Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn

The Autumn Equinox occurs this year on Friday, September 23rd, at 5:05 am EDT, for those that like to be astronomically precise.  I grew up thinking of Equinoxes and Solstices being on the 21st, and according to the ADF Dedicant literature, those are the 'official' dates for them, as well.  Rather like observing Martin Luther King Day on a Monday rather than actually on his birthday.

Meanwhile, we'll actually be observing it on Saturday, the 24th, because when it comes to public rituals, weekends work out much better because fewer people will be working and unable to attend.

So... happy Mabon, Harvest Feast, First Day of Autumn, Autumn Equinox, or however you call it and whenever this week you observe it.

Cooler day and chilly nights have been heralding its arrival here for the past couple of weeks.  Lots of rain and overcast skies giving way to brilliant crisp blue, and brightly colored leaves keep appearing on the ground even though there is just a tiny bit of color appearing in the trees so far.  I'm starting to speculate how I might give my little collection of potted herbs a fair chance of survival once the cold sets in and I have to provide sun and a bit of fresh air from inside the house - I am no good at houseplants, but I've noticed that the ones that live get a little bit of breeze on a regular basis.

In my private, simple manner of observing the Autumn Equinox, it has always seemed to me to be a very domestic turn of season - we begin to put away the summer clothes, and bring out a few sweaters and heavier pieces.  Meals shift from salads and grilled items designed to keep the house from overheating to soups and stews that simmer slowly, warming the house and filling the air with comforting odors that suggest that all is well.

I want to decorate - laying out dried corn and pumpkins and gourds and acorns.  I want to find a hook on which to hang my apple wreath from the front door.

Mabon for me is firstly about FOOD.  It is a harvest feast - a bountiful time celebrating the ripeness of crops tended with care and now ready to eat, and to store away for winter.  It's a time when the temperature is cool enough to can for later eating and sharing.  So much of our decor right now is the food itself, as well as other plant based icons, from acorns and leaves, to corn husk dolls and scarecrows, along with the crows themselves, which will take pre-eminence shortly, once the harvest is all in.

It is also about COLOR - fiery reds and golds and yellows and browns, as if the green of summer must go up in flame before dying out in the winter.  All this color helps us keep warm as the days go blustery and make it sheer pleasure to walk, kicking leaves, and pulling sweaters close around us like a hug.

There are some myths associated with this time of year - the one I am most familiar with is that of Ceres and Persephone, and the earth mother's grief and outrage at the loss of her daughter to Hades causing her to stop growing, plunging the world into death and cold, mirroring her daughter's ascent into the land of the dead, only to find all these plants not dead, but merely dormant, just as Persephone rises to life again in the spring.

But  I have a hard time seeing all this blaze of color and scent and ripeness as any sort of grief when it seems like such an extravagant reveling of abundance, so I think of that story coming a bit later, as the last leaves have fallen from the trees and the last vegetables brought in from the garden, leaving barren stalks and stems.

I very much hope Autumn stays with us a long time this year. 

I'm looking forward to this weekend's Grove celebration, and while I've read sample rituals, I've not yet mentally turned my mind toward ADF style rituals and away from generically Wiccan-styled patterns.  I am most looking forward to simply experiencing it rather than reading about it, as I think that is what it's going to take for me to instinctively 'get' it.

They're having a potluck after, and I'll be making Stuffed Grape Leaves - rather than strictly Greek style, I decided to follow this recipe, which uses dried fruits and nuts as well as rice, making it all a nice homage to Autumn. Yum!

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