Honouring the Autumn Goddesses
by Sarah Robinson
After the wonderfully positive response to my Spring Goddess article (Kindred Spirit issue 164) exploring the goddesses and rituals of spring, I was excited to return to my favourite season, autumn, with more goddesses and rituals.
As we approach the autumn equinox, Mabon and Samhain, the Goddess is beautiful as the Harvest Queen and the Earth Mother is adorned with warm leafy hues of gold, reds and oranges. In cultures around the world, celebrations are held to honour the abundance of the harvest and to give thanks to the Earth Mother and Goddess. Festivals are held to both mark the end of the summer and the gathering and storing of food to last through the dark months of winter.
Banbha is celebrated at the Autumn Equinox, in the west on the Goddess Season wheel of Britannia (to learn more about Goddess Season Wheels check back on my article in KS issue 163). She is an Earth Mother and Queen. In Irish mythology, she is a founding mother of Ireland. One of Ireland’s ancient names is Banbha Isle of Women. As trees turn to gold and crimson, and we move towards the dark of winter, the last of the harvest is taken in. Banbha is associated with Gaia as the spirit of the land, the animals and ourselves.
At the end of autumn, Samhain and Halloween are closely linked with the witchy figure of Goddess Kerridwen, Keeper of the Cauldron. She stirs the cauldron of rebirth, knowledge and transformation. She reminds us that out of darkness comes new life and new ideas. As a witchy goddess who can cross between worlds; Kerridwen also reminds us to honour and remember our dear departed and ancestors.
The divine personification of the autumn season, representing the abundance of nature and the time of the harvest. The actual gender of this being is fluid, I’ve seen Autumnus portrayed as both male and female, all represent the harvest, wines, and fruits of the earth Goddess, blossoming with her seasonal array. In earth-based traditions, autumn is a time to appreciate the earth’s abundance, but also remembering that the daylight hours will now begin to wane, meaning caution is called for. So while we reap autumn’s bounty, we must also start planning for the dark months ahead.
I always think of Hestia, goddess of hearth and home, at autumn time. Her name means hearth fire and/or altar. Autumn is a season of returning home after travels and the adventures of long summer days. In ancient Greece, sacred hearth fires were constantly tended within her temples and offerings of sweet wine and food made in Hestia’s name. The magic of creating your home is precious, we are making life sweet and sacred for ourselves and others. Creating a warm and safe sanctuary to retreat to from the darkening days and dropping temperatures.
This harvest goddess oversees growing, preserving and harvesting of grain, patron goddess of millers and bakers. In Demeter’s honour; A festival called the Thesmophoria was celebrated by the married women of Athens. It was held annually in late autumn and celebrated human and agricultural fertility. The festival was restricted to adult women, who feasted, performed secret rites and made offerings of corn, fruits and nuts to Demeter.
Pachamama is a fertility goddess known as both earth and time mother. Presiding over planting and harvesting of crops, she also embodies the mountains and earthquakes. She provides everything needed to sustain life. One myth tells if you do not treat the earth with respect, Pachamama becomes a dragon beneath the mountains, causing earthquakes; a reminder to honour her and the earth.
Goddess of earth; her fertility is the source of all plants and nourishment of all living creatures. The Sanskrit word for earth is prithvi. The goddess Prithvi is the personification of the Earth Mother, the essence of the earth element. At funerals, prayers are said to Prithvi that she may wrap the dead tenderly in her arms.
Simple Ritual and Ceremony to Celebrate the Autumn Season
Walk in nature and collect a little of nature’s wild abundance. You may find damsons, sloes, elderberries, blackberries, apples, as well as nuts and fallen leaves in every hue. With your autumn treasures you can create an autumnal altar, either at home or out in nature.
Clear Out and Complete
Autumn is a great time to complete unfinished projects and clear your home of unwanted items or energies. Creating a calm and restful sanctuary in which to hibernate and reflect during the winter months.
Create an Autumnal Altar
Altar items specific to the harvest and autumn season could include mini pumpkins and squashes; apples; leaves; acorns, conkers and hazelnuts – seeds represent a promise of strength to come. All nuts from our native trees – walnuts, hazelnuts, conkers – are pure potential and carry the qualities of the mother tree.
You can also include:
● Candles in the colours of the harvest season – orange, reds, purples, black and brown.
● A cauldron –the cauldron or chalice is closely associated with Samhain. The cauldron represents the divine feminine and the container for all life and death, of transformation and rebirth.
● Photographs or reminders of ancestors or friends who have passed.
Candle Ceremony for Honouring Ancestors
Honouring ancestors is a special thing to do at this time, and candle ceremonies can work either alone or with loved ones.
You’ll need a supply of small candles, such as tea lights, and a heatproof bowl of sand to put them in. Place one in the centre of the bowl from which the other candles will be lit.
Switch off the lights and allow the darkness to surround you gently. Light the central candle saying:
“We welcome departed loved ones into this home and honour their presence here.”
If you are in a group, allow each person in the circle to remember someone who has passed as they light a candle for each person from the central candle: such as “I remember my grandmother and her kind heart…”
Light as many candles as you wish. When you are ready, give thanks, and allow the candles to burn to completion. You may want to sit and meditate while the candles burn or let them burn while you celebrate your harvest feast as a reminder of loved ones presence during the celebrations.
A Harvest Feast-ival!
Gather loved ones and decorate your dining table with colourful autumn leaves, vegetables and nuts. Enjoy harvested fruits and vegetables to celebrate and draw in the energy of autumn. Think warming pumpkin soup, roasted root veggies with herbs and hot blackberry crumble. Leave out an offering of wine or grape juice for the goddess as a thank you for all of autumn’s abundance.