Dark Dorset Online Scrapbook is an archive of current and past events relating to local history, folklore and mysteries that can be discovered in the English county of Dorset.

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Friday, 27 January 2012

News Clipping: Bournemouth resident mystified by 'blue sphere shower'

A man in Dorset has been left mystified after tiny blue spheres fell from the sky into his garden. Steve Hornsby from Bournemouth said the 3cm diameter balls came raining down late on Thursday afternoon during a hail storm. He found about a dozen of the balls in his garden. He said: "[They're] difficult to pick up, I had to get a spoon and flick them into a jam jar." The Met Office said the jelly-like substance was "not meteorological"

READ MORE - Source: BBC News,

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Events: Bonny Sartin's "The Banks Of Newfoundland" with special guests - Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll

17th Century painting of Trinity Bay, Newfoundland
(Dorset County Museum)
Bonny Sartin will be performing at  a various locations around the county with a fascinating talk on the history of Dorset people. This time the story moves abroad, and he will be joined by two of the South West's finest fiddle players to make it a real night to remember.

The talk is entitled “The Banks Of Newfoundland” and tells the story of Dorset's brave fishermen who for hundreds of years sailed across the Atlantic for the summer to fish for cod off Newfoundland.

Bonny said “Many fortunes were made and lost, but the port of Poole, in particular, flourished. It was tough for the fishermen though. Newfoundland is inhospitable. Icebergs, fogs and foul weather played havoc with their little boats and if you survived that you were often greeted by the Press Gang when you reached home.”

Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll
Joining Bonny will be Nick Wyke and Becki Driscoll, the fiddle duo are leading lights in the new folk generation and have recently completed a project marking the 400th anniversary of the founding of the first permeant English settlement in Canada, Cupids Cove, Newfoundland.

They have been swopping tunes and songs with Newfoundland musicians, and will have just finished a joint tour called Shore To Shore. This show brought together leading singers and musicians from Newfoundland and the West Country of England in an international collaboration that charted the development of folk song and music on both sides of the Atlantic from the early 1600s to the present day.

Bonny, Becki and Nick will be performing on:
  • Saturday, February 4th at 7.30pm at the Durweston Village Hall, Tel: 01258 453170
  • Sunday, March 4th at 7.00pm at the Cerne Abbas Village Hall, Tel: 01300 341332
  • Friday, March 16th at 7.30pm at the Broadwindsor Comrades Hall, Tel: 01308 868582

Monday, 23 January 2012

The Year of the Dragon: Dragons and Wyverns of Dorset

One of the oldest mythical creatures that have appeared in every culture around the world occurring in oral and written folk traditions are dragons. The popular image of the dragon as a large fire breathing winged lizards has been so deeply ingrained on our psyche that it is hard to think that these fabulous animals never existed at all, although traveller’s tales, and misunderstandings about the habits of real animals, may have played a major part in the zoology of the dragon.

2012 is the year of the dragon according to the Chinese calendar.  The Chinese dragon is highly revered, for it is symbol of beauty, wisdom and divine powers, as opposed to its western counterpart which is a feared and loathed.

In English folk tradition the dragon appeared either as a marauding creature that would feast upon livestock or lay waste to villages.  More often than not it was the case that a maiden would be sacrificed to the creature to appease it and a gallant knight or local squire would slay the beast with either cunning or magical means.

As most English counties have a dragon legend it is surprising that Dorset is devoid of any stories relating to them, which is strange considering that fossils of long forgotten sea monsters of prehistoric times have been found along the Dorset coast for centuries

The Christchurch Dragon

However in a chronicle, written in 1146 by one Hermann of Tournai. In "De Miraculis S. Marie Laudunensis" ("On the Miracles of Our Lady of Laon." ) Hermann writes about the year 1113 in which French monks visiting England, witnessed a dragon with five-heads emerge from the channel attacking and burning Christchurch (formerly in the county of Hampshire) to the ground.

