Summary & Collated Notes
Topic: ‘Celebrating the Seasons and Following Nature’
Contributors: Anna Richardson & Jon Cree
Webinar Style: ‘In the Ticket’
Total Number Registered: 173
Total Number attended: Max 106
- Welcome from Chairperson (Sarah)
- Update from the FSA (Sarah):
- March 17 Webinar ‘around the hearth’, discussion based – Fundamentals of FS – interacting with play, observing, caring for our sites
- May 17 FSA virtual AGM which will be more interactive and would welcome on ideas on how this could be useful and interactive in addition to the usual business of an AGM.
- Nature Premium, now partnered with many other organisations pushing for a nature premium to support more nature contact in the curriculum see https://www.naturepremium.org/ and https://www.naturepremium.org/supporters
- the new ‘Starting a Forest School’ book will be coming out later in the year – the booklet is on https://forestschoolassociation.org/how-to-set-up-a-forest-school-from-the-roots-up/#!form/Booknotifications If folks have photos with permissions do send them in we are looking for the breadth and diversity of groups participating in FS.
- The Children’s Forest is now up and running, and projects have started planting using this very holistic and creative process. A new film came out this week, if you wish to engage and see the film, please see https://www.childrensforests.org/
- FSA Conference on October 1 – 3 details to be announced shortly
- Intro to this webinar topic & Anna and Jon – Anna is co-author of the book “The Children’s Forest -stories & songs, wild food, crafts and celebrations all year round” and long time FS practitioner and teacher educator. Jon is a director for the FSA and long time FS trainer and practitioner.
- Overview of the session.
Jon started off showing the wheels of the year, stating that FS is very much about following the seasons and what is happening in the woods as well as following the learners. Using the 8 directions and the celtic calendar with spirit/the sacred at the heart of the wheel the session used this as a framework and ‘calendar for the ‘following’. He shared how ritual and celebration is really about honouring the ‘sacred’, a relationship between our inner selves and the outer and an energy that ties us together. To illustrate this he shared a diary entry from the week before made while sitting and listening and singing to the sparrows for whom he put food out earlier that morning……
“If we collectively shared a sense of the land as sacred and yes holy would we have started the industrial and agricultural revolutions?? Would our moral compass have shifted and treasured the non human more…the plants, animals and elements…the soil, the rivers, the air, the rocks. The modern environmental movements shy away from words like sacred, ritual, prayer, blessings, holy. BUT if we do use such words and practises it does change our psychic energies and relationship to land and all that lives there.
Singing to the sparrows opens up a new space for me that is so much more reverent and reciprocal and my awareness opens and softens, the earth and its beings do speak back…the sparrows did speak back and I treasure that…it somehow digs into my soul. How can one not tend such feelings and act on them. So glad i fed the said birds this morning!”
Anna then gave an overview of the wheel – it representing a compass and a clock at the same time, the energies of the 24 hour clock coinciding with the energies of the year and seasons of this latitude. From 12 oclock in the north being midnight and all that brings..this being midwinter through to sunrise in the east, and the waking of spring equinox, midday in the south and this being midsummer solstice, through to 9 in the eve, west and autumn equinox and we shift to longer nights and back to midnight and mid winter solstice. And in between each of the quarters, NE, SE, SW and NW directions are key energies and other ‘celebrations’ namely Imbolc, Beltane, Lughansa/Lammas and Samhain.
Imbolc to Imbolc
Jon and anna then started in the present and Imbolc time taking the group through a meditation in the dark bringing in the elements and the intentions and gifts we all have that have been incubating through the winter since Samhain and we wish to bring forth into spring and the following seasons. What space will we make for these to manifest. This was finished by a silence in the dark then lit candle which represents energy and fire and all the 8 celebrations have fire associated with them. In Imbolc’s case St Brigid is the keeper of fire and poetry, she is the embodiment of our firey creative intuitions. Anna then sang a song about Imbolc,
Here are the words;
“Up above the snow is falling
Warm and dark in earth we dream
Gently mothers voice is calling
Wake our dreams of golden green
Stir now the hearth fires warming
Healing herbs grow on her dress
Harken bird its nearly morning
Bridey bright oh Bridey bless”
Anna then went through the ways she celebrates Imbolc with her Forest School groups, working with their own intuitions.
Jon told a story of this time of year as a springboard for discussion groups on how would we celebrate the spring equinox at Forest School. The story is an Italian folktale called ‘The Capricious Month’ Jon picked up in Italy many years ago and the source is ‘Tales Merry and Wise – by Laura Mincieli’. It has been reprinted in ‘Earth Tales from around the world by Michael Caduto.’
This is the time to mark nesting and eggs are often a theme to follow.
Here are ideas from the breakout groups;
Sowing seeds, earth candles
Directions around the fire, linking in the elemental changes, looking at buds and changes, eating hawthorn flowers.
Decorating willow with tissue flowers and ribbons – Danish Tradition. Letting go of what’s gone and what is to come.
Martinitsa – red and white bracelets. Gifts of red or white wool in trees from Grandma March. Baba Marta. Red for fertility and white for new life. Bulgarian tradition. Worn until storks return from Africa when bracelets get hung in the tree.
Taking a minute to collect a handful of sounds, noticing changes each week.
Movement, song, mark with a special meal, mediation, music, drama links to being the sun on their journey.
