Join me on a journey to rediscover ancient traditions, seasonal living and wellbeing practices. A theme for each season. Winter: resting, Spring: planting, Summer: sprouting and Autumn: harvesting. We will explore them literally and metaphorically.
You may want to get yourself a note pad, as at timesthere will be journaling prompts. It's good to put pen to paper but if tapping away at your keyboard or making notes on your phone is more suited to you go with that. There are no rules.
I will post in line with the Celtic seasonal calendar (approx every 6 weeks) but there will be no link to the previous post. I want to avoid people feeling that they 'have to catch up'. So if you miss a season or two just start right from where you are.
If you enjoy my scribbles, please share them with those you think would like them too.
Beltane: (similiar to the Roman festival of Floralia).
Marks the transition between spring and the anticipation of summer to come. All around us is greenery, there is a feeling of fresh energy and that we can reinvigorate ourselves. The sacred tree of this season is the Hawthorn which begins to come into bloom now and was known as the May-Tree.
Beltane is celebrated over the first few days of May and is a Celtic celebration of fertility. The modern day equivalent is May Day, whose nod to its origins can be seen by the tradition of Morris dancing around the phallic maypole.
The modern day May Queen, who is crowned with flowers is deemed to symbolise youth and purity. However, the Goddesses associated with this transition season are wild, alluring and dual in nature. Within the Christian tradition these Goddesses were demoted to saints and portrayed as virginal.
However, the original meaning of the word virgin was not to mean without sexual experience but an unattached free woman. These Goddesses of blossom and flower maidens represented the primal source of fertility, blossom to be pollinated and go on to bear fruit.
In ancient times women and girls would arise early to bathe their faces in the early morning dew, to make themselves look radiant. Which is thought to be a euphemism for going out early morning for a tryst, which is what brought about that ‘dewy glow’.
As part of the Beltane ceremony, fires were lit to mark the seasonal transition, symbolise birth of a new season and welcome summer. Maybe consider making your own fire or light candles this evening and contemplate what gives you a sense of vitality. How will you incorporate these ideas into your way of life, to sustain you in the months that lie ahead?
At the Spring Equinox I encouraged you to visit a nearby water source, take a snap or jot down your observations, such as the colouring and flow.
Take time this week to return. Has anything changed with the body of water? Reflect back. Has anything changed for or within you over these past six weeks? Have you been going with the flow, have things been turbulent or are things calmer?
Next, take time to consider how your 2021 plans have been progressing. What is flourishing and what hasn’t taken root? The transition of spring to summer is a time to put your energy into things which will thrive and put aside those that can be discarded or nurtured at another time.
Are you ready to share your dreams?
Sharing our ideas and aspirations with others can be a vulnerable time. If you are ready to divulge beware of those whom I call ‘Dream Stealers”. People who hold you back in life by poo-pooing anything that will bring you joy or growth as a person. Constructive critique…exploring pros and cons with you is good. Criticism is not.
As we embrace the increase of light and the rise in the earth’s energy, we need to be mindful not get get swept away with the increase of vigour. Keep tabs on your diary to ensure that you don’t overcommit as we begin to engage more with the outside world.
Connect to the earth through a walking meditation and/or gardening. Walking barefoot on soil, grass or sand connects us to the natural magnetic energies of the earth that can have a balancing effect on us and a positive impact on our health.
If you are lucky enough to have a garden, due to microbes that are inhaled from the soil resulting in higher levels of serotonin, spending 2.5 hours per week gardening can have a stabilising effect improving cognitive function and help us feel more relaxed.
If mobility is a problem and/or you don’t have a garden but have some room on a balcony, windowsill or have space for hanging baskets. Start a mini herb garden with easy growers such as sage, chives, parsley, coriander and dill. Plus edible flowers like nasturtiums, borage, calendula and sunflowers.
Watching your edibles grow will give you a tangible correlation to mother earth as you observe their progress and later use them within your food preparation.
Now is the time that we begin to see a marked shift within seasonal produce and we are more decisively able to move away from one pot meals and stored staples. Experiment in the kitchen with lighter, fresher flavours and assemble dishes with different elements that can provide varying tastes and textures. Take time to notice the fragrance of your produce. The scent of food that is in season is markedly different and more perceptible than that out of season.
Spring is in the air.
As the air increasingly warms up, scent molecules are able to rise and drift more easily than in cooler temperatures. Up to now springs aroma may have merely left fleeting impressions of first blooms. Over the coming weeks you may become aware that blooms smell more heady, and notice the fresh ‘green’ smell of mown grass, the crisp scent of dewy mornings and the damp earthiness after rain.
Last but not least take the opportunity to undertake another series of weekly photos. Is there a perceptible shift in imagery with regard to your environment and routine compared to the Spring Equinox?
If you are new here: Take daily snapshots of your life for a week. Aim for a photo am & pm each day. Not stylised (unless that’s your cup of tea) but a simple capture of what you are doing at a given moment, it will give you time to pause. Put the am & pm photo together as a diptych, I use the layout app from instagram.
Out and About:
Pay attention and you will notice the explosion of activity all around you.