Hermann writes:
XI. God’s vengeance is shown in a wonder

On the same Sunday when we had dined, we left the town. The people there, who were touched with gratitude for the benefits we had brought them, asked us to return to them later and we accepted the invitation. But, meanwhile, the just Judge of Heaven did not delay revenge for the slight given to his Mother. We were only about half a league out of town when suddenly two horsemen rode up behind us, shouting out and calling us to come and help the city, which was on fire. We looked back: the whole town had caught fire and was in a blaze. We asked them how it had come to burn and were told that a dragon had come out of the sea and, while we were making our departure, had flown to the city, breathing fire out of its nostrils.

First, it had set the church afire, and then had kindled some houses in the town. We heard this and, wanted to take a look at the wonder. Leaving the shrine with its own attendants, we raced our horses back to Christchurch and there we saw the dragon. It was incredibly long and had five heads.
We made our way back there as far as the church, which we found burnt to the ground, totally – it was not just the timbers which were consumed but the walls themselves, even the biggest blocks of stone. The altars had been reduced to dust and ashes. Everyone who saw what had happened was dumbfounded with dread at the miracle.
When the Dean had seen his house and his church on fire, he had hastily collected his clothing and furniture and strapped them onto a ship which was beached in the harbour nearby. Then he had the ship launched and hoped that on it they would be safe from the fire. The dragon was nearby and (as if fulfilling the purpose for which it had come) found the ship and flew over it and burnt all that was on board. Then, wonderful as it is to tell, it set fire to the whole ship in an instant! We were anxious about our host of the night before and moved on towards his home: there we found him glad in the safety of his house and all within it, thinking how good a quest the Queen of Heaven had been in preserving him. It was not just the house where we had stayed that had survived intact: the preservation extended to the outbuildings, which, as I said, housed his livestock, so that nothing out of all his goods had been lost. The traders who had earlier shown so much kindness to us now received the favour of Heaven, for little if any of their wares were lost. The fair in the town only lasted a day, so after eating at midday they had all gathered up their packs and had them already strapped up and stowed away when the dragon came. They were all utterly terrified by the dragon’s appearance and we saw them running about wildly in all directions. Now the Dean – the man who had the shrine of Our Lady thrown out of his church – was moved to a late repentance. He came forward, barefoot, and prostrated himself before the shrine, acknowledging that the judgement of the Lord had been just, and praying to be forgiven for all that he had done wrong.

Wyverns of Wessex

Where there is a lack of stories and folklore related to Dragons in Dorset there is no shortage of usage in symbolism represented in stone ornaments and grotesques on churches and houses and also heraldic crests.

Stone Tympanum, Wynford Eagle
From Rev. John Hutchins
'History and Antiquities of Dorset' 1741

The wyvern is a legendary winged serpent with a dragon's head, two legs, a barbed tail and poisonous breath. These creatures are depicted fighting on the stone tympanum, the remaining part of the original Norman chapel at Wynford Eagle. It also bears two inscriptions, Malhad l'Egle meaning Matilda l' Eagle this is though to refer to the patron of the piece. The village is named after the Normal Aqulia (Eagle) family. There is a further enscription Alvi me feci meaning Alvi made me. 

Modern depictions can be found on the county coat of arms. Two golden dragons (Sometimes incorrectly referred to as Wyverns) represented the ancient kingdom of Wessex were later granted as supporters to the arms of Dorset County Council in 1950. Two Wyvern supporters also appear in the West Dorset District Council granted in 1990.

Who's Afear'd: County Arms of Dorset
There has been much debate on the origins of the wyvern or dragon used as an emblem of Wessex.  The invading Saxons may have brought dragon-emblems with them, but from the Romano-British the ancient chronicles indicate that Cerdic, and perhaps all the Saxon monarchs not only in Wessex but in other parts of Britain, adopted the dragon-standard, and possibly this is what did actually happen. However, dragon standards were in fairly wide use in Europe at the time, being derived from the ensign of the Roman legions. The phrase, ‘the dragon of Wessex,’ does not appear to be of great antiquity.

It has been suggested that a golden dragon standard was raised at the Battle of Burford in AD 752 by the West Saxons.

