Autumn marks the time of the year in which people from all walks of life begin harvesting their crops. Many cultures celebrate this time by holding festivals or ceremonies to thank the Gods for granting and protecting their bounty. I was not fortunate enough to be able to plant a garden this year because of my move to Florida but I will discuss my past gardens and how I celebrate and give thanks to the Gods.
Gardening has always been for me a relaxing and spiritual process. In the Fall I till the earth and spread manure on the freshly turned earth then till it again to incorporate all of the nutrients from the manure into the soil. If I’m planting a small garden I do all of this by hand with a pick axe, shovel, and garden rake. If I plan on planting a larger garden I use a rototiller to work the soil. During both of these processes though, I think of my intent while working the soil. My intent is always the same: to plant a healthy and bountiful garden once spring comes. After the earth has been tilled and I am satisfied that I incorporated enough manure, I cover the whole garden with a black tarp in order to eliminate any remaining weeds and to “bake” in the manure so that it becomes one with the soil. The black tarp will act as an oven in the warm Autumn sun.
Once Spring hits I begin starting seeds and planning where I will be placing the seeds/plants in the garden. When I lived in Vermont I had to wait until the danger of frost was gone. Once the danger was gone I would take the tarp off the garden and till it once more to break up all the clumps of nutrient-rich soil. I would then pick out any rocks that I see and begin making rows according to my garden plan which I had drawn out. Then the planting began.
As Spring turned to Summer and Summer began to wind down I would find myself planning what I will do to celebrate the harvest. I am a solitary Pagan so I have never celebrated a Pagan holiday with anyone but myself. So, normally when I begin my first major harvest (August 1st or 2nd) I create an altar with corn husk dolls, dried berries, an offering to the beneficial insects and birds for protecting my garden, and an offering to the Green Man. This is also a time I begin to make different pickles and preserves. I will also make fresh-baked bread and begin the process of making wine from the grapes that I harvest, I go to the forests around my house and forage for wild berries and mushrooms as well.
Harvest for me normally lasts until the end of September and I celebrate the harvest until that time. To wrap up my celebration of the harvest I rope off my pumpkin and squash patch and begin the burning process on the rest of the spent garden. Burning the garden helps revitalize the soil because the ash from the plants contains many nutrients including nitrogen. This also symbolizes death and rebirth because the garden has died and now you are beginning the process to bring it back to life. Honoring the Gods for helping in the growing process of the garden helps me better understand and appreciate the circle of life and how everything is connected.
How do you celebrate the harvest?