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…

 

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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Yule and the Turning of the Wheel

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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.

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Equinox and Early Shadows

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Autumn is a time of early shadows as the season of summer passes over.dsc03334

And cobwebs everywhere! And here, in the Northern Hemisphere, one can easily notice the later dawns and earlier sunsets,as Spring is ushered in south of the Equator.

dsc03306Equinox is all about balance…the balance of equal day and night, of dark and light.

dsc03307I await the first light of morning with great anticipation, aware that the light grows more and more precious, to be cherished.

dsc03308We are creatures of the light!

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During these colder mornings I use the electric kettle to make my early tea.

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There is something very comforting about an old tea tin…often referred to as a Tea Caddy!

dsc03311We are poised at the turning time and the descent towards Samhain.

dsc03312The Celts only recognised two parts of the year in terms of life, and that was Summer and Winter, for Samhain, despite falling on the 31st of October, meant “Summer’s End.”

dsc03313The sun is casting long shadowswe grow evermore closer to the turning. 

dsc03371In the night sky, Fomalhaut – the Autumn Star – is making its way across the heavens each night. 

dsc03370The equinoxes and solstices formed an important part of ancient rituals here in Ireland.

dsc03366This Autumn Equinox is also referred to as Mabon.

dsc03365Mabon is a good time to look at the ancient Greek legend of Persephone and Demeter.

dsc03364“The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.

–   John Updike, September

dsc03362Departing summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.
–  William Wordsworth, September

dsc03369Stone monuments were built here in Ireland and aligned to witness the light on these days.

dsc03368One can still view the illumination of these chambers in ancient cairns, at sunrise, on important celestial days.

dsc03367It just remains for me to wish you all a Happy Equinox on this beautiful evening at Bealtaine Cottage.

Moving with Orion Towards Midwinter

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The signs are everywhere…

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

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. 

Full Moon at Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

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.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

A chance to step outdoors and observe the night sky.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture landscape

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

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture

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

Bealtaine Cottage Feb 2011 006

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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Otherworldly…

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 Sunday afternoon…picking flowers in the gardens.

This feels like the full, quiet days before giving birth…

bealtainecottage.comThe force of the full moon can still be felt in the stillness of the late afternoon air.

bealtainecottage.com (2)There is an otherworldly feel to it all… Time appears to stand very still.

bealtainecottage.com (3)Bees continue in a frenzy of work on this side of the Solstice.

I have often felt a slowness as time ascends towards Midsummer…it’s as though Mother Earth is not yet ready to let go…

bealtainecottage.com (4)Evenings merge with night as daylight seems eternal in the west of Ireland…Ox-Eye Daisies reach up toward the sun, basking in summer.

bealtainecottage.com (5)Returning from Belfast and the soft hum of the city to this place of quiet solitude, this otherworldly paradise of sights and scents…

bealtainecottage.com (6)Far back from the lane, this little cottage nestles into silence, a place of tranquil tolerance, a timeless existence at midsummer.

bealtainecottage.com (7)Wood Pigeon and Cuckoo call a mantra of hypnotic sounds…a lazy Sunday afternoon…

bealtainecottage.com (8)Ground Elder, the bane of many gardeners, is allowed her magnificence here, frothy lace adorning a mantle of green. bealtainecottage.com (9)Ragged Robin dances by the wheels of an old bike.

bealtainecottage.com (10)Himalayan Musk stands sturdy by the wooden porch.

bealtainecottage.com (11)Astrantia unfolds it’s papery petals in an unending delight of pinky white and green.

bealtainecottage.com (12)Bees delight in Jacob’s Ladder as it ascends to heaven…

bealtainecottage.comAnd blue Jacob’s Ladder adorns the kitchen table in a cottage lost in time…

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Midsummer Rising

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Farewell Bealtaine!

Rising on the last morning of Bealtaine and looking out the window of the lodge to be greeted by mist and sunshine.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe heat of yesterday rose in a mist over the valley and mountains beyond.

www,bealtainecottage.comRising towards Midsummer is a most magical time in the west of Ireland.