The historian William Camden (1551–1623) wrote
"...in Saxon Beorgford [i.e. Burford], where Cuthred, king of the West Saxons, then tributary to the Mercians, not being able to endure any longer the cruelty and base exactions of King Æthelbald, met him in the open field with an army and beat him, taking his standard, which was a portraiture of a golden dragon."
While others have suggested the origin of the golden dragon standard, is attributed to that of Uther Pendragon, the father of King Arthur of whom Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote:
[Uther Pendragon] "...ordered two dragons to be fashioned in gold, in the likeness of the one which he had seen in the ray which shone from that star. As soon as the Dragons had been completed this with the most marvellous craftsmanship — he made a present of one of them to the congregation of the cathedral church of the see of Winchester. The second one he kept for himself, so that he could carry it around to his wars."
'Yellow Devils' Badge of the 43rd Wessex Division
The golden wyvern of Wessex continued to be used as a symbol for battle.  The British Army have used this ancient emblem to represent The 43rd (Wessex)Infantry Division.  Who adopted a formation sign consisting of a gold wyvern on a black background, and both the Wessex Brigade and Wessex Regiments used a cap badge featuring the heraldic beast. During the Second World War, the Germans certainly respected the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division, nicknaming them "Yellow Devils" on account of their tenacity (and, of course, the "Wessex Wyvern" badge), especially at the battles on the R Odon and for Hill 112 in Normandy.

Dragon Reading.....

Dragons - More than a Myth?
by Richard Freeman

Click Here
For further reading about Dragons look no further than this excellent publication 'Dragons - More than a Myth?' by Richard Freeman, cryptozoologist, author, explorer, adventurer, and Zoological Director of the world’s largest mystery animal research organisation 'The Centre for Fortean Zoology'. Richard follows this mysteries creature right across the globe, from prehistory to the present day. He tracks it from the steamy jungles of the Congo, to the desolate lakes of eastern Siberia. The dragon rears its scaly head in every culture on Earth; from the Indians to the Australian Aborigines, and from the Vikings to the Pygmies.

The inescapable conclusion is that there are very real beasts at the core of these fantastic stories. The dragon has its teeth and claws deep into the collective psyche of mankind, and it’s not about to let go. Our most ancient fear still stalks the earth today. Beware. This is no fairytale! When your parents told you that there were no such things as dragons, they lied! With illustrations by Mark North, (co-author of Dark Dorset Tales of Mystery Wonder and Terror) - this is truly a fascinating insight into the world of Dragons.

The Portland Sea Dragon
by Carol Hunt
Click Her
Published by Roving Press 'The Portland Sea Dragon' by Carol Hunt. This is the first in a series of children’s books set on Portland written by local author Carol Hunt. The Portland Chronicles draw on local history, exploring a seventeenth century world of smuggling, witchcraft, piracy and local intrigue. The Chronicles aim to capture children’s imagination with stories based on real folklore and places.

For more information about the book visit www.rovingpress.co.uk

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

New Book: Souls, Spirits and Deities by Bob Thrubshaw

Souls, Spirits and Deities
by Bob Thrubshaw
Bob Thrubshaw of 'Heart of Albion' uploaded his latest publication as a FREE PDF download from his website.

Modern Western ideas about souls, spirits and deities are seemingly materialistic and rational. Yet, when looked at closely, these seemingly-secular ideas rather too clearly betray their origins in Christian doctrines. 

By looking closely at ethnographical parallels together with recent 'Dark Age' scholarship Bob Trubshaw starts to strip away these more recent ideas. This begins to reveal how pre-Christian Anglo-Saxons might have thought about the differences between souls and spirits – and the similarities of spirits and deities. 

Souls, spirits and deities develops some of the ideas about souls in Bob Trubshaw's recent book Singing Up the Country

Friday, 13 January 2012

Events: Mystery Big Cats Of Britain - A talk by Merrily Harpur

Merrily Harpur
Merrily Harpur will be giving a talk about big cats in our countryside, at The Gryphon School, Conference Centre, Sherborne on Wednesday 25th January 2012 at 7.00pm

Merrily, who runs the Dorset Big Cat Register www.dorsetbigcats.org -  has researched thousands of sightings of anomalous big cats (ABCs) roaming Britain.  Sightings of these mysterious felines, described as being like pumas or panthers, are higher in Dorset than any other county in England.

