Hackney Marshes, Jan 2022, Chris Sansom

Third Monday in the year – traditionally the most depressing day. Traditional in the sense of the word meaning ‘made up recently as part of a marketing campaign.” * AD2005.

Wolf Moon is a recent introduction to mainstream culture and was borrowed from Native Americans as wolves are known to howl at the moon at this time of the year. (First full moon of the year.) So this year they are both on the 17th January. So is the wonder of the moon a counter to the depressive effect of a cold period when the joys of Christmas and the hopes of a New Year are encountering the reality of wintery bleakness?

In Jane Austen’s time winter socialising depended upon the moon. Generally, people would schedule balls and dinner parties on nights when the moon was bright to make their journey’s home safer. This is one reason why Almanac’s were so ubiquitous.

The 17th January is also the Day of Peace for the Goddesses Felicitas, Pax, and Concordia,

Lambing can begin about now in the south, and it gets progressively later as you travel north. Of course, it depends when the ewe is tupped by the ram. 5 months later the lamb, or lambs will be born – normally, one or two but occasionally more.

The country expression is ‘in with a bang and out with the fool’ which suggests an ideal time to tup, is November 5th, so that the lambs will be born around the 1st of April. Itinerant shearers, now often from New Zealand, travel the country shearing sheep. They will begin in the south and then progress north.

In the ‘Return of the Native’, Thomas Hardy has a character called Diggory Venn, he is a reddleman. He travels the country selling a red ochre dye with which shepherds mark their flock. The ram wears a collar with a marker full of reddle in it. When he mounts the ewe she will have a red mark on her back. Once she has been tupped twice she will be taken out of the field, to encourage the ram to impregnate the others. Reddle could also be used to mark lambs chosen for slaughter, or dipping, or weighing etc..

Twelfth Night Old style is the date of celebration of the last night of Christmas but according to the Julian Calendar which was replaced in 1752. Time to Wassail the Orchard.