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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  • AML

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.

#summersolstice #folklore #bonfire #traditions #oldways #fairies #sun #midsummer #cuckoo #blessings

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  • AML

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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