Click the image above to enlarge poster
Meeting or glimpsing a Big Cat could, Merrily suggests, be the nearest we get in Britain to a ‘brush with the unknown’.   She discovers that these mystery felines have been with us for longer than we imagine, in folklore and familiar to the Neoplatonists as daimons (not demons) – intermediaries between this world and another. They may ‘at the very least change your view of a landscape that can produce such beautiful and elusive creatures’.

Merrily Harpur is a freelance cartoonist, illustrator and writer and has contributed regularly to many national newspapers and magazines.  Living between Dorset and Ireland, in 2002 she created the Dorset Big Cats Register, a gazetteer of locations and eyewitness accounts.

She has written two books on the subject, Roaring Dorset! Encounters with Big Cats (pub 2008, Roving Press) documents some of the closest and most vivid encounters.  Mystery Big Cats (pub 2006, Heart of Albion) investigated the big cat phenomena nationwide and received huge critical acclaim.

13 Reasons to be Fearful - Superstitions about Friday 13th

The belief that Friday 13th is an especially unlucky day is one of the widest-known superstitions in Britain today, and is erroneously assumed to be of great antiquity. The notion that thirteen is a generally unlucky number has not been found earlier than 1852, and although Fridays have been regarded as unlucky since medieval times, it is quite certain that the fear of Friday 13th is a Victorian invention. Indeed, the first definite reference to Friday 13th we have is from 1913:
I have met a coach' of fine mental capacities, which had been carefully cultivated, who dreaded the evil luck of Friday the 13th.
Here is an interesting article, from the Daily Express Friday 13th October 2000, about the superstitions linked with the number Thirteen and Friday 13th. 

