You can feel it now can’t you? That tinge of change, that tinge of coolness creeping into our early mornings and late nights?
If you have been vigilant in how you observe the natural world around you, you probably already have seen the changing colours of leaves due to less and less sunlight. You probably have seen the beginning stages of the fallow take hold of the flower and vegetable gardens, or simply just the flora by the bus stop. The lunch-time stroll through the park can show you so many subtle secrets.
If you are in the northern hemisphere that is, because to our cousins in the southern latitudes below the equator, as we look towards deep Autumn, they are looking towards deep Spring.
As our vegetations slowly bronze away, theirs grow a fresh green.
We ask ourselves and ponder what has grown over the year in our lives and what is now time to wane?
Autumn Equinox, or the Celtic version of Alban Elfed or Mabon, was a time to mark the second of three harvest festivals just before winter set in.
This harvest was a time for making offerings to land as a show of gratitude. Preparing for cold weather by stockpiling their root vegetables, fermenting grapes to make wine, and stalk bundling.
Of all harvest symbols today we celebrate and decorate with autumn flowers, nuts, acorns, pine and cypress cones, oak sprigs, wreaths, vine, cornucopia, horns of plenty, red poppies, apples, marigolds, harvested crops, grapes, wine and gourds.
And of course, the Autumn feast was quite elaborate. Erin NhaMinerva writes extensively on the traditional Foods of Ancient Ireland.
People would gather and eat seasonal goods of the land. Lughnasadh wheat, bread, and other grains such as oats and barley. Berries, nuts, grapes, acorns, seeds, dried fruits such as strawberries and apples. “Vegetables were mainly eaten as annlanns, chiefly cabbages, onions, and kale. Root vegetables such as turnips and parsnips were grown as well as garlic and leeks. Seaweed was used in various forms.”
Apples would just be beginning to be ready, but were mostly saved for the Apple Harvest of Samhain.
The only available sweetener was “honey, and the Irish made extensive use of it as a dipping sauce for meats, for basting, and in breads and stirabout. Honey was important enough in ancient Ireland to have an entire law tract, the Bechbretha, or bee-judgements, devoted to the subject.
The Irish ate venison, beef, mutton, goat, pork, fish of various kinds, game birds, and eggs. Chickens were rare and expensive. in the early Medieval Irish Canons, one chicken was worth two silver pennies.”
Many consider the Mabon Feast a “Pagan Thanksgiving.”
They would gather herbs that would season and preserve their food as well as heal them when they were ill. Traditional herbs that they would have used were but not limited to: Dandelion, Comfrey, Nettles, Willow Bark, Meadowsweet, Vervain, Eyebright, Yarrow, Feverfew, Hazel buds, Chickweed and Wood Sorrel, Hoarhound, Marshmallow, and of course Wild Garlic.
A Prayer of the Autumnal Equinox
Here is a prayer meditation written by Caitlin Matthews from her book The Celtic Spirit.
I hope you and yours will celebrate the coming autumnal season with joy, amity, and excitement in your hearts.
However you celebrate, with who ever may the sacred space of the Equinox bring you balance and harmony.
“We should pray before sunrise and after sunset, pray prayers that have for their purposes no personal advantage, but are as native as are the vesper cries of pairing partridges, and as full of natural gratitude as is the heart of a lover.” — LLEWELYN POWYS, Earth Memories
The sun is at its midway mark, halfway between the golden glory of midsummer and the silver secret of midwinter. This is a time of appraisal and thankfulness, a time when we can be glad of the harvest of work behind us. It is also a time of application and expectation as we look forward to the work ahead.
The prayer of the quarter days is not one of personal request or self-regarding ceremony; it is our special offering of space and opportunity for and on behalf of the whole quarter and all that is happening within it and inhabiting it at this very moment. Set this day aside as one of meditation, undertaking only necessary and undemanding tasks.
At midday, stand facing the sunlight. Notice that the fall of your shadow is already longer than it was at the same time on midsummer day. Turn and face your shadow on the ground; feel the sun upon your back. The shadow that falls before you is the only mark of your presence that you should leave upon the earth. Meditate upon your shadow; then turn toward the sun again, eyes closed, and bathe in the light. Meditate upon the turas, or sunwise circuit of the sun at this season. Become aware of the fusion of your body and your soul within you, and open your eyes, becoming present to where and who you are.
At sunset, tune your heart again to the season: feel within your body the sense of your own turas from midsummer toward midwinter and give thanks for the light and darkness. As you prepare to sleep, be aware of your body’s rest and the readiness of your soul’s shadow to go forth on its nightly round.
Make your prayer as suggested above.
Crane, Eva. The Archaeology of Beekeeping. Ithaca. Cornell University Press, 1983.
Gray, E.A. Cath Maige Tuiread. London: Irish Texts Society. 1983.
Gregory, Lady Augusta.Gods And Fighting Men. Guernsey: The Guernsey Press. 1976.
Joyce, P.W. A Social History of Ancient Ireland. Dublin: M.H. Gill & Son Ltd. 1920.
Patterson, Nerys T. Cattle Lords & Clansmen: Kinship and Rank in Early Ireland. New York: Garland Publishing. 1991