A Magical Time – Samhain

Stone Circle

Stone Circle

Excerpt from DARK BIRTHRIGHT – from a chapter called A MAGICAL TIME

October 31, 1635

Louden Wood, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

The stone cottage was drafty.  A candle illuminated the room,  casting shadows.  Keira stood naked in front of the fire.  A bowl of water,  rosemary and lavender sat on the table.  She dipped a wool sponge into the water and ran it down her arm to her fingertips.  “As I cleanse this body, I purify this mind so my actions may please the Goddess.  So mote  it be.”  She placed the sponge in the bowl and picked up her robe.

“Gaze into the bowl after the purifying ritual,” Isobel whispered.  “Ye may see the future.”

She took the sponge out of the bowl and waited for the ripples to subside.  Candlelight danced on the surface, yet she saw it clearly.  Nay, it canna be.  Keira dressed in a black robe, feeling the soft wool on her skin.  She smoothed the sleeves and tied her hair back with a ribbon.

“Ye look beautiful, child.”

Keira hugged herself.  “I’m nervous. What will happen if I forget the words?”

Isobel smiled. “Ye won’t forget.  Elspeth spoke the words many times.”

“I know. I wish Mother could see me.  Sometimes I talk to her, as though she’s next to me.”

“Perhaps she is.  We know that love transcends death.”

Keira picked up a black ribbon and tied it around her neck.  Her fingers held the sacred charm, a pentacle within a circle.  “Great Goddess. I’m not worthy of this.”

“It’s in yer blood, child.”

Keira blushed.  “Michael is coming.  I must go with him to prepare the sacred space.”  She slipped on her brogues and felt the fur lining between her toes.  “Alistair and Janet will walk with you.  Will you be all right?  You could stay with Regan.”

Isobel’s voice quavered.  “I wouldn’t miss this for the wisdom of the old ones.”

Keira hugged her tightly.  “I love you.”

There was a rap on the door.  “Ho!” Michael said.  “Are you there?”

Keira drew her breath in sharply.  The words would not come out.

Isobel stared.  “Come in Michael, she’s ready.”

Michael entered the cottage, in a long black robe that reached the floor.  His eyes swept over Keira, from head to toe.  “You look like a true priestess, lass.  Are ye nervous?”

She clasped her hands to keep them from shaking.  “Aye, a bit.  Shall we go? I want you to show me one more time.”

He wrapped a cape around her shoulders, and glanced at Isobel.  “Will you be all right, Mother?”

Isobel nodded.  “Go on, Son. Alistair and Janet will walk with me.”

“Have ye the sacred anointing oil?”

Keira reached into her pocket and felt the bottle.  “Aye.”

“Then let’s be on our way.”  He opened the door and looked back.  “Peace be with ye, Mother.”

They left the cottage.  Michael picked up a basket and handed it to Keira.  She pulled back the cover and saw a bowl, an apple, a pouch of salt, a flask, and a knife.  Keira’s throat tightened. “I forgot.  What do we do with the apple?”

Michael smiled.  “Don’t worry.  I was nervous the first time too.”  He grasped her hand and sighed.  “Let me tell you how I felt.  When we realized that Kale wasn’t coming back, the responsibility fell to me.  Oh I’d seen it done a hundred times, and Kale made it look so easy.  But the words!  We’d lost him, our friend, our leader, our very heart.  And here I was this imposter who struggled with words.  Everyone looked to me to heal the wound we’d suffered.  Would my crude prayers please the Goddess?”

“Oh, dear.  That’s how I feel.  It comes naturally to ye now.  No one would guess that ye struggled.”

“It took time and practice.  People were patient, as well as the Goddess.  Kale was with me in spirit.  If you ask, your mother will stand with ye.”

Keira pressed his hand to her lips.  “Thank ye, friend.  You’re a dear man.”

Michael picked up a leather pack, slinging it over his shoulder.  “The stones await us. Do ye not hear them calling?”

Wood smoke drifted in the night air as they turned south towards the old forest.  Keira looked back at the village.  Familiar faces emerged from the cottages, bundled in warm clothes and carrying torches.

“Don’t look back,” Michael said.  “Think about your sacred duties.”

