Old Year’s Night…Celtic Samhain

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Between two worlds, that of Summer and of Winter, rests Samhain. 

dsc03482Samhain, (pronounced “Sow-when”) is the most important time in the Ancient Irish (and Celtic) Calendar.

dsc03483The time of Samhain starts at dusk, when the light and dark are in balance.

dsc03484This was never regarded as a time of death, but a time of incubation for Mother Earth.

dsc03485It was the onset of Winter that allowed the Great Mother to get ready the seed for Spring.

dsc03486Samhain is the Celtic New Year’s Eve.

dsc03487It is at this time, between worlds, that the veil is thin.

dsc03488A time of possibilities.

dsc03489A time to pay honour to those who are no longer with us in human form.

dsc03490This was a time of endings and the promise of beginnings, a time for stillness and reflection.

dsc03491It was understood that in the dark silence of Mother Earth, when all appears dead, comes the promise of new beginnings, the stirring of the seed beneath the ground.

dsc03492 It is on this night, some believe, that time stands still, allowing access to other worlds and into new consciousness.  

dsc03495As I walked the gardens today, taking these photographs, there was a real sense of endings and beginnings, of approaching a marker in time.

dsc03496 A sense of anticipation and readiness for the sabbatical that is Winter…for Samhain means “Summer’s End” and as the Celts believed, this was Winter’s Beginning.

dsc03497As an integral part of their culture and interpretation of life, the Celts held strong the tradition of The Transmigration of Souls, a philosophy I believe in.
dsc03498The Celts believed in two lands after death, the Underworld and the Otherworld.

 dsc03499The Otherworld was the abode of the dead.

dsc03500This is interesting, as it strongly suggests a “life alongside the dead”…and in that an understanding of the “Night of the Thin Veil,” 

https://bealtainecottage.com/2013/09/29/the-night-of-the-thin-veil/

dsc03501Archaeological evidence has drawn attention to the richness of Iron Age tombs and the abundance of grave goods within them.

dsc03505 There is literary evidence from Caesar that seems to confirm at least part of the Celtic Beliefs system.

dsc03513In his description of the Druids, he alluded to some of their lore that related directly to the movement of souls between one world and another or between one individual and another. He states:

‘…the druids attach particular importance to the belief that the soul (or spirit) does not perish but passes after death from one body to another’
(Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars VI)

dsc03514Lucan (Pharsalia: I) stated that the Celts considered death as merely an interruption in a continuous life, as the spirit passed from one form into another, or from one world to another. dsc03515Other writers, such as Diodorus Siculus drew attention to similar beliefs – that the soul was immortal and, as its body deteriorated with age, it simply moved to another, usually located in another world.  

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It is little wonder then that the Celts believed in the sacredness of times and places “in between”. dsc03517And so we celebrate Samhain…

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LEITRIM ANIMAL WELFARE CENTRE (once the home of Jack)

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A Time of Hope

Imbolc is the day that we celebrate the passing of Winter and the return of Spring.

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Imbolc marks the seasonal change, where the first signs of Spring and the return of the sun are noted.

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A festival of light, to celebrate the return of the sun, now gaining power in its’ ascent from its’ low travail across the horizon.

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I walked out across the gardens today, recording in image the day of Imbolc.

The rays of the sun, felt warm upon my face and as I walked away from it, warmed my back.

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This renewal that is Imbolc has cast its’ energy upon the land and myself…here I am re-sculpting the beds near the veranda and creating more of a movable pot garden.

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The hens in the hen-house are sitting against one wall of the building where the sunlight falls warmly upon them.

Even they are aware of Spring and have begun to lay eggs once more.

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Lunaria seed-heads have finally scattered the next generation of flowers and seeds to come.

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Sammy-Bear finds it is his time to be outdoors, almost invisible in the light dusting of snow on this Imbolc morning.

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Many stems of shrubs and trees give off a vibrancy of colour as the sap begins to push up.

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Later today, in the cottage, as the day closes, I shall light candles in each window to celebrate the return of the light and for a brief moment or two, illuminate my home with every light and lamp switched on!

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It is heart warming today to realise that the snow will melt and the warm days lie ahead of us.

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A time to contemplate changes and new beginnings…a time of hope.

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And in tune with that hope, new wine bubbles and ferments in the warm kitchen, ready for warmer days and celebrations.

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Winter projects, such as this knitted throw, are brought to a conclusion…soon to be finished off and gifted to its’ recipient.

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The last days of candlelight are here.

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The dark days are over.

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The sun ascends…

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Illumination, warmth and renewal lie ahead…

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All is light and renewal…

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Prayer for Imbolc
Morgana West
On this Imbolc day, as I kindle the flame upon my hearth,
I pray that the flame of Brigid may burn in my soul,
and the souls of all I meet today.

I pray that no envy and malice,
no hatred or fear, may smother the flame.
I pray that indifference and apathy,
contempt and pride,
may not pour like cold water on the flame.

