Riding The Wheel Of The Year:; Autumn Harvest
When the world moves from summer to winter in your part of the world, even if it’s someplace without four distinct seasons, there is a sense that the seasons are changing. Whether it’s the quality of light in the late afternoon, the later sunrise and earlier sunset, or the breath of coolness in the air, subtly different from a few weeks before, Mother Earth is letting us gently know that the wheel of the year is turning again.
Many of us feel a quickening now, a sense of wanting to move forward and get new things started. Partially it’s our conditioning from childhood: fall in my youth meant school days starting and a new year of learning and adventure. Now, however, there is no “marking of passage” at work or perhaps even at home. How do you commemorate that the year is coming to a close – that you have gained and lost, given and received, during this year? How do you acknowledge your year’s journey? What can you do to bring forth in your consciousness that “new road waiting?”
Experiment with a season’s meditation. Whether it is winter, spring, summer – or autumn – use the sights, smells, and senses of the season to go deep within yourself, and look at what has passed for you. Create a scenario, a central place inside your mind and heart, and meet there with Spirit to learn what It can share with you.
To start you on this path, we offer the following Harvest Meditation, which I wrote many years ago, but which still quickens within me magical growth and self-understanding every year.
Settle into a quiet place, where you will not be disturbed. Use incense (cinnamon? apple? spicy scents of crisp fall nights?), candles, music – whatever will create within you the easy flow outward to meet your Guides. If you want, you might record the meditation and then play it back (remembering as you record to give yourself appropriate pauses!) so that you are not distracted with reading.
Relax. Breathe deeply. Locate your Center.
Find yourself walking on a country road, a sack slung over your shoulder. The late afternoon sun is burnished gold, casting long shadows. Wooden fence posts enclose a great expanse where corn is grown, and wheat. There are trees there, too, heavy with ripe apples that surround you with their heady scent. Taste the difference in the air, so different from the slow breath of summer.
The wind is still warm, yet a thin thread of winter weaves its way into the tapestry. A momentary tang of coolness dances the leaves, rattles the dry husks in the cornfield. The sky is an impossible blue, as Mother Nature gathers together her Autumn paints.
There is an opening in the fence. A gate swings wide for you, and a pathway beckons between the empty sentinels of the harvest. You make your way slowly, feeling the leaves touch you, whispering with their sere voices of colder, darker days to come. The sound envelops you, fills your ears. A lone raven adds counterpoint with a faint, harsh cry.
The pathway widens, suddenly; you find yourself in a small clearing, unexpected in the midst of the field. Stones form a ring around a rough-hewn altar, piled high with fruit and grain, fish and game. There are craft-workings, too: fine blankets of good wool, delicate embroidery, sturdy pottery with bright designs. Small wooden toys. A book, freshly bound. A scroll of poetry. A hand-carved harp.
The largesse, heaped so high, has spilled from the altar and tumbled to the ground. Your sack slides from your shoulder as you move to gather it up again, when a voice asks, “What have you brought to add to the Giving?”
You turn. It is the Harvest Mother. Her arms are filled with sheaves of wheat; Her hair is the color of the corn. Her bare feet tread lightly on the dusty ground, and Her eyes hold yours with quiet intent as She approaches.
“These are the gifts of those who know Me for the Lady of Bounty. All who have toiled these many months, I have helped, for when I take My leave of you until the Spring I would have you well cared for. I have given My warmest sun, My gentlest rain, My richest soil. And in return, My people share the results of their work, and their love.”
“What have you to bring to the Altar of Thanks? How have you used My Gifts this year?”
You bow low, and turn to open the sack that you have brought. Shape now your Gift to Her: look at what you have harvested this year, and bring to Her the choicest of your year’s creations.
You lay your offering with the others, and turn to look at Her questioningly, wondering, perhaps if it is good enough. She laughs kindly, and nods Her head. “Any Gift, if given with Love and from your whole heart, is a bounteous harvest for Me. I ask no more than this: that you recognize from Whence the bounty comes, and that you share your good fortune – for in sharing the bounty do you also honor Me, and care for My children as I do.”
A great explosion of feathers startles you, as a pheasant rises close by, the bronze and emerald plumage catching the last rays of the sun. When you turn to thank the Lady, she is gone; but she has left a Gift for you. Examine this Gift, gather it to you, and place it in your sack.
Bowing a final time to the altar, you turn and make your way back through the empty stalks, finding the gate and the road as the evening star blinks on the horizon. You set foot on the road, and choose your new direction.