WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT the Earth Goddess, you probably think of bunny rabbits, spring fever, green meadows and abundant fertility. While yes, Spring is lovely, feminine and indeed fertile time of the year, Autumn belongs just as much to the Earth Goddess and if you know where to look, you'll see she's been here all along.
One of the very best teachers I ever had was my second grade teacher, Mrs. Fletcher. We are still in touch today, nearly 30 years later, and when my first son was born she gave him his very first book. I love this woman. And now, when I look back at our year together when I was just 7-years old, I suspect she might be a little witchy. Which, of course, makes me love her even more.
Mrs. Fletcher taught us how to bake homemade bread. And while the bread was baking in the school's kitchen, she taught us how to make homemade butter. And boy, did she know how to teach us how to celebrate the seasons. She wrote letters to each of us under the guise of elves who were looking for four-leafed clovers around the start of Spring. The elves were supposedly living in the ceiling above our classroom and each student had a different elf assigned to them as a pen pal for a week. We were encouraged to get outside and look for four leaf cloves to help the elves out. Just before Halloween she read Miss Nelson is Missing! And the next day came to school dressed as Ms. Viola Swamp and stayed in character the entire day! I'm seriously tearing up thinking about this woman and her magic as a teacher.
Mrs. Fletcher read the entire Little House on the Prairie books to us (that's probably where the homemade bread and butter lesson came in) and then she took all 20+ of us to her house for an overnight field trip. We roasted marshmallows on the wood stove, we looked for fossils on her hillside and watched her husband milk the cows in the morning. Something each and every one of us remembers, it was even brought up at our 10-year high school reunion in 2010, is that that overnight slumber party was the first and only time we ever saw Mrs. Fletcher with her hair down. To this day, she still wears her hair in her signature bun, but on that night in 1987, her hair was down. It was impossibly long, past her waist, and she was wearing an old fashioned long white nightgown. She was beautiful. Magical. And although we knew we were completely loved by her (and we loved her in return), she was also still Mysterious. She was, and remains, my kind of woman.
I want you to understand that our ancestors are not just our blood. Our ancestors are people who were influential in our lives. Our ancestors are mentors and teachers we admire and emulate, even if we never met them in life or in person. Mrs. Fletcher is most definitely my ancestor and I am one lucky woman to be able to say so.
Bobbing for Apples and the Goddess
I tell you all of this because I cannot think of Autumn without thinking of Mrs. Fletcher. Blame it on my impressionable age when she was my second grade teacher, or blame it on her extraordinary teaching methods. It's probably a bit of both. Anyhow, that Autumn in 1989 she took us on a field trip to an apple orchard and later she cut an apple in half, around the middle, and showed us that when you cut an apple like that, it made a star. This blew my mind and only proved to me that she was magic.
Today, I invite you to cut an apple in half, around the middle, and see the pentacle for yourself. The pentacle is an ancient symbol of Earth, which is still represent in suit of pentacles in tarot, and is a powerful sign of protection. It is also the sacred symbol of the Celtic death goddess, Morgan, and many others, I'm sure. The apple is also a an ancient symbol of, and gift from, the Goddess. Cultures all over the world are ripe with stories about goddesses and apples. Apples of life, apples of death. Although the Bible only mentions that Eve gave Adam a "fruit" we all know it was an apple. Why? How do we know that?
Because this wisdom is in our bones.
The Thinning of the Veil and Divination
Because the veil between the worlds is thinner now, it is thought to be an ideal time to do divination. You are closer to your ancestors, and they to you, and so it's thought that any divination you will do around this time of year will be more accurate.
All of the traditions we have discussed this week: Halloween, Day of the Dead, Samhain, All Soul's Day, were/are a way to honor the season of death while hoping for (and asking for) a return of the season of life. Remember, it's only in very recent human history that surviving the winter is all but guaranteed. Even in the time of our grandmothers, and certainly our great-grandmothers, winter was a time of uncertainty. The only certainty was that some of the people with whom you were feasting and celebrating the harvest, would be dead before spring. Including yourself. Illness. Cold. Starvation. Exposure. It was coming. So dance. Eat up. Honor your ancestors because you might be seeing them soon (among other reasons), revel and keep your eyes and spirits on the promises of Spring.
One of the best things to look forward to in spring, besides the return of warm weather and abundant food, was fertility. We as humans are obsessed with becoming ancestors, while we are conscious of it or not. So much of the divination that took place in Autumn centered around predicting marriages and other fertility-based endeavours for the Spring.
There is a tradition on Halloween to bob for apples. You fill a large bucket with water, fill it with apples (which bob, or float, on the water) and participants take turns trying to grab an apple with only their mouths-- hands are tied behind their backs. It's easier said than done. An alternative on this game involves hanging apples from various lengths of string and trying to bite into the swinging apple with your hands tied behind your back. Today, the first person to bite into an apple wins. However, historically, the apples would be discreetly marked by every unmarried and eligible young woman. Unmarried and eligible men would bob for the apples and the apple they picked foretold a possible marriage, to the girl who marked the apple, in the spring. Alternatively, young folk would bob an apple and then carefully peel it in one long strand and then throw the apple peel over their shoulders. The fallen apple peel would then be examined to see what letter or letters it was in the shape of and possible love matches would be narrowed down according to the first letter of their names and the letter(s) the apple peels were in the shape of. Girls would also cut an apple in half, to reveal the pentacle, and then sleep with it under their pillow and expect to dream about their future husband.
Tomorrow, finally find out what's up with black cats, witches and other symbols of the Dark Goddess.
Have fun storming the castle!