Join me on a journey to rediscover ancient traditions, seasonal living and wellbeing practices. A theme for each season. Winter: resting, Spring: planting, Summer: abundance and Autumn: harvesting. We will explore them literally and metaphorically.
You may want to get yourself a note pad, as at times there 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.
Lughnasadh: the Gaelic festival of Lugh, the sun god and Lammas: an Anglo-Saxon festival, the modern day word of which derives from ‘hlaf-maesse’, are the first of three harvest festivals, the others being Autumn Equinox and Samhain. The origins of Lughnasadh and Lammas came with the advent of the transition from us being hunter gathers to farmers.
They are a celebration to give thanks for the abundance of the harvest following the hard work done since the beginning of the year. Both festivals have the tradition of cutting the first sheaf of grains at dawn, turning them into bread by nightfall and making offerings with the first fruits of blackberries and bilberries.
A duality that represents the ‘masculine’ skills of taming the land with agriculture and the ‘feminine’ of mother earth’s gifts of wild food.
Grain also denotes a time of transformation, rebirth and regeneration. From a seed planted in the earth at springtime, the elements transform it into foodstuffs that sustain life throughout winter and provide seeds for next year’s harvest.
Originally the festivities would have lasted for around four weeks. It was also a traditional time to celebrate artisans and craftsmanship, which gave rise to craft and county fairs around this time of year.
Traditional things associated with these festivals:
Grains. Wheat, corn, barley and rye. Baking bread
Food and drink. Bread, potatoes, sweetcorn, nuts, berries, ale and wine.
Flowers and herbs. Marigolds, sunflowers and mint.
Drying seeds. Store them to plant in the spring.
Drying lavender. To be used as decoration or popped into sachets, to be placed under pillows or in linen chests.
Flower pressing. Cut flowers on a dry day, making sure they are free of dew. Lay them on a plain piece of paper, lay another sheet on top. Place between two heavy books and leave for around a month.
Corn dolls. Would be made at the beginning of the season and the last sheaf of grain would be incorporated into it. These would then be returned to the earth at Imbolc.
Festivals, markets and fairs. Where food and craft items would be exchanged or bought.
Gathering outdoors around a fire. Eat and enjoy the sun with others (in modern day terms think BBQ) to soak up the beauty of the world around us and have pride in ourselves for our achievements, which spurs us on to take more positive steps in the future to reach our full potential. Plus praise each other for our accomplishments, the gifts we bring to the table and consider what hasn’t gone so well. Reflections that ultimately have a positive effect on our wider community.
Appreciation. Take time to remember our ancestors and the labour it took to produce food: growing and rearing, harvesting and butchering, storing and preserving. Hard work that was crucial to one’s survival.
Food for thought. Do you ever consider the relative ease with which some of us can obtain food? Do you think about its origins and whether the producer has been paid a fair price for their labour? Are you mindful about your food waste? Are you aware of food poverty?
Abundance. The theme of this season. What abundance is there in your life that you are thankful for? Think wider than financially, for example love and compassion.
Bask. As you bask in the sun, also take time to bask in your achievements. What skills, knowledge, experiences or challenges overcome are you proud of? What mistakes have you made but learnt from? What have you contributed to those around you, your community, the wider world?
Be like the grain. Reap and sow in equal measure. Also ‘go to seed’. It’s good to have plans but sometimes seeds that we have sown lay dormant for a while as the conditions aren’t right for them to take root. Allow for serendipity…a sense of wildness and letting nature take its course.
Savour. We are at the height of summer and relishing the warm and languid days. Appreciate how the sun has transformed our landscape over the past few months and relish in the abundance in nature. But remember to savour these moments; each sunny day, blossom picked and the joy of blackberries popped into your mouth straight from the bush, as the wheel is turning and the sun is on the wane. Morning light is getting later and the long balmy evenings will soon become short nights.
Photo series. Last but not least take the opportunity to undertake another series of weekly photos and when outside look for the shift of green towards gold.
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 as 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:
In August there tends to be a shift in pace…a mellowness. Partly because of the heat and partly because this is when many people take annual leave. There is a suspension of activity and expectation. Time seems to be at a standstill, we go about life in an unhurried way and the days meld into each other. These lazy days can be punctuated with days out, seaside trips, festivals and BBQ’s.
If you live by or are visiting the shoreline, peer into rock pools. What worlds can you see within them? If you can, take a moment to paddle in the sea and allow the waves to wash over your feet. With temperatures at their peak, the coolness of water will be a nice balance.
