A Mystery Solved and the Spring Dance of Green Men

I’m so excited, I’m almost dancing.

Salix viminalis, Osier willow, common willow, osier.

These are names for what I believe is my little tree in the front yard! It has stymied me since I moved in 12 years ago. I suspected it was a kind of willow, but when I searched “willows,” none matched my tree. It’s not weeping and it has really small, narrow leaves. It has catkins in the spring, a willow-like characteristic, and gets lots of suckers and turns yellow in fall.

This morning, I broke off a small branch, including catkins and leaves, ready to send it off the National Arboretum in Washington, DC, for identification.

In one last ditch effort, I searched the internet for “trees with catkins.” This time, It didn’t take long to find a photo that looked like mine! “Osier willow” was what was pictured, a tree native to the United Kingdom and across Europe to western Asia. I am 99.9% certain that this is what it is.

I have a female tree, according to the description of its green catkins.

Male trees have yellow ones. Interesting! These trees favor wet areas and their branches have widely been used for basket making.

Osiers and Green Men

But, more interesting is the folklore associated with osiers. According to one British website, Chediston, Suffolk, has a local custom known as a ‘willow stripping’ ceremony. Typically held at the first full moon in May, this Druid-like event features a ‘Green George” figure dressed in willow strippings, who dances around and is then ceremoniously thrown into the local pond.

Wow! May Day is coming. Perhaps I should dance around my tree, though where it’s planted makes that impossible.

I wonder if Green George is what we also call Green Man? I have several versions of Green Man in my garden.

Myths abound about Green Man or “Jack-in-the-Green.”

Figures of Green Man can seen in numerous churches, cathedrals and abbeys, largely in Britain and France. He is variously depicted as good or evil, frequently with vegetation coming out of his mouth. This can represent life returning each spring, fertility, nature and in general faith and hope.

Obversely, Green Man has been depicted as a demon, devouring all of nature, instead of bestowing it.

Whether you know him by Green Man or Jack-in-the-Green, I prefer to think of him as a spirit who guides us back to our nurturing relationship with Mother Earth.

Jethro Tull did a delightful little song about Jack. It always makes me smile and imagine the little people living in my garden.

By the way, in case you  didn’t know, the name Jethro Tull pays homage to an 18th century English farmer and agricultural pioneer, credited with inventing a horse-drawn seed drill, an improved plow, and a horse-drawn hoe. So, he was a bit of a Green Man himself!

Here are some of the lyrics for the song by Jethro Tull, the rock band. Have a listen sometime!

 

Have you seen Jack-In-The-Green?
With his long tail hanging down.
He quietly sits under every tree
in the folds of his velvet gown. . .

He drinks from the empty acorn cup
the dew that dawn sweetly bestows.
And taps his cane upon the ground
signals the snowdrops it’s time to grow.

It’s no fun being Jack-In-The-Green
no place to dance, no time for song.
He wears the colours of the summer soldier
carries the green flag all the winter long . . .

Jack, do you never sleep
does the green still run deep in your heart?
Or will these changing times.
motorways, powerlines,
keep us apart?
Well, I don’t think so
I saw some grass growing through the pavements today . . .

The rowan, the oak and the holly tree
are the charges left for you to groom.
Each blade of grass whispers Jack-In-The-Green . . .

Have you spotted Jack yet?

Full Moon, Empty Strawberry Bowl

The June Full Moon is called the Strawberry Moon. The Algonquin tribes associated this moon with the gathering of strawberries.

The June Full Moon is also known as the Rose Moon, Honey Moon, and Mead Moon. Perhaps it is the time of collecting honey, picking roses and making mead.

I have not noticed a pink hue to the moon in the past couple days. The night before it was officially full, I gazed upon a lovely, if not ominous, moon surrounded by swirly clouds. I especially liked the way the moon was lighting up the clouds around it.

I quickly shot a bunch of hand-held photos. Not sharply in focus, they do not need to be. Think of them as atmospheric, dreamy.

On the following night of the real full moon, I looked out and saw a crystal clear white moon, with no clouds. Not as interesting, so I did not shoot it.

Strawberry moon? I have been waiting for my strawberries to ripen. They seem late and not many so far this June.

True, we have had cooler, cloudy weather, but I usually am harvesting many berries by now.

There is promise: strawberry blossoms and unripened fruit.

The Harvest/Hunter’s Moon

The October full moon is known as the Harvest Moon, but my Witch’s Datebook says it’s the Blood Moon. I wonder where that name came from.

Usually, the September full moon is called the Harvest Moon. But this year it’s in October, due to the closeness to the equinox. Every few years, the autumn equinox falls closer to the tenth month than the ninth.

The October full moon has also been called the Dying Moon and Hunter’s Moon, for the time of year for hunting and preserving meats for winter. Perhaps the name Blood Moon arises from hunting and slaughtering.

Under the bright light of the Harvest Moon, farmers can harvest such crops as corn, pumpkins, squash, wild rice and beans. Scientists explain that most months, the moon rises about an hour later each night.

But the Harvest Moon seems to rise at almost the same time for several nights around the full moon.

Harvest your crops, or just harvest that extra long moonlight to enjoy!

The Corn Moon

How fitting that our August full moon is a lovely golden yellow (from Canadian fire smoke), for it is known as the Corn Moon. A time of harvesting, this full moon is also called the Green Corn Moon, Sturgeon Moon, Grain Moon, and Barley Moon.

According to the Farmers Almanac, Native American tribes called it the Sturgeon Moon because sturgeon in the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were usually abundant during this time.

Some tribes, the Almanac adds, had yet other names for this late summer moon: “Wheat Cut Moon” (San Ildefonso, and San Juan), “Moon When All Things Ripen” (Dakotah Sioux), and “Blueberry Moon” (Ojibwe).

August is a time when the earth is providing an abundance of foods. Fish are running; corn, blueberries and other crops are ripening. No doubt it’s a welcome time for feasting and preparing foods for winter stores.

This moon tells us it’s the perfect time to reflect on what we have, what we can sacrifice, and what we can put away for leaner times.