Embracing The Cycles of Life
Some of you may be aware that the Autumn equinox has recently come and gone. This date would have had much more cultural significance a few hundred years ago as harmony with the seasons decided if you lived or died. The mile stones of the year informed us when it was time to plant and when it was time to harvest.
To remind themselves of the significant times of year, little rhymes sprung up to help them keep these dates foremost in their consciousness.
When I lived on and managed our small holding in Austria, the first warm days of spring were the harbingers of talk about the Eis Heilige, each mention was usually followed by some rhyme or other to give it a degree of validation. This warned people not to be fooled into planting out tender plants until after the 15 of May. Of course, initially I phoo-phooed it as an old wives' tale. But it did not take many losses of young Pumpkin plants before I realised that after an initial start of warmish weather you could almost mark to the day on the return of one last frosty blast from the east that would nip everything back and put you behind by weeks in the growing season.
It Is heart lifting to experience that, in spite of the scientific world's attempts to sever all our ties with the natural world, we still have one foot tapping to the rhythms of mother nature. So with the drawing in of the long nights it is natural to experience a sudden epidemic of cold like symptoms breaking out among the general public.
This is as it should be.
The style in which we live today is not fully the life for which our bodies were evolved. Back in the time when we lived closer to the rhythms of nature our bodies would prepare us for the harsher seasons in the cycle. In our northern climate we would need to be fully fit to withstand the strains of winter. To prepare us for this the body would muster the symptoms that constitute the conditions we know as colds and flues in order that accumulated toxins, the accumulative by products of metabolism that pose a threat to optimal function and survival, may be expelled from the body. It is for this reason that a large portion of colds actually develop in Autumn, not Winter....and it is why there starts, once again, to be a flurry of interest in Cold Remedies, here at The Green Man Herbal Apothecary.
To survive the cold, months in northern climates, it would be necessary for us to store foods that make it through the long Winter season. With October approaching my thoughts turn to Samhain/ Hallowe'en. This is often dismissed as a commercial American import, but its roots are deeply grounded in ancient British culture.
The Pumpkin....(or Jack O' Lantern, once it is carved into a face) is a richly layered symbol of the Autumn season. When faced with surviving a winter, Pumpkins take on a whole new meaning. I have grown Pumpkins most of my life....and found, when stored in the right conditions, they can provide essential nutrients, both from the flesh as well as the delicious seeds, from October right up to March, exactly the time when the new green growth is starting to take hold once again.
Other foods that would have seen us through the winter would be cured/smoked meats, seeds and grains. Some of these foods leave an abundance of acid and toxins in the body. With the coming of March we see the first growth of herbs in the field. Herbs like Nettle and Clivers come up early in abundance, and are often found growing together. I believe this is the whispering to us of the creative force of the universe as Nettles are very rich in nutrients and have an affinity with the cleansing of the blood. They are especially adept at removing those acids accumulated during the winter months.
Clivers work in perfect harmony with Nettles as they have a strong affinity with the lymphatic system and promote the removal of toxins from the body. It is for this reason that we see them growing together, and in such abundance, so early in spring.
As part of the cleansing process, colds increase in number once again in the late winter / early spring as our body's attempt to regain balance and optimal function.
To be healthy we must recognise these seasons and embrace each one for its full meaning and purpose.
The ancient healers believed that our bodies were merely a microcosome of the forces of the universe. They defined the essential four elements that governed our lives and further defined the various diseases that corresponded with an imbalance or dominance of any one of these elements within ourselves.
On a spiritual level disease can also take hold when any one season of our life dominates. This is because this defies the very intent of nature. Nature's intent is the very foundation of Natural Law, and any deviation from that law will result in disease. This is evident in our culture, where too great an emphasis is placed on being young. I want to distinguish this from being fit. Fitness is essential throughout life to afford us a quality of life. There is nothing wrong with being fit up until we die...or as near as possible. However, the fixation with youth has lead to all kinds of perversions and obsessions....the spending of hundreds of pounds on creams and lotions....HRT....the subjection to surgical procedures that, in time, replace a natural aging face with a grotesque, expressionless, mask, all of which come at a price.
Over the years I have observed patients who are in emotional turmoil because they have not prepared for the seasons of their life. Particularly clear in my mind is the number of men who struggle. This is partly because the greater part of our culture defines our worth through physical strength and through the work we do. When these assets begin to diminish and eventually are gone, there often ensues a crisis of identity and purpose. Yet this must not be so. These days, many who are fit enough can go on and work well beyond the official pension age which, after all, is just a number used for convenience rather than as a reflection of an individuals capabilities or desires.
We need to cultivate a culture that embraces and values the various seasons of our lives. Strength gives way to wisdom....a worker can become a teacher. A fulfilled earner can become an equally fulfilled volunteer.
We need to stop thinking of health as the responsibility of just the the government or the medical institutions....but as the responsibility of our very culture, of each individual to one another....to support each other on the road to health.....and to live out the full and varied stages, embracing all the seasons of our life.