Updated: Oct 18, 2020
Autumn is my favorite season. I'd like to be able to say it is because my birthday falls in the month of October, but its not. I love the crisp air, the cool breeze, the lack of humidity and sweltering summer heat. I love seeing the canopy of leaves in the forests turn from green to a raging fire of red, orange, yellow and brown. I love the foods that slowly start to become available. Apples, hard-shell squash, corn, pears, and the list could go on. In fact, right now all I can think about is pork and sauerkraut!
My home town used to hold an apple festival every autumn. There would be hayrides, games for the kids, a bazzarr of apple varieties, kettle made apple butter that would be churned and stirred for 24 hours over an open fire, dumplings, and pies. People from all over would come and celebrate autumn.
I try to work with foods as they are in season. Autumn and winter are two of my favorite seasons. I love the warming meals, the way food brings us closer together as a family and community when it comes time for family feasts, trick-or-treating, and blistery cold winter celebrations. I try hard to bring this philosophy into brewing as well!
September is the start of fall beer for us. Crisp and malty Oktoberfest takes the stage for me, while others love our spiced pumpkin ale. Others prefer the hoppiness of our American brown ale or fresh hopped IPA where we use hops from a local hop farm. Some years we brew a persimmon ale to celebrate a regional fruit, other years it might be a warming honey ale with apples and apple pie spices!
I think its important to look at what our farmers have to offer us from their harvest and say thank you for their hard work and sacrifices they made to the earth to grant them, and also us with such an amazing bounty of food to nourish our bodies, and enjoy with friends and family.
Two runes in particular come to mind to me for this season of harvest: Jera and Gebo. Jera is the rune of the season, the wheel of the year. In the old world of the north they only had two seasons; summer and winter. This is seen in the Elder Futhark version of Jera as two Kenaz runes slightly off center from one another. Kenaz, while I view it as an inner knowing also can be viewed as troublesome, difficulties, and pain. Jera, as a rune of cycles and harvest, can be seen as just this. When the harshness of winter has ended, the warmth and joys of summer are upon us. However, summer can cause damage to crops if it is too hot, leading to a poor harvest and thus a rough winter. Winter can be seen in a similar way with providing enough snow to melt in the summer warmth and create the perfect soil to plant and grow, along with enough rain!
Gebo, is a rune of gifting and equal exchange. We offer our blood and sweat to the earth in hopes for a good harvest. In return the earth accepts our offering and provides us with nourishment. Both runes, Jera and Gebo, promote cycles.
The official harvest month in Heathenry begins on the first day of fall. Around September 21st through the 27th begins the month of Haustmánuður. It is considered the final month of summer leading us into winter. However, in our modern world we consider this the start of Autumn.
I've always found it difficult to celebrate the pagan holidays. I'll be planning something big one minute, and the next its two weeks past. Part of this journey is to be more aware of the wheel of the year and really begin walking it properly starting with Haustmánuður. To honor the harvest, the gods of fertility, and of the earth this year I plan on constructing an altar and offerings of grain, hops, apples, and other foods and herbs that we are finding plentiful in my neck of the woods this time of the year. Mushrooms have been all over the place and might make a great offering! On the 21st I plan on holding a bonfire in my back yard with the family. Maybe roast some marshmallows and talk about the things we were grateful for during the first two seasons of the year. What did we manifest and start reaping the rewards of our hard work.
The weekend prior or after I intend on really going all out at the local farmer's market and picking up some wonderful foods and creating a family feast featuring only locally grown and raised foods. The exchange of money for their labors and the nourishment it will bring to my family and what we can offer to the gods and wights is the very definition of cycles and this month of harvest and reward.
One thing that will be on the table for certain is Brussels sprouts. I'll post the recipe below. Feel free to comment with recipes that you make for holiday feasts this time of the year! Other things you can do would be to take some of those locally sourced foods and preserve them. As this was the end of summer and start of winter it would have been important to make sure food was available even during the harshest winters. Canning, pickling, drying, and preserving are all great ways to keep children involved, learning new skills, and insuring there is food in the pantry! It might also be a great time to volunteer at a local soup kitchen or food bank.
My altar will consist of offerings to Freyja, Frey, Idunn, and Sif. Hand made incense, grains from a local maltster, local hops, apples and pears, and yellow and orange candles. All of these things remind me of autumn and to me, inspire and imbue the gods and goddesses mentioned above.
However you celebrate remember this time is about family, cycles, harvesting what it is we sowed during the year, good and bad, and giving back to those who provided for you prior.
Brussels Sprouts and Bacon
yeild: 4 servings
Prep time/Cook time: 20 min
1 large bag Brussels sprouts (roughly 20 individual sprouts) cleaned and cut into quarters
1/4 yellow onion, medium dice
1 clove garlic, minced
4 oz bacon, diced
1 T bacon fat or other oil
1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil.
Blanch sprouts in water until bright green, but not cooked through
Remove sprouts with a slotted spoon and place in an ice bath until cool. Remove from bath and set aside. (This step can be done the day before)
In a large saute pan heat oil/bacon fat over medium-low heat.
Add bacon and allow to cook until all the fat has been rendered
Remove bacon bits and set aside
Sweat onion and garlic until translucent
Add blanched and shocked Brussels sprouts and saute until done (they should remain bright green)
Season with salt and pepper to taste
Add bacon bits back and finish with toasted almonds
This recipe can be made vegetarian as well. Swap the bacon fat for olive oil, coconut, oil, etc and replace the bacon with dried cranberries. This makes for a great Winter Solstice dish as well!