We met to celebrate the fruit harvest and to honour the crone, so it was perhaps inevitable there would be 13 of us! Women drove through the morning mist, from as far away as Bridport, to celebrate the Autumn Equinox, Mabon, together. A fire was lit in the hearth and Sam taught a simple round that we would use at the end of the day… Walking Breath, Spirit of the Earth.
There was a deep sharing circle which ranged through the delights and losses of first pregnancy; and anger at what human beings are doing to the natural world and each other; and grief for the lack of a central female sacred figure or figures in our culture: the meaninglessness of “retirement” and responsibility for ourselves and our teenage children; to mention just a few of the heartfelt, humorous and sometimes heated offerings! After an hour and a quarter, the imagined Wisdom Pot in the centre of the circle was full of the rich, dark, sweet and bitter matter of collaborative wisdom extracted from our experiences.
The mythical world was no less abundant: Sam began with an impassioned evocation of Medusa, the Gorgon, and her sisters, tracing them back to the snake goddesses of ancient time. Sue whirled us into Baubo’s ribald song and dance that cheered Demeter from the heaviness of her grief and set her on the road to finding her daughter Persephone. She also encountered another old crone, the triple goddess Hecate, who waits at the crossroads in our life to be a wise adviser. Lisa told the tale of the Furies, bent on vengeance for Orestes’ killing of his mother, but ultimately evolving into guardians of justice. Our journey into the myth world of the Greek crones concluded with Ronnie’s evocation of the Fates, in their white cottage in the ether, spinning, weaving and snipping the three-dimensional web of life.
Sam led us into meditation, inviting us to imagine our inner snake and allowing us to encounter these ancient women whose names had been invoked in our inner worlds. Afterwards, we talked of witches and the medieval holocaust of women, particularly old women, during the Inquisition and the impact that has on the collective psyche. We went to dark places and came back to the healing power of shared laughter. Women spoke of their grandmothers, of our attitude to snakes, of the eye of the storm that allows us to find that Equinox point of balance in the crazy moments of our lives.
Then it was time for our Autumn Harvest Feast – another smorgasbord of colour, taste, smell and texture! We lunched on yam stew, falafels, hummus, a wondrous variety of salads and cheeses, breads & spreads, followed by orchard crumble, figs, plums, stewed fruit…..the deliciousness abounded!
We each had space in the warm afternoon air to walk in silence and connect to the orchards and hedgerows, the banks and meadows before gathering around the craft table to turn teasel heads into hedgehogs for little ones we know, or just for the little one inside of each of us. Then we harvested apples from the orchard and thanks to a basket press and mill hired from Orchard Link, drank freshly-pressed apple juice in the Autumn sunshine beside a camp-fire.
We returned indoors for our final ceremony – decorating the circular altar with harvest tokens we had collected and bringing to awareness our own harvest in the cycle of this year and the seeds we want to plant.We remarked on the beauty of the dock plant and seed heads. The second half of the ceremony invited women in the third stage of their life to the centre of the circle to be honoured and made visible. It was profoundly moving to honour the post-menopausal phase of life and mention its positive attributes: calm, grace, wisdom, humour, endurance, friendship, inspiration, energy – everyone had something to add and many older women who have been deeply loved and valued were added in name to the inner circle.
We were so glad to have Hilda with us, the great Matriarch of the Wood Sisters Circle and a Great-Grandmother, who at 87 still gets into her car and drives to places that matter.
Our inner crones were royally fed by a day that celebrated their power, beauty and wisdom. This was the last of our three visits in this cycle to the Greek Goddesses – we have met the Maidens: Atalanta, Hestia, Artemis and Athena; we’ve explored the Mothers, Lovers and Wives: Hera, Demeter, Aphrodite and Eris and now we’ve spent a day with the wise old women.
The Autumn Equinox Gathering marks the end of another cycle of the Celtic year in festivals. We begin again at Samhain, the Celtic New year, with eight Gatherings in which we will walk the path of the Western Mysteries from Palaeolithic and Neolithic times, through the Sumerian, Egyptian, Hebrew and Greek civilisations to the Celts, the forest dwellers of Old Europe and their courtly counterparts, all through sacred myth and story. We will see the ancient spiritual traditions that underlie our modern culture in a slow cook course that connects us to our ancestors, to the land, to each other, to ancient spiritual wisdom and to ourselves. The dates are in every newsletter and on our website, so if you’d like to join us for the journey, note them in your diaries now! The Gatherings remain open for people to drop into, also. More details soon.
Sue and Sam xx