Instead, may the spark of Brigid light the love in my soul,
that it may burn brightly through this season.
And may I warm those that are lonely,
whose hearts are cold and lifeless,
so that all may know the comfort of Brigid’s love.

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I write to encourage, help and inspire mindfulness for our beautiful world and have photographed and written over 870 blogs on the Bealtaine Cottage site, as well as over 110 videos on YouTube…all free from advertising!

You are very welcome and appreciated by leaving a comment, liking, sharing, or even leaving a small donation.

Blessings X

The Great Creatrix

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The photographer from Irish Country Magazine has just left…the magazine photo-shoot is over!
You can read all about Bealtaine Cottage in the Dec/Jan edition, which will be on the shelves at the end of November!

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As we walked around the gardens, the conversation turned to the story of how Bealtaine emerged from rushy fields and it became apparent that this story becomes harder to tell…for it all seems so improbable.

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The story has taken on myth-like qualities as visitors look around, finding it hard to believe that Nature could work such magic…but She has…the Great Creatrix!

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The gardens are now a riot of autumnal colour, due in part to what many call ‘mistakes,’ but have turned out to be inspired tree planting, with nothing other than a gut feeling of where to plant and plant without discrimination.

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When one considers it, Mother Nature does not discriminate.

She merely gets on with whatever needs to be done…nurturing and giving all her days.

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Rachel Carson was acutely aware of how the future might be, if humankind did not awaken to the need to live with her…the one…the Mother, Creatrix of beauty and life.

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“Silent Spring” remains to this time, an enduring legacy of the call to wake up and smell the roses.

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We cannot live without her, though she can go on and on into the future without us.

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The question is: does she want to?

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I believe Mother Earth is reaching out to us in a last desperate bid to stop us from destroying our habitat.

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What is being done in the name of economic progress is nothing less than a dance with death.

Despite what is apparent, there appears to be a mass awakening of people, much of it happening on internet media with a  gathering speed and force. permaculture @ bealtainecottage.com 012

If this little website is anything to go by, then all is not lost, for I see the growing numbers of people interested in a more sustainable lifestyle!

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We are living in fast changing times, days of optimism and hope…we are moving into a time of co-creating with the great Creatrix…Mother Earth.

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I did not choose Bealtaine Cottage…it chose me, as one who would be an enabler of the great Mother.

In the Celtic calendar, the first day of May was known in Irish as Bealtaine.

This was the feast of bright fire, the first of summer, one of the four great quarter days of the year.

 The ancient Irish Book of Invasions tells us that the first magical inhabitants of the country, the Tuatha Dé Danaan, arrived on the feast of Bealtaine.

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Bealtaine is all about renewal, another chance, an awakening.

I will let the great Seamus Heaney have the last word…

Beacons at Bealtaine
Phoenix Park, May Day, 2004

Uisce: water. And fionn: the water’s clear.
But dip and find this Gaelic water Greek:
A phoenix flames upon fionn uisce here.

Strangers were barbaroi to the Greek ear.
Now let the heirs of all who could not speak
The language, whose ba-babbling was unclear,

Come with their gift of tongues past each frontier
And find the answering voices that they seek
As fionn and uisce answer phoenix here.

The May Day hills were burning, far and near,
When our land’s first footers beached boats in the creek
In uisce, fionn, strange words that soon grew clear;

So on a day when newcomers appear
Let it be a homecoming and let us speak
The unstrange word, as it behoves us here,

Move lips, move minds and make new meanings flare
Like ancient beacons signalling, peak to peak,
From middle sea to north sea, shining clear
As phoenix flame upon fionn uisce here.

The Month of Lughnasa

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Lughnasa heralds the beginning of Autumn in the Celtic calendar.

Leaves have already begun to drop, with the gentle Birch tree being the first to shed.

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There is so much fertility in this annual drop…Bealtaine now boasts reasonable soil, compared to ten years ago!

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The change is equally gentle this year, as the summer gradually fades. 

Sedums are developing their flower heads, slow to open, with big, flat, pink flowers coming through.

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Pockets of light mist occur in the early evening, shrouding valleys and dips.

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Lughnasa is my favourite month as the transition into Autumn begins.

Tonight a full moon will rise.

The air is still. Woodsmoke drifts lazily from the old stone chimney and bats begin to venture out.

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I am half-sick of the daily news and the threat of war.

I have started knitting again, as a form of relaxing therapy and a choice to be constructive in the face of impending destruction!

Just handling the pure wool and staring at the colours and textures is both a comfort and a delight!

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As we enter Autumn we are ready for change.

As we are driven into unstable times, so we need to prepare too.

Creating is important.

It keeps us grounded and optimistic.

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The seasons continue, undisturbed by the vagaries of man.

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And so shall I!

 

 

 

Celebrating Lughnasa

The carved head of Lugh looks in all directionsLughnasa (earlier, Lughnasadh) was the feast of Lugh.

