I’ve always had trouble with this time of year, from a “earth-worshiping-pagan-who-celebrates-Wiccish-holidays-more-or-less” standpoint. Lammas/Lughnasadh and the Autumn Equinox always feel so disconnected to me. They really shouldn’t, because they are actually at the perfect time for harvest in the climate into which I was born — there’s a reason Canadian Thanksgiving is in early October, and it’s not just so we can be different from the Americans. It’s because you can’t harvest anything much later in the year. It’s too cold.
But, you know, harvest. What the heck does that mean to me? I’ve always had trouble connecting with harvest as a concept.
Until last month. Someone said something that sent lightbulbs my way, and I realized that harvest isn’t just gathering in what’s grown to sustain you for the winter. It’s a time of culling. You are cutting away what doesn’t belong. Whether you bring it in your house to keep you, or throw it on the compost pile, you are still cutting it away.
The culling time begins in early summer, when you start thinning the plants that are growing. When I was a kid my chore was thinning the carrots, so we’d have bigger ones at the end of the summer. We’d eat the thinned carrots — they were small and sweet. From summer solstice to Autumn Equinox is the time of the culling, and this is reflected in the growing shortness of the days. Culling, harvesting, hunkering down for winter.
This is also metaphorical. Culling things in your life, preparing to live lean.
I’m planning on celebrating this Autumn Equinox in honor of Persephone’s descent to the underworld. Her lessons are that of becoming your own person, and culling what doesn’t belong. Shedding old skin; transforming yourself. (I’m celebrating a few days late, because I wasn’t able to celebrate on the actual equinox.)
For me, this process starts with cutting people out of my life. First my father. I was tired of his abuse and venom. Next, comes healing from a wound that happened earlier this year. And in the meantime, I am culling my life of unnecessary people.
Ironically, one of the people I’ve culled from my life is is the same person who originally sent the lightbulbs my way about harvesting being a culling time. Or perhaps it’s not ironic. The universe and the gods work in mysterious ways.
The winter is a reflective, introspective time. It’s when I make the descent to my personal underworld. Like Inanna, I must shed things before going there. Like Persephone, I must change myself. I must be like a snake, or a spider, and molt.
It’s suddenly very clear to me that the cycle of birth, life, decay, death, and regeneration is present in the way the year is structured, if you follow the Wiccish Wheel of the Year or a variant thereof (like the ADF Neo-Druidic structures of the High Days based off the different Hearth Cultures). This is the decay part. This is the part where we prepare for death and regeneration and eventual rebirth.
It’s so easy to connect to sex and death; to death and rebirth. It’s not as easy to find the areas in between. To understand them.
I’m now exploring this time of culling, of reaping, and searching for ways to celebrate a fourth holiday in my Sacred Triad’s year. For a while, Samhain has been Manannan’s time, Imbolc Brighid’s, and Beltaine Morrigan’s. They are the three deities in the path, so there’s no fourth god, no fourth holiday. But the year felt unbalanced, and so I wanted to do something in August that would be for all three of Them.
I’ve finally decided on Lammas. The celebrations will be a combination of old and new, and the meaning behind the holiday will be the culling. Samhain is death, Beltaine is sex. Imbolc is growth, and Lammas is reaping. The Sacred Triad all have powers of culling, regardless what Their other purviews are; They all come together at Lammas to cut away, to burn away, to wash away what doesn’t belong.
Who knows. Maybe by next year I’ll actually have my holidays figured out, both for ADF and my Sacred Triad stuff (name of religion still pending — Triadism sounds silly).