All posts by Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things.

Repelled by Rhymes

No one knows why there are so many horse skulls on the island but no actual horses. Clearly there has been some historical relationship between the appearance of skulls and the absence of living equine creatures, but no one admits to remembering what happened.

A horse skull, devoid of the rest of the horse is rather more menacing than the living version probably suggested. This may well be why said skulls are so popular with demons. It’s a good look. 

Islanders tasked with keeping the Mari Lywds for ceremonial purposes have to be adept at dealing with frisky demons. Traditional demon management techniques are passed down through the families. Like the Mari Lywds they inhabit, demons can seldom resist a rhyming battle. Hit them with a challenging couplet and at the very least they’ll feel obliged to think about a witty response. This can give you a critical few seconds to get them back in their bag or subdue them with your holy relic.

Entering a rap battle with a demon is not something to do lightly. Keepers of the Mari Lywds train for years to be able to handle rhyming under extreme pressure. If the demon defeats you, then it may try to eat you, it’s bound to unseat you, with its bones it will beat you…

The Not Particularly Green Fairy

You may remember that Reggie Upton’s tulpa – the thought-form he had created twenty years earlier, while serving as an army officer in India – had detached itself from him, and was now leading a separate existence. The tulpa, which he referred to as Annie, was invisible to all, except Philomena Bucket and Reggie himself. When Philomena consulted the ghost of Granny Bucket, as to how Annie might be banished, she recommended a few chosen spells and, in order to sufficiently anaesthetise Reggie, enough absinthe to make the process painless.

“Is it supposed to be that colour?”

Philomena regarded the liquid with some suspicion.

Norbert Gannicox held the bottle up to the light, viewing it with the practised eye of a master distiller.

“It’s pale. That’s probably because we used dried wormwood, rather than fresh,” he said. “Besides that, making it as I did, and using a spirit base, this is really no more than an infusion. It will be more than strong enough to help Reggie, while you do your magic, though.”

“I must say, I’m a bit disappointed,” said Philomena. “I was hoping that the Green Fairy would be there to help him through it.”

“He’ll have to make do with a yellowish one this time,” Norbert said with a grin. “But I admit, although I won’t be tasting it myself, this has certainly given me the bug for making more absinthe, but properly distilled, next time.”

“You will make Reggie very happy,” said Philomena.

“And me,” said Mirielle D’Illay, coming in on the arm of her fiancé, Septimus Washwell. The idea to distil absinthe had originally been Mirielle’s, who had fond memories of her days in the Moulin Rouge, where the notorious spirit had flowed freely.

She was keen to sample the first batch.

“It is better with a sugar-lump,” she declared, pulling a face, “but it won’t hurt that Englishman. He is mad, anyway.” 

As Granny had predicted, the tulpa was reluctant to be returned to whichever bit of Reggie it called home. Fortunately, thanks to the powerful effects of the absinthe, which he happily consumed, the old soldier was completely unaware of the battle raging around and within him.

Reggie opened his eyes to see a sallow-faced man looking down upon him with a vague, non-judgemental gaze, and exuding an air of complete indifference.

“Il faut être toujours ivre,” he said.

“I’m sorry old chap, my French is a bit rusty,” said Reggie, “but I’m fairly fluent in Bengali, if that helps.”

The Frenchman rolled his lugubrious eyes, ran a hand through his thinning hair, gave a Gallic shrug and said, in perfect English,

“One should always be drunk.”

“Do you really think so?” said Reggie. “I remember we had a chap in the regiment who made a point of …”

“It is the only way not to feel time’s horrible burden,” said the other, sensibly ignoring Reggie’s anecdote. “Which bends your shoulders and grinds you into the earth. You should get drunk continuously…”

“Jolly good,” said Reggie, warming to his new companion.

“But on what?” asked the Frenchman.

“On wine?” ventured Reggie.

For the first time the Frenchman smiled a little, and said.

“On wine, on poetry or on virtue, as you choose.”

“Well, I know a bit of Kipling…”

The poet – for poet he was – opened his arms theatrically and suddenly the pair seemed to be inhabiting an oil painting of a bar. It was clear that this was definitely not part of The Squid and Teapot. It was pure Degas; Reggie could make out each brushstroke, each touch of the palette-knife.    