Ditto, if you get the opportunity to sink your feet into a stream, river or lake, do so. Look out for terrapins basking, plus keep an eye out for dragonflies emerging from the water. As larvae they live underwater and are wily predators. Once they are ready to metamorphose they climb out of the water, rest on an aquatic plant and wait for their wings to unfold and dry. After an hour or so they are ready to take flight.
Although temperatures are warm the weather can be changeable, the heat and humidity causing thunder, lightning and torrential rain. We can also find ourselves in the midst of a heatwave. In typical British weather style, we are likely to experience both within a week.
If warm dry days follow a period of wet weather, watch out for flying ants. It is the perfect environment for them to come out and mate on the wing.
8 August is a new moon. In the few days prior and after, when the sky is dark or when clouds obscure the moonlight, pop outside and see if you can witness the base of hedgerows lighting up, as female fireflies try to attract a mate. You may also see toadlets rummaging around for insects as they begin to venture out of ponds.
Take time to just sit and listen to your environment. You should notice that birdsong is beginning to go quiet. Birds and fowl are now worn-out from the constant singing and feeding that courtship and brood rearing entailed. They are beginning to moult and look disheveled. Whilst food is in abundance this is the time that they hide away, replenish their energy and plumage. It takes several weeks for the new feathers to come through and during this time the sound of summer is insects. Especially the calls of grasshoppers and crickets as they seek a mate to procreate with and lay eggs that will hatch in spring.
As we move into September, again the weather can be unpredictable. Some years it will be a continuation of joyous summery days and other years (like last year) autumn will hit as soon as the bank holiday passes.
Regardless, flowers will begin to fade but berries and apples will still be abundant. It will mark a quiet period when summer visitors have departed for warmer climes and our autumn visitors are yet to arrive.
Bilberries: eat raw or bake.
Bistort: briefly blanch.
Bitter cress: use as a replacement for cultivated cress in salads and sandwiches.
Black mustard: leaves: add to salads or cooked greens. Seeds: add a pinch to cooking.
Blackberries (brambles): eat raw or use in both sweet and savoury cooking.
Chickweed: sauté in butter.
Cloudberry: use as you would blackberries or raspberries.
Comfrey: as spinach.
Elderberries: add to apple pies, mix with blackberries for jam or make pontack sauce.
Fat hen: as spinach.
Fennel: use as a garnish.
Good King Henry: as spinach.
Gooseberries: desserts and jam.
Ground elder: as spinach.
Heather: dry the flower tops to make tea.
Horseradish: freshly grate the root to use as a garnish.
Lime: use the leaves in salad, dry the blossoms to make tea.
Mallow: as spinach.
Rosehip: make a syrup for flavouring.
Samphire: raw or sauté in a little butter.
Sea beet: raw with salad leaves or as spinach.
Sea kale: blanch.
Silverweed: boil or bake the roots.
Sorrel: add leaves as a garnish to rich foods for contrast; add to salads; make sorrel soup.
Watermint: use as a garden mint.
Wild raspberry: raw, puddings and jam.
Wild strawberries: raw or purée.
In the Garden:
August is the month of abundance; almost any produce that you have sown and nurtured and that didn’t get gobbled up by wildlife, will be coming into fruition. So there should be plenty to harvest and blooms to pick.
- Plants may become heavy so may need extra support with stakes or be tied up.
- Salad and oriental leaves, and herbs can still be planted now.
- Plant strawberry plants for fruiting next year.
- Keep your eye out for slugs and snails if we are in store for a wet summer.
- And remember to water plants regularly if a dry one.
- Trim hedges, so they will have another growth spurt and look lush in winter.
- Prune lavender and dry it.
- Sow hardy annuals towards the end of August to give them time to germinate, grow a little and develop their root system over winter and flourish in spring.
What’s in Season:
There is so much that is in season right now that we are spoilt for choice. If you can, go shopping at farmers markets to support your local growers and when at the supermarket purchase produce that has been grown or reared in the UK. It will be more environmentally friendly and should be cheaper than imports.
August, John Updike
The sprinkler twirls.
The summer wanes.
The pavement wears
The playground grass
Is worn to dust.
The weary swings
Creak, creak with rust.
The trees are bored
With being green.
Some people leave
The local scene
And go to seaside
And take off nearly
All their clothes.
Next scribble: Autumn Equinox, 22 September