The autumn season is a time that signals the nearing of the end of the year - the harvest period that means an end to the growing season, and for many, a time that causes us reflect on our lives, and to even think about death. Halloween in particular may poke fun at the tragedy of dying, but if we actually think about what autumn represents in so many different ways, we can see that this time period is one of meditation, celebration of life, and in fact, an honouring of death.
Celebrating life through death
The apex of the autumn season is around the time of Halloween. This traditional pagan holiday of Death and Transformation, thought to have celtic origins, was once the festival for leaving the harvest time and ushering in the "darker" part of the year. Since, it has become a playful yet frightening interpretation of the worst aspects of death and dying - often causing us to think about the gruesome, or those trapped in the perpetual unrest of an afterlife they can't escape. But we can also look to other holidays during this time, such as the Mexican tradition of Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead in English), to see that we can in fact celebrate death and pay honour and respect to those who have died and the lives they lived.
In Dia de Muertos, families gather over several days in the beginning of November to remember and honour their loved ones who have passed. Through prayer and ritual, visiting graves and offering gifts, they intend to help guide the dead through their spiritual journey in the afterlife. Its origins are rooted in Aztec traditions of worshipping the goddess Mictecacihuatl, who was their overseer of the underworld and ruler of the afterlife. With Spanish colonization, the holiday became more closely related to the Christian All Saint's Day. But still to this day, the spirit of the original intention lives on, even with world cultures indoctrinating the principles of Dia de Muertos into other traditions honouring the dead.
Using the autumn season to reflect on life and death
Autumn can also be considered as a time of resting, nurturing and preparation for the next transformation into creation, represented in the spring season. There are many ancient healing practices, such as in Buddhism, where there is also study of life through death, how it affects us, and how to prepare for when we die to come back in our next incarnation. In this way, we can think of autumn as a time to consider ourselves, the issues or negativity we wish to shed, and take time for introspection as a way to facilitate rebirth within our current lives.
The autumn season transitions into winter towards the end of November when people in North America are celebrating Thanksgiving. During this time, families and friends gather to look back on the prior year, and show gratitude and appreciation. With Thanksgiving, they often give thanks for good health, roofs over their heads, and food in their bellies - the things that we often take for granted in our day to day lives. Because of this, it is often a time to also consider those who may go without these basic necessities, and offer help to those people. And while some may also think about those loved ones who have departed within the last year, they use Thanksgiving to consider the positive sides to their lives and everything they have that they should be grateful for.
Reflection, honouring, and healing
Reflection in itself is a very powerful thing. And when we use this thoughtful meditation as a means to celebrate life and death, it can have a significant healing effect. Autumn is the perfect time to release anxiety, shed negative energy and prepare for the growth that is planted over winter to emerge in the spring.
Take a cue from the many holidays during this time which we can use to facilitate positive feelings towards death - where the end of something, including a life, doesn't need feel only sad or lonely. Gather family and friends, remind yourself of what you have to be thankful for in the life that you have, and rebalance your energies to look towards the new year and the continued celebrations that it brings.
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