Saturday, October 17, 2009

The color of autumn- our equinox

It is always in the preparation that ritual begins. Shopping lists and gathering of flower petals and standing on the earth contemplating balance.

This day we were to celebrate at Elizabeth’s house, which though it means travel (a challenge especially to my home-body son), it means less cleaning and clearing. But of course getting out of the house is harder, one more bunch of flowers, one more packet of dried grasses, one more offering.
Driving down the roads of this beautiful place that we live I was struck by this particular light of September. Before the leaves become ablaze with color they have a tint, a hue of brown –yellow or orange-gold and with the angle of the equinox sun path there is a cast of light that is only in September. It is the back to school light, the new notebooks light, the light of the side yard from the memory of the month when the boy was newborn and we sat in bed and watched that autumn light – brilliant but not hot, cool but not icy. The sky is so blue and clear but deep with the knowledge of the oncoming winter. By October everything is reds and oranges and bright yellows and deep browns, and by November the color is windswept and barren and brown and grey, but now it is deep golden like the taste of an apple.

So we arrive at Elizabeth’s, down crazy winding roads (we are always amazed by the variety of neighborhoods all over this county), dogs a-barking, hugs and acorns. Lots of acorns, to roll up with the cool acorn sweeper- a whole tub full in no time at all. Bryan and Ted talk chain saw and fire wood while the neighbor cuts down a tree. We talk harvest (or lack thereof). Amber arrives with cookies which we need to sample with real good tea and magic talk- the interconnecting circles of what makes this magic- unity and awareness and personal knowledge and more. But noon passes and let’s get it together, the present is here and the future of other commitments comes too swiftly. We are here to honor the Gods who give meaning to this life.

Processing down the stone steps and wood staircase leading to the fire by the pond with the koi and the flat lands backed by the rock cliffs of Elizabeth & Ted’s lower property. Hudson always loves the hand pump, kids have to pump the water – it is like a magnet every time we are there. Birds are always singing there. The sun shines brightly and it is hot, yes noon is direct and socks and sweaters come off.

Elizabeth builds a fire and Bryan lights sweet grass from our garden and goes around the circle with the smoke clearing and creating space. I offer petals from every type of the many flowers growing in my garden to the Earth Mother, starting in the east and walking around the circle -2 whole times around before the petals are all used. It has been a good flower year.
We all settle down- feeling comfortable on our Mother, feeling her solid supporting us, letting us balance our weight comfortably on her- Elizabeth and Ted in the East, Bryan in the South, Amber in the West, me in the North and Hudson in the shade.
We feel the darkness of the earth below and the brightness of the sky above. We look up to the sky-shining blue with blinding sun streaming into us and touch the solid deepness of the dark cool earth below us rising up into us and feel these energies mix within us. Breathing in and out and feeling this hot shining sun and this cool dark earth; the fire is small but it is in the center and it is a gate. Calling upon Mannanan Mac Lier, walker of the ways between the worlds, gatekeeper; offering magic potion of syrup from a bottle corked with a branch and strands of sweet grass; and opening the gates. Though there were trees and a large pond we focused on only this one gate- this central fire.

