Sunday, March 23, 2008

Spring Equinox /Forårsjævndøgn


People have recognized the vernal equinox for thousands of years. There is no shortage of rituals and traditions surrounding the coming of spring. Many early peoples celebrated for the basic reason that their food supplies would soon be restored. The date is significant in Christianity always falls on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. The early Egyptians built the Great Sphinx so that it points directly toward the rising Sun on the day of the vernal equinox.

Easter is termed a moveable fest because it is not fixed in relation to the civil calendar. Easter falls at some point between late March and late April each year (early April to early May in Eastern Christianity), following the cycle of the moon. Easter is the first Sunday after the first fourteenth day of the moon that is on or after March 21(the ecclesiastical spring, or vernal,equinox.

Ostara is one of the four lesser Wiccan holidays or sabbats of the Wheel of the Year. Ostara is celebrated on the spring equinox, in the Northern hemisphere around March 21. Among the Wiccan sabbats, it is preceded by Imbolc and followed by Beltane.
It was considered bad luck to wear anything new before Ostara, so the people would work through the winter in secret to make elegant clothes for the Sabbat celebration. The entire community would gather for games, feasting, and religious rituals while showing off their clothing.
The modern belief that eggs are delivered by a rabbit known as the Easter Bunny comes from the legend of the Goddess Eostre. So much did a lowly rabbit want to please the Goddess that he laid the sacred eggs in her honor, gaily decorated them, and humbly presented them to her. So pleased was she that she wished all humankind to share in her joy. In honor of her wishes, the rabbit went through the entire world and distributed these little decorated gifts of life"

The customs surrounding the celebration of the spring equinox were imported from Mediterranean lands, although there can be no doubt that the first inhabitants of the British Isles observed it, as evidence from megalithic sites shows. But it was certainly more popular to the south, where people celebrated the holiday as New Year's Day, and claimed it as the first day of the first sign of the Zodiac, Aries. However you look at it, it is certainly a time of new beginnings, as a simple glance at Nature will prove."

photo 2007-2008: grethe bachmann

Children in Lesser Snow

There's not much snow left since yesterday, but the children
just don't give up. They want to go skiing anyway.

Dad on ski and a small boy with his big blue sledge........

photo 230308: gb, Mindeparken, Århus

Children in Snow - Two Good Friends

Two Good Friends

photo 230308: gb

Children in Easter Snow - Fun

Are you ready?

Just sit here in front of me...

don't be scared little sister.............

Off we go...

This is fun..............

photo 220308: gb

Monday, March 17, 2008

Daffodil, Narcissus /Påskelilje

Narcissus pseudonarcissus

Daffodils that come before the swallow dares
And take the winds of march with beauty
William Shakespeare

The Danish name Paaskelilje refers directly to Easter, and it is impossible to imagine a Danish Easter without bundles of those pretty yellow flowers as a decoration in the house together with the Easter eggs and all the other traditional Easter decorations.

The name Narcissus is mostly connected to the legend about the youth in Greek mythology who became so obsessed by his own reflection that he kneeled and gazed into a pool of water until he fell into the water and drowned. The legend says further that the Narcissus plant first sprang from where he died.

Narcissus is the botanic name and there are many variations. The common English name Daffodil is sometimes used for all varieties. The Narcissus was listed as a medicinal herb in 'De Medicina' by the physician Aulus Cornelius Celsus, who said that 'it was powerful to disperse whatever has collected in any part of the body'.

photo 120308: grethe bachmann

Dandelion/ Løvetand

Taraxacum officinalis

Notice the first fine leaves of Dandelion in spring. They are high in vitamin A , C and iron - with more iron and calcium than spinach. They have a slightly bitter taste, but are good in a salad and fine together with eggs.

The Latin name Taraxacum officinalis derives from Greek taraxos (disorder) and akos (remedy) on account of the curative action of the plant. The name officinalis refers to its value as a medicinal herb. The Dandelion takes an important place as a honey-producing plant.

The English name Dandelion is from French dent de lion = lion's tooth, the same meaning in other European languages like the Italian dente di leone and Danish Løvetand. In Danish it has also another name Mælkebøtte referring to the milky substance in the stem.

Although it is considered a weed it does have several culinary uses. The leaves can be eaten cooked or raw in various forms such as in soup or salad - young leaves eaten raw in salads while older leaves are cooked. In spring many gather the new light green leaves for a salad. They give a fine salad and the flower buds can be pickled as capers. The Spanish soldiers at Funen in 1808 made a salad from the leaves with oil, vinegar and pepper. The leaves were often used in cabbage dishes.
Flowers were put upon beer to avoid the sour taste. The flowers are good for brewing a dandelion wine.

The first mention of the Dandelion as a medicinal plant is in the works of the Arabian physicians of the 10th and 11th centuries. On former days Dandelion Juice was the favourite preparation on both official and domestic medicine. It is a general stimulant to the system, but especially to the urinary organs, and is chiefly used in kidney and liver disorders. Used medicinally: the root fresh or dried and the young tops. The dried Dandelion leaves are also employed as an ingredient in many digestive or diet drinks and herb beers.

