/** * Class containing utility static methods that other SEO tools are relying on. */ class Jetpack_SEO_Utils { /** * Site option name used to store front page meta description. */ const FRONT_PAGE_META_OPTION = 'advanced_seo_front_page_description'; /** * Old version of option name that was previously used under Free plan. */ const GRANDFATHERED_META_OPTION = 'seo_meta_description'; /** * Used to check whether SEO tools are enabled for given site. * * @param int $site_id Optional. Defaults to current blog id if not given. * * @return bool True if SEO tools are enabled, false otherwise. */ public static function is_enabled_jetpack_seo( $site_id = 0 ) { /** * Can be used by SEO plugin authors to disable the conflicting output of SEO Tools. * * @module seo-tools * * @since 5.0.0 * * @param bool True if SEO Tools should be disabled, false otherwise. */ if ( apply_filters( 'jetpack_disable_seo_tools', false ) ) { return false; } if ( function_exists( 'has_blog_sticker' ) ) { // For WPCOM sites if ( empty( $site_id ) ) { $site_id = get_current_blog_id(); } return has_blog_sticker( 'business-plan', $site_id ); } // For all Jetpack sites return true; } /** * Checks if this option was set while it was still available under free plan. * * @return bool True if we should enable grandfathering, false otherwise. */ public static function has_grandfathered_front_page_meta() { return ! self::is_enabled_jetpack_seo() && get_option( self::GRANDFATHERED_META_OPTION ); } /** * Returns front page meta description for current site. * * Since we allowed non-business users to set Front page meta description for some time, * before bundling it with other SEO tools features that require a business plan, * we are supporting grandfathering here. * * @return string Front page meta description string or empty string. */ public static function get_front_page_meta_description() { if ( self::is_enabled_jetpack_seo() ) { $front_page_meta = get_option( self::FRONT_PAGE_META_OPTION ); return $front_page_meta ? $front_page_meta : get_option( self::GRANDFATHERED_META_OPTION, '' ); } // Support grandfathering for non-business users. return get_option( self::GRANDFATHERED_META_OPTION, '' ); } /** * Updates the site option value for front page meta description. * * We are taking care to update the correct option, in case the value is grandfathered for current site. * * @param $value string New value for front page meta description. * * @return string Saved value, or empty string if no update was performed. */ public static function update_front_page_meta_description( $value ) { $front_page_description = sanitize_text_field( $value ); /** * Can be used to limit the lenght of front page meta description. * * @module seo-tools * * @since 4.4.0 * * @param int Maximum length of front page meta description. Defaults to 300. */ $description_max_length = apply_filters( 'jetpack_seo_front_page_description_max_length', 300 ); if ( function_exists( 'mb_substr' ) ) { $front_page_description = mb_substr( $front_page_description, 0, $description_max_length ); } else { $front_page_description = substr( $front_page_description, 0, $description_max_length ); } $can_set_meta = self::is_enabled_jetpack_seo(); $grandfathered_meta_option = get_option( self::GRANDFATHERED_META_OPTION ); $has_old_meta = ! empty( $grandfathered_meta_option ); $option_name = self::has_grandfathered_front_page_meta() ? self::GRANDFATHERED_META_OPTION : self::FRONT_PAGE_META_OPTION; $did_update = update_option( $option_name, $front_page_description ); if ( $did_update && $has_old_meta && $can_set_meta ) { // Delete grandfathered option if user has switched to Business plan and updated meta description. delete_option( 'seo_meta_description' ); } if ( $did_update ) { return $front_page_description; } return ''; } } /* * Each title format is an array of arrays containing two values: * - type * - value * * Possible values for type are: 'token' and 'string'. * Possible values for 'value' are: any string in case that 'type' is set * to 'string', or allowed token values for page type in case that 'type' * is set to 'token'. * * Examples of valid formats: * * [ * 'front_page' => [ * [ 'type' => 'string', 'value' => 'Front page title and site name:'], * [ 'type' => 'token', 'value' => 'site_name'] * ], * 'posts' => [ * [ 'type' => 'token', 'value' => 'site_name' ], * [ 'type' => 'string', 'value' => ' | ' ], * [ 'type' => 'token', 'value' => 'post_title' ] * ], * 'pages' => [], * 'groups' => [], * 'archives' => [] * ] * Custom title for given page type is created by concatenating all of the array 'value' parts. * Tokens are replaced with their corresponding values for current site. * Empty array signals that we are not overriding the default title for particular page type. */ /** * Class containing utility static methods for managing SEO custom title formats. */ class Jetpack_SEO_Titles { /** * Site option name used to store custom title formats. */ const TITLE_FORMATS_OPTION = 'advanced_seo_title_formats'; /** * Retrieves custom title formats from site option. * * @return array Array of custom title formats, or empty array. */ public static function get_custom_title_formats() { if( Jetpack_SEO_Utils::is_enabled_jetpack_seo() ) { return get_option( self::TITLE_FORMATS_OPTION, array() ); } return array(); } /** * Returns tokens that are currently supported for each page type. * * @return array Array of allowed token strings. */ public static function get_allowed_tokens() { return array( 'front_page' => array( 'site_name', 'tagline' ), 'posts' => array( 'site_name', 'tagline', 'post_title' ), 'pages' => array( 'site_name', 'tagline', 'page_title' ), 'groups' => array( 'site_name', 'tagline', 'group_title' ), 'archives' => array( 'site_name', 'tagline', 'date' ), ); } /** * Used to modify the default title with custom SEO title. * * @param string $default_title Default title for current page. * * @return string Custom title with replaced tokens or default title. */ public static function get_custom_title( $default_title = '' ) { // Don't filter title for unsupported themes. if ( self::is_conflicted_theme() ) { return $default_title; } $page_type = self::get_page_type(); // Keep default title if invalid page type is supplied. if ( empty( $page_type ) ) { return $default_title; } $title_formats = self::get_custom_title_formats(); // Keep default title if user has not defined custom title for this page type. if ( empty( $title_formats[ $page_type ] ) ) { return $default_title; } if ( ! Jetpack_SEO_Utils::is_enabled_jetpack_seo() ) { return $default_title; } $custom_title = ''; $format_array = $title_formats[ $page_type ]; foreach ( $format_array as $item ) { if ( 'token' == $item['type'] ) { $custom_title .