The patrons, sombre looking men and women painted in the drabbest of colours, sat perfectly still, gazing blankly at the bottles that graced every table. A haze of tobacco smoke hung motionless above them.

Compared with the many watering-holes that Reggie had frequented over the previous five decades, this place looked lifeless and melancholy… except for the Art Nouveau picture on the wall before him. This depicted a beautiful, flame-haired young woman in carefree abandon, holding aloft a tall glass of pale green liquid. She was dressed – if dressed is the right word – in nothing but a diaphanous length of cloth, which she had draped casually over one shoulder.

It seemed the most natural thing in the world when she turned and looked at Reggie. Stepping from the frame, she offered the glass to him, and as he accepted it, the bar came to life, with music and laughter.

“I am Fée,” she said, in husky tones. “Dance with me, mon amour,” and before Reggie knew what was happening, he found himself dancing a polka with this almost-naked beauty, who looked young enough to be his granddaughter.

“I’m getting too old for this malarkey,” thought Reggie to himself, then he realised that he was no longer the elderly but dapper chap who greeted him in his shaving mirror each morning, but a dashing young captain once more, resplendent in his regimental dress-uniform.

The pair whirled around the room, which spun like a carousel. The music grew louder, the dance faster and the colours of the artist’s palette flowed around them like a dizzying rainbow river.

The Frenchman, standing in the centre of the spinning room, was unmoving, like one caught in the eye of the storm.

“What time is it, mon ami?” he called, holding up a pocket-watch.

“It is time to get drunk,” replied Reggie, and the room dissolved into a blur.

“Mon dieu, it has not worked. He is not waking,”

The voice, unmistakably French and feminine, reached down into the depths of Reggie’s mind and he stirred.

“Fée,” he mumbled. “Lovely Fée, is that you?”

“Non, it is not Lovely Fée, it is Lovely Mirielle, you mad English fool!” said Mirielle, with undisguised relief. “We have been worried about you. You have been sleeping there for almost a whole day.”

“Really,” said Reggie, sitting up. For some reason Norbert, Bartholomew, Septimus, Philomena and Mirielle were all standing around his bed with worried expressions on their faces. There was a disconcerting pile of bones in the corner. It was Drury, dozing contentedly, obviously confident of Reggie’s recovery.

“We thought we’d lost you for a while there, old friend,” said Norbert.

“I’m fine,” declared Reggie, “although, I had some rum dreams. There was this French poet chap telling me that I should always be drunk.”

“Ah, I think I know who you mean. He is incorrigible,” said Mirielle, proudly.

“And did you get to meet the Green Fairy?” laughed Philomena.

“Do you know m’dear, I really think I did,” said Reggie, stroking his moustache. “And a dashed fine looking woman she was too… but she wasn’t particularly green, come to think of it.”

Gregory O’Regan – resident

Gregory O’Regan is Hopeless, Maine’s unburialist. This is a rare calling, but the work is vital. Sometimes people are buried when they should not have been. A well practiced and dedicated unburialist can detect these situations and may be able to act in time to stop the presumed dead person from becoming an actually dead person. Of course, if the unburialist is too late then all that is revealed is horror.

When people have been buried secretively with a view to hiding the body, the keen senses of the unburialist are needed to retrieve the victim. Not that this reliably leads to any kind of justice for the dead, but on the whole we find it helps to at least know that they are dead, and where they have been put.

For these reasons, you may well see Gregory at work on the island, digging for those who should not have been buried. It is best not to approach him when he is working, and best not to ask what he is doing. His ability to tell whether people should not have been buried seems to depend on getting them in the ground first, but if you invite him to the funeral and ply him with good beer, then the processes tends to be smoother and less traumatic all round.

(People who want to be islanders are sending in photos. If you’ve got no other way of contacting us, leave a comment and we’ll email you.)

Putting demons in a blunderbus take 2

Last week we said things about demon devices and how sometimes you just have to shove a demon in a blunderbus and get on with things. This led to Mark Hayes feeling moved to shove a demon in a blunderbus and take photos.

