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Grimalkins and their Relationship with Food

These passages are from my book The Most Ancient and Magical Clowder of Grimalhame. Where to acquire this publication are detailed below.

First published by Grimalhame Press 

©Angela Russell-MacGillesheathenach  All Rights Reserved

If you ask any Grimalkin what the most important thing about clowder life is, they will always answer with the word “food.” Food, apart from being necessary for survival, is perhaps one of the most important things about life in a clowder. There are always feasts at festivals, birthdays, kittenings, rituals and even funerals. Grimalkins love food. Every important moment is celebrated or commiserated with food. When a stranger enters a Grimalkin’s home, they are offered food and drink before even asking what that stranger wants. When Grimalkins arrive from other clowders, food is laid out before them. Food is a Grimalkin’s way of saying “hello, welcome to my home. I offer you my paw in friendship,” or “I have offended you. I am sorry. Please accept my apology in the way of this meal.” Food bridges gaps and helps forge friendships. It helps mend broken hearts and broken bonds. It makes strangers into companions and adversaries into allies. Food is the glue that keeps Grimalkin society together.

meat and mead

  Food can make love happen. For example if a tom wishes to court a queen, he will often cook for her. If it is the other way around, a queen may cook but she will often make clothes for him instead. It is true to say the way to a Grimalkin’s heart is through their stomach. If that tom is an exceptional cook, his courtship may end in divine union. Or children.

There are no strict rules about mealtimes at Grimalhame (or any other clowder). Communal mealtimes are served in the Central Council Chamber and a Grimalkin can choose to eat there, or make his or her own at home. Many like to attend the communal mealtimes just to socialise. There are four set times in which Grimalkins can eat in the chamber. Far Pavilions time is listed first in bold, then Earth time in normal typing to give you an idea of when we eat compared to human mealtimes. Don’t forget there are 30 hours in a day in our world.
Breakfast (07:00 -10:00/06:00 – 09:00) – on the breakfast menu there is porridge (with a selection of toppings including fruit, jam and honey), wholemeal toast, butter and jam, crumpets, bacon, eggs (poached, fried, boiled or scrambled), sausage, grilled tomatoes, fresh forest mushrooms, a mix of sweetened cereal with honey and milk, To drink – fruit teas, spring water and fruit cordial.
Lunch (14:00 – 17:00/12:00-14:00) – a selection of freshly baked wholemeal and seeded hlaf, cheese, haslet, soup (tomato, onion, vegetable, wild game, broth, carrot and kale, carrot and bean, and fish served with a trencher), wholemeal crackers with herb butter. To drink – spring water, fruit cordial, ale, wine.
Dinner (19:00 – 22:00/16:00 – 18:00) – Grimalhame stew (meat with carrots, swede, leeks, peas and dumplings), roast pheasant (or whatever bird is available) with buttered vegetables, steamed/roasted/grilled fish (pike, trout, perch, with herb sauce, pot pie roast/mashed/boiled potatoes, fruit crumble with spiced custard or cream. To drink – metheglin, bragget, ale, mead, tea, fruit cordial, spring water, wine.
Supper (24:00 – 27:00/20:00 – 22:00) – hot milk spiced with cinnamon and honey, posset, a selection of sweet biscuits (sweetmeal, ginger, barley). To drink – hot milk spiced with cinnamon and honey, posset, fruit tea, almond milk.

food1

  Of course, this is just a small selection of what is on offer during mealtimes. The cooks make sure there is something for everyone at the table and quite often they will just throw ingredients together and hope whatever comes out of the oven or the pot is edible.

The Grimalkin Pantry

  A Grimalkin pantry is no different from the food stores in the main clowder kitchen. Here you will find jars and containers of every description. A Grimalkin’s food store is never empty, even in the lean months of winter. The Great Arcadian Forest, surrounding country, and the lakes, rivers and fish ponds provide food for the clowders and settlements all year round, especially in the autumn when the boughs are heavy with fruits and nuts.

food2

We will often make our own jams and preserves whenever possible. Pickling is also a must during the autumn when preparing food that will last for months is essential. Onions and other vegetables such as kale, cauliflower, cabbage and gherkins are grown in the clowder gardens and out in the nearby forest and are a seasonal must for soups and casseroles. Come spring, it is not uncommon to be served last season’s pickles and preserves with every meal. We detest waste and will often foist pickles and jams on unwilling guests just to try to get rid of them.

