I wrote the following a couple of years ago, during a beautiful, colorful and cool Autumn season. This year, while much of what I wrote is still true, a more disturbing truth is that with Climate Change our trees are shedding leaves, not naturally and colorfully, but because we are in a severe drought and the trees are in deep distress. Leaves are just dead with no color. The temperature is still at summer level in the 80’s and 90’s and the ground is parched and cracked. Animals are in desperate search for water in this season of transition and, sadly, there is little left to harvest this late for the same reason. My attention is less on the norm this year as I find myself already turning inward and contemplating the coming of Samhain. I am in dire need and desire of Ancestral Wisdom and the comfort and nurturing of my Cave.
Much has changed since I wrote the words below, but what has not (at least not yet) are Gaia’s Cycles and the truth of the Life, Death, Rebirth play that has informed our cultural practices for thousands of years. At least for now, the Great Wheel still turns.
And Once Again, The Wheel is Turning
© Arlene Bailey 2017
It’s that time of year when my herb garden is not looking so good. I’ve harvested lots of herbs to use for both magickal and medicinal purposes, but now the Grandmother plants and Her children are weary from the intensity of the growing season. Their foliage and flowers are waning and their energies are being directed downward. The outward time of beauty is over and it’s time for them to turn inward and direct all their resources to their roots – that life-sustaining, grounded-ness that is the darkness that will see them through the inner time.
But all is not yet below ground – not yet in darkness. Activity is still going on above ground and yet stirrings begin within. This is the time of balance…the time of transition – not only for the plants, but for me as well. Despite the outward greenness, I can feel the shift in my soul. With the increasingly shorter days, darkness weighs just a little heavier. The need for retreat and time out for spiritual things grows stronger, along with a personal need for community and warmth. A meditative moment grasped from the jaws of manic daily life…a respite from the intensity and abundance of summer and outwardness…a time to celebrate our harvests, but with awareness of moving inward. The Wheel is turning…
Summer is gone. I am gathering the last of the fruits and vegetables and herbs from my garden. In the early morning, the fall air is brisk and the greens give ways to vibrant reds and oranges and yellows. Everything turns with the season. I am reminded that Autumn Equinox is a time of balance and equilibrium, of repose and resting after the labors of planting and harvesting. It is when I give thanks, gather and store. I compost and mulch my gardens, returning to the earth in thankfulness what She has given me. I recycle and review, enjoy the fruits of my labors, appreciating a time of plenty in preparation for a time of scarcity.
It is also the beginning of the season of death. Although I still can feel the warm presence of the sun, it is waning – there is a restlessness in the air – the mood is becoming more solemn. As I see the intensity of the flaming colors, I am reminded that life burns most intensely just before it dies. Now is the time to reap what was sown at Imbolc and Spring Equinox, but it is also the time to begin to prepare for winter. Moving to the soft darkness that beckons and draws us in again…towards that part that lives in shadow…out of focus…moving from logic to intuition…activity is suspended and the inner time begins. With the death of the plants is the birth and mystery of the seed. All growth is held in suspension and silence within until spring when the cycle repeats and, once again, the Wheel turns… Just as the plants energetic focus goes underground (or inward), so our focus shifts inward. The Wheel is turning…
In the past, when I’ve thought about Fall Equinox, I’ve focused on the harvest aspects – Thanksgiving…Abundance…Fruition. It has been a celebration of the Mother Earth as giver of life. This year, I’m taking time to remember my own inner dead. While acknowledging the thanksgiving part of the season, I celebrate the descent. There are dark parts on this journey and somehow they must become part of my ritual in a way that is real and helpful. Just as plants need both light and dark to complete their cycles, so it is with me. I know that in order to be complete, to plant, to grow, to harvest, I too must die. For me that means honoring the balance of light and dark, of honoring the descent, of honoring the abundance of the harvest but with the knowledge that there comes a time when I must shift towards the inner time. For me that means ritual and giving over to something bigger and more ancient as I begin my descent into a deeper connection with animal and nature spirits.
It is September and today/tomorrow (depending on where you are*) is Autumn Equinox – the time of perfect balance and yet also of transition. It is now that we look into ourselves and assess who we are and where we are going while we also work on completing our preparation for the physical and spiritual survival of winter. Fall and Autumn Equinox is the time of turning leaves and turning inward… a point of balance—balancing out all the internal debris, keeping some and letting some go. We embrace the richness, the abundance, and find our own inner darkness.
I am a Wise Woman in the tradition of the village wise elder woman who was both green witch and kitchen witch, a Priestess intimately connected to the ancient ways of women and the Cosmos. Intimate with the cycles of nature, with Goddess and Her medicines and magick, I live by the Wheel of the Year and honor HER turning through ritual and through my daily activities. For me the Wheel is more than just a metaphor for the seasons or planting or a backdrop for the agricultural myths. It is a spiritual psychology and what directs me – not a separate entity that I view from outside, but an internal mechanism that takes me through the cycles of the year… through the cycles of my life.
Once again, the Wheel has turned and today I light a candle and build an altar to this point in the cycle.
*Autumnal Equinox occurs on September 23rd at 3:50 a.m. East Coast USA, 12:50 a.m. West Coast USA
Blessings also to my Sisters in the Southern Hemisphere who today celebrate the Spring Equinox. May the seeds they planted at Imbolc begin to grow and nourish their dreams for this turning of the Wheel in this their outward cycle.
Writing by Arlene Bailey, © 2017, 2019
Art – Autumn Goddess by Arlene Bailey, ©2018
Art – Autumn Equinox Blessings by Wendy Andrews