Updated: Sep 22

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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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

Once again we reach the great turning point as our Sun has reached its full power and will begin to dwindle soon. But for a few days we stay in a limbo of solstice which is derived from the Latin sol ("sun") and sistere ("to stand still"). It seems synonymous with how we have all been living these last few months. However we know that things will change both in the daylight hours we have and in our lives. These changes may come slowly but gradually the accumulative affect is seen and felt and in the case of the sun we suddenly realise we are back into the realms of shorter daylight and the darkness of winter . For many knowing this creates a feeling of sadness and longing and this is a feeling many have been experiencing for sometime now due to these unprecedented times. But we know that we are yet to reach midsummer (24th June) and we still have many good days of summer and autumn to come. And so today let us mark the summer solstice with hope and positive energy and try to banish sadness. We know that change is happening so let us make it a good change in our lives. It is also a time to celebrate what we have become and how we have grown.

Over the next few days we can, like our ancestors, light bonfires in honour of our sun and dance around them, create sun wheels, make rose and honeysuckle garlands to wear and adorn our homes, feast and sing or even quietly observe the day by contemplating on what has past and what is to come. After midsummer the daylight time changes, only by a minute, but the change has begun. So even though we are all probably sick and tired of being still let us celebrate the stillness of our sun at its peak.

The plant of the moment is St John's wort, associated with midsummer because it is in flower and named after St John who was supposedly born at this time. Culpeper thought this herb a 'cure-all' and is now commonly associated with alleviating depression. Ironically even though it is associated with the summer and the sun too much usage of St John's wort can make you have an allergy to sunshine itself.

In folklore the days leading up to midsummer are the last days to hear the cuckoo call and to hear a cuckoo on midsummer's day was considered very unlucky.

To pick a fern at midsummer was to render yourself invisible- could be useful !

If you see a white butterfly at midsummer you will eat white bread for the rest of your life. This was written at a time when white bread was a luxury and brown bread was the norm and lowly. How times have changed.

Decorate your house with birch twigs and roses to mark the time of year.

It is a time of fairies and is the best time of the year to see them. Look for and oak, an ash & a thorn growing together, very often a noted place for fey folk. Look too for fairy rings marked by fungi or by a darker circle on the ground. Dedicate a toast of mead to Puck, the old one.

This year why not tie ribbons & fabric strips to twigs and trees in your garden and place an intention of hope, healing and love as you as you fix them. Let the breeze carry your intentions around our earth and into the universe for the benefit of all.

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