The Clowder Kitchen

  Should a Grimalkin become lost in the clowder, he would not care a jot as he or she would always be able to find their way to the clowder kitchen. If the Central Council Chamber is the heart of the clowder, then the kitchen is undoubtedly the soul. Situated on levels one and two the kitchen is divided up into three sections – the main kitchen, and the levels one and two storerooms. Because the clowder is so large, a great deal of space is reserved for the storing of food and drink. The kitchen itself is vast and accommodates ten fireplaces and sixteen ranges. Pots and pans hang from racks on the ceiling which, in turn, are hoisted up and down by a mind-boggling array of ropes and pulleys. There are shelves stacked with boxes, tins and jars of herbs, spices, pickles and oils and there are several huge wooden tables on which food is prepared.

food4
The storerooms are divided into two sections – dry store and cold store. The walls, floor and ceiling of the cold store are marble which keeps the meat, fish, milk and butter cool. There are four large cold stores on level two. The dry stores (of which there are three) are sub-divided into sections so it is easy for the cooks to find what they are looking for. In storeroom one there are vegetables of all kinds and dried fruit (fresh fruit is kept in the cold store so it lasts longer). Storeroom two contains pulses, beans, bread, pastries and cereals. Storeroom three contains herbs, spices, jams, preserves, chutneys, oils and other condiments. Additional storage is provided for plates, bowls, cups and cutlery.

In addition to the main kitchen, there are small kitchenettes. These small rooms are equipped with a small stove, table and chair. Everyone is free to use the kitchenettes and many Grimalkins (particularly the older generation) take advantage of them should they rise before dawn (or the clowder cooks). Those who partake in breakfast in the kitchenettes do so in silence before the rest of the clowder is up and about. Grimalkins breaking their fast in the kitchenettes often greet each other with a simple nod or a touch of the paw to the forehead. Breakfasting with the rest of the clowder can be a noisy affair.

food3
On average, around seventy per cent of clowder citizens cook in their own homes with their own food. The other thirty per cent ascend to the clowder kitchen for their first meal of the day. Breakfast in the clowder is a social event, as are all meals eaten in the Central Council Chamber (which transforms into a dining hall four times a day). Although many are able to cook their own food at home, some like the social aspect of communal mastication and frequent the chamber simply to catch up with friends and neighbours. This is especially true for the older members of the clowder who, after a lifetime of cooking for oneself and their families, opt for being catered for by the clowder cooks.

Use of the clowder kitchen increases during the winter months as Grimalkins find their food supplies running low. Even though the kitchen is free at the point of use, clowder citizens are required to contribute to the running and maintenance of the kitchen and storerooms. Those who are able are required to wash and clean up after mealtimes (which is not that great a chore as Grimalkins are obsessively clean), or to forage and/or collect vegetables from the clowder gardens. Collecting from the gardens can be a fun affair, especially when young ones eager to please their elders are involved.

Because we love food, there is no lack of volunteers for the kitchen. Occasionally a rota has to be employed because of the numbers willing to offer their services to Head Cook. I suspect there may be ulterior motives involved and many a surreptitious paw has been dipped in the custard and a sly biscuit munched while Cook has her back turned.

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The Grimalkin Oracle – New Oracle Deck in Production (finally!)

  The Grimalkin Oracle has been in production since 2013 but due to other book commitments, it has been on hold until now.  Some of the cards have already been created and the guide book is now in the early stages of being written. Hopefully it should be completed in 2019 as there are many illustrations that need to be created from scratch. The oracle cards created so far feature illustrations from Dance of the Fire Cat and The Ocean Lord, as well as mixed media and digital images relating to the first three books in the fire cat series. All of the cards relate to the Clowder of Grimalhame and the world of the fire cat.

dream world

  Even though the cards will be fantasy in nature, they will also have a Jungian feel; I have read some of Carl Jung’s work, a particular favourite of mine is Man and His Symbols which focuses on dreams. I have kept a dream journal all my adult life so know the importance of dreams and how it makes up our beings as a whole. Dreams can also be used as a tool for healing, something which I am trying to incorporate into the meanings of the cards and the guide book itself. If one is familiar with Jung, one may recognise some of the archetypes.

wordpree-cards

  Creating the cards and applying the meanings to them is not as easy as it looks. I am trying to think of every eventuality while also attempting to keep it as simple as possible for both the sitter and the reader. The project is still in the early stages but I have created a few cards based on artwork already in the books to give the reader a reference point, and also an opportunity to refer to the books to find out more about the characters and their history.

