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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Sugar Sweet Death

If you live in Vermont, you probably are aware that its name means basically “Green Mountains”.  [I suspect that it was named in the summertime, as it could very well have been dubbed Mount d’Orange if Samuel de Champlain first viewed our state in the fall or Montagnes Blanches in the winter.]

The Green Mountains are mostly made up of a variety of coniferous trees, yellow birch, American beech and the sugar maple (Vermont’s state tree).  It’s the latter three trees that dominate our landscape; however, the recipe also includes a dash of black cherry, basswood, red sumac and a splash of red oak at lower elevations and a pinch of lilacs and apple trees. This combination makes springtime blossoms in Vermont a very desirable place to be!

By about 1820, Vermont farmers were well enough established on the land that they had time to pay attention to their front yards, and a tradition was born.  


When a house was purchased or built for a newly married couple, Sugar Maple saplings were planted on either side of the yard, which signified the growth of their relationship.  One was planted for the husband, and one for the wife.

Known for being thrifty and penny-pinchers, Vermonters who settled these hills found another use for these plantings.  Tapping the tree during the spring to boil down for maple syrup. 

The frugal Vermonter would find it's final use for the trees - since one tree was planted for the husband and one for the wife -  these trees would be cut down when one of the spouses died, and used to build their coffin. - A special thanks to Allison Silvera Joyal for giving me this story. 

The Magical Maple

"Sacred to the Autumnal Equinox because of its fiery red and orange colors as its leaves turn -- a bold celebration of the season and the cycle of death and rebirth. Poised on the equinox, it is linked to both Libra and Virgo, Hazel and Ash. 

Maple's sacred bird is the Great Horned Owl who is herald of the coming Feast of Samhain with its magic and mystery. The owl is a bird associated with wizards and wisdom, and the bearing of messages in the night. 

In North America, especially in its northern parts, the Maple is a dominant tree with many varieties, including the sugar maple from which maple syrup was made by the Native Americans. 

As such it is associated with the life-giving sap of the trees, providing food and sweetness for those who treat it with respect and care.  The Autumnal Equinox is also known as the Feast of Mabon, dedicated to the reborn son-consort of the Great Mother, and to the Dying God of Norse myth, from whose body the world was made. 

Maple is a strongly masculine wood, somewhat rebellious and tough, but with a beautiful smooth grain; hard, yet excellent for carving. Well-suited to spells of sending and communication, binding, transmutations, creation, revolution, rebirth, healing, beauty, art, and abundance."