The calendar might say otherwise but there’s no doubt that autumn is in the air. The hedgerows are jewelled with red and purple berries; the leaves are starting to fall; the flowers are going to seed; and then there’s the weather.
I have high hopes of an Indian summer kicking in soon, but autumn is coming. Here are some of my favourite autumn customs and stories.
Blackberrying is an essential autumn custom for me. After reading about the health benefits of blackberries last year, I’m gorging on as many as I can and have turned more into jam, in the hope it will ease my seasonal aches and pains.
Dark purple fruits have so many reported benefits, from reducing inflammation to enhancing brain health. They’re also full of vitamin C and fibre – and I love the taste and colour.
Blackberries are thought to be ‘fae food’ by some, while others claim that a blackberry bush outside your house will keep vampires at bay (they apparently have to stop to count them all). Get some blackberry seeds while they’re still abundant on the bushes and install vampire protection outside your house.
I make an autumn blackberry-based cough syrup to take at the first sign of a sniffle. I add three crushed ginger ice cubes to blackberry juice, lemon juice, glycerine and honey, shake vigorously and store in the fridge, so I’ve got a tasty and soothing tonic to hand. Some people prefer elderberry or damson port to warm the winter nights…
Chestnuts have been used as a potency-enhancer by men (thought to be due to their shape resembling testicles) – and carried for luck. They have also been carried as folklore cures for rheumatism and headaches.
Obviously, stories abound about the best way to treat a chestnut for a winning conker. I always took the honest approach so won’t share those tips here. However, learning about stress points and looking closely at your opponent’s conker is a fair tactic that could help enhance your game…
Horse Chestnuts were introduced to the UK from Turkey in the 1600s. Apparently, “the leaf stalks leave a scar on the twig when they fall, which resembles an inverted horse shoe with nail holes.” This is a potential reason they got their name.
However, Horse Chestnuts are currently at risk thanks to the leaf miner moth. Enjoy your conkers whole you can – they may not be around for much longer. Plant a horse chestnut to try to stem the decline.
While the short summer has been frustrating, there’s potentially good news to bs found in autumn coming early.
Apparently, when the leaves fall early in the year, it predicts a mild autumn and winter. However, weather lore also says that a cold August after a hot July predicts a cold, dry winter so the jury’s still out…
Regardless, the autumn equinox is fast approaching. Make it a time of celebration by harvesting nature’s bounty.
Any excuse for a feast works for me, and there’s a joy in eating and sharing the fruit and vegetables that are currently abundant. If you have food to spare, donate it to a local community group or food bank (and use Olio to cut food waste).
Autumn is coming – and that’s something to be celebrated…
If you like myth and folklore, follow @FolkloreThurs on Twitter and take part in #FolkloreThursday each week.