The spring equinox on March 21st or 22nd marked the New Year in earlier times, and in the British Isles and Ireland is traditionally considered the best time to sow seeds for the new harvest. The staple crops were usually oats, barley and rye, and, from the 17th century onwards, potatoes.
Ploughing often began on the lucky day of Friday, or, best of all, on Good Friday. The ploughman led his horses in a sunwise direction, to invoke the sun's blessing on his work. When he yoked and unyoked his team, he made sure their heads faced south.
The sower began his work with the solemn words, "In the name of God," and his first job was to give the horses a handful of seed from his bag and throw a clod of earth upon their rumps. Mixed in with the seeds were ashes from the hearth-fire, or better still, ashes from the midsummer bonfire, for the protection and luck of sacred fire.
In Scotland, the farmer prepared the seed three days before sowing-time by sprinkling it with water in the name of the Sacred Three as he walked around it sunwise. As he sowed this first consecrated seed, he chanted the invocation:
I will go out to sow the seed,
In the name of Him who gave it growth
I will place my front in the wind,
And throw a gracious handful on high....
Every seed will take root in the earth,
As the King of the Elements desired.
Up until modern times in Ireland, the whole family assembled in one of the fields for the ritual ‘turning the sod,’ accompanied by prayers. The seeds were offered up for blessing of Saint Brighid, who was once a goddess associated with the earth, the sun and fertility. In Wales, families went out into the fields to call on the Corn Spirit for a good harvest. They poured a libation of cider on the ground and buried a piece of plum cake as a libation to the Earth. After the feast, they joined hands and danced across the field.
Seeds for the Soul's Garden
Light a candle at your altar, centre yourself, and ponder on what seeds you would like to sow in your life this year: Seeds that will grow and come to fruition to nourish your soul. Write down everything which comes to you in a list, then choose three of them that you can really focus on: one for yourself, one for your family or community, and one for the planet.
A seed will remain forever dormant unless it is planted in earth that has been well prepared for it. What groundwork do you need to do before your seed-ideas can germinate?
In the modern world, we are continually bombarded with distracting stimuli. The straight, orderly furrows of a ploughed field remind us of the need to focus on our own projects. Look at ways in which you can clear space and time in your week for cultivating the delicate new shoots that will appear.
As the plough may encounter hard, stones in the soil, we may allow all sorts of things to get in the way of our growth. Take a look at any obstacles, within or without, that may prevent you from working towards your most important goals. How do you plan to deal with them?
Visualize your seed-ideas growing and becoming strong, healthy “plants.” What will each idea look, sound, smell, taste, and feel like when it comes to fruition? Paint a picture in words or in colours, making them as real as possible, and place on your altar.
Ask Brighid to bless these projects with her life-giving sun and warmth.
Now re-enter your daily life and be sure to nurture your seed-ideas with the four elements:
Air = inspiration
Fire = enthusiasm
Water = imagination
Earth = practical application
… and watch your garden grow!