= self::get_token_value( $item['value'] ); } else { $custom_title .= $item['value']; } } return esc_html( $custom_title ); } /** * Returns string value for given token. * * @param string $token_name The token name value that should be replaced. * * @return string Token replacement for current site, or empty string for unknown token name. */ public static function get_token_value( $token_name ) { switch ( $token_name ) { case 'site_name': return get_bloginfo( 'name' ); case 'tagline': return get_bloginfo( 'description' ); case 'post_title': case 'page_title': return get_the_title(); case 'group_title': return single_tag_title( '', false ); case 'date': return self::get_date_for_title(); default: return ''; } } /** * Returns page type for current page. We need this helper in order to determine what * user defined title format should be used for custom title. * * @return string|bool Type of current page or false if unsupported. */ public static function get_page_type() { if ( is_front_page() ) { return 'front_page'; } if ( is_category() || is_tag() ) { return 'groups'; } if ( is_archive() && ! is_author() ) { return 'archives'; } if ( is_page() ) { return 'pages'; } if ( is_singular() ) { return 'posts'; } return false; } /** * Returns the value that should be used as a replacement for the date token, * depending on the archive path specified. * * @return string Token replacement for a given date, or empty string if no date is specified. */ public static function get_date_for_title() { // If archive year, month, and day are specified. if ( is_day() ) { return get_the_date(); } // If archive year, and month are specified. if ( is_month() ) { return trim( single_month_title( ' ', false ) ); } // Only archive year is specified. if ( is_year() ) { return get_query_var( 'year' ); } return ''; } /** * Checks if current theme is defining custom title that won't work nicely * with our custom SEO title override. * * @return bool True if current theme sets custom title, false otherwise. */ public static function is_conflicted_theme() { /** * Can be used to specify a list of themes that use their own custom title format. * * If current site is using one of the themes listed as conflicting, * Jetpack SEO custom title formats will be disabled. * * @module seo-tools * * @since 4.4.0 * * @param array List of conflicted theme names. Defaults to empty array. */ $conflicted_themes = apply_filters( 'jetpack_seo_custom_title_conflicted_themes', array() ); return isset( $conflicted_themes[ get_option( 'template' ) ] ); } /** * Checks if a given format conforms to predefined SEO title templates. * * Every format type and token must be whitelisted. * @see get_allowed_tokens() * * @param array $title_formats Template of SEO title to check. * * @return bool True if the formats are valid, false otherwise. */ public static function are_valid_title_formats( $title_formats ) { $allowed_tokens = self::get_allowed_tokens(); if ( ! is_array( $title_formats ) ) { return false; } foreach ( $title_formats as $format_type => $format_array ) { if ( ! in_array( $format_type, array_keys( $allowed_tokens ) ) ) { return false; } if ( '' === $format_array ) { continue; } if ( ! is_array( $format_array ) ) { return false; } foreach ( $format_array as $item ) { if ( empty( $item['type'] ) || empty( $item['value'] ) ) { return false; } if ( 'token' == $item['type'] ) { if ( ! in_array( $item['value'], $allowed_tokens[ $format_type ] ) ) { return false; } } } } return true; } /** * Combines the previous values of title formats, stored as array in site options, * with the new values that are provided. * * @param array $new_formats Array containing new title formats. * * @return array $result Array of updated title formats, or empty array if no update was performed. */ public static function update_title_formats( $new_formats ) { // Empty array signals that custom title shouldn't be used. $empty_formats = array( 'front_page' => array(), 'posts' => array(), 'pages' => array(), 'groups' => array(), 'archives' => array(), ); $previous_formats = self::get_custom_title_formats(); $result = array_merge( $empty_formats, $previous_formats, $new_formats ); if ( update_option( self::TITLE_FORMATS_OPTION, $result ) ) { return $result; } return array(); } } /** * Class containing utility static methods for managing SEO custom descriptions for Posts and Pages. */ class Jetpack_SEO_Posts { /** * Key of the post meta value that will be used to store post custom description. */ const DESCRIPTION_META_KEY = 'advanced_seo_description'; /** * Build meta description for post SEO. * * @param WP_Post $post Source of data for custom description. * * @return string Post description or empty string. */ public static function get_post_description( $post ) { if ( empty( $post ) ) { return ''; } if ( post_password_required() || ! is_singular() ) { return ''; } // Business users can overwrite the description $custom_description = self::get_post_custom_description( $post ); if ( ! empty( $custom_description ) ) { return $custom_description; } if ( ! empty( $post->post_excerpt ) ) { return $post->post_excerpt; } return $post->post_content; } /** * Returns post's custom meta description if it is set, and if * SEO tools are enabled for current blog. * * @param WP_Post $post Source of data for custom description * * @return string Custom description or empty string */ public static function get_post_custom_description( $post ) { if ( empty( $post ) ) { return ''; } $custom_description = get_post_meta( $post->ID, self::DESCRIPTION_META_KEY, true ); if ( empty( $custom_description ) || ! Jetpack_SEO_Utils::is_enabled_jetpack_seo() ) { return ''; } return $custom_description; } } B Taylor-Hicks, Author at The Cunning Rustic

