Autumn is my favourite season. As the daylight comes later and the rains return here on the NorthWest coast, I can feel autumn laying it’s cloak upon me, it is thick and cool made of fog, wind, dimming light and vibrant decomposing leaves. It reminds me that nature is preparing for its winter slumber and urges me to do the same. Everything needs time to rest and rejuvenate, to return to source and realign with who it is and how it serves. With modern technologies and our seemingly never-ending drive to do more, be more, have more, we no longer allow ourselves to enjoy this movement inward, as our ancestors, not so long ago, did. I, for one, wish to reclaim the powers of the seasons and not become another burned out, frustrated, hormonally imbalanced, directionless human. I want to live a life in alignment with my natural cycles and spirit and working with the seasons aids me in doing that.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Autumn is the transition time moving from the hot fiery yang energies of summer to the cold watery yin energies of winter. It is governed by the element of metal that allows us to cut away what no longer serves, just as the trees drop their leaves and these will decompose and become the fertilizer for the new growth of spring. The Metal element helps us discriminate what is precious and what needs to go. It shows us, if we are listening, where the golden nuggets lie and which are the real gold, nourishing our self worth and connection to spirit and which are fools gold, hiding our dragons of self-deprecation, arrogance, self-destruction, martyrdom,…… Shamanism also sees the fall as a time of letting go and of great dreaming and if we can let go of feeding our dragons, we can dream a new dream that serves our highest purpose and all that live on this planet with us.
In our bodies, Metal is reflected in the paired organs of the lung and large intestine. They are the organs that filter the precious from the waste. Our lungs inhale clear qi from the heavens and exhale old turbid qi. They are connected to the skin, body hair and nose and protect us from external pathogens. They are also responsible for grief. The lungs capacity for grief allows us to honour and have gratitude for what we are letting go of and recognize that our lives will be transformed by this process. This is the gift of grief and how the decomposing of the old becomes the new life of the spring. If we do not allow our lungs to inspire and expire and move through grief naturally, our lung qi becomes stagnated and we may produce excess phlegm, become short of breath, get sick frequently, have chronic nasal issues, asthma or a chronic cough. On the other side if we get rid of too much and see nothing as precious our lungs may become deficient and we can have similar problems marked with more dryness and weakness.
The large Intestine also acts as a discriminator for us, when our colon is healthy we are able to reabsorb the precious minerals and water we need and expel the waste. When we can’t let go we become stagnated with toxins, emotions, and old habits and these can show up as pain in the lower abdomen, constipation or weight gain and just like with the lung when we let go of too much we become depleted of our own nourishment.
In the five element cycle, healthy metal nourishes our water, which is reflected in our kidneys and bladder and controls our deepest resources, our ancestoral essence/genetics, as well as our fear. Metal also helps control the wood element, preventing our livers from overacting on our other organs with anger, aggression and fire. When we work with our metal it assists us to make the long stretch of winter with ease and strength, which encourages a fertile and vibrant spring guided by spirit.
There are several things we can do to nourish our metal during this season:
- Slow down and take stock of our lives, reflecting on what no longer serves and what is most precious in our lives and begin to release through gently cleansing our bodies and minds, saying goodbye to relationships and old stuff, creating a simple releasing ritual to honour this process and your grief.
- Allow grief and sadness a place in your life. When it comes up recognize it and let it flow through you, letting it go through breath, crying, movement
- Eating warm, seasonal, easily digestible Pungent foods. These help promote circulation and digestion and release excess phlegm, Such as: ginger, onion, leeks, green onion, black peppercorn, garlic, celery, cilantro, fennel, spearmint, radish, chile pepper, sweet pepper, turnip, taro, cinnamon, cabbage, cardamom, cloves, oregano, mustard seeds, wine. Also eating yin nourishing foods to help protect against the dryness and winds of the fall, such as: pears, apples, mushrooms, tofu, seaweed, almonds, pine nuts, oils (olive, grapeseed, coconut, sesame), pork. As with any eating make sure you don’t over do it on any one kind of food.
- Wear a scarf to protect yourself from external pathogens, especially wind
- Take herbs that clear, moisten and nourish the lungs and intestines: A simple tea made of some of the pungent herbs above to clear phlegm and warm the body like the always classic lemon, ginger and honey or a nice moistening blend with slippery elm, marshmallow and licorice root.
