Harvest Festivities & Rites
(I’m re-postin’ this particular ask because it helps explain where my ass has disappeared to, in a kinda sorta out-dated-but-not-horrendously-so way.)
itmoons asked: Hello! I’ve emailed you before and I am a great admirer of what you do. My boyfriend and I have been discussing the old ways and pagan holidays and such things and decided we’d like to celebrate them correctly (we did an informal ritual for mabon). With samhain coming, i was wondering what you did for mabon and what you will do for samhain. also, any sources you can direct me too would be helpful. apologies if these questions are too forward/personal/presumptuous. just two lil pagan boys lookin to give the goddess her due.
Ever since I received this question I’ve been hella excited by the prospect of answering it, but I’ve been so knee-fucking-deep in various observances and celebrations (and work - will the mushroom season EVER FUCKING END?) that I haven’t had a chance to address it. (I’m actually pushing this question to the top of my list because 1.) it’s seasonal and 2.) it provides an explanation as to where my AWOL ass has been for the past few months.)
At this point in my life my Gregorian year is split into halves. In the first half, the Light Year (spring and summer), I’m the virginal Bride who marries the divine King and throughout the growing months we reign together ensuring fertility and new life. The second half, the Dark Year (fall and winter), I’m the great Whore who sacrifices her husband, consort and king (wheat, vine, bull and stag) and harvests His blood, flesh and seed for consumption and resurrection.
Because we live in a mostly rural setting and I work with the idea of female-based sovereignty the majority of my Harvest (from ‘round Lammas to Mabon to Samhain to Fet Ghede) is agriculturally themed. Rather than just focusing on our little patch of property I’ve incorporated this entire area that we live in as my land, and I routinely drag Italics across the local landscape to perform various rites and rituals in the Scottish countryside we see every day out our windows.
The following is a list of activities, rituals, celebrations, observances and traditions that we try and nail every year. Some, it goes without saying, are more important than others, so we prioritize things and keep our schedules flexible for unplanned disasters (i.e., bad weather, catching a cold, family drama) to ensure that the most important shit is executed. (<- Like Italics/the divine king, har har.)
* Reap wheat; Every year I ritually reap wheat from local fields and from containers in my backyard patio garden that I’ve personally grown. The wheat is then gathered into a bundle and decorated with a blessed cloth embroidered with traditional Ukrainian designs. The venerated bundle - also known as didukh in Ukrainian (pictured here) - represents my ancestors, this land, my sacrificed king, consort, and husband. Throughout the Dark Year the bundle’s featured in every major ritual and altar until spring, when I dismantle it and plant the king’s seed I’ve been protecting and holding since Harvest. (See Cereal Mariticide and The Widow is Born.)
* Change the guard; Our companion for the Light Year is Chile Bird, but when it flies the coop for winter it’s replaced by Cobweb Spider. Around the time of the equinoxes I remove everything from our office/computer room windowsill altar, wash everything (the objects sitting on the space, the window (inside and out), the frame (inside and out), the ledge (inside and out) and even the hinges, handles, blinds and areas of the wall touching the window), return the permanent altar shit and swap to the appropriate “guard”. (See Changing of the Guard.)
* Clean bedroom; Before I drag out our vintage coffin cover to keep our asses warm throughout winter I have to thoroughly clean our bedroom to remove traces of the Bride. I’ve jokingly referred to the ritualized act as “cleaning up after the Bride” since I have a tendency to leave incomplete projects scattered across any flat surface. But this is serious, crazy magic cleaning that involves blood, sweat, urine and protective washes. (See Cleaning Up After the Bride, Cleaning Day I and Cleaning Day II.)
* Plant garlic; I use a lot of garlic in my cooking and magic work (not that cooking isn’t magic), so I’ve started to grow my own which allows me to add “special” ingredients to the soil for themed bulbs. Garlic’s the only thing I plant as the Whore that the Bride harvests.
* Turn down the yard for winter; During the Dark Year my major altars are located within the house, but during the Light Year my major altars are located outside of the house. When it’s time to begin moving indoors I “turn down” the yard for winter which involves planting garlic, cutting the grass (for the final time), raking leaves, collecting seeds, emptying pots, straightening up sacred spaces (i.e., the Shango Tree roadkill altar and the patio altar) and covering vulnerable plants from extreme weather.
* Move Stone Cock; At first hard frost Stone Cock (and his black pebble balls) is brought indoors (this year He sat at the base of my peach tree as my patio altar’s centerpiece), where he’ll stay until the first day of summer. On May Day (Beltane), He’ll be paraded out with blessed ribbons (that decorated the “maypole”; nudge, nudge, wink, wink) which will then be hung on branches of fruiting trees.
* Cut the grass; Which, understandably, doesn’t sound hella magic, but I then rake up the grass and dry it so I can offer homegrown green (albeit dried green) to local lactating ewes on Bride’s Day (Imbolc).
