THE GREEN WOMAN'S GARDEN 413-225-2144
"When the goldenrod is yellow,
And the leaves are turning brown -
Reluctantly the summer goes
In a cloud of thistledown.
When squirrels are harvesting
And birds in flight appear -
By these autumn signs we know
September days are here"
Beverly Ashour, September
September is the beginning of harvest time. Daylight has been decreasing each day since the summer solstice. We celebrate the Autumnal Equinox in September, when day and night are more or less equal in length. It is interesting to note that the equinox is the time when the sun enters Libra - which represents the scales, or balance. Perhaps this is what gave rise to the myth of egg-balancing on the equinox. It was thought that on the day when the hours of day and night were equal, one could balance an egg on its end. However, the internal structure and other physical factors of the egg are the only things that determine whether or not an egg can stand on its end. Absolute patience is required - you could certainly give it a try.
For ancient Celts, this time of year was celebrated by honoring Mabon, the son of Modred, and who was stolen from his mother and subsequently rescued by King Arthur. Mabon is recognized as the King of the Underworld, so it is fitting that this time of year would be when he is acknowledged - the waning (or death) of the year. Grapes from the vineyard and apples from the orchard would be harvested, and wine and cider were consumed. A charming ritual from the Celts is to place an apple on the headstone of a loved one, with the wish that one day you would be reunited with your dear departed one. Another Celtic tradition was the sacrifice of a large straw figure, representing the harvest. The yearly "Burning Man" festival in the Nevada desert echoes this ancient practice.
The themes of death, rebirth, repentance and remembrance of the dead are also included by other peoples. The Chumash from southern California celebrate Hutash after the harvest, turning their thoughts inward to reflect on the coming winter. In Japan, the equinox is recognized by Higan-e, a six day journey towards enlightenment. The equinox was thought to be an ideal time to reflect on the meaning of life, and to remember past loved ones.
Nowadays, we gather cornstalks and pumpkins for a fall display, just as the Norse people did. The gathered stalk represented the Harvest Lord, which was surrounded by melons and gourds, possibly to symbolize fertility. And you thought you were just making a pretty outdoor decoration!
We also revel in the apple harvest, drinking cider, making pies and using apples in all ways. It is intriguing to think of these long ago traditions being repeated in our own time today. A good harvest time ensured that one's family would survive the winter. Putting up stores of food was essential, and being thankful for the bounty was only proper. We no longer need to put away or preserve food. We have ready access to more food than we could possibly need. Our fall fairs and festivals are vestiges of those long ago harvest celebrations, and serve to remind us of our agrarian past.
So on the equinox this year, share some cider, corn and wine. Toast the harvest season, and focus on remembering the past and looking ahead to the next year.