Thursday, 5 October 2017

The Hunter's Moon

The full moon of October is often called the Hunter's Moon. Like the Harvest Moon of September, it rises unusually close to sunset so offers much-needed light for those out hunting.
But there is more to it than that. October is the traditional start of the hunting season. Many hunting cultures had, and have, a taboo against hunting during the breeding season, the pregnant and nursing females being vital for the future of both hunted and hunter. But come autumn, when the young are weaned and food sources dwindle, removing those unlikely to survive the winter hardships is of benefit to both parties. Meat was a vital food source in the winter months, whereas in summer it rots or becomes infested with maggots within a day or so, perhaps an illustration of the fallacy of upsetting the natural harmony of the hunt. And the shared bond of hunting and feasting helps gel a community through the winter hardships.
Happy Hunter's Moon everyone!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Harvest Moon

The full moon closest to the autumn equinox is known as the Harvest Moon. Due to the tilt of the earth's axis, it rises an hour earlier than normal, giving on clear nights a near unbroken period of light. For those rural people working desperately into the night to bring the harvest home, this extra light was a godsend. The moon also often has a rich golden colour, reminiscent of ripened corn.
A relic of how important harvest was, and still is, to our survival, this is often the one full moon that nearly everybody knows. 

Tuesday, 1 August 2017


The first of August is the Celtic festival of Lughnasadh, now anglicised to Lammas. Falling midway between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox, it marks the traditional start of the harvest season, when plants are gathered, seeds are set and the future for the coming year is assured.
It is linked the the god Lugh, the Celtic version of the dying and rising god or god of the green, who dies in autumn in order to be reborn the following spring.

The celebrations ensure an auspicious start to the harvest and also a last chance of fun before the slog to bring the harvest home begins. Traditionally, mummers plays  were performed, performances handed down orally for generations and varying from place to place. Some have hints of Celtic traditions, suggesting the antiquity of the plays.
And now harvest begins. Next stop, the Harvest Home.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

The Mother's Moon

The full moon of May is often known as the Flower Moon or Mother's Moon. It is the month where the Earth flourishes. Plants, animals and insects all come into their prime as summer approaches, and the Earth changes from her Maiden form to her Mother form.
The beginning of May is marked by the festival of Beltane or May Day, which celebrates the great marriage between the Earth and her lover to allow this life to flourish.
A lot of plants come into flower this month, hence the moon's other common name. This is explained by another county saying:
April showers bring forth May flowers.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Beating the Bounds

Rogation Sunday, around 25th April, is a little marked date today. It stems from the Latin rogare, meaning 'to move' or 'to ask for.' It involved circulating the parish bounds and asking for a bountiful year. Crosses were carried, along with green boughs to symbolise fertility, and prayers were said at various points, often under an oak tree. Place names with the element Gospel Oak indicate such sites. Crosses were placed at parish corners to physically and spiritually mark the bounds. 
Rogation Day was introduced in the 8th century and was a Christian adaptation of the Roman robigalia, a procession through the cornfields to pray for their preservation. The bounds were beaten to symbolically drive out the devil, presumably into the neighbouring parish.  
It was marked into medieval times and then suppressed for its pagan connotations, but the beating of the bounds ceremony survived into the 19th century. This was a more prosaic adaptation to ensure no boundary stones had been moved or unauthorised buildings erected. The bounds were still beaten, as were boys at strategic points, apparently to ensure they would remember their parish boundaries in years to come. 

Thursday, 13 April 2017

The Easter Bunny

People often wonder what the rabbit has to do with Easter. 
The answer is actually nothing; it is in fact a relic of a far older spring festival which Easter has replaced. This is associated with the spring equinox marked in many cultures worldwide. In Europe the spring Goddess was called Ostara or Eostre, from which Easter is derived.

The Easter bunny is actually a hare and not a rabbit. As many people cannot tell the difference between the two, they are often confused in folklore and myth. The hare is one of the totems of the ancient Mother Goddess whose flourishing on Earth is celebrated in spring. This is why witches were popularly believed to turn themselves into hares to cause mischief.

Easter is timed by the moon: it falls on the Sunday after the full moon after the spring equinox. This is strongly associated with the hare. Hares are very active around this time of year. Everyone knows the saying "mad as a March hare." The full moon in April is named the Hare Moon. In the Warwickshire village of Coleshill until the 20th century the young men would traditionally try to hunt a hare on Easter Sunday. If they were successful  they took it to the vicar who was bound to give them a breakfast of a calf's head and a hundred eggs.

The spring equinox was originally a festival of birth: the Goddess becomes a mother and the Earth flourishes with all kinds of life, hence the fluffy chicks and Easter eggs. The story of Jesus also links to this same deeper story. It is the day when he rises from the dead into a new life, just as life on Earth has always done and will always do. Out of death, new life is born.
Happy Spring everyone !

Saturday, 1 April 2017

April Fool's Day

How many of you were caught out this morning? Well, if you were, take consolation in the fact that you're just one in a series spanning hundreds of years.
The first reference to April Fool's Day is in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in 1392. It is a custom which has come to span much of Europe and other English speaking countries. In France it is the custom to stick a paper fish on the back of your chosen victim, and inScotland  andIreland the victim was asked to deliver a letter to someone asking for help. They would read it- often actually  saying 'send the fool further' or such like- and tell the messenger they'd better ask someone else instead. The victim could spend hours on a wild goose chase.
One of the best pranks was the announcement that Polo mints could no longer be sold without a hole due to new EU regulations, and 'hole fillers' were to be sold with existing packs to comply with the law.
Nobody knows how it originated. Some link it to the old New Year's Day, 25th March, for which celebrations could last a week.
However it came about, we love this day. And if you were caught out, you have a year to work out how to get them back.