The first day of spring is always a day of celebration but this year it feels even more important to mark this day after the long winter we have all gone through in our lives. Hedgerows are now alive with flowers & birds. Violets mingle with primroses and the chiff-chaff calls out its name to us to let us know it has arrived.

This year I have had the pleasure of celebrating the day with a wonderful group of people thanks to Boundary Way Project who invited me to lead a session via Zoom to share the wonderful ways we can enjoy the day by acknowledging Mother Nature.

We talked about the names for this time of the year- Vernal Equinox, Ostara, Spring and about how it is the time of the hare, who as I write this, is exploring our garden. Last year we had the privilege to have her choose our garden to give birth to twin leverets and are hoping she may honour us again.

Eostre was the Anglo – Saxon (Germanic) goddess of dawn/spring goddess who was sometimes depicted with the head of a hare. She is the namesake to the Christian celebration Easter as she is a symbol of the rebirth of the sun each day and also of renewal. Her name is also repurposed as Ostara, which is one of the names for this time of the year and is one of the marker in the wheel of the year.

'The hare is such a timid creature that even in sleep she never closes her eyes'

The hare, of course, lives with us in the British Isles all year, but as spring is sprung so too seem to be our hares who become more animated and seen in daylight hours although still mainly inhabit twilight and dawn. This increased activity must surely relate to the name of Mad March Hare.

The colour of this time of the year must surely be yellow as vibrant forsythia begins to bloom, daffodils are in full bloom and primroses provide a more subtle variation.

It is the time of the year to begin putting ideas into action and planting those seeds that you were choosing from Imbolc's 'seed catalogue'. But it is with care and ensuring that the climate is right. When we plant seeds outdoors we need to check the temperature of the soil, which needs to be warming. If we plant too soon we risk losing our plants. So in the garden, so in life ! Whilst folklore tells us to check the temperature of the soil by sitting on the soil with a bare bum, I would suggest walking barefoot for ten minutes to gauge the temperature of our earth and ascertain if it feels warm. Its also a wonderful way to literally ground ourselves with our earth and feel nature under our feet. In life we need a similar barometer to ensure successful growing of ideas. And remember the old folklore relating to planting which can stand us in good stead for our gardens and our lives. 'One for the rook, one for the crow, one for dying and one to grow.' The one thing is certain if we plant four seeds then at least one should grow. So test the ground for those new ideas and activities, this is springtime's gift to us all.

So open your windows, look for spring, it is there, open your heart as well as your eyes. Gather and create something that puts you in touch with nature. Take time to notice and to be creative. Listen to the hum of the first bees being restored on the nectar of lungwort, look for the colours of spring in your home patch, discover the birds that are singing springtime in. It really is worth celebrating!

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  • AML

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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