Continuing on with my challenge, now that September is almost over I wanted to recap some of my recent autumn rituals.
The fall equinox fell on a Thursday, but my partner and I couldn’t do our ritual until that Saturday, so I marked the equinox itself simply by turning over my seasonal shrine for my spirits from light to dark half of the year. I have one set of items there during spring and summer to express Their manifestation during that part of the year, exemplified by May Day and the fairy rade, and another set for fall and winter, exemplified by All Hallows Eve and the Wild Hunt. So that set the tone for the coming festivals.
This year our equinox celebration had a Johnny Appleseed theme – his birthday being September 26 – because I have long wanted to honor him as a sort of modern avatar of Dionysos (those seeds grew apples suitable for making alcohol, not eating). Our sumbel was done with hard cider rather than mead, we went on a walk around the neighborhood hunting for apples to glean, and our dessert was an amazing apple crisp with a topping of local hazelnuts and honey. And my first toast after Dionysos was to John Chapman, of course. The ritual itself was very simple – I cooked a lovely pomegranate-glazed chicken and some other dishes and we brought the meal out to a wooded area nearby called Edgewood, where we found a suitable spot, shared the meal with the local spirits, made other offerings, and held our sumbel accompanied by libations (as he is Heathen and I am Hellenic).
Next up was Michaelmas, which was yesterday. Over the past few years I’ve found myself drawn to celebrating certain medieval holidays, and just sort of re-paganizing them, as they make potent seasonal markers and cover a lot of the European territory my gods and spirits are connected to. I consider Michaelmas the very beginning of Hunt season. The day before, I baked beer bread from scratch – often the only time each year I bother to make my own bread – in preparation. Yesterday I spent about an hour working on some very special animal remains I am processing, because these seasonal holy days are also when I pay special attention to my animal dead. Then just before sunset, I took the bread, a bottle of beer with an appropriate image on the label, dried apples, hazelnuts, some coins, a deer bone, and incense, and headed out my usual spot for this offering on a butte on the edge of the city.
Except…just as I got to the bus stop that would take me there, I felt a strong pull to change course and instead continue walking to the cemetery a bit further down the street. I immediately got a confirmatory omen of this urge, so I followed it. One of the good things about solitary practice is the ability to make such sudden last minute changes! I think part of the reason I needed to do this was because of my recent exploration of super-local polytheism, where the gods and spirits have been pushing me to focus solely on a very tight radius around my house – no more than, say, a 20-25 minute walk.
Anyway, the cemetery – which is one of my favorite places in the city – was absolutely the right choice. I wandered a bit, reading tombstones, acknowledging the founders and important people of our city’s history (who are almost all buried there), encountering a crazy gathering of stellar jays, and I even found a little corner of it I had never been to before, which was perfect for the ritual. Just as the sun disappeared below the trees, facing west, I laid out all my offerings and sang my Hunt song (I’m on a strange path, I don’t generally recommend people invite the Wild Hunt to them!). Like many of my important rituals these days, the actual thing itself took only a short time, but the preparation and journey there was a significant part of the process.
Once home, I lit fir and cedar incense and went through my house, smudging and singing to all of my animal spirits, of which there are very many.
Tonight is Hekate’s deipnon, and then it will be October! I am putting up Halloween decorations tonight, and am excited for what is, for me, the most wonderful time of the year. The entire month of October is dedicated to one of my spirits and I am looking forward to spending that time deeply engaged with him. Also, for those of you who follow, or aspire to follow, the lunar calendar, we have a neat synch happening where the lunar and civic calendars will align for the month – October 1st is also the Noumenia, and so on.