* Harvest from the backyard; I usually choose a single day to complete the majority of my backyard harvesting. Half-naked and high I burn incense on my patio offering pillar as Italics helps me pick plums, cut herbs and gather other backyard food we’ve managed to grow during the year. Everything is then washed, processed and divided into what we keep, and what we give as tribute. (See 2009 Harvest.)
* Create a Harvest altar; I created a Harvest altar for the very first time last year (pictured here) and it kicked so much fucking ass that I really regretted the fact that I was too busy this year with roadkill, mushrooms and berries to raise it for 2010. Fingers crossed that next year I’ll manage my time better to give myself a chance to recreate the place of thanksgiving.
* Create a Halloween altar; The only time I’ve ever missed constructing a Halloween altar was several years ago when both of us came down with a serious case of influenza that lasted the entire Halloween vacation (and then some). (<- Because we cohabit with my in-laws I’m only able to have a spacious altar four times a year when they’re away on holiday: Easter, summer, Halloween and Christmas. Creating altars is a huge fucking deal for me because I normally don’t have the ability to dedicate spaces to elaborate setups for any real length of time.) Oops! I just realized I never uploaded any pictures of last year’s altar. I have one photo, but the job’s only been partially done: 2009 Halloween altar construction.
* Perform the Whore’s Black Mass; At some point in our Halloween vacation we celebrate the Whore’s Black Mass which involves various intoxicants (pot, MDMA, mushrooms, nitrous and alcohol) and ritualized marathon sex in front of the Halloween altar. When we celebrate Hieros Gamos (the sacred marriage), the drugs’n’sex rite is a ceremony of union, which I’ve always found to be gentle, loving and tender. Black Mass, though, is all about out-of-your-fucking-head screwing for the pure sake of pleasure. (Reproduction be fucking damned, let’s see how far you can force your fist into my cunt!)
* Observe Fet Ghede; My Harvest ends with Papa’s feast, Fet Ghede, which I celebrate on November 1st and 2nd. We bake Pan de Muerto for the occasion, using the dough to fashion offering cakes to those who’ve died since last Fet Ghede. (We then take the bread to the local graveyard and leave it on a cairn.) I also whip up a special meal specifically geared for Papa. Sometimes it’s homemade gumbo, sometimes it’s baked ham, but there’s always cornbread, rum and Hoppin’ John. (Not to mention pot, cigars and sexy lingerie.)(See Fet Ghede, 2008.)
* Pay tribute; It’s important for me to give back what I’ve taken or have been given throughout the Light Year as the Bride. It’s a thank you, a tribute and a celebration of everything I’ve done and achieved. With baskets and bags I take a fraction of the roadkill I’ve found, food I’ve grown (and gathered) and bread I’ve ritually baked to the nearest standing stone and leave my tribute at the base to give back to the land that’s fed me, and to show my gratitude for all that I’ve been given. (See Harvest Home Offering.)
* Steal potatoes; The local farmers don’t know it, but they pay tribute to me. When the wheat turns gold I reap from their fields, and when the potato plants shrivel up I unearth potatoes. It’s a teeny, tiny price to pay to have a witch personally looking after your crops (and the land they’re growing on), especially when all of the agricultural land here is either grain or potato. “Stealing potatoes” is more of a LOLOLOL tradition, though, and nothing more than a bit of fun to fluff up our celebratory Harvest meals.
* Bake Castle Pie; One of the local castles has an annual sale of produce grown within its walled gardens. Every year we go to buy plums and apples, walk the castle grounds, visit the bees still hard at work, have sex beneath the same tree and return home to bake Castle Pie together. (The yearly event must be magic because Italics isn’t really into fruit, but I often find him picking at the pie when no one’s looking.)
* Visit the apple and pear sale; Once a year, on one day only, a pay-to-enter heritage site holds an apple and pear sale selling fruit grown within its gardens. This is the one chance to get a hold of really old varieties I’ve never heard before (“cat’s head” and “bloody ploughman” come to mind). We normally buy three bags of fruit and then take a long walk along a path that circles and winds around old stone walls, farming fields, hedges and beech woodlands (usually pausing to pick blackberries because, holy shit, dude, you would not believe the size of the motherfuckers that grow there).
* Bake Baba’s Ukrainian apple cake; Using some of the apples purchased from the heritage site sale I bake a traditional Ukrainian apple cake for my (now deceased) Ukrainian grandmother. My grandparents fashioned themselves a slice of “the old country” in southeast Wisconsin which meant I spent my growing years running around barefoot in a fruit (pear, plum, cherry and apple) orchard, so I have a strong, sentimental attachment to autumn fruits and how they’re incorporated into festive cooking and I’ve tried to keep that tradition alive in my own way. (See Dreading Mortality.)
* Bake bread; Wheat is enormously significant to me; it’s the face of my God, my husband, lover, consort and king. With one hand I kill Him, and with another I resurrect Him. I drink His blood, I crush His bones and I eat His flesh. When He’s alive and living (Light Year) I refrain from baking bread, but once I perform the reaping ritual I’m allowed to use His body until resurrection. My baking season begins with a traditional Ukrainian bread (paska or babka; babka’s like paska plus, using more butter and egg yolks) during Harvest, and ends on Easter (with the same bread, although this particular loaf gets toted off to church on Holy Saturday to be blessed by a priest) when I bake my last and final loaf for the year.
