A song to sow, a charm to reap – Planting Seeds in Scottish Folklore

by Scott

Sometimes it just feels right. Timings can be calendar based or not. Sometimes you just go with your gut.  So being in Scotland and the weather *almost* perking and my gut this weekend are telling me to get the seeds out and start sowing. We planted seeds of Wormwood, Mugwort and some St Johns Wort indoors on Friday (the day auspicious) with more to come in the following weeks. I started these early as they can be slow and like a bit of rough handling. I also like planting seeds in threes. Both Mugwort and St Johns wort are associated with St John. He was said to wear Mugwort as a girdle and St Johns wort, I guess the clues in the name :) Wormwood I’ve sown with them because it’s a vermifuge but also in the same family as Mugwort. All the plants are associated with this idea of getting rid of things both natural and supernatural amongst other things. So, I hope it’s a happy little triad. We will see when it comes time for a charm to reap them being sung.

This weekend, spring feels like it’s in the air and the moon is waning so hopefully the roots will be strong for our windy garden. Hopefully we will see some sprouting action by the new moon.

As always I’m reminded of the beautiful song/charm in the Carmina Gadelica. It’s a song which tells us when to sow, it’s a charm to reap, a rune to know which way the wind will blow. It really is a stunning charm/ran and an interesting one to unpick and helps us with planting seeds according to tradition.

The Consecration of the Seed (An Coisrigeadh Sioil)*

I will go out to sow the seed,
In name of Him who gave it growth;
I will place my front in the wind,
And throw a gracious handful on high.
Should a grain fall on a bare rock,
It shall have no soil in which to grow;
As much as falls into the earth,
The dew will make it to be full.

Friday, day auspicious,
The dew will come down to welcome
Every seed that lay in sleep
Since the coming of cold without mercy;
Every seed will take root in the earth,
As the King of the elements desired,
The braird will come forth with the dew,
It will inhale life from the soft wind.

I will come round with my step,
I will go rightways with the sun,
In name of Ariel and the angels nine,
In name of Gabriel and the Apostles kind.
Father, Son, and Spirit Holy,
Be giving growth and kindly substance
To every thing that is in my ground,
Till the day of gladness shall come.

The Feast day of Michael, day beneficent,
I will put my sickle round about
The root of my corn as was won’t;
I will lift the first cut quickly;
I will put it three turns round
My head, saying my rune the while,
My back to the airt of the north;
My face to the fair sun of power.

I shall throw the handful far from me,
I shall close my two eyes twice,
Should it fall in one bunch
My stacks will be productive and lasting;
No Carlin will come with bad times
To ask a palm bannock from us,
What time rough storms come with frowns
Nor stint nor hardship shall be on us.

Breaking it down.

  • The first stanza represents a divination of sorts. You throw the seed in the wind and look to where it lands. If it all lands on the earth and soil its a good omen. If it doesn’t it signifies how much will be lost.
  • The second stanza represent the day for planting seeds and when they should be sewn. This is a Friday where the dew will bless the seed and cause it to start germinating. In case your wondering braird is an old english word for Sprout or shoot.
  • The third stanza is about blessing the garden to grow. its walking a round sunrise, rightways (Deosil) whilst calling on god and the angels. Here we have the significant Celtic numbers of 3 and 9 and Ariel and Gabriel are called upon. Make of that what you will.
  • The fourth we have moved into the start of the reaping season la Fhéile Micheal. To see how the reaping will go for good or ill there is a divination done. The crop is spun three time around the head ( i would guess deosil) and then thrown whilst saying a charm with your back to the north and facing the sun.
  • The fifth and last stanza has further instructions and what to look for. If the plants you’ve picked all fall together and isn’t scattered then no Carlin (that is Scots for witch or hag) will mess things up for you (again witch = bad supernatural agent not your fear feasa, wise woman). If they do fall scattered there is offerings to be made to this carlin of a palm bannock with other right actions taken.

I just really like how it represents so much in so few lines. Another saying I love. Which i write with abandon on backs of letter and other things that says a lot without saying too much is the phrase:

“one to wither, one to grow, one for the sidhe and one for the crow”.

I forget, now where i first heard it, but its a lovely wee rune about not everything working out but also honouring the process of things. It also means one out of the four seeds I’m germinating might be the only one to make it. We shall see.

Happy seed planting everyone.


* Carmina Gadelica, Vol 1. P282. Carmicheal.


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Searles O'Dubhain 19th February 2017 - 9:28 pm

I’d love to have a melody to pair with these songs.

Cailleachs son 21st February 2017 - 12:50 pm

I wish i could oblige Searles, but sadly i don’t have any idea where you might even begin to look. You have given me an idea. A few of my friends are Trad musicians and they might be inspired to have a stab at some of Carmicheal’s gathered Ranns etc.

Zyanya ONeill 22nd January 2022 - 7:44 pm

I immediately thought of Peter Pringle. He’s into recreating ancient music and does tons of research with archaeo-musicians.

Little Red Tarot 20th February 2017 - 12:12 pm

I’ve been feeling a similar urge and will be planting my own seeds this week. Wonderful to have poetry to recite in doing so – planting seeds is such a potent and symbolic act.

Cailleachs son 21st February 2017 - 12:49 pm

Hey you :) Long time not speak, i hope the planting goes well, it certainly feels like the time for it but this being scotland I’m sure the frost will still come until way into April. Hopefully see you in the near future at upcoming gatherings?


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