Author: B Taylor-Hicks

On Roses, Dragons and Saint George

Dragon Hill, near Uffington, Oxfordshire. The chalk shows where grass cannot grow. There, George slayed the Dragon.

  “And on my breast, a red,red rose, The flower of old England wherever she grows”

– John Kirkpatrick “Saint George”


Today is Saint George’s Day.  As I’ve mentioned in my St Patrick’s day post, I’m not a Christian, so as such, I don’t celebrate this as a religious festival, but as a recognition of my English heritage.  There are some Christians that would prefer England’s patron saint be an Englishman, perhaps St Edmund or St Alban, however I’m resolved that IF we should maintain a presence of this foreign faith in England, that St George be it’s representative.

“Whet the bright steel, Sons of the White Dragon! Kindle the torch, Daughter of Hengist!”

– Sir Walter Scott

We have a wonderful history of thin veneers of Christendom over the still beating heart of native faith in our isles.  Eire’s St Brigid is a perfect example, but for us, the legends of dragon slaying is strong.  From the continent, our Germanic ancestors brought tales of the Volsungs, and among our hills we had the tale of Beowulf penned, and by a monk no less!  So powerful are our stories that they cannot be denied!  England knew dragons…Monks feared they might burn their abbey’s, golden dragons were raised in battle,  red and white dragons fought in mystical dreams for the souls of a nation, yes, we know dragons…

The Cunning Rustic and the Rose of England

So today, as per the tradition,  I wear the red rose on my lapel.  close to my heart. The Rose is the united Tudor rose, masterful propaganda from the turn of the Renaissance, the rose is Lancaster and York. The rose is beauty personified, fed by English rain and English soil, and deep scarlet, the colour of blood. The rose is the island, and the thorns the water that protects it.  It is the English nation, haughty, hardy, beautiful, and prickly.  The rose is the blood of the dragon spilled, or the heart of Fafnir when Sigeweard devoured it, or the wounds of Beowulf left by the defeated wyrm.

I don’t care much for crosses, but I love to see St George’s cross fly today as an act of defiance and celebration.   Lo, may we see it replaced by the flag of the white wyrm!  Keep the spirit of dragon slayers in your heart always, and today, on your breast, the red, red rose.   May we gain the wisdom of our ancient forebears and may we all slay the dragons that stand before us.  May there forever be an England.