Keira took a breath and looked forward.  They walked through the forest in silence.  Wood smoke faded, and the smell of pine needles prevailed.  Leaves crunched as they followed an overgrown path.  A great owl hooted in the distance.  She took his hand.  “It feels like a place out of time.”

“Exactly. You’re a quick study, lass.”  They passed the tree that bore the mark of a pentacle and followed a hidden trail.  The standing stones were just ahead.

***

They entered the circle of stones and separated.  Wind scattered the fallen leaves.  His face was serious as he held out his hands.

She felt his energy as he spiraled it through his body and released it through his fingertips.  Did he know that she felt it too?  “Mother help me,” she whispered.  She looked around the circle at her place of sanctuary and placed the basket on a stone bench.  The earth beneath her feet vibrated like the wings of a thousand birds.  “Great Goddess.  I belong here, as my mother before me.”  She faced him.  The moon was rising, illuminating his face.

Michael smiled.  “You feel it too.”

“Aye.  I’m not afraid anymore.”

“Excellent.  Our friends are gathering outside the circle.  We must prepare ourselves.”  Michael led her to the stone bench, where they sat on either side of the basket.  “Start with me, lass.”

Keira opened the basket and took out the bowl.  She added sea salt and filled it with water from the flask.  Together, they dipped their hands in the bowl.

Michael prayed.  “As rain washes the mountains, as oceans wash the beaches, I cleanse this body with water and salt.  May it please the Goddess.”

“So mote it be.”  His fingers brushed hers, and she felt the heat rise in her.  For a moment, she forgot what came next.

“The oil, lass.”

Keira reached in her pocket and took out a bottle.  She opened it, dabbed oil on her forefingers, and drew the sign of the pentacle on his forehead.  “How do ye enter this circle, Brother?”

“In perfect love and perfect trust.”  His eyes searched her face as he dabbed the oil and drew the sacred sign on her forehead.  “How do ye enter this circle, Sister?”

“In perfect love and perfect trust.”  Her heart pounded with anticipation.

“They’ve arrived,” he whispered.  “You’re my priestess.  Anoint them and welcome them in.”

Keira looked behind her.  Kevin and Morgaine stood with young Robbie, his arm in a sling.   John put wee Angus down and tried to fasten Nessia’s coat around her pregnant belly.  Behind them, the McFay children stamped their feet against the cold.  She saw the torches of others entering the clearing.

Michael pressed the bottle into her hand and led her outside the circle. “Your flock awaits ye.”

The others had arrived.  The Wests, Cummings, Rosses, and Davies stood with their children.  Cawley and Florag leaned on each other and Alistair and Janet supported Isobel.

Michael spoke. “Behold your new priestess!  Come so that she may anoint ye. You can begin, lass.”

Keira waited as her friends gathered.  She anointed Kevin and  Morgaine and young Robbie.

Morgaine touched the lad’s shoulder.  “My son has something to tell ye.”

Robbie looked up.  “Thank ye, priestess, for fixing my arm.”

Keira reached out and tousled his hair.  “You’re welcome, lad.”

“I will be calling East,” Kevin said.  He led his family into the circle, taking a position to the east.

John and Nessia stood before her, holding young Angus.  She anointed them and watched them enter the circle.  Torry and George and Aileana grinned as she drew the symbol on their foreheads.

“I’m South,” Torry said.  “I’m so nervous.  I hope I remember the  words.”  He grabbed Keira and kissed her cheek.  “I can’t believe you’re priestess.”

Aileana slapped him.  “Clot head!  You’re not supposed to kiss the priestess.”

Michael’s voice was stern.  “You’re on sacred ground.  Enter the circle, young ones.”  He took her arm and led them to the south end.

Keira anointed the families along with their many children.  She was gentle with Cawley and Florag, whose wrinkled faces studied her.  “Welcome, old ones.”

“I’ll be calling West,” Florag said, in a shaky voice.  Cawley took her arm and they shuffled to the western end of the circle.

At last, Alistair and Janet Murray stood before her, supporting a tired Isobel.  “Are ye all right, Grandmother?”

“Thank the Goddess I lived to see this day.”

Keira drew the sacred sign on their foreheads.

