Witchcraft + Weeds : Healing + Magickal Practices for Autumn
The Autumn Equinox acts as the hinge of a door, where we swing from the bright half to the dark half of the year.
Known by many names such as Mabon, Alban Elfed, the Feast of Avalon, Winter Finding, the Second Harvest, and Witches’ Thanksgiving, the Autumn Equinox is an opportunity to give thanks for the abundance of the year and prepare for the slower months of winter.
The air has started to turn cooler and the leaves paint their faces red, orange, and yellow as they prepare to descend to earth. In September, I begin to pull out my knitted clothing and find myself preparing heartier meals as well as teas full of berries and roots. During the later months of autumn, especially between Samhain and the Winter Solstice, I pay attention to the movements of the land spirits and the migratory patterns of the Wild Hunt, setting out offerings and lit candles for both.
The Autumn Equinox marks the turn of the wheel from the healing mutable earth sign of Virgo to the harmonizing cardinal air sign of Libra. The bright and bold energy of summer laughs and tumbles with joyful exhaustion to the cool embrace of fall. There is a necessary period of reassessment as we organize for autumn and winter after the more lax period of the summer. But it’s not an excuse to get so tightly wound that we forget about the pleasure of the season and growing dark. Spend time not only preparing your home for the healing embrace of dark, but your body, too. Drink nutritive teas, eat healing and hearty stews, and add spice into your diet to support your inner digestive fire.
Body System Focus : Skin + Nervous System
or Give Thanks + Rebalance
Within the four elements system of traditional western herbalism (I write more about TWH energetics over here), the season of autumn alchemizes fire into earth or heat into cooling dryness. Our bodies are awoken from the languid repose of heat into a sharpening crispness in the air. The summer is over and we are in the midst of harvest season. It's time to shift our focus from the outward growing of the summer to the gathering-in of resources in the autumn. Make warming stews full of herbal and vegetable roots. Integrate oily herbs into your daily routine to nourish your nervous system and protect your skin from the inside out. The plant allies of the Autumn season help us to get grounded as the winds of the season rush around us. Many of the weeds of the season are hearty berries and roots which restore the nervous system and balance the landscape of the skin. If you’re struggling to get grounded and find your flow this autumn, check out the healing ways of Virgo.
While our foraging opportunities grow smaller as the days grow colder and darker, there are still some amazing herbal allies to connect with. While the trees and bushes are losing their leaves, what remains are bright antioxidant rich berries sharply accented against grey skies. The energy of the fields that were full of green herbs in the spring and summer have now gone down below into the ready-to-harvest roots. Enjoying foraged weeds as food and medicine is an amazing way to connect with the season and practice self-care. If you want to learn more about the healing properties of weeds, I highly recommend checking out The Wise Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival by Katrina Blair.
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) : The red berries of the Hawthorn bush glow bright as the light fades and the skies grow heavy with clouds. Hawthorn is one of the first herbs many Traditional Western Herbalists turn to for supporting cardiovascular health. The herb nourishes and feeds the heart working best as a long-term tonic (i.e. multiple months of use if not longer). In other words, Hawthorn is a cardiac tophorestorative - which is a restorative tonic for the heart - bringing the hard working muscle back into balance whether from an illness, stress, or the affects of aging. One of the folk names for Hawthorn is “hagthorn” reminding us of the plants long connection with hags, witches, and otherworldly womxn that we can choose to connect with as the veil thins towards Samhain.
Burdock (Arctium lappa) : A wonderful blood purifier and kidney detoxifier that pulls waste from the cellular level, Burdock is an excellent ally to work with throughout autumn and winter. Because Burdock is so cleansing, it is of benefit to combine it with diuretic herbs (such as Dandelion Taraxacum officinalis) to help flush out the system. It's consider an oily herb in traditional western herbalism, which means it helps with dried out conditions as well as lubricate the nervous system and other passageways of the body. The internal cleansing that Burdock brings about manifests externally, too, helping to alleviate skin problems such as acne and eczema. The herb supports a healthy immune system and has historical use as an ally during times of dire illness such as leprosy and cancer.
Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea) : Every season needs a good bitter herb and Goldenrod delivers. The bitter flavor of a plant lets us know that it is good for the digestion, helping us to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste. Goldenrod is indicated when there is a runny nose, watery eyes, and a state of uncomfortable damp. Sinus and ear infections can be helped with the cooling and anti-inflammatory herb. The plant is also a wonderful topical remedy for sore muscles and inflammation.
Rose Hips (Rosa spp.) : Another flash of bright red in the landscape, Rose Hips are wonderful allies in keeping us healthy during the cold months of the year. Rose Hips have one of the highest concentrations of vitamin C found in a herb - about 1700–2000 mgs per 100 dried grams. The herb also helps with digestion and elimination, which is especially useful as we switch over to heartier food. Since they are cooling, Rose Hips are also useful in reducing fevers and their astringency helps with runny noses and other symptoms of colds. They are an excellent addition to convalescent brews and, being Rose, they are also helpful in all matters of the heart.
Elder (Sambucus nigra) : The deep purple berries of the Elder are a welcome sight during the autumn. As humxns we’ve had a long relationship with the Elder Mother who has been cultivated since the stone age. It is one of the fastest-acting immune herbs that I’ve experienced and my absolute favorite for preventing and reducing the length of colds and the ‘flu. Since they are so high in antioxidants, Elder berries also protect against oxidative stress and can be used over a long period of time to restore a body to balance and health. The plant is under the guardianship of Venus (especially when the energies of the planet manifest as a Crone) and is an excellent ally to working with the sign of Libra.
Dahlia Flower Essence : If you are someone who struggles with the growing dark and feel increasingly weary and sad during the cold months of the year, Dahlia might be a good ally for you. The essence helps us to reconnect with happiness from a place of resiliency, placing aside the expectations of how we and others think we should be and stepping into a more optimistic and confident expression of our self.
Autumn is a time of gathering in energies after the exuberance of summer. It’s time to put to good use what you’ve learned so far this year and stretch your magickal muscles. Try out new magickal techniques or dust off old ones to try again with renewed focus. The days are growing shorter and the veil is becoming thinner. Spend time connecting with your ancestors and those that have gone before you. Remember that you, too, will be an ancestor one day - what is the legacy that you are leaving behind? It’s time to practice your magick from a place of sovereignty and confidence. Below I’ve listed three paths of autumn magick that I practice to help me connect with the energies of the season.
3 Paths of Autumn Magick
Clearing Out : We clear out stagnant energy so that we may be renewed again at the coming new year at Samhain. Rituals include all forms of purification and cleansing magick for yourself as well as your home and belongings; burn clearing incense such as Juniper (Juniperus communis), Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis), and Copal (Bursera odorata), followed by herbs that bring in energies and qualities that you desire (such as Rose (Rosa spp.) for love or Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) for psychic gifts); hex-breaking baths and charms; cleansing and aligning your energy centers; grounding and centering meditations; divination to help you discover what needs cleansing or letting go of; clean and organize your house; renew the energies of your altar; pay attention to and release negative self-talk that doesn’t serve you; let go of relationships that don’t affirm and celebrate who you are.
Clearing Out Meditation : In a comfortable position, visualize a warm red glow descending from above towards you and emerging up from below you. The red energy flows throughout your dislodging and removing stagnant energy. Next, visualize a orange light coming from above and below to flow through your body with its gentle cleansing glow. Continue in this manner with the following colors: yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. When all seven colors have moved through your body and aura take a deep breath in and visualize the colors settling around you like a protective circle.
Giving Thanks : We give thanks in order to recognize and celebrate the abundance in our lives, honoring the people, places, and opportunities that have been of benefit to us. Rituals include ones of gratitude and giving back. Write that letter, email, text or pick up the phone and call the person who deserves your thanks and gratitude; light a candle or hearthfire and name the multiple streams of abundance in your life whether it’s a job, comfortable housing, the technology to access the internet, clean water, good food, family and friends, the ancestors who insured your ability to exist, and more; invite friends and family over for a thanks and gratitude community potluck (aka Witch’s Thanksgiving); donate time and money to a local community cause from food kitchens to animal shelters, community gardens and youth programs; recognize the ways that you don’t celebrate abundance in your life and work to shift your perspective; create an abundance branch in your home to hang above your altar with ribbons, leaves, and other objects with what you’re grateful for written on them; give offerings to the land spirits, the ancestors traveling the land, and honor the Wild Hunt who helps lost spirits find their way home to peace and rest.
