Today is Mayday or Beltane - a day that has been celebrated for so long. Beltane’s origins lie in Gaelic/Celtic cultures and in Ireland,Scotland , Isle of Man and Cornwall it has been a long held tradition to mark the day with bonfires, gatherings, blessings and fairs. Today marks the latter part of springtime and the coming of summer. The Greenman has once more walked amongst us and brought with him the greening of our earth. Here at Talking Trees we have honoured our ‘greenman’ by placing a circlet if hawthorn and decorated with seasonal flowers. Even though we are isolated and unable to celebrate the seasonal changes as we may wish it is important to mark the day in some way.

Beltane a Gaelic word translates as ‘bright or good fire’ and it is thought that these fires were lit so that the smoke would pass over the cattle and sheep to purify and protect them as they were moved from winter’s low fields to the higher pastures for summer grazing. They would next return to the villages at Samhain (end of October). The bonfires also purified and protected the villages and their inhabitants too and were a gathering point for people to join together to mark the point in the year. If you are unable to have a bonfire today you can simply light a candle in to honour the greenman and give thanks for the coming of summertime.

Even though the path ahead may seem empty today we can gain comfort in knowing that small actions such as watching the sun rise or set, lighting a candle, making a mayday circlet from greenery collected from our garden or just thinking about the importance of today for our ancestors and the importance it holds for us now can be part of a collective action. That many of us are all doing the same things and that the path is not as empty as it appears to us currently.

Just looking at our beautiful wild hedgerows is a joy. Knowing nature is flourishing at this time is such a positive. The little things, the unnoticed, the forgotten now being so much more important. Villages took on this day as a day to celebrate with maypoles, May Queens, fairs. Traditions and customs came in place; to be the first to draw water from the well or to be first to drink the cream from the milk, to get up at dawn and bathe in the early morning dew were all considered lucky and enhancing. It was known as a time for young couples and even though by many as an unlucky month to handfast or marry many made this the day of binding their love.

In parts of Cornwall we are told that those who had been out ‘maying’ all the previous night or since early morning were greeted with refreshments consisting of Junket, rum and milk, tea ands heavy country cake made of flour, cream, sugar and currants. This was followed by a dance, feasting and setting out to gather May ( hawthorn) The May was brought to deck the houses and porches. It was also known as ‘dipping day’ as anyone not wearing a sprig of May in their hat or as a buttonhole was likely to have water thrown on them particularly by children. Picnics, music and merriment carried on throughout the day.

So however you choose to mark the day do so knowing you are not alone and that many of us are with you continuing the traditions, customs and old ways. Brightest of blessings on this brightest of days x #beltane #mayday #traditions #oldways #maypole #folklore #socialisolation #celebrate #marktheday

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The vernal equinox -the first day of spring.

How do we mark such a significant day of the year? A few years ago I spent the day with a lovely group at Boundary Way Allotments in Penn. It was a day of late snowfall, known as ‘Daffodil or Onion’ snow (depending on your preferred plant) but despite the weather we stoically celebrated the coming of spring. We made a wreath/mobile to hang in our gardens using a circlet of hazel as our base. We hung things to protect our gardens over the coming growing months including an old iron fork to protect from witches and evil spirits, a shiny foil ball to attract the fairies to it rather than them causing mischief in our garden, we hung an eggshell as a reminder to deter slugs that they were not welcome during the growing season, feathers to celebrate the birds that we share our garden space with and we put moss around the circlet to give the birds a lining for their nests, we also included a sprig of rosemary in remembrance of those who had gardened where we do now and shells and bones to represent the nutrients from past living things that feed our earth. Finally we decorated it with seasonal plants & flowers such as catkins and forsythia flowers. The positive intentions we put into the making of our wreaths soon made us forget about our numb fingers as we looked forward to the growing season ahead and felt the ‘quickening’ experienced by all living things at springtime. We also acknowledged the elements of Air, Fire, Water, Earth & Spirit by the objects we had used in our wreath and what these elements meant to us in our lives as well as their value to our gardens.

It may seem inappropriate to be talking about celebrating this time of year when so many of us are facing the threat of Coronavirus. It is a sobering reminder of how fragile the human race is. But I would argue that now is exactly the time we need to bring nature and how we live alongside her to the forefront and in celebrating the seasons we remind ourselves of the beginnings and endings that we face in each passing year and that spring always brings hope.

Some call this day Ostara after the Saxon goddess, who was often depicted as a woman with the head of a hare.

‘All things that love the sun are out of doors, The sky rejoices at the morning’s birth, The grass is bright and raindrops on the moors, The hare is running, racing in her mirth’ Wordsworth

Our lovely old boy Pasha loves springtime because he can potter in the garden.

Nature has begun buzzing again and is busy and we should follow her lead. We can use our time to plant those seeds and begin to watch them grow as we nurture them throughout the growing season.