Janet whispered.  “I’ll be calling North.  May my actions please the Goddess.”  They took the northern position.

The ritual was about to begin.  Michael and Keira entered the center.  His voice was strong and clear.  “Blessed are those who witness this ancient rite.  Within these stones, I cast sacred space.  We stand in a world between worlds.”

Keira smiled.  “What is between the worlds can change the worlds.”

“So mote it be.”

“Friends,” Michael said.  “We gather to celebrate the harvest.  The year ends, fields lay fallow, and beasts sleep.  Hearken, for the darkness of winter comes.”

“It’s a time to honor the wheel of life, the cycle of rebirth,” Keira said.  “The Goddess opens the gates of Summerland to departed souls.”

“The veil between worlds is thinnest,” Michael said.  “We honor our dead and ancestors by remembering them.  Though it is a time of darkness, rejoice!  ‘Tis one turn upon the wheel, to be followed by rebirth.”

“May the shining ones join us in the light,” Keira said.

Everyone faced east and held out their hands.  “Spirits of the East,” Kevin said.  “Element Air.  Source of light, wisdom and thought.  Winged creatures!  Sparrow, eagle, and hawk.  Hail and Welcome!”

They faced south.  “Spirits of the South!” Torry cried, his voice shaking.  “Element Fire.  Source of energy, will, and blood.  Um… Creatures!  Horse and Leaping Salamandar!”  He drew a breath.  “Um, I forgot.  Hail and Welcome!”

They faced west and held out their hands.  “Spirits of the West,” Florag said, in a faltering voice.  “Element Water.  Source of purification, emotions, and love.  Creatures of the sea.  Fish, Seals, and Mermaids.  Hail and Welcome!”

They faced north.  “Spirits of the North,” Janet said.  “Element Earth.  Source of knowledge, speech, and silence.  Creatures of nature great and small.  Hail and Welcome.”

They turned and faced the center.  “Dear Friends,” Michael said.  “We welcome Spirit, universal energy.  Source of life, death, and rebirth.  Creatures Raven and Owl.  Hail and Welcome!  We thank our ancestors, who built this stone circle with their magic.  Ancestors and deceased, stand with us tonight.”

Keira smiled.  “As we go around the circle, each can name a soul who has gone before us.  Torry, you can start.”

“Me Father, Alan McFay.”

“Mother dearest, Jean McFay,” Aileana said.

“Aunt Beathas,” George said.  “Bring us your gooseberry pie.”

And so it went around the circle.  “Sean”, “Uncle Hamish”, “Fia”, “Grandmother Bonnie”, “Silly Mary”, “Little Bryan”, “Old John the Tanner”, “Father Brodie” …

Keira reached into her pocket and closed her fingers around a sprig of rosemary.  “Father… Mother… Hail and Welcome.”  For a moment,  the voices of the dead whispered around them. Gooseflesh rose on her  arms.

“Call the Goddess, lass.”

She took a breath and held her hands to the sky.  “Great Goddess!  Mother of all.  Help the souls pass into the Summerland.  Stir the  cauldron of life.  Comfort those waiting to be reborn. Grace our circle and witness our rite.  Hail and Welcome!”

Michael kneeled and placed his hands on the ground.  They joined him. “Children of the stones, we send healing energy to the earth to benefit all people.”

“So mote it be.”  They all stood.

Michael took the apple out of the basket and held it up in the moonlight.  “Behold, the fruit of death!”  He handed it to his priestess.

Keira cut the apple crosswise so the seeds formed a pentacle and showed the sacred symbol.  “Which is also life!  See how it forms the star of rebirth.”  She sliced the apple and placed a piece on Michael’s tongue.  “Taste the fruit of rebirth, Brother.  Dear friends, share in the miracle of rebirth.”  They passed the apple around the circle until each tasted a small piece.

Michael looked up at the full moon.  “Friends, the wheel has turned.  Return to your homes and light the fires.”

Keira smiled.  “We thank the shining ones who joined our circle.  Goddess!  Our Lady.  Be with us always.”

“Ancestors, beloved deceased,” Michael said.  “Lend us your strength.  Powers of Spirit, Earth, Water, Fire, and Air.  We rejoice with you! Hail and Farewell!  Friends,” Michael said. “May the circle be open but never unbroken.”

