It’s time for the autumn rituals which prepare your body and spirit for the long nights and deep inner-workings of Winter…
…And that means getting okay with death.
We’re sun-worshippers told to “let in the light” and “meditate, taking sips of golden sunshine with each inhale”. Culturally, we’re just not cut out for this journey into the dark.
But the witchy ones know otherwise. The witchy ones know that darkness, that death, is a part of a larger cycle. The Phoenix needs the ash, the soil needs the compost.
This is the cycle of life.
If your mind is set on the linear trek from birth to death, then winter puts you out of sorts. It’s a darkness come too soon and it happens every. flippin’. year.
Accepting death is not meant to be easy. Whether it’s the small death of the sun as its hours diminish in the sky… or the death of a love affair… or a business… or a long-held dream. It’s not meant to be easy. And when it’s a parent, a partner, or a child, the letting go can be a Herculean task.
Which is why we practice.
Every year, we learn the art of letting go: we learn it from the trees and from the earth, we learn it from the quiet places in our hearts, and we learn it from each other as we lean into those who’ve come before.
When I was studying in Ireland, I found two dead starlings on my way home from gathering herbs in the far pasture. It was a cold day. I remember my breath pluming and leaning on the door as I shut it against the wind. I told my teacher in passing, as I pulled off my mittens, “dead birds in the field, under the power line.”
I was focused on the power lines and the why but my teacher had other thoughts. It’s time, she said, to learn about death.
A casket, a hole in the ground, a body cooling after the last breath is exhaled… I’d sat with these before. But somehow laying my hands on these cold, still bird-bodies petrified me. I wouldn’t let myself use a shovel. I put on gloves and picked them up, trembling with inexplicable terror.
Earlier in the summer a bird had flown into the house. I’d calmly cupped it, stopping it from beating its tiny head against the window, and taken it outside. It had wobbled in my hands as I opened them, too shocked to fly.
I felt the same way as I held each dead bird and carried it to its grave.
How do we prepare our bodies and spirits for this yearly death as we move past the balance of the autumn equinox and toward the darkness of winter?
Your body will crave the benefits of sunlight. So give it a little extra love:
- Vitamin D: emulsified seems to work best.
- Fish Oil: in the winter switch to Cod Liver Oil. The increased Vitamin A will help your body better assimilate the Vitamin D.
- St. John’s Wort: it blooms at summer solstice and supports us through winter solstice. Don’t take with SSRIs but do take with its friend Lemon Balm to brighten your spirit.
While these supports work wonders, what has amazed me most in my years of working with women is the benefit of acceptance.
Once we shift from linear time to cyclical time, our perspective on winter changes. One of the women who came to last year’s autumn retreat told me she’s had seasonal depression all her life but the retreat shifted something in her and she was surprised to find herself enjoying winter’s darkness.
What autumn rituals can create this shift for you?
It comes from doing the seasonal work of honoring, releasing, and rooting in.
Here are some ideas for doing it on your own:
- Build an altar each day for a week to memorialize different losses in your life.
- Meditate with a tree, feeling its leaves dying and falling, its energies returning to the earth, to its roots…
- Have less and less light in your house each night ’til you get to the solstice and have no light at all.
If you want to take this journey in community, come join us for Witch Camp (even if you don’t like the word witch or online classes or whatever your excuse is for not getting this important work done).
It’s odd at first, sharing autumn rituals so deeply with strangers. But over time, they aren’t strangers anymore. We’ve had women who have been in Witch Camp for three years running, since its inception, so I know we’re doing something right!
We begin Sunday October 30th. Join us for a week (no credit card needed) and see what you think.
I’m looking forward to sinking into the velvety dark with you.