The importance of celebration was core to our conversation. We talked about candles, fire and shelter.
Using sit spots more to help children notice/observe and collect a fistful of sounds.
Balancing scales- to show what they are grateful for and what they are looking forward to, bridge making- moving forwards crossing a barrier, watching things grow from compost – planting things then using them later on during the year.
Using an earth candle at our kindergarten that comes out through the year – Lovely leader melted down some old candles into a hole dug in the ground and added a wick. This was brought to Forest School site, partially buried it and we lit it to warm the earth, celebrating Candlemas (time of Imbolc).
Showing the children the changes in the growth of flora and fauna. Notice where and what animals have eaten around the woodland.
Make a memory stick and observe all the buds and what the earth is showing us how it is awaking.
2 shrines which children gather things for representing day and night, planting seeds in eggshells to take home and watch grow, balancing on streamlines etc. painting night (with mud) and day (with chalk) on tree cookies. Ways to represent where the sun leaves site at different times of year.
Workshop by www.sharonblackie.net at the end of January, ‘Brigid and the return of the light’ she is running them monthly, posted under the heading The Bone Cave. Highly recommend her books and really enjoyed the workshop. Her podcast is well worth listening to with lots of really interesting and stimulating guests https://soundcloud.com/thismythiclife many relating to the subject of this webinar.
Danish Tradition of bare birch twigs decorated with colourful paper spun as flowers – Bulgarian Tradition of Baba Marta and making martenitsi (red and white woven friendship bracelets) which symbolise new life, new beginnings, health… Taken off when the first storks/swallows come back form Africa and tied on a tree to bring fruitfulness and make wishes come true… Taking a minute to collect a handful of sounds – sounds of spring – scavenger hunts – noticing new life – new beginnings :
Writing a joint poem around the fire about the signs of spring, each offers a noun, then adjective, then adverb to create each line. And burning old aromatic herbs ready to welcome in the new, fresh growth.
Jon and Anna then briefly went through ideas for the other 6 celebrations
May day – celebration of connection and joining and high energy – the tying of ‘knots’. This is where the ‘here we go gathering knots in may’ comes from (NOT NUTS IN MAY!). Maypole dancing round a tree, working with hawthorn blossom and leaves with the may queen and green man. Simple labyrinths, movement and dancing, lots of song and willow hearts! Celebrate what we love about the woods and the others in the community – a time of appreciation and deep gratitudes. Daisy chains etc etc.
Midsummer Day and Solstice
Oak is the prevalent tree and celebrations and fairs around the oak are good to have…what stalls and activities would you engage with – stick throwing, sun spears etc etc. spell making with elder wands. Making honey with elderflower, potions from honeysuckle. Made up speeches from under the sacred oak – pledges to protect the wood.
A creative relaxed feel – making of puppets, crowns and ‘plays’ under the trees, games and sports in the woods, start of harvest – corn or grass ‘dollies’/characters. Make a hazel hay rake..cut and rake meadows near the woods or ‘rides’. Many ‘cutting’ and raking songs!
Apple time has started – crab apple jelly, making of flags, blessing the apple tree. Honouring the small things and ‘people’. To celebrate the colours starting to change Jon often introduced Nordic slinging and way of making braids to turn into bracelets, necklaces, belts, its like a scandinavian hand-version of maypole dancing! See https://www.ydmt.org/resources/files/Green%20Futures%20nordic%20braid%20activity%202020.pdf
His record for number of people making a braid is 20 to date! Nuts start to fruit and harvest time is often celebrated here. Jon has made mandalas from the fruits of the forest as a focus for a ritual.
Often wrapped up with Halloween and summers end but in celtic terms it is the ‘start of the new year’. This is about honouring our ancestors and sowing seeds for the winter – particularly acorns, nuts and fruit seeds. The altar and symbol in the children’s forest book represents those that are yet to come as well as those that have come before – there is a naming of ancestors and baby’s. Leaves are falling and going back into the soil.
All about resting into dreamworld…what intentions do we want to ponder on through the winter. It’s a kindling of flame to keep our energy which will be nurtured through winter to Imbolc. Candle and lantern making, and spirals in bringing together all the elements. Gifting is key to maintain the community spirit.
The session finished with candles lit and a blessing written and spoken by Jack Durtnall.
“Bud and Seed to light we lead
Embers heat to flame be freed
Silence waits before birds sing
A Still snow thaws into the Spring.
A hunter tall stands I the sky
His starlight gleam in hand and eye.
Feathered flocks that flit in frost
Feed and fly by iced winds tossed.
Between the last breath and the first
Then glimmer seeds that were dispersed
A star glow stirs within the earth
Unfurling light that wakes in birth.”
Gratitudes to all who came and those who contributed – Jack, Anna, Matt and Sarah
“The Children’s Forest – stories & songs, wild food, crafts and celebrations all year round” Dawn Casey, Anna Richardson and Helen d’Ascoli (Hawthorn Press) see https://www.childrensforests.org/ for the national childrensforest programme
“Sacred Earth Celebrations” Glennie Kindred
“Walking with Trees” Glennie Kindred see http://glenniekindred.co.uk/
“Irelands Trees – myths, legends and folklore” Niall Mac Coitir The Collins Press
The Wheel by Damh the Bard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nqcq-HgV0mQ
Book recommendation from a participant: “Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring” by Kenard Pak.