Utsuta hime no iki ga kakarite fuyu kitaru
We feel the breath
of Princess Utsuta:
winter has come
Princess Utsuta is meditating quietly and the hillsides are drab in their winter greys and olive greens. There are trees that sport golden winter berries, reminiscent of Christmas lighting. Solstice has come and gone; we are still in the wintery depths.
January 7 in Japan is marked in many households by the eating of a gruel (unmistakeable Dickensian resonance in that word) that is made with 7 wild grasses/herbs. The landscapers used to pick these grasses when uprooting young pine trees waaaaay back in the Heian era (794-1192). It is a healthy cleansing elixir that is taken for rebalancing after the (old year and new year) carousing and feasting is over. Traditionally it should come with a warning: Bitter Greens Ahead (terribly enlivening, I’m sure.) Here’s a recipe for nanakusagayu that I especially liked for its flexibility.
I was interested to see that in England, the tradition of wassailing took place on Twelfth Night (just passed) and see that it is “a traditional ceremony that involves singing and drinking the health of trees”, the purpose of which is to “awaken the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn.”
Just this morning we finished the last of the ultimate, very, incredibly delicious red apples from Nagano. Cider’s not big here so the lamb’s wool wassail – in honour of the Year of the Sheep will do nicely.
Hmmmm, cleansing gruel or good spirits . . . ?
(Bring on the froth!)