There are flowers enough in the summertime,
More flowers than I can remember—
But none with the purple, gold, and red
That dye the flowers of September!
- Mary Howitt (1799-1888)
Autumn is my favourite season of all, the time of year that Keats called the 'Season of mists
and mellow fruitfulness'. I adore the crisp feel in the air, the rustling sound of the leaves, the rich, vibrant colours and the smoky smells that only come with these months.
I always feel really relaxed and happy at this time of year; although it may also have something to do with my birthday and Halloween coming soon too..., which is your favourite season and why? Jot your thoughts down if you feel like it, it's important for us to recognise the things that make us happy, try to remember Loving Yourself Isn't Vanity, It's Sanity!
Today it's the Autumn Equinox, which usually falls on either 22 or 23 September but because the Gregorian calendar is not quite in perfect symmetry with the Earth's orbit, it will very occasionally fall on September 24. This last happened in 1931 and will next happen in 2303.
In Old England, September was called Haervest-monath (Harvest Month) - the time to gather up the rest of the harvest and prepare for the winter months. Originally the seventh month (from the Latin septem, "seven") had 29 days until around 750 BC. September is mostly in the sixth month of the astrological calendar (and the first part of the seventh), its birthstone is the sapphire and the birth flowers for September are the forget-me-not, morning glory and aster.
Traditionally, this is a time of thanksgiving for the final (hopefully successful) harvest of the year and such celebrations have been practiced all over the world since ancient times. Harvest festivals occur at various times in different places because of the climate, crops and culture but throughout the world, they typically feature feasts or offerings of seasonal foods, eating, merriment, contests, music and romance.
In Britain, the Harvest festival is traditionally held on the Sunday near or of the Harvest Moon, which is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox (22 or 23 September). We're lucky this year in that the nearest full Moon doesn't fall until the 1st October, so that means the Harvest Moon for 2020 is later than usual and we've got plenty of extra time to celebrate.
In the past, the end of the harvest was celebrated with a Harvest Supper, where the Lord of the Harvest sat at the head of the table and a goose stuffed with apples was eaten along with a variety of vegetables (see below and Fur Clemt for the perfect way to provide for your harvest supper).
I don't eat meat, so will stick to the apples and veg but I'm quite impressed that Goose Fairs are still held in English towns at this time of year, with Nottingham's being one of the biggest in Europe, albeit the real geese are long gone and the only goose there now is a huge artificial one. Don't you just love our quirky traditions? COVID has put paid to the Fair this year but it's been going strong for over 700 years, famed not only for geese but for cheese as well! Go on, please Google 'Cheese Riots 1766)', surely only us!?
September isn't just important because of the harvest, September 27th is Yom Kippur, the holiest holiday in the Jewish calendar and September 29th, an ancient Celtic “Quarter Day” is also known as the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, the Feast of the Archangels, or the Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels) some Western Christian traditions. In Christian angelology, the Archangel Michael is the greatest of all the angels and is honoured for defeating Satan in the war in heaven and he is also revered, with others, by those of us on alternative paths.
Not to make light of serious issues but if none of this is your thing, there are always the 'Just for Fun' days that have cropped up in recent years. I know some of you will be sad about this but we've just missed National Hug Your Hound Day (8th Sept.), thankfully we averted 'Kids Take Over the Kitchen Day' (13th), we're all over 'International Talk Like a Pirate Day' (19th) and just my thing, it's National Punctuation Day on September 24. Even better, September is National Happy Cat Month!!!
While we're feasting, let's remember that essential food parcel delivery from the UK government to vulnerable people ended on the 31st July but there are still lots of people in crisis. The recent rise in awareness of the value of community and the importance of wellbeing should help us to help ourselves and others, both now and in the future.
