Friday, September 16, 2011

Never Home for the Harvest

                 Though many of us consider the end of summer to be Labor Day, or even the first day of a new school year, we recognize the true beginning of autumn with the coming of the Equinox.  Fall has always been a time to bring in the crop, so to speak, and plan for winter.  Harvesting what is passed, planning for the future, and celebrating the good fortune of both are central to the Fall Equinox.  We give thanks for the blessings of another season.

                That’s enough of the lesson!  Now for my take on the issue.  The Equinox is about those things, yes, but it’s also about reflecting on the process.  The seed planted last fall slept through the winter to bloom in spring.  Now it is ready to be picked so we may enjoy it.  This same cycle is played out for each of us whether our own patterns of creation are yearly or not.  Some of our plans only take a week or two to manifest, some take months, but the pattern remains the same.  We harvest and we enjoy.  Some of the big harvests (large-scale projects like a new home or the completion of a book) call for parties, sharing the great news with friends and family.  Smaller ones might be shared between a few friends or, in the case of we witches, the coven.  “So, that awful woman at work got fired, eh?  Good job!”  “Let’s have a few drinks and celebrate the wonderful healing work Lucy did for her aunt!”  We should always celebrate happy endings.  That way, we know where they are.

                Reflecting in this way is an important part of the process.  When we begin something, we always know it’s beginning.  When we’re working toward a goal, we know it’s in process.  But when we finish, and do not take the time to recognize it, and only start again on a new goal, it doesn’t feel finished.  We turn the hamster wheel only to see that, with the next step, it needs turning again.  

                This, in a nutshell, is me.  I am forever on one project or another—usually several—and when one is nearing completion; another idea pops up ready to take its place.  It’s somewhat like a relay race—the baton is passed with both parties running like hell.  So I am never done, my work is never done.  There is research work, writing work, spellwork, divination work, recording work, and teaching work…and research work, writing work…   Where one leaves off, another picks up.  

                Most of the time, this unlikely system works for me.  Of course, that’s not to say it doesn’t cause me irritation at times but it’s become so normal that I expect it every time.  Usually people like to strike a balance between work and rest.  This pattern, however, means that the only way to keep balance is through momentum.   

                I doubt that I am alone in this situation.  A lot of people consider witchcraft to be a “hobby.”  Even if the practitioner doesn’t feel that way themselves, others around them will, and expect the same level of free-time from a witch as they would any other person.  But those of us in the magical community know that magic is no hobby and can take a substantial amount of time in its practice and training.  So sometimes the pressure to do more with less time comes from within and sometimes from without.  

                When we come to the Fall Equinox, we’re supposed to be taking stock of all this.  We reenact rituals with heartfelt thanks to the Gods.  We talk about bringing in the harvest and settling in for the calm of winter.  But do we all really do this?  Do I (or anyone like me) do this?  Hell no!  We plan and arrange for the ritual, we bake and cook to make a great feast for everyone, we memorize lines, and we guide others, but we don’t settle in, there simply isn’t time.  Constant progress means that while everyone else celebrates the harvest contentedly, we’re out in the field, either still gathering or putting down a new crop.  And the time that follows this sabbat is only for preparation for the next.  After all, Halloween is the biggest night of the year—there’s a lot to do and not a minute to spare.  We take a moment during the ritual to touch on thankfulness but there’s no time to explore it.

                I suggest that if any of readers are now nodding (or grimacing) to the familiarity of all this, as I certainly am, we all STOP and take a deep breath.  I have the answer.

                We do nothing.  That’s right – nothing.  I’ve tried all different kinds of solutions for this problem – meditating, changing my social patterns, different books, different spells, different everything – and it still persists undaunted.  So now is the unveiling of my new plan – Nothing.  I propose that all we overworked, over-stressed, over-stimulated Pagans take a certain amount of time (no less than a week) and do nothing whatsoever to do with our path nor our practice.  Now, to some, this is counterintuitive, to others, counterrevolutionary.  But it is in fact a healthy part of practice.  Just as the moon has her period of absolute dark (where she decides her “me time” has nothing to do with lighting your evening), so should we too have down-time of calm and rest.  

                I began this method sporadically a few years ago.  It was from an absolute burn-out, and that has been my only use of this “Dark Moon” ever since.  But now I see that it can and should be a regular part of the cycle, not something to be drawn out only when I feel overwhelmed by the expectations of coven, friends, family, self, and clients.  Our Dark Moon can be incredibly relaxing and help us come back even stronger.  During this time I don’t read books on witchcraft/Paganism/the occult at all, nor do I visit websites or talk about it with others; I don’t cast spells, research in any way, plan coven meetings or events, gather components, or even watch movies/documentaries pertaining to these topics.  Nary a charm crosses my lips and my almanac languishes unopened for a week.   For me, that’s a lot.  It turns out to mean a lot, too.

                So, this Equinox, while you’re standing in the circle, reciting your piece and mentally running to-do lists for after the ritual ends, remember to make time for a vacation.  Believe me, you will have plenty of time during it to count your blessings and give thanks for every one.