In the Northern Hemisphere where I live, we are entering fall, so that is where my focus is. The elements of that season, and the changes in the basic elements and their roles in the season.
Some will celebrate it as Mabon, some as the season of Ancestors and Spirits, other still will have their own traditions and views of what the Fall Equinox brings. There are some common themes among most though due to the physical season itself, and what significance it has held for the rhythmic life of humans. It is a time of harvest, of celebration, of reflection, and preparation for the dark nights ahead.
Harvest and Thanks
Nature has a flow to Her. A time of growing and a time of dormancy. As She prepares for the winter ahead, as the leaves change and fall, many of the trees go into a mode of conservation, their form of hibernation. The plants that have been growing and providing bounty throughout the warmer months are coming to the end of their cycle.
Just as nature has Her cycles so do we. Even though the industrialization of society and clustering into cities has changed the view and individual experiences of many, we still see all the signals in the nature around us. For those of us who still live in the country, on farms, or in less populated areas where nature has a more prominent role in our daily lives and more considerations when it comes to preparing for the winter to come.
Right now though, in this time, we are celebrating the closing of one cycle and preparing for the next.
It is the time of harvest! Harvest of all the seeds we have planted, tended, and nurtured throughout this year. We are harvesting the fruits of our labor and being thankful for all the blessing we are reaping from our efforts. We are also acknowledging and reflecting on the seeds that did not grow.
As Pagans, Animists, and Witchy people, we have many ways to celebrate our thanks for the harvest we are gathering. Here are a few activities for some inspiration.
Either cut out leaf shapes from paper or gather fallen leaves from nature. On each leaf, write down something you have been thankful or grateful for this past year. Once you are finished, find a quiet space and light a candle. As it burns, hold each leaf, focusing on what you wrote. Feel all the emotions that come with the written words. Reflect on how they came to pass, the effort and work that you had to put into them.
Once you have gone through each one, you can place them on your altar or in a bowl somewhere that you will see them often. As a reminder of all your hard work this year and the blessings that have come from them.
Food and Decor
Our physical senses are how we experience the world. Sight, smell, and taste being ones that many people tend to use and focus on most. When we decorate our altars and houses it is not just for pretty pictures to post online – it is to bring those thoughts, sensations, and season into the forefront of our mind. There are certain foods and smells that trigger our minds and our emotions to focus on and experience the season of time we are in. This will look different for everyone, but the act itself is the same.
Take some time to think about what particular foods do you personally associate with this time of year. Perhaps a special drink or desert that you tend to only consume during this time. Think about the reason why and why this time of year is so special to it. If it is something you usually buy, is there a way to find the recipe and try to make it yourself this year?
Think about the colors and symbolism you associate with this season. What are some creative ways you can incorporate them into different parts of your living space? I personally like to find things in nature and create much of my seasonal decor – I live in the woods though and love to get artsy, so for me that is easy to do. There are a ton of videos on YouTube though that are specifically geared to Mabon and crafty ideas to decorate homes and altars if you want to find some inspirations.
So you can look at simmer pots in two ways.
The traditional simmer pot that is either made on a stove or a crock pot. This is where you take different foods and herbs, combine them in a pot of water, and let them simmer for several hours or days depending on your technique. Many will bless of infuse each item as it goes in to bring in or produce a certain action. I would say to think about how all of the different energies or intentions will blend in together to ensure a cohesive release of them. At its core, you are creating a spell within it.
Some people can’t do a simmer pot for many reasons. For these people I have some other suggestions. You can create a scent bag using dried, potpourri like materials – a scented candle – a scented plug in – or even a scented car freshener. Even though you may or may not be mixing the scents yourself, you can still infuse your intention and desire into it that is released over the time it is used. Every time you smell it, think upon your intention or desire.
Ancestors and spirits of the dead do not have just one specific time they are active, as they are with us throughout the year, but I do believe due to the collective consciousness’s focus on them during this time of year heightens their ability to reach further. Whether it be your ancestors, the ancestors you carry within you in your ancestral soul, ancestors of the land, or ancestors of the people, the energies of the spirits do seem more prominent across the board during this particular season.
