For St Patrick’s Day this year, let’s locate a leprechaun.
Before you start arguing that you only find leprechauns in Ireland, consider that there are more Irish natives living in New York City than there are in Ireland. Naturally leprechauns will have emigrated along with the people and their fellow other-worldly creatures.
Pookas and banshees prefer to stay in the countryside, but leprechauns enjoy bright lights, drinking, dancing and laughter – this means that they are as likely to be based in Shoreditch as Dublin.
In the 8th century, the priestess of the Oracle at Delphi was named the Pythoness.
During rituals she would enter a frenzied state induced by poisonous vapours rising from the ground and speak gibberish, which was translated by the temple priests into the prophecies of the god Apollo.
Her hair coiling loose around her like snakes, her naked feet pounding the ground in a wild dance and her eyes turned up so that the whites showed, she must have been an awesome and terrifying sight to the elaborately-robed priests who pressed close around her to hear and transcribe every precious word that fell from her foam-flecked lips.
It was with this scene very much in mind that we arranged to attend the Psychic Night at the Three Hammers pub in St Albans.
What wonders would be revealed to us – what marvels might be unveiled? The combination of the availability of cheap booze and the presence of a pythoness – the title still attributed to a woman possessed by a familiar spirit or higher forces and able to foresee the future – was irresistible.
The spirit of the wolf can help us all connect with our inner power and stamina.
The festival of St Valentine took over from the previous Roman wolf-themed festival of Lupercalia, which had a lot fewer heart-shaped chocolates than we are used to in our celebrations today – instead a dog and two goats were sacrificed, after which the young male adepts or Luperci were anointed with blood and milk, dressed in the animal skins, and armed with leather thongs.
They would then run around the town whipping women with these makeshift whips, the lashes of which were supposed to ensure fertility and drive out evil spirits.
So why not go the old-fashioned route this year, and invest in some leather gear and a whip? Or continue with the wolf theme, which is quite an appropriate romantic one, as wolves are monogamous and mate for life.
As humans, our track record of leaving things, people and places behind is very high. We do this for all kinds of reasons, often very good ones.
And while change is healthy, and we must go ever onwards, it’s also tempting to look back from time to time.
There are places I remember All my life, though some have changed Some forever, not for better Some have gone and some remain All these places had their moments With lovers and friends I still can recall Some are dead and some are living In my life I’ve loved them all – In My Life – The Beatles
Many people find abandoned places to be full of mysteries and echoes of things past, and who doesn’t find a crumbling, empty vine-covered house with broken windows more romantic and evocative than a solid, occupied structure?
Food or drink can often trigger emotional memories, and you can come to associate certain tastes and textures with people, places and things. Mix cheap vodka with Roses Lime Cordial and I sharply recollect teenage music gigs in a provincial market town, especially if you throw in the scent of Hard Rock Hairspray and menthol cigarettes.
Blue Monday is more than just “the first 12”record I ever bought” for every single male of my generation without exception – it’s also the 3rd Monday in January, and is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year.
Who’s that knock knock knocking low down at your door?
If you’re in South Africa, it will be the tokoloshe, but that’s another story for another time. If you’re in Scandinavia this year, why then it’s the nisse and his companions the Yule goat and the Friendly Pig, bringing gifts and looking forward to his bowl of porridge.
Don’t forget to put butter on top of the porridge, that’s the way he likes it. And don’t go nibbling away at it thinking it’s like cookies for Santa. The nisse does not play, and may beat you savagely if you eat his food.
“Have you eaten the porridge for the nisse, you have to dance with him!”.