The Spirit of Fall

Sep 23, 12:52 PM

It’s Equinox. A time of balance when the sun is rising and setting over the equator giving the entire world half it’s light. IN a few days the length of sunlight will decrease dramatically until the winter solstice. Our days will become shorter and our nights much longer. What does this mean for us? For our northern ancestors it meant storing food and getting ready for winter. There was worry of famine, storms, and extreme cold so people worked hard to be ready. Because we are our ancestors we can still carry that worry and feeling of dread or foreboding. Some people can suffer depression or anxiety in the fall and winter, perhaps SAD has as much to do with our ancestral memory as it does with our biological reaction to light depletion. And its not that a lot of us don’t have real worries about food and heat in the winter with the cost of living and employment being what they are.

Our ancestors cultivated a strong relationship to helping spirits such as ancestor spirits, animal spirits, faeries and gnomes, house spirits, tree and water spirits and guiding spirits such as goddesses and god like beings. With the companionship and help from all these spirits the worry is lessened and the comfort is strengthened. As well, in the autumn as the nights get longer, the veil between the worlds gets thinner allowing us to have more communication and interaction with these spiritual beings. On Halloween or Samhain purification celebrations took place in order to keep the bad spirits away so that our ancestors could be blessed with only helpful spirits in their lives. They knew that to have a spiritual relationship meant that one gets the good with the bad, so they had rituals to maximize the good and minimize the bad. However there were times when even the bad spirits were recognized and appreciated, such as honouring the demons at the winter solstice. Our ancestors understood that to completely deny and disrespect the forces of chaos and destruction was also asking for trouble. A balance always needed to be kept.

Another antidote to fall anxiety and worry is gratitude. Our ancestors also knew that nothing is really ours in this world. Everything is a gift from Spirit be it food, shelter or beauty, health, and success. So offering our gratitude to the spiritual beings who support life was a daily practice. Along with the daily expressions of gratitude were more elaborate rituals of the give away, which is exemplified on our Thanksgiving and Christmas where we give to others what we have, in order to keep the balance.

Sadly, in our secular lives, we often don’t include the spirits of the dead and nature in our festivities, which cuts us off from a dimension of juiciness that could add a lot of joy and colour to our lives. Now the worry isn’t so much about being burned at the stake like it used to be, but more about finding the time. We live such busy distracted lives, it’s hard to take a moment out for a gratitude prayer, although when we do, our lives and the lives of those around us are transformed. I remember years ago in a shamanic circle we were all asked to care for a particular spirit over a period of time, as part of our training. One woman spoke up and said “oh no, not another puppy!” And we all got it. How can we possibly add one more being to our already full lives of care taking. The answer came over time to those of us who attempted the project. We expand. We get bigger so that we can hold more and give more. And that capacity to expand goes beyond our wildest imaginations so there’s no worry of over expansion! I just finished Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche’s memoir “Falling in Love with the World”, where he demonstrates the human’s mind blowing capacity for expansion. This expansion always embodies more love.

So the spirit of the fall, as I have come to see it, is a kind preparation for winter death where we let go of contraction and start to expand deeper and wider into the mystery. The distractions of summer are winding down and the preparations for winter, the true time of wise open emptiness, are beginning. All of a sudden we find ourselves in moments of quiet and space where we can just be. With the darker evenings, there may be less to do. As this happens it may be comforting to know that we are not alone and are surrounded by those that love us even if we don’t see them.