September’s equinox marks the dawn of our most haunted season, and so begins our subtle longing for hearth fires and cooler winds. Marking the transition from summer to autumn with simple ceremony awakens our ancestral kinship with nature’s rhythms, with that sacred and holy wild to which we belong. Such rituals need not be elaborate events that overburden an already cluttered schedule; quite conversely, our rituals should allow for the quiet, the ethereal, and the spacious to seep into our busy, screen-driven days. Our rituals should enliven our innate wildness by giving it room to move, to dance, and to alchemize all that is stagnant and stuck within those forward-thinking and past-dwelling psyches of ours. Our rituals should be simple, and the wild within us craves practical magick and accessible ceremony.
Micro-Rituals and Everyday Earth Magick
During autumn, the wild feminine within all of us begins shifting from the Mother archetype toward that of the Crone. Our inner mothers, fully enlivened during the summer months, thirst for connection, relish opportunities to create, and are often engaged with community and activism. The autumnal equinox stirs the inner hag, that aspect of our psyches that desires solitude, that seeks out divinity and the answers to the cosmic mysteries, and that honors the eternal cycle of life-death-life. Any act, however seemingly small, that speaks to nature’s movement from light toward dark, from waxing to waning, can be a ceremonial celebration of the wild within. The choice to pause and look westward to the setting sun, the momentary glance upward to the reddening leaves and increasingly barren branches, the lighting of a candle at moonrise . . . any and all of these are unplanned rituals in the moment, impromptu but sacred nods to the season of the witch.
The Ancestral Altar
At no other time of year are we more called to honor those who came before us. Our beloved friends and family in spirit, those ancient ancestors we have never met in this life, and those spectral guides we know walk among us in more subtly vibrating shapes — whether we call them angels, faeries, or otherwise — all deserve to be honored during this time when the veil between worlds is at its thinnest. Find a place in your home, preferably a place that will be regularly seen if only by you, to build an ancestral altar. Place photographs of your loved ones who have crossed over along with symbols and objects that speak to the traditions of your people. Layer it with mementos from nature that highlight the waning aspect of the life cycle; these might be bones, dried flowers, or any other totem from nature that says, “I was here for a time, and that time has passed for now.” On your altar, place a dark-colored candle. Light this candle on the new and full moons between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice, whispering some short and spontaneous words of gratitude, pausing for a moment to remember those who have gone before you, who taught you much about love, loss, and the sacred.
The Silent Supper
The three moons of autumn — the harvest, blood, and ancestors moons — are twenty-nine day cycles when there is much magick afoot. If you are able, choose an evening beneath one of these full or waning moons to host a “silent supper”; this is a ritual of ancestral communion, feasting, and storytelling. Invite just a few of your friends and ask them all to bring a “guest” who has crossed over, and to make that guest’s favorite dish. Set places at the table for the dead as well as the living, play the dead guests’ favorite music and eat without speaking, then, when the meal is finished, share your favorite stories of their wisdom, their rebellion, and their glory.
On these darker days, be sure to invite some joy into your world. Our rituals need not be somber ordeals that deplete our energy, time, money, or other resources. Welcome this autumn with as much laughter as grace, and leave room for many unexpected blessings during this wild harvest season.
Give Me a Death Ritual
The following is an excerpt from my book The Holy Wild: A Heathen Bible for the Untamed Woman.
In lieu of flowers, please send joy and jazz. Forget the somber blubbering, sickening scent of overpriced wreaths, and white pearls on black dresses. Forget the eulogies and verses mumbled by someone I did not know to a God I didn’t believe in. Forget brass handles on a wooden box, and, for the love of all things wild and holy, forget the halfhearted hymns sung by those attending only out of duty, checking their watches and busying themselves on their tiny screens while they hum on and on about amazing grace.
Give me a death ritual where only those who really knew me are invited. Give me a death ritual where the brightest colors are worn by the dreamers and the poets, for no one is a mourner at the memorial for the wildest life I have ever lived. If my body is tucked away in a tomb, may a bare-breasted Priestess come to rescue me and carry my stiff bones into the most haunted forest, where my soul is already dancing.
Give me a death ritual where my final freedom is honored, and I will watch it all happen from the shadows like a spectral and stealthy huntress. Let’s forgo the heavy ceremony and talk of what I stood for while my heart was still beating, and my ghost will prance about like a thankful sprite blessing each and every guest with the lightest cobwebbed touch. Leave my stinking body right there, then, so the worms might overtake me, and I will wait for warmer days to be reborn into a softer shape.
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Danielle Dulsky is the author of The Holy Wild and Woman Most Wild. She is an artist, yoga teacher, energy worker, and founder of Living Mandala Yoga teacher training programs. She leads women’s circles, witchcraft workshops, and energy healing trainings and lives in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. Find out more about her online at www.DanielleDulsky.com.
Inspired by the book The Holy Wild: A Heathen Bible for the Untamed Woman. Copyright © 2018 by Danielle Dulsky.