Summer Solstice comes with warnings!

The longest day of the year is a day to be wary of evil spirits!

The seasons have always been dictated by plantings and harvests. Bonfires were built to boost the sun’s energy and to ward off any demonic spirits. Flowers and herbs were worn to ward off evil spirits and St. John’s Wort is thought to be very powerful. The name of the herb is attributed to John the Baptist whose birthday is celebrated around the summer solstice.

When Christianity spread through northern Europe, pagan customs and Christians beliefs were combined. This affected the Celtic Calendar. There are four quarter days for the four seasons, but the Celts had four Cross-Quarter days that are in the middle of the season. For example, February 1 was considered the first day of spring (not March 21) and Christians called this day Candlemas. I wrote about Candlemas in a previous post.

Lady Day was March 25 (spring equinox) and was the day for hiring men to plant. The church called this the Feast of Angel Gabriel in celebrating Gabriel’s visit to Mary and announcing she’d be the mother of the long awaited messiah.

The summer solstice (Midsummer Day) marks the midpoint of the growing season. Bonfires are still lit today in some communities to ward off evil spirits while St. John’s Day is celebrated with festivals and prayer. The importance of having a good crop to harvest has not changed. It was also a time for weddings. Couples met on May 1 which was celebrated because it was halfway between the spring and summer solstice. They then married on Midsummer Day. The couple had six weeks to get to know each other!

August 1 is the halfway point between the summer and fall equinox and was called Loaf Mass because it celebrated the harvest of wheat. Farmers took the first loaf of bread to be blessed by the priest and then broke the loaf into four pieces. The pieces were placed in the four corners of the barn to protect the wheat that was stored there. Festivals continue to be held to this day.

The fall equinox is known as Michaelmas and it is the beginning of harvest. The angel Michael is celebrated and festivals are held. It also was the time for elections because it was a time when people gathered.

October 31 was Samhain and many believe this was the Celtic new year, but I also read many believe February 1 was their new year. Meat was slaughtered at this time for their winter supply and of course bonfires were lit to ward off evil spirits. Fortune tellers predicted what the new year would hold for the people.

The year ends with Christmas and the winter solstice. Since today is hot and humid, I’m thinking the cold of December sounds pretty nice. I hope you enjoyed learning about the Cross-Quarter Days.

The Wort Family!

Like any family, the members are quite different.

The word wort comes from the English word wyrt which means plant, herb or root. The opposite of wort is weed. Names were given to the plants because it was believed the plant would help a particular part of the body. That has been proven incorrect because many plants actually have toxic properties.

Spiderwort is the only plant blooming in the picture. It has a cluster of flowers and like a lily the flower only blooms for one day. If you have broken the stem of a spiderwort you know how sticky the sap is. It was used to treat insect bites and I can understand that usage. The stems and leaves have both been compared to spider legs. I like the plant because it does well in both sun and shade and it blooms most of the summer.

Lung wort has a leaf with white dots and in the spring it has beautiful pink and purple flowers. It likes the shade and it blooms for four to six weeks. Another plus for this plant is the deer don’t like it. It is one of the wort plants that is toxic.

Barrenwort (epimedium) is the one with the heart shaped leaves. It produces yellow flowers in late spring. It has many other names and is considered an herb by some. Apparently it has a pleasant taste and can be used as an aphrodisiac. I’ll pass. It was a lovely addition to my garden this year and it likes the shade and is deer resistant.

The fern looking plant is a master wort which is a very large category. I could not find mine online, but that was what it was labeled when I bought it. It blooms in June if the deer don’t eat the white flowers. It likes the shade and the flower reminds me of Queen Anne’s Lace. I was a day late in trying to get a picture. Those deer!

If you are a gardener, I highly recommend the wort plants. They offer long lasting beauty in the garden.

We Remember

A day to honor those who lost their lives for America and remembering loved ones.