The saying; ‘One for the rook, one for the crow, one to die & one to grow’ is good advice both for our gardening and in our lives. We know that not everything can reach fruition; we may need several ideas, or several attempts at something to gain the success we hope for. So plant many seeds in the hope that some of them will grow!

There are many garden sayings about this time of the year regarding when it’s the right time to sow and plant. Here are just a few.

‘Sow beans or peas on David (1st March) and Chad (2nd), Be the weather good or bad, then comes Benedict (21st), If you ain’t sown your beans, Keep ‘em in the rick.’

‘At the cuckoo’s first spring plant French beans’.

‘Look to the Lilac and the Honeysuckle to guide your planting – When they show their leaves plant lettuce, spinach and peas. When it opens its blooms plant tomatoes, corn and peppers’.

It was believed you should sow seeds naked! I’m guessing that was a good indicator of if it’s warm enough. Definitely too chilly here yet!

The first 3 days of April are called ‘blind days’ when no planting should be done.

Springtime - when the fairies wake up and mischief begins !

It’s time to do some work, clear the ground, dig in/burn or compost unwanted things and plant the new on the ground you have prepared. I think it is amazing how we seem to have annual amnesia that lets us have a real sense of surprise and joy as we see bulbs pushing through, the frothy white blackthorn flowers, the brightness of yellows in drifts of daffodils, hearing birdsong amplified as they seek their mate, the gentle greens of springtime the list goes on. Try to appreciate the small miracles each day and celebrate the seasonal changes in a year when we all feel very vulnerable and fragile. Place yourself in the hands of Mother Nature. Her gift of Spring-time brings light, warmth and hope into out lives.

Wishing you all well and that the hope of springtime gives us all a much needed lift in our lives x

#spring #firstdayofspring #ostara #springequinox #vernalequinox #hope #wishingyouwell

As the light lengthens, so the cold strengthens- traditional saying

Welcome the time of the year when we experience a 'quickening’.

Imbolc owes its origins to Celtic cultures, with the earliest mentions of Imbolc in Irish literature dating back to the 10th century. It centred on lighting of fires at a time when winter is still yet to find its footing. It is also the day of Bridgid, a Celtic goddess of fire, healing & fertility who crossed the boundary of the pagan world to become venerated as a saint, such was her influence. She was worshipped by the Filid, a class of poets and historians among the Celts of ancient Ireland and Britain. As for the Christian calendar, this celebration became 'Candlemas' when candles are lit to remember the purification of the Virgin Mary.

It was traditionally the beginning of the lambing the original word Imbolg means 'in the belly' – pregnant, expectant a time of hidden potential.

Bring light into your life and into the lives of others, heal wounds, forget disputes, and banish darkness. The illumination we bring to our homes and gardens through candles, fairy lights, fires at this time of the year not only reflects our want for the sun to return, bringing us light and warmth, but also in our own lives it can represent illuminating our ideas and wishes for the year ahead. If we look to nature to guide us we see a few resilient, foolhardy plants that bring hope to us when we see them. It is wonderful how each year we seem to have a type of amnesia that makes us forget we see this every year so that we can feel a real sense of elation at witnessing the snowdrop, the catkin, the witch-hazel as if for the first time. But apart from these stoic plants most of nature is in a state of standby, of preparation and readiness for when spring bursts back into our lives.

So rather than jumping in, let’s take a step back and just start to formulate those ideas, visualise the possibilities, select from a multitude of things we may want to a shortlist of those things we can realistically achieve. As with all seeds we need to do some work before we plant them and we have to be patient until we reach that optimum time that will ensure they have the best chance of thriving. Now is not that time – it’s still cold and dark but at least things are moving in the right direction – find a path.

Perhaps a bit of Spring-cleaning is needed as you look towards the future and let go of things of the past that you no longer need to be a part of your life. Tidy up your life, the space you live in and even your acquaintances and friends. This could mean casting out but it can equally mean bringing in. And if you haven’t already done so take your Christmas greenery and decorations down.

‘End now the white loaf and the pie, And let all sports of Christmas die’

Candlemas was at one time the time that all signs of the Christmas festivities were removed. It is believed this was changed to twelfth night because people were slumbering rather than working which was enforced by the promise of very bad luck if you didn’t do this!

You could instead decorate your home by making a Bridgid's Cross from straw, ribbons or paper.

Candlemas Day(2nd Feb) was also known as Badgers Day as it was said that hibernating Badgers woke up and emerged from their Sett on this day. Following the old weather rhyme that warns;

‘If Candlemas day be dry and fair, the half of winter is to come and mair!’ the Badger if he found it was sunny and that he could see the shadow of his tail, he would turn round and go back into his sett to continue his sleep !

#imbolc #candlemas #bridgid #folklore #brexitday #healing #traditions #customs #pagan #nature #spring