Fall, the Ancestors, and Asatru
We who follow Asatru place considerable importance on the turning of the seasons, each of which has its own feeling and its own festivals. The changes in the world around us from season to season are mirrored by changes in our own inner life. In summer we are more outgoing, more active. The coming of fall and of winter brings a new mood, and produces an inward turning of the spirit. We can learn a lot by observing these emotional and spiritual responses.
In my case, I am very aware that fall has arrived in the Sierras. Some people note the changing seasons with a calendar, but I do it differently. For me, the first day of fall is that day when I walk out on my deck in the morning and I can see my breath. The new season is confirmed as I note that my fluttering friends, the bats, with no more insects to devour, have disappeared into their winter homes.
However you measure it, Fall is here. The nights are chilly; the days cooler than they were. The leaves on the trees are turning to gold and yellow and red and brown - the rains will come soon...then the frost...and finally the first snows. Life seems to be in retreat as the leaves drop off, leaving the bare, skeletal branches reaching skyward. The grass dies back, the flowers disappear, some of the birds have flown to warmer climes and other animals have sought refuge in their burrows. When the snow comes, you'd swear that life had disappeared, and death triumphed in this landscape.
We all know, however, that spring will come. On the far side of winter, the days will lengthen and the frosts will come no more. The grass will be green again, and the flowers fill the fields. Life will return. Indeed - and this is key - it had never really departed! It was there all along, withdrawn, sleeping under the snow. There is an unseen continuity that runs from summer to fall, and through the cold of winter to the renewed life of springtime. The thread of life may be hidden, but it is not broken. Life abides!
The indigenous religions of our European forefathers and foremothers, of which Asatru is a leading example, knew that this same principle applies to the clan, as well. The line of descent - the bond extending from our ancestors, to us, and on to our descendents is a continuity just like the unbroken stream of life that defies winter's blasts. The lineage, the clan line, transcends time and space and, yes, mortality itself. The ancestors are with us always, sending their blessings and love through the thin curtain that is death. That curtain is especially thin at this time of year - the festival of Winter Nights is a reminder of this truth, and the Celtic celebration of Samhain is very much the same in spirit.
The love and blessings the ancestors give us is only half of the transaction, of course. As the Havamal reminds us, a gift looks for a return. Our duty to the ancestors is simply this: to remember them, to visit their graves when we can, to show their pictures to our children and grandchildren, and to tell their stories. Listen, as October works its magic, for the loving whispers of those who have gone before us, and who remain concerned for our welfare - and respond to them with love and remembrance in return!
Asatru Folk Assembly