  I am looking forward to starting on some new illustrations for the deck but in the mean time I am pulling together all the ideas I had for the guide book and putting it into some semblance of order. I will be posting updates on the website, on WordPress and on Twitter as I go along.

https://www.grimalhamepress.co.uk/the-grimalkin-oracle

Winter – Time of Deepening Darkness and the Black Horse of Winter

For many, winter is a testing period, especially for those who are old or infirm. Winter, the Time of Deepest Darkness, the time when the world sleeps, is also a time of healing and regeneration in preparation for the rigours of the coming of spring. During the Deepest Darkness, Grimalkins retreat into the safety of the clowders and settlements, to roaring hearths and hot meals. At Deepest Darkness, when Shamash’s supremacy is diminished by the Black Horse of Winter, the power of the Sun-Cat is not completely weakened by the loss of his magnificent mane of sun-rays. In these most shadowy of days, we are not forsaken but even the mighty Sun-Cat must rest and regain his strength. For now, The Black Horse of Winter and Inghira Moon-Cat rule these long nights and starry skies.

winter-solstice

  Winter is a productive time even though the earth seems to be sleeping. While the ground is covered in a deep quilt of snow, seeds are germinating below the earth and, like the seeds, Grimalkins are busy making do and mending. While the hard work of harvesting and gathering is at an end, the more creative pursuits of making Yule/Mordrach gifts and decorations begins.

  Hibernation and retreating into the safety of the clowders and settlements is not just practical and life-saving, it is also a symbolic act – all must return to the earth, the body of the Great Mother, once a year, for regeneration and rebirth. We may lament the passing of the warm, heady days of summer but we rejoice that the toil of the past two seasons is over and we can finally enjoy the fruits of our labours.  Winter is the final act in the great opera of the year, a time when we gather together with family, friends, neighbours, acquaintances and strangers and reaffirm our bonds of kinship with one another and express our gratitude for all that we have.

winter

Shamash Sun-Cat and the Black Horse of Winter

Every year, at Oliach (autumn equinox), a great battle begins between two forces of nature. The astronomical observance of the autumn equinox last for three days and, on the first day of Oliach, Shamash Sun-Cat begin his epic battle with the Black Horse of Winter. This battle lasts until the final day of Oliach when the Sun-Cat is defeated and overcome by the Black Horse. During the battle, the Black Horse tears out the Sun-Cat’s mane and so his power wanes. As his mane is destroyed, the power of the suns wane until they almost disappear from sight at the midwinter solstice, at Mordrach. It is during this time the Black Horse reigns, bringing the snows and ice to the world. Shamash, his mane now gone, retreats into the belly of the earth until it starts to regrow. On the third day of the midwinter solstice, the first golden hair appears on his forehead and this heralds the return of the suns. Now his strength begins to return. But it will be an arduous process and the winter is long; he must rest and regenerate so he can fight her once more and bring light back to the world once more.

black horse of winter

  While the black horse of Winter may maim, defeat and banish Shamash Sun-Cat to the bowels of the earth, she is not an evil creature. She is an aspect of nature and creation like Shamash or Inghira. While many lament her coming, she serves an important purpose; she brings the winter, the dark, feminine half of the year when the earth must rest otherwise it will wither and die. Too much warm, masculine energy depletes and exhausts. There must be a balance of the masculine and feminine and the battle of Shamash and the Black Horse represents this. It is the balance of life. The earth and its creatures must rest. The Black Horse may seem harsh, but she is just and wise.

Black horse run in the snow

  The Black Horse also represents the Great Mother Goddess in Her Crone aspect – deep, powerful, strong, introspective. She goes paw-in-hoof with Inghira Moon-Cat, the bringer of sleep, dreams, and healing through darkness. The Black Horse also brings these things but on a larger and longer scale, of days, months, years and aeons, rather than the minutes and hours by which we live by. The continual cycle of wakefulness and hibernation the earth must endure ensures it and its creatures regenerate and renew endlessly over many ages. This has been the task of the Black Horse and Shamash Since the Creation in the First Days of the New Dawn.

