|William Blake (from Poetical Sketches, 1783)
O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stain’d
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou may’st rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.
“The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.
“The spirits of the air live in the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat,
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.
Today (yesterday…) at 20:44 (GMT) we celebrate the Autumn equinox, also known as Mabon (Celtic Tradition). Today we experience a day and night of equal length as the sun makes it’s journey southward across the equator. This is the coming of the winters night for Britain, the time when darkness overcomes light, night is longer than day.
Mabon is a time for balance, we are thankful for the bounty of harvest at this time of year, we thank the Earth for sustaining us and make preparations for the coming winter. This is the time of year when we reap what we have sown.
The Old Sun God is returning to the embrace of the Goddess, we can reflect on the year and our lives, as the night draws in, our minds naturally reflect on all things. Seemingly through the lack of light externally, we begin to illuminate the inner parts that had been shaded in the fecundity and activity of the summer months. Things naturally slow down, the pace of life drops, we begin to retreat inside more and more.
Mabon is a time of year for rest and celebration, after all the work and activity of summer harvest, it is a time to indulge and enjoy. It is a good time to begin to plant new seeds, formulate new ideas and projects for the coming year. Mabon, with its balance and traquil nature, allows us to take stock and become inspired. The truest of inspiration that surfaces from the still pond of silence and peace.
Our great Sun God is mourned, reminding us that all things come to an end, and that we are part of seasons and natural cycles greater than the mere passing of the calendar year, greater than the concept of an ‘end’. All things ending and beginning in perfect balance continuously, an effortless flow of action and inaction, of birth and death.
Without the darkness and chill of winter, we would not fully appreciate the birdsong of spring and the glorious warmth of summer (hence the difficulty of living in LA!). This can also be applied to our own experience, there is no light without dark, no joy that does not emanate from shadows.
The time of Mabon, and Autumn, sits in the West of the wheel of the year and represents the same energies as dusk, sunset, twilight and early evening, the move toward and the coming of night.
This all means a shift into the Yin (see Taoism) part of the circle of seasons. This is the time of the ‘come down’ from the frenetic summer, the excitement of all those late nights in the garden and all things blossoming. How we express and embody this slowing down is paramount to our physical and spiritual integration into the seasonal nature of things. Do we fight it, bemoan the dark nights, or effortlessly float into the night with appreciation for its tranquility and depth. After all, nighttime is when we sleep and explore dream times. We leap out of one suit into another and explore new dimensions simply by surrendering to sleep (peace) and become aware of our unconscious inclinations to vibrate in the freakiest of fashions. This is us, dreamers and the dreamt, all things imaginable and the unimagined. This is the dance.
So Mabon is a time for us to work in our ability to let go of things, all things physical and emotional that have weighed us down, all things that embody negativity and that are superfluous to a bright and beautiful existence. We all know what they are in our lives, it takes bravery to dispatch of some, they may be deep rooted and some may even define who we think we are (that’s a whole different rambling ‘Turtle’ post, in fact, it’s much, much more that that……it is what is! Is it not?)
Our descent into the dark is inevitable, effortlessly ride it out, let yourself go, have no fear in your heart when facing the shifting tides of the universe. Be free and comfortable, after all, this is the place we call home. We are home! Fighting the darkness will only delay the inevitable, whether you like it or not, you will be dragged there regardless, acceptance breeds fluidity and fluidity can only mean a less bumpy passage through this wonderfully rendered conscious realm. ‘Go with the flow’ is not simply new age jargon, it has practical applications, visible results in the easing of mental and physical ailments. Thought patterns can be altered, life changes when approached differently, destiny manifests in each moment.
All of This revolves around the present and all things are linked inextricably, both internally and externally. Mabon breeds balance and makes us realise the effect that Mother Nature has on each and every one of us, every thing that is alive, eats, breathes and loves on this planet. We can ever surrender to her shifting seasons, or move to LA and get a sun tan (which doesn’t sound like a bad compromise! Hopefully you catch my drift here). Mother Nature is highlighting the shifting nature of existence externally and internally and the importance of appreciating this constant pattern of rise and fall, have and have not, the harmony in the seemingly prevailing dissonance.
|Ode To Autumn
|John Keats (1820)
|Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
The Ritual of Mabon
Marking the passing year with a ritual is all part of celebrating the magical course of the seasons and natures wonderful balance. Many of our ‘pagan’ rituals have been swallowed up by the church (in the UK, pick your local religion and this will no doubt ring true). Rituals help to bring into our conciousness the physical effects of such meta-physical shifts in our environment. What we know scientifically about the seasons is far out weighed by what we don’t know, or have previously understood via instinct or intuition. This is the reason that we revert to a ritualised approach, look back to our ancestors who lived hand in hand with nature and realised the importance of understanding her rhythm and resonance. Of that which we are so discordant to collectively at this stage of human history and of that which we must feel with greater sensitivity to evolve and fully realise our collective yearning for a better world. We are being drawn back to the centre, after living a lie for too long and rituals help us enact this journey.
