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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  • AML

Lammas (Anglo Saxon) or Lughnasadh (Gaelic) marks the beginning of the harvest season. The first of the grain harvest, summer fruits and vegetables were finally ready to enjoy after a lot of hard labour and care. The symbolism of this time of the year, that we all shall reap what we sow, somehow doesn't sit right this year, as we have all fallen victim to something beyond our doing. We are experiencing something that feels beyond our control. No matter how hard we have worked many have lost out and their harvest has not come home as it should. Its something our ancestors would have known as they endured pestilence, famine, wars, plagues and the devastation that a bad harvest would have on the community. The realisation that the impact of terrible events lives in communities over time and that quick fixes are hard to come by. But it is at these hard times that harvest is most significant. As we realise the things that are good in our lives, look to nature for our solace, appreciate the little things, notice the things that we usually have no time for and even look for new ways to live and survive. We can bring this years harvest home.

The 1st August was once the time that the stock was put to pasture on the hay-meadows, which remained common ground until spring. The Enclosures Act of 1604 stopped this sharing of the land that once benefited all. Until then much land was cultivated on a kind of cooperative system. Commons lands were separated by stone markers and it was said that an apple tree must be planted on the enclosed land and when in fruit its harvest would be given to the lord of the manor. The idea of community farming and reclaiming land for the benefit of many is once more becoming something we value, not only for the food it can give us but the benefits of shared toil and collaboration on our mental and physical health.

Harvest traditions of leaving corridors of grain for the field spirits to escape through, ceremoniously cutting the last sheaf to mark its importance, carrying the sheaf with pride of place on the wagon, making dollies or plaits of the corn, making a special harvest loaf were just some of the traditions people took part in because they understood the importance of their harvest each year. They marked the passage of their time of toil and hard graft with times to look forward to and celebrate. Nature was honoured. We can learn so much from these past customs and that no matter how hard things seem we will have good times to look forward too. We will honour nature too.

There is nothing more beautiful than the Barley-corn fields moving like waves as the warm wind travels over them as they ripen ready for harvest. It is such a reminder of the cycle of the seasons as we move through summer and point towards autumn. Lammas is also the time we have the Country Wisdom & Folklore diary ready to share with you all. We had collected all the information pre-lock-down thankfully. The months of absolute freedom and spontaneity seem a long time ago as we travelled the British Isles talking to wonderful people collecting their stories and seeing sites of history and importance. We put it together in early spring and were completing it as Lock-down began and we wondered what would happen and if it would ever be printed. But now at Lammas and with thanks to our local printers very hard work we have our harvest brought home. The 2021 diary is filled with hope, it is as kind to the environment as we can make it and it asks you all to mark the year and celebrate with us and our ancestors in honour of the rich bounty of Mother Nature, that is and always will be with us, if we take time to notice her and if we pledge to nurture & protect her. Thank you all for supporting our endeavour to keep the old ways alive and celebrate the year x

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