Keira smiled.  “May the peace of the Goddess be ever in our hearts.”

“Good night, all.”

Keira breathed a sigh of relief.  She’d served as priestess and hadn’t made a mistake.  She watched as parents gathered their children and left the circle, flanked by the old ones.  The young lass walked to Alistair and Janet, who stood with a tired Isobel.  “Oh, Grandmother.  You stayed the whole time.”

Isobel hugged her.  “I’m so proud of ye.”

“I’ll be home soon.  Michael and I must pack up.”

“Take as much time as ye want.  He’s yer intended, after all.  Alistair will help me light the fire.”  She clasped Janet’s hand and left the circle.

At last, it was quiet.  Only the sound of the leaves rustling in the trees remained.  It was so cold they could see their breath.  Michael held her hands, rubbing them to warm them up.  He was so close that she felt the brush of his wool robe.  She wondered if he could hear her heart beat.

He brought her hand to his lips and kissed her fingers.  “You did well, lass. I knew ye would.”

She gasped.

He pressed his lips against the hollow of her wrist, and lingered there.  “You’re beautiful.”

A fire burned deep inside of her.  Great Goddess!  Is this happening or am I delirious?

***

I hope that you enjoyed this excerpt.  The story continues in DARK BIRTHRIGHT, book one of the Dark Birthright Saga:

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

Dark Birthright Saga

Traditional Fisher Folk Songs of Northeast Scotland

Scottish Fisher Lass

Scottish Fisher Lass

Traditional Fisher Folk Songs of Northeast Scotland

Who would be a fisherman’s wife?

“Who would be a fisherman’s wife?
To go to the mussels with a scrubber and a knife
A dead out fire
And a reveled bed
Away to the mussels in the morning

See the boat come beatin’ in
With three reefs to the foresail in
Not a stitch
Upon his back
Away to the mussels in the morning”

The Bonnie Fisher Lass

“Twas in the month of August one morning by the sea,
When violets and cowslips they so delighted me.
I met a pretty damsel for an empress she might pass,
And my heart was captivated by the bonnie fisher lass.

Her petticoats she wore so short, they came below her knee.
Her handsome leg and ankle, they so delighted me.
Her rosy cheeks her yellow hair, for an empress she might pass,
And wi’ her creel she daily toiled, the bonnie fisher lass.

I stepped up beside her and to her I did say
‘Why are you out so early? Why are you going this way?’
She said ‘I’m going to look for bait, now allow me for to pass.
For our lines we must get ready’ said the bonnie fisher lass.

Her petticoats she wore so short, they came below her knee.
Her handsome leg and ankle, they so delighted me.
Her rosy cheeks her yellow hair, for an empress she might pass,
And wi’ her creel she daily toiled, the bonnie fisher lass.”

The Boatie Rows

“O weel may the boatie row,
and better she may speed;
O weel may the boatie row,
That brings the bairns’ breid.”

The boatie rows, the boatie rows,
The boatie rows full well;
And muckle good before the drag,
The marline and the creel.”

Mairi’s Wedding

Step we gaily on we go,
Heel for heel and toe for toe,
Arm in arm and row and row,
All for Mairi’s wedding.

Over hillways up and down,
Myrtle green and the bracken brown,
Past the sheiling through the town,
Is our darling Mairi.

Red her cheeks as rowans are.
Bright her eyes as any star,
Fairest o them all by far,
Is our darling Mairi.

Plenty herring plenty meal,
Plenty peat tae fill her creel,
Plenty bonnie bairns as weel,
That’s the toast for Mairi.

This medley was compiled by Jeanne Treat, author of the Dark Birthright Saga, a 17th century tale from Scotland, England, and the Colonies.

There are many songs referenced in these books, taken from traditional Scottish folk music.  Most of these compositions are over 100 years old and in the public domain, with one exception. “Mairi’s Wedding” was written by Johnny Bannerman in Gaelic in 1935 for his friend Mairi McNiven, and translated into English a year later by Hugh Roberton.  Some of these songs are still performed today, by artists such as Isla St Clair and The Johnson Girls.

