Healing Our World: Weekly Comment

By Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D.

What Will We Harvest This Year?

We can never have enough of nature. We must be refreshed by the sight of inexhaustible vigor, vast and titanic features, the sea-coast with its wrecks, the wilderness with its living and its decaying trees, the thundercloud, and the rain which lasts three weeks ... We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.
-- Henry David Thoreau

Because we don't think about future generations, they will never forget us.
-- Henrik Tikkanen

On September 23 at 3:47am Pacific Standard Time, we will experience the Autumnal Equinox, or Mabon as it is known to those who celebrate the seasonal cycles. Many faiths will be celebrating this time of year. In the Northern Hemisphere, we are approaching Fall or Autumn. In the Southern Hemisphere, Spring is at hand. For at least the last 12,000 years, people all over the world have celebrated the passage of time, the journey of the Earth around the Sun, in ways that have connected their lives to the life of our planet.

How might our lives be changed and our environmental problems be helped if we took more time to recognize the seasons and the wisdom they bring?

Mabon (pronounced May-bone or Mah-boon) was named for the Welsh God who symbolized the male fertilizing principle in the Welsh myths. In astronomical terms, the Autumnal Equinox is the time when the Sun is right on the celestial equator, passing from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere. What this means is that on that day, there will be a day and a night of equal length.


Wheat harvest in Akron, Colorado. (Photo by Scott Bauer courtesy USDA)
We who live in the modern urban world won’t notice it. Our streetlights, headlights and indoor lighting have mostly erased our notice of the differences between light and dark. But to people who are more connected to the natural world, a day of equal light and dark is a powerful time. It is a time of balance, a time to make peace with the dark and to consider it as part of the light, not to be feared but to be embraced.

For a brief moment, all is thought to be in balance – the goddess and the god have equal power on this night, the forces of evil and good are equally matched and, as the old Norse people believed, one’s fate for the coming year is sealed.

It is a time that is celebrated around the world. In China, the day marks the end of the rice harvest and is known as Chung Ch'u. Jews celebrate Succoth near this time, a harvest holiday with roots in pagan culture and the Jewish New Year begins with Rosh Hashanah. In old Rome, the time was celebrated with a party that went on for many days marking the Festival of Dionysus, the God of Wine.

Mabon begins the time when the leaves die and Nature withers, spent after giving forth her abundance of life giving foods. She must rest so that the cycle can begin again. For those that came before us and those that strive today to be part of the natural world, it is naturally a time to reflect upon death, its meaning and importance. Darkness will soon overtake the light. It is an important time of regeneration, not a time of evil.


Autumn Royal, a new seedless grape. (Photo by Bob Nichols courtesy USDA)
We don’t think much about harvest in the urban world. Our harvest comes from the supermarket and can be picked 24 hours a day. But in places around the world, and in many backyards and fields where industrialized agriculture and cloned, genetically engineered, pesticide-demanding crops are nowhere to be found, it is a time to gather the last fresh food for the year. That is why nuts, apples and grapes are featured in many cultures’ thanksgiving feasts. They are all autumn crops.

It is a powerful awareness, and a great sadness, to realize that we no longer notice these things. To us today, the coming of darkness means we turn on the lights and the TV and the shorter days mean that we turn back the clocks, reinforcing our fears of the dark. We will often do anything we can to avoid introspection and quiet moments with ourselves.

It will take decisive action as well as introspection to face our environmental and social issues. It will take letters to elected representatives, boycotts of socially irresponsible companies, and changes in behaviors for all of us. But we need energy for those actions, fuel for our hearts and our souls.

In a world where the United States, the world’s most polluting country, refuses to participate in pollution controls that other nations are embracing, where pesticide use kills over 225,000 people every year, where about 20 percent of the U.S. population has been drinking water that is contaminated with feces, radiation, lead, or other poisons for years and where two to four million children worldwide die each year from diarrhea caused by diseases transmitted in polluted drinking water, we all need strength and courage to go on.

That courage and strength can only come from a connection with the Earth, the source of all our strength, and from a deep appreciation of the web of life of which we are all a part. The celebration of seasonal cycles can be an easy and meaningful way to create the energy we all need for action.

On the Autumnal Equinox this year, have a celebration with family, friends, or just yourself and commit to a few new principles for your life:

Decide what you care about and what you value.
We have lots of opinions and beliefs, but how often have you stopped and asked yourself what YOU really value? Much of the ideas we carry around with us came from our parents, those people we hang around and the media. Spend some time separating out which is which and find your core concerns.

Decide what you want to be remembered for.
You get to decide what kind of statement your life makes. If you could write a paragraph for a history book 100 years from now about your time, what would you say about yourself? It doesn't have to be big. It could be a simple - and as powerful - as saying "she was a good mother and cared about her world." If you decide now what kind of statement you want your life to make, then you can craft behaviors that will support that vision.

Visualize what your ideal world would look like one year from now.
We must have a vision to work toward.

Take responsibility.
It is not just faceless corporations and governments that are polluting our world. We do as well every time we start our car or buy products. It is easy to blame others and then continue destructive behaviors. If each individual decided how they could change their personal world, then the world would change overnight.

Take a moment to appreciate the vitality of this season and to visualize the harvest all around you. Take a moment to be grateful for the bounty you have received and think about all those in the world who have no bounty. Just be aware that you share this Earth and that every action you take affects it and everyone and everything on the planet. Once these things are noticed, they cannot be forgotten – and you will never be the same.


1. Much of the information about Mabon came from “Sabbats” by Edain McCoy (Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, MN, 1994).

2. Want to view the current phase of the Moon? Visit: http://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/uncgi/Earth/action?opt=-m&img=Moon.evif

3. Find out who your Congressional representatives are and e-mail them about issues that you care about. If you know your Zip code, you can find them at: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ziptoit.html

4. See an activity that will help you learn about the seasons with your children at: http://www.4seasons.org.uk/projects/seasons/

5. Learn about celebrating the seasons from: http://www.schooloftheseasons.com/index.html

{Jackie Alan Giuliano, Ph.D. is a writer and teacher in Seattle and the author of "Healing Our World", A Journey from the Darkness Into the Light," available at: http://www.xlibris.com/HealingOurWorld.html and “Of This Earth, Reflections on Connections,” available at: http://ofthisearth.org. Please send your thoughts, comments, and visions to him at: jackie@healingourworld.com and visit his website at: http://www.healingourworld.com}