Spiritual Ecology of Autumn and Death XIII
I love this time of year. This season I tend to visit temperate bioregions, whether in my birth town in Upstate NY or at my home in Le Marche, Italy. Though I love my tropical living and have called it home the past 15 years, I still feel a longing for this specific seasonal shift.
The ecology of Autumn is a special time, it brings us to a place of reflection that is particularly bitter sweet. The stark beauty of the vibrant leaves in their slow death cycle after engaging in the sweaty sweetness of Summer where their sugars are high and the air scorching, the plants do all they can to protect themselves and the soil, now they get their time of rest.
Autumn, The Erotic
In Autumn the energy is physically and energetically descending, from the crown to the ground, the soil, the receptive vessel of the Goddess Gaia receives the gentle touch as the teasing caresses of the long distance lover returned. The Earth, staring up the canopy of vibrant leaves, expectant as one awaiting to be enveloped in the arms of the one they adore, begging to be covered in light kisses. As the leaves fall, so see the trees take a sigh, the winds rushing through exposed branches, crisp and naked, stripped of their robe, the beloved wet under the fresh crisp covers. Together, rejoicing in the reunion, the leaves feed the roots, the kundalini energy descends into the mystery of the great below. The cycle seemingly ending will once again ascend to the escstacy of the mystery above, the dewey shine of the morning after. But not until after the time of great and needed sleep. The period of silence, of blinding light and shadow, the feeling of comfort and ease proceeding le petit morte, when roots intwine, legs entangled under the cover of night.
Autumn, A Time for Death
Autumn is a time of reflection as we take these months to acknowledge our needed cycles of Death. Not a cell lives in your body that doesn’t need to die. Not a leaf on a tree will be green forever. Not an identity well guarded that doesn’t need to be regularly shaken up and shed away. Capitalism tells us we cannot rest, that productivity needs to be constant. Our biorhythms tell us the opposite. The internal clock, linked to our pineal, pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands say otherwise. They prepare for a cycle of rest and regeneration. They welcome the rich warm foods of the cooling months. Your super market is still selling strawberries, watermelons and summer greens, shipped in from far away places but your body is confused by the artificial light in your living room, while the evenings darken. It is a time to die, a time to retreat, a time to quiet. Your nervous system needs this.
The falling of the leaves gives home to the countless, protecting the vulnerable, sheltering those awaiting their time to come. Building the soil, retaining water and creating critical habitat for overwintering animals like frogs, toads, insects and larvae as well as providing carbon as a strata for fungi to thrive on, death gives life Nature breaks down everything back to the essential elements, such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium and so much more, all necessary for new life to take hold and flourish. LEAVE THE LEAVES. If you really can’t stand seeing the leaves in your yard, please do not ever throw them into landfill. Pile them up and cover them with a tarp, in the Spring you will have some great mulch to feed your gardens with.
Oh, those of us who live in the Tropics, I am not forgetting you in these musings. We feel this impact every day, the evergreen on the jungle continuously grows and sheds. With the severity of the decay process is so present, just take a look at your bookshelf this time of year! The humidity breeds decay and supports new life, we often have to find ways to protect our bodies and our things this time of year, constantly rearranging, taking advantage of the sunbeams when they pierce through the clouds. Yet, the plants are booming, growing at rates hard to manage, we just have to surrender to the process, waiting for the dry season to come, when the boom takes a break and we can get down to maintaining our selves and our gardens. We feel Autumn in different ways, listening to the inner rhythms of our own bodies and that of the individual plants.
Death XIII, Scorpio Season, Mid Autumn
While this card tends to scare those who are not familiar with its multi layered meaning, it is nonetheless a card of assurance. It is the night before sunrise, it is the apoptosis of your cells, it is the shedding of hair and skin, it is the hours of deep sleep, the passing of a grandparent and the birth of a child. It is the vital force of the food on your plate animating your body.
Often we see the imagery of Death XIII with a grim reaper, or a skeleton horseman, sometimes we see the abyss robed in white holding a rose. Death is scary, it is one of the greatest mysteries and a rite of passage that we all will experience at least once in our lives. Death is the end and the beginning, it is the reminder of our impermanence and our immortality.
When the Death card shows up in a reading, remember this is not an omen of sickness nor ill fate but one of great change to come. There may be a mourning process in all this, but it is a time also for celebration. Remember that it is ok to grieve the death, for grieving is a celebration of love. When we can love fully, anything is possible.
Dead Tree Standing
In the ecosystem Death is always present. This card is the essence of Natural Law and the Sacred Balance. Some of the most important tress are the dead ones still standing. Snags or Wild Life Trees as they are referred to in English are trees that are no longer alive but are still tethered to the earth by the roots. The softening wood is home to numerous insects and larvae, birds, small mammals, reptiles, and fungi. Birds in particular make Snags their home, with soft, comfortable and sheltered nests for their young within the hollowed trunk and branches. Micro and macro fauna indulge in the feeding ground of the inner and outer bark. These trees house primary decomposing fungi, mosses and lichens that make nutrients bioavailable for other organisms to take into their bodies when they eventually fall to the forest floor. Please do not fell these trees unless they cause a risk to power lines or your roof.
Rituals for Death XIII
Many folks love burning things. Writing their wishes, dreams and desires and giving them to the flames to be sparked into creation, or burning way what we feel no longer serves us.
Instead, this season, let’s honor the return to Soil. I encourage you to go find a leaf, may it be a leaf of paper or a leaf fallen from a tree. On this leaf, write or draw what you wish to feed to the compost process of the soil. What do you want to metamorph, transform, or recreate? Let this be a spell that takes time, as the hummus layer takes weeks to months to form, this is a pact with yourself that you will incubate over the next months. When you have imbedded your intentions, wishes, goals, dreams into the leaf, take it outdoors. Under the light of the moon or at the sun’s set, bury it under the leaf litter, sending it to the lower layers of the hummus to be taken into the bodies of the unseen forces that create life. As you bury your leaf, ask the Earth to receive you as a lover, the Waters to quench the thirst of your desires, the cool Air of Autumn to blow away your worry and for the dimming Fire of the Sun to stay lit in your heart. In this process tell your loved ones past of your wishes and intentions, ask them to support you in the ways they never had, raise your face to the sky and ask the Great Mystery to bless you in all the ways you do not yet know, and give yourself a hug, to all that you are within, the gift of your life, the grace of your heart, the brilliance of your mind and the sensuousness of your body. As you walk away from your leaf, only look straight ahead and take all the steps toward the creation of your prayer.