Lughnasa Lugh, carved by Michael Quirke A harvest festival, its celebration marked the end of the period of summer growth and the beginning of the autumn harvest.

Lugh, carved by Michael Qirke of SligoIts original name does not survive in popular tradition, that being now the common word in Irish (Lúnasa) for the month of August. 

Lugh of LughnasadhThe festival is rather known as the Sunday of Crom Dubh (the god of harvest), or in varying areas as Lammas Sunday, Garland Sunday, Bilberry Sunday, or Fraughan Sunday.

Burlap and lace flower arrangementThe first weekend in August marks Ireland’s changing-of-the-season festival of Lughnasa.

Burlap and lace flower arrangementThe Irish playwright, Brian Friel, wrote the now famous,“Dancing at Lughnasa” which is all centred around the pivotal point in the Celtic calendar, Lughnasa.

Bealtaine flowers at LughnasaThe Celts regarded the Earth as a fertile Goddess, to be nurtured and honoured…a way of living I now follow, as a care-taker and care-giver to Mother Earth.

flowers for MichelleThe gate-keeper to the sanctuary of Bealtaine Cottage.

Lughnasa flowers for Michelle's weddingToday is the final day of summer in the Celtic Calendar…Happy Lughnasa!

 

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Transition into Autumn, as Lughnasa moves towards Samhain.

I grow over fifty different herbs here at Bealtaine Cottage.

All are grown organically, in keeping with everything I do here.

Lavender grows in profusion in the tunnel and dry areas of the gardens.

Wild Mint grows in the Bog Garden.

Oregano grows wild in the gravel driveway…one reason among thousands why NOT to tarmac!

The amount of self-seeding that occurs in the driveway is amazing!

I have taken lots of Lavender Cuttings and potted them on, so there will many more plants for next year.

It is important to keep a well stocked Nursery Garden…this enables continued expansion.

The garden has begun it’s slow transitional journey into Autumn.

By the Celtic Calendar, this is the beginning of the second month, and some plants already display that.

The Birch trees are colouring into autumn hues, the Willow hangs low in the early morning frost and harvesting food is well under way.

Hazel nuts are ripening, Rosehips are ready and apples are being harvested.

The hips of the Rosa Canina, or DogRose, rich in Vitamin C and ready to collect to make syrup.

They can also be used in Hedgerow Jelly and Jams.

I planted several of these bushes in various locations around my smallholding and they have all grown and fruited well, though sunlight is important, so shady locations are not that good…semi-shade is tolerable though!

The fruits of the Rosa Rugosa, rich in vitamin C.

These were collected by people during W.W.2. and delivered to the local collection points for the Ministry of Food where they were turned into Rosehip Syrup and given out to families with children as Vitamin C Syrup.

Isn’t it amazing just what governments can do for their people when they have to!

It’s worth looking at the history of the Ministry of Food during this time…some of the recipes produced by them are incredible…!

There are many hundreds of metres of pathways in this garden, connecting many different types of growing areas and gardens, all of them organic and all permacultured for ease of managing.

 One of the paths, leading from a compost area in several directions…the orchard, the east garden, the cottage and if you turn right, along the north bank.

At this time of year, when there is so much to cut back, I use all the waste to mulch within that area.

The mulch, as it degrades, feeds the plants and builds up the soil.

It’s amazing how much is uncovered and revealed when this cut back happens.

The paths are all grass and are mown weekly…grass being used as a harvest food for the nearest trees and shrubs.

Did you know that there are over 300 species of Willow?

In wet ground, Willow only has to be inserted into the earth and it will take root.

Bees love Willow!

It makes great wood for burning in the stove, with just a little seasoning, depending on the thickness.

Baskets can be made from it, as can all kinds of decorations.

There is an archaelogical site in Antrim, recently uncovered that shows that the Ancient Celts used Willow and Wattle to create dwellings.

It is also a sacred tree, featuring in both the Celtic and Saxon Chronicles as such.

Here in the Bog garden, by the lower pond, this Willow provides wildlife food and habitat as well as structure and form.

It’s one of my favourite trees.

Willow lends itself easily to Permaculture, feeding so many insects and birds as to be totally amazing!

For the gardener it is a growing medium without restraints, bending into arches, fedges and garden sculpture.

Lughnasa fades into Samhain and there is magic in the air!

Permaculture Cottage ~ Autumn Apples and Gelder Rose

The Celtic Calendar denotes this month of August to be the first month of Autumn. Looking at the sideboard in the kitchen this afternoon it is easy to believe.

Here are some of the Painted Mountain Corn grown here at Bealtaine this summer…it is a Native American corn and definitely NOT GM!

Spent time down in the Fairy Dell, cutting and clearing some of the dead wood. Lots for the stove and the smell as it burns is just beautiful!

Ash wood, split and ready to burn in the stove, sits in the Willow basket on the veranda. There’s an Autumn chill in the air at night, so the stove is regularly lit!

Rosehips ripen near the shed…it’s Autumn indeed!