireplace, made a skirt of clanking pans round her waist, fixed a broom behind her as a tail and fixed a carrot on her nose. She was the most extraordinary creature that Jack had ever seen. “The Devil will never be able to name me,” said Mary.
“Now put this garland of garlic on the end of the bridge. You can be sure that the Devil will bring some creature from the underworld and they are terrified of garlic”.
Just before midnight Jack and Mary hid behind the bushes by the bridge. The town clock struck midnight and the clouds parted from in front of the moon and there, silhouetted against the sky was a great leathery winged, three tailed, clawed creature with the Devil riding on its back.
As it got closer to the bridge it swirled one, twice then reared up back into the clouds screeching. The Devil kicked it on again, trying to land on the bridge. But again it flew round and round and screeched refusing to go anywhere near the bridge.
The Devil was getting furious, “Come on you stupid Rabblewouldbegone, land or else there will be trouble!”
The creature landed on the far side of the bridge to where the garlic and Jack and Mary were hidden.
“Right Jack. Tell me, what is this creature? If you can”, the Devil stood proudly with the vast monster towering above him.
Jack plucked up all his courage and strolled casually towards the Devil. “Why it’s a Rabblewouldbegone. I’ve not seen one for a while, but I think that’s one of the smaller ones.”
“WHAAAAAAT??? Ah, but you’ve not won yet, you have to bring me a creature that I cant name and I have been everywhere and seen everything, there cant be a single thing that you could show me that I couldn’t name....” the Devil’s voice trailed off as the most peculiar creature appeared on the far side of the bridge.
Jack led the “Mary creature” onto the bridge.
“Yes, that’s a....of course it’s a....why I know that it’s....OOOOOOHHHH PAH!” and with that the Devil leapt on the back of the Rabblewouldbegone, rose up steeply into the sky, the clouds closed behind him and Jack and Mary never saw him again

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Stowe - At the Temple of Venus - The Land Dispute - a tale told by Philippa Tipper

The Land Dispute
One day a man who owned a field left it in the care of another man. He took good care of the land, ploughing, weeding, planting and harvesting it. When the owner came back he said to the man who had been taking care of it, 'Give it back now. The land belongs to me.'
" 'No,' said the other man, 'I won't. The land belongs to me. You are the owner, but I am the one who has taken care of the land all this time. The land is mine.'
They began a fight, until the neighbours brought them to a judge to settle the dispute. The judge happened to be Hodja Nasrudin. Each man said, 'The land is mine! The land belongs to me!'
Hodja walked to the field, lay down in the dirt, and put his ear to the ground. 'What are you doing, Nasrudin?' they asked.
 'I'm listening.' 
'What are you listening to?'
 'The land.'
Both men laughed at him. 'Listening to the land? Listening to the land? What does the land have to say?'
Hodja looked up and said. 'The land says it does not belong to either of you. It belongs to no one. It says you belong to the land.' "

Being statues

About Nasreddin Hodja

Nasreddin Hodja is Turkey's (and perhaps all of Islam's) best-known trickster. His legendary wit and droll trickery were possibly based on the exploits and words of a historical imam. Nasreddin reputedly was born in 1208 in the village of Horto near Sivrihisar. In 1237 he moved to Aksehir, where he died in the Islamic year 683 (1284 or 1285). As many as 350 anecdotes have been attributed to the Hodja, as he most often is called. Hodja is a title meaning teacher or scholar. He frequently is compared with the northern European trickster Till Eulenspiegel.

The many spelling variations for Nasreddin include: Nasreddin, Nasrettin, Nasrudin, Nasr-id-deen, Nasr Eddin, Nasr-eddin, Nasirud-din, Nasr-ud-Din, Nasr-Eddin, and Nasr-Ed-Dine.
The many spelling variations for Hodja include: Hodja, Hodscha, Hoca, Chotza, Cogia, Khodja, and Khoja.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Stowe - At The Hermitage - a tale told by Philippa Tipper

Walking to the Hermitage


View from the Hermitage

Phillipa Tipper in full flow!

A  young  monk was seeking enlightenment from an older, wiser monk, a hermit.
He travelled a long way to the hermit’s cave and sat with him waiting for words of wisdom. They ate together, they sat together and the days passed.

One day the monks were travelling and came to a lake. They saw a young woman attempting to cross the lake. There was a strong current in places and deep parts of the lake. The young woman cried out to them and asked if they could help her cross to the other side.

The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.

Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the lake, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his journey.

The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.

Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out,  “As monks, we are not permitted to be near to a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the lake, why are you still carrying her?”

About the Hermitage

What is a Hermitage - the dwelling of a hermit, especially when small and remote.

synonyms:retreatrefugehavensanctuarysanctumasylumhideawayhideouthiding place,shelter

Monday, 18 September 2017

Branching Out - Stowe - Temples, Tales, Parks and Gardens

Our Stowe Branching Out walk was guided by the awesome Storyteller and long time friend of back To Books - Philippa Tipper

Philippa Tipper: "People have conversations that make connections that create communities.
And we don't just belong to one community. We each participate in a variety of communities -- and have many stories that can be shared across those communities.
Stories are powerful. They can empower, embitter, enlighten and inform. They can build fear, break down barriers and can tell of shared experiences to shine a light into the future. They can connect us with different ways of being, of seeing things from a fresh perspective.
Some people travel the world for inspiration, it's good to look further a field, not get bogged down in the mire of petty local politics, to see that there is more out there in the world than your disputatious neighbour.
However, the wider world is not always a thousand miles away. We live in an extraordinary web of cultural life right here, right now. But you have to be prepared to step out of your door, or move off your chair, and have conversations with people that you had never before considered to be part of your community. 
It's all about listening, hearing, sharing. Let me tell you a story."

Sharing Our Communities' Stories - Philippa Tipper at TEDxMiltonKeynes

Link to the history of Stowe Landscape Gardens

Stowe House

Philippa created a walk punctuated by stories that resonated with stopping points

Our walk was about 3.5 miles
We had a picnic at The Temple of Venus
We also filled the alcoves, became statues
Carolyn led a Listening Mindfulness Meditation
Carole invited the group to create a paper shell 
intervention of wishes at The Pebble Alcove

It was a day of wonder, relaxation and surprise!
Many thanks to Phillipa and to the National Trust at Stowe for making our day so memorable.