12.06.2017
Kate Monkman
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I've just written my first children's book 'Maple and the Crystal Cavern  It's a magical adventure story about a young Faekie called Maple Syrup who lives in the middle of a giant rubbish dump 'FaekieLand' in the story Maple meets some magical creatures called 'The Mycelies' these are fungus gnomes, I based the Mycelies on the magical properties of the Mycorrhizal network or 'Wood Wide Web'  The Wood Wide Web really is fascinating as it basically acts as natures internet, here's a short video explaining the Wood Wide Web and a bit more about mycelium.   Natures Magic- Mycelium -A little bit about this wonderful stuff! Mycelium is the vegetative part of a fungus, (or fungus-like bacterial colony). It consists of a mass of branching thread-like strands. This mass is sometimes called ‘Shiro’, especially within the fairy ring fungi. A mushroom is just the fruiting body of a much larger network of mycelium threads, rather like the way an apple is just the fruit of a much larger organism, a tree. This network of mycelium is known as the mycorrhizal network, or ‘Wood Wide Web', as it acts rather like the internet of the forest, connecting individual plants and trees together to transfer water, carbon, nitrogen and other nutrients and minerals. In this way Fungi are the caretakers of the forest, disassembling matter from waste and fallen trees, and creating fresh new soil. In fact, Fungi were the first colonizers of the planet one billion years before the introduction of plants, where they thrived in vast mushroom forests. Since then they have adapted and evolved, becoming the planet’s most adept stewards. Possibly the largest organism alive in the world today is a web of mycelium fungus. It stretches across 2,400- acres of forest in eastern Oregon in the USA...that’s as big as 1,665 football fields! It’s estimated to be 2,200 years old, so it’s also one of the planet’s oldest living organisms. What’s so wonderful about mycelium is this miraculous substance has the ability to help save the planet, and us, by offering a solution to lots of the world’s problems, from cleaning up oil spills and toxic waste, to creating packaging that actually improves the soil when it’s thrown away. Mycelium can even replace plastics, so that in the future it may be possible to grow all the items we need, from furniture to phone cases. It can even produce a leather substitute that is stronger, and softer than deer skin! So in the future we really all could be wearing mushroom boots! The Plastic Problem Before I wrote the story I was already aware that fungal mycelium recycled and broke down the waste in a forest/natural environment, but was unsure about the process in a landfill site. Could fungi even decompose plastic? Researching further I came across an article called ‘Fungi & the Plastics Problem’ on a website called radicalmycology.com, and from this I learnt that fungi could provide a solution to our plastic problem after all. In the article it explains how plastic pollution is one of the greatest man-made threats facing future generations, with some plastics taking several thousand years to decompose, all the while leaching toxic compounds which have a devastating effect on plant and animal life. Worryingly, humans have now discarded so much plastic that every ocean has a vast “trash island” where sea currents cause plastic waste to accumulate in huge quantities. It is then broken down into smaller and smaller pieces until it becomes a toxic plastic soup, up to several meters deep. Fish swimming through these cesspools confuse plastic fragments for plankton, sea turtles confuse plastic bags for jelly fish, and sea birds feed their babies brightly coloured plastic lids, thinking they are small fish. One of the largest of these plastic soups is in the Northern Pacific Ocean known as the Great Pacific Gyre. It is estimated to cover an area the size of Texas, with a depth of 10 meters! So far the only real option to the plastic problem we are facing has been recycling. However, this comes with its own issues as certain plastics are unable to be recycled, and the ones that can be, require careful sorting. This costs a lot of money, and the recycled plastic produced is often inferior, with lower economic value. Even “biodegradable” plastics are not always as “biodegradable” as you would imagine. Can fungi provide a possible answer? It’s been known since plastics were first invented, and tests were carried out to determine longevity, that they were susceptible to fungi and bacteria degradation, But the problem with plastic is the length of time they take to degrade, and the toxic substances they leach out in the process. Scientists are now working on a manmade compound, using the digestive enzymes fungi produce. This liquid enzyme could be applied directly to the plastic waste to begin the process of degradation much faster, and help clear up the toxins produced. The fungus can even be trained to eat a particular type of plastic. It’s still in its early stages, but the results look promising. This really would be fantastic if we could begin to clear up the mess we have made. However, what I’m really excited about is a future without plastics, made possible by mycelium. A future where we can grow the products we need, and any waste we do make would actually improve the earth, not destroy it. The main reasons I wrote Maple and the Crystal Cavern was because I was so amazed by all the wonderful information that I had learnt about mycelium. But I’m by no way an expert, and have only really begun to discover all its possibilities. So please research for yourselves, by visiting radicalmycology.com and looking up the amazing work of the mycologist Paul Stamets, and companies working on mycelium packaging and furniture, such as Ecovative. Please follow the Maple and the Crystal Cavern facebook page for more updates
