Each season that we enter and cycle through has its own innate medicine and when we can connect into the subtlety of that season and its particular character, we can receive the different medicine that it is bringing to us. Here in the Northern hemisphere we’ve begun that transition into Autumn and eventually into Winter. This is a time when the trees turn, the light wanes and we begin that tip into the corner of the year known as the West. Each of the four cardinal directions have their own innate power and essence and when we align ourselves fully with each season and the direction that season is pointing towards we can then experience so much healing. Our ancestors used to work with the changing of the seasons, the map of the skies and with the phases of the moon so there is something very primal and very instinctual for humans to do this, however we’ve lost that connection due to the modernization of our daily lives.
For me, there is something pretty alluring about the West in particular. Although I’m a summer girl at heart with my love of flowing gowns and dresses, bare feet and warm breezes; Autumn is actually my favourite time of year. As our planet shifts to the West and tumbles into stillness and into darkness, I begin to tap into a more mystical state of mind. This is the season of the witch, the mystic or wise hermit within all of us. It is a time of deep reflection, quietude and the thinning of the veil between our physical world and the other world or as Jung described as the psyche. We are more inclined to sit in a quiet place to read a book by the fire on our days off, than we would in the summer. It is here we sit, think, feel, wonder, journal and contemplate all that’s been and what’s to come. Its about slowing down, or as the Danish call it “Hygge” which is why our consumerist culture of keeping us busy for Christmas is totally out of sync with our biorhythms.
Different traditions and cultures have varying views or ways of seeing the West. In Chinese medicine the movement towards the West was considered to be tantamount to movement towards enlightenment. For the ancient Celts the West was where the other world lived. For ancient Egyptians the West was the portal into the afterlife and when we look at a lot of contemporary American literature about the West, the West is really this place of freedom, adventure and potential. So if we look at all these interpretations which is just a small smattering of ways in which many different cultures view the West, we see that there is some general themes and categories that come up when we think about this particular time of year and specific direction.
Autumn as a time of year when literally the sun sets on the growing season which gives us a visual journey into letting go, death and lifting the veil of the underworld. This is a time where our emotions explore freedom of letting go or the way beyond death. So in Autumn, particularly in the Northern hemisphere, life dies back. The trees begin to lose their leaves, plants return to the roots, and there is this feeling of freedom and of slumber as the earth begins to let go of its finery. Therefore for us there is this invitation to let go of the things you’ve been carrying, perhaps even let go of the things you’ve been growing. Its time to simply release it and rest.
In regards to this way of thinking, the direction of the West was often associated with this idea of the ‘Way beyond death’, that even though the world around us is dying, or the sun is going down; that life continues and that there actually is this life after death. So there is this idea of seeing the deaths in your life and then understanding that there is life that is actually coming out of that experience of death and Autumn is all about embracing this. For me, after the death of my long term relationship, I’ve realized a new me is being born and that new plans of action are being seeded in time for Spring so that new aspects of my life may grow.
Tantamount to this is the idea of reaping the harvest. So traditionally this is the time of the year which all the harvesting happens, you’ve grown many different plants, foods, grains for storage and this is the time when you harvest them and put the gardens to rest. So on a metaphoric level its a beautiful time of the year to ask yourself what is ready to be harvested? What have I worked on that’s ready to be put in fruition or ready to be put on a shelf to be put in storage for later? For me, I am ready to put studies on Mental Health to rest. I have one last short course to do before the New Year comes about and then that knowledge can be put away in storage until Next September when I begin a level 3 in Counseling Skills. What have I worked on that is ready to be put into fruition? I’ve spent at least five years working in a part time retail job to save money for a small sabbatical, I will be putting my retail job to rest, letting it go to allow fruition of travel to blossom in early Spring. Spring will be a time of new worlds, cultures, yoga teacher training and wanderlust! The hard work is done, I will rest over deep Winter months and I will reap what I’ve sown in the form of visiting Bali and neighboring countries for about four or more months next year.
This is a time where you can also think about what connections you have? What is ready to die and what is ready to transform? For me my time in Plymouth Devon is ready to die away, as are old patterns of co-dependence too. Over the eight years with my partner I was very reliant on him to the point where it knocked my confidence in my own independence but recently someone asked me to share ideas for their women’s circle that they are creating and I politely declined saying I want to take the lead to create and facilitate my own, I do not want to be co-dependent on anyone anymore, so in a sense I am ready to transform from being a little sidekick to being a leader and this is a massive epiphany for me.
This is a time in peoples lives where we look at everything and make decisions. Is it time to continue things on? Or has it reached the end of this particular life path? This process of understanding what’s working for you and what isn’t, is an important step in preparing to enter the womb of Winter. In Winter its when we get very very quiet, its time of year known for communicating with the ancestors, really going deep into internal reflection and self awareness. So the direction of the West and Autumn is a time to prepare to enter that womb space. Snuggling and curling up like a fetus by the fire to read a good book to keep warm and keep out the cold. Eating soups and broths or herbal teas to warm the body on chilly nights and wearing layers of warm clothing to keep our womb space-our core selves nice and toasty. Men do not have a womb but like women they also enjoy placing a hot water bottle on their bellies and we all wear thermal socks on the soles (souls) of our feet; the feet connect with the womb of mother earth on a daily basis. So you see everything is linked and this is a time of year where its almost as if we are preparing to be in gestation to birth a new life.
So imagine you are at the end of your life and you’re doing a bit of a life review, only in this instance you are doing a life review of this past year, or maybe where you are so far in your life. So, doing this review you are actually preparing the way for yourself to go into the cocoon of Winter and reemerge again in the Spring.
