Posts Tagged ‘Bealtaine’

For some in America, at least in the North East, Imbolc is a perfect time to consider the rebirth of our gardens.  It’s at this time of year that seed catalogs make their happy appearance in our mailboxes, and we begin to browse and dream of green.  In the past, I simply dreaming.  I put my garden planning off until the Spring Equinox.  In Upstate NY, even that day is often quite cold…  As my experience with gardening grew, and as I started to pay more attention to other local gardeners, I realized last year that I was waiting too late.  The result has been a later harvest, and many plants that don’t tolerate summer heat bolt before I can truly enjoy their bounty.  Last year, I resolved that I would get my seeds for 2015 by Imbolc.

I’m adding action to my dreaming.  Yesterday, I ordered my seeds!  I decided to go with my standby, Pinetree Seeds, and a new one for me, Victory Seeds.  The last couple years, I’ve been disappointed with the success of my Pinetree seeds, but I wanted to give a few favorites another try.  I’m still learning so much, so user error is probable.  I’m excited to try Victory Seeds, though, and several small gardeners have recommended them.

The seeds I ordered for my container garden are:

  • Bouquet Dill
  • Calendula
  • Lemon Balm
  • Green Leaf Salad Bowl
  • Parisian Carrot
  • Tiny Tim Tomato
  • Extreme Bush Tomato
  • Dwarf Gray Sugar
  • Alibi Cucumber
  • Green Tiger Zucchini
  • Jambalaya Okra
  • Gecofure Basil
  • Lovage

Some of these are old favorites, like the cucumber, zucchini, and lemon balm.  Others are things I’ve been wanting to grow for some time, like calendula.  Okra is a veggie my husband and I fell in love with recently as I’ve been making vegetarian gumbos.  The variety I chose has a short germination time and is recommended for northern climates.  Other veggies I plan to grow are eggplants (I saved some seeds from last year’s dwarf variety), sage, and potato.  I may grow some more scarlet runner beans, since I saved some of those seeds, but I don’t like them for eating…  They’re a better ornamental, I think.  The humming birds and bees sure liked them, and we must keep the Nature Spirits happy, right?

My plan is to bless most of my seeds around Imbolc and start them around the Spring Equinox so that they’re big enough to slowly start hardening off around Bealtaine.

The wheel of the year is turning, and engaging in the food we eat is a great way to learn its mysteries and celebrate beyond the high days themselves.

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Dandelions are my friends.  They always have been.  I’ve never understood the hatred some direct towards these most wonderful, helpful plants.  Sure, we gardeners don’t want them crowding out our other plant allies, but we should accept and embrace their tenacity in our lawns.  They are full of nutrients, possess healing qualities, and are entirely edible!  Furthermore, for someone starting out foraging, they are one of the easiest plants to identify.

Since Bealtaine, I’ve taken several opportunities to further experiment with the humble yet lovely dandelion.  Their young leaves are excellent in salads and stir-fries (though be prepared for bitterness), and their dried roots are an excellent coffee substitute.  But I wanted to try more.  A previous year, I attempted to make dandelion jam and  failed miserably.  I want to try again when I have less baby to chase, but I came across some other excellent recipes to try that used the flowers.  I even enlisted my baby to help me pick some!

Wash them first! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

The first I tried were dandelion cookies.  Yum yum!  Use this recipe, which calls for organic ingredients and local honey for sweetener.  These cookies are sweet, and the flowers give it a subtle flavor.  My husband was skeptical to eat them since, as he says, they look a little hairy – but he enjoyed them! He would probably like them more with chocolate chips.

Delicious cookies made with flowers! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Another new favorite recipe I tried comes right from the Mountain Rose Herbs blog – Dandelion Fritters!  This is a great side dish for lunch or dinner.  It could also be an excellent snack.  Although you need to fry these in a pan, it’s a good way to add some extra greens into your diet.  In addition to the sweet flowers, the green from the sepals and end of the stems provide a slight bitter aftertaste. Mixed with chives and garlic – yum yum!

Bealtaine means dandelions in the North Country.  Why not add some to your menu?

Savory dandelion fritters – photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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2014 Maypole – Photo by Tara Loughborough, 2014

Northern Rivers celebrated its second Bealtaine together on May 10th.  The skies, which had been full of rain clouds, became pleasant and even sunny.  Perfect Maypole weather!  What a blessing!

I’ve never found evidence that the ancient Celts celebrated the holiday with a Maypole, but it’s become such an important part of the modern celebration.  My first exposure to the living Pagan community was on a Bealtaine.  My would-be friends and teachers danced a Maypole. My first visit to Muin Mound Grove was on Bealtaine.  Again, my would-be friends and teachers danced the Maypole.  It has become a sort of personal “Pagan birthday” since I lack the memory of any other concrete day in my early years of exploration.  Dancing the Maypole awakens my inner sense of whimsy and fun.  My husband and I annually kiss each other as we dance, inspired by the flirtatious nature of the custom.  This year, my ribbon broke shortly after I started, but I still laughed and circled with the others as one of our very talented members played his bagpipes.  At the end, I tied my ribbon around the bottom with the others.  Our dance sends our wishes of fertility into the land.  It is prayer in motion.