The White Dragon of England


Review: Fiddler’s Green Peculiar Parish Magazine

Although I’ve often thought about it, I have yet to write any reviews for my fellow Cunning Rustics, but I am compelled by this recent addition to my collection of periodicals. I convince myself that ‘keeper of knowledge’ sounds better than ‘hoarder of books’, but a rose by another name, still has no more space on his shelves. I am particularly proud of my collection of Heathen and Pagan periodicals dating back to the 1970’s.  These include ‘The Odinist’, ‘Vor-Tru’ and ‘The Runestone’ magazines, as well as a host of other esoteric ‘zines, pamphlets and mimeographs. Without reservation, I declare that ’Fiddlers Green’ is one of the finest esoteric magazines for anyone who may consider themselves a Cunning Rustic.

Beautifully printed on weighty paper (70 lb. off-white vellum), with a cover of heavy sage green linen paper, the copper gilt title gleams from the page, like a sudden treasure happened across on a solitary ramble through some country field. That is precisely how to approach this unique publication. It should be read, at leisure, outdoors with a drink and sunshine at hand. Fiddlers Green denotes a place out of time, a haven rather than a heaven, where sailors, farmers and countrymen reside when slipping this mortal coil. No clouds, harps and piety, but a place of companionship, abundance and comfort. Writer and editor Clint Marsh has created a magazine that might well entertain the denizens of that mystical Elysium.

The Pelican Pub at Muir Beach , California.

Some years back,I made a trip to California, and had the fortune to sink a pint at the Pelican Inn (named after Sir Francis Drake’s ship) at Muir Beach. There are many ‘British Pubs’ in the US, that fall very far off the mark indeed, but I can attest that The Pelican Inn is as proper a pub as I have found in this country. It was to my surprise on reading the first issue, that ‘Fiddler’s Green Peculiar Parish Magazine’ was conceived in that very beer garden by Mr Marsh.

Fiddler’s Green is a mix of esoteric journal and the old magazines my grandmother kept when I was a child, like The Post Office Magazine, and the original Country Life. It manages to avoid seeming anachronistic, however. This isn’t some steampunk re-imagining of a glorious Victorian past, but rather pays homage to a less vulgar time, maintaining the elements of art and writing that would appeal to any traditionalist. Articles such as ‘Where the Art Meets the Occult’ by Ken Henson are genuinely thought-provoking. Rima Staines’s ‘Rise and Root’ reads as a short manifesto for the Radical Traditionalist. At moments, reading Clint Marsh’s ‘The Kids Are All Rite: Traditionalism, Magic, Punk and “As-If”’ was an eerie reflection of my own teenage years.

From Rima Staines’ article ‘Rise and Root’

Some articles are firmly tongue in cheek, and you can sense the mirth throughout. Between articles, you will find art (contemporary and ancient), book reviews, photography, poetry and even postal rates, and thankfully, few advertisements. Those advertisements that are there, are perfectly in keeping with the feel and flow of the publication.

The three issues I was sent were printed as special editions for the Occult Humanities conference. Admittedly, I have only read the first of the three volumes I have received, as i am relishing them slowly, like morsels of Turkish Delight. A quick glance through the other two volumes promises more of the same, and so, the fiddler’s merry tune plays on.


Frederick Marryat – Writer and British Naval Officer. He served as a midshipman under the great hero, Lord Thomas Cochrane.

“At Fiddler’s Green, where seamen true

When here they’ve done their duty

The bowl of grog shall still renew

And pledge to love and beauty.”

Frederick Marryat
The Dog Fiend; Or, Snarleyyow,



I am indebted to fellow writer Josh Buckley (TYR Journal) for bringing Fiddler’s Green to my attention and you may find copies for purchase here:


Or you can correspond with Clint Marsh at:

Fiddler’s Green Peculiar Parish Magazine
Clint Marsh, Editor
Post Office Box 10146
Berkeley, Calif. 94709




On Saints, snakes and shamrocks.


I am no Papist, nor am I an Irishman.

St Patrick’s day brings a moment of consternation for the Pagan soul. Weren’t those ‘snakes’ an analogy for the druids? How much knowledge did we lose in the fifth century due to the missions and conversions of Patricius?  Would we have an unbroken living tradition of Celtic polytheism were it not for that man?

It’s true that the lack of snakes in the Emerald Isle has less to do with St Padraic and more to do with the ice age, but as with many legends, they grow around a person who had uncanny influence.  One such legend is that he spoke to mythic heroes of the Fianna, a warrior band of the mythic age, to convince them that real heroism lies in piety!

Despite the rancor that this raises among the modern Pagan and Heathen communities, i have found that this day more than any other raises an odd sort of self-righteousness.  Declarations against celebrating this particular day abound.  Indeed, if one would rather stay at home and engage in a day of prayer and worship to ancient forbears, I’m certain that the soul of St Patrick would ‘tut’ loudly, wherever he resides.