For information on Jeanne’s books, visit her online at http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

 Dark Birthright Saga

To hear these songs, explore these links:  (YouTube videos)

Mairi’s Wedding
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkRQ0SuzSWw

The Bonnie Fisher Lass
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIke7GJIfZE

Who Would Be a Fisherman’s Wife?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN8kVsZWMVk

The Boatie Rows
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVJ-uLiRgEk

Enjoy!

A snippet from my novel “Dark Lord”

General Alexander Leslie

General Alexander Leslie

A snippet from my novel “Dark Lord” from a chapter named “Seeds of Rebellion”.

August 17th, 1637  – Edinburgh, Scotland

It was hot and dry in the old section of the city, atypical for this time of year.  Dust rose from cobblestone streets, choking the hardiest of inhabitants.

Alexander Leslie hiked a sea bag on his shoulder and gazed at the sign on a tavern.  The establishment had changed hands since he’d been here last, fifteen years ago.  The framed sign featured the innkeeper’s name “J. Adams” above a painted image of a man with a gelding.  This told him that the inn had stables in addition to beds for travelers.   Alexander placed a hand on the stout wooden door and pushed hard.  The portal groaned and opened suddenly into a spacious room with oak plank floors.  His first impression was good.  Light flooded the chamber from high windows.  Rough hewn tables and benches were loosely arranged, occupied by men from a variety of professions.

He felt comfortable here.  There were tradesmen, merchants, sailors, and nobles; drinking and talking in small groups.  As he walked to the back, he caught fragments of conversation about politics, economics, and the recent unrest.  Scruffy dogs lay at their masters’ feet, absently scratching fleas.  The room reeked of ale, tobacco, and unwashed bodies.  Near the fireplace, a buxom girl in apron and cap rebuffed the advances of a toothless patron.

The lass noticed him, her face lighting up with feigned recognition.  “What shall it be, good Sir?  Ale?  Whisky?  Or a taste of something more intimate?”  She gave him a coy smile, indicating that she was available.

Alexander hesitated.  She was bonny enough for a roll in the hay, but he was bound to stay faithful to his wife.  His father, Captain George Leslie, had sired four illegitimate children.   His mother had been described as a wench from Rannoch.  Because of his upbringing, he was unwilling to do that to his children.  “Tankard of ale, lass.  That will do for now.”  He dropped his sea bag on the floor and sat at the nearest table.  As the woman fetched his drink, he thought about his half-siblings.  He had a brother in France, another in Spain, and a sister in this fair city.  Though she died before they met, he’d learned that she had a daughter.  Three years ago, he’d inquired about the lass named Jenny Geddes and learned that she was an indentured servant.  “My niece”, he said, “is no better than a common slave.  I mean to buy her freedom.”

The lass brought a drink to the table and brushed his shoulder with her bare arm.  He mumbled that he was expecting a gentleman and sent her on her way.  At fifty-seven, Alexander was an attractive man.  A life long soldier in the Swedish army, he had a chiseled look and tight body.  He’d earned a reputation as a strategist, been knighted by the Swedish monarch, and had risen to the position of Field Marshal.  Now events in his native country compelled him to return.  Having amassed a fortune abroad, he could supply an army with cannons and muskets.

The door creaked and opened into the tavern, admitting a well dressed nobleman carrying a gold-topped cane.  He stopped and scanned the room, resting his eyes on the seaman. Alexander guessed that this was the man who had summoned him.  The nobleman wore an article of clothing they’d agreed upon; a white silk scarf with gold piping.  He signaled discreetly, inviting him to his table.

John Elphinstone, 2nd Lord Balmerino, carefully removed his scarf and crossed the room.  He placed the garment on the table and waited to be acknowledged.

“Lord Balmerino?”

“Aye.”

“Alexander Leslie, at yer service.”  He took out a brooch and plunked it on the table.  It was a symbol of the Swedish army.  “My calling card, as we agreed…” He smiled and extended his hand.

Lord Balmerino shook it.  “Glad to have ye on our side.” He took a seat opposite him.  “The years have been good to ye.  Ye don’t look a day over forty.”

Alexander made a small sound of agreement.  “Soldiering is a Spartan existence.  Fighting…  Guarding…  Training the troops…  It would be a mistake to go soft.”

