Updated: Feb 1

Imbolc is celebrated on February 1st and has Gaelic/Celtic origins. In the Wheel of the Year it marks the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox. In Ireland on Imbolc Eve, Brighid (who is known as a goddess and saint) was said to visit virtuous households and bless the inhabitants as they slept. She brings the light half of the year and is associated with the hearth and fire. Bridghid and Imbolc are both synonymous with the promise that spring is returning and that winter is nearing its close. However winter is not over yet and even though we have the resilient snowdrop reminding us of life and growth, the hazel ‘lambs- tails’ showing us the hedgerow will soon burst into life and the burst of brightness from the early flowering witch hazel, we know from the snow flurries of the past few days that we cannot yet let our winter guard down. So the order of the day at Imbolc is still layers of warm clothing to get us outdoors comfortably to experience this first indication of nature’s transition. Traditionally fires would be lit outside and here at Talking Trees ‘headquarters’ we will be doing a garden tidy-up of storm fallen branches & dead foliage and burning it throughout the day with an aim to sit by the fire and eat a simple seasonal Irish/Scottish influenced lunch of Colcannon and Bannocks followed by a toast of Bailey’s Irish cream to ‘Resilience’, something we need more than ever this year.

This time of the year has many folk customs, some of which are related to Bridghid.

In Ireland ashes from the fire would be raked smooth and, in the morning, they would look for some kind of mark on the ashes as a sign that Brighid had visited bringing a blessing on the household.

In the Isle of Man older women would make a bed for Brighid in the barn with food, ale, and a candle on a table. Something similar was also done in the Hebrides where a bed of hay would be made for Brighid and someone would then go outside and call out three times: “a Bhríd, a Bhríd, thig a sligh as gabh do leabaidh” (“Bríd Bríd, come in; thy bed is ready”). Feasts were held and women would dance whilst holding a large cloth and calling to ‘Bridean’ to come and help make the bed. It was also common to make a ‘Biddy’, a doll representing Bridghid, from rushes or reeds and dressed in cloth. The Biddy was carried by children from door to door to give blessing in return for favour of food, drink or money. It should be remembered that at this time of the year the winter supplies would be very low and hunger would have been commonplace as nature’s pantry has yet to be replenished.

The intentions of Imbolc, the first of the year’s markers, is apt for our current climate as we await the hope of vaccine but cannot yet truly emerge and do things but can only consider what we might be able to achieve. Take strength from the courage of the snowdrop, bring light into your home when it still feels in the grip of winter’s darkness and may your heart feel joy as you witness new life & growth in nature.

Brighid’s crosses are made at Imbolc from rushes woven into a cross shape with each ‘arm’ of the cross of equal length. They were hung on buildings & gates as a welcome to Bridghid and kept as protectorates throughout the year.

It is traditionally a time of weather divination and there was an old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens indicating better weather to come.

Snowdrops which offer such hope when all seems lost, as they determinedly push through snow laden ground, were treated with caution in terms of folklore. They were never to be brought into the house as they were known as ‘the death flower’ and would bring bad luck or even death to the inhabitants of the home they resided in. It is thought that they became associated with death due to the time of year they flourish as January and February held high mortality rates due to winter viruses, cold weather and often malnutrition. There are accounts of the funeral bier being flanked by banks adorned with snowdrops on their journey to the grave site and churchyards being full of them. However I like to think that these little flowers being present at the most precarious time of year signify the opposite of death and instead remind us of life and the continuum of nature. That no matter how sad things may seem that hope will find us once more. The sight of witch hazel in flower, its yellow seeming all the more vibrant because of winter's pallid colours, cannot help but bring joy as does the first sight of bulbs pushing through the unkempt winter soil. Spring and summer will come.

Imbolc was traditionally the first day for outside work to begin in Ireland.

Candlemas on February 2nd follows Saint Bridgid’s day and is the Christian Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary and churches are lit up with candles. Churchgoers would take their candles to be blessed to bring light into their home and their lives.

If you are not able to have an outdoor bonfire or if you don’t have a fire indoors then why not light your home with candles over the beginning days of February and bring light and inspiration into your life.

This time of the year is a time to reflect, make plans, prepare for what you want to manifest in the year ahead. It’s a lovely time to dream and select a few of those dreams to endeavour to make reality in the coming months.

Things to do at Imbolc, Bridghid’s day and Candlemas.

Light candles (ideally white ones)

Have a bonfire outdoors it you can

Try seeding some mistletoe on an apple tree

Eat comforting seasonal foods of the hearth such as Colcannon, Bannocks, Leek & Potato soup, Homity Pie.

Make a ‘Biddy’ doll from natural materials or prepare a bed for Bridghid to rest and so bless your home and household.

Tidy up gardens, inside the home.

Make plans – a ‘finger’ labyrinth can help organise your thoughts.

If you haven’t already take your Christmas decorations down, it is the last day to do this or face bad luck.

Things to look forward to over the next few weeks

Valentine's Day - show your love to partners, friends & family and also to Mother Earth. ‘The heart is like a garden: it can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?’

Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day- a time for sweet treats & silly games - enjoy the day.

This Little Book of Love celebrates and share Love related folklore & is available to

buy from our shop.

And so let us welcome February !

#folklore #imbolc #love #valentine #snowdrop #saintbridgid #candlemas #february

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Samhain marked the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of a new year and as such can be seen equivalent of our New Year's Eve. It was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter) and the division between this world and the otherworld which was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through. The remnants of these Celtic celebrations from about 2,000 years ago, have become the celebration of Halloween.