Here in the new world, where religion and irreligiousness are celebrated with equal zeal, this day is like no other.  As I wander the streets of my adopted American town, I see a wash of green. From stores and passing cars, the musical strains of The Chieftans or Dropkick Murphys can be heard.  Festivals, not celebrating St Patrick (or even mere Irish heritage) but rather Celtic heritage spring up everywhere. Bagpipes squeal and young lassies skip high in velvet dresses, never moving an arm.  I see this outpouring of connection to Celtic heritage from all the sons and daughters of Europe.  I see knotwork and green men on t-shirts. Corned beef and cabbage, sausage rolls and Irish soda bread abound!  I see people drinking, laughing, kissing and occasionally brawling. I can not for one second think that these folks are all Catholic.  Feasting and community are fundamental to our folkways, and  I’m sure the pubs are fuller than the churches. While they may not be Pagans of any stripe, at least they are celebrating a culture of music, poetry, art and wit, without even give a passing thought to old St Paddy, and after writing this, nor will I.

So play me some Pogues and pour me a glass for the Emerald Isle, to raise to Celtic folk and snake handlers everywhere, just don’t paint a green shamrock in it. Every man has to have standards.





Remember, remember…Guy Fawkes Foiled!

‘The Discovery of the Gunpowder Plot and the Taking of Guy Fawkes’ by Henry Perronet Briggs 1832

Remember, remember…

Guido ‘Guy’ Fawkes was not a hero from a comic, not a face to be worn by the anonymous.  He was a Papist.  In 1605 along with 13 conspirators he attempted to blow up King James I at his state opening at the Houses of Parliament.  Fawkes aimed to return England to the governance of Rome and the King of Spain.  Just 50 years earlier, 300 protestants had been burned to the death for heresy against the pope, during Queen Mary’s purge. No doubt the scourge of  ‘Bloody’ Mary was still strong in the minds of the English.

Bloody Mary lit a few bonfires of her own.

Bloody Mary lit a few bonfires of her own.

England had been thrown into conflict between Papists and Protestants since Henry VIII, but the fact remains, the Purges of Bloody Mary, against layman and commoners, deserved a heavy handed response.  The protestant reformation, as harsh as it was,  placed  the British Isles under British control and away from Europe.  The judgement against those who would have seen Britain bow to foreign masters sent a strong message.

Foiled in his plot, Fawkes was tortured, hanged and quartered, his parts being sent to the four corners of the land.

penny for the guy

Penny for the Guy

Now every fifth of November,  the British mark the occasion with ‘Bonfire night’.  Although the tradition of ‘A Penny For The Guy’ is waning, children still create a grotesque likeness of Fawkes and wheel him about the town, collecting money from those who would give it, before burning him atop the bonfire that evening.

As per tradition, folk will be lighting fireworks, eating and drinking, playing music and enjoying what would seem to all outside viewers to be a perfectly nice Pagan celebration.  Deep in our primordial souls, I believe we are happiest when celebrating around a fire with friends, and need little reason for it.  If one has to have a reason though, this is a good one.

Tonight,  across Albion, bonfires will be lit and effigies of Guy Fawkes burned. Let the story of Britain’s traitor be told, not in whispers, but with pride.  While children warm themselves in the glow,  let there be a chill in the spines of those who plot still.

Remember, remember…

Photograph © Andrew Dunn, 5 November 2005.

Photograph © Andrew Dunn, 5 November 2005.

Remember, remember!
The fifth of November,
The Gunpowder treason and plot;
I know of no reason
Why the Gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot!
Guy Fawkes and his companions
Did the scheme contrive,
To blow the King and Parliament
All up alive.
Threescore barrels, laid below,
To prove old England’s overthrow.
But, by God’s providence, him they catch,
With a dark lantern, lighting a match!
A stick and a stake
For King James’s sake!
If you won’t give me one,
I’ll take two,
The better for me,
And the worse for you.
A rope, a rope, to hang the Pope,
A penn’orth of cheese to choke him,
A pint of beer to wash it down,
And a jolly good fire to burn him.
Holloa, boys! holloa, boys! make the bells ring!
Holloa, boys! holloa boys! God save the King!
Hip, hip, hooor-r-r-ray!









The Harvest Moon – Of Wheat and Waggons


The Harvest Moon by George Mason

 Harvest-Home Song

THE FROST will bite us soon;
His tooth is on the leaves:
Beneath the golden moon
We bear the golden sheaves:
We care not for the winter’s spite,
We keep our Harvest-home to-night.
Hurrah for the English yeoman!
Fill full, fill the cup!
Hurrah! he yields to no man!
Drink deep; drink it up!

The pleasure of a king
Is tasteless to the mirth
Of peasants when they bring
The harvest of the earth.
With pipe and tabor hither roam
All ye who love our Harvest-home.

