Rituals of Midwinter

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In preparing for the season of Yule, I follow the age old traditions of all the women who have gone before me.

BgQ7qv3CEAAL835Preparation is everything.

December 2011 Permaculture Bealtaine 009This begins in the home and involves casting an eye over all that will be of importance during this sacred time of gathering.

cropped-cropped-dsc02856.jpgI am driven with the desire to instil a sense of order upon Bealtaine Cottage as the Midwinter festivities approach.
cropped-cropped-mon-25-oct-10-003.jpgThere is a history to this festival that precedes the usual image we hold as the collective ideal…that of a more recent celebration, Christmas.

Bealtaine Cottage PermacultureThe Winter Solstice  has been celebrated for thousands of years.

It was celebrated by my Great Grandmother who lived in the cottage above.

cropped-bealtaine-cottage-dec-11-011.jpgIndeed, Newgrange  here in Ireland, was constructed five thousand years ago, as a homage to the Midwinter Solstice, so this festival of Yule was immensely important to our ancestors.

cropped-22-dec-10-036.jpgThis was because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months.

permaculture at bealtainecottage.com 005 Food and wine was ready to eat and drink ,as fruit fermented and animals were slaughtered as feed stocks dwindled.

light a candle at Bealtaine Cottage IrelandEven during the morning, parts of the interior of this Irish cottage can be dim during the months of Midwinter.

stained glass wheel of life Bealtaine Cottage 011Light is what our seasons are measured in.
midwinter cottage 013Light was and remains the important aspect of winter and our ancestors realised the connection this had to all life.

cavan burren 2That connection, that sense of knowing the elemental forces that governed their lives, was so important to them, that many monuments were erected to this end.

The standing stone at Bealtaine Cottage February 2013Here in Ireland, Newgrange is the most important, monumental reminder we have of this elemental connection.

Stone Circle at Bealtaine CottageSo today has been a day of tidying and ordering…cleaning the area around the cottage, sorting wool,  and listening to gentle music as I go.

Fox in the garden at Bealtaine CottageFor lovers of Bealtaine Cottage and all aspects of ancient Celtic life and Goddess Permaculture found therein, there is a second website, growing daily and now with over 90 new blogs and several thousands of unseen photographs, as well as podcasts and stories… Visit:

Bealtaine Cottage Good Life Membership~ Subscribe Today!

Yule and the Turning of the Wheel

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Garden at Midwinter

Origins of Yule

The great Festival of Yule, beginning at the time of the Winter Solstice and lasting for a full twelve days, summed up the cycle of the Celtic year.

Bealtaine Cottage candles in the window

The word Yule, according to the Venerable Bede, came from the Norse word Iul meaning ‘wheel’ and suggested that this was the time when the Great Wheel of Existence had completed its circle.

barn window reflection Permaculture @ Bealtaine Cottage 015

“In later Celtic folk-belief, Yule had a dual meaning, it symbolised the death of the old year and heralded the birth of the new…

winter sunrise at Bealtaine Cottage permaculture gardens

Although the ground was cold, it would soon be warm again and Nature would burst forth at the festival of Imbolc.

The low-point of the period of Yule became the central festival of a number of formal religions, one of which was Christianity.

Bealtaine Cottage Midwinter Garden

 

After Yule, the Great Wheel began to turn again, bringing the festival of Imbolc around once more. Gradually some festivals assumed less importance and four great functional festivals – Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasadh and Samhain dominated the Celtic year. Many of these became major Christian holy days – Imbolc became Candlemas (1 February) with its own rhyme: ‘On Candlemas Day, Throw a candle away’.

Christmas Eve in an Irish CottageChristmas Eve, 2012 at Bealtaine CottageChristmas eve moon above Bealtaine CottageChristmas Angel 2012In Ireland, because of its close association with the goddess Brigit, it became Saint Brigid’s Day.

Where the festivals of local deities persisted, they became ‘pattern days’– the feast of a local or patron saint.”

From Complete Guide to Celtic Mythology by Bob Curran

winter solstice 2012 at Bealtaine Cottagemidwinter cottage 015midwinter cottage 012

The winter solstice, the rebirth of the Sun, is an important turning point, as it marks the shortest day, when the hours of daylight are at their least. It also the start of the increase in the hours of daylight, until the Summer Solstice, when darkness becomes ascendant once more.

Midwinter mist at Bealtaine Cottage

This Yule, my family will gather at Bealtaine Cottage for a coming together, a “gathering,” to celebrate and mark the Great Turning of the Light, before dispersing to celebrate with others the wonderful celebration of Christmas.

friday 10 12 10monday morn 6 12 10 014monday morn 6 12 10 006Yuletide continues to be marked at Bealtaine Cottage through to it’s end on the first day of January. A time of great hope and lifting of one’s head towards the ascending sun.

For lovers of Bealtaine Cottage, there is a second website, growing daily and now with over 85 new blogs and hundreds of unseen photographs, as well as podcasts and stories… Visit:

Bealtaine Cottage Good Life Membership~ Subscribe Today!

Into the Turning

www.bealtainecottage.comThe bonfire of Midsummer night has died down.

