Yesterday was Mabon, a festival of harvest. It is the time of the Autumn Equinox when light and dark are equal and once again we can reflect on balance and the maturing of things within our life. But yesterday was different for me. It was formal ritual shared with students on campus as always, however, the events of the day (the year actually) created the true spirit that was carried into the circle. It was what came before that made a festival of harvest possible.

It is one thing to reflect on the “seeds” we have figuratively planted in our Spring, watching those things we have nurtured and waited to come to fruition. It is another thing all together to actually put things into the ground, tend to them, and begin to harvest crop. When you are able to combine the two you begin to appreciate even more the rituals and their deeper meanings. Last year I began the planting of a new life. Yesterday I began to harvest the physical fruit of that labor.

Living on a farm is new to me. Well, new as of last year. I have planted berries in the field; experimenting on which will be the best growing on my land in order to produce a viable selling crop. To help with the growing process I partnered with my son in raising bees. What better way to give back to the environment, to nature, than to help in the pollination process. It was also understood that there would then be a second crop: honey. I am new at this type of work and so in both endeavors I have made mistakes and learned a great deal. In both areas I have learned a lot and it hasn’t all been about how to grow plants. A great deal has been about my self, my family, and relationships of all kinds.

Yesterday was Wednesday and it was a grey day. One of those days when it is rainy but not, warm and oppressive, but you still feel a need to wear long sleeves because of the overcast skies. It was a grey day. It was also not my son’s normal day off. For the past several weeks he has been off on Thursday and I have gotten use to planning around that schedule to do work with him or just to visit in general. But he was off and there was work to be done. The work of the harvest does not wait for us to be ready, it makes us ready.

Dan and Jen showed up late in the afternoon and within a short time Dan and I were suited up and heading to the hives. We had decided to do only a small portion of the work. Take out a piece of equipment that had naturally removed the bees from the portion of the hive we were going to extract honey from. That was our plan, our only plan. It was to say the least incomplete and rather naive on our part. When I arrived at the first hive (the aggressive one) my son was already there. He had the top of the hive off and was beginning to work towards taking the first honey chamber off. Off it came and taken to the back of the jeep. At that point we knew we would be working longer than originally thought, we had to do something with the combs of honey. We then began to work at removing the excluder. It was full of bees working on storing food for the winter.

Now I have to explain, the excluder is what begins the process of removing the bees from the area where we want to harvest honey. It is only 1 ½” thick and consists of plywood and a triangular piece of mesh over a maze that the bees have to walk through. It works, it works well. But on the underside of the excluder, the part next to the second chamber, there are bees. Lots of bees. Dan told me he knew he was going to get stung. Not a big deal, we both have been stung. It happens when you work with bees. But there are times when you can minimize what will happen next. We didn’t minimize. I won’t explain what happened next that caused the issue, I’m not really sure, but the bees became “upset” and decided that Dan was going to be the target of their anger. The excluder was now on the ground, the honey chamber in the back of the jeep, me at the open hive, and Dan is running in the other direction with bees attacking. It was somewhat humorous from my vantage point – they weren’t mad at me. I put the top back on the hive, strapped it down and watched my son getting further and further away. I picked up the excluder. It didn’t have any bees left in it, they were chasing Dan. I took it to the Jeep and began to look at the comb, it looked good. Dan had stopped running and swatting. The bees that were inside his face veil were now gone and amazingly he hadn’t been stung. He joined me as I looked at the second hive and we both knew we had work there as well. Not part of our plan, but that is okay. These bees didn’t hate us.

It took us about 10 minutes more and our work was finished. Our work in the field that is. We decided to take the frames of comb and begin extracting the honey. We took all of the equipment to my son’s house and began to set up. It isn’t difficult, but it can be a little messy. Most importantly we had fun and in the process, beautiful golden honey began to flow in to a five gallon bucket. Our harvest was real, very real. Clear, golden, sweet, wild flower honey. We filtered and bottled it, but I had to leave before it was totally done, after all I had a harvest ritual to facilitate! I would be coming back later, my husband had by this time joined us, and we would leave the farm jeep at Dan’s and Bill would go to the ritual with me.

As we arrived at campus I set up sacred space: first the altar and then the perimeter; in the center a small table, a cauldron on the ground and candles to help light the area. Eight candles defined the circle and soon all was set, circle cast, and pre ritual briefing done. This ritual had an added bonus: Anthropology students observing a Pagan ritual. It is an occurrence that has been repeated for several years, agreed to by myself and the professor of the class. But last night was different, the professor joined the ritual. This is the first time I remember her doing that, and I was thrilled. The ritual was combined with the full moon honoring. All was beautiful and as we worked through the events of the rite I wanted people to find the harvests that they have worked so hard to create, joyful harvests within their lives. Find and share they did, but the sharing was with the gods, not with us. Each shared their joy with deity, sending their thanks through fire letting the gods know that they appreciate the happiness in their lives. And then I shared, first verbally then visually, the harvest that I had that day. One jar of golden honey, honey that had been in the hive only a few hours earlier. The first taste was given to the Dagda, protector of the harvest, the second to our guest the professor, and then to all of students in ritual. The ability to offer such a gift was amazing. The energy of giving, of physically enjoying, the harvest of life was powerful.

I realized standing there that this is what life is for: to enjoy the fruits of our labors. Whether it is in the relationships we build with our family or the food that we place on our table, we need to appreciate it all. I teach students to eat deliberately at least once a day. Understand where the food on your table comes from and what it took to bring it to you. Last night that act took on new meaning in my life. I was overwhelmed that I could offer to the gods the first taste of the first crop of my new life. It took a great deal to bring me to this point, to be able to understand these things. So eat deliberately, drink deliberately, love deliberately, and understand.

I hope you have had a blessed Mabon.

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