Plough Monday

For some, particularly in years gone by in England, Plough Monday was the official end to the Christmas Season. It was somewhat of an extension of the 12 Days of Christmas and Epiphany. Plough Monday is the Monday immediately following Epiphany. Historically this is the day to put away the remains of the Yule log, storing it in a dry place to use as kindling for the following year’s log. The ashes that are left from the Yule log being burnt over the 12 days of Xmas are gathered up and sprinkled on the fields to bless them and make them more fertile in preparation for ploughing to begin again. This is the time when the priest blesses the plough as well. It is considered the traditional beginning of the farming season but this day was not considered a day for work. Instead, the ploughs were decorated for the celebration and then they were dragged through the streets and the owners would "beg" for money. Anyone who refused to participate was in danger of having their garden ploughed up. Money that was collected was used to pay for a large candle that was placed on the altar at church which was then blessed by the priest to ensure good weather for ploughing and an abundant harvest.

What is it about Plough Monday that got me to thinking about this room of my own? The two topics don’t really seem to go together do they? And yet, as I recalled the fact that this coming Monday was Plough Monday, it triggered something inside and got me reflecting on having a room of my own once again. Or perhaps I should say still. I think maybe it was the ashes and the blessings that struck me. I began to reflect on the idea of the ashes – burnt remains from the Yule log, something reflective of the joy of the season but now past being then used to provide fertility for what’s yet to come. And, what’s yet to come is new life, change for the better, growth. This all, then, sent my thoughts turning to something very familiar to me – something I have long identified with. The Phoenix. Several years ago I chose the Phoenix as sort of a personal symbol for myself. In a spiritual group I belong to, we are encouraged to pick new, symbolic names for ourselves and I have always known that mine would be based on and partly comprised of Phoenix. I even have a tattoo design that I created incorporating the Phoenix as the major component.

mythical-creatures-5 from Karen's Whimsy

Phoenix Image from

Why do I identify so strongly with the Phoenix? A Phoenix is a mythical firebird. They are said to live 500-1000 years and when they come close to the end of their lives, they build a nest that ignites. The nest and the Phoenix are consumed by the fire but from the ashes, rises a new young Phoenix, reborn to live again. I first latched onto this symbol shortly after the car accident I was in. Although my injuries weren’t life-threatening, I knew that I was going to be living with their effects permanently. I also knew that this was a situation where I could either wallow in what used to be or I could choose to move forward as a person who was somewhat different, yet the same. In other words, I could choose to wallow in the ashes or I could move forward and become reborn – still a Phoenix, yet not the Phoenix I once was. Certainly, some of what was left in the ashes were things I would like back – more energy and stamina, pain-free days, better freedom of movement, but much of what was reborn in me was so much for the better. When we are given the opportunity for a new beginning, so many of us focus on what we are leaving behind, forgetting about the possibilities that lie before us.

We don’t have to wait for a traumatic event to consume us in fire in order to rise up again from the ashes. Each and every day there are opportunities for rebirth standing right before us. We can choose our Plough Monday, our first day of Spring, our New Year’s Day…we can choose to rise out of the ashes like a Phoenix, to break out of a cocoon like a butterfly at any time. That’s what I want from having a room of my own.

"Out of the ashes the phoenix rises, reborn in boundless grace to fly again." (quote from the TV show, Joan of Arcadia)

Published in: on January 11, 2010 at 6:05 pm  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I enjoyed this, Cyn. I never knew about Plough Monday, so I’ve learned something new today. Very interesting!

  2. Most interesting. Fran

  3. Do you hear the theme song from “Twilight Zone?” It is playing because I just learned about Plough Monday yesterday!

  4. I never knew about plough Monday either. Is this an American tradition?

  5. It’s an old English tradition. It’s celebrated in a few places in the US and Canada though due to the influence of the early English settlers there. I know about it because it is often referenced in Catholic literature.

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