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The midnight sky stays light on the northern horizon.

www.bealtainecottage.com 007Bats encircle the cottage, as stars emerge into the darkness.

cavan burren 2The day has passed into the Turning…of the light.

www.bealtainecottage.com 008As the light passes into the lazy warmth of an enduring summer, visitors to Bealtaine Cottage come and go.

www.bealtainecottage.com 003July and August nestle into the promise of sultry heat, with visits to the beach and afternoons spent in the shade of maturing trees.www.bealtainecottage.com 042Berries continue to ripen, as flowers provide a succession of colour.

www.bealtainecottage.com 011There is little to concern oneself with, as Nature holds sway.

www.bealtainecottage.com 031These are the gentle days of Midsummer. 

The Light of Spring

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Sammy-Bear lies concussed by the heat from the wood burning stove! It’s a tough life being a cat at Bealtaine Cottage!

www.bealtainecottage.comOver the past week there has been a struggle between Winter and Spring as temperatures have moved up and down the thermometer, with hard frost, heavy rain, warm nights and brilliant sun all in the mix!

www.bealtainecottage.comThe rising sun reflected in the mirror at the far end of the veranda.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe amazing light of early Spring…

www.bealtainecottage.comMoving closer to the mirror, the rising sun looks back at me over the head of the Buddha…quite otherworldly.

www.bealtainecottage.comThis was how the Romantic Poets viewed the world…through a mirror…I understand why!

www.bealtainecottage.comFurther down the gardens, the last seed-head of the Gunnera Manicata stands tall against the storms of winter, saluting the Spring.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe ponds have remained in flood during this winter, the wettest on record since 1866 here in Ireland.

www.bealtainecottage.comCatkins stand out against a brilliant blue sky, providing some little food for any early Bees.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe shadows of Spring are long, casting patterns and shapes on an ever-changing tapestry.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe kitchen is illuminated by a different light…the light of Spring.

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Bealtaine Cottage has built up a Permaculture Seed Bank.

If you want to see a list of available seeds, this link will take you there…https://bealtainecottage.com/seeds-from-bealtaine-cottage/

Seeds from Bealtaine Cottage in Ireland are posted all over the world!

Bealtaine Cottage is also on YouTube…with over 110 videos about Permaculture, planting, growing and living.

There are over 600 blogs in the archives on this site.

Half Light and Shadows

www.bealtainecottage.com 039The apricot glow of a fading October sky, merged with the heavy rustling of cows on the field across the lane, drawing me outdoors.

This is a magical time of enchantment, with Nature and late evening light.

www.bealtainecottage.com 027Any noise on such a still evening exudes an eerie quality of something not understood…always best to go out and uncover the mystery.

As it was, the cows and their calves had nuzzled in close to the hedgerow, to bed down for the night.

The heaviness of their bodies crushing branches, as they leaned into the conspiratorial thorn hedgerow.

www.bealtainecottage.com 056The stillness of the evening makes one want to tip-toe on the lane.

Peering back in through the window of the cottage, lit only by a candle, illuminating the kitchen, it is easy to believe in the fairy folk…

It was remarked by many in 1950s rural Ireland, that the newly installed electric light drove the fairies away…

www.bealtainecottage.com 048The light is on its descent towards Samhain and deeper still to midwinter.

This passing of the light should be a signal for us all to slow down and embrace the stillness of the year, allowing ourselves time to reflect on our sacred journey.

www.bealtainecottage.com 031The Fennel looks to all intents and purposes the magical plant it is said to be, in this half-light.

It is so majestic, scented, beautiful and useful, that I have a mind to plant it all over the gardens!

www.bealtainecottage.com 058…the warmth of the kitchen beckons me towards the light, as the apricot shadows fall back into night.

Light, Midwinter Sun, Signs and John Seymour

Light

What an opportunity!

As we descend into the dark days of midwinter, what better thing to do than light a candle and enjoy the soft light and warmth.

I was making candles today to add to my stockpile for the coming weeks, when candlelight is really the best light medium to illuminate the darkness.

Midwinter Sun

Sun worship was a common practice among the Celts…one only has to look at the amazing amount of motifs from that time to see this.

The god Belanos, known as, “the shining one,” had his feast on May 1, also known as Bealtaine!

The festival of Bealtaine was celebrated right up until 1895 at a place known as Mount Callan, near Ennis in County Clare.

There remains a sun altar at this place.

There is another sacred stone near Macroom, a standing stone known as “Stone of the Sun.”

It is easy to see and perhaps understand this Celtic fascination with the sun, when looking at the life and vibrancy exuded by the midwinter sun, on a clear morning at this time of year.

Signs

It’s possible to assess the insulation needs of any house by looking at the roof.

There are obvious signs to look out for!

For example, does the frost or snow remain on the roof as the house heats up?

If it does, then all is well, insulation is adequate up above.

Bealtaine has a double layer of sheep’s wool insulation added this year and it is paying for itself already.

Walking in this weather can identify insulation needs just by looking at the houses…snow or melt on the roof?

Insulation is one of the many ways we can help ourselves to live better and more frugally in these times of hardship.

