Bless the Seed

The Kitchen Herbs

“One for the Rook

One for the Crow

One for the Earth

and One to Grow”

As I look out my window, the sun beams from above and as He rises higher and higher and the days grow longer, the garden and the trees are slowly awakening.  The Crocuses and Snowdrops have all but wilted back into slumber but the Daffodils and Narcissi are still proudly displaying their radiant faces and the Bluebells are emerging from the dark depths beneath the surface.  Life and light have returned to Kent…it seems to take longer every year but with the seemingly harsher winters its all the more welcome!

The Spring Equinox has always been a time for sowing seeds following the ‘preparations’ of Candlemas.  Not just sowing seeds of herb, flower and vegetable for the garden but symbolic seeds of hope, idea and ambition.  I have made a good start sowing both physical and metaphorical seeds and they are all coming along a treat.  In fact the garden is looking great, even in these early days and I am restless with activity and a ‘to-do’ list as long as my forearm!

This year I am determined to grow Mandrakes again along with Henbane and Brugmansia…owing in part to some dodgy seeds I bought I haven’t had much luck so far but with some gentle persuasion and a lot of hope I am confident I will have more success this time around.  These little beauties will grow alongside my fine Aconite plant and last year’s Belladona which are growing bigger by the day now the warmth has arrived!   I was also thrilled to find out that my seed ‘dealer’ (Nicky’s Nursery…who I was a fool to stray from!) is actually local and based here In Kent on the East Coast.

Aconite 'Monkshood'

Baby Belladonna

My Kitchen herbs have also come into their own on this their second spring.  I prudently took a few cuttings of Lavender and Rosemary before winter to ensure survival which turned out to be unnecessary…I suppose one can never have too much of either!  The Rosemary which grows by our front porch, guarding the gate has blossomed just in time for Lady Day (25th March).  Rosemary is sacred to the Virgin Mary so I feel particularly blessed at this good omen for the days ahead.  I just hope the April showers arrive in time.  The chalky soil here in Kent is already looking parched!

Rosemary

Another of my favourite activities for this time of year is Egg Decorating.  Like the seed, the cosmic egg carries the potential of all life within it and has become a national symbol for Easter.  As I don’t have much of a sweet tooth I’m not that fussed about overly priced chocolate eggs!

This year I thought I would try and dye my eggs with all natural ingredients from around the Kitchen.  I used Spinach for Green, Beetroot for Red or Pink, Turmeric for Golden Yellow and Red Cabbage for Blue.  I added ample plant material to water, enough to cover the eggs, with a tablespoon or so of white vinegar (the mordanting agent).  Once the water had boiled for 15 minutes I added the eggs (these were ‘blown’ eggs by the way.  I punched a small hole in the top and bottom and blew the contents out…perfect for a delicious savoury Spring Equinox breakfast!).  I left the eggs to sit in the dye overnight.  Unfortunately it was far from a success.  The turmeric worked well…not surprisingly as it even stained the pan.  The Beetroot worked but the colour was speckled and more brown than pink.  The others were a complete failure.  One of my ‘seeds’ for the coming year is to learn to spin, ply and dye my own cords… this was certainly a start but it has given me a new found appreciation for the old crafts.  The amount of knowledge and plant material required to dye anything is clearly extensive.  I have a ways to go yet but in my opinion it’s worth it just to keep traditional skills alive!  Dyeing, Spinning, Cooking, Growing, herb crafting and healing are dying art forms yet powerful magical skills in their own right.

Destined for the Dye Pot

a dissapointing result

In the end some of my eggs succumb to a paint brush and a few pots of acrylic!  I painted them with runes of fertility, life, energy, enlightenment and so on.  One painted with a blue serpent to represent the ‘ovum anguinum’ or serpent’s egg, a highly sacred druid symbol.  Some of these seasonal charms will be hung in the garden as ‘fertility’ charms, others have been hung up on the old ‘petition’ tree by the Coldrum Stones.

The end result

The evening of the 21st concluded the festivities.  As the sun was disappearing behind the North Downs I travelled up to Kit’s Coty House for ritual upon the high open meadows.  I was met by a truly stunning scene.  I sat and waited for the sun to finally disappear.  Mars appeared in the Western horizon shortly followed by Venus and Jupiter conjunct in the constellation of Aries.  They were quickly joined by Orion and The Plough and soon the sky was glittering with a hundred stars; a sight I don’t see often living down below under a dome of orange light pollution.

Sunset at Kit's Coty

A bitter Northerly wind almost took my breath away on several occasions and gnawed away at my fingers; a final Victory lap for the hounds of the wild hunt before they retreat into the hollow hills once more, but only after they kept blowing the Stang out of the ground and tipped the Cup of wine upon the earth… The Fool…The Chaos factor… albeit frustrating, provided a rather amusing reminder of the necessity of this character in the grand theatrical performance we call Creation.  The fool can be our greatest ally and teacher…I learnt, amongst other things, to always carry a spare bottle of sacrament!

More seeds were ritually sown… corn from last year’s Corn dolly to symbolise the continuation of life planted in the fertile soil, there to germinate and grow by Sol’s good graces!  At Lammas the offspring will be woven into the next corn dolly…and so the cycle will continue…Womb to Tomb!

“Bless the Earth Which Takes the Furrow

Bless the Furrow which takes the seed

Bless the seed which is the promise of life eternal”

Now back to the to do list…Compost to spread, Hot Cross Buns to make and the other half’s Birthday celebrations to get ready for! At this time of year my paid job is quite the inconvenience….

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