Enchantment on the Last Day of November

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There was always understood to be a contract between the people and the land. 

IMG_0810This reminder formed the words as I walked the woodland sanctuary, on this last day of November.

IMG_0813The leaf-covered earth I walked upon reminded me of that sacred contract, one long since forgotten by humankind.

IMG_0814From the sacred well flows the life-giving force of the Otherworld.

IMG_0817All the ancient races of the Earth understood this.

IMG_0821The contract was broken by those who nurtured a greed for more and more wealth.

IMG_0824This continues today and is the reason why Mother Earth has been brought to the edge of destruction all across Her land and seas.

IMG_0826The native pre-Christian mythology of Celtic Ireland is highly Goddess-centered.

IMG_0806This is in recognition of the understanding that the Earth is female and the force is that of the Creatrix.

IMG_0804Irish mythology, in particular, is filled with stories of powerful women.

IMG_0795These women, often revered and greatly honoured, were seen as incarnations of the ‘Sovereignty’ goddess.

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On these mornings near Midwinter, the moon continues to move across the sky as the sun rises.

IMG_0716The land speaks.

The Goddess is imbued in the chalice and has become the sacred quest of folklore, that of the Holy Grail.

Here at Bealtaine Cottage she is the land Herself.

IMG_0724It is a most blessed time of the day, when the energy is rising.

IMG_0723My morning ritual is the same…I walk the land and listen, not just with my ears but with my whole being.

IMG_0720The energy of the Goddess flows out from the spring well and across the woodland…I listen.

IMG_0682I walk always in awareness of the Otherworld  which influences my own.

IMG_0686I walk in service to the land.

IMG_0684This Goddess-centred land feels a part of me and I a part of Her.

IMG_0690The Otherworld is inextricably linked to the land I walk.

IMG_0783The Otherworld is not about the dead.

IMG_0727The Otherworld is referred to as the ‘land of the living’ in ancient lore.

IMG_0746The Goddess has a great propensity for shape-shifting…so as I walk the land it is oftentimes I am followed by birds.

IMG_0816Tomorrow marks the first day of December and the descent towards the Midwinter Solstice.

IMG_0679This will herald the return of the rise of the light, as we move towards Imbolc.

IMG_0764Yule begins on the Midwinter Solstice and continues until the first day of January.

IMG_0772The sacred walks of Winter continue…

 

Remembering…

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dsc05339As the days grow shorter and the evenings longer there is a quietness in the gardens and around the cottage that is rather haunting.

winter sunrise at Bealtaine Cottage permaculture gardens Much of what I do now is centred around preparing for the Midwinter Feast and the continuing festivities of Yule.

BgQ7qv3CEAAL835 Family and friends will be arriving from as far away as Canada.

dsc05353 A house has been rented for the days that are in it, for Bealtaine Cottage is small!

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dsc05352Baking is underway in the kitchen, making full use of the hot oven in the even hotter Stanley stove that is burning constant to keep the cottage warm.

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dsc05329Cakes and bread are then being moved to the freezer in the barn and will be ready to assuage the hunger of visitors and guests alike. dsc05349The cake stand has been dusted off for the festivities.

dsc05331I am transforming the Lodge into a big dining room, moving beds and other furniture out and a huge extending dining table in.

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dsc05333dsc05334This was brought over from the tunnel where it had been in use for years as a potting table, but a good clean down and polish, followed by the adornment of a starched table cloth, has lent the old table an air of noble gentility.

dsc05335dsc05336Candlelight will soften the decrepitness of the piece and even add a touch of shabby chic!

dsc05337In the event it isn’t really about grandeur or showing off, but about coming together to celebrate…something we have almost forgotten how to do.

dsc05338The remembering that less is more…that a pot of well made soup and home baked bread is unique to that day and all who partake of the feast.

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dsc05345It is not about shop bought, ready-made food, or flashy decorations that will still be intact in the landfill when you are long gone from this sacred Earth. dsc05343

dsc05344My little bathroom has had a coat of paint applied and a polish-up!

dsc05346Remembering the importance of gathering and celebrating…this is real civilisation!

