October beauty and magic.
October brings shorter days, longer nights and a soft chill creeps onto the wind. I begin to search for warm layers of deep reds and browns and concoct warming fireside brews.
The breeze whispers death, the earth smells of rich decay and the beings all around are dying, preparing to sleep, to dream and rest. There are signs of letting go everywhere I look. The leaves turn into yellows, browns and reds and are thrown onto the wind to dance a beautiful dance before feeding the earth below and around the roots of the soon to be slumbering tree, making nourishment for the seeds to come.
Plants are putting their energy and magic into their roots.
This is the time to use and eat the bone like roots of the earth. Eating that which comes from the darkness, eating that which has not seen the light, eating that which is of the earth where all our bones will return.
This is the time to dig up the bone like roots of Dandelion, Burdock and Nettle and to receive their nourishment.
Winter and death are stirring in everyone’s bones and it seems only the human species struggle with the feeling that lies in the air of letting go, of resting, of allowing a part of themselves to die and repair.
Working day in day out in the same environment, often eating the same foods and sitting under electric lights people forget that they are animals, they are beings of this earth.
People struggle at this time of year as they ignore their bodies yearning for more sleep and darker times. People struggle with the need to let go and shed what is no longer needed within their lives. People are given Halloween sweets and gorge on sugar and wonder why their immune system can not fight off bugs. This should be a time of drawing in the medicine, feeding the body with what it needs with nourishing infusions, good healthy food and rest.
If you look around you will see the earth is having a last love affair above the ground, a wonderful departing farewell of kisses to bees, medicine to animals and colour to the eyes. If you know how to use this medicine, how to see it and feel it you will become richer and more rested for the winter.
The last harvest is upon us, sweet chestnuts are strewn across forest pathways cocooned in their spiky jackets that squirrels can manage with expert fingers and noses. Conkers reddy and beautiful fill children’s pockets on walks through parks and countryside, hazelnuts and acorns are there to be gathered and turned into wonderful potions. Hawthorn berries red like drops of blood still hold on to thorny branches, giving strong yet gentle heart medicine for the winter months. Rose-hips soft and shiny, sloes deep and dark. New growth of greens have pushed out of the earth, Nettles in abundance which will strengthen and enliven many a lagging winter soul. Roses are opening themselves to tenderly kiss the bees one more time, calendula and dandelions are shining big yellow faces up at the Autumn sun so they can sleep remembering the warmth to come.
As I walk through the forest, my garden, next to hedgerows or the meadow I can see brown seed heads of Yarrow, Wild Carrot, Ox-Eye Daisy, Mallow, Nettle, Fennel and many more.
Once I would have looked upon those brown heads and thought of them as ugly dead plants forgetting that held within are the treasures of next year. The strength the medicine and the food of the lightening days. Now I smile when I see them excited for next year, excited at the hope and the possibilities that will come along with planning medicines and new recipes in my heart and head.
A tree that is linked closely with this time is the beautiful and powerful Elder tree. Which is known as the witches tree and the wise woman elder of the woods, this tree represents the crone, the wise one and the voice of the ancient feminine.
This tree is also known as the tree of regeneration due to its ability of growing easily from broken limbs and so this tree mirrors what is happening at this time of year. From death brings new life, new growth and new wisdom. From death is birth and from birth is death.
Elder is the gateway of endings and beginnings and greatly honoured was this tree along with the wise old woman of the village or the elder of the tribe.
But as christian authority took hold this tree was made into a sign of bad luck and seen as an evil omen as was the wisdom of the crone. Many people now believe it is a curse to have Elder growing near them and are often scared of the idea of old wise witches and strong older women.
Whereas once the elder wise woman could heal many, she was most often a witch, a healer, a herbalist, a midwife/doula of the community. They were the link and the thread that tied and rooted people to their natural environment, to the land around them. Christian authority spurned and cast out the idea of the wise feminine crone and spread word of evil hags, death and satan worshipers. The persecution, torture and murder of millions happened because of their beliefs, their wisdom and their connection. And so people feared the elder, the wise one, death, letting go and everything that represented it.
This time of year was originally a time to honour that which has died or is dying. Before Halloween the ancient festival named Samhain was celebrated and honoured. This was an incredibly sacred time of fire and holding in sacredness the end and the beginning of all things. A time to give thanks to all of those who have been before us and all those who will come after.
These dead who have left us, our ancestors who are no longer with us are medicine for our souls, we learn from them and grow from them. We came from them and we go to where they have gone. They are the fertile ground, the compost, the dead seed heads and rotting leaves.
It is a time not to fear the dead but to celebrate them, to honour the beauty and strength and gifts that their blood has given, the life force that is within us was within them.
Later people believed that the spirits roamed the pathways and lights were lit and soul cakes made and left on the doorsteps to feed the dead and light their way back to their own realm. People started to dress up and knock on doors for soul cakes and each soul cake given would receive a song.
The whole festival of Samhain became demonised and people were taught of evil hags, ghouls and ghosts. And now people do not seem to be able to give themselves time to remember their ancestors and honour lost children, parents and family members and to also honour or give space to the many deaths and lettings go that each person has within them.
This time is a good time to remember to face the deaths you experience with love and space in which to heal. To honour and make room for grieving. Death inner and outer can be hard but if you can hold it in love rather than fear it can be a whole lot easier.
This time which is seen as the threshold time teaches that you can never know what is beyond or round the corner but the little signs of old seed heads are a beautiful reminder that new beginnings bring much medicine and needed growth.
Find a little space for yourself in this month to love yourself and to honour the times of death and personal growth you have been through and achieved. Take time to honour the passing of a loved one that made a mark on your life and the strength within you that keeps you sowing seeds for the bright days to come. Light a fire or candle to remind you of the fire within yourself, the life force you still hold and the reminder that you have strength, power and beauty within you, that you have been through much, that you will go through much, and that you will receive many gifts along the way.
Pictures by my beloved Jon Howell. Email- firstname.lastname@example.org