A white background with 4 beige drawings, one in each corner. One is a pumpkin, a colony of bats in flight, a maple leaf, and a hot mug of something delicious

The Role of Human-persons in Changing Seasons

Autumn was always my favorite season. It’s gorgeous in eastern NC. The skies are never bluer. Leaves fall in fierce reds, golds. It’s a crisp, spectacular welcome back outdoors after a smothering Summer spent looking out the window.

Several years ago Autumn began to herald another transition. I noticed that my pain level would shoot up as soon as the humidity began to dry. My rheumatologist at the time said it was called the October Crush, because her EDS client load doubles for the month. Now combined with body’s inability to sync with the climate-changed seasonality and my already curious sense of time, the transition into darkness this year comes with additional needs.

I’ve been thinking of the things I usually do  to tend my life force, soul, place-space, and ecosystem at this time of year and would like to share my Autumn cosmology hygiene rituals with you.

I always look forward to Autumn, because it’s the time to deathwalk what’s no longer needed. We have this period of harvest, of knowing we’ll get what we need, not just to get through Winter, but to do this sweeping away of what no longer suits us. For me, this year Autumn has been messy, painful, and a lot of variables in the air, releasing the tension and debris of Summer. Summer slayed this year, with no rain and record high temps. My place-space retreated under ground way sooner than it usually does. Now, as the folx who arerelatively well medically speaking become reactivated intrapandemic, the rattle of unquiet dead serves as the reminder of what we haven’t tended, certainly what we haven’t learned about, and what remains needing to be tended. There’s a lot more going on in this shift of season than in cycles past and it feels pretty rickety. Still, I want to honor the shift, while doing what I can for what relief can be given.

Why do seasonal rituals? The same reason we clear the dead of Winter from the planting beds before we seed them: to take responsiblity for the human-person part of ecosystem and our impact on it. Yes, I do all kinds of rituals all the time, though the point of seasonal rituals is a bit different.

Human-persons are part of seasonal change.

What? The season won’t turn without human-person engagement? Not exactly. Sure, the season turns regardless of human-person involvement. Rather, season changes and all of the ecosystem knows and does their part in it. So should we. We should do the parts of seasonal human-person impact that are cleaning up debris, feeding the birds (depending on specific ecosystem needs), pruning back the dead, and tending all the plant life we ornament our yards with (which can radically offset the balance of native ecosystem).

Autumn mums and marigolds by the fence

More than any of those, we cheerlead the ecosystem as it does its thing, because when we’re more intentionally part of it, IT can be bigger. It can be more enlivened with all who participate actively involved in its care and tending. We are family. We need to act like it in our supportive rituals. In this way we celebrate seasonal change intentionally by cheering our ecosystem’s hard work, beauty, challenges, and integrity.

I’m not one who prescribes the details of ritual. Maybe plug-n-play sacred works for some folx or in some cases, but it rarely works for me. My neurodivergence doesn’t tolerate it well, and frankly, my ecosystem isn’t your ecosystem. Even if you’re right down the road from me, my experience of Autumn or its arrival is not yours. We are not in relationship with ecosystem in the same way. For that reason, nuance in how we engage it in ritual should reflect that uniqueness. Below are some of the ways I cheerlead Autumn:

  • Re-introduce myself
  • Re-establish my commitment to my ecosystem
  • Sing to the sun
  • Sing to my ecosystem, and specific kin therein
  • Sing to my Ancestors
  • Learn who’s in residence and who’s gone for the Dark Time
  • Listen to their needs
  • Work with Kenaz, half-month rune of Haustblót, and Gebo, Wunjo, then Hagalaz, half-month rune of Samhain/Vetrnætr (in the calendar I work with)
  • Clear out the old growth
  • Tuck in the yard for Winter
  • Re-arrange or update yard ornamentation based on current occupancy and needs
  • Update frithgard area commitment
  • Prepare what I’m ready to give to The Wild Hunt

Following are a few prompts to consider as you help usher in Autumn:

  • What indigenous observations are associated with Autumn where you live? How can you honor them and their history?
  • What is your ecosystem? How do you experience it?
  • What ecosystem spirits do you recognize in your cosmology? What ones recognize you?
  • In this season, how do the elements show up in your cosmology? In your ecosystem? How do you honor them?
  • How do the directions show up?
  • How are you in relationship with other human-persons of your ecosystem? How do you honor them?
  • Does your human-person involvement change in Autumn?
  • Do you like the way it changes/does not change?
  • What human-persons are authorities on your native ecosystem?
  • How do body’s needs change in Autumn?
  • What are you bringing into Autumn that you’re ready to deathwalk?
  • What feelings come up about darkness and shadow?
  • How can you carry your ecosystem with you wherever you go?

I would love to hear how your rituals for Autumn come together. Drop me a line in the Patreon or Instagram chat if you want to talk about it.

My best of this transition, for you and yours. 


on Instagram

S. Kelley Harrell, M. Div.

I’m an animist, author, deathwalker and death doula held by Tuscarora, Woccon, and Sissipihaw land. For the last 25+ years, through Soul Intent Arts I’ve helped others to ethically build thriving spiritual paths as fit, embodied elders, who upon death become wise, capable Ancestors. My work is Nature-based, and focuses soul tending through the Elder Futhark runes, animism, ancestral healing, and deathwork. I’m author of several books on soul work and runes, and when moved I host the podcast, What in the Wyrd. I also write The Weekly Rune as a celebration of the Elder Futhark in season. Full bio.

#beyourcommunity ~ #youareecosystem

elder well, die well, ancestor well


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