Lughnasadh Away Weekend

But Archivist, I hear you cry Lughnasadh was almost two weeks ago! I know, but the Beltane Fire Society Lughnasadh away weekend starts tomorrow and that’s where I’m going to be all weekend.

While our forbears celebrated with sporting contests, grand markets and artistic performances we’ll be building a bonfire, burning a wicker man and eating a feast someone who isn’t me will have cooked! Expect lots of pictures and a not at all hungover Archivist returning on Sunday.

Migraine Curry, the Real Adult version

As mentioned in yesterday’s post the Migraine Curry could easily be rounded out with various vegetables to produce something that is also healthy as well as delicious. So because today I do not have a migraine and I still want curry I’ve gone ahead and made it. (You could even nix the chicken and have a decent veg curry)

Ingredients

  • Chicken
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Cumin
  • Methi Seed
  • Chili
  • Oil (I used sesame)
  • Two stock cubes of your choice
  • Rice

Additions:

  • Carrots (you can use frozen here but I find frozen carrots to be little sponges of evil so I use fresh)
  • Frozen Spinach
  • Frozen Peas
  • Dried red lentils

Dice the onions, garlic, ginger and carrots. Fry the dried spices with the onions, ginger and garlic until browned. Use as little oil as possible and pick a healthy oil like sesame or coconut.

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Add the chicken and brown it, then add the rest of the ingredients barring the rice. Cook on high for ten minutes to ensure that the enzymes in the lentils are denatured and then just allow to simmer until the sauce has reached a flavour and consistency you like and the chicken is cooked through. The rice can be cooked separately or in the sauce itself if you want to save time.

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Again, this is in no way authentic but it does taste pretty nice and is moderately healthy.

Migraine Curry Soup

Today I have a migraine and, because I am a mature and functional adult, all the pain killers in my house went out of date in 2013. I also, because I am a stubborn unmentionable as my grandmother might put it, spent the day working instead of laying in the dark, even though this involved staring at a brightly lit screen and trying to string words together.

So I need curry. I make no pretence that this is in any way authentic but its an excellent cure all when taken with your bloody migraine medication that you have discovered under the half folded laundry.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken (frozen and pre diced because dicing raw chicken with a piston shoving through my skull? You’re having a laugh)
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Cumin
  • Methi Seed
  • Chili (red dried in this case, I put five of them in but for those who don’t have a chili problem I advise less)
  • Oil (I used sesame)
  • Two stock cubes of your choice
  • Rice

This should, if I was an actual Real Adult, also contain actual vegetables. The frozen peas, frozen spinach and dried lentils I have around and even some finely diced carrots would make a pretty good decision. But cooking when you have a migraine is like cooking drunk. You will only make what you crave. So dice the onions, garlic and ginger, fry it up with the spices and then add the chicken. Once browned or when your patience runs out cover with water and stock. Ten minutes before you’re ready to serve add rice and let it cook in the juice.

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Here’s the Real Adult Version

Disaster Pasta Salad

So in an attempt to plan ahead I made about three days worth of pasta, intended to coat it in pesto and have it for lunch at work. Then I discovered my pesto was off. And I had a pot with three days worth of cold pasta in it.

What I did have in my fridge was goats cheese, tomatoes and broccoli and so Disaster Pasta Salad was born.

Ingredients

  • Shell Pasta
  • Head of Broccoli
  • Garlic
  • Plum Tomatoes
  • Goat Cheese
  • Sesame or Olive Oil
  • Balsamic Vinegar

Dice the broccoli and four or five garlic cloves (less if you like), coat in the oil and roast for twenty five minutes. Slice the plum tomatoes, crumble the goats cheese and mix everything together. I have the variety of goats cheese that can’t decide if it wants to be creamy or crumbly so it coats the pasta a little when stirred around.

Also I ate some already and its pretty good.

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Dian Cecht – Mythology’s Most Terrible Father?

Most people think that the crown of worst father in all of mythology belongs to Zeus. Those people are wrong.

After Nuada, king of the Tuatha De Dannan, loses a hand he’s forced to step down, thanks to a law saying that the King of Ireland had to be unblemished. Now this rule was generally only enforced if the people wanted to get rid of the king already but no-one liked Nuada. Unfortunately for them they liked his replacement even less, so a couple of years into his reign they called in Dian Cecht, chief physician to the De Dannan and hobbying monster, and his son Midach to solve the problem.

Dian Cecht creates Nuada a magical silver hand to replace the one he’s lost. Somehow this counts as returning to his unblemished state and should let him be king again. Midach doesn’t like this however and he actually regrows Nuada’s missing hand for him instead. Most fathers, even in mythology, would be proud.  A powerful son shows how powerful you are after all. Dian Cecht however, responds by splitting open his son’s head.

And then when that didn’t work doing it three more times until it stuck.

33. Now Nuada was being treated, and Dian Cecht put a silver hand on him which had the movement of any other hand. But his son Miach did not like that. He went to the hand and said “joint to joint of it, and sinew to sinew”; and he healed it in nine days and nights. The first three days he carried it against his side, and it became covered with skin. The second three days he carried it against his chest. The third three days he would cast white wisps of black bulrushes after they had been blackened in a fire.

34. Dian Cecht did not like that cure. He hurled a sword at the crown of his son’s head and cut his skin to the flesh. The young man healed it by means of his skill. He struck him again and cut his flesh until he reached the bone. The young man healed it by the same means. He struck the third blow and reached the membrane of his brain. The young man healed this too by the same means. Then he struck the fourth blow and cut out the brain, so that Miach died; and Dian Cecht said that no physician could heal him of that blow.

The Second Battle of Moytura http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/cmt/cmteng.htm

But Dian Cecht is not done.

