Springs Ending – Awakened Energies

Springs Ending – Awakened Energies
Spring Equinox (20th – 23rd March) to Beltane (1st May)
Light has overtaken darkness and the earth energies grow in power day by day. What once was hidden potential in winter is now vibrantly displayed. Buds are bursting with renewed life, wild flowers paint the land with colours, and birdsong fills the air. This time of rapid change can empower us to action things in our own life, to express ourselves and to grow our own hidden potential.

Photo by Chris Cross
Little Brier-Rose (Sleeping Beauty)
(An ancient tale retold by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm)

“A king and queen had no children, although they wanted one very much. Then one day while the queen was sitting in her bath, a crab crept out of the water onto the ground and said, “Your wish will soon be fulfilled, and you will bring a daughter into the world.” And that is what happened. The king was so happy about the birth of the princess that he held a great celebration. He also invited the fairies who lived in his kingdom, but because he had only twelve golden plates, one had to be left out, for there were thirteen of them.

The fairies came to the celebration, and as it was ending they presented the child with gifts. The one promised her virtue, the second one gave beauty, and so on, each one offering something desirable and magnificent. The eleventh fairy had just presented her gift when the thirteenth fairy walked in. She was very angry that she had not been invited and cried out, “Because you did not invite me, I tell you that in her fifteenth year, your daughter will prick herself with a spindle and fall over dead.” The parents were horrified, but the twelfth fairy, who had not yet offered her wish, said, “It shall not be her death. She will only fall into a hundred-year sleep.” The king, hoping to rescue his dear child, issued an order that all spindles in the entire kingdom should be destroyed.

The princess grew and became a miracle of beauty. One day, when she had just reached her fifteenth year, the king and queen went away, leaving her all alone in the castle. She walked from room to room, following her heart’s desire. Finally she came to an old tower. A narrow stairway led up to it. Being curious, she climbed up until she came to a small door. There was a small yellow key in the door. She turned it, and the door sprang open. She found herself in a small room where an old woman sat spinning flax. She was attracted to the old woman, and joked with her, and said that she too would like to try her hand at spinning. She picked up the spindle, but no sooner did she touch it, than she pricked herself with it and then fell down into a deep sleep.

At that same moment the king and his attendants returned, and everyone began to fall asleep: the horses in the stalls, the pigeons on the roof, the dogs in the courtyard, the flies on the walls. Even the fire on the hearth flickered, stopped moving, and fell asleep. The roast stopped sizzling. The cook let go of the kitchen boy, whose hair he was about to pull. The maid dropped the chicken that she was plucking. They all slept. And a thorn hedge grew up around the entire castle, growing higher and higher, until nothing at all could be seen of it.

Princes, who had heard about the beautiful Brier-Rose, came and tried to free her, but they could not penetrate the hedge. It was as if the thorns were firmly attached to hands. The princes became stuck in them, and they died miserably. And thus it continued for many long years.
Then one day a prince was travelling through the land. An old man told him about the belief that there was a castle behind the thorn hedge, with a wonderfully beautiful princess asleep inside with all of her attendants. His grandfather had told him that many princes had tried to penetrate the hedge, but that they had gotten stuck in the thorns and had been pricked to death.
“I’m not afraid of that,” said the prince. “I shall penetrate the hedge and free the beautiful Brier-Rose.”

He went forth, but when he came to the thorn hedge, it turned into flowers. They separated, and he walked through, but after he passed, they turned back into thorns. He went into the castle. Horses and colourful hunting dogs were asleep in the courtyard. Pigeons, with their little heads stuck under their wings, were sitting on the roof. As he walked inside, the flies on the wall, the fire in the kitchen, the cook and the maid were all asleep. He walked further. All the attendants were asleep; and still further, the king and the queen. It was so quiet that he could hear his own breath.

Finally he came to the old tower where Brier-Rose was lying asleep. The prince was so amazed at her beauty that he bent over and kissed her. At that moment she awoke, and with her the king and the queen, and all the attendants, and the horses and the dogs, and the pigeons on the roof, and the flies on the walls. The fire stood up and flickered, and then finished cooking the food. The roast sizzled away. The cook boxed the kitchen boy’s ears. And the maid finished plucking the chicken. Then the prince and Brier-Rose got married, and they lived long and happily until they died.”

