by Danu Forest
This article first appeared on Watkins Publishing.
Autumn is here. The first of the leaves are turning, and the hedgerows swell with berries.
In Somerset, my tiny village in the midst of the Avalon marshes is filled with the scent of wood smoke and apples ripening gently into cider. At this time of year we are reminded that this lands ancient name, Avalon, means ‘the land of apples’. Avalon in the myths is associated with the Celtic Otherworld, a magical place surrounded by lakes and mists. At this time of year the mist gathers in once again, usually at dusk and just before dawn, swirling and billowing across the fields bringing a sense of mystery, magic and the presence of spirits. September sees the harvest season come to a climax with the Autumn Equinox, falling this year on September 22nd (the equinox is usually around 21st- 23rd) . At the equinox the day and night are of equal length, and we find ourselves gently tipping from this point onwards into the darkness of winter. Here the soul and the sub-conscious prepares itself to descend into the underworld for transformation and renewal, crossing the veil at Samhain, traditionally October 31st. But there is work to be done yet, with the last lingering traces of summer, reaping our harvests, the results of our deeds and actions, and clearing the way by filling our hearts with gratitude and grace.
What do we mean by harvest these days? Most of us no longer work the fields or grow our own food, but it is impossible to get away from the cycles of nature, only deny their effect upon us to our peril. Like every animal we quicken as the sun turns to spring and summer, and close in, retreating in our psyches at least as winter draws near. All our lives are a cycle of reaping and sowing … our actions and our dreams cast out seeds into the world, our every step sends out roots and rhythms thrumming along the web of life that grow on their own to weave our future. So it is good to take time regularly; to take stock, to view our harvest, the life we have now made for ourselves. Does it reflect our dreams? Our highest intentions? Or do we need to clear the weeds, let them compost over the winter months and sow better seeds to grow strong roots over this resting time and make a life that fills our heart and soul.
The same goes for the world around us — does it reflect our highest qualities, of kindness and fairness and health? The truth is it seldom does, but each of us are empowered to make changes, and shape the world. Consider for a while how you can help. Perhaps a local charity needs a donation, or you can spare a little time to spread awareness of an issue, email your MP or take some positive direct action such as taking half an hour to clear litter from your local park, or check on an elderly neighbour. There are many ways the world manifests it’s harvests, and many issues need our attention but don’t be overwhelmed. Just pick up one thing, one thread, and you will be surprised at what can change in a small amount of time to reflect more health and wholeness from the soul of the world.
Try to find time to look over the past year and consider all the things you can be grateful for. List everything you can, every moment spent with loved ones and friends, every sunset you got to watch in silence, every dawn, every flickering fire. Be thankful for every day of health and strength, every dream that came to fruition and every dream that didn’t — for these are lessons and gifts every one. Be thankful for every breath in your lungs and beat of your heart, for this gift of living and exploring what it is to live …. and be thankful if you can for your sorrows and troubles, as these too are part of the gift of life, part of the precious rare human experience. We truly are star stuff, sparks of the divine clothed in flesh for the terrible joy of mortality, and with that comes pleasure and pain in equal measure, darkness and light, life and death. This fleeting magic, this endless change is what it is to be alive.
So as the year turns, remember your gifts and treasures, and let all that no longer serves you fade with the falling leaves and return to the soil. And gather in the seeds of new life as they ripen before you, hinting at summers yet to come. Hold them to your heart as the miracles they are, love them with a passion, and scatter them wide before you.
May there be a blessing upon our harvest!
Learn more from Danu Forest and her book The Magical Year by listening to Danu’s interview by Steve Nobel.
Danu Forest is the author of The Magical Year. has been a practising druid witch and Celtic shaman for over twenty years, has been teaching Celtic shamanism and witchcraft for over a decade, and runs a shamanic consultation and healing practice. She is the author of Nature Spirits: wyrd lore and wild fey magic (Wooden Books), The Druid Shaman (Moon Books) and Celtic Tree Magic (Llewellyn), creates and teaches email correspondence courses, writes a “Danu’s Cauldron” blog for witchesandpagans.com, and has been published in magazines such as Kindred Spirit, Soul and Spirit, and Pagan Dawn. She is also an Ard BanDrui in the Irish Druid Clan of Dana, an ordained priestess, a druid grade member of OBOD (Order of Bards, Ovates (healers/seers) and Druids) and a member of the Society for Shamanic Practitioners.