The man seemed eager to get down to business.  “I trust that ye got my letters.”

“Aye, as well as those from Sir Thomas Hope.  Does this mean that the nobility will back a rebellion?”

Lord Balmerino nodded.  “Aye.  We’re being slowly stripped of our influence and lands, for the sake of his majesty’s Bishops and clergy.  Most of us will commit men and supplies; some are willing to enlist their sons.  There are a few holdouts in Catholic strongholds, but I think that we can bring them to our side.”

“Good.”  Alexander took a sip and rolled the ale across his tongue.  It was a bitter variety.  He needed specifics.  “I heard about the riot and subsequent arrests.  What are we in for?”

Lord Balmerino signaled to the serving lass, ordering a round of drinks.  He leaned forward and spoke covertly, “After the riot, thousands of men fanned out across the country, spreading the news and carrying petitions.  Within weeks we will have them back so that we can face the Privy Council.  They will have to inform the King.”

Alexander frowned.  “He’s a stubborn man.  What will he do?”

Lord Balmerino was solemn.  “The King is not like his father.  He will never give in to the will of the people.  We’re in for a wild ride, my friend.”

“Can we raise an army by spring?”

“The people are on fire with religious fervor.  The lairds and chieftains should have no trouble gathering troops.  But their weapons are primitive.”

Alexander was tense.  “Leave that to me.  I shall return to Sweden to make arrangements.  Within weeks, boat loads of cannons and muskets will be on their way.”

“Good!”  The man smiled.  “Of course, we will require yer leadership as well.”

“That goes without saying.  It is time for this old soldier to serve his country.”

“Admirable.”  Lord Balmerino plunked a bag of gold on the table and pushed it in his direction.   “Here is a thousand pounds, a small down payment for yer services.”

There was an argument nearby which caused them to take notice.  Angry voices rang out as a drink was spilled.  There didn’t seem to be any immediate danger.  They returned to their conversation.

“On another subject…  Did ye inquire about my niece Jenny Geddes?”

Lord Balmerino smiled.  “She’s a fiery lass; a true asset to the rebellion.  She led the riot inside St Giles.”

Alexander was surprised.  “A woman did this?  Did they throw her in the Tollbooth?”

“Nay.  I’m told that she left the city to marry a man from a northern estate.”

So Jenny had gained her freedom.  “Where is she now?”

“Drake Castle; the jurisdiction of the Duke of Seaford…  She married his right-hand man.”  He looked pensive as he fingered the silver brooch.  “It’s a fortunate thing.  We need an organizer in Aberdeenshire.”

Leslie nodded in agreement.  “What do we know about the Duke?”

“The young man has a reputation.  Months ago, he killed his own father in a sword fight to the death.  They say that he has the Sight.  Some claim that he has supernatural powers.”

Leslie smiled.  “Ah, the rumor mill…  We should all have such things said about us.  It gives us an advantage in battle.  What are his religious leanings?”

“The man’s a Catholic who used to be Protestant, yet seems uncommitted to either.”

“How did that happen?”

“He’s the long lost son of Robert Gordon, who lost track of him before he was born.  Gordon reclaimed him at sixteen from lowly circumstances.”

Leslie sipped his ale.  “What circumstances would those be?”

“It’s said that he was raised by a common fisherman.”

“Did Gordon force him to the Catholic faith?”

“Aye.”

“It could be useful.” Alexander’s interest was piqued.  “He can’t stay neutral in these times.  I will visit my niece when I return from Sweden and assess the situation.”

The woman brought two tankards and smiled at the soldier as she placed them on the table.  She lifted her skirt slightly as she turned and headed for the kitchen.

Lord Balmerino chuckled.  “Ye’re a lucky man to have influence with bonny young women.”

Leslie reddened.  “Never mind that…  The harlot means nothing to me.”  He leaned forward to ensure their privacy.  “The day grows short.  Tell me about the will of the people.”

Lord Balmerino smiled.  “The people are committed to the cause.  What we need is a standard to unite them under.”  He withdrew a drawing from his cape and unfolded it on the table.  “What do ye think?”