I think it is time to re-visit what John Seymour, in his wisdom, had to say…

“…We have allowed ourselves to get where we are because of the ‘blind workings of the market’.

But we are not blind, so we must now start using our good sense to ‘break this sorry scheme of things and remould it to our hearts desire,’ as old Omar Khayam had it.

To allow ourselves to be dependent on some vast Thing created by the Merchants of Greed is madness.

It is time to cut out what we do not need so we can live more simply and happily.

Good food, comfortable clothes, serviceable housing and true culture – those are the things that matter.

The only way this can happen is by ordinary people, us, boycotting the huge multinational corporations that are destroying our Earth – and creating a new Age – an Age of Healing in place of the current Age of Plunder.”

A Celtic Blessing

May the light of your soul guide you.

May the light of your soul bless the work that you do
with the secret love and warmth of your heart.

May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.

May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light
and renewal to those who work with you
and to those who see and receive your work.

May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of
refreshment, inspiration and excitement.

May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.
May your soul calm, console and renew you.

Here Comes the Sun…Permaculture Smallholding, Ireland

It’s time to start sowing seeds, especially if you have a propagator. Light has returned and there is a definite stretch in the days.

The signs of spring are to be found everywhere. Daffodils are up really early and buds are starting to thicken on the lower bushes.

“In the depth of winter, I finally learned that there was within me an invincible summer.”
– Albert Camus

The Blackbird sits atop the Ash tree in the hedge, enjoying the morning sun.

Lots of food remains in the tunnel. If you grow anything this year, let it be Chard…so very easy to grow and so full of vitamins. It’s colourful and looks lovely planted in flower beds and pots!

In a matter of weeks, the orchard will break into blossom and all will be the promise of abundance! It’s not too late to plant apple and pear trees.

Midwinter Light and Country Comfort

A simple tea-light in a paper bag.

Comforting and warming.

A table decoration made using greenery from the garden, with a candle in the middle of the oasis.

Judy Collins sings a beautiful rendition of “In the Bleak Midwinter,” …I scoured the web for the best version and I do believe that this is it!

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THRaaR0Z_oo

So many traditions and cultures across the globe celebrate this special time…a time of rebirth and renewal.

As we prepare for the shortest day, let’s celebrate in light…

And After the Weekend…Bealtaine Cottage in the West of Ireland

Monday morning, balmy, warm and bright. Midsummer has passed and the work outdoors continues unabated. Sheds to be cleared and painted, as well as fences to be fixed and preserved. Lots of blackcurrants still to be harvested…

The beautiful eerie light that falls across the land after the solstice, almost autumnal, bright and silvery and very romantic.

The heavenly scent of honeysuckle, or woodbine, is captured on the gentlest of breezes. The Fairy dell woodland is permeated with the sweet aroma.

The trees and ivy have merged into an elegant repose. Ferns have grown high and luxurious.

Light and shadows begin to play tricks on the eyes.

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Permaculture in Ireland.

Moon in the sky last night over Bealtaine, lighting the way back from the tunnel. the Cuckoo was still calling, even in the dark of the night and light of the moon. as we ascend towards Midsummer, the Cuckoo barely sleeps. I have heard him call in the middle of the night!

The garden becomes a jungle as the rain falls and the sun shines inbetween. Willow is shooting up and all of the trees are rapidly assuming a look of maturity, though they are far from it, being 7 years old and younger!

Permaculture is about connections, keeping mindful of our connections to the Earth, so walking the land is very important. Walking the land at dusk is an uplifting experience, hearing the Blackbird sing the last song of the day. Thousands of years ago our ancestors kept mindfulness of the seasons and the rivers and all that lived thereon. my ancestors, the Celts, believed that all living things had a spirit and God dwelt within all! It is easy to believe that same wonder of understanding…should not the creator be in all creation? An artist paints a picture…ask the artist how much of herself can be found therein?

The logs continue to be stacked in the barn in preparation for winter. Most of the wood is Ash and Sycamore and burns well, providing a good source of heat for the cottage which is sustainable and carbon balanced. I am aware that more and more people here in Ireland are returning to a multi-fuel source of heating for their homes, which can only be a good thing. For too long there has been a reliance on oil and a devaluation of our own resources!

Early Summer Photos of Bealtaine Permaculture Smallholding in Ireland.

Just a wooden sculpture nailed onto an old fencing post hammered into the ground makes an interesting piece of garden art. I picked this up in a junk shop for a couple of euros and it’s hardwood, so will weather well. It’s no longer in a rainforest, but settling into a young Irish woodland, that may, one day, be a forest!There is something very magical about crystals, especially as they catch the light in the early morning…this is when the light is at its purest and most transparent, before the heat of the day has set in.Arches and water…still quite free in creating a permaculture paradise in Ireland. Of course, the authorities are talking about charging for water supply. I wonder if that will eventually include this water that runs freely from the spring well at Bealtaine.The early morning sun catches the leaves of the Willow and Birch, casting a magical glow over this young forest of three acres in Ireland…

Spring water flows from the well into the ponds in the Bog Garden.