Between the rain and the sun, the jigs and the reels, the land has grown a mantle of green.

www.bealtainecottage.comFestivals are held in every village as birds, from thousands of mile away, fly low over the feeding grounds of this small island. www.bealtainecottage.comMidsummer customs prevail in much of Europe and certainly here in Ireland, where the traditional bonfire is part of the celebration.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe fire is lit exactly at sunset on the eve of the solstice and celebrations continue until sunset on the solstice itself.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe sense of abundance is quite tangible and visible at this time, helping to create a celebratory atmosphere.

www.bealtainecottage.comMidsummer  was seen as a time when the veil between this world and the next was thin, and when the spirit of the land itself held sway.

This is encapsulated in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

www.bealtainecottage.comThis year I shall be lighting the Midsummer fire with wood cut around the time of Midwinter, in honour of my  Mother.

www.bealtainecottage.com It is a time for gathering and spending time together and a celebration I look forward to…

www.bealtainecottage.comAs I walked I the gardens this morning, there arose a great sense of peace and harmony, again something which seems to be released from the very Earth herself each year, at this time of ascension to Midsummer.

www.bealtainecottage.comThe promise of a good harvest holds firm as the beautiful weather continues.

www.bealtainecottage.comHere is one of my favourite quotes by Carole Carlton…

“The festival of the summer solstice speaks of love and light, of freedom and generosity of spirit.

www.bealtainecottage.comIt is a beautiful time of year where vibrant flowers whisper to us with scented breath,

www.bealtainecottage.com (2)forests and woodlands hang heavy in the summer’s heat and our souls become enchanted with midsummer magic.”

www.bealtainecottage.com (3)

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A Magical Midsummer Morning…

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Solstice morning at Bealtaine Cottage 2013Happy Solstice everyone…

Midsummer morning at bealtaine cottage, IrelandIn this special year of the return of the Divine Feminine…

Angel on Midsummer morningThere will be a full moon on Sunday, June 23…

Bealtaine Cottage on Midsummer morning 2013And it’s a rather special one…

Midsummer at Bealtaine CottageThe biggest moon at Midsummer

Bealtaine Cottage on Midsummer morningIt will not only be the largest full moon of the year…

Midsummer morning at Bealtaine Cottage...and MissyIt will also be the moon’s closest encounter with Earth for all of 2013.

Missy on midsummer morningThe moon will be at it’s peak on Sunday…

Bealtaine Cottage midsummer morningCelebrate this Solstice…it’s a rare one!

Bealtaine Lodge on Midsummer morningI’m heading to the ocean for a long walk along the Atlantic shoreline…

Midsummer morning at Bealtaine CottageMy Midsummer Treat!

Happy Solstice Everyone!

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Imbolc and the Ascent of Spring

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  Christmas eve moon above Bealtaine Cottage The ancient peoples of the Earth celebrated the seasons by paying close attention to the skies above them, especially at night, when clear, and observation was undertaken.

Bealtaine Permaculture Feb 12 004The Celts were particularly aligned in all aspects of their lives, with the precession of the Equinoxes and the timing of the seasons.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Feb 12 003Time was, and remains, cyclical.

It is only patriarchal religions that have enforced a sense of, and adherence to, Linear Time.

The Gregorian Calendar is an example of this.

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Feb 2011 002Solstices, Equinoxes and  Cross Quarter days, such as Imbolc, were of great importance to ancient people for regulating their time.

Rhubarb Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Feb 2011 015The knowledge of when to plant, when to harvest, when to stay and when to move was imperative to the well-being of the Tribe.

Bealtaine Cottage Feb 2011 007Imbolc is celebrated, this year, on the 3rd day of February, at precisely 3.57pm here in Ireland.

Home made wine to celebrate Imbolc at Bealtaine Cottage Feb 2011 005The time differs accordingly across the northern hemisphere.

 The Celts named the cross quarters Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasad and Samhain.

Happy Imbolc!