Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Embracing Autumn: Autumn? Already?

Note: I originally intended to begin this series of posts about Embracing Autumn at Lughnasadh, but due to IB's elderly mother unexpectedly moving in with us at the end of July, I have not had time until now to begin. Please accept my apologies for a late start and a correspondingly slightly shorter series of posts than I'd expected to produce! 

Yes, I know. Embracing Autumn - in August? What am I thinking? And yet - bear with me. There's method in my madness. 

Remember how we explored the Blessings and Beauties of Winter from November through to early February? I timed that series of posts to begin then because our Celtic ancestors saw Samhain as the onset of winter, and Imbolc as the beginning of spring. They saw Beltane as the start of summer, and in their calendar Lughnasadh/Lammas marked the beginning of autumn. This makes perfect sense when you realise that Autumn used to be called 'Harvest' by our ancestors. According to Wikipedia: "Before the 16th century, harvest was the term usually used to refer to the season, as it is common in other West Germanic languages to this day (cf. Dutch herfst, German Herbst and Scots hairst). However, as more people gradually moved from working the land to living in towns, the word harvest lost its reference to the time of year and came to refer only to the actual activity of reaping, and autumn, as well as fall, began to replace it as a reference to the season." Lughnasadh or Lammas is of course the first of the three harvest festivals, marking the start of the grain harvest (the next harvest festival is the Autumn Equinox/Mabon, and Samhain is the third). 

For an agricultural society, it makes sense to divide the seasons according to what is observable in the natural world. Spring begins when the days are noticeably longer after the Winter Solstice, the first snowdrops appear and the first lambs are born. Summer comes when the days warm, the trees are all in leaf and summer migrants such as swallows reappear. Autumn - or Harvest - starts as the land, ripened by the summer Sun produces Her harvest. And winter returns as the trees become bare-limbed, the cold begins to bite and life retreats from the land.

So even if to our modern minds, August is summer holiday time, let's also be aware of the changes in the world around us that let us know Autumn is coming in. Along the lanes around me the long, uncut seed-heads of grasses are beginning to dry and brown, mirroring the ripening of their cultivated descendants wheat, oats and barley in the fields. The first blackberries, bilberries and green hazelnuts are appearing in the hedgerows, along with the scarlet splashes of rosehips and clustered rowan berries. In the garden, the early summer flowers have mostly gone to seed, while the late-blooming buddleia, Japanese anemones and crocosmia herald the changing season. Already the days are noticeably shorter than when the sun was at its height back in late June. Autumn is not yet fully arrived, but it is on its way. This year, won't you join me in fully immersing ourselves in the experience, experiencing and enjoying all the unique pleasures of the season? 

Embracing Autumn: Looking Forward

You can use your regular journal for this, or you may like to begin a special 'Embracing Autumn' journal in which to record your observations and explorations of the season. To start with, make a list of all the things you're looking forward to experiencing this Autumn. This will help you feel positively about the change from Summer to Autumn and provide a delicious sense of anticipation regarding the coming months. Here are some ideas to get you started

  • Which special occasions will be coming up for you between now and Samhain? Make a list of birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and festivals, trips etc
  • What seasonal foods are you looking forward to enjoying this Autumn? Crisp, tangy apples straight from the tree? Sweet and juicy blackberries? Pumpkin pie? Roast squashes and sweet potatoes? Foraged mushrooms? Crunchy hazelnuts?
  • What special things do you enjoy doing during the Autumn months? Admiring the changing foliage on a walk through the woods? Sharpening your pencils and lining up your textbooks in preparation for the academic year ahead? Kicking through - or jumping into! - piles of fallen leaves? Hunting for conkers or sweet chestnuts? Kite flying? Jam, jelly and chutney making? Digging out your favourite pair of boots and cosiest scarf ready for the cooler weather? Building a bonfire and roasting potatoes in the embers?
Write as long a list as you like of all the things you are anticipating with glee for the coming Autumn. It's amazing how much there is to look forward to!

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