He also has a daughter called Airmid. She’s also a doctor. After her brother is buried herbs that provide a cure for every illness spring up from his grave and she goes to collect and catalogue them. For some reason this makes their father angry, as if his son is showing him up one more time, so he takes her work and destroys it. He finishes off by telling her that even though her brother is dead she gets to live and so everyone should be grateful.

After that, Miach was buried by Dian Cecht, and three hundred and sixty-five herbs grew through the grave, corresponding to the number of his joints and sinews. Then Airmed spread her cloak and uprooted those herbs according to their properties. Dian Cecht came to her and mixed the herbs, so that no one knows their proper healing qualities unless the Holy Spirit taught them afterwards. And Dian Cecht said, “Though Miach no longer lives, Airmed shall remain.”

Worst. Father. In all of mythology.

But I’m always open to other viewpoints, so what do you think?

If you liked this and want to see more content like this please donate to my patreon here https://www.patreon.com/user?u=3385297

A Field Guide To Irish Goddesses

So I’ve recently signed a book contract to write a book that provides a plain English, clearly sourced and cited book on Irish goddesses. To that end I’ve set up a patreon to help support me during the writing process and if I get enough pledges I’ll be producing regular bonus content just for my patrons. You can check it out here

The Mackenzie Poltergeist

Edinburgh is a city of graveyards. Up here we love our dead. We like to keep them present among us, so it shouldn’t be any wonder that Edinburgh is also a city of ghosts. Greyfriars Churchyard is a pleasant looking place, tucked away behind a pub and a statue of the famous dog, Greyfriars’ Bobby – a Highland Terrier who, once his owner was buried there, spent the rest of his life sitting on his grave. It’s the subject of a Disney movie, which is ironic, because it is also the location of the most violent haunting in Scotland.

Scotland’s history is one of violent revolutions, witch hunts and religious persecutions. Religion and politics intertwine like co-morbid medical disorders and when King Charles II demanded that everyone recognise him as head of the church in a nasty piece of political posturing, a group known as the Covenanters objected. For them it was obvious that Jesus Christ was the head of the church and they would brook no blasphemy. This went about as well for them as could be expected and, tiring of torture and death in the face of their religious convictions, they went to war over it only to lose, badly.

It was in this churchyard where they first signed their covenant. In it they swore to uphold their own faith and accept no changes to it, while at the same time maintaining a loyalty to the king which would not save them. Perhaps this is why Bluidy George Mackenzie, Lord Advocate and man responsible for their fate, had them imprisoned there after the war was done.

The odd thing about Mackenzie is that previously he’d been a moderate. While he hadn’t come out and said witch burnings were nonsense (because that would have been heresy) he had defended the accused when he was supposed to be prosecuting, and went on record saying that he thought real witches were uncommon and most confessions a result of torture. Whether it was religious feeling or outrage outrage over the war, something in Mackenzie seems to have snapped. His treatment of them was obscenely cruel, and while apparently he kept strictly to the letter of the law in his treatment of them this did not stop the people from hating him for it.

Standing in Greyfriar’s Churchyard it is impossible to imagine that 1200 people even fit into that tiny corner of the graveyard it where he fenced them in, let alone lived there for months on end. The conditions alone killed literally hundreds of them, and of the survivors hundreds more were executed or sent to the colonies, only to drown when their boat was wrecked off the coast of Orkney. Those who died were buried right there in the churchyard, in the section reserved for criminals.

Mackenzie eventually retired from public life and spent his final days in Oxford, England, perhaps because by then everyone in Scotland despised him. Despite the spiritual dubiousness of burying him beside his victims and the many days long journey to get his body back to Edinburgh, Mackenzie was buried in that same churchyard. Unlike his victims, however, he got to be laid to rest in the respectable section, his body placed in a fine mausoleum. Is it any wonder then, that there is a ghost there? Or that that the ghost is angry?

The final ingredient to this horror movie, some centuries later, was a small boy who chose to shelter in Mackenzie’s mausoleum while running away from school to escape a beating. Adding a child and fresh violence to that environment was the classic poltergeist final straw, and the spirit that haunts Greyfriars’ churchyard did not disappoint. Most people think it is the spirit of Mackenzie himself, but personally the spirits of angry Covenanters seem more likely to me. Afterall, unless it’s the guilt of being near his victims that keeps him here, what does he have to be angry about? Maybe its psychic energy, activated by the fresh young mind of the child and his terror. People do say that suffering leaves its mark on a place and that children and their emotions are what causes poltergeists.

One thing is certain: whatever it is, the Mackenzie Poltergeist is vicious and it is angry.

While our tourism tends to focus more on the dog, and the tombstone that inspired J. K. Rowling to name Lord Voldemort we are far too canny not to cash in on people’s appetite for the macabre. Ghost tours cross Edinburgh like fungus with every other student putting on a cape and mimicking a dead person for beer money. The Mackenzie Poltergeist was no exception, even having its very own tour built around it by Jan Andrew Henderson, who also actually lived in a house in the graveyard and dedicated himself to studying the entity, whatever it is. What makes the Mackenzie Poltergeist so unique is the frequency of its attacks and the sheer violence. Where other such entities are content to scratch and throw things the Mackenzie Poltergeist burns its victims, dutifully photographed by Henderson, even following them home sometimes to continue the harassment. Henderson collected his evidence scientifically, taking photographs and developing methods to weed out hysterical accounts from the real ones. While he can’t prove the nature of the beast he certainly seems to have proved that something is happening.

Henderson’s house eventually burned down, taking the original copies of all of his research with it, though a digital backup remains. We can’t say for sure that it was the work of the ghost, of course. But it’s a hell of a coincidence.

Image By Kim Traynor – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22821011