  She is not a force to be feared even though she may bring death to many. But after the winter solstice, her power begins to fade. Shamash’s mane begins to grow and the world is preparing for the re-emergence of the light. At Falia, the vernal equinox, Shamash returns to the world and defeats the Black Horse of Winter and drives her back to the high north where she will stay until Oliach. As Shamash’s mane grows the suns become warmer and climb higher in the sky until, at Adrach, the summer solstice, it is fully grown and he, and the suns, are at full power.

Shamash

https://www.grimalhamepress.co.uk/dance-of-the-fire-cat

The Grimalkin Wheel of the Year – Morchuria, Day of the Ancestors

  The moon festival (moon festivals are held from the autumn equinox to the beginning of the Far Pavilions’ new year) of Morchuria is held between the festivals of Oliach (autumn equinox) and Mordrach (midwinter) in the Grimalkin calendar. At this time the year descends into darkness and the observance marks the beginning of the winter. Morchuria is the Grimalkin remembrance festival where we ask those who have departed this mortal life to join us in our celebrations. Vigils are held in the forest, at barrows and burial cairns, in groves and in homes. Candles are lit and incense is burned to invite the departed and the spirits of the forest into the household to sing, dance and feast. All merriments are held in their honour. The official remembrance ceremony takes place in the Central Council Chamber and we sing songs and read poems to remember our loved ones.

fire

After the initial ceremony and the invocation to the spirits at sunsdown, all gather at the torch-lit Henge and hold a banquet. Huge cauldrons of stew, casseroles and hot fruit puddings bubble deliciously over roaring fires, all washed down with hot spiced mead, warm fruit cordial or spiced milk. Balefires are lit under which potatoes and apples cook. All merriments honour the Great Mother in her Dark Aspect – the bringer of night, of winter, and of arcane secrets. All around the forest hollowed out ‘neeps glow with candles, their odd faces leering through the dark to frighten away evil.

samhain-1

Morchuria is also known as the Day of the Elders where the elders of the clowder are honoured and given gifts. Elders are the cornerstone of Grimalkin society – all wisdom, skills and trades are passed down from the old ones. They are revered as great teachers and they represent the Great Mother in her Crone aspect – the tester and initiator of souls. The young ones (and older ones who should know better) dress up in costumes and scare each other in the dark for it is the only time they can stay up all night without going to bed. Adults dress as demons, swarthy spirits and shades to frighten the young ones who then converge upon the ‘evil-doers’ and ‘vanquish’ them with sticks. This is a symbolic gesture; badness and negativity are driven out by the light and innocence of youth and, by doing this every year, it not only drives away malevolent spirits, but teaches youngsters to never fear the darkness.

Ancestral Shrines and Honouring the Spirits

“A great oak does not mourn the loss of a single twig.”

Old Grimalkin Saying.

  Ancestral shrines are found in all Grimalkin homes. They consist of small niches or spaces within the household sometimes with statuettes and items belonging to the deceased. Some items may represent the trade or profession of the forebear. Candles are lit and flowers placed on the shrine to mark anniversaries such as the ancestors’ birth and death. At Morchuria, the Day of the Ancestors, offerings of food and wine are placed on the shrine and the departed are invited into the home so they can celebrate along with the living. The shrine will be in a private part of a Grimalkin’s dwelling, such as a bedroom or ante-room. The deceased will then take his or her place on the shine in the form of a figurine, or an object that reminds the family and friends of that Grimalkin. If a Grimalkin was fond of the sea, it would be a shell, or if they liked to walk in the woods, it would be an acorn, nut or pinecone. Grimalkins have many ways of remembering those who have crossed over into the Otherworld.

