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Inverallochy, Week 13: 26 March

Well, here we are at the end of March already. In a few days it will be Easter, not to mention April, which TS Eliot famously called the cruellest month: the words of a man who never spent a winter in Caithness. (After The Waste Land was published I like to imagine him clapping his palm to his forehead in dismay and crying, “Oh, yeah—January! What was I thinking?”) Of course, the line refers to the way April flatters to deceive, promising spring but frequently bringing snow and gales in place of sunshine and greenery (see also: Britain, May through August); but also the pain of rebirth and reawakening.


Which brings us to Easter. In the 8th century the Venerable Bede wrote that “Eosturmonath” (Easter month) took its name from the pagan goddess Eostre, “in whose honour feasts were celebrated”. But that’s the only mention of her in all of history; and there’s no detail of any kind—certainly no hares, no eggs, not even, disappointingly, chocolate. Of course, Christianity absorbed local pagan festivals and repurposed them all the time (as with Christmas and the Roman festival of Saturnalia), and I’m fine with that. I’ve mentioned before how I love the way language adds layers of meaning to place names over time; and it’s the same with religion. It’s what humans do: we take a thing and pass it on, and add a little something along the way, until gradually the original meaning becomes lost. It’s history in three dimensions: not just length and breadth, but depth.

Oystercatchers at Crosskirk

So where once there may’ve been the pagan festival of Eostre, now there is the Christian festival of Easter, the death and resurrection of Jesus. Over the years we’ve added spiced buns with a flour-paste cross and chocolate eggs and cards and bunnies; but at the heart of it all, like the snowdrops and daffodils and budding hedgerows, the original idea is eternal, and eternally renewed.

And while we’re on the subject of hope, possibly false, I’m making progress down the first sleeve of the gansey. I’ve finished the pattern band at the top of the sleeve, and am on the plain knitting. Because of the size, and the number of stitches, I’m decreasing at a rate of 2 stitches every fourth row, instead of every fifth, as I usually do. In my rasher moments I imagine I might finish the sleeve this week, but common sense swiftly intervenes.

Easter celebrates resurrection and rebirth and the coming of spring. And whether that’s of Aphrodite, Ishtar, Kali or Jesus son of Joseph of Galilee, or of the early daffodils along the riverbank, we wish you a peaceful and joyous Easter, with just the right amount of chocolate and, if such is your desire, and who are we to judge, rabbits.

Happy Easter from Gordon and Margaret.

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