24.02.2017
Kate Monkman
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Cerridwen's Spell by Kate Monkman Since moving to Wales I've felt drawn to understand more about our connection to the land through the reading the old myths and stories. I discovered that the story of Cerridwen and Taliesin took place on the shores of Bala Lake. I can see the lake everyday while walking in the hills above my house and began to study the tale in more depth by reading 'From the Cauldron Born' by Kristoffer Hughes and found it to be a powerful and transformative story filled with hidden meanings and archetypes. I feel this painting has been 'brewing' in my mind for quite sometime, I first had the vision of how I wanted it to look whilst stood next to this tree on the shores of the lake and imagined the story playing out before me in a huge spiral on the lake. I've included the mountain range of Aran Fawddwy which sits above the lake in the background of painting, it always feels so magical when you catch sight of it's double peeks. I have written my own version of the story below                       ~ Cerridwen’s Cauldron and the birth of Taliesin ~Far below the majestic peaks of Aran fawddwy on the shores of the sacred lake known as Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake) lived a powerful and wise witch by the name of Cerridwen, she was married to the nobleman Tegid foel who gave his name to the lake. They had two children a daughter known as Creirfyw or ‘The finest’ as she was the most beautiful graceful creature who ever lived and a son Morfran or ‘Sea Crow’ who was as hideous as Creirfyw was fair, his ugliness was such that he was renamed Afagddu meaning utter darkness and he was shunned by all who laid eyes on his monstrous form.Cerridwen loved her son dearly and her heart was saddened deeply by his lack of acceptance in the community so she decided to help him using the three crafts she possessed; magic, witchcraft and divination. If Afagddu could not be beautiful he could be wise and she set about creating the brew of awen in her mighty cauldron. Awen was the flowing spirit of inspiration itself and once it was prepared Afagddu would only need three precious drops to become wise beyond all measure and the greatest of all the storytellers and then surely he would be loved by all.The potion of awen is not easy to create, it takes a year and a day of hard strenuous labour so to help her in her task Cerridwen employed the blind man Morda to stoke the fire and a small boy Gwion Bach to constantly stir the brew. Cerridwen herself would be kept busy constantly collecting all the magical herbs, plants and fungus's needed from the lakes shore to feed the bubbling brew.When the magical concoction was almost ready Cerridwen rested against a tree stump exhausted from all her hard labour. Contented that soon Afagddu would be wise beyond measure she drifted into a deep sleep just as the contents of cauldron began to boil. As Morda stoked the fire and Gwion Back frantically stirred suddenly they heard a crack as the cauldron began to break open spitting out three drops of hot scolding liquid onto Gwions thumb. He cried out in pain as he stuck his thumb into his mouth to try to cool his burning flesh, in that moment Gwions eyes rolled back into his head as he became filled with all the knowledge of this world and the otherworld, becoming the prophetic spirit of awen itself. As the cauldron shattered into a million pieces its three drops of awen gone the rest of the brew became a toxic poison seeping into the lake and Cerridwen’s eyes flew open in rage. Gwion Bach was now filled with a power and knowledge to rival Cerridwen’s and instantly knew of her fury. He ran for the hills shape shifting into a hare so he could run faster, Cerridwen shifted into a greyhound and began to gain ground on Gwion who had by now reached a stream, jumping in he turned himself into a salmon, Cerridwen jumped in after him becoming an otter, Gwion feeling the otters whiskers on his tail turned instantly into a wren and flew up from the stream, Cerridwen now a hawk was fast in pursuit, exhausted from the chase Gwion spotted a pile of grain on the floor and headed towards it turning himself into a single grain of wheat. Never one to give in Cerridwen turned herself into a large black hen and proceeded to gobble at the pile of grain.Cerridwen sure she had won the chase soon discovered the magical grain had grown in her belly and she was with child, enraged she vowed to drown the babe in the lake as soon as it was born. When the time came and the babe flowed out along with her screams she looked down at the child, bestowed with the gifts of awen he was the most beautiful child she had ever seen and she couldn’t find it in her heart to kill him. Instead she set him adrift into the sacred waters of Bala Lake inside a leather coracle. Eventually one Samhain eve the coracle was discovered by Gwyddno’s son Elffin, amazed by the beauty and otherworldliness of the child inside Elffin named him Taliesin or Shining brow. Taliesin went on to became the most famous bard in Britain and is said to be the basis of Merlin.