 

 

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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:

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Why I No Longer Celebrate Christmas!

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Christmas fever is widespread as the orgy of spending takes hold.

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Ordinarily sane people are in-debting themselves to a year ahead of pay-back as they tread wearily around shops filled with Chinese imports!

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Some years ago I made a decision to opt out of mainstream.

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I had come to the conclusion that much of what I lived by was the result of not questioning, but merely going along with everyone else.

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Now, I must point out that once one begins to question the status quo, all sorts of issues raise their Medusa-like heads…religion, education, government, consumerism, et al! www.bealtainecottage.com 014

Every aspect of how I lived, and what moved me, was called to the fore of my interrogation.

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In much the same way as I gave up eating meat, smoking and spending our civilisation out of recession, I gave up Christmas.

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Christmas became something older and gentler for me…it morphed into Midwinter.

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I say “morphed” because there are aspects of Christmas I continue to appreciate, such as gift-giving.

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These are not the small-mortgage gifts however, but gifts of warmth and food and home-made trinkets.

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Midwinter lasts longer too, for this is the time of Yule.

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Yule marks the rebirth of the sun.
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It is a potent symbol of death and rebirth – going from the darkness into the light.
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Yule starts before the Solstice and continues on until New Year’s Day.

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There’s no rush, no crazy dash for the check-out.

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Yule is a time and a time that makes sense to me.

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An Irish Christmas Blessing

The light of the Christmas star to you
The warmth of home and hearth to you
The cheer and good will of friends to you
The hope of a childlike heart to you
The joy of a thousand angels to you.

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Moving with Orion Towards Midwinter

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The signs are everywhere…

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Nights drawing in…

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Unexpected sunshine on frosted mornings.

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The bare beauty of trees silhouetted against clear winter skies. 

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As Orion strides across the evening sky, we draw closer to the Winter Solstice and the darkest, stillest, nights of the year.

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Winter Solstice celebrations begin on the 21st of December, a time of hope and joy for all, regardless of belief or religious observances.

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Magical Midwinter!

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Ancient tribes all over the world observed rituals around Solstice time.

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We too can  celebrate Winter Solstice, integrating it into our own traditional celebrations.

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A chance to step outdoors and observe the night sky.

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An opportunity to nurture and develop connections to family and friends.

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From this day, there are 22 days to go before the descent into the Midwinter Solstice.

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Yes, the coldest days precede the Spring, so January rarely feels like the prelude to that beautiful season!

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture landscape

But, here in the West of Ireland, with Imbolc on the first day of February, the signs are there for all to see, as new life emerges from the frozen earth.

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Circling Celebrations

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Winter is the time for comfort, for
good food and warmth, for the touch
of a friendly hand and for a talk beside
the fire:  it is the time for home.

Edith Sitwell

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                   And so the story of Autumn and Winter begins, not in cold and dark, but comfort and light.
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                                                 A time to take stock and nestle into home.
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                                 A time for simplicity of food before the excitement of Samhain.
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                We move inexorably through the year, circling around celebrations, family and friends.
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         This is what it means to be part of a society…planning and sharing the days we look forward to, as well as bringing camaraderie and support on days less well favoured. 
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                As I uploaded these photographs this morning, I enjoyed a sense of timelessness.
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            Even as I move around Bealtaine on my own, the sense of ‘with others’ pervades the air.
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                              Perhaps, in the world we cannot see, there are many around us.
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                                                             This would not surprise me.
                        My mother often said she felt surrounded by people here at this little cottage.
                                                                              I do too. 
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                                      “In a way Winter is the real Spring–the time when
the inner things happen, the resurgence of nature.”

Edna O’Brien

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                                                           Like Edna, I look forward to the
quiet time of Winter, for the quiet solitude; a time for contemplation. 
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The Midwinter Archives

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Midwinter, past and present…all here for you to see!

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Feeling a touch nostalgic, I decided to share some of the magic of Midwinter with you from previous years.

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The silvery light of a midwinter sun captures a sense of magic indoors.