- Practice gentle movement practices to keep your qi moving but also build your qi and strength for the winter like qi gong, yin yoga, tai chi, walking,
- Spend time outside breathing in clear qi from the heavens
- And of course get some acupuncture! For low cost acupuncture, check out the local acupuncture schools or community acupuncture clinics in your area. For more psycho-spiritual assistance look for a five element or alchemical acupuncturist.
If you wish to go even deeper into your process and the process of the cosmos, the autumn/metal time of year is supported by three primary astrological signs:
- Libra- Sept. 23 to Oct. 22- the sign of balance, justice, beauty, truth, perfection and relationships. A wonderful time to delve into your relationships with self, other, spirit, work, body and the planet.
- Scorpio- Oct. 23 to Nov. 21- the sign of self-will, taboo, secrets, transition. A time to go deep within and look at our shadowy places around emotions, love, sex, secrets and taboos. What needs to be brought up to the light and what needs to be let go.
- Sagittarius- Nov. 22 to Dec. 21- The sign of higher knowledge, learning, wisdom, spirituality, philosophy. This sign helps us to start to dream a new dream and find the wisdom in all of our letting go, helping us to make the transition to winter.
Wishing you all a gentle, nourishing and deep Autumn,
Marika Reid Hall
References and Resources to go deeper:
This weekend I spent the day walking through the rainforest filling up on the energies of the spring equinox and the elements of wind and wood. Here on the West Coast of Canada, the feeling of spring is alive and abundant wherever you go. The cherry blossoms and magnolias are blooming, the daffodils and tulips are waving from the ground. The desire to sprout and grow is palpable all around and within myself. It is the time of Ostara (the spring equinox), a time of balance, when the length of light and dark are equal and it calls to us to find our own internal balance, balance between masculine and feminine, inward reflection and outward action, yin and yang…. I personally have a much easier time on the inward planes and often find myself dreaming and wanting to live in my head, but I now one of my greatest lessons is to move these dreams outward into the world and that is when fear takes hold of me and I begin to question who am I to create this, who will listen, who will come and yet in the wise words of Marianne Williamson:
“…..Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
So I am peeling more layers of the onion away and breaking free of these fears and offering my perspective and shining my light, in doing so I hope to share what inspires me and inspire others to do the same, until we have all broken free and are living from a place of heart spirit that allows all beings to flourish.
And with the start of spring I offer to you an Equinox/Eclipse perspective and ritual to help you connect with the seeds within that desire to be planted, find the support that is needed to birth them and let go of what no longer serves, aligning your body and mind to great spirit and the new energies that are here for us to utilize.
Since the dawn of humanity, people have lived in balance with the rhythms of the earth and the planets, using these as markers of time and ritual. Our Ancestors, Shamans, Pagans, Druids, Witches, Indigenous wisdom keepers and all others who honour and have honoured the changing of the seasons and astrological events know the immense power in working with these elements and attuning our bodies and minds to them. This week we have many powerful influences to attune to; the Spring Equinox, Ostara, Eostre, Easter and the full moon lunar eclipse in Libra. The Spring Equinox being a time of even light and dark and the start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, means it is a time of balance, as well as, a time to honour the birthing that can be seen outwardly in nature and felt within. Traditionally, this time was celebrated by Agricultural people as a time of fertility, praying to the land to nourish the seeds planted and that the long death of winter has ended and life is resurrected once again. Many of us associate this time with Easter and the resurrection of Christ. This is one of the many stories and celebrations of our ancestors that has been adopted by the church to help ease conversion from the old gods and goddesses and worship of nature. But no matter is you are Pagan, Christian, Jewish or Hindu, these rituals hold immense power and still help us to come to balance with our existence here on mama earth.
In Chinese Medicine, this is the season of the wood element which gives to us the power of blossoming, the courage to make decisions in our lives and go forth into the world to make them a reality. Trees are the perfect example of the spring equinox time, they have gathered up the wisdom of winter (water) that lies deep within the earth and using this wisdom they grow forth towards the heavens, standing firm in their truth and shining their light for all to see while remaining flexible to the ever changing flow of life. The wood element is associated with our liver and gallbladder and the emotion of Anger. When our liver, gallbladder and Anger are in balance they allow us to plan, have courage, make changes and transform our lives. When they are out of balance we may become overly oppressive and while trying to make changes we will try and change others in our path or we may become resigned to our fate and lose the will to make decisions or take action. To help our wood element function better we can spend time with trees, asking for their help and aligning to their energy, eating seasonally available foods like wild spring greens: nettles, dandelion, garlic mustard, as well as garlic, onion, leeks, mushrooms, kale, lemons, high quality vinegars and brassicas to support our liver and gallbladder, getting acupuncture and honouring the wood element through ritual and ceremony.
