The Autumnal Equinox festival is known in some traditions as Cuivanya or the Feast of Divine Life. This particular version of this celebration of the Autumnal Equinox is a holy day in the Filanic tradition.
- What is Filanism?
Filianism (the “Daughter Tradition” – from filia,daughter) is a religion that is sometimes considered to have started, or taken its current specific form, in the 1970s, since that is when it first became publicly known. Its first recorded modern appearances were in Britain, although some have postulated a Greek or Asian origin for its Scriptures and philosophy.
It is one of the four Cardinal Feasts of the year, and stands at the center of both the Mysteries of Life Cycle and the Mother Half of the year. It falls on the 17th of Abolan the apple-month (21st September) – approximately at the autumnal equinox.
The element governing the Fall season is Earth, and the festival itself is often considered to be the Harvest Festival.
While the association of the Mother God with the element of earth (the Earth Mother) has its roots in patriarchal “demotion” of the divine feminine to the lesser elements – attempting to make Her earthly and lunar as opposed to Solar and Spiritual – it must be remembered that in the beginning, the Mother Goddess was rightly understood to rule all elements of creation. Thus the patriarchal error lies not in seeing the Goddess as Earth Mother, but in seeing her only as Earth Mother and not also as Sky Mother, Solar Mother, and Queen of Heaven.
The idea of a Harvest Festival is often seen as “primitive” people, dependent on agriculture, giving thanks for their material survival and for the harvest that will permit them to eat. They then (according to “scientific” thinking) invent “gods” as a sort of imaginary explanation of the physical realities of life.
In fact the reverse is true. Our ancestors lived far closer to the Spirit than we do. Everything they did was spiritual first and physical second. The transition to agriculture was fundamentally a spiritual phenomenon. It was a part of the increasing materialization of maid: her becoming more and more a creature living on the physical plane.
But this in itself was spiritual: part of the process of cosmic manifestation. The rituals of agriculture were rituals first and practicalities second. They represented a new spiritual orientation for earthly life which remains with us to this day.
The central symbol of the autumnal equinox Harvest Festival, is the scythe or sickle. This is a symbol that represents both life and death. It symbolizes the harvest and the abundance of the earth, the coming to fruition of all the good things that have been planted and tended, both materially and spiritually. At the same time it represents cutting-down and death. The death of the individual, and ultimately the death of the cosmos itself, when all creation is in-breathed back into Absolute Deity, the Dark Mother who out-breathed the cosmos in the beginning.
Indeed, the Feast of Divine Life, while it is devoted to the entire Trinity of Mother, Daughter, and Dark Mother may also be called the true Feast of the Dark Mother (and indeed the festival marks the beginning of the dark half of the year).
The Dark Mother, or Absolute Deity (nirguna brahman – God Beyond Form) is called “Dark” because we can know nothing of Her. As the Vedantins put it, we can only assert of Absolute Deity: neti, neti “not this, nor this”. Yet while She appears Dark to us, the Dark Mother is hailed as “Dark beyond the Light and Light beyond the Darkness”. At Her darkest (from the worldly point of view) she is the “grim” Reaper, reaping not only the human soul at the end of a single life, but the entire creation at the end of all worlds.
But reaping has a double significance. In one sense it is “death” but in another sense it is harvesting, the coming to fullness and consummation of life. And it is this fullness and richness of Divine Life that is the primary theme of the great festival of the autumnal equinox.
The Dark Mother is likened to “Earth” in its most metaphysical sense, as the Ground of All Being. As it says in the Scriptures: “Let her not trust the ground her feet are set on, and doubt the Ground upon which that ground stands.”
From the human, or worldly, perspective, the Dark Mother is the third person of the Trinity but from the spiritual perspective, She is the first, the very foundation of the Trinity itself. That is why the Festival of the Trinity is also the Festival of the Dark Mother, because, in focusing on the whole Trinity, and not just Mother/Daughter with the Dark Mother in the background, we have to see the Dark Mother as the “First Principle and the Final Cause” not only of the cosmos, but of the Trinity Itself.
The Dark Mother is the Ground from which all being proceeds, and the sickle that harvests it when its cycle is complete. She is “the Beginning and the End”. While the first feast of the Mysteries of life cycle, the golden Festival of Regeneration (Chelanya), celebrates renewed life, and the last, the Feast of the Dead (Tamala), celebrates death, the central autumnal equinox festival of Cuivanya celebrates life and death at once in the sacred mystery of the Harvest – the “death” that comes as the culmination and fulfillment of Life. The death to this world that is birth to a higher world.
And yet, of course, it is not death but life that is the primary focus of this autumnal equinox festival, and not simply life in the ordinary sense, but the fundamental connection of all life with the Divine, and as such, it is necessarily also the feast of the Holy Trinity, since the Divine Life that creates the universe is inherently threefold.
The Trinity of Our Mother God (sometimes called the “Triple Goddess”) is often compared to the Hindu Trimurti – Creatrix (Mother), Preserver (Daughter), and Destroyer (Dark Mother) of the worlds (or with their lesser reflection, the Three Fates, spinner, weaver, and cutter of the world-thread). But while it is true that the Dark Mother, or Absolute Deity, in-breathes all life and all being at the end of time, it is equally true that She out-breathes it at the dawn of time. She is both the first Sower and the final Reaper of all life and all creation. From Her proceeds the bright Solar Mother who creates the worlds, and from the Solar Mother proceeds the Lunar Daughter who maintains them in being for the whole of their existence.
