Last year we had swallows decide to build a nest in our bedroom; it was a very exciting time for us as we watched the new babies hatch and grow. This year they are back early (an effect of climate change?).
The pair flew in through an open door yesterday as if they had never been away. They bought in cob mix and feathers and arranged the nest over the day. This morning the female was waiting at the front door when we got up (there is a new wall since last year and they seem to be locked out unless we leave a door open), she flew straight to the nest and we think an egg was laid.
We hope to have new babies within 21 days. The swallows have arrived at Imbolc; the time of blessing seeds, when the Earth begins to warm up and seeds sprout. The hardenbergia flowers at Imbolc and so do the snow drops, I look forward to this time of year as there is so much joy and life in the bush it is impossible to be sad.
Having swallows nest in the house is messy, but we love to have a ringside seat to the raising of babies and we learn so much about the life of so many animals by living close to them. I can see the nest from my bed; when I wake up in the morning the first thing I see is the swallows nest. What a reminder of just how lucky I am.
In our home life we use the pagan ‘Wheel of the year’ as a calendar to plan work and play on and off our property. I find that using sabbats as a guide for farm work is efficient and just makes sense.
What is the Wheel of the year?
Image from http://www.celticai.com.au/2014/01/moon-phases-and-skywatching-2014/
The Wheel of the year (hereafter known as the Wheel) originated in the northern hemisphere, in the Celtic world (and probably many other cultures too). This means that the traditional festivals and feast days that mark the turning of the seasons (Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Candlemas, etc) just don’t apply to us here in the southern hemisphere. We all know that when it is summer here it is winter in the UK and US, don’t we? Because of the tilt and spin of our planet we have endlessly varied seasons and climates. This also means that pagans need to recalculate their sabbats so as to be in line with the natural world, fortunately this is easy; we just ‘spin’ the Wheel forward by six months.
As most pagan religions arose from rural farming societies and worship Nature in her many forms, the sabbats and rituals which are common to them have a practical side. I know that when the snowdrops and hardenbergia flower at Imbolc (beginning of spring) that the sheep will soon be giving birth. I know that when I bless the beans, squash and corn seeds on our Ostara (spring equinox) altar it is time to plant them in the garden. I know that when I pick a pumpkin to make a Samhain (beginning of winter) jack-o-lantern it is time to bring in the whole pumpkin crop because frosts are imminent and that when I let the house fire die at Yule (winter solstice) and bring home a candle or a living coal from the Yule fire to relight it I have cleaned out the fire box of all it’s accumulated ash just before the deep bone chill of winter sets in.
I have been making myself a graphic organiser showing all the jobs around the humpy that relate to the Wheel. What do you think?
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Harvest seed crops and preserve foods; jams, chutneys and dried food. Put harvest foods on the altar. Spare lambs go to new homes.
Begin planting winter vegetables. This is the time to harvest grains and make hay. The bread man is on the altar. Roosters go to new homes. Ram to the ewes
Lambs are born. People burn off. Snow drop and hardenbergia flower. Begin planting summer vegetables.
Harvest all pumpkins and bean seeds. Carve a punkie for the altar.
Clean out fire and relight with coal from Yule fire.. Burn the year’s collected rubbish in a bonfire.
Begin cutting fire wood for winter.
First chickens are hatched.
Afternoon storms season. Plant second lot of summer vegetables.
Put up extra shelters for sheep and chickens.
Put out extra water pots for all animals.
Of course it doesn’t show all the work of the year yet. It’s a work in progress, like so many other things here at the humpy.
Lammas is the sabbat of first harvest; the time of year when we pick the last of the summer fruits from the garden and preserving for the winter is in full swing. At this time of year the animals are usually fat and healthy, the young ones have grown into that awkward teenage phase and the harvesting of staples like wheat, corn and potatoes begins.
Lammas is also known as ‘loaf-mass’ as this is the time when the first bread is made from the newly harvested grain. The Corn Lord gives up his life for the ripening of the grain at this sabbat and to celebrate this we eat newly baked bread and honey.
This year we had a quiet, gentle ritual with a few examples of our harvests on the altar and feasted in the evening by the light of an almost full moon.
A very fruitful Lammas to you all. May all your harvests be huge.
Once again it is the season of love… Beltane marks the beginning of summer on our calendar (maybe not yours though) and brings with it a sense of joy and fun. This is the time for the ewes to begin cycling (coming into season) in earnest and they will cycle more and more regularly now until the autumn equinox (Mabon) when I will let Stag the ram out with the girls to make more lambs. Beltane also begins the storm season, with afternoon storms sweeping over regularly, bringing fertility to the land.