I don't know if it still happens in schools etc. when everyone always brought a tin, biscuits or something to be distributed around the community at harvest festival time back in the day but I hope they do. I do know though that there are many wonderful people, groups and organisations who provide life-saving services such as food, basic necessities and emotional support - they need our help more than ever, so if you can every little helps. There's nothing to lose and you could be doing yourself a favour too because research shows that involvement with charity and volunteering can have a positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing.
If you need some inspiration and don't already know about our fab local organisation Fur Clemt and The Real Junk Food Project, then it really is time you did. I could wax lyrical for hours about the benefits of their work, they rescue perfectly edible food from going to landfill and redistribute it in a variety of ways, they are not a food bank and everyone is welcome but a picture tells a thousand words...this is just some of the food they saved yesterday. Stock up for your Harvest Supper here, not in the supermarkets!
Getting back to the origins of the Harvest Festival, most of us these days can just go to the supermarket or get a delivery and buy what we fancy regardless of the season. We're no longer really aware of how much time and effort it takes to grow plants from seed to the fruits, vegetables and cereals we consume or how lucky most of us are (don't get me started on the packaging here, that's another blog) but our ancestors knew what they were thankful for and why, which is why some forms of celebration have been held for millennia.
No doubt it will be different this year - as well as the cancellation of our long-standing Goose Fairs, we may not be able to meet for our usual celebrations in religious and other gathering places but I do hope that all the baking practice we've had over the last few months means we'll have some spectacular virtual displays this year. I was always fascinated by the amazing bread designs when I was young, maybe this year's the time to have go?
Now is a perfect time for us to reflect, recognise and renew our own gratitude, thankfulness and awareness, to clarify our intentions and direction, to re-envision and re-energise our daily lives. The energy of this season invites long term planning and incubation. Seeds of ideas planted now can burst forth next spring, transformed and strengthened by their time in the unconscious. Use this energy of the Equinox to connect with your inner knowing.
Use your instinct and do what feels right for you. Here are some of my favourite things to do at this time of year to help inspire you and we'll add more on social media as the season progresses:
Go for a walk and collect anything nature-wise that draws you, then use it to decorate your home. I started a couple of days ago and have prickly chestnuts, flowering pennyroyal, white feathers and pine cones adorning my fireplace so far and will be off for more very soon.
Prepare a Feast for yourself (and/or your household, don't invite friends round this year). My hubby Al's working away and we've gone back into local lock-down restrictions today, so I'm enjoying the day with my cats, plants, a nice bottle of vino and some nice food (as I said, use your instinct, there's no right or wrong here as long as you take care of yourself).
Get ready for hibernation and no, I don't mean isolate yourself until April...I mean get yourself comfy, make sure you're set if we get put into full lockdown again, treat yourself and make sure you're better fixed to get through the Winter. I'm talking snuggly blankets and pyjamas, hot chocolate, mulled wine, roaring fires and woolly socks here but you need to decide what makes you happy.
Think about where you'd like to be in Spring, physically and mentally. I'm planting bulbs and sowing seeds that will pop up early next year to give me a lovely reminder of my hopes and dreams.
Do something nice for someone else. It could be as simple as a smile in the street, offering to pick up some shopping for a neighbour or passing on a book you loved, whatever makes you feel good without anything back. Altruism is truly an amazing gift but it's very hard to do genuinely, again just be you and do what feels right, if you have to think about it or force it or don't enjoy it, don't do it - just trust that something else will always turn up when you need and least expect it.
My plans for the rest of the day are to sweep my hearth and light a fire to Brigid, to go out foraging (please check regulations and safety if you're not used to this), harvest my home-grown herbs and get them up to dry, I've got a load of crab apples I want to use but have never done so before - any suggestions appreciated, to a bit of pond T.L.C. a chat with the robin, squirrels and others who keep popping by, then an early night. Hoping I can find some nuts too....
Share the love and let us know what you're doing to welcome in the Autumn season. We'd love to see your photos and hear your ideas.
With Love & Light, as always.
Tracy and Kim, Soul Sisters xx