The first Decoration Day was held in Arlington Cemetery in 1868. President Ulysses S. Grant officiated. It was held to honor and remember the 620,000 soldiers who died in the Civil War. Decoration Day became known as Memorial Day and was celebrated by states before it became a federal holiday. New York was the first state in 1873 and Waterloo, New York was named the birthplace of Memorial Day because the citizens placed flowers and flags on soldiers’ graves.

It is interesting to note that women laid flowers on soldiers’ graves in Columbus, Mississippi, in April,1866, to honor those who had died in the hospital from wounds and disease. Research showed prior to that year in 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina, former slaves and missionaries gave the 257 Union prisoners a proper burial. These graves were placed in rows and a ten foot fence was built around it. The sign read “Martyrs of the Race Course.” Ordinary people did extraordinary things to honor those lost in war.

In 2005, Jeff Miller and Earl Morse formed the Honor Flight Network to honor those who served in the military. Honor Flights take veterans to Washington DC to visit the nations’ memorials. It began with WWII veterans and now Vietnam veterans are the primary recipients. Today there are 128 hubs throughout America and approximately 22,000 veterans make the trip each year.

As a little girl, I remember watching the soldiers march down the street behind the band. My mother picked flowers (mainly peonies) and we went to the cemetery to put flowers on relatives’ graves. We honored veterans and remembered loved ones.

This week 19 children and two teachers were killed by a disturbed young man in Texas. The shortest verse in the Bible is Jesus wept, and I believe Jesus cried with us as we wept. On this Memorial Day we pray for the families of those who mourn their loved ones, whether they were lost many years ago or as recently as this week. I pray that God will bring comfort and strength to all who have lost loved ones.

Granny Witch to Role Model!

Mother’s day has been celebrated in America since 1914.

Every time I smell fried chicken I think of my grandmother. She was a hard working farmer’s wife who cooked a huge noon meal every day for my grandfather and uncles who worked the farm. Endless chores filled her day and I believe my work ethic was influenced by her. “Take time to do it right. If it’s worth doing, do it right. Finish one job before starting another.” These are all sayings I grew up hearing.

A friend of ours asked his university freshmen students who their role model was growing up. He said that 20% of the students said their grandmother and that was followed by a parent or a teacher. That led me to doing a little research on grandmas.

I had never heard of Granny Witches, but am familiar with herbal medicine. Appalachian grandmas became known as Granny Witches because they used plants, prayer, and wisdom in treating people. German, Scottish and Irish traditions for healing came to America with the first settlers and they learned more about plants from the Native Americans. This knowledge was needed since doctors were scarce. Religion came with the settlers and Bibles were regularly read and church was attended. Superstitions about the grannies’ abilities were not erased by attending church. Grannies believed in prayer and superstitions.

A part of a girl’s education was identifying plants. Women passed their knowledge from one generation to the next and were able to find water with a forked stick, treat ailments with herbs and deliver babies. Grannies quoted scripture, read tea leaves, and gave advice. The importance of the Granny Witches in the communities can’t be emphasized enough.

Today many grandmas receive gifts and cards. I recently taught my 13 year old granddaughter how to make a lemon meringue pie. She appreciated the help, but she gave me a gift by asking me to teach her.

Happy Mother’s Day!

May Celebrations and Beauty

Lilacs are one of May’s flowers and irises, peonies, and poppies will soon follow.

The month of May announces that summer is on its way. The flowers are glorious and proud as they blow in the warm breezes. However, I need to show what my last April surprise was.

Deer ate all the tulips in my front yard. There were almost 150. This is the first year they enjoyed a tulip buffet. I’m used to them eating my lilies but this was a shock.

These tulips are in the back of the house and were not bothered. Deer did leave me their calling card of poop though.

May Day was yesterday so April surprises are now in the past. I remember delivering May baskets of flowers to neighbors as a little girl and even dancing around a maypole one year. The maypole was a tradition in both England and Germany. The ancient Romans celebrated the flower goddess Flora and the goddess Maia on May 1. I can’t imagine keeping track of all these different gods and goddesses and all the celebrations. This was a fertility celebration for crops and people.

