Category: The Wheel of the Year

Including the work of other writers much admired by the Witch

O IS FOR OCTOBER AND ODE TO AUTUMN

The Wheel has tilted, and it is Autumn, my favourite  time of year.  In my garden, looking ragged yet rather lovely,  is Michaelmas Daisy, best appreciated on frosty mornings beneath the scarlet rowan berries,  papery seed heads of alium and lingering roses.

Aster Frikatii 'Monch' aka Michaelmas Daisy
Aster Frikatii ‘Monch’ is a particularly good varity of Michaelmas Daisy

October reminds me of Mr Wright.  He was the head teacher at Western School, my first primary school,  and much loved by children, staff and parents alike.  This was in the days of the West Riding County Council and long before the National Curriculum.  The freedom of those Far Off Times gave him the leeway to regale the whole school in Assembly with tales of his early days as a young teacher.    We sat cross legged on the parquet floor in the school hall, all 350 of us, shivering with delicious horror, as he told us about the Old Days: the red wiggly things in the drinking water before the school had mains water; the little girl whose finger got jammed in the heavy door to the Infants playground, and hung down attached by only a scrap of skin; the delights of bread and dripping – especially the crunchy bits – on a cold winters’ afternoon.  At this point, Mrs Pratt would look pointedly at her watch, annoyed, because he was eating into her maths lesson.  Crafty members of the ‘top’ class knew how to manipulate Mr Wright with the cunning request:  “Please sir, will you do ‘Ode to Autumn’?”  He didn’t need asking twice. He had this poem by heart, and I still remember his broad Yorkshire accent reciting Keats’ wonderful verse, oblivious of the irritated Mrs Pratt.  Mr Wright: we will not see your like again.

So in his memory, here is Ode to Autumn by John Keats.

Ode to Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, –
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing, and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

W IS FOR WHEEL OF THE YEAR

Have you felt a bit of end-of-summer tristesse this year?  A twinge of dread at the thought of the nights drawing in, and the coming of the cold months?

Take heart! It’s not that time yet. Late summer/early autumn is its own time, with its own leisurely rhythm.  We don’t have a name for it, but in the pagan year it falls between Lughnasadh, the first harvest celebration on August 1,  and Mabon, the celebration of the second harvest and autumn equinox, on September 23 this year.

I have just started dipping my toes into the waters of paganism, and I rather like the Wheel of the Year.  It marks out time in a way that is both grounded and special.  It feels intuitively right to me.

A beautiful Wheel, by an unknown artist, whom I would like to acknowledge if I only knew their name.

So this time is the time of misty mornings, late roses and spiders, of runner beans and sweet corn, of the first tinge of gold on the green leaves of summer, and the time of early apples.   But above all it is the time of blackberries.  And you still have time to go foraging for them, because this year Nature has been truly abundant.

Ripe blackberries

Here is a recipe for the time of year.

BLACKBERRY AND APPLE CRUMBLE

Serves 6 – 8

Ingredients

For the fruit filling

  • Cooking apples – 3 medium/large
  • Black berries – enough to fill a coffee mug to the top, more if you like
  • Sugar – 2 TB

For the crumble

  • Butter 100g
  • Oats – 2 handfuls
  • Hazle nuts – 1 handful
  • Plain flour – enough to make the crumble mix up to 200g

To make

You will need a large oven proof dish.  I used a Pyrex one with a lid.

  1. Heat the oven to 200C, 400F, Gas Mark 6
  2. Wash the blackberries gently.  A surprising amount of stuff comes off.
  3. Peel, core and slice the apples into a bowl.  Mix in the sugar.
  4. Chop the hazle nuts coarsely.
  5. To make the crumble, rub the butter into the flour, then mix in the oats and hazle nuts.
  6. Put the apples into the oven proof dish and gently mix in the blackberries.  Scatter the crumble mix evenly on top.
  7. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the top is golden.
  8. Remove from the oven and let it cool a bit.  You want it hot, but not incandescent.
  9. What to serve it with?  Vanilla ice cream? Custard? Cream?  A delightful dilema, which I leave to you!

Note: the trick is to be generous with the blackberries