Sunday, 8 April 2012

The Sunday Salon: a little The Morville Hours for Easter

Did the Easter Bunny visit your house today?  Did he hop his way through, leaving eggs and treats behind?  He (or she?) did ours.  I have to admit that it is fun watching the kids race around filling their baskets with treats.  One of the earliest pictures of me is of me and my sister at Easter, with our faces covered in chocolate.  I still have the same delight in Easter.   Even though I can no longer eat as much chocolate as I'd like, I certainly enjoy it the same way! 

But Easter is about much more than that, however. If you are Christian, then this is one of the most holiest of times, the story of how Jesus rose from the dead.  It is a powerful myth, so strong that even in our society when consumerism is beginning to dictate 24 hour shopping, the stores are still closed on Good Friday and today.  There is something taboo about shopping on the day Jesus was crucified, and the day he rises again.  Although I am no longer Christian, I am thankful for the time spent at home, watching spring arrive.

For me, Easter is about renewal.  There are other older myths about this time of year, and whether it is about the Goddess or other stories such as the rebirth of Christ, this time of year is about that: rebirth, renewal, coming back to life after the long winter darkness. Here in Canada, buds are beginning to grow on branches, the tips of Irises are breaking through the soil in gardens, and daffodils and crocuses are blooming.  Spring birds such as robins have appeared.  The day lasts longer, so that leaving work, I am in light still at 5:30 pm.  I am so filled with joy at seeing daylight and the sun at the end of the day!  The air occasionally has the scent of the earth on it - it's still below freezing at night, and we haven't had very much rain to release the smell of the earth coming to life, this year.  In fact, we are so low on rain and have had so little rain or snow this winter, that we broke the all-time record for least amount of snowfall in a winter.  Already our water conservation authority is worried about water levels in the Ottawa River. So while I am enjoying our glorious sunshine and feeling my spirits lift with the increasing light, I am aware that we need rain.  This is part of life, and I'm curious to see if we will have a long hot dry summer, or if moisture will find its way to us this year. 

The Morville Hours at Easter

I was thinking of Easter and the seasons partly because of The Morville Hours, which I have been reading with Cath over at Read-Warbler.   I just finished the chapter "Terce", which is about April and May, in Morville, the garden, and the land around Morville in Shropshire, UK.  I didn't know where the colour purple comes from and why it's used on vestment robes for Easter for the priests and ministers. I was raised a Catholic, and Katherine Swift is rediscovering her Catholic roots at Morville, because of the nearby Benedictine Abbey.  She has based The Morville Hours on The Book of Hours, as it  was the book by which so many lay people  marked the hours of the day, in medieval times. Here is an image from Les Tres Riches Heures de duc du Berry, which Swift also discusses in her book.
 They are based on the old books the monks illustrated and used as part of their devotions in regular church life in the monasteries and abbeys.  Through these,  Western Civilization was saved through the Dark Ages.  The Book of Kells, the Lindisfarne Gospels, etc are some examples. Swift has taken the 24 hours that makes up a day in a monastery, and used it to write about her garden through the year, based on the agricultural year. This was because in The Book of Hours, the year was also divided and marked by images for each month, based on the agricultural season. 

Monasteries and abbeys had their roots in their gardens and the agricultural life around them.  The Book of Hours copied and made for the wealthy in the UK and Europe, were wealthy because of land and the richness of the land.  Before industrialization, everyone marked the agricultural year.

So, in the Book of Hours and in The Morville Hours,  Easter is marks the arrival of spring.  What I didn't know was that Easter moves every year because it's based on the moon.  The new moon in the calendar marks where Easter is going to be.  For me, this takes me right back to my desire to honour the cycles of the seasons and nature. I watched the full moon rise this weekend, and it was beautiful and spread so much light through Friday evening (when it was full) and last night.

The Morville Hours is about the seasons, and the roots of all the seasonal activities we do, from a UK perspective.  We don't have Lady Day here, March 25, but I love what she writes: "There was disagreement too about the date that the new year began.  Lady Day, March 25, was when the church year began - the Feast of the Annunciation, the date on which Christ was nominally conceived - placed where it is in the calendar because it is nine months before Christmas, the ritual date of Christ's birth..........And Lady Day  is still one of the Quarter Days, the date from which many leases and agricultural tenancies run, so beginning the Agricultural as well as the Church year.  A better time for new year's resolutions, I think, when seed is sown and life begins, than January, in the depths of midwinter."   We do have the Feast of the Annunciation, at least for those who attend church.

