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.

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The Celtic Roots of Samhain

www.bealtainecottage.com 001The bright red of the Ruby Chard will add colour to the Samhain feast!

In Celtic Ireland, Samhain marked  the division of the year between the light (summer) and the dark (winter).

www.bealtainecottage.com 054For me, the customs of my ancestors are important to acknowledge and continue.

This time of tuning into the seasonal shift and preparing for the darkness of the winter months ahead, is important.

Even today, as I stacked these logs in the shelter of the veranda, I couldn’t help but think about Samhain and its meaning as a custom and special tradition.

www.bealtainecottage.com 012The Hill of Tara was associated with Samhain in Celtic Ireland, even though it pre-dates the arrival of the Celts themselves!

www.bealtainecottage.com 019The passage to the Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara, constructed some 4,500 to 5,000 years ago, forms the entrance and is aligned with the rising sun around Samhain.

This was constructed even before the Celts arrived in Ireland!

And so, as the leaves fall and cover the earth, we reach Summers End and the beginning of the descent towards Midwinter.

www.bealtainecottage.com 022The Festival of Samhain marked the end of the Celtic year.

  www.bealtainecottage.com 023This is the traditional New Year’s Eve!

www.bealtainecottage.com 038Walking through the gardens at Bealtaine, takes me on a journey similar to the festival of Samhain, for it is all about ending and beginning…as the land pulls its duvet of leaves across its mantle of green, preparing for the beginning of Winter.

www.bealtainecottage.com 056As Samhain marks the division point in the year between summer and winter, it is understood that any point, in the land where there is division or boundary, can be unsafe at Samhain…for it is there that the veil is at its thinnest!

Here at Bealtaine Cottage, the warmth of the sun continues to enchant!

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Carbon Taxes Won’t Save Us!

Back door of Bealtaine CottageToday, I was feeling just a teensy bit down.

It’s a rare experience for me.

Back door at Bealtaine CottageLife is so full on here at Bealtaine, that positivity fills the day, running from one task to the next and looking forward to a brief sit down and a cup of tea.

But today, something caught up with me…a growing feeling of fragility that I had suppressed for a long time.

A jingle bell heartWeakness in the face of disaster.

Fear.

Dog Daisy benchI have spent much of my life suppressing fear.

To be honest, most people have too.

table on the verandaCarrying life, caring for life, creates a deep fear…of birth and death, and one that we know we  must resist.

Not just resist, but train ourselves to regard this feral fear in as dispassionate a way as we can muster.

Family on the dresserWe as adults cannot display fear to our young or those in our charge or care…we must be brave, pretend, laugh in the face of fear.

kitchen windowToday I was desperate for water to ensure the plants in the potager beds did not die.

The well had stopped flowing.

The heat of the day was oppressive, as the cloudless sky framed a burning hot sun that evaporated what little moisture was left in the soil.

Petunias in pot on veranda tableI drove the car to an ancient spring, lower down the valley, and spent the morning bucketing water back up to the cottage.

It was exhausting, but successful…the plants are still alive tonight, as I write this blog in the cool of a full moon.

Church bench and tribal drumThe fear has hung over me all day, as I realise how terribly vulnerable we all are, in the face of these persistent, extreme, weather events.

The first sunflower opens at Bealtaine CottageIn this state of vulnerability lies a growing awareness of the fragility of life.

We have to do everything we can to protect that life.

Carbon taxes won’t do that…only we can…each and every one of us!

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Bealtaine Cottage and Permaculture Gardens Photo Album 2012…February!

Looking back at the year…February photographsBealtaine Cottage Feb 12 005

February was mild and the Daffodils in the gardens of Bealtaine came up without damage

Bealtaine Cottage Feb 12 004

Ribes bushes throughout the gardens filled the air with a heady scent, enticing the Bees out from hibernation.

permaculture cottage, feb 12 015

Mizuna flourished in the tunnel, providing a green salad for the table throughout the winter months.

Bealtaine Permaculture Feb 12 002

Missy showed her first signs of being unwell and began a course of steroid treatment.

We thought we would loose her, but her spirit stayed strong.

Feb 2012 Permaculture @ Bealtaine Cottage 018

Weaving baskets from willow began in earnest at Bealtaine Cottage, putting newly acquired skills into practice.

Feb 2012 Permaculture @ Bealtaine Cottage 022

The water barrels kept filling and filling as the rain poured from the skies…

Bealtaine Cottage Permaculture Feb 2011 034

We had sunny days too…all the more appreciated for the previous rain!

Bealtaine Cottage Feb 2012 Thornhill

We went out walking and found old ruins from past lives, now stark and dramatic against the bright, February sky of 2012.

Bealtaine Cottage Feb 2012 Permaculture Bog Garden

The greening of the Bog Garden started in mist and frost.

Bealtaine Cottage Feb 2012

The heavily misted mornings were a beauty all of their own.

