During the blissful heat of summer, we pause to celebrate the sabbat which falls during the lull that starts August. In my tradition, Kronia celebrates the first harvest, abundance, and the balancing sacrifice. Kronos: time, who cuts with a scythe the richness around us, reminds us what we give up for what we receive. The days are not always hot and steamy, and the nights grow slightly longer as we inch further away from the daylight zenith of the year.I bite into the sweetness of a strawberry and watch the juice run down my fingers.
What is sacrificed for that sweetness? How long did it take to prepare the soil, to grow the berries, and to pick them when they would gush with flavor? We don’t think necessarily of the sacrifice to grow the food as we consume it, but we do cherish the brevity of time when such fruits are in season. Even living in a warmer climate, there is a season for the peak ripeness of certain fruits and vegetables. Eat fresh, eat local is a good ethical principle to follow for those who want to stay as natural as possible. The willingness to sacrifice convenience and year-round access for the highest quality local produce is one that many are eager to make. In August, we celebrate the beauty of midsummer by honoring the foods which surround us.
The celebration of Kronia at this time recalls the far-distant Golden Age marked by stability, sufficiency, and serenity; this is the opposite of what we see in the modern world. During festivals and holidays, we seek respite from the rushed pace of our daily lives. We appreciate abundance, even by the mouthful, when we can pause to savor and taste each tiny bit of the yellow cake with chocolate frosting, or a crisp green salad with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers adorned with a warm honey balsamic vinaigrette dressing. The sacrifice of time allows us to indulge in a healing experience; it is one with good food and good company.
Now, when we take the scythe and harvest our bounty at this time of the year, I am reminded of that fleeting sweetness. As human beings, we still have the energy to race around and finish the myriad of tasks we consider “summer” before we have to return to the routine of autumn: a return to the classroom for students, an end to the summer family vacation season, a need to catch up at our jobs, and a desire to put things in order for the cooler temperatures and slower pace of an impending winter.
In August, for a moment, we don’t have to think of autumn’s chill despite massive sales for household items and bed sheets that will warm us in luxury a few months from now. We just have to taste, to enjoy, and to appreciate. We suspend and surrender our worries in pool parties, backyard barbecues with friends or neighbors, lazy afternoons playing ball on the court, or just napping in the sun while reading a book. Sunlight is our strength, our refuge, and our abundance in spirit. In reality, it is because we have so much around us that is visually appealing that we sometimes miss or forget the very sacrifice required at this time to keep things going.
We cherish the family vacation, even if it is just a “staycation,” and we briefly forget the 40 weeks we may have saved up to pay for the trip or the events at home. We hold the birthday party in the backyard until 11:30 p.m. on a weeknight, ignoring the price that our bodies might have to pay if we need to be at work by 7 a.m. the next morning. We feel so good in the abundance of summer that we tell ourselves that we’ll make up the sleep deficit later, even if we know that later may not come for awhile. It is a willing sacrifice for the harvest of joy that we feel in celebrating with family and friends.
For the heat of August, it is Kronos who fits with the sphere of agriculture, harvest, and most important, a reminder of time itself. How do we use or misuse our time? For those who seek to know, understand, and have a relationship with their gods, what is your spiritual harvest? What have you planted that has blossomed this year and now surrounds you in abundance? What have we received from the gods in response to our spell-work, prayers, ritual, and overall practices? Do we remember? Have we forgotten?
When I look at various Facebook feeds or other social media postings, I see a lot of requests for spells, prayer, ritual, and just help in general. As we live, so we die. For all of these requests, what actually happened? For some, there are follow-up posts of thanks or sadness or joy. Perhaps pictures are placed to show the result of a sacrifice made, the healing received, and the abundance appreciated. Perhaps there is nothing but a simple “thank-you.”
Kronia, the midsummer celebration, reminds me that the harvest can be a difficult one. As a child, I used to grow sunflowers with my mother in our backyard. I forget the exact month when the large stems would grow heavy and lean over with their bounty of seeds, but I do know that as a child it was so easy to forget that the sunflowers were planted, watered, and if the harvest did not occur at the right time, they would die with their seeds rotting in the pods. From this I learned that harvest and the acceptance of abundance cannot be delayed. Not really. There is a moment when there is the peak of ripeness, when the juice is so sweet and tart that your eyes start to water. Then there is the moment just past that time, perhaps even a day or so later. The taste is still okay, but slightly bitter. The desire to consume the fruit lessens. If it’s the last bit of strawberry and you’ve got little in the house, you’ll eat it, but you really don’t want to do so. You crave the original sweetness of the berry from a few days earlier.
The sweetness of Kronia is like that in a way: we celebrate with family, friends, and the gods our accomplishments; our worldly, emotional, and spiritual achievements. We need a reminder before we head into the cooler temperatures of autumn that there are reasons to keep going. Abundance brings healing. Sweetness reminds us of abundance. When we grasp the harvest, we accept the abundance and we heal to go forward.
Spiritual harvest and healing need not be large things or grand gestures. It can be as small as observing a woodpecker on a tree and remembering how long it has been since you had five or ten minutes just to observe a bird doing its job. It can be spending time catching up with a friend in person, by phone, or Skype. Modern technology allows the harvest to expand to include those who are 12 or 18 hours away. It can be seeing the signs that the gods scatter throughout our lives on a regular basis. For those who have chosen a particular path, this is a wonderful time of the year for initiation. The very act of initiation calls for sacrifice, acknowledgement of gifts received, and a healing. The initiate steps through a border, a dividing line between the person of the past and the person of the future.
One of my own spiritual harvests this year is how to live with the dying. It is a hard journey because while procreation, birth, creativity, and the enjoyment of life are regularly discussed or presented as topics for discovery, endings and death are not. How many workshops at any given festival or convention discuss endings, death, stagnation, the darker aspects of sacrifice? Not many. We experience abundance due to death: we harvest and kill to pleasure our taste buds, to enjoy what we have planted, and to complete the cycle. Abundance cannot exist forever in current times without loss, harvest, or sacrifice. At Kronia, the bright skies and hot weather make it easy to forget this lesson.
The dying make the harvest on a regular basis. Do I stay or do I go? If I go, what will I miss? Whom will I hurt? What really happens on the other side? If I stay, is it the right thing to do? What if I am only staying for X person or Y situation? This is where the healing aspect of the holiday hits home: if it is easy to enjoy the abundance, and hard to accept the sacrifice, then the balance would be healing. Savor the victories, as they are healing.The healing for me at this time is the ability to see the rich abundance in silences, short conversations, and grunts that represent full sentences’ worth of meaning. A victory can be getting down a few spoonfuls of a rice pudding or finishing a cup of coffee. Simple pleasures matter when time is limited or when time just has no meaning at all.
In the past at Kronia, I would not have noticed much beyond checking how much time I had to finish an impossibly long list of things that would make my summer complete before preparing for Pagan Pride in September. I would grill hot dogs or chicken outdoors, have a cold drink, and spend time with friends. It would be a reminder, but just a reminder, to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather while I could for the next six or seven weeks. Now, Kronia is still very much a family holiday for me. I plan to serve rice pudding, cut up chicken nuggets, chopped spinach or broccoli, and some tart lemonade – indoors.
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