In Celtic lore the West is also associated with this idea of journeying or vision seeking; going on this odyssey and becoming the seer and seeker- it has a very mystical quality to it. Oftentimes we think about this Western journey, as the journey of knowledge, of esoteric awareness and really seeking out ones destiny, ones life path and you could say that this is the area of the wheel of the year that represents the hero or heroine’s journey. So this might be a time of the year in which you feel called to physically journey, whether that’s making a weekend pilgrimage to your favourite place in nature or a site you find special, or planning something a little bit longer. For me, by the end of November I am taking a physical journey back to the North West of England to temporarily live with my mum, the removal date for me and my things is on the 29th which is a beautiful crossroads between Autumn and Winter.
Ultimately if we look at the mythology surrounding this time of the year and this direction in particular, the journeying is mostly about this inner seeking, and this idea to connect with journeying with the invisible world.
Its no coincidence that this time of the year was revered by many cultures as a time in which you could communicate with the ancestors and the veils between worlds became thin. Whether we’re looking at day of the dead celebration, Samhain (pronounced sow-hen) or other celebrations throughout the world. It is the journey of the goddess Persphone walking into the underworld to discover who she really is.
This is a time of scholarship through inner knowledge and other forms of knowing. For those of us on a typical school year, this is when school starts again so it makes sense to associate this time of the year with learning, study and self development. For me I want to take time out from career orientated learning of mental health and counseling to focus on self development and creativity. It has been a long time since I’ve worked on my art practice and at the root of all of me is my art, the gift of art came to me at six years old and it has been the foundation for everything I do in my life now, being creative is the back bone to how I live my life. Therefore I want to get back into it and develop a new skill so I am enrolling on a Botanical Illustration self development course, purely to learn for enjoyment and to add to my portfolio which has been collecting dust for six years.
This is not just a time to get back into book learning, its a time to really concentrate on your thirst for knowledge and deeper practices of self awareness and self seeking. To me this botanical illustration course literally takes me back to my roots and offers me some quiet time of self seeking as a form of art therapy.
One way to be self aware is to ask yourself “What do I want my life to look like?” Because we’re on this interesting tip right now of letting go, purging what is unnecessary, taking stock, letting things die; its an important time for visioning, So maybe start a journal? Journalling is a great way of developing skills in self reflection and I know my journal will be covered in a variety of illustrations too. I know that within the next six months I want my life to feel exotic, to be a traveling English teacher, Yoga teacher and Artist. I see myself very clearly in Bali, renting a cute little villa, teaching English online to financially support myself, attending a yoga teacher training and spending my free time creating illustrations for my botanical illustration course. Within the next year I believe I’ll be back in the UK, studying a level 3 in counseling skills and developing my yoga classes and women’s circles. I see myself moving from Blackpool to live elsewhere, perhaps in a city for a short while to make connections and network but ultimately I’d love my own little abode surrounded by trees and perhaps a flowing river, to be the forest witch or wise woman people seek out for lessons in yoga, spirituality, sacred dance and more.
So write down a little perspective of where you’ve been, and then focus on what ideal you would like for your existence to look and feel like. Get as tactile as you can with this. The West is often associated with dreaming or the dream world, so this is a very creative space, its a very liminal time-not summer-not winter, its a time in which we can dream what is to come. Without Spring here yet and without the details in place we can shift around pieces of our life in the dream time, so be clear about what you want to manifest during this time- Ask yourself: what do I want my life to really look like?
The next thing I would suggest is to create some sort of ritual of letting go. We did this in Ibiza for the women’s circle facilitator training, we created a fire ceremony in which we wrote down our pain and traumas, read them aloud to each other before burning them away in the fire. Our teacher recited a prayer for each of us as she smeared the ash on our foreheads as a sign that we are not afraid of our past and that we have let go. It is a truth here on our planet that death feeds life and in order for new life to come in on the tail end of Winter we need to let go because it is important to create that space in order to drop into the newness that wants to come.
Journaling, fire ceremonies and death mounds are all great ways of self reflection and letting go. I also find that there are several herbs and crystals that are really helpful in making this connection to the invisible world also. Perhaps make herbal teas with these herbs and drink the brew as you journal? Add crystals to your altar, bath or death mound as you bury the notes in the ground. Herbs like Ginger, Nettle, Pomegranate and Calendula are all powerful spiritual herbs that will bring healing as well as activate your innate healing abilities of helping you bring death to old patterns. Smokey Quartz and Apache’s Tear are wonderful grounding stones to aid in deep reflection, vision journey’s and letting go of sorrows through crying.
But most importantly it is paramount you create rituals that make sense for you in making these profound inner relationships between yourself and the patterns of the external and inner world around you.
Autumn is a beautiful time of deep inner soul searching, quiet creativity and gestation as, like Persephone, we begin to acknowledge what needs to die away whilst we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there is no fear but deep instinctual knowing of the unknown.
Katie is of Rromany ancestry from her mother’s side & Pictish (Celtic) from her Father’s side; the knowledge of the Tarot, folk spells & Romany Dance has been passed down to her through her Great Aunt (on her Mother’s side) who performed Tea Leaf readings to her Neighbours, she was well loved in her community. Katie’s Aunt Carol labelled herself as a ‘Witch’ and she used the Crystal Ball as her method of Divination. Katie’s Grandfather was a True Rromany, the last in her family, he had the uncanny ability to win on horses and ‘Read’ people. Katie wishes to continue her devotion to her roots & be a constant student of the Tarot which is her preferred method of divination. On her Father’s side the family dates back to an ancient Scottish/Norwegian clan of Picts “The painted ones”. On that side of the family, they are Lucid Dreamers, Katie also studies Dream interpretation. Katie is a practicing hedge-witch and Pagan priestess. She is a Devi circle facilitator and teacher of yoga, belly dance and therapeutic art.