by Tricia Harris
The rain is pounding against the window as I write this and it is hard to imagine wanting to stray too far from the warmth, let alone being able to get outside to actually plant anything.
This winter has been unbelievably wet. It was as if the weather gods snapped their fingers at the time of the autumn equinox and it has done nothing but rain since. It’s felt raw but not that cold even in December.
The solstice is always a time for reflection of the year gone and contemplation of the year ahead.
Personally, I can’t think of a better excuse for opening a bottle of something with bubbles in to celebrate the fact that the year has turned and we have begun the journey back to warmth and light.
Last year I was asked to write an article about apples in myth and legend. This was very exciting for me because a) no one has ever asked me to write about something specific (well not since school) and b) because it sent me down a rabbit hole of myths and legends from around the world.
I found so many stories relating to the turn of the year and the importance of light and life returning every year. From wassailing, where orchards were given libations of cider and apple juice to encourage them to crop well to the Celtic festival of Samhain which marked the end of summer and the end of harvest.
Samhain roughly corresponds to the end of October linking it to All Souls and Halloween. To encourage the sun deity to return the following year, huge bonfires were lit, burning long into the night and apples were tied to evergreen branches. Celtic thinking was that the barrier between this world and the next was at its thinnest at this time of year and thus divination was particularly powerful.
Celtic thinking was that the barrier between this world and the next was at its thinnest at this time of year and thus divination was particularly powerful.
It got me thinking about the renewal of life that is spring and how much we rely on the regular revolution of the seasons to feed and sustain us.
I can see how the Celts and other people throughout history needed to tell themselves stories about why the seasons changed and to believe that they must please their gods so that the sun would return.
Now we understand the rotation of the earth and see winter as time for nature to regroup and sustain herself ready for spring.
The leaves fell in autumn but already the buds were visible on the trees and now I see snowdrops getting ready to burst into flower. It won’t be too long before they are followed by crocuses and then tulips and apple blossom.
I think my first instincts weren’t far wrong. Winter is a time to stay by the fire and dream of the return of long days and sunshine. It’s a time to renew our own inner resources, to slow down a little and dream of what we will do in our gardens once spring is here. Happy new year to you all.