Alexander Leslie studied the sketch, which showed a handsome flag bearing the motto ‘For Christ’s Crown’.   He instinctively knew that something was missing.  “Can we change this?”

“To what?”

Leslie was pensive as he traced the flag in the sketch.  He drew upon his years of military experience.  “A standard must portray will and purpose.  With yer permission, I would like it to say ‘For Christ’s Crown and Covenant’.”

“A stroke of brilliance!” the noble remarked as he quickly refolded the paper, “We shall ask them to sign a covenant.”

Author’s note:
Dark Lord is book two in the Dark Birthright Trilogy.
Available in paperback and popular eBook formats.
Read about the series at

http://www.DarkLordTheNovel.com

Passenger List – Ship “Unity”

Sail Away

Sail

Following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, over 4000 Scots had been captured and imprisoned. In fairly short order, 150 of the healthiest men were gathered, taken to London and then shipped on the Unity to New England, arriving in Massachusetts. These approximately 150 Scottish prisoners of war which arrived in Massachusetts Bay were a small remnant of the prisoners from the Battle of Dunbar which numbered in the thousands. Many perished in England or were banished to other countries to serve time.

Passenger List – Ship “Unity”.

 

This battle and its aftermath is detailed in my novel DARK DESTINY, book three of the Dark Birthright trilogy.

A sea voyage to the colonies is mentioned, as is the young man Peter Grant.

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

 

Summer Solstice

A video compilation of our visit to Aikey Brae Stone Circle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  Wouldn’t you love to attend a ‪#‎Solstice‬ ceremony here?

 

It’s quite a hike!  Here are the GPS coordinates:

GATE AT ROAD

N 57 DEGREES 31 MINUTES 17.6 SECS

W 2 DEGREES 3 MINUTES 44.1 SECS

200’ ELEVATION

WALK PATH UP TO 405’ ELEVATION

 

This is the circle I referenced in my novel DARK BIRTHRIGHT, book one of the Dark Birthright Trilogy.

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

Dark Birthright Saga

 

James Graham – 1st Marquess of Montrose and 5th Earl of Montrose

James Graham

James Graham

Portrait by William Dobson, some commentary by Carolyn Bruce.

James Graham was hung, quartered and his head impaled on a stake at the Mercat Cross on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, On 21 May in 1650!

On 21 May 1650, James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and 5th Earl of Montrose, Chief of Clan Graham and an able and brilliant soldier, was hanged at Old Market Cross in Edinburgh. When Charles I tried to force upon the Scots a prayer book they regarded as “too Catholic”, the Presbyterian Scots resisted, and James Graham joined them,  partially because of the political power King Charles had vested in Anglican Bishops. Civil war raged for years, with Montrose participating at first against the king, and later, against the Covenanters, as he tried to establish an apolitical clergy. His reputation as a military leader was well earned, and after the Battle of Kilsyth in 1645, the king appointed him Lord Lieutenant and Captain-general of Scotland. When Charles I was defeated in the Battle of Naseby and sent for Montrose to come to his aid, Montrose was defeated at Philiphaugh. Unable to raise another army, he escaped to Norway. Charles I was beheaded, and his son, Charles II, in exile, from where he appointed Montrose Lieutenant of Scotland. As such he returned home to raise an army, but was betrayed; the king had struck a deal with the Covenanters to regain his throne. After his execution “The Great Montrose” was decapitated and his head was set upon “the prick [pike] on the highest stone” of the Old Tolbooth at St. Giles Cathedral. There it remained for 11 years, at which time his body parts were reunited for a hero’s funeral.

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You can read about this event in my novel DARK DESTINY, which is book three of the DARK BIRTHRIGHT TRILOGY.

Here is an excerpt:

Chapter 30 – “Letters” June 29, 1650

Drake Castle

The Duke stood in his study, gazing out the open window.  The day was oppressively hot, with temperatures above ninety.  Because of the weather, he was informally dressed – in breeks, a shirt, and no shoes or socks.  “Whew, it’s hot!”  He mopped his brow with a handkerchief.

Dughall spotted Jamison crossing the courtyard with a pack of letters in his hand.  His spirits lifted.  “Perhaps it’s from Gilbert.”  He left the window and moved his ledgers to the sideboard.  There was a knock on the door.  “Come in.”

