The fall Equinox had a very different flavor than the spring and sumer rituals. The receptive inhalation of the surrounding natural world greatly influenced the activities just as it did in the previous seasons. The Earth was beginning to pull in after much outward expression and energy put toward nourishing all her offspring. It was time to let go of the past cycle, reap the harvest, take the falling seeds into her womb in the wild, and let the plants die off to create a warm bed of fertile, composting soil to nourish her next generation. The leaves of her plants and deciduous trees let go into a rotting mulch after their last glorious outburst of color celebrating a life well lived.
There was much work to be done as everyone brought in the last of the yearly harvest of root crops, squashes, apples, pears, onions, garlic, grains and stored them for winter.
It was a time for harvest and letting go. They meticulously gathered the seeds from the plants in their garden to store for next year’s spring planting. The seeds of their food held the ancestral memory passed down from generation to generation. The seeds of the food they fed their bodies enabled them to stay connected to the ancestors and keep their thread to the ancient ones in tact. Just as the Mother passed on the seeds of each generation in the forest keeping the connection between the past, present and future, so did the people of these times. Without the past there would be no future. Without the wisdom held within each seed, carried through generations they would lose their connection as one with the physical natural world. The seeds were the lifeline to the Source of their life. The plants they grew to know and used for their food and medicine carried the wisdom of the Mother. Without them they lost the nourishment of this great wisdom she infused them with. It was important to keep this thread alive and unbroken. The harvest of the seeds were as important as the food itself.
It was a time when they celebrated and gave thanks to the Gods and Goddesses for the harvest they prayed for in the spring ritual. The harvest of their nourishment on the physical level, their creative endeavors, and their spiritual growth were all celebrated. They learned from the Great Mother that there would be no harvest each yearly cycle if she did not let go of the old and use it as compost to nourish the next generation. She was a constant flow of giving birth, and taking life. They clearly learned from her that if they didn’t let go of the old there would be no room for the harvest of the new. One did not exist without the other.
The older women let go of their maidenhood in the autumn of their life as their blood ceased to flow. The young girls let go of their childhood as their blood began to flow. Both were sacred passages as each woman moved on from one phase of life to the next. The elder Aunties prepared to let go of their physical lives so they were cleansed of any residue when they moved onto their next incarnation. They knew the time was drawing near and made sure they took flight from their bodies unencumbered.
Once the physical work was complete and they were ready to enter the cold dark winter months, they had their autumn celebration. As usual, they had a big feast sharing the bounty of the season.
Once the chores and harvest celebration was complete the women of all ages gathered together. No matter if they were living in the temple or the village it was a time to honor the ancestors and make their pilgrimage to the ocean several miles away.
They pulled together their provisions and packed the large baskets they slung over the backs of their mules and goats. They headed down the long windy trail that would eventually bring them to the water’s edge of Great Grandmother Ocean. It was a long trip and they needed to return before it became too cold. So they set out as soon as they could. Even though it was a long trip, it was an easy walk through much beauty as they made their way through the brilliant multi-colored changing leaves. They always looked forward to this pilgrimage. The visual feast along the way was like a delicious dessert after a bountiful harvest meal.
It was a five day walk before arriving at the ocean’s edge with many springs, streams and waterfalls along the way so water was easy to access for themselves and animals. There was an abundance of wild mushrooms growing along the trail. They gathered boletes, chantrelles, black trumpets, honey, and oyster mushrooms. Food and water was readily available so their pilgrimage became a treasure hunt, and site seeing adventure they all thoroughly enjoyed.
Once they arrived at the water’s edge they set up camp in a meadow tucked away off the rocky shoreline. The stones were all sizes, round and smooth from being rolled back and forth endlessly by the ebb and flow of the water. They grew to love the music of the stone people all night as it lulled them to sleep. Each young girl and woman sat until one of the stones spoke to her. It became the stone they held in their hand the entire time there. They rubbed their bodies clean from the energetic residue with the stone.
They stayed four days, praying and asking to be cleansed of what did not serve them, to make room for next year’s harvest. They spent their time in silence except for minor logistics that needed to be communicated so they could go inward and listen. They prayed to be shown what they carry either from their current life or the previous lives they and their ancestors had embodied that was ready to be let go of.
Every sunrise and sunset they offered flowers to the waters, stripped naked and walked into the ocean asking to be cleansed. They spent four days in prayer emptying themselves of what was old and no longer needed, except as compost for the the next cycle of their lives.
What was once valuable- what had shown them who they thought themselves to be could be let go of as they grew with the support of the yearly cycle of transformation. The residue could not be shed until they had learned what it was there to teach them. Allowing something to burrow into their inner crevices longer than necessary created toxicity as it putrified, and poisoned them physically, emotionally and spiritually. Everything had value at some time in their life as a teacher for them. Valuing it, honoring it and letting it go was the energy of this season. It was a precious time of inner reflection and release. If they were successful they would be given a glimpse of the seed they would give birth to in the spring after nourishing themselves through the gestation period of the winter months. They nourished the seed as they nourished their bodies when they pulled in for the winter, just as the Great Mother.
They sat around the fire, and under the trees, took walks, wrote, sat, cooked simple meals, and stared, as they watched, listened, and prayed to their ancestors. They were shown what was ready to be released, and undramatically rubbed it away with their smooth chosen stone and gave it back to the ocean. This was an important phase of the creative process. They couldn’t create with a clear vessel without honoring this phase of the cycle.
The older women quietly sat around the fire after dinner and through their soft spoken voices shared stories about the wisdom of this season. They were the only ones who spoke during their four days together. It was a time for them to be honored as the embodiment of this season. They had much to share that supported the younger women. It was a very special, intimate time together for the women that prepared them for the winter months ahead. The pilgrimage was their doorway into their inner yearly descent. It was difficult for the young girls and women at first, but over time and with the support of the elder women they grew to appreciate and look forward to a time when they could deepen their relationship with the inner workings of their heart and soul. They looked forward to the rest after the harvest of a busy, active time of the year. They separated the wheat from the chaff so they could rebuild and rest in the dark womb of the Mother and receive nourishment from the depths of her wellspring. They were preparing for the death phase of the cycle so they could be rebirthed once again in the spring.
Their ancestors took the journey with them. There was much at stake for them. Those who left their body still holding onto unresolved issues continued to carry them, passing them onto the next generation. Over time the clear channel to the source was clouded by the ancestral unfinished business. When the women healed and cleansed themselves of past karmic issues passed down through their lineage it healed and cleansed the ancestors as well. This cleansing kept the door open for the women to access clear, clean guidance and Divine energy through their ancestral lineage. They healed all who came before them. When the ancestors returned for their next incarnation they were free of their unresolved issues. The future generations were greatly affected. The healing and cleansing reverberated through the past, present and future. The ancestors supported this healing, and cleansing ritual helping them to see what was hidden in the shadows to be released. They worked together to clear the channel of all residue so they would not be cut off from the Divine source. Their relationship with their ancestors was very important. The ancestors walked behind them through life. The women were very aware that their time to go within, heal and let go had an everlasting affect on their lineage, now, and forever.
The stories the elder women shared around the fire during this intimate time together supported the young women to understand the power and responsibility of cleansing, clearing and keeping their channel open and unobstructed.