Bealtaine Cottage Feb Morning 2012

And the early sun of 2012 crept into the cottage…

Magical Midwinter at the Cottage

Freezing fog surrounds Bealtaine Cottage.

Despite the cold, part of the day has been spent outdoors, tree-planting and dog walking.

Missy decided to remain indoors.

She has gotten rather snuffly again as she struggles with her condition.

She craves the warmth and sleeps a lot, bless her!

Once outside, adjusted to the cold with lots of layers, it’s a pleasant day with that magical midwinter light, as the sun travels low on the horizon.

You can see that the fog has partially lifted, though remains in the valley below, hugging the village of Keadue.

Lots of mixed and informal planting gives the gardens a colour and form all the year round, as you can see from today’s picture.

That’s Pyracantha in the foreground, with Buddleia and Copper Beech, Box and Bamboo, all vying for a space and standing up to the wind from the west!

Part of today was spent in hard graft…cutting back some of the Laurel Arch  on the path that leads from the cottage to the polytunnel and soft fruit gardens.

Winter is a busy time, as one attempts to keep on top of the crazy growth here in the west of Ireland.

The top needs to be cut back, but I shall leave that to another day!

However, look what was on the inside…a beautiful birds nest…so I walked quietly away!

My excuse to retreat indoors and make a big pot of tea!

The Autumn Gardens at Bealtaine Cottage

One of the many apple trees at Bealtaine Cottage, laden with fruit on this glorious September day.

As the nights draw in and the apple harvest swells, we realise Samhain is near.

Autumn is making it’s progress through the beautiful Arigna Mountains and the valley where Keadue nestles near the Castle of Kilronan…a place swathed in mist at this magical time of year.

Walking around the gardens today, I took these pictures to share with you.

Butterflies cover the Buddleia…this is a late flowering one as I planted it out this year, which is lucky for the butterflies as they made a late appearance!

Of course, it wasn’t long before Missy joined me, followed by Flo and Che.

It always feels so nice to walk around the gardens with the little characters who inhabit this sacred space!

Flo is just visible on the other side of the pond, near the standing stone.

She keeps an eye on everyone!

I can only add that we all enjoyed the walk.

 Bealtaine Cottage at Ballyfermoyle, is a beautiful place for sure, but, when the sun shines it is heaven!

Lughnasa and the Solstice…Ancient Time

At certain times today, as I was working outside, I had a distinct sense of Autumn.

The way the sun shone on a plant, the smell from the earth around my feet…it was quite tangible.

The growing cycle in the west of Ireland adheres very much to the old Celtic calendar.

It is easy to tell the season just by walking the land and watching shadows…

Autumn begins on the 1st day of August.

This cycle is in essence closely linked to the Solstices and Equinoxes of the year.

 It is the  same solar alignment that determines the correct time for Lughnasa and this is also the exact same alignment for Bealtaine.

The ancient calendar is correct, as it follows the sun and planets rather than the time of man.

I am more attuned to Natural Time as I work on the land.

I am also much happier in this time mode.

The midsummer solstice was last month, four weeks ago and harvesting is well under way.

I do believe that animals are more closely tied into these ancient seasons than we care to admit.

I have enjoyed the company of many rescue dogs and cats over the years and often observed their habits, right down to times when they will bury food.

Flo, here, is a little hobo dog and has been used to fending for herself for most of her life…

Flo is a persistent food secreter and will often sit on a stash in her basket!

On that note, I think I’ll just go and check…

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A Dog’s Life

I lit the fire in the bedroom yesterday evening as there was a chill on the night air. This is a deceptive time of year, when the evenings can end up being much colder than during the winter!

It wasn’t long before Jack snook in and laid his head against the bed in a pleading sort of way… “can I just hang around and enjoy the fire too?”

Now, it is hard to resist this friendly mutt, even though he yawns and makes scary, and sometimes funny, noises!

I gave him a bath today, as the sun was shining and the air was warm, for I noticed he was a bit pongy as he warmed himself in front of the fire…

What a difference a bath makes!

A Life in the Country ~ Daily Permaculture Video Diary

Tomatoes and Pumpkins continue to ripen in the tunnel. Bramley cooking apples are yet to be harvested…the last of the apples! The sun shines and work in the gardens continues apace…

Permaculture Cottage ~ Beyond Consumerism…Life after Debt.

Friday…always a good feeling!

The weekend lies ahead and there lies the potential for something happening and all sorts of possibilities.

Many people look forward to going out and many go shopping, as a form of retail therapy!

However, change is happening…and it is good!

This is a time of change.

The Equinox is upon us and the day itself is changing as we enter the descent towards Midwinter.

An equinox occurs twice a year, when the tilt of the Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun, the center of the Sun being in the same plane as the Earth’s equator.

The day and night are equal…

Consumerism is slowing down.

People are buying less and are turning more and more towards growing and foraging food.