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We are all deeply affected by light and respond in varying ways to it, though mostly it makes us feel happier and more positive about life.

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The light of both the sun and moon proved so important for our ancestors that they integrated all aspects of both into their spiritual lives.

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Somewhere in the depths of Winter was born a sense of the light returning and the cycle beginning once more. Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

At midwinter, the sun appears to stand still, for three days, before rising on its ascent back up into the southern sky. Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

The light changes. Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

Shadows grow shorter. Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

Our bodies and minds ascent with the sun towards Midsummer, filled with joy and optimism.

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Much of humankind has forgotten the importance of observing the heavens and being mindful of our connection to them.

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The star that flashes red and green, (I was told was Arcturus), has moved from its midsummer position above Kilronan Mountain to the north, to one high in the south eastern night sky.

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I have come to be more aware of the night sky over recent years…

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As we continue on the descent towards Midwinter, with clear, cold night skies, this can be a good time to look to the heavens.

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Midwinter will pass soon enough and the cycle will begin once more.

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The darkness will lift.

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Days will lengthen.

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And life emerge anew!

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Who Controls You?

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Midwinter approaches.

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The holiday season draws near.

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There is no television here at Bealtaine Cottage, so I am unaware of the masses of advertising you are being bombarded with!

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I realise that the pressure is upon you to spend, spend, spend!

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But, hold on a minute or two and think about this… Every pound, euro or dollar you spend this Yuletide will put you deeper and deeper into debt and force others to compete with the madness that is gift-buying!

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As you spend, so the debt piles up around you, pressing you down, deeper into the mire of anxiety!

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Many people spend to the limit on their plastic cards and spend the entirety of the following year just paying it back.

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This represents the most insidious form of control on what should be a life of choices and freedom.

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All the time you are controlled by debt you are enslaved…and for what?

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Most of what is bought at Christmas ends up in landfill sites over the ensuing months. www.bealtainecottage.com 014

Mother Earth pays a huge price for your debt slavery.

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Who controls you?

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The same corporations who pollute Mother Earth?

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Change begins with you and me and the freedom to choose!

Bottling Summer

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The old tin bath has been taken down from the wall of the barn.

Used wine bottles are left to steep for a few hours in rainwater.

permaculture @ bealtainecottage.com (3)Washed and clean, ready to be filled with home-made Blackcurrant wine.

permaculture @ bealtainecottage.com (4)There is always at least one day during the Summer, when one feels enthusiastic enough to overcome the reluctance to get stuck into bottling wine…today, all the right chords were struck and the work began!

Cork stoppers were duly washed and left to soak and soften, till, finally…

permaculture @ bealtainecottage.com (2)the wine was securely bottled! All that remains to be done is labelling…Chateau Bealtaine!

permaculture @ bealtainecottage.com (2)Outside the back door, Summer continues in layers of sheer abundance…Feverfew splurges on masses of tiny, daisy-like flowers.

permaculture @ bealtainecottage.com (5) Midsummer has only just crossed over and the garlic is ready to pull, with the first batch of Garlic and Oregano Olive Oil infusing.

Summer just keeps on getting bottled!

permaculture @ bealtainecottage.com (4)There is so much food and flowers, it’s sheer Heaven!

permaculture @ bealtainecottage.com (5)Walking around the cottage is a feast for the senses!

permaculture @ bealtainecottage.comEven the ancient Polygonum is covered with bright red flowers…one of the very few plants here that has nothing for the Bees…but a delight for me!  

permaculture @ bealtainecottage.com (6)Yellow Loosestrife stands tall in the casual cottage borders.

permaculture @ bealtainecottage.com (7)Roses fall over in a drunken Summer stupor, heavy with scent and bees.

permaculture @ bealtainecottage.com (8)Petals cascade onto stone steps, ivory wraps for blushing fairies.

permaculture @ bealtainecottage.com (9)Valerian falls onto the gravel path, dropping seeds and heavy flower-heads onto the visitor’s shoe.

permaculture @ bealtainecottage.com (10)And the Summer that was bottled today, will be brought out amidst smiles and raised glasses in the depths of Midwinter.