A Small Contemplation of the First Harvest Season
Six years ago, my sons and I were on what used to be our annual mid-August visit to north Wales, where my best friend lives. This was just under a year before I met my husband, before I would have even imagined having my daughters (I wanted more children, but I didn’t think it was in the stars or on the cards). We – my friend, and me, and our combined children – went for regular walks in a large park local to her house at the time, and I happened to take photos of the landscape, and my boys. And the energy they radiated felt so purely like the month itself, if such a thing is possible.
The Irish pagan festival of Lughnasadh is celebrated on the last day of July or the first of August, depending on your source. Some call it Lammas, which is a lot more English and a bit more Christian… but it’s also ok if it’s just the beginning of August. Growing up in a village in rural Ohio, our county fair was always at the end of July, and it’s around this time when my grandpa would start bringing vegetables in from his huge garden for canning – all based on the first harvests. Before I knew I was a witch, or understood any specifics about paganism, I was living a somewhat pagan life – because that’s a country upbringing for you (and the word pagan does come from paganus, meaning ‘villager’ or ‘rustic’): whatever the earth is doing, you’re right there with her.
I love it because it’s the perfect blend of the end of summer and very first nudges of autumn after what is always a seemingly endless July – the month starts out with the warm glow of Leo and ends with the abundance of earthy Virgo. While the world in the northern hemisphere sees the equinox, around 20-22 September, as the beginning of autumn, the season starts to turn in mid-August for me. It’s always been the same, wherever I’ve lived, but it does feel especially true in Britain. I don’t believe the seasons can be confined to pinpointed days, and my body goes by this odd clock, like I’m dangling somewhere between the earth and sky and subject to their whims. (And I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.)
With inner work, which also inevitably affects our outer work, this is a time when I think about the months since the last Lughnasadh, what projects and situations can now be gathered in, celebrated, or even what feels complete, and what needs a little more work, or time to mature. This August it’ll be a year since I was welcomed to the fold by the lovely coven here at Pussy Magic, and this place has become another home. It’ll be a year since I finished a book that is now about to be published.
And years after the trip to Wales with the summer-autumn orchard photos, I wrote a poem about one of them. It’s a picture of my son, walking through grass taller than he was, examining and communicating with the young apple trees. I’ll leave you with the photo, and the poem, and the question – what is ready for picking and collecting right now, and what do you need to tend a little longer so it can ripen and reach its potential? I’ll be considering the same for this new moon, at this start of the harvest.
Summer hangs over
the edge of the orchard
grasping at autumn’s scarf-ends
and ripening apples
coax you from each adolescent branch.
My boy departs
from the path:
the hood up on his black sweatshirt
a druid to scale
creeping amongst the poppet trees—
he respects, inspects.
Hands in pockets, he
returns – face glowing
like a harvest sun.
First published in Kate’s collection, The saint of milk and flames, Rhythm & Bones Press, 2019.
Born in Southern Ohio, but settled in the UK since 1999, Kate is a writer, witch, editor and mother of five. She is the author of several poetry pamphlets, and the founding editor of four web journals and a micropress.
Her witchcraft is a blend of her great-grandmother's Appalachian ways and the Anglo-Celtic craft of the country she now calls home – though she incorporates tarot, astrology, and her ancestors, plus music, film, books, and many other things into her practice. Her spiritual life is best described as queer Christopagan with emphasis on the feminine and the natural world. She believes magic is everywhere.
Find Kate on twitter and IG - @mskateybelle - and at her website.