Okay, so with only a week until Alban Elfed I have left this a bit late, I know. I apologise for that! However, if you are planning to write a festival tale for this particular festival, it’s time to get planning (and writing!)
In some senses, the Autumn Equinox is the most difficult festival to write for. There is a dearth of specific stories or mythology which you can straightforwardly retell, so it is going to require you to think outside of the box somewhat. However, that isn’t a bad thing because this means it is your chance to get really creative. You have a chance here to strike out and write a piece which is truly unique to you and your understanding of the season, so relish that rather than being afraid of it!
In terms of where to begin, you could start looking for a story or myth which seems to have connections with the equinox which you could retell. You will find some stories which are not specifically connected to Alban Elfed which may fit the tone or themes you are looking to explore.
However, I think the first thing I would suggest you do is think about what is going on in the natural world around you. Go for a walk, find a natural space where you can pause and note down what is going on. What is the weather like? What fruits are ripe and which plants are dying away? Look at what is around you – are the leaves changing? Are there conkers, acorns, hazelnuts? It is so important we reflect the world around us in our work. Maybe you could bring some of your wider concerns in too. This Alban Elfed I am going to be working on the opening of my seasonal ceremony, changing the traditional OBOD quarters of North (Bear), East (Hawk), South (Stag) and West (Salmon) so that they reflect my current concerns about climate crisis and species decline. I will be rewriting the ceremony to use badgers, swifts, bees and whales instead of the traditional elements, and considering how the four elements have been exploited rather than simply celebrating their power. I don’t like focusing on the negative, but as we approach the transition to darkness, this feels appropriate for me.
And darkness is one of the themes of this time of year. The equinox marks the balance between light and dark, but there will now be more hours of darkness. The approach of darkness, of winter, could be a potent theme. However, remember – we are not there yet! It’s still quite warm so don’t jump the gun – look at what is around you!
With the arrival of the darkness, the grain harvest comes to an end. That harvest, which began at Lughnasadh, will now be finished. In traditional farming societies, attention would focus around the final section of corn to be cut. Some societies called this final sheaf “The corn baby” while others referred to it as the “Cailleach” – so it could represent youth or old age, depending on where our focus lies. Are there ideas here that you could extend into a longer piece of writing?
For me the Autumn Equinox represents the arrival of the fruit harvest. With the fields now gathered in, attention turns to the fruit on the trees. Locally, a traditional Tudor farm has an Apple Day at this time of year. It’s great to go along, try some apple juice, apple pies and take part in traditional games. The focus on apples at this time of year may lead us to consider the wider associations of the fruit, for example, the Isle of Avalon, which many believe to be modern day Glastonbury. Avalon’s name means “The Isle of Apples” and Glastonbury Tor is the entrance to the underworld – what a perfect setting for a story set at the time of apple harvests, marking the transition into darkness!
With the sense of the wider, physical harvest, our attention turns to the sense of harvest in our own lives. Many season rituals get us to focus on what we have harvested ourselves this year. That is a great theme to use with a character – someone (or something) at a point when they are reaping a harvest in their life, where their story is reaching a conclusion, drawing to a close, and all of their decisions begin to pay off. This story could be either happy or sad, or maybe you could make it a mix of both. A bitter sweet ending would be perfectly appropriate for an Alban Elfed story; yes, the dark is rising but the wheel will keep turning and spring will not be far behind!
The story I wrote for the Autumn Equinox is the one I am most proud of. Rather than simply retelling an old story, I found an idea which really began to tickle at my brain. For a long time, I didn’t know what to do with it until it became obvious that it was the perfect story for Alban Elfed. I will be sharing it with you in a few days’ time, but before then, relish the feel of this transition and explore what it means to you in your own way, in your own words.
Photograph by Karin Brown at Imbolc Photography (https://brownkcd.wixsite.com/imbolc)