The pagan adjacent boyfriend wanted to help me celebrate the autumn season, so he suggested we go to a haunted house. I went and I enjoyed it, but of course wandering through an abandoned school that's been purchased and re-vamped into a Haunted House that predominately features cannibalism of different genres, ax murders, insane asylum patients, and clowns has nothing to do with my holiday. He sort of know that, but he feels lost in helping to support my faith where he sees I'm not doing what I've talked about doing back in Massachusetts.
I think it's hard for him to grasp the concept that my Neo-Paganism is locally connected and I will celebrate seasonal changes differently in Alabama vs Massachusetts. It's true this time of year was magnificent in Massachusetts. It was starting to get cold, there's about a 50% chance that a frost has happened already (it has this year). All these local farm stands and harvest-ish themed things seem to appear over night. There were a lot of hot drinks and hot fresh meals. Apple donuts, pumpkin donuts, cakes, pies, fresh acorn squash and butternut squash. Apples as far as the eye could see!
Beyond that, there was this strong tie to colonial times in MA. There were Victorian homes everywhere. Pagan/new thought and the general population liked to connected modern celebrations with older ones. Honey sticks, herb gardens, ghost walks more information that scare , apple bobbing, donuts on the string. All the semi-traditional things were still celebrated by the general populace.
Also, because it was getting cold, there really was this sense of urgency to batten down the hatches and prepare for winter. There is a real concern regarding purchasing heating oil, wrapping up summer gear, purchasing enough canned goods that should one be stranded one could still eat. I associate all of this as part of what I should be doing and what I should be looking for in others this times of year. I can't say how much of a relief mild winters are and at the same time, how it leaves me both in me practice and life sometimes at a loss.
There is way less work involved. There is no sense of urgency along with the crazy joy that nature is beautiful and brutal. There is always thankfulness for lovely days, but the praise seems less meaningful when every day is beautiful and mild and the coming winter will be soft compared to what I know. It's true this year our summer was brutally hot and dry. I watched corn literally burn away over the course of a day in the relentless sun. In some ways, this winter will be a relief. Everyone here thinks it will be unusually cold and wet, which will kill all the extra bugs we have, restore our water table, and hopefully heal some hurting farms for the spring.
Some of my practices will be the same. My reverence for my ancestors is more or less the same. This year my celebration will be especially focused on my Grandfather as he passed in Aug of last year and his birthday was Oct 28th, I feel particularly close to him right now. My reiki meditation will essentially be the same, though the themes, the requests, and the healing is somewhat changed.
My month of semi-public celebration is very different here. I am spending more time in quiet reflection before Samhain than I ever have before. This kind of quieted mind used to come as I burned out all my frantic energy in preparations for the fall. I am reminded of the fable of the hard working ant and the lazy grasshopper: all my life I've been the ant and now even though my preparations for the seasons are appropriate, I feel like the grasshopper.
I am walking out in nature more often. I spend hours at the Tennessee river where I feel particularly connected to the river's divinity. I walk slowly and thoughtfully. I wander off the path and through the woods or into the river to explore and contemplate. I feel like a baby who has to put everything in it's mouth to learn what it is and what it means.
Right now, I feel that Alabama requires more complex acknowledgments than MA lands did. There is death and decay in the land right now. I can see it in the trees, smell it in some areas, and I feel that old ending magic I did in MA in areas of the land. With that energy is the energy of life still in full bloom, berries are all over tons of the bushes an trees, cotton is in process of harvest, flowers are still blooming, the sun is still out for huge swathes of time, and the weather itself still gets up to the 80s most days. There's actually this sense that AL is a safe haven and that more life is coming in soon to partake in the offerings. Song bird and water bird migrations have just started in these parts and will be in their peak in November.
I'm still coming to terms with the idea that there will be more than snow for me to look forward to in November. I feel like that quiet shut down I expected to come at Samhain time, won't really hit until the beginning of December.
For now I'm going to try to keep my mind quiet and open. I want to hear what my Gods and the land is telling me. I'll leave this post with a few pictures I've taken of Alabama fall in attempts to see, understand, and worship the land.
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Article copyright Swift Rabbit/ Southern Pagan Muses