This year we had planned to go dance the Maypole (should we call it a November pole in the southern hemisphere?) but I was unfortunately incapacitated by a migraine yesterday. Instead we will do some fertile, life affirming acts here at home today and have a Beltane feast of our own;
I have seedlings to go into the garden; at this time of year we show faith that the coming season will be a good one by blessing crops. To nurture plants through the long summer takes commitment and patience and we begin the process now. Long ago the Celts blessed the fields at Beltane after the planting at Ostara by making love on the ground, but I think I will stick with spilling a little blessed wine.
The Hugelkulture beds have some space for seedlings.
The lambs need a drench; Beltane is primarily a fertility sabbat, but it also is a time of protection, especially for domestic stock. It is the time of year when babies are becoming juveniles in the flock and require a lot of care and protection. Traditionally, the stock are driven between two bonfires at this time to ensure their health for the coming year, I will be drenching the lambs with the same state of mind and intent.
I found a great frame loom plan I could make; fertility is not always about having babies, it is also about letting your creativity flow. I will research my new loom and make notes of what I need to build it as a Beltane gift to myself.
We were about two weeks late for Yule this year but when we did get to it we had a lot of fun.
Yule is the celebration of the winter solstice; the shortest day of the year which falls on the 21st/22nd of June here in the southern hemisphere. It is the time of the long, dark, cold night that reminds us of the suffering our ancestors went through to survive this time of year, when food is scarce and it seems that the warm days of spring may never come. To answer these feelings we have a feast (showing faith that we will be able to grow more food) and light a fire as a symbol that the sun will return and grows stronger from this time onwards to Litha (summer solstice).
We celebrate Yule by thanking the elements for another year of abundance, telling stories and lighting a candle each to symbolise the rebirth of the Sun. We also have a bonfire and swap handmade presents. This year I got a beautiful crochet poncho. In past years we have decorated an evergreen tree with solar symbols and decorated the circle with branches, but as there are only us old pagans left we toned it down to the essentials. One element that is always present though is the gluhwein (mulled wine). It warms the blood and makes the long night speed by.
Getting everything ready for the ritual (making a list, checking it twice)
The master bonfire maker.
Our altar, ready to go as the darkness fell. Presents, candles and gluhwein (mulled, spiced wine)
The glorious bonfire, giving us warmth and light.
The candles burned down as the night went on, feasting and talking. They made frozen wax waterfalls.
The bonfire burned down to ashes too, but still kept us warm.
My gorgeous poncho
It makes much more sense to me to hold this celebration at midwinter rather than in December; the symbols all make sense now. Have a happy Yule everyone.
At the end of April we hold Samhain in the Southern hemisphere (some people know it as Halloween). It’s the time to celebrate the coming of Winter, with it’s cozy fires, hearty soups, specialty breads and family togetherness as we all gather close to fend off the cold. The other side of the coin is that at this time we lose the old, the sick and the ones too young to survive the harsh season (usually roosters, chooks, ducks and sometimes a dog or horse, but humans too). Traditionally we would slaughter our excess stock (not people) now so we don’t have to feed them through the winter.
This Sabbat is all about honouring our dead…..the ones who die so we can live; both the stock we slaughter for food and the old or sick who let go so there is more to go around. We say thank you to those who have made the sacrifice before us and realise that one day it will be our turn to make the decision to let go or hang on for one more turn of the wheel.
In past years we have gathered at a local cemetery to carve jack-o-lanterns (punkies) and put flowers and candles on the graves, before holding a dumb supper (completely silent) and laying out some food for the shades who come to visit. This year, as we are all getting older, we held Samhain in our circle with a huge comforting bonfire and we invited shades to join us through the gate in the West. It’s nice to visit with our departed loved ones (my Nanna is a real entertainment) and to feel that sense of connection to them once more.
This was our western altar. It wasn’t really on its side, it just came out that way. The punkie on the altar was grown in our sacred garden we saved the seed to grow more for next year.
Another shot of the western altar.
Our expert bonfire builder has been at it again. That fire sure warmed our old bones.
The western altar before we raised the veil and invited the shades to join our feast.
One of our happy little punkies
Nothing beats a warm fire on a cold night.
Our sacred garden in the background, waiting for spring and more planting.
It is time for Mabon; the Autumn equinox. At this time of year we celebrate the second harvest; the making of preserves and dried foods. Unfortunately we didn’t get to meet up for this Sabbat this year but we celebrated at home with a special meal and the lighting and extinguishing of a symbolic candle. At this time of year the masculine forces of nature (sunlight, flowering, heat, etc) have faded noticeably and the feminine forces (fertility, darkness, cold) begin to take over. We symbolise this by sending our Lord to the underworld; covering the Lord’s mask with a black veil and extinguishing a candle. We give thanks for the riches the year has bought us and hope for more to come.