Nothing exists outside the Divine, and all things are part of the Divine Life. While modern people tend to see much of the universe as “inanimate” or “lifeless”, our tradition teaches us that all things are infused with the Divine Life. The universe is ensouled – not in the same way that we are, but everything that is is infused with the Divine Intelligence. That is why, for example, the movements of the stars and planets are connected with the events of human life – not because one directly affects the other, but because both are part of what has traditionally been called the anima mundi, or world-soul, (but which, for the sake of disambiguation, we might prefer to term the cosmic soul).
Divine Life is present throughout the cosmos, not just in human, animal, or vegetative life, but in all creation, and this autumnal equinox festival traditionally expresses that through the agricultural symbolism of the harvest, which is not simply a “metaphor” but a ritual in the fullest and deepest sense of the world, reaching back into the times when all human activities were spiritual rites first and worldly activities only secondarily.
The very biological, chemical, cultural, and psychological factors that make agriculture both possible and necessary are bound up intimately with the living symbolism of the cosmos and our earthly microcosm thereof.
The truth is the exact reverse of the “modernist” or “evolutionist” notion that physical facts come first and metaphysical Truth is secondary. In reality, all things are spiritual first and physical only secondarily and reflectively.
Which is simply another way of saying that Our Mother God is the Ground of All Being, and that every aspect of the cosmic whole is simply an expression of the Divine Life that underlies it.
That is the fundamental Truth of the Feast of Divine Life, the great festival of the autumnal equinox. It is a celebration of the Divine that is present in all things and manifested to us in the wonderful golden abundance of the harvest, the yearly culmination of our dear Mother’s nurturing love for Her children.
Ideas for Celebrating the Feast of Divine Life
- Prepare a feast!
Traditional foods include apples, cider, and seed cake. Fruits and vegetables that have ripened at this time of year are also appropriate. Don’t forget to thank the Goddess for the food on your table and all the many blessings She has given you!
- Decorate your shrine
Decorate your shrine with the fruits of the season, especially apples, as they represent the golden apples of Avala! A brief summary of he symbolic significance of the apple and Avala is given below:
Avala is the Earthly Paradise, for although beyond this physical world, it is still below the level of pure Spirit as the resting place for spiritually awakened but still imperfect souls. The Tree of Life, at its centre, bears the golden apples of life eternal. The word “paradise” comes from a root-word meaning “orchard”. Avala and Elysium both mean “apple-land”. In many traditions, from the Sumerian and Greek to the Aztec, this paradise has been pictured as a mountain-top orchard which, in all earlier and most later accounts, belongs to a “goddess”. Thus the Sacred Mountain is Her mountain; the golden apples Her apples, for Hers is the gift of eternal life.
- Perform a Rite of Sacrifice
This can be an elaborate ritual, or a simple offering of food and wine. The basic prerequisite is that what is sacrificed to the Goddess must be something of value. It can also include a sacrifice of time and energy. For example: you could offer up Saturday mornings to volunteer to help feed the homeless, or time and energy to work in a community garden.
- Pray the Filianic Rosary
The purpose of these is to allow a Catholic-style rosary to be prayed by individuals and groups who worship the Mother God in Her Trinitarian form, as God the Mother, God the Daughter, and the “Dark” Mother who is Absolute Deity, beyond being and unbeing; as set out in The Filianic Creed.
Here’s a nice example of a Hail Mary:
Hail Mary, fount of Grace
Lady of earth and Heaven
Blessed art Thou by all maidens
And blessed is Thy most beloved daughter,
Holy Mary, Mother and God,
Shelter us fallen ones now and at the hour of hour death.
- Read passages from the Filianic Scriptures.
The scripture passage for the Feast of Divine Life is found in The Crystal Tablet, Verses 12-29, as given below from the Lux Madrian version:
12. Life is the life of the spirit-the first principle; beyond being and unbeing. Life was before existence. Life is the cause of existence.
13. How shall the soul live in Life?
14. Let her realise the truth of herself and the Truth of the Absolute. Let her know that her life is beyond even her existence, that the Absolute Life, the Life of the Goddess, is beyond all existence.
15. Let her not be held from herself or her Goddess by anything that exists, for all the things that are have come from nothing and to nothing shall return. But the Divine Life, and her life within it, Was ever and ever shall Be, though time itself shall only last a space.
16. Let her not trust the ground her feet are set upon and doubt the Ground upon which that ground stands. Rather, let her doubt the sea, the sky, the fingers of her hand, and the breath of her mouth; for all these things may be illusions, as in some sense they are.
17. But let her know Life Divine as the Truth beyond truth and the Faith beyond faith and doubt.
18. Life is pure force, or energy, or delight. It is the joy of the Goddess, and Her breath and Spirit.
19. Light is the outpouring of Life into existence. All things that exist come from Life; they are made and sustained by Light.
20. Though an existing thing appear never so solid, yet its body is made of light. All material things are but consolidated force; and the vibration of force is the whole of their being.
21. Yet material things are far from the Source of Light. They have become subject to consolidation and restriction.
22. Pure light knows no bounds, but is perfect joy, and breathes its own perfection.
23. How shall the soul approach to Light?
24. Let her make her every act a resplendent creation, and let every outpouring of her energy be a well-made gift for her Lady. Let her not fall into dullness, but be ever creating herself anew in the delight of her energy.
25. Let her not seek for reward, but only for her own perfection; thus shall the action itself become perfect. Let her turn from the transient and find delight in the Eternal.
26. For every earthly action is the shadow of some higher form; and the soul must choose whether in her act she shall approach that form, or sink from it into deeper shadows and the morass of illusion.
27. She who rejects the light of the Spirit in this world shall, beyond death, be plunged into darkness and the confusion of bodiless echoes.
28. But every act that is performed in dedication to the Mother is an expression of the soul’s true self, and loosens the chains of her bondage.
29. If the soul live in Light, no thing shall be impossible to her, for her will shall become one with the will of our Lady.