In the Agricultural Cycle of the Wheel of the Year, we hit mid-Harvest, also called Second Harvest, in the wee hours of this approaching Monday. That is if we are calculating this Holy Day in conjunction with the timing of the Autumn Equinox. Personally, I don’t think many are going to get upset if you decide to celebrate on Sunday if the day is more convenient. Afterall, if you have been tending your harvest, you know it is a season and determining the point exactly in the middle is more about the weather and growth of your crops and less about a predetermined point in time.
In popular lore, Contemporary Pagans, in the US anyway, like to describe this Sabbat as a kind of Pagan Thanksgiving. In many ways, this is spot on. Thanksgiving as a holiday was adopted because when the powers that be were looking for a singular harvest holiday to add to the national calendar it was one of many various harvest days observed across the US and it fell at a time that was the most convenient for the most folks, so both are all about the harvest and the celebration of such. Sadly though, too many like to stop their understanding of our Sabbat there.
With all of that said, I was thinking about a few practices, and the associated lore, of this holiday and thought I would share them as a short list of things that could potentially make your Second Harvest a more meaningful one.
One – Winnowing
Winnowing is the process of separating the chaff, and other unwanted parts, from the grain once it has been harvested but before it is milled or otherwise stored for later use. Typically, the harvesting of wheat begins in early August and is wrapping up in mid-September, which is right about now. This means that by this point in the harvest, there sure has been a lot of winnowing going on.
Back at First Harvest, at the beginning of August, the first grains of the yield were being made into fresh bread as we sacrificed stalk upon stalk of wheat. In the crossroads of the Sacred King Cycle and Agricultural Cycle, these stalks are the symbolic sacrifice of Our Lord for the good of the tribe. It’s that whole “the King is dead, long live the King thing.”
Well, He is dead now and the grain harvest is in. Time to separate our chaff from the fruit of our labor before we being our journey to the Underworld. You see, He is our example in the turning of the Wheel and the symbology of the Harvest is really talking all about us, which means that now that Second Harvest is upon us it is time to get to work winnowing.
What Harvest have you been working on in life? What do you need to separate from your grain? How will you winnow such?
Two – Shrouding
We are all going to die. One day it will be our bodies that are the harvest of the universe. This is just the way of the turning of the Wheel of Life and Death, which is really all the Wheel of the Year is telling a story about, the Cycle of Death and Rebirth or Living and Dying, they are the same story from different points. At this point, death has already arrived and we are shrouded in the mysteries of that Final Initiation. This is what the lore tells us anyway.
There is a practice here also, the practice of shrouding. When you light the candles upon your altar this Feast Day, snuff His and wrap Him in a shroud. He is still there, just like we are all still there even in death. For you see, that’s you sitting upon the altar wearing your burial clothes. It, however, is only symbolic of our worldly death, the death of our body, and the death of only one of our Selves. It is not the Self that travels to dwell in the hearth of the ancestors or the Self that reincarnates and is the thread throughout all of our lives.
This Holy Day is also about the embracing of our own morality and wearing that truth as our burial clothes turned divine mantle.
When was the last time you thought about the harvest that your own death would yield? The time is upon us, and remember it is never too late/early to begin preparing the fields for the future.
Three – Descending
Another tendency that is common amongst Contemporary Pagans is to allocate all things related to the Underworld to Samhain, also called Third Harvest. The lore of the thinning veil and communing with one’s ancestors certainly makes this an easy association. Samhain, however, is all about things that have already made it to the Underworld. Now is the time of things descending across that threshold unto the Underworld. If you have been thinking about doing an Underworld journey, now is the time to do that.
Even in this Descent there is a Harvest, as we know from Her later descent at Samhain to join Him, there are gates that one must pass—Seven gates. I like to think of them like passing the gates of the Wandering Stars to the point where the two conjoin—the flame betwixt the horns. Take that as you will. The point is that if you are to strip away and cut free to reveal that which is eternal, you are going to have to give a few things up. Sacrifices are needing to be made as a toll on the road to the next phase.
Second Harvest is an excellent time for this kind of Witchcraft. What sacrifices are you going to make so that you may feast at the table?
“Lost is a thicket, bare-foot upon a thorn path.”