Last week, I mentioned that I follow the old Celtic calendar and welcome autumn with the beginning of August. It may seem a little premature to begin to celebrate the arrival of autumn on August 1st, I know. I mean August still has all of that summer energy, right? At the same time, it also feels a bit messy since we tend to find ourselves falling back into those work, school, regular life routines. But, this week, as we close out August, it’s time to enter phase 2 of autumn already! If you’re confused by this, hang on. I’ll explain…
Honestly, I think that August is a very confusing month that leaves me desperately holding onto whatever summer feels I can feel, begrudgingly accepting that it’s time to return to work + ordinary life again, and also longing for the cozy routine, rituals, and moodiness of autumn. It’s almost always a month that feels like a lot.
But, it’s because of this messy transition that I believe that August is the perfect time to turn towards autumn.
However, I have no intention of just hopping over this messy, confusing, transitional month and jumping right into all of those cozy fall activities – even if it is my favorite time of the year. No, August has had so very much to offer, not in the least a super good lesson in learning to live in the moment. Each season + each month all have their gifts and energies, and if you’re into seasonal living like me, then it’s worth it to lean into each month as it passes. To really sink down + feel what’s happening in nature, in life, and in our souls as we cycle through the seasons – and the years.
First, the 4 seasons on the wheel of the year
The wheel of the year is just another way to think of the cycles of the seasons and the festivals/holidays that mark the year. The changing of the seasons was important to ancient people because it marked when to sow, grow, harvest, and rest. The wheel of the year is also representative of the continuing cycle of birth, death, and rebirth of nature.
The ancient Celtic calendar divides the year up into the 4 seasons like this:
- Autumn – August, September, October
- Winter – November, December, January
- Spring – February, March, April
- Summer – May, June, July
This old way of marking the seasons is most definitely connected by the agricultural year, according to Celtic history + folklore I’ve read. The meteorological calendar shifts everything one month later, with autumn beginning in September and winter beginning in December, and so on. This calendar follows more closely the weather patterns, which makes sense to most of us. But, there is something about the Celtic calendar that just feels right in my bones. I connect with the energies and the shifts that occur in the first month of each season.
Of course, there is no magical day when a season suddenly turns from one to another. Instead, it is a long, slow process that is easily missed if we’re not paying attention. I think that’s why I like the idea of beginning the seasons in August, November, February, and May. When these months roll around, we’re not 100% ready to move on, but there is also a sense of longing + preparing for the season to come.
Following the Celtic calendar allows me to slow down + soak in the shifts. I am more aware, more present, more connected to the seasons as they pass by. It feels much more natural than waking one day + thinking, “now it’s autumn.” Because, it doesn’t happen like that. The seasons overlap and move into each other very, very slowly. Unfolding, evolving, transitioning – ever so quietly and softly. The earth gently flows through the cycles of the seasons, the wheel of the year, inviting us to drop in the slow rhythms of life.
Now, the 3 phases of autumn
Because of this slow, almost unnoticeable shifting of the seasons, I believe that each season holds a few different energies as they unfold.
I mean, as I mentioned above, the beginning of August still feels like summer. It is summer. But, it is the ending of summer, there’s no denying that. However, by the end of August, even if the weather is still warm, it feels different. Autumn energy is gathering in nature + settling into our souls. We start realizing that the leaves are now an old, fading green. There are even a few yellow patches in some trees. Apples hang heavy + ripe. Acorns fall. The sun sets way earlier than in early August. And, those summer days have already become a distant memory as we have fallen back into our daily routines of responsibilities.
As we move through these 3 months of autumn, I think we also move through three distinct phases. Since the beginning of August, we’ve been in phase 1. But, this week, as September arrives, we’re already ready to enter phase 2!