The thresher with his flail,
The shepherd with his crook,
The milkmaid with her pail,
The reaper with his hook—
To-night the dullest blooded clods
Are kings and queens, are demigods.
Hurrah for the English yeoman!
Fill full; fill the cup!
Hurrah! he yields to no man!
Drink deep; drink it up!

John Davidson (1857–1909)

Today is the Harvest Moon, dear friends. Give a moment to the earth as we reap our rewards and plan for the winter.  Make merry, enjoy ciders and ales, pour a little to John Barleycorn and the spirit of autumn.

Perhaps you will make Corn Dollies this weekend.  Of course, our modern wheat, a short, pithy type, easily devoured by combine harvesters, is not the same as the long great staple that my ancestors enjoyed.  The type which made a tall figure on a cart when shaped and bundled, and brought into the town.  The type that made for a thick thatched roof to stave off the winter chill.  I am left to wonder if the sudden distaste for bread in our modern society, and many of the ills claimed by the ‘anti-glutenites’ (begging the pardon of the true Celiac sufferer) isn’t rather a case of poisoning by modern crop and processing.  Once one has enjoyed the warm fulfillment of a true traditional loaf,  it can scarcely be compared to the soggy brick we call ‘bread’ today.

Harvest home  follows the festival ‘Lammas’ from the Anglo-Saxon ‘Hlaf-Mass’, literally translated as ‘Loaf Mass’.    Indeed, bread was so important to the Saxon, that our very words ‘Lord’ and ‘Lady’ are derived from the Old English hlāfweard (Loaf-Ward) and hlǣfdige (Loaf-Maker).   It’s a shame to see moderns disparage the venerable old loaf, but I have seen a return to the old ways recently with a rise of ‘artisanal Breads’ and farm to table bakeries making a name for themselves.  For more on this,  watch Michael Pollan’s ‘Cooked’ episode on Bread.

Waggons decorated for the Harvest Home parade on September 14th 1864. The Order of Proceedings required men to have a bouquet of three ears of wheat on their left breast. The procession was headed by the oldest labourers and the "musical band".

Waggons decorated for the Harvest Home parade on September 14th 1864. The Order of Proceedings required men to have a bouquet of three ears of wheat on their left breast. The procession was headed by the oldest labourers and the “musical band”.   Credit: www.communityarchives.org.uk

In various parts of Europe, the last sheaf of wheat or corn (for we use the terms interchangeably in England, what my American brethren call ‘Corn’ we call ‘Maize’) is a matter for reverence.  In parts of Germany, it was left  uncut as fodder for Wotan’s horse.  In Devon, England, it was festooned with ribbons and held aloft before the reapers scythes to the cry of ‘THE NECK’!   It was then carried to the farmer’s house to replace the previous year’s neck, which was then offered to the farmer’s finest beast.  Many a wagon carried the golden corn-maid to the village and town, perhaps an echo of the ritual belonging to the ancient earth-Goddess, Nerthus.  The Roman historian, Tacitus wrote of Nerthus in his work ‘Germania’

“There is a sacred grove on an island in the Ocean, in which there is a consecrated chariot, draped with cloth, where the priest alone may touch. He perceives the presence of the goddess in the innermost shrine and with great reverence escorts her in her chariot, which is drawn by female cattle. There are days of rejoicing then and the countryside celebrates the festival, wherever she designs to visit and to accept hospitality. No one goes to war, no one takes up arms, all objects of iron are locked away, then and only then do they experience peace and quiet, only then do they prize them, until the goddess has had her fill of human society and the priest brings her back to her temple.”

the-wolves-pursuing-sol-and-maniWhether you celebrate with your kinfolk or alone this weekend as the Autumnal Equinox approaches, this is the perfect time to reflect on the past year.  Was your harvest a good one?  Have you sown deeds and reaped rewards?  Were the Gods beneficent or were you faced with trial? Have you given a gift for your gifts received?

Sunna is in her descent and the leaves will turn reds and golds in her honour.  This evening, celebrate and honour the earth and to the wights of the land. We will have a partial eclipse tonight as Hati the Mooncatcher throws a wolfish shadow across Mani.  For tonight, rest and raise a jug of ale, as we know that we have much work to do before the fated day, when that warg devours its prey.











The Stranger in the Mirror

Remnants of a Season – Robert N Taylor

The Stranger in the Mirror

Making a Scrying Glass for Robert Taylor

The stranger in the mirror,
I have seen him once before
As I crossed a palace threshold
To a time of yesteryear.
And for the soul to know the soul,
To the soul you first must go,
For the answers lie there, hidden
In the legends that we know.

Excerpt from ‘The Stranger in the Mirror’ by
from ‘Remnants of a Season: The Collected Poems of Robert N. Taylor’ – Dominion/Ultra Press, 2016.