The Puritans did not approve the dancing and drinking that occurred on May Day and we can assume what else occurred, so Parliament banned maypoles in 1644. It didn’t take long for the new king, Charles II, to restore the tradition. Since this was a fertility celebration, many soon changed the tradition of young men and women dancing around the maypole to having children dance instead. I wonder if that solved the problem.

Wishing you all a happy May and I hope you are blessed with blooming flowers. And…a little dancing is good for the body and the soul!

Holy Friday

Good was a synonym for holy.

Holy week for Christians in America begins on Palm Sunday when Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem is remembered. People shouted Hosanna which means Save Us. The people believed Jesus was the long awaited Messiah because of the miracles he had performed. His latest miracle was just a few days before coming to Jerusalem when he raised Lazarus from the dead and the news created great excitement. The people had waited a long time for the Messiah and they hoped Jesus was him.

The Jewish leaders feared Jesus’s popularity because he taught that Jewish laws were very restrictive and were not what God desired. Jesus broke the laws by healing on the sabbath and he ate with tax collectors and people who were considered undesirable. In anger, he turned over the tables in the outer court of the temple because the money changers cheated people. Jesus referred to them as a den of thieves. He did this on the first day he entered Jerusalem and the high priests were furious.

Throughout the week Jesus taught in the temple and was carefully watched. When he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane he stated that he had taught all week and wondered why they were now coming for him. He was taken before the Sanhedrin which was the Jewish court and found guilty of healing on the sabbath, threatening to destroy the Jewish Temple and claiming to be the Messiah. The Jewish council found Jesus guilty and turned him over to Pontius Pilate who said he found Jesus innocent, but that was not what the high priests wanted. They encouraged the crowd to cry for the crucifixion of Jesus instead of Barabbas who was a convicted murderer.

Jesus was flogged and was so weak he could not carry the cross beam to Golgotha Hill where he was crucified. He died after six hours on the cross. Thousands of people were crucified by the Romans and at one point 500 a day suffered in this way. It is interesting to note that no Roman citizen was ever crucified.

Jesus arose from the tomb and his death paid for the sins of the people. Animal sacrifices were no longer needed to gain God’s forgiveness because Jesus paid for our sins with his blood. Easter is Jesus’s resurrection and I thank God for his son.

April Foolery!

April in Ohio makes the entire month subject to unwanted surprises.

This picture was from April 21, 2021, so it wasn’t nature playing an April Fools’ Day joke. In Ohio, any day in April can reveal a joke played by nature. I remember one Good Friday in April when my children made a giant Easter Bunny from the snow. I wish nature would agree with me and not allow snow after March 1. I’m perfectly happy with it December through February, but when March arrives I want spring.

Historians aren’t sure of the origin of April’s Fools’, but some suggest it began in 1582 when the calendar was switched from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. It took awhile for people to hear that the new year was to begin on January 1 instead of April 1. These poor uninformed people were called April Fools.

I have never been a fan of practical jokes which are performed on April 1. I remember both as a child and as a teacher seeing signs stuck on someone’s back. These were not words of praise. There were many acts of meanness performed and it made the day miserable. What would have been nice was to see people surprising others with a compliment, a candy bar, an invitation or for me a flower.

The other problem I have with this day was the person humiliated or hurt wasn’t allowed to be upset because it was just an April Fool’s joke and that was expected on this day. They were to laugh it off. I don’t agree. There is no day that should encourage people to embarrass or harm another.

I have come to accept nature’s jokes, but I can’t accept cruel acts. Why ruin a person’s day when you could do something to make them happy?

More Miracles!

Nature’s miracles always delight me.

It always surprises me how small bulbs survive our cold winters and produce such lovely blossoms. I’m so happy the squirrels don’t dig up the crocus or daffodil bulbs; I can’t say that about my tulips. Those squirrels!

I heard from a couple people who shared their miracles after reading my last blog. One said it was a miracle her cancer was found early. Another said she thought it was a miracle the chemo worked and she is now cancer free. They both said they thank God every day. Years ago a friend told me her father’s tumor disappeared after people in his church prayed for him. He was scheduled for surgery and when he had the last scan he was told it was gone. He remained cancer free and died many years later.