Folk Medicine: 
Henrik Smid 1546: a distillate from the herb for fever diseases and malaria, it subsides pain and cough, it calms and cools. The juice is good against stomach pain, a distillate from herb and root to bathe stained eyes. The fresh herb or a cloth soaked in distillate subsides pain in abscesses and limbs. Women used to bathe their face with the distillate to get a clear teint and to remove red spots.

The root and the whole plant was written in the Pharmacopoeia in 1772. The root is still sold in pharmacies. The plant is the best blood cleansing means, the young leaves have dissolving, diuretic and laxative properties. The young leaves eaten as a salad in spring works diuretic and antipyretic. Tea from the dried root against gouts. The flowers used as a compress draws out gout from the body. The root is an ingrediense of a tea against dropsy.

An extract from the fresh roots was still used in the 1900s as a diuretic and laxative. The juice of the plant was used against jaundice, the juice smeared upon scratches and small wounds. Extract from the plant was an ingrediense in a means against warts. In most of the country people thought it removed warts, it was also said to remove freckles. The milky latex has been used as a mosquito repellent, or applied to warts.

If the horses are grazing upon a field with many dandelions they will not get a cough, and their gallstones will disappear in four weeks.

The root digged up in the sign of Virgo and hung around the neck of animals and humans against pain in the eyes; dandelions and scabiosa around the child's neck as a protection against smallpox and following blindness; if people wore the dried root they were protected atgainst all evil powers and infectious diseases.

If the cows eat dandelions with the hay there was no butter in the milk. The trolls use the juice for cooking a magic ointment.

Other use: 

A yellow or green dye can be obtained from the flowers.
The leaves were also a replacement for the chewing-tobacco.

Coffee Surrogate
The use of roots as a coffee surrogate is mentioned in Danish literature after ab. 1800. During the Napoleonic wars 1807-14 many poor people in Copenhagen earned their living by gathering and cleansing the roots and sold them to the factories, where the roots were roasted and pulverized and then sold by the grocers. Outside Copenhagen people used burnt crushed rye kernels or peas, some used acorn. In 1837 was said that the root had been used as a coffee surrogate for a long time now and " it was desirable if it could replace the imported coffee, then we would avoid all those terribly neurotic individuals who exist now as a result of this exaggerated coffee drinking." In 1880-90 roots were gathered for coffee surrogate, but after the turn of the century dandelion was not used as coffee except in the two world wars.

If you could blow off all the fluff at once meant good luck.

photo 120308: grethe bachmann

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Forget Me Not / Forglemmigej


A lovely light blue Forget Me Not hiding under a bushel in the rain.

The name was borrowed from Old French 'ne m'oubliez pas' and first used in English in c.1532.
Similar names can be found in most European and some non-European languages. (Danish = Forglemmigej.) In the Middle ages it was supposed that the wearers of the flower would not be forgotten by their lovers.

The flower(badge) is universally worn as a Masonic emblem to remember all those who have suffered in the name of Freemasonry and specifically those during the Nazi era. In Canada the symbol of the Alzheimer Society is the forget-me-not-flower, representing memory loss.

photo 120308: gb

The Sun Horse/ Solhesten

The Sun Horse and violet crocus in spring.

The Bronze statue of 'Solhesten' in Mindeparken in Århus was made by sculptor Valdemar Foersom Hegndal with an inspiration from the Sun Horse, an important religious symbol during Bronze Age.

Solvognen (Sun Carriage), now at the National Museum in Copenhagen, is from about 1350 B.C. It was found in Trundholm Moor, North West Zealand in 1902. A bronze horse pulls a bronze disc, at one side covered with a thin layer of gold. It was interpreted as the horse and the sun's travel across the sky during the day.

Nationalmuseum: Sun Horse
Sun chariot: Solvognen

photo 120308: grethe bachmann

Stinging Nettle/ Brændenælde

Urtica dioica

The young nettles in spring are very healthy

The stinging nettle has a long medicinal history, but also in general it's a very useful plant. Fabric woven of nettle fiber has been found in burial sites dating back to Bronze Age.

The nettle was used for a vast number of diseases both in ancient Greece and in the rest of Europe. Among many others the physician Galen recommended it highly - and Plinius praised it for its styptic qualities. The Roman soldiers brought it with them on their expeditions in order to massage their soar legs and to promote the circulation of the blood.
In medieval Europe diuretics and remedies for joint problems were made from stinging nettle. Arthritic joints were sometimes treated by whipping the joint with a branch of nettle. The same technique was used by healers who used the branches of nettle to strike the arms and legs of paralyzed patients in order to activate the muscles. Psychiatrics (up till the late 1800s) treated people with mental disorders by whipping them with nettles.
The monks in medieval Europe had a section in their herbal garden with stinging nettle for both medicinal and culinary use.

