Autumn Equinox and our Ancestors

Autumn Equinox and our Ancestors

The autumn equinox is a time of preparation for the coming season. Priestess Bee Helygen reminds us of how our ancestors would have approached this time and invites us to be inspired by their example. 


Cerridwen, Goddess of Earth: Cerridwen, duwies y ddaear

Autumn has begun, everywhere we look the green is turning to gold, red, russet brown. 

The animals are still collecting the hedge and tree harvest,whilst in our beautiful Orchard here in Avalon the apples are ripening. Nuts, rosehip, berries, it is all up for the taking. A gift from Mother Earth. 

In the Celtic tradition this season is called Alban Elfed or Alban Elued, depending on who you ask. I always have to remind people that we, as Pagans, are all part of a reclaiming tradition, putting together pieces of a puzzle that was long ago tossed out of its box, and many pieces are still missing. 

There is no point in arguing particular interpretations that some may present as ironclad facts. Because we don’t know who the Celts were, we don’t know what they celebrated and how they called that time. We live now, and if we wish to recover the faith of our Ancestors, we must do so with love and trust. Allowing what will to come forward. 

I have mentioned the Ancestors several times now and with good reason. Nature is now returning into the earth from whence it came. It is the time of decay, of nights drawing in and we, as humans, are returning into our homes, preparing for the winter. Bringing out the warm snuggles and onesies, the blankets, the slippers, and the remote control. 

What would our Ancestors have done to prepare for the winter? This is always the most interesting question. I have often wondered what Cerridwen’s people think of our seasons, since the Summerland (Celtic ‘Heaven’) is exactly that, one season: summer. Perpetually. Can you imagine not having a season? Several of our students live in countries where there are no seasons and they wax lyrical about the times they visit our continent, and the many beautiful sights there. Now that the trees are changing colour and just before many lose their leaves, this is a very special time. 

So I imagine Cerridwen walking our forests, hills and valleys, especially near Bala, where the Berwyn mountains surround the lake and a steep walk takes you through the densely wooded area to the summit from which you can see the lake glinting in the autumn sun. Everything smells so pungently earthy. The burrowing animals seek to prepare their place to rest. This is where you feel the Goddess and the OtherWorld most deeply. 

Our Ancestors would have swept their houses and placed freshly threshed hay down, interspersed with meadowsweet and other herbs to keep the vermin at bay. They would have created space for their most precious animals, and a place for themselves. Often the animals were housed below and the people on a platform type structure above. The heat of the animals would rise and keep the humans warm. They would have stacked chopped wood for the centre fire all around the walls, both insulation and preparation.

They would have brought in their stores of food and medicine in leather pouches as glass was not really a thing then. They would have their barrels of mead and beer, wine wasn’t really common in Northern European, and certainly not in Britain. 

Water for drinking would be flowing from the streams and the springs, even if at times they would crust over with ice and would have to be broken through. There was much preparation for the cold weather, sealing of the roof, mending any holes in the walls. The houses were made from reed, straw and mud. I have visited reconstructions of these houses and marvelled at the warmth of them. High above, in the centre of the roof is the hole to let the smoke out. A small Ancestor altar and altar to the resident house God would also have been prepared to give the family a smooth journey through the winter. 

Cerridwen would have been one of the Goddesses called upon for protection. She was very present for the incoming people from Europe into Britain, and some researchers believe that her name is derived from the grain Goddess Ceres. 

The clothes were woven and many-layered, using hemp, linen, then a wool tunic. The outer layer in the form of a gilet type vest made from fur would have been very warm indeed. The Celtic people had a much higher tolerance for the cold than we have today. The animals in the houses with them were also a source of heat. 

Windows were small slits in the walls and also covered with fur and sometimes the centre fire was the only source of light.

In these cold, strange and difficult times, it is no wonder that the humans would feel the nagging fear for their own and their families’ survival, and the tales spun around the fire would be about the great, brave deeds their Ancestors had performed in times of grave danger. Perhaps tales of an Ancestor of note, a great warrior, a protector, whose spirit was still present and which would warn his descendants of any incoming danger. In the Chief’s house, mead would be drunk by the men and the Bards would sing songs of battles won by the Ancestors of the current Lord of the Land. 

The remembrance of who the tribe descended from and their claim to fame was often what kept the enemies at bay. As the growing dark surrounded them, as the light of the day first came into equal balance at the equinox, before receding for the winter, the people settled into a routine, with everyone having a set of tasks, working together for the good of the family and the tribe. 

At this autumn equinox, I remind you of the importance of creating friendship circles over this period, make plans to meet up, join a club, and find a new hobby, as these times of being ‘locked in the house’ by the weather may trigger memories of our Covid trauma, or a dark night of the soul stemming from loneliness and isolation. 

Check in on each other, no man or woman is an island. 

Blessings of Alban Elfed to you. 



Bee Helygen

Bee Helygen - Priestess of Cerridwen

Adoratrix of Cerridwen

Priestess of the Llwyth



Bee is the creatrix and course tutor for the Priestess of Cerridwen training which has been running as part of the Glastonbury Goddess Temple since 2015. This year she opened the Temple College of Avalon here in Glastonbury and added the Priestess of the Dark Goddess training to the offerings. Full bio.

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