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© Storm Genevieve Black 2015. All Rights Reserved

Have you ever noticed that you can smell the first day of Autumn. Regardless of what the calendar says, no matter whether you live by the day and smell it first thing in the morning or by night and smell it in the small hours. The musty, damp, earthy small of the autumn will be there. Only for one of two breaths and many people don't even acknowledge it any more. Yet this wonderful earthy smell comes once a year to tell us that this is the first day of autumn wherever we happen to be on the planet. Even here in the tropics, last year in 2016 it fell on the 2nd of March and was followed by a cool autumn evening breeze that had not been felt since the temperature began to rise again on the first of spring. These tiny little signals are what remains of the patterns that our ancestors used to follow. For these are the signals that told them when to harvest which crops. With the light of the day fading and the nights growing steadily longer the harvest brought with it a huge amount of work. To most folk today an acre of land would feel insurmountable if you had to harvest the crops within it by hand. A scythe the only tool at your assistance. Yet our ancestors did this as a matter of course. To keep not only themselves but their families, villages and local communities in food for the following year. They knew that if they did not then they would not have the strength left by spring to plough and sow the fields for the following years crops. Those that farmed livestock would now have begun preparing them for the onset of winter. Housing those that would have been strong enough to survive the harshest months and see the following spring, while sacrificing and preserving those that would not, that they had something to live on and to offer their Gods in return for their favour. To our ancestors a blessing from the Gods would often have concerned the weather and a notification of the timing of the seasonal changes. Yes the smell of the first day of autumn would have been one of those such blessings and I sometimes wonder at the folk who manage to ignore it nowadays. Here in the southern hemisphere today life is not so different from that of our ancestors in the north. The first cut of the harvest will have been made in early February. By the time we smell the change in the season we will be readying ourselves for the majority of the harvest which is carried out at the end or March, in preparation for the Mabon. As witches this is, as always was, a time of sacrifice. To our ancestors this would often have meant a blood sacrifice of livestock. For what more valuable commodity is there to offer a deity than a life. To our earliest ancestors even human life was considered a suitable offering. While we no longer make blood sacrifices, we still make sacrificial offerings of valuable commodities to our deities and other realm beings. At this time of year more than any other. Although as I sit here listening to the large drops of rain finally falling out of the sky and bouncing off the ground outside, I can hear Thor playing with his hammer, and I am grateful that he appreciated the sacrifice we made for him during our Coamhain ritual (pronounced Cow-in) at mid-summer. Even though the Autumn is a season in its own right, to many of our early ancestors the Autumn and the harvest fell into the Summer season in much the same way as it does here in the tropics. Even with its obvious features of shortening days, the fragrant signal of the first day of the seasonal change, and the fact that it also crosses the boundary into the dark half of the year. the last harvest festival is still called Samhain today by many who follow any pagan path. The word Samhain (pronounced: Sow-in) comes from the Irish Celtic and translates to either “Summers end” or “Summers rest”. Interestingly it is worth acknowledging that although modern industries separate the seasons into Autumn-Winter or Spring-Summer, our ancestors  would have grouped the seasons together into Summer-Autumn and Winter-Spring. This would also go some way to explaining why the summers end was a time to celebrate the start of a new year. Again the beginning of the new year is a time of sacrifices. Here at the Covenstead we sacrifice any and all fears and regrets that we have built up over the last year. Often for our initiates this can be quite a long list as many of them will not have done this before. This is an emotional time of year for many of us. The Autumn season being connected with the element of water and in turn with the emotions. Yet even through tears, it is a time for celebration. We may be facing a harsh winter, but the winter is a time of gestation. A time of hibernation and of deep growth, whether on a spiritual or physical path. The summers end brings with it a time for planning and preparation. having left all of your fears behind what will you do with the year ahead?