Loss

cornucopia3

We often speak of Autumn as the season of harvest. It is often represented by an overflowing cornucopia spilling apples, pears, corn, pumpkins, brown nuts, and heads of golden wheat. This is the time when we can begin to rest a bit and consume the fruits of our labors. Winter and Spring may be lean times and Summer may require hard work in hot fields (at least here in the South), but Autumn brings more comfortable weather and (if we’ve been both industrious and lucky) enough to eat. Time to be grateful, take stock of all that we have, maybe even feast a bit with family and friends.

And, yet.

Autumn is also a season of loss. The veils grow thin and we remember our Beloved Dead (and, if your family was like mine, some of our not-so-Beloved Dead, as well). The trees lose their leaves — because they are no longer needed. We pull the now-exhausted squash vines and pepper plants out of the garden and throw them into the compost pile. The warm sun makes shorter and shorter appearances and the birds gather in flocks to head away down South. The landscape becomes sere, almost barren. Fog rolls in and obscures what was once clear.

We don’t do too well with loss, here in the Patriarchial States of Western Civilization. Loss seems a lot like death and Patriarchy has a huge shadow relationship with death. On the one hand, it runs on death, selling bigger and better (and more expensive) ways to kill as many people as possible. Movies, tv shows, and video games show death every few minutes and encourage us to view it as exciting, fun, inevitable, a sign that justice has prevailed. Open-carry ammosexuals flaunt their guns in restaurants, outside schools, at town halls where the President speaks. On the other hand, we hide death. Our old people die in hospitals, away from public view. Millions of dollars are spent to extend our old age even a few more weeks, often at the cost of comfort and humanity. Look away from death, we are told: Go towards light, and life, and love, and joy! (How interesting that it is in Autumn, the season of loss, when we celebrate our fear of death. Only at this time of year do we see pictures of graveyards, plastic skeletons hanging in trees in our neighbors’ yards, headless horsemen (ah, an Americanization of the Wild Hunt!), and ghosts in store windows.)

But to be a Witch is to reject the false duality of Patriarchy, to embrace the dark along with the light, to refuse to make an enemy of our own death. We can use the tools of the Craft to deal with our losses in a responsible, Witch-like way, rather than in the irresponsible, puer-tainted way that Patriarchy encourages.

We can ground and center.
We can breathe.
We can sit with our loss for as long as is good.
We can trance and invite our loss to talk to us, to chant for us, to dance with us as the leaves fall.
We can do ritual around loss.
We can compost our loss, sending it to where “all things become another — in the Mother, in the Mother,” allowing it to make the ground fertile in preparation for the day when we attempt to grow something new.
We can meditate upon the Wheel of the Year and see its cycles in our own lives, reminding ourselves that it always turns and no season lasts forever.
We can create art around our loss, letting Younger Self teach us things about our loss that we didn’t even know that we knew.
We can talk about loss with each other.

How do you deal with loss?

May you enjoy your Autumn harvest and may your Autumn losses inspire you to Witchcraft.

Picture found here.

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2 responses to “Loss

  1. I’m still grieving the loss of my friend two Octobers ago. Where he isn’t is everywhere, and it’s for the rest of my life.

  2. When I was fifteen and the New England autumn had produced maple trees with reds and golds so brilliant they hurt my eyes, I realized I had perhaps only 60 or so autumns left – and my grandparents and parents far fewer – and I grieved (while preserving some disbelief) at the same time I was awed.

    Now I think of autumn afternoons spent outside with my parents 35 and 40 years later, picking apples, clearing the leaves, put up storm windows. The leaves are less spectacular here as the climate changes and the disbelief is gone.

    And I grieve when I think of Boston’s climate being like Miami’s by the end of the century (as a housemate getting a PhD in climate science at MIT predicts) – because billions of critters, grubs and insects from further south will up here, but will find that our vegetation has not adapted nor yet been replaced by the sheltering trees and ground covers for which they were designed by a million years of evolution.

    So, part of me lives forward into loss. I think this means I need more grounding and fellowship.

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