As with everything else, connecting, acknowledging, and celebrating ancestors can look like many different things depending on the person. So here I figured I would just share some of my own ways and perhaps inspire some ideas for others as I shared.
Ancestor Altar / Shrine
These can look like many different things. It could be a collection of pictures on a wall, a shelf that holds a few trinkets, to a full blown altar or room. For me, it is a combination. I have a wall of various pictures of blood ancestors in my direct line and a few that I knew in life that were important to me. I have little shelf like shrines for some specific ones, like my husband’s dad. Then I have an altar dedicated just to ancestors.
The altar itself mainly has symbolism and some trinkets on it, but no distinct images like pictures. This allows the space to be occupied by any ancestor at any time. I also rely on gatekeepers instead of protection spells when it comes to spirits of the dead, and includes my altar space. My gatekeepers are specially chosen ancestors and a servitor spirit. I leave it up to them to make determinations on what is allowed into my space.
Now, I am sure there are some who are balking at this idea but there is reason behind why I choose this method, especially for spirits of the dead. Too many protections, too specific of protections can also close us off from experiences we need. It is like in life – if you live in a protective bubble, sure you will not get harmed but you will also not experience all the wonders of life either. I have worked with spirits that would have otherwise been blocked by wards, and although the experience may not have been all roses, I personally grew and learned with them. I was also able to help them to heal and become at peace. So to me, the negative aspects sometimes are a necessary act in order to move forward or grow. Just something to consider.
My current ancestor altar just went through a complete revamp. They now have their own table without anything else but them on it and an effigy of myself… Yep, I said that – I put an effigy of myself onto my ancestral altar. I did this for two reasons:
The first is because I carry their blood and memories, so even if I do not know their name, I know a part of them because they are a part of me. Having the effigy there, gives them another space to be present.
Secondly, as they are extension of me, I am of them (especially the ancestral soul ones). What I add and accumulate in this life – my skills, my memories, my knowledge, I believe will be passed down to the next incarnation through my ancestral soul. So the understanding of this solidifies aspects of treating and caring for the self as sacred. So an effigy that I can adorn and reflect upon is a way of honoring, remembering, and being thoughtful in my actions in this life.
Food and Ancestors
There are many reasons why I can not leave food laying around on altars or in other spaces as many talk about and show. So instead, I just welcome them to be with us with words. When we sit down to meals together as a family, we also invite our ancestors. It is nothing elaborate though. Generally it is just a small gesture: “We invite our ancestors and dearly departed to dine with us.”
On special occasions such as holidays and meals specifically for them, it gets more elaborate. It is not just inviting them in, but share stories about them and their life. The stories are important because it is an act of remembering them, allowing them to live on in the memories of those still alive. Stories can be one our the greatest connectors to the world of spirit, for it is with them that we call them forth in the mind, in emotions, and through the vibration of the spoken word.
Make their favorite meal or side dish. If you are honoring or inviting specific ancestors in, perhaps fix their favorite food. Others will set an empty place at the table for ancestors to join them and partake in the meal. There are many ways to “dine” with the dead – you just have to figure out what works best for you and your lifestyle.
A Season of Time
Many will celebrate just a specific day or a few days such as the exact date of the fall equinox or Mabon – I however see these as a season of time. Starting with the Fall Equinox itself until the time of Winter Solstice (I celebrate the solstices and equinoxes as sacred – the rest is more social/ community holidays for me). I like to do something to kick off the season, and then carry that work throughout, and then wind it down towards the end.
By experiencing it as a season allows both me and what I am working with the flexibility to spread out and go deeper. To learn more, experience more, and grow more through the process. It also keeps the feeling and mindset of the entire season alive and at the forefront throughout, and not just one or two days.
How are you celebrating the time of harvest – the time of celebration – the time of spirit – the season of fall?
What does it mean to you and what does it bring into your life?
There are tons of articles, videos, and traditions around the season. The most important thing though, is that you know what it means to you personally, how you experience it, and what you choose to do in that time. There is not right or wrong way – you just need to find your way!