The Tree of Joy, Exhilaration and Wrath
September 2 – 29
Vine, described by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the trailing or climbing plant bearing grapes from which ordinary wine is made,” is the tree of this vintage season and has been portrayed as a motif in the most ancient of religious art. Although not native to Britain, for example, the Vine is nevertheless a recurring element in British art from as early as the Bronze Age. In Thrace the Vine was sacred to Dionysus, in Egypt to Osiris, who was originally a tree-god, and in the Temple of Jerusalem one of the main decorations is a golden Vine. In the many sacred pictures and engravings of Minoan religious art excavated in Crete, one of the seven most often-represented trees is the Vine and, because of a reference in John XV, Jesus Christ is sometimes referred to as “the Vine.” That its leaves have five points makes it especially sacred to the ancient Great Goddess.
Since the Vine would not grow wild in Britain, however, in many regions its most common substitute seems to have been the BLACKBERRY, or Bramble, whose berries are the same color and ripe at the same time; its five-pointed leaves also correspond, and wine made from Blackberries is extremely potent. No doubt because of their former religious sanctity, there is still in all Celtic countries a taboo against eating Blackberries: in North Wales, Graves was told they were poisonous; in Brittany, the customary reason given is “because of the fairies;” in Majorca the belief is that the Bramble was used for the Crown of Thorns and the berries therefore are Christ’s blood. In Devonshire, the taboo is only in force after the last day of September (Ivy 1) when, supposedly, “the Devil enters into them”
In the 1st-century A.D. Roman historian Tacitus’ History (Vol. 5), he records “some maintain that the rites of the Jews were founded in honor of Dionysus.” Plutarch also draws a strong connection between the Jehovah of the Feast of Tabernacles and the Wine-god Dionysus Lusios (or Liber), pointing out similarities between their rituals, including the celebration of barley-sheaves and new wine. Passover (Apr. 7, Alder 21) was the first barley-harvest festival, Jehovah being protector of the barley. The famous Eleusinian Mysteries, originally a winnowing feast of Pelasgian Greek origin, took place around the Autumn Equinox (Sept. 22; Vine 21). Still celebrated now as the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Mother (Sept. 8, Vine 7), these Mysteries were once in honor of the birth of (among other gods) the Vine-Dionysus, who originally had no father because he was conceived before the institution of patrimony. His mother was called Calypso then, or Daeira, or Aphrodite, meaning “risen from sea-foam,” known also as the Love-Goddess, the Sea-Goddess, and the Wise One of the Sea, which is why she has often been portrayed with a symbolic fishtail and usually called a mermaid.
From The Song of Amergin: “I am a hill: where poets walk,” because this is the poet’s month, as wine is the poet’s drink: Ben Jonson asked that all his Poet Laureate fees be paid in Spanish white wine (Sack). Poets are also generally the most self-possessed, least-easily checked of people, and among birds similar characteristics belong to the Titmouse (Mintan), sometimes in the U.S. called the Chickadee. In this month, poets and Titmice move in companies, as Graves put it, “in search of a liberal hand.” In ancient myth and tradition, the Poet takes a spiral route to immortality and the Titmouse climbs up trees spirally. The markings of a bird in the Titmouse-species can be many-colored, or Variegated (Mbracht), as was the dress of the Celtic Master-poet. The Old Testament jewel is the Amethyst, the “wine stone,” its name in Greek meaning “charm against drunkenness,” its tribe Manasseh (“forgetfulness”), another son of Joseph, “a fruitful vine.”