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The following is excerpted from the chapter "Reflections on Seasonal Rituals" in the Combined Third Edition of She Lives! The Return of Our Great Mother copyright 1999 by Judith Laura. All Rights Reserved. An earlier version of  "Autumn: A Time to Harvest" was published in the Autumn 1993 issue of Voices of Women. Ellipses [. . . . ] indicate material deleted here but available in the version in the book.

Autumn: A Time to Harvest

Autumn is the time of harvest. In the early, pre-Christian agriculturally-based Celtic traditions, harvest was observed by three holidays: Lammas, August 1; Mabon, at the autumn equinox; and Samhain, at the time of the holiday known to many as Halloween.

 Lammas was the gathering of the “first fruits,” the crops that ripened first, and the other two the harvest of later crops. These holidays also marked the lessening of the light from the sun, the return of the dark. In their mythology, at this time of year the male god died to be reborn at Winter Solstice, also called Yul.

The Jewish religion also celebrates autumn holidays, which echo earlier Near Eastern agricultural observances. . . . On the secular side, in the United States, in a move prompted at least consciously by business and political motives, October 1 has been designated as the beginning of the new “fiscal” year. And we have two secular holidays with a number of strong religious undertones: Halloween and Thanksgiving. Some Christian churches celebrate All Hallows Eve (or Hallowmas ) on October 31, with All Saints Day following on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2. The Mexican Holiday on November 1-2, El Dia de los Muertos,  is  also  celebrated  in  other  Latin American countries, North America, and  other parts of the world. The holiday honors the dead and may possibly be traced back to an Aztec Goddess holiday.

 In a way that is similar in some respects to the Jewish New Year, Samhain (or Halloween) is, in many Pagan traditions, celebrated as the New Year: The end of one cycle and the beginning of the next. It is a time to honor ancestors; to look inward; to not be afraid of the dark but to embrace it as part of the life-death cycle. Often ancestors are honored with food offerings, and it is believed Samhain is the easiest time to contact the spirit world.

 We can see remnants of this tradition in the secular celebration of Halloween. Children in sometimes scary costumes bring “spirits” to our front doors and parties; lest they “trick” us, we give them “treats.” It could be said that by this playfulness, we—and our children—may conquer our fear of the dark, of death, and of the spirit world.

What are other ways to relate to agricultural harvest holidays even if we live in urban or suburban areas where we may not literally harvest the crops, unless we’re lucky enough to have gardens?. . . .            

The Autumn Celebration in this book . . . . is held at sunset. . . . Symbols of harvest include autumn leaves and apple juice. The flaming of the leaves and of the fire, along with increasing darkness, are welcomed with wonder. A guided meditation takes us deep within and helps us connect to the past, examine the present, and peer into the future. Ancestors are honored, we find ways to part from aspects of our life that have become outmoded, and we move joyfully forward.

 Autumn is a time of mystery and faith: Faith that the cycle will continue, that from death life will spring anew, that the Goddess will be with us in darkness and through death and that just as her child will be reborn, so we—also her children—can be reborn in her and from Her. It is a time when faith overcomes fear and when children and being childlike are celebrated as symbols of the new year that is beginning even as the ancients are honored as part of the old.

Read Meditation from Autumn equinox ritual  reprinted in Matrifocus from the 1999 edition,
 and also included in the Combined Third Edition (2010)

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