Sunday, September 21, 2014

Embracing The Dark

This piece was originally published in my column, The Magical Gardener, in today's Autumn Equinox edition of the Sunday Stew. Please be sure to head on over and read the entire edition, a fantastic blend of Autumn flavors and nourishment for the soul.

The wheel of the year is turning to autumn and the sunset of the year is upon us. The dark will soon overpower the light. The time of growth and abundance in the garden is waning and the season of darkness will soon blossom to fullness, allowing nature to slumber, to rest for awhile until the light returns. Light and dark, day and night, will briefly and gently balance at Mabon in a delicate dance of life and death before letting go of the vibrancy of youth to make way for the wisdom and decay of old age. We, as witches and as magical gardeners, embrace the coming dark by preparing our gardens to go to their deaths, to slip back beneath the blankets of soil to sleep in the arms of Mother Earth until the next spring when life returns.

Welcoming autumn is also saying goodbye to our plant friends for a while. The process of doing this is a ritual for gardeners and is done with as much love and sympathy as the ritual of saying goodbye to an ailing loved one. We experience the death of the garden through the tasks we perform to prepare it for the cold darkening days. We have been with our gardens through their conception, infancy, adolescence, and adulthood. It is the natural course of life to see them through to their very end, to be with our plants and trees in their final moments, to watch the wheel turning to the end of the year in a final bow of gold, yellow orange and red before the curtain closes. It is time to put the garden’s affairs in order before the end.

The tasks of pruning and raking may seem simple and meaningless but are meditative and allow us the time to say goodbye and to tune into the coming dark. Harvesting the herbs and flowers for drying, we should give thanks to the life of each plant and for the magic and healing it will bring to our lives. Adding leaves to the compost pile is a funeral rite as we bid farewell to the fertile days of the year and turn to embrace the barren season. As garden beds are mulched or cover crops are planted, a blanket of warmth and nourishment is wrapping Mother Earth and all those plants will rest safely deep within the soil until their return in spring.

Autumn is also a time to put our own affairs in order. Time spent working on the final tasks of the garden is also time for contemplation of our own unfinished business. Identify negative thoughts, habits and cycles, the things or people that impede our journeys in this life and cast shadows in it and on those around us. Embrace them in a final goodbye. Write each one to be put to rest or to be released on a fallen autumn leaf and burn them in a fire pit or a bonfire at Mabon. Send them away from you to make way for new growth, new beginnings, and to make way for the returning light.

As gardeners, we often tend to focus on spring and summer, reveling in the growth, but as witches we embrace the dark as we would the light. Both are necessary in order for growth to occur. We celebrate the dark time of our gardens because we know the magic of new life that sleeps in the earth. It is only a few turns of the wheel away. The second harvest has come. It is a time of darkness, a time of endings. It is autumn, Mabon. Embrace the dark.