It is the time of year when we have equal day and night, before moving into the ever-darkening time of year. Mabon is the neo-pagan name for this age-old Harvest festival held in many cultures. If you are in the Northern Hemisphere, you will be feeling the shift in weather towards Winter. Nights and early mornings are cooler, and the air is becoming more translucent – a change in the quality of sunlight.
This is the time of year when the smell of earth becomes more pronounced as acorns drop from oak trees and some leaves are already shedding from the trees. The fawns are losing their white spots and becoming a bit more grown up as they move through the forest. Gourds and pumpkins in many colors and shapes remind us that Autumn is here, along with the delicious apples.
In the Avalonian Wheel of the Year, this season is the direction of the West and designated to the element of Earth. In our tradition, we call in the great Earth Goddesses of many names such as Banba, Urtha, Gaia, Ge, Mother Earth, Pacamama, Izanami. It’s also the time of Harvest with all the vegetables, nuts and fruits being brought in before the first frost. The bounty and gifts of Mother Earth.
I grew up in Tokyo, Japan where Autumn was a time of culture. It would start out with the Otsukimi, or the Moon Viewing of the Harvest Moon, the full moon closest to Autumn Equinox, with Japanese Pampas grass in a vase as decoration. There would be the Tsukimi-dango or the Moon Viewing Cakes made from rice and sweet red bean paste. I remember it as being incredibly sweet and peaceful, just watching the full moon ascend through the night sky. There was a sense of spaciousness and gentleness.
Observing the changing color of leaves was also very big in Japan. Certain temples would have amazingly shaped maple trees which would become flaming red against an old, moss-covered temple roof. When the Ginko trees turned golden, my parents would walk amongst them with a bag, collecting the ginko nuts. My father loved roasted ginko nuts with their greenish gold flesh that had a faint bitterness to go with his warm sake in the evenings.
The Autumn weather in Japan was a true wonder and a reprieve from the sweltering days of summer. Crisp and fine days with a high, blue sky would have people quote: “High Heavens in Autumn when Horses Fatten”. I suppose it meant to praise the good weather and time of repose with the abundance of harvest time. Time to enjoy Nature’s beauty and art. Art shows would abound in Autumn as well as throngs of people out to enjoy hiking in Nature.
What are some of the things you remember about Autumn from your childhood environment where you grew up?
This powerful connection with Earth is wonderfully felt here where I live now, at the beginning of the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia. Deer, wild turkey, squirrel and fox cross our path, driving my 8-month-old Samoyed puppy ecstatic during our morning walks in the forest. My senses are more alive and attuned to the smell of earth and plants in Autumn. There is more grounding in my body as if Mother Earth is calling me back into Her embrace. I feel the trees in a different rhythm as they concentrate on gathering as much energy as possible in their roots before dropping their leaves for the coming winter. Somehow, everything feels quieter than in Summer. The cicadas are no longer here and there is much less birdsong during the day. Perhaps that’s why I notice the sound of the wind passing through the forest and rustling the leaves. Or perhaps the leaves themselves are feeling the end of their run and singing a different song more connected to Earth compared to the exuberant lift towards sunlight of Summer.
This journey towards Earth, towards ground is part of the cycle of life on our beautiful planet. We can forget this so easily in our tech driven lives. If we were trees, it’s as if the leaves never drop and the roots don’t need to be nourished. Perpetual Summer. We forget how much we are part and parcel of this Earth. Our bodies are made from Earth and cycles with the Sun, Moon, Planets and the seasons. Women know this through the menstrual cycle. Yet for many, this cycle of bleeding has been disrupted with our disconnection from Earth and Her seasons.
Climate change is not only happening in the outer world. There is an equivalent disruption within our internal weather systems. We are not only treating Mother Earth as a commodity, a thing to be exploited and used with no respect or regard, we also treat our bodies as such. Bodies need to be healthy, need to look a certain way, feed it, clothe it, work it out, etc. When was the last time you were in respectful relationship with your body? When did you last LISTEN to your own body instead of deciding what should be done to it?
This is a big problem for both women and men. Women have an additional karma to deal with, however. The time when women “belonged” to men is still not completely past. That mindset still exists powerfully in some cultures, but it has not been eradicated at all in our American and Western European cultures either. We are moving slowly towards inclusivity and respect. Yet when abortion law such as the one in Texas is passed, we are definitely moving backwards to those days when women had no rights.
And connecting with the Goddess means respecting ALL BEINGS for who and what they are. That includes not only our human species, but all beings, animate and inanimate with whom we share our Mother, Mother Earth. Let’s start out in our own backyard, shall we?
Start out with your own body and your own connection with Earth. Breathe. Listen. Really listen. Get quiet enough so you can sense / hear what your body is saying to you. Slow down. Be patient. It’s the same quality of listening to practice with Mother Earth. Drop your body weight into Mother Earth and breathe slowly. Smell, touch, soften your gaze. Take the time to taste the Earth through a piece of fruit. Let’s start a conversation of receiving as well as giving. Equinox is about balance after all.