I recently returned from a gathering of friends brought together to celebrate the 70th birthday (albeit belatedly) of artist, poet and musician, Robert N. Taylor.  Those who know Robert through his music in the duo ‘Changes’ or through his many articles understand that he is a man who has never shied away from controversy.  He has been, at various times in his life, a revolutionary, a magician, a philosopher, a designer, and a herald of the Kali Yuga.

At the gathering, a copy of ‘Remnants of a Season: The Collected Poems of Robert N. Taylor’ was presented to him by Michael Moynihan of Dominion Press and Joshua Buckley of Ultra Press.  Robert has been producing chap books of poetry for many years, but this is the first hardback collection containing his poems, lyrics, and a selection of his artwork.  Anyone who has admired Robert’s work can order a copy from amazon HERE.  Be forewarned, this is a limited edition of 500 copies, and they are sure to sell quickly, so don’t dawdle!


Scrying Mirror alleged to have belonged to John Dee at the British Museum

Over the years, Robert has added greatly to both my esoteric knowledge, and my library.  When I received my invitation to this intimate gathering of friends, I wondered what I could make as an appropriate birthday gift.  It was on a trip to Asheville, North Carolina,  that I found my way into a lovely little shop that traded in fossils, rocks and other geological sundries.  There I found a round, perfectly polished obsidian mirror.  Visions of the Elizabethan court magician, John Dee, flashed through my head.  Here was the perfect gift, a scrying mirror!

Cunning rustics, royal mages, religious leaders and side-show psychics alike, have practiced the magical art of scrying.  Nostradamus performed the act by staring into a bowl of water.  Just last year, the Church of Latter Day Saints revealed photographs of a ‘Seer Stone’ used by founder Joseph Smith.  The Scrying mirror and ‘Shew Stone’ allegedly belonging to John Dee himself, resides at the British Museum.  It seems that the history of scrying in Northern Europe may well go back to the early medieval period, and did a good job of bothering bishops (as all good mystical traditions do), although priests were not themselves exempt from the allure of the mystic mirror.  The 12th century philosopher John of Salisbury wrote

“During my boyhood I was placed under the direction of a priest, to teach me psalms. As he practiced the art of crystal gazing, it chanced that he after preliminary magical rites made use of me and a boy somewhat older, as we sat at his feet, for his sacrilegious art, in order that what he was seeking by means of finger nails moistened with some sort of sacred oil or crism, or of the smooth polished surface of a basin, might be made manifest to him by information imparted by us.”

Crafting the case for the Scrying Mirror


Robert Taylor- Opus Dei #3

Deciding that the stone should be held in an appropriate frame, I began to craft a case for it.  I’ve enjoyed some basic leather working projects over the years, and decided to start trying my hand at tooling, which is the act of carving, stamping and shaping designs into the hide.  Needing to find an appropriate design, I remembered that of Robert’s many artworks, he had once created a sort of mobius triangle with a bright blue eye peering from the center of it.  I adapted the image, to make it appropriate for the material, and set to work.

Redrawing Robert Taylor’s Artwork for the scrying mirror case

Making a Scrying Mirror Case

After drawing and retracing, came cutting and stamping…

Making a Scrying Mirror Case

…then dying…

Making a Scrying Mirror Case

…and finally, painting and stitching.

When completed, I spent some time in contemplation of the motif.  The triangle, like three in one, was reminiscent of the Valknut symbol of the slain, carved on ancient runestones.  I had thought perhaps, that the eye was from Odin, launched into Mimir’s well, the Allfather’s sacrifice for wisdom beyond man’s knowledge.   Robert told me that it was the eye of the Iris, the Greek messenger of the Gods.  Though I did not know this when I made the piece, I think that it is entirely appropriate for a scrying mirror!

Thomas Gainsborough - Man Holding a Claude Glass

Thomas Gainsborough – Man Holding a Claude Glass

I intend to create some more of these frames for scrying mirrors in the future.  Obsidian mirrors can be readily purchased, but for those who wish to make their own, many a scrying mirror has been made by painting clear glass black on the reverse side.  Artists in older times used what they called a ‘Claude Glass’ to reflect the landscape they wished to paint, as it had the effect of changing tonal ranges and framing the view.

In many respects, this is the purpose of a scrying mirror, as a meditative tool, reflecting our world with certain subtle changes, forcing us to change our definitions of reality.  As we stare into the obsidian mirror, we see ourselves though a distortion, forcing us to reconcile that we cannot be seen through one lens alone.  Perhaps becoming comfortable with this is the first step to unlocking our potentialities in both the real world, and the reflected one.

Gaze into the abyss, my friends…

You can read more about the ideas behind the artwork on Robert’s website here – http://axismundiartgallery.weebly.com/geometrics.html












The White Dragon stirs as the Brexit occurs.