The practice of divination was considered potent at this time of the year but people risked at the very least a scare and at worst an encounter with 'himself' just to find out what the future held.

'go to a grave yard at midnight and walk three times clockwise around the graves to be offered a glimpse the future but run the risk of meeting the devil'.

'stand in the porch at midnight and you will see the spirits of those who will die in the coming year , but run the risk of meeting yourself'.

'girls watching in a mirror on this night will see the image of the man they will marry but also run the risk of seeing the devil'.

Boundaries between land were dangerous places to be on this night as ghosts were to be found along them and a style between adjacent land was a place of particular dread and best avoided. Bridges and crossroads were also likely places to encounter ghosts.

Luckily we have natural protectors from such encounters that Mother Nature has kindly given to us. The Rowan Tree is well known for its powers to stop lightning strikes and to keep us safe from the evil eye and to ensure our safety from evil spirits and malevolent creatures that roam in the darkness. People would make a cross of two twigs from Rowan, small enough to sew into a garment or keep in a pocket, and bind them with a red thread and carry rowan berries in their pockets. Hawthorn and Holly both had similar magical properties but the Rowan was preferred not only in the British Isles but in many northern countries.

I think particularly this year we can learn a little from our ancestors and follow their ways. Whilst it feels like our way of life is on hold and that our freedom curtailed we could consider this a time to renew or find a new path to walk/live, much as we do at our New Year on January 1st. We can honour and remember those we have lost and feel comforted by their presence. We can be on guard and careful in the face of an evil virus and avoid places where we know it is likely to roam, take precautions to remain safe and carry our own talismans.

We can find beauty in things as they come to an end, in depleted seed heads, teasels, grasses in their muted browns that will sparkle in sunlight when a frost catches them giving structure and texture. Whilst much of nature sleeps we too can rest a little and look forwards to a future- of winter coming ,so it may end and allow spring to follow and of darkness falling so that light may return.

So let us mark this day, this time of the year, by seeing the wonder around us, let us forage, collect & gather to make a seasonal wreath.

Make seasonal goodies such as 'Soul' Cakes, remembering to leave some for those that may be near to us now the veil is thin.

Have a garden tidy up and throw leaves rather than animal bones into the 'Bone'fire and feel safe as it wards off any ill doing and brings warmth & light and the perfect place for stories to be told and songs to be sung.

Or simply light a candle and gaze into its flame looking for a glimmer of your future perhaps, that love & light will be with you, accompanying you through winter in the knowledge that it is something that we are all collectively wishing for and that means we are making magick.

Happy Samhain/Halloween x

And a big thank you to everyone who has been so kind to support our endeavours to keep some of the old ways alive and celebrate the year by purchasing this years selection of Country Wisdom & Folklore goodies - you are most kind x


#samhain #halloween #folklore #bonfire #candle #autumn #winter #rowan #celebrate #calendar #diary #advent #adventcalendar #soulcakes

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Updated: Sep 22, 2020

And so the Autumn Equinox arrives and judging by the weather forecast it will be silently slipping in on the afternoon at 14.30 GMT on the 22nd September and with it Autumn truly arrives and we say goodbye to summer. It is a time of change and of final gatherings and late harvests before berries spoil. I cannot help but reflect that our lives are somehow  mirroring this,  as we are once more fearful that new restrictions may mean we  have a limited time to be with those we love and whose company we enjoy. Once more the virus reaps our human need to be together and spoils our lives. 

But all is not lost as  the equinox also symbolises balance in our lives as well as in the hours of daylight and evening. Surely this is what we all need to attain where we can have a measured amount of socialising with a measured amount of distancing, an equilibrium that means we can learn to live with the virus until such a day comes when it is eradicated. 

As the wheel of the year continues to turn we begin to move into a time of greater nighttime and less daylight and so we need to begin to use our time fully to begin preparations for the winter that we know is coming. This is an opportunity to celebrate all the wonderful things we have in our lives and look forward with hope. 

Jams and jellies, pickles and pies, chutneys and crumbles are now officially back on the seasonal menu and healing syrups and salves are  made from the gleanings of the beautiful flowers, herbs and hedgerow harvesting. Whilst remembering that if every three things we can pick one should always be left to feed our wildlife. 

Traditionally September was a time of fairs when all manner of things were on sale amongst locals to ensure people were fully stocked up on the essentials. But the fairs were also a time for merriment and marking a time of the year where the size of the harvest could literally mean life or death or at the very least if it was to be a lean winter that had to be endured. 

As I write this a cacophony of crows serenades me and distant pheasants give tell tale squawks dangerously revealing roosting places. 

Now is the time to collect protectorates, rowan and hawthorn berries and their twigs and branches - asking permission first, using no blade and telling them why you need to have a part of them. Make crosses, circlets, thread their berries to make strands to hang over thresholds. 

Collect hops and the last lavender flowers and put them within your pillowcase to bring relaxing and a calm sleep. 

We will be lighting a bonfire to raise the energy and will be channelling our thoughts for healing and peace to come to us all and  projecting that we don’t undo all of the benefits to our climate and natural world that locking down humankind brings. We will enjoy some of the beautiful bounty of cooking apples from our old trees that we wassailed in January and drink a nice hoppy beer and will be giving thanks for a good harvest and for the special role Mother Nature has played in our lives particularly this year. 

As I finish writing this the crows and pheasants have settled and now the Tawny owl calls in the night. Wishing you all a beautiful equinox and A wonderful welcome to Autumn and hoping you find balance in your lives and a pantry full to bursting with goodies for winter.

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