‘Then following that beautiful season…Summer.

Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape lay as if newly created in all freshness of childhood.‘ Longfellow

At midsummer people made sunwheels which were generally large pitch covered hoops that were rolled down hill as part of festive gatherings. No one really knows the true significance or reasoning behind this tradition but it is thought to represent the declining sun as it now begins its journey to its winter sky position. After the Summer Solstice on Monday our sun has seemingly been still, giving us a maximum daylight hours here in the Northern Hemisphere, but as from today we lose a fragment of daylight until we reach the Winter Solstice.

Smaller sunwheels (shown in the photo) can be made as decoration but also to acknowledge our sun and celebrate its life giving power and its light giving joy that we enjoy during the summer months.

You could make spiral patterns, traditional sun shapes or circles by planting yellow and orange flowers or placing stones or shells in your garden or on the beach or even in a container in your home.

Bonfires were lit at this time and were known as ‘Aestival’ fires. Margaret Baker wrote in her book Folklore and Customs of rural Britain that ‘they are lit to honour and strengthen the sun…circled by dancers moving ever sunwise, their(the fires) smoke drifting over uneasy cattle penned nearby, wreathed in St John’s wort against the witches power at the solstice.’

in South Staffordshire it was believed that witches would hold a parliament at which they decided the fate of mortals on this day. The local custom was to hang St.Johns wort with other protective fliers and herbs on their houses and barns.

St John’s wort is very much the plant of the moment, it’s name deriving from its proximity to St.John’s feast day on 23rd (midsummer’s eve). it was carried in pockets and pinned on clothing as a protectorate against the evil eye, witches, demons, sprites, faeries and lightning.

It was believed that just smelling the leaves would stave off midsummer madness.

Its flowers heliotropic nature (sun following) meant people considered it magical and having healing properties.

Some people would put a sprig of the plant under their pillow to be ‘visited’ by St John as they slept and so bringing a blessing upon them. It was also associated with faeries and believed that an offering of the plant to the fey folk would mean they would grant you special favours.

Wishing you a merry midsummer and hoping you will in some way mark the day as our ancestors once did.

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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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