Jamison entered.  “My Lord.”  The servant was sweaty from the heat.  “A courier dropped these letters at the gate.”  He placed them on the desk.

“How many are there?”

“Three.”

Dughall motioned for him to take a seat.  He picked up one of the envelopes and saw that it was addressed to Jamison.  “This one is for ye.”

The servant grinned.  “I know.  I want to read it together.  It’s from my contact in Edinburgh.  He’s a member of Parliament.  I asked about Montrose.”

Dughall frowned.  “Ah…  The trial.”

“And execution.”

“We shall see.”  The Duke sliced open the envelope and extracted the letter.  “Shall I read out loud?”

“Aye.”

The author had some schooling.  It was written in fancy handwriting.

Jamison my friend,

You inquired about the Marquess of Montrose.  There is quite a story to tell.  The Parliament condemned him to death in absentia before he arrived here.  James Graham was brought as a prisoner to Edinburgh and without trial was sentenced to death on May 20th.  Archibald Johnston read his fate out loud for all to hear.  He was to be hanged at the Market Cross with a copy of De Rebus hung ‘round his neck.  This book you may remember was Bishop Wishart’s favorable biography of Graham’s life.  But there was more to his humiliation!  He was to swing on the scaffold for three hours, after which time, his head was to be severed and his body quartered.  Unless he repented, he was to be buried in unhallowed ground. 

Graham did not repent.  He insisted that he was a real Covenanter and a loyal subject.  This was met with jeers and shameful gestures of mockery.

I watched the sentence carried out on May 21st at the town market cross.  I must say that Graham accepted his fate with grace and courage.  When allowed final words, he prayed to heaven, “Scatter my ashes!  Strew them in the air, Lord, since thou knowest where all these atoms are.”

The hanging was then carried out.  As prescribed, his body hung for three hours, was decapitated, and quartered.  The head was displayed on a pike at the Tollbooth Prison, while the parts were dispersed for display in Glasgow, Perth, Stirling, and Aberdeen.      

I suspect that you will approve of this action, given your experience with the man.  But it was a disgraceful end for a Lord of the realm.  I fear that we have set a bad precedent.  After his death, some of us convinced Parliament to bury his body parts in hallowed ground.  They were going to dump them in a common grave on Burgh Muir.

In closing, we must be careful what we wish for!  Someday, it could apply to us.  I hope that this satisfies your curiosity.  Stay safe, my friend.  Give my regards to Lord Drake and the Lady of the castle.

 Sincerely – John H.

The Duke shuddered.  “He’s right.  That was a disgraceful way for a lord to die.”

Jamison grunted.  “Agreed.”

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Our Sketch of Lord Montrose

Our Sketch of Lord Montrose

You can read about the trilogy at:http://www.darklordthenovel.com

Celebrate Beltane!

beltane photo: Beltane Beltane.jpg

“Beltane” – artist rendition courtesy of tignsham

Beltane is an ancient Gaelic festival originally celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man.  Falling on May 1st, it is a spring time celebration of optimism and fertility.

Irish mythology marks Beltane as the beginning of the summer season for the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milesians.  Other cultures associate Beltane with the Celtic God Bel – a God of light, fire, and the Sun.

Large outdoor fires were built on Beltane.  Young people leaped over them to ensure fertility, and livestock were driven between two fires to ensure a good yield.  A Beltane fire was kindled with Birch twigs and much of the day was spent with couples frolicking in the forest.   Sometimes, a Maypole was erected from Birch wood, representing a phallus.  Fertility dances were performed around the pole to ensure good health and abundant crops.  More recently, dances involved wrapping brightly colored ribbons around the Maypole.

Beltane was a traditional time for couples to be handfasted.  The couple said vows as their hands were ritually tied together.  When the ceremony ended, they would jump over a broom or the Bel-fire into their new life together.

On a supernatural note, the veil between the worlds is considered to be thin on Beltane.  Spirits of the Ancestors can be contacted.

Jeanne Treat is the author of the Dark Birthright Trilogy, a saga that takes place in 17th century Scotland, England, and the British Colonies.   Her novels and short stories often feature Celtic customs.  You can read about them at: http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com