Scientics of today have discovered that stinging nettle is well qualified for treatment of various diseases . The plant is basic and a good remedy for the stomach and a strengthening remedy in anaemia and reduced immune defence. Pluck fresh young tops in spring for a strengthening herbal tea. The leaves can be mixed with other ingredients to create a soup, a good source of nutrients for people who lack meat or fruit in their diet. Stinging nettle has to be pluck in spring before flowering. In autumn the leaves are not usable for food. Do not pluck by traffic roads.

From a culinary view the nettle has an old reputation. It is one of few wild plants still gathered each spring by country-folk as a pot-herb. It makes a healthy vegetable, easy of digestion. The young tops are good in soup, stew and as a spice. They contain much A- and C-vitamin and important minerals. But there are many possibilites and various customs. Nettle-pudding is known in Scotland, Nettle beer is known in different places, there is a Nettle Hair Tonic to prevent hair falling. Nettle is mixed in fodder for live-stock, (which doesn't sting the animals after a process!) in fodder for horses to give them a sleek coat - and in fodder for poultry for better and more eggs. Stinging nettle is also used in biodynamic and ecological agriculture for manuring and spraying.

Stinging nettle's fiber is very similar to that of Hemp and Flax, and it was used for the same purposes from making cloth of the finest texture down to the coarsest such as sail cloth, sacking, cordage etc. In dyeing processes the leaves make a beautiful and permanent green dye used for wool or a yellow dye formerly used to dye yarn. The yellow colour was also used to dye the Easter eggs.

In Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale of the Princess and the Eleven Swans , the coats she weaved for them were made of nettles.

HCAndersens 'The Wild Swans', translated by Jean Hersholt:

The nettle is wellknown for its sting, which can be cured by applying juice from the plant to the skin. An old rhyme says:

Nettle ind, dock out

Dock rub, nettle out.

photo 120308: grethe bachmann

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The First Anemone - William Cullen Bryant

Within the woods,
Whose young and half transparent leaves scarce cast
A shade, gray circles of anemones
Danced on their stalks. 
William Cullen Bryant

photo 120308: grethe bachmann, Marselisborg Forest, Århus

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Viking Burial Site - Højstrup, Thy, North Jutland

The Vikings

The Viking burial site at Højstrup Mark by Tømmerby fjord in Thy, North Jutland dates from ab. year 800. It consists of different grave types with stone outlines of ships set down around cremation graves.

The Viking graves at Højstrup Mark and the big Viking burial site at Lindholm Høje by Aalborg (also North Jutland) have strong resemblances to a cemetery at Ingleby in Derbyshire, which is the only known Scandinavian cremation cemetery in England and an important source of information for Viking pagan graves in the Danelaw. ( The Ingleby graves dates to late 9th - early 10th century) The resemblance suggests that the Vikings buried at Ingleby may well have come from North Jutland.
Source : Ingleby cemetery Derbyshire, from 'Medieval Archaeology' 39 (1995) 51-70.

photo 130606: grethe bachmann, Højstrup, North Jutland

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Oak Marble Gall /Egegalde

The gall wasp lays eggs within leaf buds. A single larva is located in a hard seed-like cell in the centre. The word marble derives from the gall's shape which is a marble-like rounded structure.
The galls contain large amounts of tannic acid which was used for making iron gall ink and for dying cloth. According to recent research traces of iron-gall ink have been found on the Dead Sea scrolls.

photo 080308: grethe bachmann, Djursland

Thursday, March 06, 2008

March Evening - poem

March Evening

Dark trees' silhouettesan owl's hoot
in the frosty night

Blue skies' gentle clouds
the sound of a jet
on its way down south

photo March 2008: gb

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

On the First Day of March - 2008

Farm by Jexen

By a desolated water mill

Preparing a public path before spring

A public path by the Jexen Valley

Fine green moss

Jexen Valley - here comes the sun.........

And my buzzard was there too................

photo 010308: grethe bachmann, Jexendalen.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Month of March - Roman God of War and Fertility

Mars, the Roman God of War and fertility was the inspiration for the name March. March is the time of the Storm Moon according to Pagan beliefs . The old Danish name was Lent-måned - which the Christian church had adopted from the vikings' word Lenct. The days grew longer in March and the vikings said the lengthening month of March woke the alder and gorse blooms. In England it was called Lengthening-month. The ancient Norse name was Thor-måned or Thord- måned after the Norse god Thor.
March is the second month of the Celtic Imbolc, and in the Celtic church it was believed that all the saints would redress the forces of darkness with the aim of driving out all negative energies and evil demons. In the Christian church it has something to do with the advent of Lent and Easter, celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In the calendar of March the herbs parsley and basil were believed to be able to cast away the dangers of starvation. the Earth Goddess and her support became vital to ensure the fertility of the land. March is also a time of spirituality and the influence of the feminine aspects within nature within all faiths. As for the the masculine aspect Aries in the astrological calendar brings the power, the sun, the seed and the determination to succeed. The ram (Aries) and the fish (Pisces) are like in February important in the role of animal folklore at this time.

Feel the shift of balance from darkness to light growing stronger.
Welcome spring! Now is the time for banishing winter!

photo 020308: grethe bachmann
, Marselisborg Forest, Århus