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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Midwinter, Newgrange and Sacred Light

Mornings arrive later as the sun struggles to climb above the eastern horizon…we slowly descend into winter.

Blackbirds swoop low across bushes in the garden, as they protect their territory from other hungry birds.

The hours between dawn and dusk grow thin and precious light appreciated.

Our ancestors appreciated the light of the day and made great effort to welcome it.

Newgrange was erected as a passage-grave and aligned to receive the first rays of the midwinter sun.

Our ancestors knew the importance of the midwinter solstice and the importance of light to all life on Earth.

Newgrange is the place to be on this auspicious morning of the winter, the solstice…

Midwinter can be a magical time here in Ireland, as this photograph shot from my kitchen window last year shows.

The light is different from all other and must have held a sacredness for our ancestors as the darkness engulfed them through November and December…

Newgrange was built around 3,200 BC and belongs to a time before metal was used.

Despite this, the construction was specifically aligned using knowledge that included details of the tilt within the axis of the earth and the exact information to design and build a window above the door lintel to receive the light from the rising sun on the solstice day.

So, as the light becomes increasingly important to us during this slow descent into Midwinter, can I make these small suggestions?

Find time to be quiet.

Explore in your environment a peaceful, comfortable place.

In this sacred space keep comfort with you.

Place a little bell here.

When you take time out to be quiet, light a candle, ring a soft sounding bell and meditate on the season of welcome light.

Stonehenge, Newgrange and the Cycle of Life

The autumn continues to progress through it’s mellow display of earthy colours.

Tomorrow is the Equinox and the beginning of the descent towards midwinter.

The time of year denotes the slowing down of all that is life as we know it.

Time to sort out the winter woolies and hang the heavy curtains to keep out the drafts.

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One of the big tasks I have lined up here at Bealtaine Cottage is the coppicing of the majority of the trees that were planted eight years ago, in the first flush of restoring the fertility of the land.

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Trees are one of the most important connections we have to the Divine, embodying the sacred fertility that anchors us all on this planet.

Where trees grow, life is abundant…without them we are bereft of all that makes life comfortable and good.

One of the great delights of the shorter days is the ritual lighting of the stove and the chance to sit around the fire and enjoy the scent of woodsmoke on the air.

There are few pleasures in life quite so comforting.

From this point in time the autumn will wend its way through to Samhain and evolve into the dark depths of winter, finally rising towards the light in the deep midwinter, a time of renewal, hope and promise.

Life is cyclical.

The builders of Stonehenge and Newgrange knew all about that.

First Snow in the West of Ireland

Dawn breaks in the east and illuminates the snow that has fallen overnight.
Last night was very cold indeed, so it’s no surpise to awaken to such a winter landscape.

As I write this at 11am, the snow has begun to fall silently once more, surprising the onlooker at the sudden transformation.
Somewhere, deep within the recesses of the barn, is stored a sleigh and there’s a good possibility that it will be brought out this weekend!

Just another five days until the time of the midwinter solstice.

This lasts for about three days or so and if the weather is good, with clear skies, then the Newgrange visitors should be well pleased!

Newgrange, Ancestors and Preparing…

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In preparing for the season of Christmas, I follow the age old tradition of having a good old clear out and tidy-up…much to the discerning eyes and critical comments of family and friends…”but why are you changing the furniture around?”  “…re-painting that room…” etc.,  Well, don’t ask me…it’s just what I have always done!

www.bealtainecottage.com 003Yes, indeed, Christmas has some strange effects on people and it’s older than you think…

I am driven with the desire to instill a sense of order upon Bealtaine Cottage as the midwinter festivities approach.

There is a history to this festival that precedes the usual image we hold as the collective ideal…Christmas.

The winter solstice was immensely important.

This was because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months.

 Food and wine was ready to eat and drink as fruit fermented and animals were slaughtered as feed stocks dwindled.

Hyacinths continue to push their way up through the soil and moss in a pot, placed on a window-sill in the cottage. It’s good to have a reminder of what’s to come…

www.bealtainecottage.com 007Even during the morning, parts of the interior of this Irish cottage can be dim during the months of midwinter.

www.bealtainecottage.com 021Light was and remains the important aspect of winter and our ancestors realized the connection this had to all life.

www.bealtainecottage.com 027That 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.

www.bealtainecottage.com 005Here in Ireland, Newgrange is the most important, monumental reminder we have of this elemental connection.

cropped-old-pictures-saved-by-dylan-3678.jpg

So today has been a day of tidying and ordering…cleaning the henhouse, sorting wool, cleaning out one cupboard, (well, that’s a start!) and listening to the gentle music of “Altan,” as I go…