Rosemary Blenkinsop is a walker, cyclist, community gardener and activist living in the hills of Derbyshire; her passion is for the Natural World.
In October 2019 Extinction Rebellion once again took to the streets of London; in the very heart of Westminster we Rebels planted ourselves like trees across the road, proudly holding our banners. As soon as we stopped the traffic, sounds like birdsong, human voices and bicycle bells suddenly became audible. Bright coloured tents popped up in the road all around, gazebos sprang up offering workshops. Bunting was draped over the railings, bright flags flapped in the breeze. All around, leaflets were being offered, and conversations taking place. While blocking most of the road we left a lane for cyclists, many of whom waved and thanked us, delighted to have freedom from the car dominance that generally reigns in our cities. Food and tea arrived on trolleys, all brought by volunteers. A chamber quartet played to us. Samba bands, dancers in costumes like birds, the eerily dramatic Red People all processed by us, connecting us psychically with other Rebellion sites. Journalists arrived to interview us, and memorably one, when asked what she felt about the climate emergency, broke into tears of grief. We Rebels gathered each morning in circle under the traffic lights to make our decisions collectively. We forged and deepened friendships, sharing our love for the Earth, as well as singing songs of Heart and Rebellion. All too soon police came a-wrecking, but not before each one of us took with us that seed of knowing; we could co-create loving community again elsewhere, anytime.
Love on the Streets © Rosemary Blenkinsop 2019
The lengthening days are obvious now, and hazel catkins shake their golden pollen in the wind, while snowdrops peep through the chilly soil. Traditionally, Imbolc was celebrated when the first sheep and cows gave birth and milk could be drawn off to supplement meagre winter rations. Yet spring is still very precarious, and winter can quickly sweep back again. Imbolc is a good time to plan, to sketch out those changes we want to make, to allow stirrings of excitement as we create new possibilities in our lives. It’s a good time to plant bushes and trees.
Personally: What seeds do you want to sow this year? What projects do you want to breathe life into as the sun warms and strengthens?
Spiritually: This time is associated with Bridget, the ancient goddess of springs and wells, poetry, healing and craft. Is there a well or bubbling spring nearby you might visit to honour the source, giving thanks to Mother Earth for her endless generosity? Might you also seek from Bridget guidance and blessing on your own new projects and seeds?
Community Celebration: You could bring along some plant pots, compost and grit, packets of sweet pea seeds, and share them out. As people mix compost, hold the seeds, sow and water, they can speak out their plans for the coming year, then take their pots home to grow on as a reminder of the commitments they made.
Imbolc: Light Returning © Rosemary Blenkinsop 2018
The hours of daylight are much longer now ~ as long as the hours of night. Early flowers cover the woodland floor, seizing their chance to flower before the leafy canopy closes over them. Our ancestors would have scoured the hedgerows for welcome nutrients in the form of herbs and young fresh leaves at this time. It’s a good time to forage for tasty green leaves like wild garlic, and to plant seeds and perennials.
Personally: Take time to go for a walk in the woods and celebrate the beauties of early spring. Make a conscious effort to listen to the birds singing, whether in the city or the countryside.
Spiritually: Eostre was the Saxon goddess of fertility, associated with hares, rabbits and birds’ eggs. What ideas or projects do you want to fertilise with the power of your life force?
Community Celebration: Make a cake and decorate it with little chocolate or marzipan eggs. You could put more chocolate eggs in a nest woven from the supple twigs of willow. Share the cake with your community and speak out your thanks for the renewal of life, or your hopes for the summer ahead.
Spring Equinox: Time of Balance © Rosemary Blenkinsop
Hawthorn is beginning to blossom along the roadsides and in the hedgerows. Birdsong can be heard throughout the day. Most wild creatures are busy reproducing, and you are likely to see the first ducklings paddling fast in ponds or rivers, following their parents. The summer visiting birds will be arriving or have arrived, so swallows will be making their nests of mud and darting after the insects. Almost all the trees are now leafing up. Our ancestors would have been very busy at this time, up early to drive their cattle up to the high summer pastures, making cheese with the plentiful spring milk, and weeding the fast-growing crops.
Personally: Will you let yourself connect with the power of Nature at this time? Do you dare to go out into the woods, to rattle, drum or sing under the unfurling leaves? Sit by a stream and let the sound of the water wash through you.
Spiritually: This is the time of the Green Man, of Pan, the god of raw nature. However you express your own sexual desires, honour the gifts of the body. Dance to some wild music.
Community Celebration: Each take three pieces of ribbon, or make some garlands out of twigs and string, and hang them on a special tree. As you tie them on speak out your blessings and hopes for yourself, your community and the world.
Beltane: Time of May Blossom © Rosemary Blenkinsop 2018
The trees are at their most green and leafy, the roadsides and hedgerows bursting with wildflowers ~ a wonderful time for walking. The long hours of daylight gave our ancestors more time to get on with their tasks, so that they also had more time for play and travel further afield. For us too it can be a time to soak up the sun, to visit friends and to attend festivals.
Personally: We feel the sun, our nearest star, to be at the very height of its power. How comfortable do you feel with your own power? Try standing strong under the Midsummer sun and embracing the notion of your personal power. Do you need to retrieve your power?
Spiritually: This can be a good time to visit stone circles or long barrows, those marvelously enduring creations of our ancient ancestors, so carefully aligned to the sun’s rising and setting at particular times of the year.
Community Celebration: Pick scented roses from the garden, and strawberries, and put them in the nicest glass jug you can find. Cover them with fizzy water, lemonade or elderflower champagne. Pour each person a glass and as you each enjoy the bubbles, and the fruit, speak out your gratitude for Earth’s abundance.