Another story was someone who was in a car accident. She was pinned in the car and no one was around. Her phone just happened to land on her chest and she could reach it with her free hand and called 911. I love hearing the stories and I know there are many who ask why they haven’t received miraculous help or healing in response to their prayers. I too have asked that.

Last night we were given a beautiful rainbow. Rainbows are signs of hope and good things to come. For me it is a sign that God is watching over us. The news is so depressing that it’s difficult to watch, so seeing a rainbow is encouraging.

As spring brings reawakening plants, I’m thankful for these miracles of nature. I’m not so thankful for the sturdy weeds the stare at me proudly for surviving the winter. They are very resilient which I realize is a good quality to have in these challenging times. Look for the daily miracle and you will be uplifted!

Miracles Do Happen!

There is no such thing as an ordinary miracle.

I love reading and listening to people talk about miracles. Over the years I have heard of many. I just finished reading Sarah Bessey’s book Miracles and other Reasonable Things, and it inspired me to tell a miracle story of my own. It’s not as dramatic as Sarah’s healing, but I think people can relate to it and maybe see God’s hand in something that has happened to them.

About seventeen years ago, my husband and I were driving south from Carlisle in northern England to London after visiting friends. While at a rest stop, my wallet was stolen from my unzipped purse. It held one credit card, and both dollars and pounds. I didn’t discover this until we had driven for an hour. We had to return to the rest stop and make a police report and call to cancel my credit card.

For next four hours I prayed that my wallet would be found. When we arrived at the inn, I told my husband we needed to check the car again because I felt my wallet wasn’t lost. We did and found nothing. While carrying our bags into the inn, the proprietor asked if we were the Skinners. When we said yes she told me I had a phone call. “I have a phone call?” I asked in a stupor. It was Francis our friend in Carlisle who had received an email from my daughter. I stunned to say the least. This gets even more curious so stay with me.

I was to call the police station in Shropshire, England because they had my wallet. My daughter just happened to be at our house to feed the cat when a woman with an English accent called and told her she had found the wallet along the road while out walking and that I should call the Shropshire police. Jill immediately emailed Francis. It was amazing Francis read the email because for her checking email was a nighttime activity. She told me she had felt pushed to check it.

I called the police and was shocked to hear my credit card and money were still in the wallet. Nothing had been taken! The police would not give me the woman’s phone number, but Jill had written it down and I tried calling when we returned home. The number didn’t exist.

This would be in the category of ordinary miracle, but for me there is no such thing. Think of all the people involved in getting my wallet returned. It took a supreme being to orchestrate the timing of each person’s actions. I call it divine timing and the work of an angel. Prayer does work, and I would love for you to share your stories.

The Joy of a Blossom!

My gardenia plant has three beautiful blossoms!

Gardeners know the joy of seeing a plant bloom. Plants are similar to children in that some are more challenging than others. For me, the gardenia plant has been challenging. I have had many over the years and the longest I was able to keep one was five years. I’m hoping I’ve learned from my mistakes.

The plant that lived the longest never went outside. I made the mistake of taking the others outside in the summer. When I brought them inside for the winter, they always had insects. As I tried to kill the insects, I killed the plant. This beautiful plant did not spend the summer outside, and it sits all day in a sunny window. I also have done a better job of fertilizing it than I have in the past. If you don’t know the aroma of a gardenia, I can’t explain it because it has its own distinct scent. It smells heavenly!

Scents elicit memories and for my father-in-law it was the Philippines where he was stationed during WWII. He said gardenias grew everywhere and the air was filled with their scent. I remember I wore a gardenia corsage to my senior prom. I remember that, but I don’t remember my dress. I pressed the corsage and kept it for years.

Gardenias are evergreens, but not in Ohio. They need moisture, at least six to eight hours of light each day, and acidic fertilizer. They also like hearing how good they smell and how pretty they look. The extra pampering this plant gets is worth it.