Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Equinox Blessings

Today is the Autumn Equinox, and it marks the second of three observances dedicated to the harvest, the other two being the earlier Lughnasadh on August 1 and Samhain (or Halloween) which follows on October 31.

We know this day by many names: Harvest Home, Mabon, the Feast of Ingathering, Equinozio di Autunno (Strega), Meán Fómhair, and in Druidic tradition, Alban Elfed, to name just a few. Mabon is the name by which Autumn Equinox ritual observances are most widely known these days, but the connection between the Welsh hunter god and this day is flimsy to say the least. Mabon's only discernible link with the Autumn Equinox is that he is reputed to have been born on this day. Lugh, Demeter, Ceres, Persephone or John Barleycorn would have been better choices as a deity presiding over the Autumn Equinox. South of the equator seasonal patterns are reversed, and this day is celebrated as Ostara or the Spring Equinox.

In the old Teutonic calendar, the Autumn Equinox marked the beginning of the Winter Finding, a ceremonial interval lasting until Winter Night on October 15, also the date of the old Norse New Year. In Christian tradition, the festival is closely associated with St. Michael the Archangel - his feast takes place a few days from now on September 25, known for obvious reasons as Michaelmas.

The day is about abundance and harvest, but it is also about balance, for this is one of only two days in the whole turning year when day and night are perfectly balanced in length. Like all the old festivals, this is a liminal or threshold time, for we are poised between two seasons, summer and autumn.

A song by Bob Dylan comes to mind this morning: "The Times They Are a-Changin". Written for Dylan's third studio album in 1963, the song was an inchoate expression of the tumult of the times, of the ethos of counter culture movements and particularly the civil rights movement. It was inspired by the Book of Ecclesiastes, and it presaged by only a few weeks the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Critics of Dylan's work claimed that his creation was outdated almost from the moment it was published, but it has always seemed to me that his words are timeless, and as appropriate for seasonal turnings as they were (and are) for social and political movements. Pete Seeger later adapted words from Ecclesiastes to write his folk anthem "Turn, Turn, Turn!", and the line about the first being last is a scriptural reference to Mark 10:31: "But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first." Perhaps there is indeed nothing new under the waning sunlight of this beautiful season.

Autumn skies overhead are brilliant blue and full of singing geese; the leaves of tree and vine and creeper are turning ruby, russet, burgundy and gold. There is intense glossy color everywhere, and wherever I turn, I am dazzled and entranced. The corn harvest is over for the most part, but the first apples, potatoes, gourds and pumpkins of the season adorn market stalls and farm gate shops in the Lanark Highlands. My freezer is full to brimming, and our larder is slowly filling up with quart sealers of tomatoes and squash, wax beans and pickles, relishes and preserves - those who know me will probably not be surprised to learn that the pantry is arranged by color and designed to be a feast for the eye as well as the palate.

As always, there is a bronze chrysanthemum on the threshold of the little blue house in the village, this morning graced by a single fallen russet oak leaf. That plant is my own nod to the seasons and Mama Gaia. On this day of color and richness and equilibrium, we can be still for a moment and acknowledge our bond with the hallowed earth. We can offer up thanks for the dear little blue planet which is our home, and for the autumn bounty bestowed by Mama Gaia, that which we are reaping and "putting by" to see us through the long nights of winter. On this day, we may also rightfully celebrate clan and tribe and community and sharing - all of the fine old qualities which unite us in a dancing chain spiraling on down the years from the ancestors to the present day and ourselves.

Whatever you call it, a very happy Autumn Equinox, Harvest Home, Mabon, Feast of Ingathering, Equinozio di Autunno, Meán Fómhair and Alban Elfed to you and your clan.

8 comments:

Sally said...

Lovely, Cate. Thank you for thoughtful and inspiring words and photos daily, especially on these important days of Earth celebration. Thank you for keeping us mindful of our seasonal ties.

Lindsay said...

Beautiful. I just blogged about two Scottish movies where wild rural Scotland changes the protagonists' lives forever: I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING and LOCAL HERO. Nothing to do with the equinox, I admit. :-)

Wild Roaming One (WRO) said...

Cate, thank you for reminding me that today marks a change in season that I don't particularily enjoy temperature wise, but it's a kaledescope for my eyes! I just yelled to my 5yr old that it's the first day of fall, she's been waiting...and with everything that's been going on, I've barely looked up to notice. So in honor of our equinox and your post, I'm heading out to take one last look at the green before it turns golden and red!

...and thank you for your words to my mama bear energy...it's the one thing that keeps me focused and not paralyzed!

Peace,
WRO xo

Anonymous said...

Autumn blessings to you Cate....heaven knows you bless us each and every day! Thank you...

Anonymous said...

Autumn blessings to you Cate....heaven knows you bless us each and every day! Thank you...

Victoria said...

I'm so glad I found your blog, Cate. Your words are treasures I feel privileged to read.

Autumn blessings to you...

marigold said...

Thank you from me too, for describing so beautifully Alban Elfed inside and out...

May the new season bring much joy to you and yours...

Celestial Elf said...

Wonderful Post thank you :D
Thought you might like my machinima film,
The Lammas Wickerman
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ORqpwf0dpSs
Bright Blessings
Elf
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