Mark is an excellent chap, and one of the Gloucestershire steampunks. (He’s not actually residing in Gloucestershire, but this seems to be a minor detail really).

Do pay a visit to his blog, he’s a charming and highly entertaining author.

… and the sort of person who turns out to own both a blunderbus and a demon, and to be possessed of the willingness to put these two things together and take photos of them.

Privy Counsel

By Martin Pearson

Philomena Bucket was sitting in silence in the snuggery of The Squid and Teapot. It was an hour or so before dawn, and, except for the tiny flame of her candle, the inn was in darkness. For three nights now she had followed the same ritual, hoping to summon the ghost of Granny Bucket. So far her beloved ancestor had failed to materialise. This was ironic, for there had been times in the recent past when Granny, whose presence was always something of a mixed blessing, had flitted in and out of Philomena’s life, unbidden, on a regular basis. Where was she now, when her granddaughter most needed her advice?

Since Reggie Upton had arrived on the island, Philomena had been given much to ponder. It was not that Reggie himself was a problem; in fact, he was the very epitome of gentlemanly behaviour.  Philomena’s main concern was that Reggie’s tulpa – the thought-form he referred to as Annie – had not only become more than a little petulant, but had also managed to separate itself from him. Like most of us, Philomena had no first-hand experience of tulpa behaviour, and was unsure if this was a common occurrence, or a direct result of being brought to Hopeless, where the strangest of things were wont to happen.  Reggie had related the story of Annie’s creation in confidence to Philomena and, as far as she was aware, no one else on the island knew about it. While none of this affected Philomena personally, she could see how much it troubled her friend, who had endeared himself to many who frequented The Squid. Lately, however, he had taken to arguing publicly with Annie, an entity invisible to everyone except Philomena and himself. Soon rumours were spreading that he was either quite mad, or in an almost permanent state of inebriation. This was unfair, for while it cannot be denied that Reggie was inclined towards a degree of eccentricity and, indeed, no stranger to the occasional ‘Beaker full of the Warm South’, as Keats so aptly put it, there was much more to the man than that.  The tulpa needed to be put back into Reggie’s head, heart, mind, psyche – or whichever bit of him it had lived previously – as soon as was possible. That was why Philomena needed Granny’s assistance.

The fact that she could see Annie came as no great surprise to Philomena. She had always had the dubious gift of ‘The Sight’, and had lately been assured by several who, in her opinion, should know better, that she was the last, and most powerful, of a long line of witches. This revelation was something of a bone of contention between her and Granny, who maintained that it was Philomena’s duty to produce at least one daughter to carry on the tradition. Here was another reason to get Annie safely back into Reggie with some haste, for Philomena and the notorious Durosimi O’Stoat were descended from a common ancestor. If Philomena could see the tulpa, then it was certain that Durosimi would be able to. Assuredly, the old villain would not be able to resist the temptation of ensnaring Annie and using it for all sorts of mischief.

It was on the fourth night that Granny eventually chose to manifest herself. She did not appear, as was expected, in the flickering candlelight of the snug, but went to quite another area of The Squid and Teapot. To all intents and purposes, Granny had not come to see Philomena, but to call in on her old friend, Lady Margaret D’Avening, the ghostly White Lady, who carried her head in her hands and haunted the inn’s flushing indoor privy. It was only by chance that Philomena knew the she was there, having volunteered to work late and wield a mop and bucket, following a rather over-enthusiastic birthday celebration by Egbert Washwell and his six brothers (and that is as much as you need to know regarding that particular event, believe me!).

The two ghosts were complaining about the lamentable behaviour of modern youth (which included anyone born during the last two centuries) and Drury’s annoying habit of trying to run away with Lady Margaret’s head.

“Philomena, me darlin’, I hear that you’ve been trying to get hold of me,” said Granny, when her granddaughter entered the privy to empty her mop-bucket.

“Ah, so there you are, at last!” said Philomena testily. “I’ve been trying to contact you for days.”

When Granny asked what the urgency was, Philomena related the problem of Reggie’s tulpa. Lady Margaret looked down her nose (which is easy if you are holding your head in your hands at the time).

