A recipe for celebrating the final swing of the lunar cycle before the solstice
On this cold day in December, I write to you from beneath a Somerset oak tree, surrounded by mouldering acorn husks, in a field that this year grew a crop of barley. As the gibbous moon waxes, I close my eyes and try to feel it’s pull. Stronger as each hour passes. I sense the water being drawn thirstily up through the great roots of the oak, seeping into the trunk - up up up - desiring the moon, only to be rudely thwarted, siphoned off by parasitic mistletoe. At my feet - even in these chill temperatures - a smattering of volunteer barley nourished in the rotting leaves, self-seeded after harvest is also reaching limply upwards. Honouring the ancient oak or the moon? It is hard to tell.
In London, where under the last full moon I performed a sowing ritual (as part of Rudimentary Rhythms) with my home-grown oat seed, a strange and melancholy mirroring has occurred. Between the bricks in the floor of the gallery courtyard at Delfina Foundation, sheltered from the wind’s chill but isolated from the wisdom and protection of the oak, a handful of seeds have germinated. Swelled by last month’s rain, they’ve each made communion with a tiny sliver of dirt and sent up a lanky shoot toward the convivial glow of the growing Oak moon.
The last full moon of this year will reach is peak at 4.08am GMT on 8th December. Known as the Oak Moon, or the moon before Yule, historically this was the moment when folk would climb up into the bare branches of mighty oak trees to gather festive mistletoe. We will witness the full illumination of the Oak Moon during the nights of the 7th and 8th December although each full moon is technically a specific moment in time. This instant called the syzygy, when the moon is in perfect alignment with the sun and the Earth. At the syzygy, the lunar pull is amplified by the solar tide, generating spring tides (extremes of high and low) in the following days.
“Life is water dancing to the tune of the solids”
Hungarian Biochemist, Szent-Györgyi
We might not perceive the ebb and flow of the tide in our bodies, or the space around us, but these imperceptible/ocean moving, gentle/destructive, invisible/transformational gravimetric forces, are also at play on the land, in the soil, in the roots of plants, in the oak tree, in our guts…
“Metaphorically and metaphysically the ancient mythologies refer to water as the container of life, strength and eternity. More commonly water is perceived as a purifying medium. However, to reach the source and receive the merit of ‘living water’ involves a series of consecrations, rituals and religious activities like pilgrimage and sacred baths”
Rana P.B. Singh, ‘Water Symbolism and Sacred Landscape in Hinduism: A Study of Benares(Varanasi)’
Water is the animist, the life-giver, the transformer - which in turn is animated by the epic and mystical cycles of the cosmos. As well, or perhaps because, of this, it echoes through centuries of ritual. The oak tree has similar resonance, known as the ‘tree of life’, oak trees hold huge ritualistic significance in Druid tradition (the word ‘Druid’ is thought to mean “knower of the oak tree”) and its companion the parasitic mistletoe was seen as a plant of magick and potency.
A toast to the Oak Moon
Close attention is an act of care, acknowledgement is a first step towards knowledge. Rarely do we have a chance to really focus on the experience of being temporal bodies. We are not solitary objects being acted on by external forces - like the Oak tree, we are animated by water, it flows through us like it does the river, it ebbs and flows like the tide. The word imbibe means to drink, but it also means to absorb, assimilate water or take into solution. I invite you to imbibe with me under the Oak Moon, a special toast of Moon Milk - absorb, assimilate, dissolve and become liquid with tidal waters.
This recipe for Moon milk is inspired by the ayurvedic tradition and was the final element of Rudimentary Rhythms. The combination of ingredients and flavours weave together scientific and folk knowledge* designed to support the body as the solstice approaches and days grow ever shorter.
Add or change the ingredients** as per your own preferences or needs.
2 cups of Oat Milk
2 tbsp Green Oat Straw (you can buy this as a ‘tea’)
1 heaped tsp dried rose petals
6 large leaves holy basil (Tulsi)
2 tsp Honey (or agave syrup/sugar)
1 teaspoon malted barley
Add all ingredients to a pan and warm through slowly till hot but not boiling. Take off the heat and leave to infuse for 10 mins up to 2 hours. Strain and reheat. Toast the moon.
*Oats are rich in beta-glucan, which help to attenuate your circadian rhythm - your internal clock - during seasonal light shifts. Green oat straw helps healthy sleep patterns. Barley contains immune system boosting Selenium. Scents of rose and holy basil are soothing and clarifying.
** Other ingredients could include turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, ashwagandha, nutmeg, black pepper
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