22.04.2016
Kate Monkman
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First Encounters Ever since I visited my first Crop Circle back in 2004 I’ve been intrigued by these mysterious symbols appearing as if by magic in fields around England. The first circle I visited was found by a farmer friend of mine just outside a small village called Rudston near Bridlington on the Yorkshire Wolds, he excitedly told me & a few friends & we made our way up to the circle one long summers evening, we had to hurry as it was actually my friends job to combine the field the next day & the circle would be lost, it felt special & secret as no one but us seemed to know about this mysterious appearance,   Walking up the field towards the formation I wasn’t sure what to expect & was amazed to find a complex circular pattern beautifully crafted, It consisted of a inner circle with all the crop whirled neatly all the same direction towards a central point, outside were two rings of fanned sections one going clockwise the other anti- clockwise, the whole thing was big, I’d say at least 150ft across, We all sat in the middle & watched the sun setting with a feeling of expectation, would we see UFOs! Who made the circle & why? We were excitedly talking of the possible explanations, unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me so I couldn't take a photo & this was in the pre camera phone days! As we sat pondering we noticed it was positioned exactly in line with the church spire on the next hill, we realised that the spire belonged to Rudston Parish Church & in the graveyard much older than the church itself stood the Rudston Monolith, At 7.6 meters its Britain’s tallest standing stone & legend says there is as much below the ground as above. Could this Standing stone be the clue to the Circles appearance? I later discovered the whole area around Rudson was a important Neolithic site like Avebury in Wiltshire with the monolith marking the center. Rudston Monolith Hoaxers & Mandlebrots I had no more encounters with crop circles until 2009 though I remained interested & read any articles I came across & did some research online. It seems most appear in the areas around Wiltshire often near ancient sites such as Stonehenge, Avebury & Silsbury hill, the phenomenon actually reached the front pages of the newspapers in the early 90’s & the general public were getting interested, it was then that two men  known as Doug & Dave came out & said that they had been making the circles with string & planks of wood & it became widely excepted that the circles were hoaxes. Then as if to discredit the Hoaxers in August 1991 a perfect representation of one of the most complex shapes in mathematics appeared the mandlebrot.  A mandlebrot is a set of fractal geometry named after the great French mathematician & philosopher who discovered it in the 1960’s, it represents the science of chaos theory & is very difficult to reproduce without a computer, its seems very unlikely this pattern could have anything to do with string & planks! The appearance of the Mandlebrot seemed to mark a evolution as the circles started to become ever more complex, some circle researchers commented that it was almost as if someone or something was trying teach us a language, starting with simple circles & then getting more & more complex. It does seem a possibility that the circles could contain messages with patterns including star systems, DNA spirals & even a Solar system with the Earth missing! Another interesting feature of genuine crop circles is that the crops are laid over in such a way that the stalks are not damaged & continue to grow, this seems impossible to replicate with mechanical means or even by hand also the stalks & surrounding soil are electromagnetically altered when measured with instrumentation. Inside a Mayan Head-dress The main Crop circle season is the summer months of May to August so I was excited to be visiting a friend in Bath in July 2009 & had convinced my partner that we should see if any crop circles had appeared in the area as it turned out I was in luck as my friend had heard that some had appeared around Silsbury hill, a huge man-made earthwork near Avebury. We headed there the next day & after parking up in the small car park by Silsbury Hill we weren’t sure at first what direction to head in so we started walking along the footpath & soon could make out a gathering of people on the brow of the opposite hill, we still couldn’t see the circle from there but felt sure that must be were the circle was, I felt a rush of excitement all we had to do now was try & find a way in to the field as it was hedgerow all along, we started walking & soon met other ‘pilgrims’ trying to find the quickest way to the circle too! The only way into the field was following a path which took you passed the West Kennet long barrow, one of the largest & most impressive Neolithic chambered tombs in Britain. We walked into the dark chamber touching the damp stones a air of mystery began to creep over me it’s the feeling I often get in these ancient sacred