More traditional among the Irish was jumping the Bealtaine bonfire for luck and healing.  This was our magical working during the ritual.  I also prepared a candle in a lantern for those uncomfortable jumping the actual bonfire.   As we chanted, most of the women and children jumped the candle (I held Bee while we went together).  Most of the men and one lady jumped the actual fire pit which was spectacular to watch!

Songs were sun, praise was spoken, and offerings were poured, sprinkled, and hung around the fire and the clootie tree near the stone circle.  It was our first ritual outdoors since the hard winter hit Northern NY.  My goodness, it felt wonderful to be out there at the circle again…  Welcome May!

Clootie Tree – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

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Whenever Bealtaine rolls around, I inevitably get the old song, “Sumer is Icumen In,” stuck in my head.  My very first experience with Paganism in general was at a Bealtaine (they called and spelled it as “Beltane”) festival.  It included a Maypole, and the priestess, who would become one of my good friends and mentors in my early days of Paganism, sang the song in her beautiful alto voice as we danced with our ribbons.  Music and food were essential parts of her seasonal celebrations.  They are for all of us, but she’s the first person to help me see that and make the connection between local food and the agricultural cycle of the various Pagan holidays.  Although I have never felt my voice is practiced enough to do the tune justice in public, I find myself singing it constantly with my baby girl now that Bealtaine is here.  Again, I think about the lessons my friend taught me and I rejoice at the Nature Spirits growing all around.  Some will become my food, and I join them in their yearly dance.

Bealtaine has found us once again, and the green of summer is growing in!  Sure, I don’t have the traditional Hawthorne blossoming nearby, but I have plenty of Nature Spirits heralding the change of the season!


Chives are among the first sings of life in my garden each year. This tenacious herb winters well in Northern NY. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

The dandelions are just blossoming! I’m hoping for some time this weekend to harvest. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014

Beautiful lemon blossoms fill my my living room with a delicious aroma. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Next weekend we will join with friends and grovies to jump the sacred bonfire. In the meantime, my little family will celebrate with food and household saining. May your own celebrations be blessed, and may you pray with a good fire!  Sing cuccu!


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Northern Rivers' beautifully imperfect Maypole!  Photo by Weretoad, 2013.

Northern Rivers Protogrove, ADF | Bringing the Ár nDraíocht Féin tradition to Northern NY.

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Slowly but surely, things are coming together in the garden.  We’re not being overly ambitious this year given the circumstances, so we’re making what we have work for us.  We’ll probably need one or two more bags of compost and soil, but they’re not very expensive.  I was very happy to get seed samples at the gardening event in Alexandria Bay this past weekend!  That will help a lot.

One of my gardening goals this year is to learn to work with the cycles of the moon. According to local herbalist Sue-Ryn Burns, the last quarter of the lunar cycle is a perfect time for tilling soil, applying fertilizer, and pruning.  Although I’m a couple days early, I wanted to take advantage of both that energy and the fertility of Bealtaine.  I finally emptied my little compost bin onto a tarp to separate the good stuff from everything that’s still decomposing.  This is probably my most successful year of composting yet!  It’s a small operation given my inability to have a large compost heap, but definitely worth the effort!

It started last year with a bunch of garden scraps and some supposedly compostable cups from a cafe with sustainable goals. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

Everything went into this small bin. It’s probably about five gallons. I drilled holes into the bottom. I want to get another and then some sort of pan to collect the juices.  It’s supposed to be wonderful for the plants!   I’m very lucky to have a garage in which to store my compost bin. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

I apologize for the blurry shot, but you get the gist. This is the compost right before winter. I continued to add green and brown matter, usually in the form of compostable, dye-free cardboard. The cold helped the vegetable matter break down faster once the thaw hit. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

A small pile of beautiful, dark compost after I separated it from the still decaying matter. For those curious, the compostable cups are still degrading. That will probably take a long time… I wanted to see what happened, but I’m glad I didn’t throw too many in! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013.

Composting is a wonderful activity, and I definitely recommend it to gardeners, even if you rent like I do!  There are many ways to go about it and it’s a great way to reduce food waste.  It’s very magical and earthy, too.  Truly a great way to teach children about decomposers and soil.

I mixed my compost with last year’s potting soil and half a large bag of compost and soil from the local garden center that wasn’t touched last year.  My husband helped me to shovel it all back into various pots.  We added some more soil to the moon garden and I reconfigured the stones.  All the while, the sun set and an owl sang its song.  It was a bit of work for this pregnant lady, but Weretoad did all the heavy lifting and I enjoy this sort of exercise.  Like my late grandfather, I always have some project and am not entirely happy if I don’t!  I can’t and won’t let my pregnancy keep me from one of my greatest joys – my garden!  After all, it’s a huge part of my spirituality and I intend to introduce my child to this hobby ASAP!

Soon, the moon will start to wax and I will plant greens and flowers.  Meanwhile, I have dandelion roots in the dehydrator and tender young dandelion leaves in the fridge for a Bealtaine dinner tomorrow.  May your Bealtaine be filled with fertility – be it in the garden, your family, your artistic pursuits, your relationships, or finances!

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