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Thursday, August 30, 2012


Spring is here! I love the change of seasons. All of a sudden we seem to go from cold quiet earth to little lambies springing about and trees in blossom. You can almost feel mother nature taking a huge breath out. I always thought that it was such a shame that Easter (or Eostre) wasn’t celebrated in spring, all of the allusions to fertility and new life with rabbits and eggs seem a bit lost on Autumn. Being a bit of a celebration fiend I feel that most of the ‘traditional’ commercial holidays are a bit off in the Southern Hemisphere and as such I have recently bought a NZ published book called Celebrating the Southern Seasons: Rituals for Aotearoa written by Juliet Batten. It’s a fabulous book which looks at seasonal changes, pagan ceremony and native maori traditions to construct a more logical way to celebrate the change of seasons.

Bird Hunter Tautoru, also known as Orion the hunter
On August the second we had Imbolc or ‘first light’, in ancient Celtic tradition this was symbolic of the flowing of milk or the birth of new stock.  The word Imbolc literally means ‘ewes milk’. For New Zealand Maori  this change of seasons was known as Hongonui, a cold time to light fires. This is when the ground would be prepared to plant crops. The constellation Orion was known as Tautoru the bird hunter and after Matariki when the Pleiades entered the Southern skies time was spent observing Orion and the Pleiades movement in the night sky. When I was little I remember dad pointing out Orions belt to me, it is my favourite constellation!

 Rituals associated with first light are the lighting of candles, drinking of milk or eating milk based meals, feeling the earth (Papatūānuku), spring cleaning, star gazing and lighting fires.

 We celebrated Imbolc in a low key manner (which is the tradition) with a candlelit dinner and a peek at the night sky. It strikes me that if you were an Easter type person then now would be the time to decorate eggs and eat rabbit. You could also do something earthy and pagan like pouring milk into the earth. Next year I might be a bit more organised and go a little more into the ceremonial side of it. As it was it felt really amazing to actually be engaged in a celebration that had some relevance to our life in the antipodes. I felt more in touch with our seasons and what they mean to us and, almost like magic, as soon as Imbolc had passed all of my farmy friends suddenly had lambs, goats, sheep and cows being born left right and centre. 

 Spirits were dampened however by almost a whole month of rainfall (scuse the pun) which drove everyone with kids stir crazy and turned the ground into a mucky mire. As a result a coccidiosis epidemic occurred which knocked out a lot of new life. And that’s the understanding really, when we are more in touch with the land and the seasons there is the flipside, new life and death go hand in hand. It’s easy to see how celebration and ceremony could be turned into superstition and sacrifice!

Here are some family friendly things you can do to celebrate imbolc

1.       Build a hugelkultur or start a compost heap

2.       Make real custard out of eggs and milk to eat with spring fruit

3.       Have a milk bath like Cleopatra

4.       Camp out for the evening and do some star gazing ( this works so much better in the countryside)

5.       Decorate some eggs a la Easter

6.       Have an easter egg hunt

7.       Bake some spring biscuits

8.       Have a candle light dinner

9.       Build a bonfire (check with local council regulations first)

10.    Float tealight candles in a pond or pool

11.   Make a bird feeder 

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