The final powerful influence this week is the Full moon lunar eclipse in Libra, I see eclipses as also being a balancing act between light and dark and with Libra being the sign of balance. This whole week is calling us to balance. The full moon is a time of fulfillment, our intentions set at the new moon are being birthed and so we are called to celebrate and honour what has appeared in our lives and begin to shed what is blocking our continued evolution. With Libra being ruled by Venus; love, relationships, balance, diplomacy, the feminine, beauty and appearance may be particular areas that are called to attention or that you may want to reflect on.
Here is the ritual that I have created to work with and balance these energies, I hope you enjoy and please feel free to pass them along to others.
Sacred Spring: An Equinox/Eclipse Ritual
What you will need:
- an altar cloth, objects or pictures that represent the four directions; East (incense, feather), South (candle, flowers), West (water, ancestors) and North (salt, crystals), The masculine and feminine, the wood element and anything you hold dear or wish to charge up (ie jewellery)
- Clothes appropriate for the weather
- a yoga mat, sheep skin or blanket to lie on
- something to listen to the downloaded drum journey and music for dancing
- sage, tobacco or palo santo to cleanse with
- some delicious treats symbolic of the spring
- something for offering: tobacco, cornmeal, fruit, milk, beer,..
To begin choose where you will do the ceremony, I suggest outside near a tree, but you could do it inside as well. Using your sage, tobacco or palo santo cleanse the area and yourself, remembering to thank and program your cleansing tool with instructions to clear away any low vibrational energies, protecting and filling the space with light.
Now set down your altar cloth and assemble your altar as you feel called to, putting the symbols for each direction facing that direction and lay down your offering to the South and your treats to the North. You want it to be beautiful and filled with light to attract the helping spirits.
In order, to set the container for your ritual, imagine an octahedron around your ceremony space, including the tree and room for yourself to lie down and dance. Program this octahedron to only allow in loving, high vibrational energies and ask your angels and guides to help protect the space. you may also put one around yourself.
Once your altar is laid, call in the spirits to help you. I like to call them in the following way, but you may do it as you feel called to:
“Great Spirit of the East, so bright with the new days light, brimming with new hopes and dreams. I welcome you and ask you to help guide me through the land of all possibility and find the seed that is waiting there for me. Thank you, Aho!
Great Spirit of the South, so full and pregnant with life and beauty. I welcome you and ask you to help me live in full bloom and seek the support I need to live a life of spirit. Thank you, Aho!
Great Spirit of the West, bursting with the harvest, preparing for slumber and moving inwards. I welcome you and ask for your help in letting go of what does not serve me and dreaming a new dream for myself and the world. Thank you, Aho!
Great Spirit of the North, slumbering giant of power and wisdom. I welcome you and ask you to fill me up with power so I may make my dreams a reality and serve my community and spirit. Thank you, Aho!
Father Sky, Sun, Moon, Star and Planets, thank you so for your wisdom, your light and inspiration. I welcome you and ask you to fill me with light and align me with the great wisdom and plan of spirit. Thank you, Aho!
Mother Earth, thank you for nourishing me, supporting me, letting me rest and walk upon you. I welcome you and ask you for your support, love, strength and nourishment, helping me to live in balance with you and bring spirit into living form. Thank you, Aho!
Spirits of the land, thank you for allowing us to live here, nourishing us with your beauty. I welcome you and ask you to help support our ritual with the energies of the spring and changing seasons and offer you any healing you need from this ritual. Thank you, Aho!
Great spirit, thank you for my life, my family, my friends, all the blessings around and within me! I welcome you and ask for your continued guidance and support in living a life in alignment with you. Thank you, Aho!!
Spirit of Wood, so strong and flexible, I welcome you and ask you to help me harness the wisdom for below and make it manifest in my life, to have the courage to move forward and the flexibility to bend when needed. Thank you, Aho!”
Now lay down your mat or blanket to the east and listen to this drum journey I have prepared to visit the spirit of the east.
