We have been working with the children of Kilkenny Steiner School over the past two months, exploring performance skills, story-making, and forest school activities. We created an outdoor performance of the Greek myth of Persephone and Demeter, which brought together story and ritual in a mythic experience where everyone got to play a part.
The older children brought the story to life with charm and gusto. Then the entire school got involved in planting hundreds of daffodil, crocus, and snowdrop bulbs in a giant double spiral which represents the winter journey inwards and the spring journey back out into the world. When Persephone returns in spring, her mother Demeter, the Goddess of growth, fertility, and the seasons, decorates the world with flowers to welcome her. The children will be watching for signs of growth through the winter and are looking forward to running through her celebration of colour next spring!
Planting a spiral of bulbs is a lovely thing to do in a shared space or in your own garden. It's also nice to take some time to mindfully plant some bulbs in a pot at home and tuck them away as a reminder that spring will return soon, bringing all its fresh new life with it. The spiral is a beautiful symbol for this time of year as we are ending one circle and beginning the next. The spiral is one of our oldest symbols, representing eternal life, unfolding growth within and without, spirit and matter, death and rebirth, and continuous creation.
Here's how to create your own living story spiral:
For marking out The Spiral
· A large bucket or log
· Bulbs. (we used mainly tete á tete daffodils with a scattering of crocuses and snowdrops.)
· A basket or box, so you can share out the bulbs easily.
· Something to clean up muddy hands afterward.
· Some food and flasks of warm drinks to enjoy afterward.
Marking out (we did this with the group a few days in advance)
Find a good spot to plant your spiral, a place where baby flowers aren't going to get trampled and where you have permission to dig up the ground.
Decide on the size of your spiral, which can be as big or as small as you want and will depend on your space and your bulb budget.
Use your bucket (with a weight on it) or log as a centre point. Decide on the diameter of your circle. Tie one end of your string around the bucket and the other end onto the stick. Standing at the outer edge of your circle holding the stick vertical and keeping it taught, walk slowly around and around, pouring a line of flour as you go, until you have wound right into the centre and there is now a flour spiral on the ground. Make any adjustments you feel are needed at this point. We decided to create a double Spiral So that it's possible to walk all the Way in and back out without stopping.
Following the flour spiral as a guide, dig a trench about 10cm deep.
Tell a Story
Tell a story about the turning of the Seasons. The story can be told before you go out or around the unplanted spiral. We created our own version of Persephone or Demeter as an allegory of the turning of the seasons. We celebrated the importance of going inwards and spending quiet, restful time 'underground’ so we can soak up nutrients and goodness to bring back to the world in spring.
There are lots of stories you could tell or best of all make one up yourself. Music, songs and props can help make the story extra special.
A moment of calm and a few words about the time of year and the significance of spirals can help ground everyone and focus the energy for the important task ahead. Offering the first bulbs out one by one and inviting people to make a special wish for the winter is a lovely way to bring significance to the activity and make the spiral feel very special.
Then working together, tuck all the bulbs into the earth all around the spiral.
Once they are all in bed, carefully cover them over with a blanket of soil and wish them sweet winter dreams!
Then it's time to celebrate, chat, sing songs, enjoy some food and a warm drink, walk or run around the spiral and hold the promise of all the goodness that is to come in your heart, keeping it safe for the long winter months ahead.
Happy Samhain !