But shrines are not just confined to the home; our respect for the dead is great and there are public shrines all over the clowder, usually dedicated to the founders, or other prominent Grimalkins. Yew groves are also places where many a historical Grimalkin is buried. West of the Henge is a grove where there are burial cairns and graves in abundance. Here one will find votive offerings of food and flowers making the burial grounds not a place of sadness, but one of memory and joy. Stone effigies of Grimalkins past look down benevolently at those who come to remember, in particular, the memorial to Celandine Ursula Longwhisker, the mother of Winnowyn Longwhisker, who was Clowder Mother for many decades. Here, a robed Celandine stands with paws outstretched with a silver halo around her head and a dormant lion at her feet. Many come to honour her with flowers and music on the anniversaries of her birth and death.

  neolitic dolmen England

  The Wildcat equivalent of ancestral shrines is the Halls of the Ancestors. When a Wildcat dies, it is believed their soul is taken by the Irya Nos, the Dark Sister, to the halls of their forefathers. Each clan has its own ancestral hall that has an entrance in the physical world. These entrances can be in the side of a barrow, a cave in the mountainside, or at the entrance to a waterfall. Wildcats (like Grimalkins) believe the afterlife lies parallel to the mortal world, existing side-by-side. Votive offerings are placed at the entrances of these halls at set times during the year. In Old Grimalkin, these places are called ahnn-dachann (place of the ancestors) and date back to a time when the clowders, as we know them, did not exist. Some are more than ten-thousand years old. The ancestral spirits that reside within the halls are called manes. In the Halls of the Ancestors, life is eternal in a world of everlasting summer. In these otherworldly fields and mountain passes, clans will visit other clans and share meat and mead with one another. In this land there is no war and no strife, no Wildcat fighting Wildcat. Here, everyone is a Laird.  In the world of Grimalkin, entrances to barrows and caves are doorways to the world of the spirits, not the spirits of the departed, but to the realm of the elementals, spirits and faeys. But one must be careful – not all spirits are friendly. Some can be mischievous and swarthy.

Excerpts from the Old Grimalkin Book of Hours

  To one who is not familiar with Grimalhame and the world of the fire cat I will begin by talking about the time differences between our worlds. On Earth, there are 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year (or 366 in a Leap year). In the world we live in there are 30 hours in a day, and 486 days in a year. We have two suns and five moons but still have the four seasons like you do on Earth only we experience both longer summers and winters. For more information on Grimalhame and the Great Arcadia Forest, visit Imeldra’s Page on the Grimalhame Press website. My book Imeldra Moonpaw’s Most Ancient and Magical Clowder of Grimalhame is available on lulu.com and tells you all you need to know about the Clowder of Grimalhame.

zodiac

The Hour of Stars

Hour 1-2

Nichni (night)

“Small steps, big aspirations.”

Grimalhame First School Motto

 The stars have always been a focus for dreamers and those aspiring to higher ideals. In common folklore the stars are said to be the celestial kingdoms of every kind of creature that has ever existed anywhere in the cosmos. In Grimalkin tradition the stars shining against the belly of Inghira, the Moon-Cat, are the souls of those yet to be born.

One tends to look to the stars for inspiration, the Divine Word, for answers to questions, to commune with the ancestors or to simply feel connected to the rest of existence. The Hour of Stars encourages us to think about our own personal ideals and desires. It is no surprise that most creative types can be found haunting the deserted corridors of the clowders at this time, or outside with their whiskers twitching in the direction of the celestial sphere.

It is also a time when we allow ourselves to connect with the cosmos, to the Great Mother, and understand that we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves. Rather than making us feel small and insignificant, this knowledge should make us feel like we belong; everything is in its rightful time and place. If we were not important, we would not be here at all.  We are an integral part of the All.

Allow yourself to breathe, to imagine, to dream. If dreams were not important, then great things would not have been accomplished. If Diera Leptailura, our Clowder Mother, did not dream about a grander and more integrated society, we would not have a great and wonderful clowder. If Gefin Marlioch did not dream, we would not have such beautiful and magnificent architecture, Central Council Chamber and learning places. If Soriah Deodar did not dream, we would not have the Order of Tir Oliach, our life-saving hospital, trained healers and a school of the mystic arts.   Never underestimate the power of dreams for they have the power to change the world.

stars

The Hour of Light

Hour 4-5

Arn-Lalast (first light)

“Light the way.”

Grimalhame Second School Motto

  Also called Morning’s Gate’, the break of dawn and the return of the light after the long hours of darkness is celebrated in this Hour. The rise of Shamash Sun-Cat brings light and warmth back to the waking world. It is during this devotion that one gives thanks for the life the suns bring into the world, especially during the winter months although the warmth may be lacking.

