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Thurso (Donald Thomson): Week 6 – 2 September

“I shall go into a hare/ with sorrow and sych and meickle care.” That is part of the charm Isobel Gowdie, the 17th century Scottish witch, is said to have used to transform herself into a hare. The second line means, “with sorrow and such and great care” (with care, yes, but, I can’t help wondering, why with sorrow?). And hares have been in my mind recently, because I think I have finally found my animal spirit guide.

Now, I don’t literally believe in spirit guides, any more than I literally believe in witches, say, or Merlin, or Boris Johnson. But metaphorically, it turns out I sorta do. Sometimes lying in bed in the dark (and in a Caithness winter this can be any hour of the day or night) I’ve explored the idea of a spirit guide to help steer me through difficult times, just for fun, even if it’s just my subconscious doing cosplay. But which animal would it be? Well, I decided to keep an open mind and let it come to me, if it wished. And to my great delight it did, recently: in the form of a hare.

Not a hare’s nest

Now hares famously build their nests in trees and on mountain crags and have large, hooked beaks for ripping flesh from their prey—no, wait, that’s eagles. Scratch that. Hares belong to the same family as rabbits, but they’re larger, and unlike rabbits hares are native to Britain, nor do they burrow underground. And you know, it feels like an appropriate spirit guide for me: hares are known for being timid and swift, which, apart from the swiftness bit, almost exactly describes me. Plus we both tend to go a bit batshit crazy in the spring, though admittedly in my case it’s more for chocolate easter eggs. The hare in folklore is known as something of a Trickster figure, so it’ll be interesting to see where she leads me—anywhere except down the rabbit hole, I hope…

Compass points

In gansey news I’ve almost finished the first sleeve: the end is in sight. I’m decreasing by 2 stitches every 5th row down to the cuffs—I usually allow for an 11-inch cuff, but this time I’m aiming for c.10 inches. (My wrist is about 8 inches round so it should be fine, everything will depend on how it feels once it’s blocked.)

Sarclet in the rain

And in parish notices, Judit has come up trumps again with another very natty gansey. It’s a striking example of banded patterns taken from Beth Brown-Reinsel’s book, combined in an arrangement that’s Judit’s own—and once again it shows the variety that can be achieved with this kind of pattern. It’s going to be a surprise Christmas present for one very lucky person this year. Many congratulations again to Judit, and thanks to her for sharing her work with all of us.

As for Isobel Gowdie, well, she would have transformed herself into other creatures, of course. Here are two of her other spells: “With giggling, and mirth and a cheeky grin/ I shall go into a penguin,” and “With a sneeze and a cough, dagnabbit/ I shall go into a rabbit.” But she never transformed herself into an egret. Even when the inquisitor switched to French to try to trick a confession out of her, she stood firm: “Non, she insisted, “Je ne egret rien…”

9 comments to Thurso (Donald Thomson): Week 6 – 2 September

  • Sharon Gunason Pottinger

    The American cousin of the hare is definitely noted for being a trickster–Cue the Brer Rabbit stories (not the Disney variety). ‘Pleeeeze dont throw me in that briar patch’ has got to be one of the best ever lines to snatch victory from the jaws of a large carnivore.

    • Gordon

      Hi Sharon, yes Brer Rabbit is definitely in the mix. I was interested to read that the Cherokee have a Great Hare spirit, and dome if the Brer Rabbit takes have parallels in their mythology. Small world…

  • Good Morning Gordon, Many thanks for your kind words and adding my red gansey to the gallery. it´s time for knitting now, Christmas is coming nearer every day, the days are shorter and the evenings longer.
    By the way , I saw a hare today morning just in front of my door. Have a nice day .

    • Gordon

      Hello Judit, you’re very welcome, as ever. Feels like autumn here for sure – trees just starting to turn. Perfect weather for knitting!

  • =Tamar

    Hares famously run toward a field fire, jump over it and into the already-burned part, and thus escape the flames.

  • One day Gordon decided his animal spirit guide might be a donkey. But then he decided against it. After all, Eeyore to know better.
    In other news, thanks very much – your 2 gorgeous Ganseys arrived safely & I look forwards to seeing then alongside their older cousins when I set up Propagansey 2019 next week.

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