places. Standing on top of the chamber I was excited to see in the field to the left of the barrow another crop circle, not the one we were trying to get to this one looked further away but seemed perfectly positioned to get the full view of from the top of the Long Barrow. Crop Circle we could see from the West Kennet long barrow It took us about another 30mins of walking across fields till we started to get close to the circle we were heading for,  it was positioned right on the brow of a hill so you couldn’t get a good view, the excitement was building as helicopters & small planes kept flying over head (the only way to get a birds-eye view without climbing Silsbury hill across the road) Then finally we reached the circles edge with the corn bending over into a huge circular path that carried on beyond what you could physically see. What struck me first was the way the outer circle had been constructed, it was beautifully woven like a rug into large diamond shapes, the atmosphere inside the circle was intense  with lots of people inside it felt like we were all some sort of pilgrims visiting a holy place, one lady even made the sign of the cross to me just after I’d walked in, it really had a sense of the sacred about it similar to being in a Cathedral or other holy places, some people were praying or meditating, some were lying down taking in the atmosphere, there were small groups of people dotted round in deep debate discussing the circle at this point the circle was so big I had no idea of the pattern.  We made our way from the woven outer pathway into the more central area & stood trying to make a mental picture of what shape the formation could possibly be, as we worked our way nearer the center we seemed to be looking at ever more complex patterns with small circles dotted here & there & long straight pieces fanning off into the distance. Once we had reached what we thought was the center (a small circle of about 8ft across) I entered & lay down inside & my partner took a picture of me on my digital camera & strangely as crop circles have been known to interfere with camera equipment there is a slight haze above me on the photo. I didn’t want to leave the circle & would have happily spent all day there taking in the atmosphere but we had a long drive ahead of us so we reluctantly set of back to the car. I noticed a feeling when I left the circle similar to when I have had Reiki, relaxed but energised. On the way home we both noticed a strange feeling when we turned off the quieter country roads & on to the busy motorway with lorries zooming by us, its hard to describe but the motorway felt too fast & chaotic & it was as if we had only just woken up to the fact. The first thing I did when I got home late that night was search the internet for the latest Crop Circle Silsbury hill so I could get my first glimpse of what we had actually visited. I got a chill down my spine when the image appeared, it was even more beautiful & mind blowing than I could have imagined. It had been named the Mayan Head-dress due to its resemblance to the traditional Mayan head wear & many Crop circle enthusiast believed it is symbolising the end of the 5126 year Mayan ‘Long Count’ calendar that happened on December 21st 2012.  I felt in awe that I had been inside it just hours before especially as I looked closely at the picture at the tiny dots that were actually people inside the circle, this circle was huge,350ft across! The Mayan Headdress Crop Circle, to get an idea of it's size look closely at the tiny people you can see walking inside the circle!  Made by Music? So what are these amazing creations & who or what creates them, the theories are numerous from the everyday like crop fungal diseases to the bizarre like top secret military experiments. One of the most convincing theories I have heard is the link to salt/sound wave experiments known as cymatics, this is where salt or sand is placed on a vibrating surface near a speaker, when certain frequencies are played patterns begin to appear in the salt which get more complex as the frequency from the speaker changes. Could it be that there is some sort of sound wave or frequency creating the circles? There have been reports of people hearing a high pitched buzzing noise just before the appearance of some circles so this seems like a possible explanation but even if this were the answer so much still remains a mystery. I’ve had many debates with people who believe the circles are created by hoaxers but they have never actually visited a circle, my advice to anyone who is interested is to visit a circle themselves, take in the atmosphere & then make your own decision as to whether they are man made, it could be our loss if we do not uncover the messages that they contain before it's too late. There is some excellent site on the internet if you want to find out more www.cropcircleconnector.com www.ukcropcircles.co.uk
Magic Garden original painting available in my Artfinder shop ARTFINDER: The Magic Garden by Kate Monkman - It's always magical when the foxgloves appear n...