Return to the altar and thank the spirit of the East and turn to the spirit of the South and welcome it in.
Now that you have your seed of wisdom, you will be asking for support and alignment with the element of wood. Sit or Stand in front of a tree and introduce yourself. Thank it for its beauty, strength, courage, flexibility and ask for its support. Tell it what your seed is, what dreams you have for it and what fears or blocks you may have of making it a reality. Let the tree spirit align with you and ask for courage, strength and any other support you wish from it. Once you feel complete thank the tree for its support and guidance and leave it a small offering.
Return to the altar and thank the spirit of the south and turn to the spirit of the west and welcome it in.
The spirit of the West is all about letting go and dreaming a new dream. In order to work with these energies and let go of what might be blocking us from manifesting our seeds, you will perform a bone dance. You may do this in silence or you may put on some music to dance and shake to. The purpose of this is to shake and dance each layer of our beings off; skin, fat, fascia, muscle, nerves, blood vessels, organs, bones. Imagining each layer is falling to the earth like leaves being composted by the earth. Once there is nothing left of you but spirit enjoy this freedom of spirit for a few minutes and then slowly begin to dance each layer back onto you, imagining that it is in perfect health and has been aligned to your new dream and the highest vibration you can hold at this time.
Once you are completely reassembled, return to the altar, thank the spirit of the West and welcome in the spirit of the North.
Move your mat or blanket to align with the north and the full moon and lay down upon it. The moon is a powerful source of energy and we can ask for it to fill us with power to help us manifest our dreams and have the strength and energy to put our seeds into action. Firstly, Introduce yourself to the moon and thank it for it’s light and beauty and wisdom of balance. Ask it to fill you up with power and begin to breath that power into your body, feel each and every cell being filled with moonlight. Continue this until you feel you are full and then thank the moon.
Return to your altar and sit in front of the north and the treats you have prepared for this time of spring and wood, begin by offering some to the land and all the helping spirits and giving gratitude to all the plants, animals and people that helped bring this beautiful nourishment to you. Then slowly enjoy them feeling the energies of the spring and the wood element enter your body, nourish your liver and gallbladder and making your tastebuds dance. Finally sit in this energy and the gratitude for all that is and the opportunity to practice and honour in this way.
Close your circle by releasing each of the elements in the reverse order that you called them. Thanking them for their gifts, releasing them from the ritual and asking for their continued support.
Wood, great spirit, mother earth, father sky, north, west, south, east.
Here are the recipes for what I am making to invoke the Spring and Wood element:
Nettle Pesto Layered Panigacci
Ponderosa Pine Essence Chocolate
May you be blessed with love, light, laughter, courage and balance and set further into your light and power!
With deep gratitude and love for sharing in this with me,
Pisces calls to our highest selves, the part of us that knows we are divine manifestations and from this place asks of us to be of service to the greatest good of all beings in this universe. Being the last sign before the coming spring and rebirth of Aries, Pisces holds in it the wisdom of a full lived life and the intuition and imagination of one who has seen all things come to pass. In conjunction with Chiron (the wounded healer) We are given a chance to look at our woundings with the most compassionate and loving eyes and from this place transform our stories and become empowered by them. Realizing we are the makers of our own fate, we can remember that we chose this path and it has made us who we are today. Through taking back our power and no longer playing the victims in our lives we can heal ourselves and share this wisdom of our empowerment.
I have shared my own story here on my dear friend Jenn’s blog, please give it a read and in honour of this powerful time I wish to offer you a ritual to work with your own empowerment. I will be offering these rituals each month, one for the new moon and one for the full moon, to help us all move into greater connection with spirit.
Find a quiet place, cleanse it, light a candle and call in your guides and helpers.
Grounding- tree exercise- asking for wisdom from the sun, moon, and chiron
write down the story of your wounding or a story that you hold that you are a victim to at the moment.
Reread it and focus on the feelings, energies and impressions you get from it.
Reflect on how this story has helped to strengthen you and make you who you are today
Now take your story and thank spirit for the lessons you have learned and burn it in the flames of your candle feeling the energy of it dissolve.
Rewrite the story from a place of gratitude and power, focusing on the strength you have gained and the lessons you have learned
Place your new story on your altar or in a special place where you can see it throughout your day until the full moon.
Thank your guides, spirit and helpers and blow out your candle, clearing the space again.