As I started to write this post the realisation came to me that I will actually see all the seasons in Ireland for the first time this year. It just seemed like a revelation, because we only visited in the summer when I was a child, therefore I never saw Ireland in any other guise.
I learned to really respect the seasons during my time in France. I wrote often of them, especially Spring and Autumn, with both seasons representing change: one welcomes life, one tries to teach us to understand death, and letting go. Life’s ever evolving pattern.
I am looking forward to what the seasons in Ireland will bring, having already experienced the Winter with it’s hooleys and snowy mountains! So many Irish people said how we needed to wrap up warm because of the cold winds, but we were used to them from living on our little house on the hill in Northern France for six years, the winter did not phase us, but the scenery blew us away…
Earrach means Spring in Gaelic, and there are three days considered to be the first day of Spring in Ireland, but in Ireland the one most consider the first day of Spring is the 1st of February. It’s known as Imbolc ( which means ‘in the belly’ referring to the pregnant ewes) in line with Gaelic tradition, and was a day to celebrate the end of a harsh winter and the coming of warmer weather, being the midway point between the Winter and Spring equinox, it was also the opportunity to rebuild stocks, and for milk to be available. It’s also known as St Brigid’s Day.
Now there are two schools of thought on this: Brigid was a pagan goddess whose pagan ceremony was held on the 1st of February, as she was also considered the patroness of early Spring. Then suddenly in medieval times, and quite fortuitously, a nun by the same name came along with all the same attributes of the goddess Brigid, how weird! And guess what? She was made a Saint, whose celebratory day was also the 1st of February. I don’t know, it seems to happen so often, how these Christian holidays and Saints day tie in with pagan ones. Must just be coincidence! Poor old pagan Goddess Brigid was elbowed out of the way and her day was given to a prioress who supposedly helped the poor. That’s not to diss St Brigid, she is now considered a patron saint of Ireland, and probably liked to have a good old knees up and a drink with St Patrick!
But that’s not the end of it, all is not lost the Irish still have a soft spot for Brigid the pagan goddess, and still make the pagan crosses to hang on their doors to welcome The goddess who would visit them on the first day of Spring.
Now, believing what you will, Spring in Ireland traditionally starts on the 1st of February for logical reasons: the days get longer, the weather starts to warm up (although when hail was sheeting down on us last week you wouldn’t have thought so!) and the flowers start to break through. In fact last week we watched in wonder, with tears in our eyes from laughter as the crofter tried to put two lambs in the field behind his house, he picked one up and carried it to the field, then he went back for the second as the first followed him back bleating it’s head off, bless him he must have done it at least five times until he got someone else to help him. If I can I am going to ask if I can see them, taking the chance that I may never eat lamb again if I do.
Over the last two weeks we have had hail, snow, rain (of course it’s Ireland!) and beautiful warm sunshine. They do say that March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb! With all this weather we have had some fabulous cloud phenomena over the mountains, it’s like seeing an ever changing painting, and we are loving it.
There is nothing like warm Spring sunshine to give you hope, and despite all the madness in the world today nature goes on her way, doing what she needs to do, no lockdowns for her!
Moira (also known as Rosie)