New original painting available on Artfinder ARTFINDER: Rainforest Fairy by Kate Monkman - I used watercolour for this painting picking ou...
08.04.2016
Kate Monkman
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The Caer Euni stone circle is only about a 40mins walk from my house so thought it would be the ideal place to celebrate the Spring Equinox, I headed up with my dog Sadie & we were lucky to get glorious sunshine but it was still quite cold seeing the first lambs of the spring on our way up a majestic Red Kite circled above taking advantage of the clear day. I've visited the circle quiet often since I moved here & it always feels really atmospheric & magical, in sunshine its stunning with views of the nearby hill fort, the Arans & on a clear day Moel Famau in the far distance, but if the weather turns & a mist comes in it can feel a little oppressive & have sometimes had the feeling of being watched (probably just my over active imagination!) The site consists of a large kerb circle 40 feet in diameter & a ring cairn immediately opposite, there is evidence of settlement on the site dating back to the 3rd Millennium but the circle isn't that well known so I can't find much information on it but I have read in a local walking book that the land around the nearby lake Llyn Caer Euni is linked to legends of the horned god Cernunnos. I'm a complete novice when it comes to the pagan, celtic or druid ceremonies so I'm still kind of 'winging'it but I did my own version of a spring type blessing burning some incense,  Sadie didn't seem to mind & sat quite happy enjoying the sunshine, I wrote this little poem while I was up there Spring Blessings From Winters slumber deep underground, comes life returning all around The days still are cold but bright, with a deep pink sun that sets at night, With each leaf & bud so fresh & new, Mother Earth gently encourages to push on through, to stand tall & proud upon the world and sing with joy 'the spring has come, the world has turned' Happy Spring Equinox!
06.04.2016
Kate Monkman
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I’ve always wanted to make it to one of the faerie events in Glastonbury & this year I finally managed it & went to the wonderful spring faerie fayre in the town hall organised by Karen Kay ( see http://www.faeryevents.com/ for more info on her fairy events) I headed down with my friend Louise & her 2 children Freya & Luca who got dressed up in fantastic fairy outfits. Glastonbury itself is crystal shop heaven with more or less every shop being magical, pagan or new age in some way, even the estate agents had a toadstool in the window! We had a quick wander around before the fair started  which was next to the abbey which sadly we didn’t get time to visit there’s just too much to see in one day The fair was fabulous with loads of stalls & amazing artists & crafts people, I got to meet my all-time favourite artist Brian Froud who’s books inspired me years ago to start painting the faery realm, I’d only ever seen flower fairy type images before his work & his faery art seems to capture what I would think was the true nature of faery it’s absolutely outstanding & well worth looking up if you have not come across his work before though chances are you have come across his work & maybe not realised as he did all the design artwork for the Dark Crystal & Labyrinth film with David Bowie, which brings me neatly to the most wonderful part of the trip & the highlight for me, which was a talk by Brian Froud & his wife Wendy (who is equally fantastic & created the costumes & puppets for the films from Brian’s designs) all about the making of the films featuring various props, costumes & sketches, the talk was really interesting & funny too as Brain & Wendy were so warm & genuine, we even found out some insider behind the scenes stories from the making of the films one of my favourites being that David Bowie had to do all the filming with wee stained gloves as they only had one pair for him & the first day on set their son Toby who was the baby in the film weed on him! Some other highlights included visiting fairy artist Linda Ravenscroft's Mystic Garden shop which was beautiful & magical, lucky for us she was working in the shop that day so we got to have a chat & I brought a signed print of a lovely Owl from her vanishing series, also I loved going into the Starchild incense shop which is just gorgeous. Near the end of the day something a little strange happened as I took a photo of Louise & her little boy Luca on the street running past the abbey, the sun was right in my eyes so I wasn’t sure if the photo had taken so took another one, when we looked at the photos later we noticed both photos had a little green spot in the right hand corner, I zoomed into the green blob on the first photo I took & it’s just a strange blob so I thought it was probably an effect from the Sun, but on the second photo the green blob is still there but this time a little goblin type face has appeared! I’ll leave it up to you to make your own mind up whether it’s a speck of dust on the camera lens or our own Glastonbury goblin; I know which one we believe! 

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