Many of our traditional tales are much older than the written versions we now are familiar with and as is the way of oral storytelling, there are many different versions of them as each generation of storytellers change them to suit the current day audience. Sleeping Beauty represents our understanding of the wheel of the year; the long sleep where everything ‘freezes’ being winter when the goddess draws inwards. The coming of her suitor waking her with a kiss is the Sun god returning in spring and awakening the land with passionate fertility.

Picture from TreesDirect.co.uk
Tree of the Season – Hawthorn or May (Crataegus monogyna)

“A fair maid who, the first of May,
Goes to the field at break of day,
And washes in dew from a hawthorn tree,
Will ever after handsome be”

~ Traditional Rhyme

Hawthorn is a common sight in hedgerows and as the understory layer is some woodlands. The gnarly tree can grow up to 15 metres in height and create amazing twisted shapes, however in hedgerows it is often laid, browsed and/or cut. Its small, 3-5 lobed leaves are carried by its thorny branches in spring and followed by clusters of creamy white flowers in May. In Autumn these flowers develop into bunches of hanging red berries or ‘haws’.

Uses – Hawthorn wood is hard, dense and a beautiful orangey colour. It has been prized for delicate work such as; veneers, boxes, combs, spindles and handles. The thorns of the hawthorn have been used as fishhooks and are also believed to bring good fortune if pinned like a brooch to clothing (called Albion knots). The leaves, flowers and berries are all edible. The leaves and flowers were known as ‘poor mans bread and cheese’ as believed to be a stable food source. The flesh of the haws have an avocado texture but care must be taken to remove the large stones in them. The berries can be eaten raw or pulped and dried into a fruit leather, they can also be made into wine. Hawthorn is used in herbal medicine to treat the heart; it reduces blood pressure and improves circulation. It can also relieve stress and anxiety.

Folklore – Hawthorn is the tree of love, fertility, the heart and protection. Its blossom heralded Beltane (or May Day) where the ‘May Queen’ (representing the Earth Goddess) joined with her consort the ‘Green Man’ (representing the Sun God) and their union represented the fertility of the land at this time of year. Beltane eve is a time for much revelry – a sacred bonfire would be lit upon high ground, a maypole erected (symbolising a phallus, entering the earth) and danced around in couples, processions of costumed dancers (possibly where Morris dancing originates from) and to go ‘a-Maying’ (couples would venture into the woods to spend the night in ‘greenwood marriages’ and return the next morning after collecting hawthorn blossoms and vegetation to decorate the streets and maypole).

Hawthorn is also known for its protection; it is often found by sacred groves or wells/springs as a guardian. It is also thought to guard the entrance to the faerie realm and if you fall asleep under a hawthorn tree between Beltane eve and midsummer the faeries will enchant you or take you to their realm. In the story of sleeping beauty above the princess may have been taken to the faerie realm (as she was protected by a faeries gift) in her sleep after pricking her finger on the phallic shaped spindle, which traditionally would have been made from hawthorn.

Wisdom – The hawthorn encourages us to feel and act from the heart and love unconditionally. Just as the Earth receives the fertile and life renewing Sun in the spring; so we can be open to external energies and unite with them for growth and change.

Scrummy Seasonal Snacks – Ramsons
Ramsons or Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) are carpeting the woodland floors and filling the air with their pungent garlic fragrance. Their leaves are quite strong tasting (better cooked than raw), but if you pick younger leaves before they are fully grown they are milder in flavour. Remember if you are foraging any plant – ‘if in doubt, leave it out!’ never eat anything unless you are 100% sure of what it is. Make sure you have landowner permission to be where you are collecting, only pick common species growing abundantly and take only what you need. Some ideas for ramsons;

  • Soup – Add it to nettle soup instead of onions/garlic (Fry chopped ramsons, add vegetable stock, a cubed potato and nettle tops, simmer, season and serve – could blend and add cream at end).
  • Omelette – Add sliced ramsons to a omelette with a bit of cheese and serve with a spring green foraged salad.
  • Tempura – Dip leaves in pancake batter and deep fry, serve with cheesy or creamy sauce.
  • Pesto – Use it to make pesto instead of garlic, goes well with some nettle tops too (blend greens with olive oil, pine nuts, parmesan etc).

Seasonal Stories Through the Year:
Winter Beginnings – Journeying into Darkness
Winter’s Ending – The Returning Sun
Spring Beginnings – Light Becoming Balanced with Dark
Spring’s Ending – Awakened Energies
Summer Beginnings – The sun reaches its zenith
Summer’s Ending – The beginning of harvest