Almost all of the trees are now in full leaf, they look vibrant and almost acid green, especially at the golden hour. Daffodils have begun to fade and daisies and dandelions have popped up on lawns and grass verges. I didn’t realise that they hadn't been there until they began to reappear. Dandelions currently bright yellow, will soon transform and display seed heads, that are a source of amusement for us that like to play the childhood game ‘What time is it?’.
Within our woodlands ferns are beginning to unfurl and bluebells are providing a carpet of colour. It is also time for lilac, lily of the valley, buttercups and dog violets. The scent of violets is fleeting as a compound within it affects our olfactory system and ability to smell. Walk away and return a little while later and once again you will fleetingly be able to savour them.
In the hedgerows we will now start to see the white of hawthorn and cow parsley flowers, which is traditionally a marker to put away our winter clothes. As the month progresses look out for the honey scented blossoms of elderflower.
Around our rivers, streams, ponds, ditches and canals mayflies will emerge en masse, fluttering over the water’s surface. Damselflies will soon join them and as we head into June we will begin to see dragonflies. You may notice that wildfowl begin to disappear as they migrate back to their native breeding grounds which have harsher winters than ours.
Take a moment to pause and you may now catch sight of bright orange fritillary, common blue and marble white butterflies. Red admirals and cabbage whites will appear at the end of May.
An abundance of insects is providing a feast for birds and bats. Listen out for the clicks of bats on mild evenings, this sound is echo location which they use to locate objects and prey. Birdsong is at its pinnacle now but will begin to drop in June when the breeding season ends and feeding hungry chicks leaves little room to sing. Watch out for the return of swifts who feed, drink, mate and sleep whilst in flight. House martins and swallows should also return before the end of this transition season.
It is time now for the last of the fox litters and urban dwellers may see cubs born earlier in the year exploring their surroundings. Those who live in more rural settings might notice a rabbit population boom as they breed throughout spring and summer, every 5-6 weeks.
As the days become warmer and we enjoy the sun on our skin, one might be luckily enough to catch glimpse of reptiles also coming out to bask, to raise their bodies temperature to give them enough energy to go in search of food.
Alexanders: leaves, salad. stalks, cook and eat as you would asparagus.
Bitter cress: use as a replacement for cultivated cress in salads and sandwiches.
Blackcurrant: eat as is or make jam.
Wild cherries: cherry brandy.
Comfrey: in salads in place of cucumber, or where you would use spinach.
Cow parsley: use in a salad, or where you would use chervil.
Dandelion: leaves can be cooked as you would spinach. Leaves and flowers can be used in salad.
Elderflowers: cut the clusters whole, shake off bugs and the flowers can be eaten as is. Can also be made into fritters or cordial.
Wild garlic: use in salads, as a garnish and to make pesto.
Gooseberries: early in the season whilst green they are hard and tart so best used for cooking.
Hawthorn: leaves in salad.
Nettles: just pick the young tops (wear gloves), use to make tea or soup.
Samphire: fry off in a little butter.
Sorrel: as a garnish or in salad.
Sweet violet: as a garnish for salads, or crystallise as a decoration for sweet treats.
In the Garden:
The days are now longer and we may begin to feel like we are only a hair’s breadth away from summer. However, the weather is fickle and changeable. May can be a month of thunder.
It is time to sow outdoors however if the ground isn’t quiet warm enough they will fail to germinate. And beware, if seedlings do emerge, as the month goes on there can be late spells of frost and attacks from pesky slugs.
- If the weather is not quite mild enough sow indoors or under cover.
- Harden off seedlings sown at Imbolc…taking them outside in the daytime and bring back indoors of an evening.
- If you need to transplant outdoors and there is still a nip in the air cover with cloches.
- Remove dead flowers from your spring plants to encourage more flowers next year.
- Start to sow out cut again lettuces and radishes, both are fast growing and will ready in around a month.
- If you have space, spinach is an easy grower whose young leaves can be used fresh in a salad.
- It is now time to sow, chillis, courgettes, cucumbers, edible flowers, French beans, herbs, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, rocket, runner beans, strawberries, spring onions, Swiss chard, squashes and tomatoes.
- Stagger your seed planting to every 2-3 weeks to avoid gluts and spread out harvesting.
- If you celebrate Christmas and like a Brussel sprout with with your traditional dinner, now is the time to sow them.
- May can be a dry month so ensure that you regularly water seeds and seedlings early morning or evening.
What’s in Season:
Asparagus, globe artichokes (baby), green garlic, jersey royals, loose leaf lettuce, morrel mushrooms, new potatoes, oriental leaves such as mizuna, peas, radishes, rhubarb (last of), sorrel, spring onions, sprouting broccoli, strawberries, Swiss chard and watercress.
Pigeon and spring lamb.
Cod, coley, crab, haddock, hake, herring, langoustines, monkfish, plaice, pollock, prawns, salmon, sardines, scallops, sea bass, sea trout, shrimp, turbot and whelks.
Leisure, W.H. Davies
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance.
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes begin.
A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
Next scribble: 21 June