Candlemas Wisdom ?


I was reminded the other day of the apparent wisdom of the people who worked the land before our current stewardship. I will always have the greatest of respect for my maternal grandfather. It was he, after all who taught me much of what I started to learn about nature, observation and gardening. As well as letting me steer a tractor, feed milk cows and climb ladders while he thatched ricks.

But a shadow of a rhyme he used (or perhaps I simply attribute it to him, who knows?) jumped before me. We have been having what the media describes as “unseasonably heavy snow”. For me that would be blizzards in July and twelve foot drifts, but this is England on a slow news day … so what would I know?

strong>But on 2nd February, which I believe to be Candlemas, they very quickly disappeared, explained by the met office with science about warm fronts and ocean currents (last century’s weirdness is this year’s cutting edge perhaps?) but the notion returned.

“A quick thaw is a false thaw, snow will return for winter days more…”

My maternal grandmother always insisted that the Christmas decorations we forgot to take down on Twelfth Night should remain in place until this date, incidentally – and the one (and there always was at least one!) we forgot to take down was usually a holly sprig with berries that my grandfather had stood in a jar or tucked behind the walnut framed mirror …

Now I can’t swear those words are exact, and I cannot find these exact words in the belly of the oracle named Google, or her sometimes-false sister Wiki, but forgive me … I hope you get the gist.

So, while I was manfully fighting off a bit of a chill, with support and hot water bottles from the family, a wet weekend passed and snow fell across the land over Sunday night and into this morning.

In the way that things stay the same but names may change, the pagan festival of lights became unsurprisingly a Christian festival (Candlemas) and the church calendar took precedence. For me, it matters little except that one of the original significances of the festival was the indication that half way between the Solstice and the Equinox, it was usual for farmers (or those who worked the land) to begin to set up their fields again.

For this purpose it makes little difference, I humbly suggest, which deity is in ascendancy.

But little chance of plotholders getting back to the land today. Cold, wet and miserable. I am reminded that even my grandfather would have smiled, re-tied the binder twine he wore around his waist, made sure the fox hadn’t got into the fowl pen and checked the effectiveness of the thatching.

By evening, again the snow has mostly gone, but rumours of its return echo on the wind. Maybe in July?


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