“Thought forms!” she spat the words out with venom. “Such horrid, common things. I can’t stand them.”

Lady Margaret was one of those people who would invariably start a sentence with the words “I’m not a snob, but…” then go out of her way to prove that she was.

“Oh, they’re alright,” said Granny. “It’s just that they’ve got no experience of life like me and you have had, Maggie.”

Lady Margaret hated being called Maggie almost as much as she loathed sloppy English, but, out of deference to Granny, she let both offences pass.

“Well, I think they’re ghastly,” she said primly, which was rich coming from a three-hundred-year old spectre, with a severed head and a diaphanous nightgown splattered in gore. With that she turned abruptly and disappeared into the wall.

“But can they be banished, back into the original host?” asked Philomena, thankful that she could now talk to Granny without Lady Margaret butting in.

“Usually thought forms evaporate into thin air after a while,” said Granny, “but, as I see it, this one has been conjured from somewhere deep in Reggie’s mind, and is altogether different. So, in answer to your question, yes, anything can be banished, providing you know the right spell and aren’t fussy if something gets damaged along the way.”

“Damaged?” asked Philomena, nervously.

“Your chum Reggie,” said Granny. “might not come out of it so well if this toupee of his…”

“Tulpa,” corrected Philomena.

“If this thingy of his puts up a fight.”

Knowing what she did of Annie, Philomena thought that this would be more than likely.

“Is there anything we can do?” Philomena asked.

“Much as I should be singing the praises of pocheen and porter, when it comes to things like this I have great faith in the power of The Green Fairy. You wouldn’t be having any absinthe handy, by any chance?”

Philomena smiled.

“It’s funny that you should say that,” she said.

To be continued…

Lotus Fabric

Erek Vaehne suggests lotus stems as raw material for fabric. What could possibly go wrong?

LOTUS:  Lotus flower fiber from the root of the lotus plant has been used for centuries to produce rare fabrics used in hand-spun scarves. The process, in which the stems of the lotus are cut and twisted to expose the fibers, is however time-consuming. The process produces a luxurious fabric that feels like a combination of silk and raw linen. Lotus fabric has unique properties — it is naturally soft, light, breathable and antibacterial. Cambodia-based Samatoa Lotus Textiles reports the Lotus plant is believed to have healing abilities, and wearing a fabric made using the fibers lotus fibers may have healing effects curing the wearer of headaches, heart ailments, asthma and lung issues.


There was a man in the pub. Yes, I know no good outcomes ever follow from an opening line about buying something from a man in a pub, but I traded one of my little cows for a sack of beans. The man in the pub said that they were lotus beans and that I could eat what they grew and make coats out of the stems.

Now, coats are hard to come by, especially ones that aren’t thin at the elbows, greasy about the shoulders and entirely the wrong size. So the idea of a bean that would grow me a coat seemed really clever to me. I thought I’d go into business, selling bean coats.

So I planted the beans, and took care of them, told them stories of an evening and laid out circles of broken crockery and pine needles around them to protect them from curses. Beans are delicate like that. 

They didn’t grow me any coats though. I watched them every day, waiting for that first coat bud to show, and when I got my first buds I was so excited. Such a wonderful, jolly colour. But when it opened up it wasn’t a coat at all, it was this funny looking fish thing. A bit like a spiny whiney badger faced black bean, only more scaley. Pretty, mind you. Didn’t try to bite me.

So I’m trying my hand at making shoes out of fish leather instead, I reckon that’ll be dead popular once I can get rid of the smell.

Stuffing your blunderbus

Sometimes you just have to roll up your sleeves, shove a demon in your blunderbus and do your best to shoot the problem.

Demon Devices are a concept brought to the island by Keith Healing, during the period when he was working on the role play game. The premise is that you can get stuff done by binding a demon to a bit of technology. We now also have an Ominous Folk song about them, written by James Weaselgrease. At present the only way to hear it is as part of the opening section of Anomaly. ANOMALY PART I

Lilly May – as pictured above – is clearly the sort of person to go in for this kind of activity. If you’ve read the graphic novels you’ll be aware of the magical side of what Lilly May gets up to, not least that she’s the person who ends up with Annamarie Nightshade’s familiar – Lamashtu. Lilly May is also an inventor, something you only really see in the chapter covers.

