However you may choose to celebrate the myths and lore of Fall Equinox, the agricultural harvest reigns in the decorations of the season: pumpkins, squash and gourds, sheaves of wheat and Indian corn, and the overflowing cornucopia of harvest vegetables and fruits. Though we acknowledge that the darkness will come, this is a time to feast and celebrate the abundance of the harvest.
Harvest Feast and Ritual for a Group
For several years now Circle of the Cosmic Muse has celebrated Fall Equinox outdoors in our stone circle garden. We gather around the center fire pit over which we cook our harvest feast. I highly recommend this for your celebration, if you are able to arrange a suitable setting. It takes organization, to be sure, but has been well worth it. The idea emerged from a circle discussion of olden times when people gathered around fires and their memories and traditions were passed down through the generations through storytelling.
We create sacred space and call the Watchtowers according to our usual tradition, but after the invocation of Lord and Lady, a short dialogue between them merges into a comfortable and creative sharing time as we settle around the fire on blankets and lawn chairs sharing stories while savory stew bubbles in the cauldron and other potluck goodies from a nearby picnic table are passed. Everyone knows ahead of time that stories will be shared, so we've been fortunate to have a great variety presented, funny, enlightening, inspirational. This year we're collecting songs and chants to combine with a drumming circle, and a skit is planned, as well.
A Personal Ritual for Fall Equinox
An altar for a Fall Equinox could begin as a lovely and very visible seasonal decoration, with a few additional tools to be added only for time of your actual ritual. Cover a small table or cabinet surface with a cloth or mat in one of the fall colors of russet, brown or gold. Add a basket cornucopia with pretty squashes and small pumpkins, an earthenware vase with mums or dried grains or weeds, an antler, and candles of course, perhaps a golden yellow for the God and a deep orangey red for the Goddess. Small earthenware bowls or lidded pots can hold water and salt. An abalone shell could hold white sage leaves or a smudge stick. An earthenware chalice could sit beside a pretty bowl or plate. Prop a rustic broom nearby.
For your ritual have ready four candles to mark the four directions: yellow for East, red for South, blue for West, green for North, and a fire wand or matches. Pour fruit of the vine into your chalice (wine or fruit juice), and have whole grain cookies or dried fruits and nuts for your little plate. With your altar in the center of your intended circle area, place candles at the quarters.
Stand facing your altar, center yourself, draw a large pentagram in the air in front of you, circle it and then step through the circle. Take up your broom and beginning at the east quarter, sweep the perimeter of your circle clockwise, visualizing that you are sweeping the area of all unwanted energies. When you return to the altar, replace the broom and then cleanse and consecrate your altar elements, the water, salt and sage smudge (for fire and air). With either your finger or an athame, draw a pentagram over each one, saying, "Be cleansed of all impurities and blessed in the name of the Goddess and the God." Stir a little salt into the water, saying, Into this Water I blend the salt of Earth that together they form the elixir of life, womb of the Mother, from whence we have all come and unto which we must return." Light the sage smudge, saying: " Fire and Air be now combined, as essence of the mighty God." Carry first the salt water, sprinkling as you go, and then the sage smudge, all around your circle, pausing to salute at each of the four quarters. By this you cleanse and consecrate your sacred space. Returning to your altar, sprinkle yourself, as well, and waft yourself with the sage smoke. Replace them on the altar.
Point toward the east (either with your finger or athame) and while slowly turning clockwise in place, trace and visualize an unbroken circle of luminous light forming around your ritual area, connecting each of the four quarters. As you trace the circle, say: I conjure thee, oh circle of power, to the inner truths I seek at this turn of the Wheel. Be this a protected place, out of time and space, a barrier against all harm, a luminous sphere that will preserve and contain the energy I raise within. By the grace of our Mother Earth and the bright Lord Sun, I do bless and consecrate this circle. So mote it be!
Call the Guardians to the four quarters, lighting the candle of each direction as you do:
To the East I call the power of Air, in Libran balance we now share. Light of day and dark of night, mind that blends with deep insight.
To the South I call the energy, of flames of life and spirit free, Yet grounded, balanced, given form; Sun that wanes, in spring reborn.
To the West I call the waters deep, mysterious force, all souls to keep. Sun that sets, be child of moonlight, balance truth with mystic sight.
To the North I call the power of Earth, Harvest's death gives seeds of birth. Though Sun far South means winter cold, his sparks of life, Earth's womb enfold.
Invoke the God and light his candle:
- Lord of Sunlight, fiery bright, I call your presence to my rite. As sunlight wanes and shadows grow, shine within so I will know The power of your mystery, of death and change, new life to be!
Invoke the Goddess and light her candle:
- Goddess of Earth and mystic sight, I call your presence to my rite, As sunlight wanes and shadows grow, flow within so I will know The wisdom of your mystery, of death and change, new life to be!
With the energies of God and Goddess flowing within you, meditate in silence for as long as you feel the need. Listen for their messages of guidance, perhaps as a voice within, or perhaps as a feeling.
Contemplate the sacrifice of the God, who having completed his work in the waxing and harvest seasons, now surrenders to the inevitability of the death that is change, stepping into the unseen world of a future not yet known. What might you need to surrender, in order to open yourself to future possibilities? Think about letting go. When you hold tightly to what might be better ended, you may be leaving no room for new growth to emerge. What is finished in your life? What will you surrender?
Contemplate the Goddess, who as Mother has given of her abundance in this season of Harvest, but now takes on the mantle of Crone. In her infinite wisdom, she recognizes the necessity of being the instrument of change, and she sees beyond to what might emerge anew. Feel her wisdom and power within you. What should YOU do to bring about needed changes in your life? What will you change? How will you change it? What potentials might open up for you afterward?
When you are ready, complete your meditation by chanting as you move-dance, if you like-around your circle nine times. An appropriate chant is one by Starhawk that is familiar to many: She changes everything she touches, and everything she touches changes.
Returning to your altar, ask the blessings of Goddess and God on your food and drink then place one portion of your food aside to return to the Earth. Offer three toasts as you drink, leaving the last sip to return to the Earth:
- By the power of three times three, change will come, so mote it be! To God, the setting Sun, for strength to surrender, so mote it be! To Goddess, Three-in-One, for wisdom, love and trust in change, so mote it be!
Bow in thanksgiving, first toward the Goddess candle, then to the God, then to each of the Guardians of the four quarters, snuffing each candle as you go. Complete your rite by offering the last bit of food and drink to Mother Earth, with your thanks for her abundance.
copyright, Maria Kay Simms