I remember the harvest festival every September when I was at primary school. We’d all have to take in a tin of something or other and hand it in to the collection. Not sure where it all went – local charities I assume?! We’d all march down to the church, walking in pairs so nobody got left behind, sing songs and talk about how lucky we were having all this food. I don’t remember much about why we did this every year, or where the tradition came from and it stopped once we all went up to secondary school.
I forgot all about I think, until my own daughter started school and the harvest festival tradition started up again. Except this time they didn’t go to the church, they had an assembly in the school hall instead. I never did ask her what they talked about and learnt there. I do know where the tins of food were sent though – there’s a care home virtually next door to the primary school and all the donations went there.
Its only this year, since I’ve started to be much more aware of the cycles of nature and the wheel of the year, that I’ve learnt more about where it all comes from and the meaning behind some of the festivals. I remember hearing as a child that lots of the Christian festivals we celebrated actually came from old pagan festivals, but I didn’t think very much of it at the time. I wasn’t really a Christian, and I wasn’t really interested in all that back then. I’m no expert now, but I find it fascinating, the way in which so many traditions and religions are connected and ultimately celebrate the same things – love, compassion and gratitude.
It’s the Autumn Equinox today. An event I’ve been aware of for years, but never thought anything about at all. I knew it was the time of year when day and night are equal, but so what? That just meant the real start of autumn and onwards to winter. Everyone likes the whole autumn colours thing, cosy nights at home in front of the TV and an excuse to drink lots of hot chocolate. But to me it was nothing more than that.
This year I’ve been marking the moon cycles and the new and full moons, and learning more about astrology, the different traditions, Gods and Goddesses honoured at different points in the year and sat in group meditations calling on them for their wisdom and guidance. Sometimes the experience has been utterly amazing, other times less so.
This week I joined the “new moon zoom” group my friend Maria runs. She talked about the autumn equinox and the festival of Mabon, so I’ve been doing some reading since then, finding out more about it, and spotting the synchronicity with the old school harvest festival.
Mabon is on the western side of the wheel of the year and celebrates the autumn equinox. It’s the time to mark the changing seasons and give thanks for everything we have. There’s lots of stories, myths and legends surrounding the festivals origins, but probably the most famous is the one around the Greek god Hades and Persephone, the Goddess Demeter’s daughter. Demeter was the Goddess of grain and harvest in ancient Greece. Persephone was abducted by Hades who was the God of the underworld. Demeter’s grief at losing her daughter caused the crops to die, and by the time Persephone came back she was doomed to spend 6 months of the year in the underworld, during which time the crops on earth would die until they are reborn on Persephone’s return.
Mabon is also the name of a Welsh God, who was stolen from his mother and rescued by King Arthur. This story also talks about the dying of the world in order to be reborn.
Modern pagan celebrations include decorating homes, lighting orange and red candles, burning cinnamon, clove and apple incense and feasting on newly harvested foods such as squashes and other root vegetables, apples and corn. My social media research today has found lots of people baking bread and apple themed foods – yum!
As for me, well I started the day with a meditation I found on the app I use called Insight Timer, which was designed to help you identify the things you need to let go of at this time of year. I did some yoga (which is a pretty standard Friday morning activity for me, so not really equinox specific!) and then I used Vix from New Age Hipster’s tarot spread for the equinox. I used The Wild Unknown Tarot and Vix’s Instaoracle.
1. What to be grateful for – Mother of Wands, Sunrise
There’s beauty in every day, even when we don’t always see it. If we become more mindful and start making the effort to notice just how much love, beauty and warmth there is in our lives we’ll see just how abundant we already are. Be grateful for family and friends, whether in this life right now or in your spiritual tribe.
2. How to ground – The Fool, Balloon
Say yes to life, take that leap. Live in the present, not the future or the past. We only have right now. If we stay put because of fear we’ll never grow and we’ll always wonder what if. Being fully present will ground us in this life and allow us to take that leap of faith.
3. What to harvest – 5 of Wands, Love
Have you felt like you’re focussed on everything and nothing all at once? That’s certainly true for me these last few weeks and it leads to lost focus and fears creeping back in. Its time to go back to love – the things we love to do and the people we love to be with. Harvest love and weed out the rest!
4. What to stock up on – The World, Pier
The world is all about completion and feeling whole. You are already whole, you are already enough. Yes, you’ll always be evolving and sometimes walking into the unknown, but thinking you have to get to a certain place or point in your life to feel whole won’t work. You’re already whole, remember that.
5. How to create warmth – Ace of Swords, Unexpected Pegasus
You’ve grown a lot already this year, sometimes gradually and sometimes there are those ah-ha moments of sudden realisations. There are more of those to come. Being present allows you to spot those bolts of lightning for what they are, and appreciate them when they hit. They’re not always expected, but they’ll light a fire in your belly that will keep you warm.
6. How to keep working – The High Priestess, Trees
These cards remind us to be strong and still. TO listen. Its then that you hear the voice of your intuition, your higher self, your soul voice. This is the voice that knows. By listening and following the guidance that comes the small seed of an idea will grow into something tall, strong and beautiful.
7. How to find joy – 6 of Wands, Sky
There have been challenges and obstacles to get past to get to this point. You got through it, and now isn’t the time to worry about what’s happened or dissect the journey. You’ve risen above it and can now fly free. It’s this freedom that brings you joy, by choosing to focus on that you can move forwards and leave those challenges behind you!
Have you done anything to celebrate or mark the autumn equinox?
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