If you’re a Dustcat over on Patreon, you’ll have access to Necessity, which features Lilly May and her demon devices far more thoroughly. 

At some point we’ll figure out how to get this story, and other new Hopeless tales into your eager little paws. We know you have eager little paws. You probably keep them in a dusty box under the bed, only taking them out on special occasions.


By Martin Pearson

“It will be absolutely fine, honestly,” said Reggie. “I know it’s been a few years since I last had a hand in making absinthe, but I can assure you, I know what I’m doing.”

Philomena Bucket, peering through the scullery window of The Squid and Teapot, wondered who Reggie was arguing with.

“Yes, I know my alcohol intake has not always been as moderate as it should be but… what was that you said? Louche? You’re calling me louche? How dare you!”

By now the old soldier was waving his silver-topped walking cane angrily. Philomena was concerned that he might strike out at whoever was talking to him. Deciding that it was time to intervene before someone was hurt, she picked up a tea-towel, dried her hands and marched outside.

It came as something of a shock to see that Reggie was apparently remonstrating with a length of driftwood, propped innocuously against the wall of the inn.

“Are you alright, Reggie?” she enquired.

“What? Oh yes. Absolutely top-notch, m’dear.”

“I thought I heard you arguing with somebody.”

“No… not me. It must have been someone else.”

Philomena gave him a meaningful look, but said nothing. It was not like Reggie to lie, but something was definitely not right.

Rhys Cranham pulled on his boots with a weary sigh. While he enjoyed his work as the island’s Night-Soil Man, it took its toll upon his joints and back. He really needed to recruit another apprentice, but having lost two in as many years, the lads at the orphanage had become slow to volunteer their services. Things were not all bad, however; at least, these days, he had someone to talk to. Ever since Reggie Upton’s admission that his sense of smell was defunct, the old boy would turn up, from time to time, and join him on his round for a while.

“Will you please leave me alone?” said Reggie.

“Sorry, what was that?” asked Rhys. “I didn’t see you standing there in the shadows.”

“Just wishing you a good evening, my friend,” said Reggie, quickly. “Might I join you for a while?”

The two walked through the night, chatting companionably. Neither noticed the pale watcher who regarded them from a distance, or the skeletal dog who padded quietly by her side. For once, Drury was behaving himself.

Reggie left Rhys after twenty minutes, and took the path that wound back towards The Squid and Teapot.

As soon as he was sure that he was out of earshot, he said,

“This is getting beyond a joke. You are supposed to be a confidante, not nagging at me all the time.”

Philomena, keeping in the shadows, heard every word. Out of concern for her friend, she decided that she would have to confront him as soon as possible.

Reggie flopped into a seat in the deserted snuggery and regarded Philomena with tired, sad eyes.

“My dear young lady,” he said, “I know you mean well, but if I told you the truth you are unlikely to believe me.”

“Try me,” said Philomena. “You would be surprised at some of the stuff that I’ve had to take on board over this last couple of years.”

Reggie took a large swig of ale, and laid his tankard on the table.

“As you know, for much of my army career I served in India. The place is rife with all sorts of religious sects and holy-men, fakirs, mystics and the like. It is a far more spiritual country than anywhere you could find in Europe. As a consequence, India has always attracted those whom you might describe as seeking some sort of enlightenment. One such was a lady named Annie, who became very dear to me.”

Philomena said nothing. She was wondering where this story was going.

“She told me that she belonged to a group who called themselves Theosophists. I must admit, I had never before heard of them, but, dash it, although neither of us were in the first flush of youth, she captivated me from the very day I met her, and I was sufficiently ensnared to want to share her interests. Although, as a serving officer I had certain responsibilities, I also had the freedom to do pretty much as I liked. Inevitably, Annie’s obsessions rubbed off on me and together we delved quite deeply into some of the more esoteric practices of those mystics whom I mentioned earlier. That is how we learned to create a tulpa.”

