Archive for 2 August 2021

31 Days of Lunasa: Day 2 — “The Country of Autumn”



As with the other “Great Eight” days of the Druid (and wider Pagan) calendar, I find the festivals are more whole seasons than individual days. While a full or new or dark moon is an obvious time-marker, for the rest of the month, time-keeping often isn’t exact. Our modern time sense that seems to require us to celebrate “on the day” can miss the larger energies of the season.

In this, I know I’ve been influenced by Caitlin Matthews and her Celtic Devotional, which also supplied the title for this post: “As you travel through the country of Autumn, relate your spiritual journey to the rich gifts available at this time” (pg. 97).

Of course, early August isn’t autumn yet in many ways. It’s still “high summer” with days of heat and languor and vacation for children and teachers before school resumes. But this country of a season, with its borders and boundaries different from its interior or far realms, still announces autumn with its first harvests, its shortening daylight hours, its subtly altered and shifting rhythms.

My go-to magical tree, our front-yard guardian Rowan, already has reddening berries, though the overcast sky dulls their hues. And as if to announce the season, I recently received from New Hampshire Druid friends a lovely personalized gift of a leather offering-pouch, crafted by AODA archdruid Dana Driscoll, featuring “my” Rowan in full red-berry mode. The Rowan dons its spring-in-autumn guise, having something to say in all its seasons, whether or not I’m listening.

Relate your spiritual journey to the gifts of the season. Wise counsel. I find as I age I need to resist a tendency to veer off on curmudgeonly tangents, defaulting to wry cynicism. The gifts of the season ARE my spiritual journey, and vice versa. A friend on an Old English site I moderate posted an excerpt from the Old English Herbarium on betony, which advises us to harvest it in August: þus þu hi niman scealt on Agustes monþe butan iserne “thus thou shalt take (or harvest) it in the month of August without iron”. Magical instruction, to forgo that metal hateful to the realms of otherkin? No knives, in other words. Harvest by hand.

You can usually wring both instruction and a laugh from the old herbals. The London herbalist John Gerard noted in 1597 that betony “maketh a man to pisse well” — a diuretic, if you need one. But the Herbarium is more to the point, suggesting different preparations for a range of ailments and maladies: Wiþ egene dymnesse genim þære ylcan wyrte … “against the dimness of the eyes, take that same herb …” How has my vision dimmed, or what afflicts my sight? Culpeper’s The English Physician, later named the Complete Herbal, ascribes substantial powers to the herb: “it preserves the liver and bodies of men from the danger of epidemical diseases, and from witchcraft also” and “this is a precious herb, well worth keeping in your house”. I’m not looking to betony for a physical panacea, but the spirit of betony may well be a potent ally to explore. Use your powers of discrimination, my guides whisper to me.

Yesterday, water: the image of the waterfall. Today, vision, across the elemental circle, from west to east, and air, intellectual activity and acuity. Is tomorrow north, or should I be particularly attentive to images of earth, the body, groundedness? Or let them come of themselves, if they will.

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