The social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts has failed us all.

This may appear to be a bad thing to some people, but the Earth has been given a break…the first real break in a very long time.

The flowers at the front gate are beginning to replace the  concrete walls, iron gates that are closed and an intercom service that you have to speak into in order just to drive or walk up to the house!

The idea of neighbours and helping one another is slowly catching on…

Today has seen several visitors to Bealtaine Cottage, including a neighbour concerned about ‘Fracking’ and wanting more information.

The times we live in are all about change…

Change is happening and happening fast.

We either embrace the change in our living circumstances, taking time to evaluate our lives, or we continue on as mere consumers, or in the present scenario, unhappy people without the money to keep consuming.

The choice is ours.

 Today is the actual Autumn Equinox…the descent towards Midwinter begins…a time to nurture, bake, cook, sew and…rest a bit!

What was it that Bob Dylan sang about…oh yes…

The Times They Are A Changin’

http://youtu.be/9vou4qUu5YY      Go on…

Bealtaine Cottage ~ Autumn Equinox and Samhain…Lifting the Veil.

Saturday Morning at Bealtaine Cottage

Sun and clear skies.

As the sun rises in the east, so the moon sets in the west…one of those glorious autumn mornings in Ireland.

Today is a busy one for me.

Visitors, willow cutting, fedging and lots more.

Yes…that is a little tomato you can see in there…this being a permaculture smallholding there are lots of food plants everywhere to be harvested in the most unexpected places…


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

This is one of the best videos  that explains with images, words and enchanting music, this time…

http://youtu.be/nLZSy1GsvCk

We are just 4 days away from the Autumn Equinox…the turning time and the descent towards Samhain.

The sun is casting long shadows…

And as the harvest continues at Bealtaine, a Celtic blessing from Tyrone… 

http://youtu.be/4PkU0GOUCNY 

Midsummer at Bealtaine Cottage.

Today is midsummer. The day is grey with low cloud and soft rain…a steady drizzle.

Summer has magically disappeared, just like in the magicians’ trick. Yesterday was a strange day! The clouds appeared to stand still all day long…

The soft rain has settled in drops on the red Perlagonium…Geranium to you and me! Red geraniums are linked in the minds eye with the Irish cottage. The simple, stark, vivid red stands out against the whitewash of the cottage walls. So much of Irish tradition has become subsumed into the vulgarity that was the so-called Celtic Tiger. One would be heard-pressed to find a traditional cottage that is lived in and cared for…most have been allowed to fall back into the ground.

Sweet William

This is the 5th year of bloom for this lovely white flower, planted into tyres around the veranda rose, it never fails to make a show of itself!

Strawberries in Hanging Baskets…
continue to fruit and ripen and be gorged upon!

The Sun Lounger has been temporarily abandoned…waiting for the sun!

Nasturtiums, emblematic of summer…

Delightful is the season’s splendour,

winter’s rough wind has gone;

bright is every fertile wood,

a joyful peace is summer.

-“Maytime,” Irish, 9th Century.

The Permaculture Daily Photo-Blog from Ireland

Nasturtiums  in bloom this morning. These are the trailing variety and will grow well in poor soil. Both the leaves and the flowers are edible and add a spicy taste to a salad. These are growing from a pot on the veranda.

Swathes of colour dot the driveway to the cottage as the Valerian, Dog Daisy and Dog Rose all come into bloom.
The Dog Rose, Rosa Canina, will go on to produce rosehips that are packed with vitamin C and are good for making syrup that is traditionally fed to babies and toddlers.


Yellow Flag Iris grows by the Lower Pond. This beautiful flower spreads each year, given the right conditions and makes such a brilliant show in late May, early June…I love this naturalized flower.


Willow through Gunnera Manicata…

The Energy of the Full Moon over Bealtaine…A Permaculture in Ireland

 

The moon last night as the sun was setting, colouring the fading jet stream in the S.E. sky.

There is something special about walking out on a moonlit night. There is a full moon at present in the sky and it’s rising early enough in the evening to enjoy its full beauty and splendour. A glass of wine or cup of tea tastes all the more lovely after a walk that has allowed you to engage with Gaia.

Nostalgia and the moon seem to go together…there is something in the energy of the full moon that appeals to the senses and the power of reflection. The full moon can be mesmerizing and evocative and in permaculture terms is a good time for growth, as the power of the moon pulls the plants up from the earth and keeps the water levels high.

 The last light of the  setting sun catches the open blossom on the Pear Tree near the cottage. The sky is clear this evening and the week ahead is promised fine. if you look closely you might see the tiny shape of a Pear just under the flower.

Sunlight catching blossom one one of the many Cherry trees at Bealtaine. Each Spring becomes more dramatic than the one before as the many fruit trees begin to mature.

The sun has set and daylight begins to fade into the West as the moon emerges to the East of the land.