I was struck by the silence of this ritual, only Bryan talked (except for our individual praise offerings); no one offered responses (“let the gates be open” etc.)only birds replied to all his words. This has happened at rituals here before, the birds – many different ones- talk at different times and participate.
Making offerings to the outsiders, just past Hudson in the hedgerow- boundaries defined by potion. Bryan called upon Bridget, grove matron and Goddess of eloquence: asking for our words to be true, our thoughts communicated and our voices heard. More magic syrup and the rest of the sweet grass. Elizabeth’s fire always burns.
Most Honored Dead, our teachers and families and friends- it seems there has been lots of passings lately (a reminder of the coming of Samhain)-so many people to honor- the burning of rose petals, so quickly consumed and faintly fragrant and just a bit of syrup. All these respected people- remembered because of what they have left behind, what they have shared with us, what we carry of them inside us today.
The Spirits of Nature, of this place, where we are now, this land we live on, the insects and birds, all the creatures and the rocks, the grasses and trees- sacrifice of rose petals and barely a drop of the potion falls.
Gods and Goddesses, all of them –who are yours- the eclectic pantheon of the modern age- Kaun Yin and the Celtic River Gods from Elizabeth’s bathroom wall, the Green man with his autumn face, the Moon Grandmother, Mercury, and the grey bearded old man of my grandmother’s God. Everyone appreciates rose petals.
This season of Fall, the harvest and this balance of equinox, silence and presence- lots of magic syrup suddenly pours out with the rest of the roses.
Elizabeth offers gratitude for the easing of the rain, purple asters and small pumpkin and tomatoes – especially rare in this season of scant harvest. She offers a story of her dog Grace waiting for her in the driveway, out of the fence for who knows how long, with dog tags pulled but not choked, safely escaped- and in doggie gratitude burns old dog toys. And finally a basket that has seen many harvests, many gathering of beans and more, catching circular fire and burning through holes.
I offer sage for this year of many things and a full sunflower head, not yet eaten by birds, intact with its mesmerizing helix of seeds in deep gratitude for the many flowers, and, looking forward to new seeds for next year and for next year’s harvest to come. I offer a new pink rose for the deep beauty all around us. And I place a dollar to burn in the fire in gratitude for having a roof over our heads and for the bills to once again be paid and for the balance and sustainability without fear of money in our lives.

And as Elizabeth says: The amphibians joined us for ritual! Before I built the fire, a wee Leopard Frog hopped across the fire pit. The tiny Red Eft was a nice guest, isn't there some association between fire and Salamanders? I was thinking the ritual fire smoke was beguiling. The wind kept changing directions and it kept spiralling, slowly, counter clockwise, and it swirled around Bryan because it was happy to find him there. It wreathed around Bryan and smudged us all, and never stopped changing direction. Lively! The offerings were sweet and generous. There is a Birch clump very close to the fire pit, and one of the omens was for the Birch. That is Bridget's tree and also my birth month tree..a tree I hang offerings on.That spot near the little footbridge is where I have long thought that the Sidhe/Shee hang out

Once again we are silent and Bryan places the good corn all around the edges of the fire. He slowly builds the fire up as our offerings burn and then he pulls our omens.
From the Ancestors – Daguz- day, vantage point, noon
From the Spirits – Wunjo – Joy
From the Gods & Goddesses – Berkana – beginning
And for the season- Kinwaz- the torch

He also, for the first time in our ritual, pulls an Ogham (a stick from the Celtic tree oracle) and it is Oak. – well of course- it is the druid tree and a symbol of standing up straight and also associated with royalty- but let’s not forget all those acorns.

Are we ready to take in those waters of life? What is it that we know of the continuum of life – the waters of life and from whence do they come? Elizabeth & I look at each other and say together- from the bosom of the Earth Mother! The ever changing all mother. She brings out this incredible round blue glass pitcher which sparkles with the sun and Bryan holds it up –it looks bigger than him, like a big shining blue sun. Bless these waters; give us comfort, Knowledge & blessing.

The water is usually cold but this was sun-temperature and autumn flavored. I drank deeply, it seemed like there was an abundance of water.

Ah, giving thanks. There was more food, bits from our whole feast to be, given in gratitude. And then a container of Elizabeth’s cyser, that seemed never ending, as thanks to all of the Kindred and seasonal gods and Bridget and Mananan and the Earth Mother. The birds sang. We processed back to the house.

We feasted and filled Elizabeth's house with flavors. We brewed our equinox cyser of fresh pressed apple cider and pounds of honey and yeast. We did it rite, like Bryan said. You should see the bucket of Cyser! This morning I took off the lid to stir it and it had a layer of foamy suds on top that looked like a bubble bath. It is happy and churning away, and smells so delicious. It is definitely ALIVE! Wow!