An Ode to Autumn

 

 

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom friend of the maturing sun,

 

I can still remember John Keat’s poem To Autumn even though I was in school when I last read it.  It stayed with me, I think, because Autumn has always been one of my favourite seasons. I was born on the Autumn Equinox and naturally, whenever it was my birthday it felt as if it was a new year – which it was in a personal way.  With school starting just before my birthday – a new school year, (and then I became a teacher so had the same experience through work),  Autumn has always felt exciting and rejuvenating.  The smell of Autumn is so distinctive as well and smells go deep, deep down into memory, into the oldest part of the brain.  I can remember smoke from gardens as people tidied them up and burned leaves and whatever.  The smell of the frost in the morning also added an air of anticipation.  The difference in the light,  the sense of change,  of stepping over some invisible threshold, has always piqued my imagination making me look forward to whatever is coming next.

 

This year is a BIG birthday! So big I can hardly believe I have spent so many decades on this planet.  I look back at all the years of loving Mother Earth and feel very grateful that I found my way home to her.  Growing up without a garden I never imagined that one day I would be growing trees and flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables; that I would be saving seed and doing my best to create a little paradise, yet here I am!

The Autumn Equinox represents the second harvest, the fruit harvest, and this year in particular, I am contemplating all I have harvested in my life and what seeds I intend to sow in the years coming.  With talk of a serious recession, I am intending to sow many food seeds in 2021  because I think it is a good idea to be a little more self-sufficient.  I also plan to sow metaphorical “seeds” for the things I want to see grow in the world.

 

After all the freshness of spring and early summer with their busy-ness and thrust to action; then the heat of summer proper, there is something relaxing about Autumn.  The work is done – almost, (it’s never really done in a garden), and the sun is visibly “maturing” as the year ages.  Even though some plants are dying back, there are still the joys to be had from collecting blackberries and harvesting apples from our trees.  The last of the courgettes have just been discovered under a mass of leaves and there are still potatoes, kale, cabbage, leeks and chard to harvest as well as some herbs .  Lots of flowers have gone to seed; Foxglove, Mullein, Rose Campion for example, although Evening Primrose is still holding its own and Fuschia is still spilling its ruby-red dancing flowers. The roses are also still going strong and I have been pleasantly surprised this year by some flowers that have just emerged.  I am not sure what they are – some kind of bedding plants that were just leaves when I bought them.  I was disappointed during the summer that they had not flowered and now, suddenly, boom!! – lots of bright pinks and purples.

 

Thinking of red, there are Hawthorn berries too.  More abundance to be collected and dried for medicine.

It is during Autumn when I really feel and appreciate the abundance of Mother Nature.  I feel a sense of fulfilment looking at my jars of chutneys and relishes;  my dried herbs for medicinal teas and bottles and jars of medicines all supplied by Mother Nature.

 

There are also lots of Nasturtiums still flowering, adding their own colours to the Autumn palette.  I collect them for making Nasturtium Vinegar.

After a month of infusing, this vinegar will be ready to treat sinus problems and head colds.  It can also be used as a prophylactic as it is full of Vitamin C,  just take a spoonful each day if you are prone to head colds or blocked sinuses. Soon it will be time to make  Fire Cider Vinegar and once that happens I will know we are on our way into winter.  In the meantime, I continue with the harvest and start to make soups and tasty veggie casseroles and stews.

I really love this time of year as there is so much of everything which feeds the body and the soul.

Which season do you prefer?

 

Magical Mugwort – Artemesia!

Tonight there will be a Full Moon and I was thinking of the plants in my garden that are ruled by the moon or associated with the moon.  Cucumber is one such plant as are Californian Poppy and Poppy; Chamomile, Willow, Chickweed, Cuckoo Flower, White Rose and Mugwort. These plants are cooling and moisturising,  sedating and they bring pain relief.  Quite a number of plants ruled by the Moon (or that have an association with the Moon), are also beneficial to women for their menstrual cycles and more.  One of my favourite plants associated with the moon is Artemesia or Mugwort.

Artemesia vulgararis, also known as Mugwort (because she was once used to flavour beer and beer was drunk from mugs), is actually ruled by Venus but is strongly associated with the moon.  In some astrology, Venus is seen to be the Daughter of the Moon and there is an interesting article about this here.

 According to Culpepper, a herbalist should know which planet rules which plant or herb so that one can correctly choose which plant or herb is most suitable for the individual.  As Venus rules those  bodily parts specifically relating to women, it makes sense to choose plants or herbs that are ruled by Venus – or by the Moon as we also know the connection between women and the lunar sphere.  When we look back in history we see that older civilisations were very in tune with the cycle of the moon and her effects on the oceans and tides as well as women’s bodies, as discussed here 

 

Mugwort  is used to help regularise the menstrual cycle and as such can be of benefit to young women who have just entered puberty and perhaps have irregular or difficult periods.  Mugwort was also used during labour to help bring the baby safely as well as to safely deliver the after-birth.  I make an infused oil of Mugwort to use as a massage oil for the labouring mother – it’s good for sciatica pain as well!  Mugwort can help a woman at any time in life by balancing hormones and helps during menopause by reducing anxiety due to the action on the nervous system.  

Mugwort, being a bitter herb is beneficial for the digestive system.  For those with eating disorders or with anorexia, Mugwort can help nudge a person back to good appetite.  If a person is trying to overcome addiction – to both alcohol or narcotic drugs – Mugwort can help during withdrawal.

 

 

Thinking of the Moon, on this evening when the moon is full, I remember that I prefer the name Artemesia.  This plant is named for the Goddess Artemis, an ancient Greek Goddess who is patroness of the hunt, the forest, vegetation  and all the wild animals.  She is often depicted as a woman with a bow and arrow although Homer referred to her as Mistress of the Animals as she is also protecting the young animals from hunters .

 

Artemis is also renowned as a goddess of hearth and home and as a protector of  women – helping during childbirth and also to preserve young women’s chastity from the unwanted attentions of men.  Artemis is a Goddess of the Moon, her twin brother being the sun god, Apollo whom she had helped to deliver, hence her role in assisting women in labour. As a goddess of nature and vegetation she is found dancing in the wilderness, under the light of the moon with all the animals of the forest with her.  She loves wild dancing with trees and with her companions the tree nymphs.  When Orion the hunter was chasing one of her nymphs she called on her father, Zeus, to save them.  He changed the seven nymphs into a cluster of stars that we know as “The Seven Sisters” or the Pleiades.  Here in Connemara, there are several Holy Wells named for the Seven Sisters of the Seven Daughters…..is there a connection??

 

Reading about Artemis makes me feel very attached to the plant Artemesia.  She is such a beautiful, tall, graceful plant.  Her connection to the moon is apparent in the silvery undersides of her leaves and the silvery appearance of her flowers.  I have her growing in a part of my garden that is dedicated to the Irish Moon Goddess Aine.  I find that Artemesia makes a tasty tea and her powers of protection can be claimed by making a smudge stick.  Artemesia is also harvested for use in divinatory rituals and for vivid dreaming.  It is traditional to include Artemesia in a dream pillow or just put her straight under the pillow.  I have made a flower essence from Artemesia and I take it when going to bed, setting an intention to receive wisdom and teachings from the Goddess in my dreams.

 

How do you use Artemesia?