The uneasy side of harvests

Equinoxes have always foxed me. I think in part it’s because there’s very little folk material to draw on for them.  Other festivals have seasonal activities and a wealth of traditions, but the equinoxes don’t. Here we are facing the autumn one. Grain has been harvested, fruit harvests are coming in, root crops will be harvested for some time to come. Often the festival is taken as an opportunity to consider the bounty and the harvests in our own lives, but that isn’t without issue.

When I first came to pagan ritual it was reasonable to assume that no one in the circle would be going hungry. Austerity has pushed so many people towards the edge, that I can’t contemplate harvest now without also thinking about food banks. I can’t assume, if I run a public ritual, that everyone in circle will be able to talk about bounty and harvest. I cannot make a ritual into a place of privilege or pile on the discomfort for those who come along who are really struggling.

This is all quite hypothetical in some ways because I’m not running a public facing ritual this year. But like many Pagans, I’m online talking about how we celebrate the season.

Harvest times weren’t always a cause for ancestral celebration. You don’t have to go back very far for communities to be much more dependent on what they could harvest themselves. International food trade gives many of us insulation in face of poor harvests – those of us who live in more affluent countries. Food shortages tend to push up food prices which can drive poorer regions out of the market.

Famine is still a thing. We have the means to feed everyone, but not the will. We’ve decided that profit is more important than human life or comfort. In rich countries, we’re willing to let people starve and suffer long term from malnutrition. We’re willing to let people in difficulty around the world go hungry if they can’t pay for food. We’re happy to have them growing non-food items for our market places rather than food supplies they can live on.

This is not something any of us can fix by individual action. We can however start questioning the way money and resources move around. We can challenge the priorities. What good is all of our growth and development if we can’t solve the most basic problems? What good is our technology and knowledge if people go hungry? Harvests are a matter of luck as much as anything else. Your climate and where you live also play a part. Why do we think it’s ok for the lucky to get rich at the expense of the unlucky?

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

6 responses to “The uneasy side of harvests

  • garycohenblog

    Absolutely agree with you. I enjoy your posts when you highlight and challenge the social climate we are living in at this current time. The ‘haves’ will harvest more and create a story that the ‘have not’ are undeserving. There is a disturbing environment of selfish non compassionate attitude towards others that seems to be growing on a daily basis under the current government.

  • neptunesdolphins

    It depends on your Polytheism. I am a follower of Roman and Babylonian Gods. Both have celebrations at the equinoxes. The Babylonian calendar is based on the equinoxes.

    As for hunger itself, a lot of Roman focus is on Gods to protect the crops from seed to storage.

  • Aspasía S. Bissas

    Excellent article. How joyous would the harvest have been for people who knew that was all they had to live on until spring? And how joyous can it be for all the people who still struggle? Food gets wasted by the ton to keep prices higher, or because there’s “no market” for it; meanwhile, people go hungry.

    On another topic, Hellenic polytheists celebrate the equinoxes as a time to honour Demeter and Persephone/Kore, with the latter’s descent into the underworld in autumn and her return in spring.

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