the second harvest. Pagans recognize three harvest festivals in our Wheel of the Year: Lughnasadh, at the beginning of August, for grains mostly; Mabon, at the equinox, for the last of the summer fruits and veggies; and Samhain, at the end of October, for apples and pumpkins and things that go bump in the night.
Well, okay -- we don't often set out deliberately to harvest the things that go bump in the night. But maybe we should. And if you're going to begin, Mabon is the time to do it.
The equinox is all about balance, as you know; we have two each year, and each has an equal number of hours of daylight and darkness. The difference is in the trend. In the spring, we are heading into the lighter half of the year. In the fall, we are heading into the dark.
It's easy to chirp about balance in terms of our personal harvests -- the things we've done in the light. What's not so easy to talk about is the dark side of the equation. That's where the scary stuff is: the parts of our lives we'd rather not think about. Our dark nights of the soul. Time's toll on our lives. Death.
When I say "death," I don't simply mean shuffling off this mortal coil, although that's part of it. Many of my indie author colleagues and I have spent this week mourning a friend and fellow traveler, Rich Meyer, who died unexpectedly earlier this week. Rich was a trivia whiz who wrote and published a bunch of trivia quiz books -- but he was also a top-notch e-book formatter who was always willing to help authors with their problem children. He saved my bacon last year while I was in Denver and trying to get a book published. Plus he was hilarious. I miss him.
But physical death isn't the only challenge. I'll be honest -- even though it's been more than a year, I'm still reeling a little from losing that job in Denver. I'm coping; I've been spending time with good friends, and I ticked the last big trip off the bucket list in April when I visited Ireland. But every now and then, I remember, and the memory still feels like a punch in the gut. I suppose it will for a while. Grief is like that.
Time's passage is another one of those Dark Side things, particularly for women. Pagans have this thing about threes, as I've mentioned before, and one way we express it is to split women's lives into thirds: the Maiden years are all about attracting a man; the Mother era is when we bear and raise our children (and sometimes raise our husbands, too, but I digress); and the Crone years are when our looks are fading, but our wisdom and life experiences make us valuable in a new way. Crones have been the victims of bad press for centuries, of course -- see that picture of Baba Yaga above -- so one of the aims of this triplicity is to remind the world at large that older women deserve not derision, but respect.
About five years ago, I suggested to some Pagan women friends that I was thinking about declaring myself a Crone. My 50th birthday had come and gone, my kids were in their 20s, and I felt ready to move on to the next stage of life. My friends were kind of horrified. We were pretty close in age, but none of them felt anywhere near ready -- partly, perhaps, because none of them had had children, but also I think partly because society has us programmed to want to be desirable Maidens forever. (Never mind that Mothers must have sex, too; they don't harvest those babies from a turnip patch. And never mind a chief benefit of Cronehood: birth control measures are unnecessary.)
Anyway, after that, I dropped the idea. Maybe it's time to revisit.
A blessed Mabon to each of you, and may your harvests be bountiful.
These moments of Dark blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.