The Laden Table

September 26, 2023

This harvest time, I’ve been combing through old photos and posting them to Instagram in little collections and captions that, for me, reflect the spirit of each sabbat. I started with Lughnasadh (or Lughnasa), also called Lammas, which was the first Holy Day that I offered a zoom circle through my Spiral Temple project, back in 2020. I continued that offering for a full turn of the Wheel of the Year (and beyond), and likewise I plan to continue my Instagram project all the way through Summer Solstice (and maybe beyond, to Lughnasadh again and onward).

This kind of cyclical reflection is precisely why we celebrate the Wheel of the Year at all — to access a sense of ritual, of timelessness within the passage of time; to see the seasons of our lives as part of a greater whole; to understand ourselves as organic, as creatures of blood and bone, who belong here on Earth just as a leaf belongs, just as a berry or a rabbit belongs. We belong here on Earth, and the season of harvest in particular reminds us that She loves us very, very much.

As the Year Wheel has spiraled back to Autumn Equinox once more, I’ve been thinking about my musings from last year’s newsletter. In the spirit of cyclical time, I offer them here anew.




I love this time of year so dearly, the sweetness of a still moment between opposites: warmth and cold, light and dark, summer’s activity and winter’s hibernation. ⚖️

A still moment, and yet there is an oddly straightforward hustle and bustle that happens now, that back-to-school adjustment as we re-establish routines that got tossed aside all summer like wet bathing suits and towels.

Yes indeed, with the Autumn Equinox a few days past, the descent to Samhain (and then to Solstice) has officially begun. Can’t you feel it? The darkest part of the year begins… 🦇

And yet:

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

When I was a high school English teacher, I would repeat this line from The Great Gatsby over and over like a mantra as summer vacation was ending. 🍎

Once, I told a classroom full of students that that quotation was why I was a teacher. I don’t really know what I meant by that. Perhaps I was simply referring to my love of books, including Fitzgerald’s, when I myself was a student. 📚

Or perhaps I was referring to the magic of cycles, of seasons… the ritual of welcoming the new freshmen (I sometimes called them “frosh”) and later celebrating the graduating seniors… the pomp & circumstance — god, I loved the pomp & circumstance 🤣 — of words like matriculation (enrolling in the matrix), convocation (a calling together), commencement (a beginning, though it feels like an ending). 👩‍🎓

A beginning, though it feels like an ending. Life starting all over again even as Nature performs its yearly ritual of death, green leaves turning brown and then falling, falling… 🍂

This is the time of year that our European ancestors would be bringing the harvest home — into the kitchen, into barns and granaries, and (more and more over time) into marketplaces. The symbol of this holy day is the cornucopia (literally, “horn of plenty”), and many modern pagan types call the Autumn Equinox “Witches’ Thanksgiving.” Imagine a table laden thick with a bountiful harvest, pumpkins and corn and apples upon apples… I am tickled to think of all my Spooky Season gigs in this way! 🌽🍎🥕

But for today, in this moment, my heart is simply holding the ancient paradox of the Autumn Equinox: celebration of abundance as an acknowledgement of the possibility of scarcity, giving thanks for life as the only logical response to encroaching death. A prayer now instead of a statement: Please, Earth our Mother, let life start all over again when it gets crisp in the fall. Let Persephone’s descent foretell her return: six moons from now, let life start all over at the resurrection of springtime. Let me and my loved ones survive the winter, please let us live. Let us live. 🙏

Equinox: “equal night.” Equal light. Life, death. Balance.

This time of year, you’ll hear a lot of talk about taking stock of your life, the fruits of your choices, and letting go (as trees do) of what no longer serves you, embracing the shadow in this process as well as the light. Indeed, there is much darkness to atone for in this world on fire. Shana tova, and may we do better. 🍂

All of this, all of this.

But for me, there is something simpler coming through, something less about the work of harvesting and more about the harvest itself: the laden table of LIFE at which we are all sitting, RIGHT NOW, so difficult but so beautiful — and none of us had to do a damn thing to “earn” it. All we did was say YES to incarnation, and all you need to do to enjoy the fruits of your mother’s labor (and her mother’s, and her mother’s…) is to say YES right now. 🙌

To all of it, all of it.

Equal day and equal night. Life, death. Balance.

Copyright Kate Sheridan, 2023

Click to read Musings past:

Lughnasadh 2023
Summer Solstice 2023
Bealtaine 2023
Spring Equinox 2023
Imbolg 2023

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