The Cunning Rustic raises an imperial pint for the Brexit.

I promise that I won’t bombard you with political posts on this blog.  We all get weary of the constant nails on the media chalkboard, especially in an election year.  Modern politics are generally a shallow affair and beneath the loftier ideals of the Cunning Rustic.  That said, the potential blow to globalism delivered by the Brexit vote, gives me cause to smile.

The idea of the ‘Brexit’ engages me, although I left England many years ago.   I have never known an England that wasn’t in the European Union.  I grew up with the grumblings of silly laws from Brussels regulating against the abnormal curvature of Bananas.  Years later we would see the ‘Metric Martyrs’, like Steve Thoburn, those traditional market stallholders who fought against the EU enforced conversion from imperial weights and measures to metric, only to be arrested and heavily fined.

It is of interest to see how the areas of the UK voted.  Scotland and N. Ireland wished to remain and there are already talks of referendums for their departure from the Kingdom.  The Scots had a shot at it recently and decided for economic reasons to stay in the UK, but now, the Scots may decide for economic reasons to leave and yoke themselves with the continent.  How I wish the Scots would make these decisions based on their desire to retain their own beautiful and rich culture, rather than fiddling with their purse-strings.  As for the folks of Northern Ireland, that wound runs deep and its scabs picked daily, we shall have to see if this presents a new opportunity for the bold sons and daughters of Cú Chulainn.

The White Dragon leads the way

The White Dragon leads the way

Of all 9 voting areas of England, only London, wished to remain.  Although this was called the Brexit, it was really a statement by the English (with a tip of the hat to our Welsh cousins who also voted to leave). The White Dragon is the point of the spear, and already other European countries are ready to follow.

David Rennie, the Washington bureau chief of The Economist magazine decried the vote as being led by an “Older, Whiter, Less Educated” rural population.   Of course, what he could have said was ‘The English’.  Those inhabiting the countryside, who have paid their dues, failed to adhere to the indoctrination of the city schools and have seen the descent of our values and culture.  The fear of  economic collapse wasn’t enough to scare the English. The postwar generation lived on rationing until the 1950’s, and know how to survive it, we call it ‘Blitz Spirit’.  One interesting point is that young farmers didn’t want to remain either, as they saw the EU as curtailing the freedom to farm the way they want to .  The Cunning Rustic knows in his heart, that a good steak is only as far away as the pasture.  Bankers know they can’t eat paper and gold.

Economies rise and fall, but The Cunning Rustic cares not. It matters only to those who worship at the altar of commerce.  The sun will rise and the sun will set. The master of the factory worries about his numbers in his books, but sheep still walk the hillside and oaks still grow in the grove. Perhaps it is not an entirely bad thing to watch our wallets a little more, to learn that we can do without so many channels of television, and learn the joys of singing around the fireplace, or to barter with the fruits of our labour rather than counting copper.

Today, England spit in the eye of globalism.  A spear was cast and a Saxon Shieldwall is forming as they prepare for the retaliation.  We Cunning Rustics hope that others follow suit.  We know there will be consequences, and we know the secret of  three very powerful words.

We. Don’t. Care.


John Bull









Discovering the Ancestors through Craft

Beginnings – Connecting with the Ancestors using craft as a meditation and ritual experience.

Memory is a strange thing.  It comes in snapshots.  It was 1983.   I don’t remember the weather,  I only remember rainy days when I was confined to playing indoors, but it must have been hot. I can tell because of the way my family looked in the photographs, red-faced Anglos, enjoying a summer holiday on the French coast. I remember pieces of flint as large as my head, scattered along the shoreline.  Like many five year old boys, I always had a stick in my hand, and my mother found some green polyester twine, washed up on the shore.
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Dancing Around the Border

Dancing Around the Border

The origins and rise of Morris and Traditional Folk Dancing. How Morris Dancing relates to Paganism and Tradition in the British Isles.

While chugging a cider at our local medieval fair, some ten years ago, I found my heart warmed by the sounds of jingle bells and of staves being cracked together in time to a merry tune wrought from a fiddle accompanied by penny whistle and drums.  A local team of Morris dancers was keeping the tradition alive right here in Florida!
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Of Rats and Men

Of Rats and Men –

A familiar fable by Æsop, rewritten for The Cunning Rustic.

There is that old Æsop fable about Country Mouse and City Mouse, whereupon City mouse goes to the country and is offered a meager meal, and so returns to his metropolitan home with his rural cousin and offers him the promise of a king’s feast. The feast is interrupted by two dogs, forcing both rodents to scurry away hungry and
unfulfilled. Country Mouse returns to his home, secure in the knowledge that his poor plate fills the belly better than a fantastic meal devoured by a dog.

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