Midsummer Solstice: The Longest Day and Shortest Night © Rosemary Blenkinsop
Many flowers have now set seed or fruit. Young animals or birds born or hatched in spring are now nearly adult. The arable fields will be golden and farmers will be gathering in the grain. Our ancestors would also have started to gather in the harvest. Without fossil fuel it would have been a gigantic labour, which needed to be done as speedily as possible so everyone had to take part. It would have been a time when family members, old friends and neighbours met up to work, drink and socialise. It can be a good time for us to go and meet friends old and new.
Personally: Gather some golden grasses from the fields and put them in a vase, or weave a plait with three strands of them. What are you harvesting in your life at this time? What are you leaving behind as chaff?
Spiritually: This is a time associated with the ancient grain goddess, Ceres, Demeter, Ker or Kernel. It is a time to celebrate the great generosity of Mother Earth, who year after year produces such abundance in this great alchemy of sun, rain and soil, and to remember we are her children.
Community Celebration: Make some bread and craft a pattern on the top of the loaf before baking. Once cooked, pass around the loaf in your group; each person tears off a piece to eat, then as they pass it on, says to the next person, “May you never hunger.”
Lammas/ Lughnasagh: First Harvest © Rosemary Blenkinsop
This is a time when bright berries shine in the hedgerows; crab apples, conkers and hazelnuts start to fall from the trees, and apples ripen in the gardens and orchards. Our ancestors would have been busy working to get in the rest of the harvest such as root crops, drying herbs, making cider, and preserving seeds for next year.
Personally: A good time to take stock in order to prepare for winter and bring your life back into balance. What do you need to do more of, and what do you need to do less of?
Spiritually: This is a time associated with Pomona, goddess of apples and of plenty. Pick a delicious ripe apple from the tree and cut it in half crossways. You will see the pips inside as a five pointed star. As you eat the apple cherish your summer harvest ~ then extract the pips from the core and plant them in a pot or in your garden; they could represent your hopes and intentions for the winter months.
Community Celebration: Visit or organise an Apple Day, discover and taste many different varieties of apples and pears. Make a big apple pie, or crush some apples for juice, and share it. Honour the Apple, the Pear and the Blackberry; they are all the fruits of both the Earth and countless fruit breeders carefully working over many years to select the best qualities.
Autumn Equinox: Time of Balance © Rosemary Blenkinsop
This is a time when the trees are losing or have lost their leaves: there is still much bright autumn colour in the woodlands, but most grasses and flowers have ‘gone over’ and look dead. Our ancestors would have stored away the harvest and would be slaughtering excess livestock that they could not keep over winter, salting and smoking the meat, boiling hams in the cauldron. This is a time to remember our dead.
Personally: Get out a picture or photo of one of your ancestors, or make a shrine to your ancestors, with mementos. Light a candle by it. What would those ancestors that love you be saying to you?
Spiritually: This is a time associated with Hecate, the ancient Crone who lives in the dark Cave, and can give advice and guidance. What deep inner wisdom do you need to seek?
Community Celebration: This is a great time to plant bulbs. Bring along a large pack of bulbs and a bag of compost and find some containers. The act of planting bulbs is a great act of faith. The green shoots of spring will emerge but they need a time of darkness first.
Samhain: Endings and Beginnings © Rosemary Blenkinsop
This dark time is when the evergreens come into their own; see how the holly shines in the pale winter sun. Our ancestors celebrated this time of the shortest days with feasts and gatherings by the hearth fire. The lengthening of the days first visible after December the twenty fifth, which meant new life would return, must have seemed so infinitely precious in a world without electric lights. Despite the rush, glitz and stress that often accompanies the modern commercially-driven versions of Yule, we can also benefit by resting by the hearth fire, slowing down, taking more rest and having simple gatherings with friends and family where we share food together.
Personally: This is a time of year that can be very hard for many people, so it can be good to donate any spare money or time to charities of your choice. It is a good time to pay attention to our own self-care. Am I having enough quiet space? Enough nourishment and exercise? Have I enough true friends?
Spiritually: This can be a time to go within, by meditating, doing craftwork or spending quiet time alone, yet also to make space for those supportive relationships that help get us through the hard times of winter.
Community Celebration: Making winter garlands together can be enjoyable. Bind hay or straw into circles with thin wire, then insert stems of holly, pine, ivy, pine cones, and bundles of cinnamon sticks, and decorate them with coloured ribbon.
Midwinter Solstice: The Sun is Reborn © Rosemary Blenkinsop
Today I created a New Moon Earth Healing Ceremony.... I started each Call to the Element by expressing grief before celebrating its qualities- for Earth sorrow at the destruction of soil caused by Agrochemical madness , for Air, grief at the extinction of three-quarters of insects in the last quarter century ; for Fire sadness at drought caused by climate change, for Water pain at the bleaching of the coral & for Spirit- sorrow for the disconnection from the healing powers of Nature especially among the young. It felt so right to make space for mourning , as well as love and joy. I welcomed the Ancestors in their Stone age aspect, honouring the way they walked the globe, constantly adapting to different climates and challenges, the Descendants, who will only exist at all if we now start to make better choices,then the goddess KALI , she who is both creation and destruction.
I took a wand of ashwood, and some Fairtrade twine. As I bound the twine one way, I visualised Fossil fuel Companies shareprice plummeting, Fracking rigs collapsing , vegetation breaking through their concrete bases. As I tied it the other way, I visualised Renewable Energy providers blossoming, and Blessings on Earth healers everywhere.
The chant I sang was written by Starhawk;
"We are the rising of the Moon,
We are the shifting of the ground,
We are the seed that takes root
When we bring the fortress down."
I finished my wand by tying on a buzzard feather for far-sightedness . I take it with me when I go to actions on behalf of the Earth .
New Moon Earth Healing Ceremony © Rosemary Blenkinsop