"Every week most of us thank God it's Friday. However, an estimated live million people in Britain will spend today in such a state of anxiety and fear that they will feel compelled to stay at home until tomorrow. It is because today. Friday the 13th makes its only appearance this millennium year. Businesses lose money through absenteeism, while travel operators are hit as customers cancel trips or switch departure dates. So why in these ‘enlightened’ times, are we still so worried about such superstitions? Here are 13 things you need to know about the myths and legends surrounding this most auspicious date:
  1. Friday the 13th (1980, USA)
    Fear of the number 13 is known by psychologists as ‘triskaidekaphobia’. The term paraskavidekatriaphobia (basically just the Greek for ‘fear of Friday 13’) was later coined to identify those specifically afraid of Friday the 13th. In the US, there are an estimated 21 million sufferers. This may have prompted Hollywood to tap into the popular myth with the ‘Friday The 13th' series of horror movies, in which the main character Jason is driven to mindless frenzy on that day.
  2. There is always at least one Friday 13th each year. Some years there are two, rarely three (most recently in 1998 and the next in 2009). In the event of it occurring in conjunction with a full moon, folklore has it that there is an increase in crime and mental illness.
  3. Legend tells us that the 13th of any month is unlucky, especially if it falls on a Friday. Only failure and doom awaits those foolhardy "enough to start a new venture such as a business or marriage.
  4. Strategies used to avoid catastrophes include carrying a four-leafed clover, crossing fingers, wishing on a star, tossing coins into a wishing well or fountain and even burning old socks on turned up on top of a mountain. And, until recently, a decree in Indiana required that all black cats must wear bells.
  5. The superstition is supposed to date from the early years of Christianity. Biblical references include the 13 people at Christ's Last Supper and the belief that the crucifixion took place on Friday 13th. Some theologians also claim that Adam accepted the apple from Eve on a Friday and that Cain killed his brother Abel on Friday 13th.
  6. Earlier cultures also considered the number 13 unlucky. In Norse mythology when Loki, the god of mischief, became the uninvited 13th guest at a banquet in Valhalla, the god of Light: Balhar died as a result. Ancient Norsemen had 13 knots in their hangman's noose. The Romans believed that witches gathered in groups of 13 and the 13th was the Devil. Greek mythology also tells of the violent death of the 13th member in a group of gods. The Chinese interpreted 13 as the number of obstacles in the way of good fortune.
  7. There are some societies that consider 13 lucky. The Mexicans believed the number symbolised the sun and energy. The Jewish Cabala confirms its lucky status; the Book of Moses mentions 13 attributes of God; and the bar mitzvah celebrates the passing from childhood into adulthood at the age of 13.
  8. Friday is considered a lucky day in Scandinavia. The word Friday comes from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Frigdaeg’, thought to have been a derivation of Frigg, the Norse god of love. Vendredi, French for Friday, derives from Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Some actors also believe that Friday is a lucky day, insisting they sign contracts only on that day Charles Dickens was said to have begun writing all of his books on a Friday. Even stock market traders on Wall Street regard Friday 13th a lucky day Over the past three years it has occurred five times and each time the market has risen substantially
  9. Celebrated paraskavidekatria- phobics include Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, who both avoided travelling on that day. The Royal Family has also been known to avoid the dreaded number. Princess Margaret's birth was not officially recorded, as the registration number was 13. The family waited three days until another baby was registered so Margaret could have the number 14.
  10. Disasters associated with Fridays and the number 13 include in the 19th century, the disappearance of the Royal Navy's HMS Friday, following which Lloyd's would not insure any ship launched on Friday 13th. Even today the US Navy will avoid launching a ship on Friday 13th. The Andes airline crash happened on Friday 13th 1970, and the survivors were forced to eat the flesh of the dead passengers. The ill-fated Apollo 13 launch took place at 13.13 hours whereupon an explosion in the fuel cell aborted the mission on April 13th.
  11. In the Twenties, 13 people sat down to dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London. The following day their host died. Since then, whenever there are 13 people for dinner at the Savoy, the hotel provides an extra seat and places a statuette of a black cat called Kaspar on the chair. In France, a company exists which will always provide a last minute 14th guest for dinner parties.
  12. Many sceptics challenge or dismiss the concept of superstition. The London Thirteen Club, formed in the late 19th century by journalists, regularly meets to mock superstition by spilling salt, opening umbrellas indoors and walking on cracks. The Friday The 13th club, in Philadelphia, has been meeting for 63 years and celebrates the day by breaking mirrors, walking under ladders and crossing the paths of black cats. Greek-born Nick Matsoukas emigrated to the US, arriving on February 13th 1917. He was the 13th child in his family and his name consisted of 13 letters. He formed the National Committee of Thirteen Against Superstition, Prejudice And Fear.
  13.  Finally, perhaps you might like to wonder who it was that actually sat down and worked out that an anagram of ‘eleven plus two’ is ‘twelve plus one".
So, whether you decide to spent today cower in bed, or burn your socks atop a mountain, or even book a table at the Savoy for 12 of your friends — just remember to put a four-leafed clover in your pocket, cross your fingers and stay lucky."

Monday, 9 January 2012

News Clipping: Plough Monday making a comeback

Anonymous Morris Dancing on Poole Quay
According to local tradition we should all be enjoying a public holiday today. Plough Monday once marked the end of the Christmas period and was often the only holiday of the year for Dorset farm labourers apart from the odd celebrations such as May Day or Harvest Home. Active from the Middle Ages until the late 1800s, Plough Monday was the day field labourers could have fun at the expense of their wealthier neighbours.

 READ MORE - Source: Bournemouth Daily Echo Monday 9th January 2012

Friday, 6 January 2012

News Clipping: New museum role for Victorian Hall

Dorset County Museum's Victorian Hall
Dorset County Museum's Victorian Hall will have a new role when a blockbuster exhibition moves out later this month. The venue is currently hosting the touring British Museum exhibition Pharaoh: King of Egypt, which has smashed visitor numbers at the Dorchester museum since it opened in October. The exhibition ends on 22nd January but the links will continue with the British Museum's involvement in creating a new display on the theme of A Museum within a Museum in the hall.

READ MORE - Source: Blackmore Vale Magazine Friday, 6th January 2012

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