A New Dragon

My new dragon, Tân Bach.

Not my original design, I discovered this pattern by Simplicity and really liked it so thought I would have a go – with a few modifications of fabric (the original was fur, and lacked any stiffening in the wings), eye size (smaller when not covered by fur) and colour distribution (pale spines are just weird!) It has some nice features, so that hand-stitching is minimised, but it has to be the hardest stuffing job I have ever attempted to get those back legs filled! I was also glad to find most of the hand stitching required is hidden, yet can still be done with a straight needle; I do have curved needles which I have used on other soft toys but don’t find them easy to handle.

This is in fact a ‘test’ for another I plan to make, as it is similar in shape to a particular dragon friend of mine that I would like to work with more – and given my drawing ability isn’t brilliant this seemed the best way to make a physical representation. However, I will want to make a few changes as this neither sits on a shoulder reliably, nor sits flat on anything else with all its feet touching! A pillow or cushion is required at all times. Also I don’t feel the spines along the back start or finish in the right place, the head is a little large and too wide at the back, and there is an unsightly bulge where the tummy section ends. Altogether it has too much dinosaur influence with horns added as an afterthought to be my dragon – this one has a different character, and I feel a female, sinuous energy from her.

As she was finished two days before going to Wales for a week camping, we called her Tân Bach, small fire (given hers is gentle and warming rather than a full blaze such as a red dragon might give out), and she came with us. I can honestly say she is the most laid back character of any cuddly toy we have, and we have quite a few (most are bears, some up to half a century old while others are fairly new – including a rag doll, a very large elephant and a unicorn that I have made) not seeming to mind what goes on around her. However on returning home she has insisted on being where there is a fire, and appears slightly haughty about ‘her’ responsibilities. Maybe it’s just pride.

I was once under the impression that soft toys were inanimate objects, and merely accepted the character projected onto them by their owner or the person playing with them. I have come to realise this is not the case. They have moods, although signs can be subtle, and can be offended or excited or relaxed just as any other spirit might be. For they of course have their own individual spirit which is influenced by the energies present when they were made, how they were made, what materials were used, where they live, and how they are loved. They act as a store for love, ready to give back when needed, to give comfort. (Poppets were of course used for this, and for healing, as well as the darker purposes they are now associated with.) I now look forward to making and meeting Tân Bach’s brother or sister dragons…

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Tree Stories 8 – Blackthorn

Blackthorn is now published on its own page; please use the link above.

Ripening Sloes

Ripening Sloes

There are many blackthorn bushes mixed into the hawthorn hedges around where I live, and some years I have picked the sloes for gin or syrup. They are best after the first frosts. Both can just be enjoyed as a drink, but are also good for coughs and sore throats. Blackthorn flowers and leaves can be helpful for depression, as well as a good general tonic. Birds also enjoy the berries. The flowers are a useful source of nectar and pollen for bees, while several butterfly and moth caterpillars enjoy the leaves.

The wood is particularly hard and dense, being traditionally used for cudgels, blasting sticks and Irish shillelaghs, as well as tool handles and walking sticks. It is very much associated with witches, with the thorns being considered ideal for spellwork such as piercing a wax poppet, although in past times it was the witch hunters who used it; blackthorn seems to be the tree most likely to be used by someone wishing to harm others. The Ogham name for blackthorn, Straif, strife in modern English, is a good descriptor for it. A hard tree to love, it nevertheless does a useful job of keeping cattle in the fields, and in some versions, keeping princes out of Sleeping Beauty’s castle becoming impenetrable to all except true love. Similarly Rapunzel, where the prince looses his eyes on blackthorn bushes, to have it restored by his true love’s tears. Those who hold onto their pain and anger rarely have an easy time with blackthorn and are likely to get scratched by thorns with a reputation for turning cuts septic.

More positive interpretations and uses of Blackthorn vary widely. Some use it for facing death, and it is usually associated with the dark Goddess, Morrigan or Cailleach. Others for piercing negative attitudes in themselves or others, and befriending it can bring understanding of what causes negativity in your life. Yet more use it for protection, either psychically or physically, or as a wand for a banishing spell. My own interpretation, for strength in times of adversity, covers most of these at a deep level.

The Blackthorn was traditionally followed by its sister tree Hawthorn when used for healing – gentling and bringing love where blackthorn has pricked the hidden sores.