I like this tying together of the religious pattern of life with the agricultural way of life.  Even if I no longer follow the Catholic faith, I understand the rhythms and meaning behind it, and I really like seeing how it is based on the seasons.  It's the pattern of the year, and finding the right pattern that makes how we live make sense, is important to me. I want to live more in the seasons, acknowledging the ebb and flow of life around me, especially here in the city where I have to look a little harder to see it.  I really like what she says about resolutions growing better now, as we plant seeds and see life blossom all around us.  It makes more sense.  I have to wait until the long weekend in May before I can plant any new seeds, roots or bulbs  in my garden - we can have frost as late as that, here.  Until then, however, I will be watching my lilac tree blossom, my irises and garden come to life. 

So, this Easter, I wish all of you a day of light and dreams for the future, and knowing what seeds you want to plant in your lives as well as your gardens.  Happy Easter everyone, and I hope the Easter bunny did get you a book or a treat, too!


Cath said...

Sounds like you're having a lovely Easter. We did the egg hunt too with the grandkids, it was huge fun watching their faces as they found each little treat. My Easter treat was some Marks and Spencer walnut whips. :-)

We have the same problems here with lack of rain. We're ok at the moment in the SW but quite a few parts of the country now have severe water shortages.

You're further ahead with Morville than me. Visitors etc. Hoping to catch up this week when things will be much quieter. Also want to finish my 2nd. OUaT book.

Kathleen said...

I did some spring cleaning this weekend and like what you have pointed out about this being a time of renewal and rebirth. I love the longer days and having the daylight hours to accomplish more in each day. Happy Easter and happy Spring!

Chris said...

Hope you had a fantastic Easter, Susan!! And I really do need to get my hand on The Morville Hours :) It sounds like such a wonderful book!

Susan said...

Cath: Toby loves Walnut Whips too, and funnily enough I found some for him for Easter also! lol You sound like it was a very busy weekend also, though plenty of fun!

We just had a few showers over the last day, enough to bring out the green in many things,not enough for the water level to go up yet. are you planting yet in your garden?

I will email you about Morville Hours, I am enjoying it so much! i've paused in my reading to let you catch up. You'll probably go past me shortly!

Kathleen: Happy Easter to you too. I ended up doing some unexpected tidying of odd corners, and hanging up pictures that I had spent a long time wondering where they were to go! I love the daylight too. Here's to both of us getting into the sunshine this year!

Chris: I hope you had a lovely Easter too, Chris! And yes - I can so see you reading what she says about gardening, and earth history and hhe land, and totally getting it too. I wish we had as many fruit varieties as they do in England.

Cath said...

No, we're not quite planting yet but will be soon, not outside anyway. Just getting beds ready really. Also still need to do some bed clearing from the winter. The veg beds are done but some of the flower beds still look a bit tatty.

I'm getting towards the end of Prime and will start Terce straightaway after that. It's so beautiful... I keep making notes of pages but really you could quote the whole thing! LOL.

Susan said...

Cath: I just finished tidying my flower garden, just in time too as my Irises are already coming up. We had such a warm winter, that spring seems to be here suddenly! I can't do much else, except wait for the long weekend next month and try to remember to plant daffodil and tulip bulbs next fall so I have some for once! Reading Morville Hours made me want to rush out and see what tulip bulbs I could find here. She has so many varieties.

I know what you mean about the book, I do too - I have places that I keep going back to read, and I love the little illustrations for every month! A real book of Hours, isn't it?

Cath said...

Well, having said all that, Peter planted seeds yesterday. Beetroot, carrots, parsley. And he planted out a few pea plants. So we're on the way! The gardening year has begun.

Yesterday I read about the Earl of Shrewsbury and how he was so evil they didn't appoint another for 300 years. Made me laugh. And 'marl', something I had never heard of before. So *much* in this book that I feel that once we've finished it I should go right back to the beginning and start again! LOL.

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