Ramblings relevant to Contemporary Paganism, British Traditional Wicca, Traditional Witchcraft, Traditional Initiatory Witchcraft, and more…
Friday, September 20, 2013
Autumn Equinox: The Death That Sustains
It is that time of the year again; the veil has begun to thin, the weather is shifting, and soon our beloved dead will dance the night with us once more. The astronomical Autumn Equinox doesn’t officially peak until September 22nd at 3:44 p.m. (Eastern Time), but the shift in the season has already arrived. The feel is not too different than that I experienced last year, though my annual evaluation was a week earlier so I got to enjoy the turn of The Wheel and not have to worry too much about my career on the side.
Usually when the average Contemporary Pagan thinks about the Autumn Equinox several things come to mind; harvests, feasts, and fall amongst others. All of which are important and intimately linked to this point upon our Wheel. In the lore of the Witch, there are specific mythological truths as well.
At this of our Holy Days, the Sun our Lord dies and enters the Underworld, the Lord of the Greenwood becomes the Lord of the Hunt, it is the Second Harvest, and night and day are equal in time. I don’t really think any of that would be much of a surprise for any practicing Witch. Myths, however, are relevant to our lives and express truths that exist at the core of the human condition.
Back at Yule our spiritual sun was born. The sun in this case is that part of us around which our life revolves. Throughout the course of the year we nurtured it, learned the nuances of our new identity, became inseparable from it, wore it as a crown over our spiritual kingdom, and began to reap the harvest that was sown by tending the needs of this aspect of us. It should not be hard to understand that the Sun Lord in our myths teaches us about each of these truths in turn with the Holy Days upon The Wheel, after all a piece of His divinity sits upon a throne within each of us. The story up to this point has been that of a happy life; he was born, played in the fields, courted his childhood love and married her, ruled over his kingdom, and lived to see the kingdom thrive and the fruits of his labor come in. Today both sides of this story take a turn.
As the Starks in Game of Thrones are prone to say, “Winter is coming.” Quite literally winter will be here at Samhain. For the duration of human experience the hardship of winter has been one closely linked with death, after all if one were not properly prepared then such could easily result. This is not the only winter in which is experienced in life. There are natural cycles with all things and the lore of the Witch teaches not only is the primary shape of existence a circle but that all of the various circles are linked into one all-encompassing circle, which is one of the reasons, but not the only one, that formal rituals are conducted within a circle. As such, in each part of life each person will experience many different seasons, to include winter. Our spiritual life goes through cycles as well, and winter comes at times, and sometimes an aspect of that life dies.
Imagine yourself sitting upon a throne knowing what is on the horizon, and knowing that you have the power, through your death, to ensure that the whole of the kingdom is feed until your wife the Queen gives birth at Yule. This is the central tale around which the rites of this time of the year revolve. The Sun Lord must be sacrificed so that the whole may live; He is The Harvest, and He is that which will sustain us through the time when death looms so close. His death is not an end though, for he enters the Underworld and takes the throne there.
All of this is about us, on many different levels. Sometimes our winter is small and sometimes our winter is the failing of the body as we ourselves cross the veil. However; in regards to the story of our spiritual sun, there is more. Perhaps the most famous line in The Charge of the Goddess is, “And thou who thinkest to seek Her, know thy seeking and yearning shall avail thee not unless thou knowest the mystery; that if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, then thou wilt never find it without thee. For behold, She has been with thee from the beginning; and She is that which is attained at the end of desire.” Our mythos is a tale of our Lord and our Lady, and the mythos of the Sun Lord is specifically speaking to His journey and desire of Her. He is the first to have walked the path, He is First Ancestor. Mythically speaking he is our example of how we can come to know Her is our own journey.
It is at the Autumn Equinox when one of the many truths is revealed; the Witch comes to know Her by entering our own underworld. Like the Sun, we must delve into the inner landscape. The journey will not be easy, the inner work that is required to gain the throne over our own underworld will bring forth winter. The work of the Craft is not easy. If the storm is to weathered, a sacrifice must be made. It is a hard truth, but the false cloak of a crown over our spiritual kingdom in which immeasurable work has been put into must die, and in this death a harvest will come through which the inevitable winter will be survived.
Upon the Sun Lord’s descent into the Underworld, the Lord of the Greenwood becomes the Lord of the Hunt. No longer can the outside world sustain our needs in this journey. Now we hunt; we hunt the forest for prey and it is quick, weary, and cunning. The Witch on the spiritual hunt to obtain the mystery of Her is like the Sun that eternally chases the Moon. This hunt is not an outward one; it takes place in the hidden places. Second Harvest is what this Sabbat is about, the harvest that sustains. The Third Harvest is not the harvest of the fields, but of the culling of the herds, of the hunt, and when She enters the Underworld and grants sovereignty over the Kingdom of the Dead, for it is only She that can bestow The Crown.
May you enjoy your harvest, feast and be merry, and may the sacrifice that has been made sustain you! Blessed Equinox!
“Lost in a thicket bare-foot upon a thorned path.”