The season of the Harvest Sabbath is upon us again, and it is time for celebration and stock-taking!
This Sabbath sometimes gets short shrift, coming as it does on the heels of every Pagan’s favorite witchy month. But it’s an important observance time and a meaningful holiday. Here are some thoughts about what Harvest means and how to celebrate it.
To me, this time is the time of celebrating abundance. The winter vegetables are pouring out of the gardens now and where I live, the grape harvest and processing (“The Crush”) fills the air in the rural areas with the smell of fermenting wine. Harvest fairs take place at this time, and the imagery of the bounty of the Earth is everywhere.
It is a time as well of reflecting on what has been achieved (harvested) over the past year cycle: to look back on those dreams and plans we hatched back in the dark of winter, and see how they played out. What has been harvested? What continues to grow? What didn’t come up, or didn’t make it, and must now be turned back into the ground?
In other words, it is the beginning of the Inward Time of the dark months, the time for introspection and assessment and learning from past successes and failures to inform future decision making. With the autumnal equinox comes the beginning of the half of the year which is more dark than light, and this is a moment to reflect on how the year has been.
In my wheel of the year, Harvest is also a time for honoring of the elders of our community. I map the course of a human life onto my wheel of the year, with conception at Yule or Midwinter, birth at Brightening, childhood at High Spring, young adulthood at May Day, full maturity at Midsummer, middle age at Dimming, elderhood at Harvest, and death at Hallows. The elders among us are those who are looking back on their lives and seeing what was achieved, hopefully enjoying the rich harvest of a life well lived. It is their life experience to which we turn for perspective and wisdom.
The Overculture in western societies doesn’t value age much. We have a cult-like fetish for youth and remaining young. It is my hope that among Atheopagans, we will begin to change this.
Ritually, this is the time I like to have a feast with friends, focusing on local foodstuffs when possible. My area is particularly abundant, having both many vegetables and fruits produced locally, plus beef and dairy products, goats and goat cheeses and milks, chickens and fresh eggs, and seafood from the seaport of Bodega Bay. A food blessing reminds us of how fortunate we are to enjoy the Earth’s bounty, and of all the people whose effort it took to bring it to us. My standard food blessing is:
This food, swelling from the body of the Earth by the power of the mighty Sun, comes to us by many hands. May all be honored. (The diners reply: We are grateful to eat today)
It can be a festive addition to a Harvest feast to have guests make Autumn crowns for themselves to wear at the table (which should be dressed appropriately with autumn leaves, dried cobs of colorful corn, gourds, pumpkins and winter squash, etc.).
Autumn crowns are easy! Use colorful autumn leaves and florists’ wire to make them. Or you can use this technique. Or if you’re really crafty and ambitious, you and your guests can spend a couple of hours in happy craft time, making these amazing felted autumn crowns.
Harvestide is a happy time of year, the gateway to the wonderful autumn and a time for enjoyment and social interaction. I hope your harvest has been plentiful, with plenty of wonderful memories to cherish and accomplishments to celebrate.