We may also think about how we can bring the suns’ qualities– life, rejuvenation, vigour, activity, vitality and creativity – into our own lives and the lives of others. The suns bring life to the cold, seemingly-dead earth in the spring and so it is important we motivate ourselves mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually after periods of rest and inactivity.

The suns, and Shamash, are undeniably male and assertive; the heat of the summer drives us outdoors to run and play in the sunshine, or to bend our backs in the fields and bring in the harvest. As golden wheat and corn fill our larders, pantries and storerooms, so Shamash’s light must fill our souls. It is important to remember that even though his power wanes in darker months, when the Black Horse of Winter rules the Northern Lands, he has not gone from our sight. As the Fire Cat said in the First Days:

“The Bright One does not die. He may disappear from your sight as his mate rules the darkness, but he will reappear again at dawn.”

  Always remember – even in the darkest days, there is still light, no matter how faint, no matter how small. And with that light comes hope. As long as the suns shine we will know life and the hope each new dawn brings.

sunny day

Hour of the Moon

Hour 28-29

Nichni (night)

She made the Night; a female cat, dark as shadow, who curled around the world every evening, enveloping it in her soft velvet fur. Her name was Inghira, or ‘’Dark One’. The stars that shone from her belly were the souls of those yet to be born.”

Dance of the Fire Cat

  The Hour of the Moon is the Hour for all those who love the Moon-Cat Inghira and who feel energised by the light of the celestial bodies. In the Dance of the Fire Cat, Inghira curls around the world, creating a dark comforting realm where many sleep, but some rejoice in the long hours of the night, an almost noiseless, private domain only a few can truly appreciate. The sound of the night-creatures and the owl in her hag-nest reminds us that we are not forsaken in these hours; life still continues.

The power of Inghira, and the moons, is potent; such healing takes place when she blesses us with sleep, just as her mate Shamash Sun-Cat blesses us with life and vigour. Sleep heals bones and silences the troubled mind.

The light of the moons help wanderers and travellers find their way; just as there are two suns to light our day, there are five moons to light our night. If one chooses to travel at night, this is the Hour to depart, when the moons are high in the sky. Inghira is all-encompassing, and the lights that shine from her belly guide the traveller to where they need to go. She is the one who points the way.

This Hour is perfect for the dreamers, the thinkers and those who feel most alive at night. More easy and less restrictive than the day, allow the power of Inghira to flow through you, let her darkness and twinkling lights inspire you, let your imagination run free.

hengemoon

hours button

Imeldra Moonpaw’s Blog and Similar

I admit, I am a tad lazy when it comes to technology. But, alas, times move on quickly and, in order for me to spread the good word of the Grimalkin, I must dance with the devil.
However, I am a Grimalkin with a lot to say! Let me first introduce myself. I am Deputy Clowder Mother of Grimalhame and historian, scholar and academic. I am fond of writing about the world in which I live. If you visit the Grimalhame Press site, there are pages detailing all of the publications to date. If you are fond of cats, dragons and the wonderful world of fantasy, then Grimalhame Press is the page for you. There you will find all the links to the books and a gallery of illustrations, pages of maps and information on who and where we are in the universe.

Grimalhame is an agrarian and egalitarian society. That is to say we live our lives according to the constitution set down for us seven thousand years ago by our Founders. It is a place where every Grimalkin is equal under the law, with equal rights and equal opportunities. We live off the land – we reap and sow, and gather herbs and flowers according to the phases of our five moons. We take great care of your environment and harvest trees responsibly. We are the custodians of the forests in which we live and, in turn, the forest takes care of us by giving us shelter, food and medicine. You can find out more about the Clowder of Grimalhame in my book – Imeldra Moonpaw’s Most Ancient and Magical Clowder of Grimalhame.

flowers

In addition to the Fire Cat stories, I will be sharing a little Grimalkin magic with you. We see the world differently to humans and I would like to share this Grimalkin wisdom with you, wisdom passed down to us from our ancient ancestors. Our love of the land and the Great Mother Goddess makes us not that different to human beings who wish to live their lives the Old Way. We have much to share.

But for now, I will leave you with the links to my page and will post updates of the books currently available from Grimalhame Press.

Yours by Star and Stone,
Imeldra Moonpaw.