Giving Thanks Meditation : Get cozy and draw your attention to your heartbeat. We are shaped by the sounds of hearts beating - first the one we felt in the womb and then our own. If you can be grateful for nothing else, choose to be grateful for the heart beating in your chest, which give you life and possibility. Taking a deep breath in and guided by your heartbeat, think or say out loud, “I am thankful for…” and notice what comes up for you. You might think “I am thankful for…” and an image of your garden shows up in your mind. Hold your hands over you heart and say or think, “I am thankful for my garden.” Continue in this fashion for however long you like. Just before you’re done, say, “I am grateful for those things I have not remembered and honor them still." Finally, raise your arms to the sky and say “I am uplifted by my gratefulness.” Touch the ground (or reach towards the ground) and say, “I am grounded by my gratefulness.” Finish by placing your hands over your heart and saying, “I am centered by my gratefulness.”
Going Deep : We draw our energy inwards into our own depths so that we might better know the roots of who we are and where our power emerges from. Rituals include ones that evoke deeply meditative states and direct your energy to the underworld; trance and journeywork to the underworld and the realm of the ancestors; ancestral rituals and honoring, including setting out an extra plate at meal times and leaving a bowl of water (changed regularly) on your altar; performing shadow work and soul alignment work; seeking out therapeutic support (such as EMDR) for processing past traumas that prevent you from calling all parts of yourself home; soul retrieval rituals; working with Sage, Crone, and Elder God/dess/es; learning how to scry; doing grief and sorrow magick; allowing yourself to mourn for that which has been lost, including mourning the current state of affairs in the world; take time to sit in the dark without any source of light; spend a day and night in silence.
Going Deep Meditation : Go to a dark space. Wear loose, dark clothing. Lie down and place a heavy rock or weighted pillow or something similar on your belly. This is the anchor which draws you down into the depths. Bring yourself into a meditative space and then visualize a staircase below you. Walk down the steps slowly. When you reach the bottom notice what is there - this will offer you insight into what you keep hidden from the world yet is a significant part of you. Find the dark pool of water - it may appear suddenly, it may be hidden. Gaze into the pool of water, asking to be shown a message of wisdom from your deep self. When all has been seen, give thanks, and return up the staircase to your body. Remove the stone from your belly, giving it a kiss to thank the earth for giving you form, and then perform a grounding and centering of your choice.
Hot Cocoa Contentment Charm
This time of the year is not just about doing depth magick, but autumn is also a time of gathering in for the purpose of getting cozy and comfortable. The spring and summer are busy and energetically outward driven times of the year, so when autumn finally arrives it can feel so good to put on our oversized sweater and curl up with a good book. And you know what would make that scene even better - a hot drink to enjoy. The Hot Cocoa Contentment Charm will help you brew up some contentment to help you settle back into your body and magickal practice with comfort and ease. It’s a get charm to do after a house cleansing or any time you need to help settle the energy in your self and your home.
For this ritual you’ll need your favorite hot cocoa mix (you can try one of mine if you like), your mug of choice, and a bit of peace and quiet. Cacao (Theobroma cacao) or chocolate is a great messenger plant - it delivers the message of whatever charm you’re using it for to it’s desired location. In this instance, Cacao is helping us distribute a sense of contentment within ourselves and our home.
Brew you cocoa and as you do, chant the following charm while stirring it:
Each bring four blessings
To my brew here
So I may know
the joy of leisure.
Go room to room in your home with your cup full of hot cocoa saying each time:
Contentment is delivered to this place
I now dwell in a peaceful space
In the final room to be blessed, and the one where you are planning on getting cozy and drinking your hot cocoa, end your charm by saying “Blessed Be!” three times.
Tell me about your favorite magickal and healing practices for autumn in the comments below. Check out my recipes and herbs for the autumn season as well as a tarot season to help you connect to the energies of fall.