Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fall Equinox / Harvest Home

The Fall Equinox has come and gone. The sun has passed the midpoint in its waning, and soon the days will be short and cold. Salmon has been in the freezer for a month. And it is time to make our final harvests as it will be frosting any day. Two weeks ago we slaughtered some sheep, and yesterday, three pigs. We have harvested our garden, and found a meager potato crop, a decent carrot crop, and a bounty of peas. It is time to prepare for fall and winter festivals, and the long meditation of the cold months.

The traditional  British calendar  is rather silent on the subject of the equinoxes, but there are other observances around this time. St. Michael's Day, or Michaelmas is but a week away, a feast that deserves a post of its own. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and anniversary of the creation of the world occurs near the Equinox, begins this year at sundown on Sep. 28th. Orthodox Christianity follows a similar Anno Mundi approach and commemorates the anniversary of the creation of the world as Sept. 1, which also marks the beginning of the liturgical calendar. Alaska, being somewhat special in American Orthodoxy follows the old (Julian) calendar, so these are commemorated on Sept. 14.

A moveable feast, Harvest Home, is also traditional this time of year. Harvest Home was generally celebrated after the final cereal harvest of the year, which until mechanized farming changed things,  occured toward the end of August. It has been suggested that this would have been the boundary for the old pagan Saxon 'Halig Monath' (Holy Month/September) that was described by Bede. It was generally celebrated with the bringing in of the last sheaf of wheat, the making of corn dollies, and  a dinner for farm laborers. Wiccans and some other neo-Pagans combine the Fall Equinox and Harvest Home into the fixed date celebration of Mabon.

At the fall equinox we generally make a raked leaf labyrinth. We follow it and maintain it until Michaelmas, and use it for our Michaelmas observances.

As we do not have a cereal crop, we celebrate harvest home with a dinner when we bring in the final produce of our garden. This year our Harvest Home was this evening. No corn dollies this year, but we had a wonderful dinner of pork ribs, potatoes, peas and carrots from our garden, and to top it off a wonderful carmel apple crisp for desert. A source of pride, the only ingredients that we did not grow or harvest ourselves were flour, sugar, and salt.

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