“Tulpa? I’m none the wiser,” admitted Philomena.

Reggie sighed.

“I don’t know if Annie actually made the word up, or if it exists in some exotic vocabulary, but a tulpa is what you might describe as being an entity created by nothing more than the power of the mind.”

“A thought-form!” said Philomena. “I know all about those.”

“You do?”

Reggie was surprised, knowing little of Philomena’s history.

“Well, to cut a long story short,” he went on, “my regiment was eventually posted back to England, and thence on to South Africa. We have not seen each other since then. It is probably just as well, she being much more devoted to the spiritual life than I could ever aspire to.  But I haven’t lost her completely; I have always had the tulpa to remind me of her. In fact, I have given it – or should I say her – Annie’s shape and name.”

“So, do you mean that you’re being haunted by this Annie?” Philomena asked, confused.

“Good heavens, no,” said Reggie. “As far as I am aware, the dear lady is still alive and kicking, and doubtless making it her business to bother someone or other. No, my tulpa is purely a facsimile of the original. In the past, she has been a great comfort when I have been in a tight spot, or just needed someone to confide in. Lately though, since I’ve been on Hopeless, she seems to have taken on an existence of her own and nags me endlessly.”

“Can you actually see her when she does this?” asked Philomena.

“More often than not,” said Reggie. “And she never alters – she is the image of my Annie as she was when I first met her.”

Philomena’s curiosity was roused.

“Would she be visible to me? I would really like to meet her.”

“I wouldn’t think so. She is a product of my mind – a part of me. No one else has ever seen her, to my knowledge.”

“That’s a pity,” said Philomena. “Is she with us now?”

“No, thank goodness,” replied Reggie. “These days she comes and goes as she chooses. I just wish that she would behave as she used to.”

“Or leave forever?” asked Philomena, pointedly.

“No, not that,” said Reggie, sadly. “She has been with me for almost twenty years. I could never wish for that to happen.”

They talked for a while longer, then Reggie stretched and announced that he was going to bed.

Philomena watched him wander along the passage. As she turned away she caught a movement in the corner of her eye.

A small, brown-haired woman with strong, but kindly features was standing at the foot of the stairs. She was dressed in a brightly coloured sari that seemed to light up the dingy passageway. She smiled at Philomena, raised a hand in greeting, then gradually faded away. 

Ominous Music and shoddy camera work

Mark Hayes did a thing.

The Passing Place

Don’t you hate people who go to a gig and spend the whole time recording the event on their phone rather than just living the experience? I know I do. Such people need a firm talking to about their priorities in my opinion. You should be dancing about, shuffling your feet and tapping them in time. Enjoying the experience, letting yourself be drawn into the music… Not trying to keep the camera steady and viewing an event happing directly in front of you through the screen of your smart phone…

Really, just stop such heinous behaviours and enjoy the music, the experience. The vibrations of crowd. The joy of the performers. Live in the moment, not vicariously through digital remembrance of a gig you were supposed to be as much a part of as the band…

Okay, rant over, here are six videos I recorded at The Ominous Folk of…

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Magpies in a haunted house

The Magpie by Davey Dodds was one of the first songs we picked up when singing out as anything related to Hopeless, Maine. It pre-dates The Ominous Folk. I started singing it many years ago, and James picked it up from me as a child.

With the folklore and the corvids and decidedly Pagan vibes it was always a perfect match for the setting. It’s also easy to pick up the chorus and a song that can take having many voices on it.

This video was taken by Mark Hayes at Woodchester Mansion on the 30th April 2023. The mansion is a fantastic and gothic place – unfinished – with bats in the attic, an fabulous array of gargoyles, ghosts aplenty, and ravens in the grounds. It is therefore very much our natural habitat.

The big band are (from left to right) Robin Burton, Tom Brown, Susie Roberts, Jessica Law, Keith Errington and James Weaselgrease. We’re exploring ways of working with each other, musically and dramatically and who knows what else – not all of it Hopeless, Maine orientated.

We also sang The House is not Haunted by The Men That Will Not Be Blamed for Nothing! The house seems to like it.