There are lots of wonderful festivals at this time of year too and I am trying to enjoy them all, savoring and relishing every one. Squeezing all the meaning I can out of every moment.
Friday the 22nd September was the Autumn Equinox which marks the day when the number of daylight hours is equal to the number of night time hours. It means that Winter is approaching and that it is time to say goodbye and thank you very much to Summer.
We decided to visit the standing stone circle at Avebury to mark the occasion. I am not entirely sure why. I am drawn to the place at these times of the year when the seasons change, maybe it makes me feel a connections to my ancestors or British history or nature, I am not sure. It is notable that the meaning of the standing stone circle at Avebury is still not known. It is thought it might be to do with fertility, but no one can say for sure, it doesn't align with the stars, or with the sun or moon as Stone Henge does, it is till a mystery to historians. I find this fascinating because there were a number of people camping at Avebury who I thought must be Druid based on their dreadlocks and rainbow tie die (not that all Druids have dreadlocks and wear rainbow tie dye, or that all those with dreadlocks and rainbow tie dye are Druid, I happen to have penchant for rainbow tie dye myself.) who are obviously drawn to the place at this time of year also, but like me really don't know the meaning of the stones.
We walked round the circle, I tried to go "through" the stones (in the style of Claire Fraser from Outlander), it didn't work, incidentally, and we visited the museum and manor house. All really interesting (I highly recommend a visit).
That evening I had a little fire in the garden, said thank you for all the good things that summer brought us; camping, visiting family, the seaside, birthdays, playgrounds, swimming pools..... and welcomed in the Autumn, (although with slight hesitation and apprehension because I am really not a fan of winter.).
The Autumn festivities continues into the week and yesterday we celebrated Michaelmas, also known as Feast of St Michael and All Angels. The Bible story in Revelation tells us that there was a war in Heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, (who was the Devil), and the dragon was cast out of Heaven. Incidentally the Archangel Michael is often pictured in artworks holding a set of scales, supposedly to weigh the souls of men, and Michaelmas comes within the astrological sign of the scales (Libra)! (I love the interconnectedness of it all!) The scales represent a balance between the darkness and death that Autumn brings and our own ability to raise ourselves up into re-birth and resurrection. We have to fight against the inner-dragon in our own being and find the spirit to come alive in the dying year. Taking up a new task has long been a theme for this season and we are encouraged to take a new step on our inner journey. (I read about this in a beautiful book I have called All Year Round)
We marked the occasion by making a bread dragon, which started off as a pretty convincing dragon (though I forgot the wings!) and became a rather puffed up, swollen dragon, (giving new meaning to the song "Puff the magic dragon"!)
While researching Michaelmas I came across a website which explains an ancient tradition that occurred on the Island of Iona in Scotland (more interconnectedness because.....Outlander) all the people and even the animals walked sunwise around the Angels Hill to seek God’s blessing on the island for the coming year. This tradition goes back to pre Christian times when Druids believed the Devil was frustrated by anything that had no end, no break, no entrance. Celtic Christians adopted this idea, it made sense because God has no end in both time and love, and the three selves of God (Holy Trinity) form an ever circling presence. Celtic Christians would walk circles around their crops asking for God to bless them, as an adaption of the Druid practice of turning sunwise to entice the sun to bless their crops. There is a couple of circling or Caim prayers that can be spoken to ask God to encircle anyone or anything you pray for:
Aren't they lovely!
If you want to know more visit THIS website, where I got these images and this information from. I also came across THIS website which gives even more information about the meaning behind Michaelmas. I really love how us humans have this deep desire to make meaning, and it is this very desire that urges me to paint, document and write.
Now as I continued to research Michaelmas, another piece of interconnectedness came up, I happened to stumble upon talk of a St Michaelmas Bannock, relevant because you know....Scotland...Outlander...St Michaelmas!! This is THE food they eat in Scotland in the 1700's! So I was immediately drawn into this, and who would have thought I would even come across a website with a recipe for a vegan Bannock, which also talks about Outlander! (You can just imagine my excitement about this and having no one to share it witht!) SO I am planning on making myself a vegan Bannock next week and will let you all know how it goes (check my Facebook page)
These festivals are all about transition; the transition from Summer to Autumn; and because we humans so love to embed meaning into everything, we can take this opportunity to meditate on the beauty of the season, everything is dying and it seems somehow ironic that it is at this transition point into dormancy that we find the most beauty. At the same time the dying leaves and sleeping trees whisper the promise of the new life that is to come in the opposite time of the year (the other side of the scales if you will). While we were walking round the stones Boris found a little chick's egg, with it's tiny peck marks going all round. It seemed meaningful that at the turning point of the season, as it turns to death and darkness, we were reminded of the promise of new life in the mirroring season to come.
So as Summer ends and Autumn begins I am following with tradition and trying to take a moment to think about what tasks I want to complete before the year is out. At this time of year it's easy to feel like starting new projects is a fruitless task with the end of the year approaching and the thought of New Years Resolutions on the horizon, but I feel like I really want to make the most of the year by setting goals that I can achieve before the year is thorough. I still have so many unfinished projects on the go, from my book that I have been writing for about two and a half years now to video tutorials and half finished paintings, and I also have some festive projects and products I hope to release soon. I really want to feel a sense of completion on these. Maybe I should pray a Caim prayer over them and the coming season!
Wow, that was a much longer blog post that I had planned, I do so love meaning and interconnectedness (is that even a word?) and Autumn! We have several more Autumnal festivals still to celebrate this season including Harvest Festival, Hallowe'en (Samhain), All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Rememberance Day, Guy Fawkes Night and Martinmas, to name but a few. I am excited for the season ahead and all opportunities for fun and family and friends that it brings.