Sunday, September 12, 2021

Autumn is coming, and I couldn't be happier.

This weekend was the Fiesta de Santa Fe: a celebration of my adopted hometown's creation myth, if you will. Last weekend's annual burning of Zozobra -- Old Man Gloom, a giant marionette stuffed with memories and things that people would just as soon get rid of -- sort of cleared the decks of bad stuff so that everyone could celebrate the Fiesta with a light heart. 

Copyright Lynne Cantwell 2021

The Fiesta itself is a three-day fair centered on the historic plaza. There are food stalls, craft booths, dance performances, and music by local bands. There's also a pageant associated with the event: one local man with Hispanic heritage is cast as Don Diego de Vargas, the general who led Spanish troops (including more than a few Mexicans, but anyway) to the "peaceful" reoccupation of Santa Fe in 1692 (twelve years after the Pueblo Indians ran the Spanish out). A local woman with Hispanic heritage is chosen to be La Reina -- the Queen. And a Native Princess is chosen from amongst the nearby Pueblo Indians. Part of the story involves parading a statue of Mary, dubbed La Conquistadora, to and from the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Fe.

I guess there's usually more than one parade, but the parades were canceled this year due to the pandemic. Last year, the whole Fiesta was canceled; Zozobra burned in 2020, but I didn't realize it was supposed to be the kickoff event for the Fiesta until this year.

Anyway, my point is that Fiesta feels kind of like a New Year's celebration: leaving all the bad stuff behind in the old year and starting the new year with a party. In fact, I read a quote somewhere this past week from a longtime Santa Fe resident who said she feels that way -- that Fiesta is the city's own New Year.

For me, September has been a month for fresh starts nearly all my life. The new school year always started right after Labor Day. And way back when, the TV networks' new seasons began in September, too. The air would turn crisp and the leaves would don brilliant colors before they dropped. I loved it. Autumn is still my favorite season.

Which creates a bit of a conundrum for me as a Pagan, because a whole lot of us think of Samhain -- Halloween -- as the start of the new year.

The Wheel of the Year is based on the Iron Age agricultural cycle in the British Isles. That's always been troubling in North America because almost nowhere here has a comparable climate. Lughnasadh, in early August, is known as the First Harvest, which is a bit of a head-scratcher for those of us who have been picking tomatoes and berries all summer. And Imbolc, in early February, is supposed to be a dairy festival, when ewes give birth and their milk comes in -- but the weather is too harsh in our northern states to even hint at spring then. Snowdrops blooming? When the snow is still a couple of feet deep? Yeah, no. And the disconnection will only get worse with climate change. 

About the only things that do equate are the solstices and equinoxes. Daylight hours still begin to increase at the winter solstice and begin to decrease again at the summer solstice, and the spring and autumn equinoxes are still the points of balance, when the day is half light and half dark.

For those of us who aren't beach lovers or who live in places where summer is miserably hot and sticky, the cooler weather that autumn brings is a blessing. And too, some of us simply love the dark.

Druid priest John Beckett has made a persuasive argument for celebrating the autumn equinox as "the triumph of the dark." Instead of being sad that the light is fading, he suggests looking forward to the dark half of the year and the advantages that darkness brings. 

Since fall is my favorite season anyway, I'm on board. My "gloom" of the past year has already gone up in smoke with Zozobra. Come September 22nd, I'll smile as I  observe the sunset and be glad that the season is turning at last.


These moments of celebratory blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Get vaxxed!

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