To be connected to the passing season’s helps me to tune into the wheels of what is effecting my waking life and consciousness. There are underlying factors that effect my emotional state of being, this may be a full moon or even more pronounced, the fact that night draws in at 4pm! It helps me to guage and understand the root of my emotions and come to terms with them. This does not mean that I disregard or undermine my emotional state (ego), but I gradually come to terms with it and realise that it is being effected by forces greater than my rational mind. This leaves me free to contemplate greater things that just myself and my perceived surroundings. What lies beneath? What am I part of? How can I effect this collective state for the better?
Appreciating nature and its perfect balance is at the core of this approach and rituals punctuate the passing years as we age and mature, change and adapt to the constant flux of being here.
The ritual of Mabon involves gathering the harvest, vegetables, nuts and fruits and placing them in a basket. Creating an alter of sorts, a focal point. If you are not religious (as I am not) this is an aid to focus the mind on what we are celebrating here! Don’t worry, this has nothing to do with ‘God’ (in a sense) this is about worshipping nature and nature we are. We are celebrating ourselves! Mix the colours of the basket, make it beautiful.
There are many ways of celebrating Mabon, many passages to read, many incantations to offer. Here is an example:
O Gracious Goddess of all fertility, I have sown and
Reaped the fruits of my actions, good and bane.
Grant me the courage to plant seeds of joy and love in
The coming year, banishing misery and hate. Teach me the secrets
Of wise existence upon the planet.
O luminous one of the night!
Vocalising such sentiments and thankfulness is a potent method of cleansing any inhibitions we may have with regards to the coming winter months, the lean time of potential suffering and struggle. Certainly, this was the case for our ancestors. There would have no doubt been an element of melancholy at this time of years, especially if you lived in these Welsh hills and knew that blizzards and storms were just around the corner. Chanting and singing also focus the mind and a focused mind is a happy and content mind, so chanting and singing can only breed happiness and contentment.
Rituals are very important, collectively celebrating, appreciating and adopting a peaceful approach to life is very important. You could call it a ‘higher calling’ if you like. A release from the mundanity of living, but also an appreciation for the fruits of such mundanity. After all, digging out the weeds in the vegetable patch has resulted in this wokderful harvest we now enjoy.
A collective, ritualized approach to celebration is one of the wonderful gifts of religion (of which I am not). Collectively, large groups of people get together and celebrate in a loving way with a one eye occasionally cast towards something greater than the sum of its parts. There is little crime in Christian countries on Christmas Day and what may I add is Christ-mass day about? Christ is the embodiment of peace on earth and lets face it, we all love Christmas! We can all take this positive energy and joy into more than one celebration per year, this will have a massive effect on the well-being of us all. Marking the passing seasons and thanking nature for sustaining us is a huge step in the right direction. Rituals require discipline, but can be enacted every day of the year, a small window to appreciate what makes you tick and skip (different for us all). We are all unique expressions of something very special and this should be celebrated.
So as the heat leaves this island for another year, we simmer down and gather around the fire to tell tale tales of the adventures of the lighter months of activity and adventure. As the leaves begin to change colours on the trees, showing red and orange, gold and amber, we notice differing shades of our emotional landscape. The leaves seem to remind us of the receding sun, it’s fire and the transformations that will take place come Spring. They are the embers of natures love that burn and enliven bleaker times. They suggest that nature has not left us, just that it is sleeping, all things must rest and have the opportunity to dream. We are free to harvest the fruits of our labour and store them, like jewels, until the spring light may shine on them again.
The Harvest is here; bake cakes, drink cider and be merryX
Dates for Northern Hemispheres ‘Sabbats’
Imbolc – Feb 2nd
Ostara – Mar 21st/22nd
Beltane – April 30th/May 1st
Lithia – June 21st/22nd
Lammas – July 31st/Aug 1st
Mabon – Sept 21st/22nd
Samhain – Oct 31st
Yule – Dec 21st/22nd