* Prepare celebratory meals; The only thing more celebrated than sex in this house is food. We try to eat seasonally, and as locally as possible. (Pretty goddamn “local” when you’re digging up your own potatoes, plucking berries off bushes just yards away from your house and picking mushrooms only a few miles from your rural subdivision.) We have several Harvest related feasts (not including Fet Ghede), and when preparing those I focus on incorporating as much wild or homegrown food as possible. This year, for example, we’re roasting a roadkill pheasant with the “stolen” potatoes, and we’ll also be making homemade wild mushroom and pheasant risotto using boletes I’ve picked throughout fall and a roadkill pheasant I picked up on the autumnal equinox.
* Transition from Bride to Whore; Because my hair takes for-fucking-ever to grow I only cut it two times a year: spring and fall (the same goes for Italics, although I usually cut his hair for him while my hair is trimmed by a professional). In addition to getting my hair lopped off I also get my eyebrows done (threading all the way, baby!), and thoroughly rub my ass down with a homemade purifying scrub out of salt, olive oil, honey and rosemary essential oil. (In spring I give my physical appearance a boost because I’m a bride getting ready to be married, but in fall I become a mistress, so my preparations are less wedding based and lean more towards “super extended night on the town”.) During the Dark Year I use henna to dye my hair darker (Whore), but during the Light Year I use henna to dye it red (Bride).
This year’s Harvest has been crazy mental, but insanely rewarding. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it because, up until recently, I didn’t have a car. I spent nearly a decade fantasizing about a way of life I was desperate to live, repeatedly telling myself “IT’S OKAY, YOU’LL GET TO DO IT ~NEXT YEAR~, IT WON’T ALWAYS BE LIKE THIS” to keep it together. 2010 has been a breakthrough year for me; it’s been the year I officially began to live and everything I’ve done and experienced has been a complete and utter joy and revelation.
My boyfriend and I have been discussing the old ways and pagan holidays and such things and decided we’d like to celebrate them correctly (we did an informal ritual for mabon).
If you’re exercising a Choose Your Own Adventure-style spiritual journey there isn’t a right or wrong way to celebrate and observe special days; it’s an experimental process that evolves yearly. If you’re involved in a religion with a hardcore set of beliefs I’m sure there is a “correct” way of doing things, but if you haven’t committed yourself to a one specific path you aren’t obligated to follow anyone else’s instruction manual.
The beautiful thing about going solo and doing what makes sense (to you) is that sometimes it’ll work spectacularly, and sometimes it’ll end disastrously funny. But - BUT! - no matter what the outcome, it’s always a learning experience that ultimately shapes the rest of the game.
My suggestion? Do shit. Do a lot of shit. Do stupid shit, do funny shit, do crazy shit, do serious shit. Just do shit, and keep the shit that makes you laugh, cry, and feel alive and work on that shit so next time around you’ll laugh even harder, cry more meaningfully and feel so fucking alive that the very core of your being is on celestial fire.
also, any sources you can direct me too would be helpful. apologies if these questions are too forward/personal/presumptuous.
Man, I’m the worst person to come to when resources are involved. I’ve written my own mythology, created my own gods and crowned myself a divine queen in my world. And the worst part? The Universe is playing along. (I guess that means my “script” has been optioned?) I can tell you what I believe, what I do and the meaning behind everything, but I’m not a quotable resource.
What I can do, though, is direct you to the blogs, diaries and journals of witches, pagans, spiritualists and rootworkers that I follow who are a LEETLE less out there that might be able to provide different views and approaches to celebrate this time of year. (Hit up the index page of Graveyard Dirt; you’ll find those links on the left under the “READING” category.)
I’ll also point you towards my Amazon wishlist so you can get an idea of the reading material that most interests me. (I always feel weird providing the link, but I’ve had a lot of people ask for it to discover new material to add to their own personal wishlist.)
Right! I hope I’ve been slightly helpful (or at least moderately interesting). Whatever you guys do, just make sure it’s coming from the heart (and/or gut), because that’s the shit that sculpts your beliefs and transforms your life. Good luck with Halloween/Samhain, and thank you for prompting me to finally sit my ass down and write about our Harvest festivities and rites. (I actually began drafting an entry along those lines to explain my absence, but with all of these new activities, all of the old traditions and taking care of our tumor-ridden pet rat, Choney, I just haven’t had a chance.)
PS: Just FYI; when you’re the type of person who posts a picture of yourself barebacking the New Year roast, naked, there’s no question that’s “too forward/personal/presumptuous”, *winks*.* Harvest Festivities & Rites was originally posted on Graveyard Dirt by Ms. Graveyard Dirt. Original Contents Copyright 2012, Ms. Dirty; All Motherfucking Rights Reserved.
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