I always know when we are approaching this holiday, simply by watching the world around me. No matter how the year has gone, whether the summer has been hot or mild, whether we have had lots of rain or only a little, it is always right around now that the first leaves start to change color and fall. I watch as the trees go from rich summer-green to the beginnings of yellowing, watch as the the first bare branches start to appear and a handful of withered leaves decorate the drying grass. It's a subtle thing, nowhere near the drama and panoply that will be on display by September, but it is there nonetheless. Even as we enter the hottest portion of the summer the autumn is making its presence known and I see it.
Of course this holiday is very much traditionally about two things; the harvest and the community. These things are strongly present in my area today, sometimes in the same form as they always have been - the harvest is always about gathering and eating the bounty of the earth after all - and sometimes in newer forms that echo the old, as we see in today's harvest fairs. In my area I might add not only harvest fairs but also farmer's markets, a decidedly modern trend that nicely honors the spirit of the season. We gather both our own harvest if we've grown any, or in the case of my family we collect the wild harvest that has grown untended in our yard, as well as benefiting from the wider local harvest, the fresh produce and locally grown foods that are now available and abundant. We go out and enjoy a variety of local country fairs, which feature contests and competitions as well as games and amusements. The local fairs still have a very agricultural focus, with many different farm animals being shown and competing, but also have the air of a carnival with rides and games of skill. Like the old Lughnasadh celebration these fairs are not a one day thing but run for several days and the variety of them from town to town stretch across weeks - usually with a few in early August and the last in late September or early October.
I've written several times before about the way my family celebrates, so I won't get too much into that again here. Basically we harvest berries from our yard and make an offering of some of them to the Gods, spirits, and ancestors. The rest we eat. We have our own at home athletic games, and we decorate our outdoor altar as best we can with flowers, if we can find any, or otherwise with greenery. We hold a small ritual in honor of Macha, and recently we also started honoring Nuada with her after I had a dream about the two being honored together on Bron Trogain. This has been working really well for us and has a lovely feel to it.
|Prayer that I heard in a dream|
|Fairy Witchcraft altar to the Summer Gods|
The harvest has begun and we are plunging into the depths of summer, the hot days which will ripen the grains and grasses and keep our harvest on its ancient schedule. We move on from here to the equinox, then to the final harvest where we will say goodbye to summer at last and welcome winter. As always I watch the changes in the world around me, my fingers stained red with berry juice, and think of my own harvests, of fruit and of less tangible things. I pray to the Gods, to Macha and Nuada, for their blessings on me and my household. I pour out offerings and leave flowers at my Fairy thorn and ask that there always be friendship between myself and the Other Crowd.
And a dark brown moth flutters past, then back, then alights on my shoulder for several moments, resting in the shade where I stand as I hold perfectly still, before resuming its flight through the hazy air.
*in my area, of course. Your situation may vary greatly so adjust for your own circumstances, and I do encourage you to give thought to how this does apply to you where you live. Those in the southern hemisphere will be celebrating Imbolc now and not see the point of this post for another six months, but perhaps reading this then may be more useful.