A Yule log ablaze in an open hearth fireplace
Yule log tradition at Blackthorn Castle: Edith, my predecessor as Baroness Blackthorn, traditionally had the castle Yule log lit a week before Christmas. So on the 18th, after Marvin and I celebrated Rhiannon/Rigantona’s equine Feastday in her grotto temple we had a celebratory breakfast before I took ballet class with my wards. I’m very pleased indeed about how well Marvin and I worked as a mating pair during the ceremony. It was his first time as a mate to a woman during a Goddess blessed ceremony. We were both high on endorphins and basking in the afterglow during breakfast. I collected his liquefied semen – more than 10ml since he came three times - in a Diva Cup so I could use it as a dressing on his salad at supper.
At noon I presided at the lighting of the Yule Log in the massive fireplace in the great hall. Osborne, the castle’s head butler, had the stump of last years Yule Log brought in and placed in the hearth as a starter for this year’s log and then the log was pulled in on a roller equipped sled and manhandled into place in the fireplace with one end barely sticking out. As it burns the protruding end will be jacked forward pushing the burning end further into the fireplace. All the area around the fireplace is of masonry so sparks shouldn’t start fires. As you might imagine the new log is huge, part of an old oak not fully dry so it won’t burn like gunpowder, but will last until 12th night. Returning readers will recall that 12th night is the end of the 12 days of Christmas, Epiphany in the Anglican Church Of England, when the three wise men are said to have arrived to worship Jesus. The lighting went well. I asked all the Castle staff to attend as part of beginning the holiday festivities. When the Yule Log is lit there is always a servant in attendance to turn and jack it as necessary to make sure it doesn’t go out and sparks don’t start a fire.
As late as the early 19th centaury the great hall fireplace was used to roast whole sides of venison and boar, but now is rarely used for cooking just for warmth and lit as a custom of the holiday season. I have two stone masons working full time on the fabric of the castle. Knowing that the end of year holidays were coming I had them carefully check and clean the massive hearth and chimney to be certain that it was safe to use. For the last year they have been checking and repairing the fireplaces in all the rooms in the castle. Edith had let checks of fireplaces in distant seldom used rooms go. However, since I have groups of friends staying and will be having women who take my ballet intensive or dive-sex classes staying here I am having them all checked as one can’t be too safe with open fires. But a nice warm fire on a cold rainy or snowy night, and Goddess knows there are enough of them here, can be wonderfully comforting.
An east tower conundrum: I wondered why there were flues at the bottom of the east tower to ventilate the Celtic temple if Wales was becoming Christian when it was built. From the stonework the flues appear to be part of the original tower foundation, but not nearly as ancient as the Celtic braziers and carvings of Rhiannon/Rigantona on horseback that appear to be original to the grotto temple. My Oxford Celtic expert thinks that the original castle builders in the 13th century still secretly worshiped Celtic Deities and had the ventilation for the grotto temple included in the original tower so the family could continue their Celtic worship in private while conversion to Christianity was going on around them. Apparently that aspect of the family’s beliefs disappeared in the 14th century as early items in the garbage and trash that was nearly ten feet deep when I had the debris cleared dates from that time. My Celtic Don has found nothing in the muniment room that addresses activities in the lower levels of the east tower during those years.
As I mentioned in my entry for November 19th the east tower of the castle that (so legend has it) hadn’t been entered in more than three hundred years since the 12 y/o son of the 18th Baroness fell to his death from its roof while hiding from a playmate is said to be haunted by him it. My Celtic expert thinks the ghost story was begun as a warning to the curious to keep people - other than the family - out of the tower who might accidently stumble upon the Celtic temple. That explanation seems logical to me as, since I’ve been Baroness there have been a great many workmen as well as my wards and I in the tower at all times of the day and night and we haven’t encountered him.
Wild boar hunting: More than eighteen months ago 42 wild boar were released during a burglary of a farm in Maesteg far south of Blackthorn Castle. They are primarily nocturnal, very destructive to crops and dangerous when confronted. Recently wild boar have been sighted on Barony land so several weeks ago Charles, my Chamberlain, organized a boar hunting party of local farmers and castle staff who have been in the military and would like to join the hunt. Since the castle is a considerable distance from Maesteg we don’t think any on Barony land were from the ones released there, but this is the first boar have been seen in the area in years. The hunt was very successful and eight large sows (without piglets) were killed. Samples were sent for trichinella testing and all came back negative four were kept to roast for the holidays at the castle and the rest divided among the others in the hunting party.
Wild boar as table meat: “The biggest difference between wild boar and domestic hogs is that the meat of the feral hogs has much less fat. The meat will be darker and the grain will be tighter. It's not necessarily tougher, but it can be dry compared to domestic pork. It may have a gamey taste.” Well, yes, but if marinated before barbequing the baby back ribs are very tasty and melt in your mouth. The castles cook, Mrs. Bridges, (yes I know, but that’s her real name) would barbeque wild boar baby back ribs from a local butcher for Baroness Edith and her guests. However, this is the first time in years that the Barony has actually shot its own although we did have the local butcher skin, clean and carve up the various cuts so nothing has been wasted. I’m going to serve the tenderloin at Christmas for those who aren’t keen on turkey or who would just like to taste wild boar. Just to be certain I had Mrs. Bridges roast two cuts; a tenderloin and a set of baby backs – not from the ones shot on Barony lands - gotten from the village butcher and they were delicious!
Weather forecast for the Winter Solstice: For Tuesday, December 22nd Sunrise 08:23 Sunset 16:03 at Llanidloes. The forecast is for temperatures in the low 50s (F) with heavy rain at 9:00 AM and wind gusting to 48 mph from the south west. If that actually occurs it will very unpleasant and dangerous on the open fighting top of the east tower.