Seasons don’t neatly change, and depending on what calendar you follow they start at various times of the year. The Autumn Equinox this year is on September 23, for some Pagans Lammas marks the beginning of Fall and that was over a month ago now. The secular calendar of the United States celebrates the start of Autumn over the Labor Day Weekend, and traditionally September is seen as a Fall month. Decorative motifs turn like the Wheel of the Year, moving from Summer scenes to images of falling leaves and freshly reaped fields.
It’s been a hot Summer here in Silicon Valley and that heat is not going away anytime soon, but the last few days have been pleasant, nearly Fall like. This past Friday I redecorated our living room altars, putting the Maiden and GoatBoy statues away and replacing them with older deities. Decorative flowers were exchanged for garlands of Autumn leaves and the centerpiece of our grand altar is now a pumpkin from the backyard garden.
While I decorated, football played on the television, the windows were open wide wide, and the day was cool enough that we didn’t even have a fan going at the house. Very rarely does it feel like a switch has been flipped, turning one season into another, but for those prefect five or so hours it did. (And today someone threw the switch right back to Summer, today’s high is 90 degrees F.)
I don’t know if Pagandom has a “favorite season,” but most of my friends seem to love Fall the best. In the Autumn I feel the turn of the Wheel more keenly than at other times of the year, and there always just seems to be an excitement in the air this time of year that’s absent from other seasons. By the dog-days of August Summer turns into a slog, Winter days are too short for most of us, and Spring always feels like a series of starts and stops instead of one smooth transition. Every time of year has something to offer, but Autumn will aways be my favorite.
Every September I find myself anxiously looking forward to what the next few weeks and months will bring. Autumn is home to three of my favorite holidays:
Mabon Halig, Samhain, and the secular Thanksgiving. The Anglo-Saxon name for what is roughly our September was Haligmonað which according to the Historian Bede translates as “holy month.” For me September-November has always been my most “holy time” so I find the name quite fitting. Here are some of my favorite things about the Fall, I hope at least some of them resonate with you as well. Happy Harvest! Happy Autumn!
New Beginnings/Back to School For many of us the “new year” starts in the Fall. Traditionally it’s when kids in the America go back to school, and with each new grade comes new challenges and new starts. My life has never changed that much on January 1 or November 1, but it did every year in late August for much of my life. I’m no longer in school nor do I have kids headed that way, but I still enjoy watching the roll out of back to school sales and the like. It’s a part of the Wheel and I still enjoy viewing it all from afar.
New TV This is less and less of a thing as how we consume media has changed, but I especially remember the rollout of new TV shows in September/August when I was younger. There was excitement over new cartoons and returning favorites. In college it meant nights spent with new episodes of The Simpsons and King of the Hill, and other shows I’m too embarrassed to tell you about. In this new golden age of Fantasy and Science Fiction this Fall means the return of Arrow and The Flash two of my absolute favorite things on TV right now. There’s absolutely nothing Pagan about sitting in front of the idiot box, but through social media it connects with me a lot of the friends I don’t live near. (I also can’t wait for Supergirl this Fall too!)
Halloween Many of my friends (justifiably) complain about Christmas Creep, but Halloween Creep is starting to give the Yuletide a run for its money. Halloween stuff is already out at several stores near me, and it feels like the holiday is arriving earlier every year. You won’t see me complaining here of course, I love Halloween and it’s a great time of year to pick up Witchy things nearly everywhere you go. Halloween as a big-time event has arrived and the amount we spend on it just grows year to year.
The Witch’s Busy Season I think for my Christian friends Christmas-time is probably their busy season, but as a Witch the Autumn is the busiest time of year for me by far. It’s not just that everyone and their beard wants me involved in their Samhain Ritual (and the practices for their Samhain ritual), but there always seems to be extra social obligations too. In the second half of October I think I’m involved in seven different rituals . . . . .that’s just insane to me. That doesn’t take into account the other Pagan stuff I tend to do more of in the Fall too, like write this blog (and I’m working on my second Llewellyn book too!). For me there’s also a trip to the Parliament of World Religions in October. From now until the middle of November my Witch’s Datebook is rather full.
Samhain For many of us Witchy-types Samhain is the ultimate sabbat. It’s the beginning of a new turn of the Wheel, and for a lot of open circles it’s the biggest yearly event on the calendar. Samhain always feels like it needs a little bit of extra work because everyone seems to have a bigger set of expectations for it. You know how Christians only show up for church on Christmas and Easter? Well there are a whole lot of Pagans who only show up for Samhain and Beltane. I always feel like I can half-ass Lammas, not so with Samhain.
The Thinning of the Veil By the end of September every year I can generally feel the veil between the worlds start to thin. Perhaps it’s just because death is in the air. Fields are being harvested, leaves are starting to drop, and apples are being plucked. Even removed from the agricultural cycle of the American Midwest I can still feel the change in the air this time of year. I’ve never been much for ancestor work but the last few years have found me calling out more and more to the Mighty Dead of the Craft, asking for their blessings and to look over my work and that of my coven.
Football This doesn’t mean much to many of my friends but hope does spring eternal every Autumn when a new grid-iron season begins. Not only does football keep me occupied over Fall weekends, it’s also been a social outlet over the years. No matter where I am it’s generally easy to strike up a conversation about football, and I’ve made a lot of new friends simply by watching it too. For sports-fans the beginnings and endings of (sports) seasons are a part of how we observe the Wheel of the Year. Though I don’t love it as much as football, there’s something about the Major League Baseball playoffs in Autumn too.
The Harvest I live in an area of many harvests, but unless I grow it in my backyard, my only real connection to harvest-time are the changing types of produce at my local Farmer’s Market. Even though I’m a bit disconnected from many agricultural rhythms I do like to stop and acknowledge them in my life. My family has owned a farm in Indiana for nearly 100 years now and while I’m not close to it, it’s a part of my heritage. My Grandmother grew upon a farm and a picture of that farmhouse hangs in the hallway of our house. I may not see corn, wheat, or soybeans from seed to harvest every year, but I feel it in my heart none the less.
Longer Nights, Cooler Temps There’s something about a good hoodie and a comfortable pair of jeans, and I just can’t dress that way in July. Besides everyone knows that “good sleeping weather” is when it starts to get a bit chilly outside. Nothing like a sleeping in on a Saturday morning, wrapped up in the blankets and the arms of your significant other. It also means changes for the coven. With the sun setting earlier ritual start-times are moved down giving us more hang-out opportunities post-ritual. And who doesn’t mind an extra hour or two of night? By the end of August I’m tired of seeing the sun set at 8:00 PM, I want the moon up that time of day.
Pumpkin Flavored Stuff & Other Fall Foods I realize “pumpkin flavored” everything has gotten a bit out of control, but I still enjoy a good cup of pumpkin flavored coffee. The best Fall foods aren’t just flavored with pumpkin either. It’s chili and potato soup, foods I only make when it gets a little cooler outside. It’s my wife’s homemade apple pie after a good roast-turkey dinner. (It’s too hot to leave the oven on that long in June.) Autumn is for eating and celebrating the harvest.