Here’s how I think of the seasons of autumn – stretching through the months of August, September, and October:
Phase 1 | August: Come on home
Autumns kicks off with the beginning of August and the celebration of Lughnasadh – the first harvest. It is the time of year when we start to be aware that the seasons are changing. It is the time to start to gather in the gifts of the earth to share with one another. It is the time to turn back to responsibilities of everyday life. To gather our own gifts + lessons from this year and begin to think about what we can give back as we head back to work + school. But, it is still summer – late summer. Those long, warm nights are still with us for a few more weeks.
This first phase of autumn can be a lot. Messy, chaotic, busy, and exhausting as we try to soak up and cram in the last fleeting moments of summer, while we also turn back to the more practical, routine-filled days filled with responsibility + work.
I truly feel that this first, messy, jumbled up phase is a deep lesson in staying present + going with the flow. Of learning to lean into the moment, whether it be a long, wild, hot night of gathering in the late summer sun or stepping back into the morning routines before a long, stressful, busy work day. The first phase of autumn is everything – all at once. But, it is the time that marks that it’s time to come on home.
Phase 2 | September: Settle your soul
The second phase of autumn rolls around with the end of August and this it just so happens to coincide with a new moon this weekend, offering a perfectly beautiful feeling of resetting and unfolding into the next phase of this season.
Autumn really begins to settle in now. And invites me to settle in as well. The weather begins to shift – sometimes a lot, sometimes only a little. We cross over the Autumn Equinox, entering in the 6 months of the year when there is more darkness than light each day. There is a sense of balance in this phase of autumn. Of resting between summer + winter.
My routines + rituals really begin to take hold. And I find myself falling into rhythm with the energy of autumn – slowing down + cozying up to the moodiness of this season. Gold, orange, rust, and brown colors can be now seen in nature + I am drawn to all things warm, home-y, and comforting. It’s time to bring out a few hearty recipes with squashes and pumpkins and maple syrup. Tons of candles + thick, warm blankets return to soften up my ever darkening home. The air is crisp, the sky is blue, the nights are long, the palette is earthy + muted.
Once I’ve settled in at home, this part of the season offers me a chance to also settle my soul. To set aside time to reflect on all that this year has meant, on who I am, on who I want to become, on what I can harvest from my life + share with others.
Phase 3 | October: Surrender to the dark
Then, after the grounding + settling of phase 2 has passed, autumn asks me surrender, like the leaves, and drop into dark, mystical part of autumn. Now, it’s all about letting go. Just as the trees release their leaves, it is time to release my fears, to tap into my own power, to embrace the darkness, to listen to the lessons + messages that can only be heard in the quiet. To be ok with the questions, to let the mysteries of life swirl around, to dare to discover my own magic, to practice ceremonies + rituals, to remember traditions, to honor the dying earth, to remember + accept the ending of the cycle of nature.
At home, even more candles make their way onto my table. I invite symbols of the last harvest into my home. Pumpkins, breads, soups, hot drinks for the chilly nights. I turn from simply cooking meals to adding a sprinkle of magic to the concoctions + meals I prepare. I embrace my witchy side. I allow the darkness to envelop me. I turn to the moon, to the night sky, to the stars even more for inspiration during this part of autumn. I watch the trees become bare. I watch nature’s cycle slowly come to an end.
Samhain/Halloween is the last day of the season of autumn. It is the day of the dead, of hallowing the souls that have been lost this year. The time of the last harvesting of the year. It is the end. But, as with every ending, it leads into a new beginning. The darkness does that. Gives space to rest + create once again.
And, then, I enter the season of winter on November 1. With a whole new energy.
For, now, though, it’s time to turn back to the beginning of phase 2 of autumn. We have a long way to go. A lot to experience. So many cozy, beautiful days + nights ahead. So much to harvest + share. I am ready to let the season continue to unfold. Ready this week to let go of the first, late summer phase of autumn and begin to find my rhythm in the next. It feels like I’ve come home, so now it’s time to slow down for a most meaningful, magical, beautiful, cozy, deep season of grounding + settling in. Welcome to phase 2 of autumn.
Happy Phase 2, y’all. Welcome to the cozy season. xoxo. liz.