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Rite and Ritual

Lughnasadh and the Moon of August

“I remember I held you, up high on the mountain’s side.

As I looked out over the land, all your magick filled my eyes.

I hear the ravens call my name, reminding me everything must change.

For the Earth, she lays waiting for me.”

This month I stand between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox. It is a moment upon the Wheel that seems to defy my ability to discern the turning changes still taking place. The morning air is warm and sweet. I can see and feel a richness of the land. The bounty of Summer’s end is now ripened and ready to be savored within the lazy last days before the turn to Fall. The forest around me is so quiet as the Sun’s light peaks over the tree covered ridge. An occasional bird briefly sings but their calls now sound more like a contented sigh than anything else. Although I realize the Wheel must still be turning at the same speed, it surely does not feel that way to me. All around me there is a deep stillness. As if the forest was trying to take one last nap in the light before the shadows of the Fall claim their place, pushing Summer back into dark memory. Not yet though I think to myself as I pick some grapes and a few plums before heading down to the river. Slowly, as I breathe in the warm morning air, I step further away from the mundane allowing my senses to align with the natural world. The deeper I step, the clearer the subtle changes that mark Lughnasadh and this Moon become. I can see that the light, ever so slightly, has a hint of darker gold within it. There are spider webs everywhere, commanded by large garden spiders and adorned with the empty carcasses of the less fortunate. The moss on the trees is now dry and brittle. The once vibrant green has now faded toward a more sage like gray as it yields to August’s heat. My steps are noisy as the parched ground beneath my feet crackles under my steps. There are no more wildflowers in the small clearings and the few bees I see seem frustrated by their disappearance. Making my way down to the river I notice there is an osprey sitting upon one of the large branches reaching out from a shoreline tree. The river is at its lowest levels of the year now and although she is a little off colored from glacial melt, the water is too low to provide any decent cover for the fish. As a result, the ospreys and kingfishers are now having their day but even they seem relaxed. I finish making my way down to the river and head over to one of my favorite rocks. It has been scoured smooth and partially hollowed by the river’s rage but at this time of the year it makes a comfortable vantage point for observing. I set down my backpack, pulling out some water and sit on the cool rock. The morning Sun has not yet reached this spot and for a few minutes longer I am within the shade of the large trees. I think about the coming of Lughnasadh and the traditional start of the harvest season as I bite into one of the plums I picked earlier. I close my eyes, remembering the mornings I first saw the blossoms appear and then the initial signs of the fruit to come. For all things given there is an equal amount of energy given back, returned to the source for the Circle to flow and be complete. I remember the baby birds I found beneath the tree that had fallen from their nest to be returned to the Earth. Sitting quietly, the Sun now embracing me, I can see the ebb and flow of energy around that tree as the Wheel turned, the seasons changed and the Circle spun. The Sun is warm but now in August not nearly so direct and it feels gentle upon my tanned skin. I open my eyes, looking around and notice a heron fishing just upstream from where I sit. I watch him catch a few fish and wonder how much harder it will be for him to be so successful once the rains return in a short while. The native people call the moon of August the Full Sturgeon Moon, for it is one of the best times to catch these large fish. Others call it the Grain Moon, the Fruit Moon, the Full Red Moon for the reddish tint it takes on rising through the sultry haze of late Summer, as well as the Moon when all things ripen. They all have their connections and depending upon ones own relative perceptions a stronger or lesser personal relevance. I simply call it the Moon of Harvest, for it marks the first hint of noticeable transition the seemingly endless days toward those requiring a more structured and responsible effort. Not yet though I remind myself as I walk over to one of the larger pools in the river. This is one of the few times during the year when Fire and Water are gently entwined. The energies between the two seem closer and for a short time the river is refreshingly cool and not freezing cold. As I drift in the pool and then sit at its edge I think about everything I harvest from this world around me. Not just those things I physically consume but all that I take, borrow and use along my journey. Do I return or give back anything close to what I take?  While I sit there in the river, wondering, I see the first Chinook salmon of the season to make it this far up river. She is a large female, her fins torn and tattered from her long promised journey. She has come to spawn and then give back all that she has left, returning what she has harvested along her way.  Once again I am awed by Nature’s magickal perfection and as I head back home I have a deeper understanding of this moment upon the Wheel.