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The full moon that occurs closest to the equinox in the fall, the huge, orange Full Harvest Moon is the most spectacular of the year. Because it rises right on the horizon just as the sun sets, it assumes a larger, more radiant countenance. According to an ancient Chinese axiom, “When mid autumn comes, the moon is extraordinarily brilliant.”
The moon, almost always associated with the archetypal female principle, is undeniably brighter now, and more lush. Evocative. It is no wonder that its wondrous waxing — from new to full — should frame so many diverse festivals of food, fortune, and fulfillment. Festivities, all, for our Mother Who Feeds Us. She Who Attends To All Our Needs.
The Mid Autumn Feast is celebrated throughout the Orient on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. The festival enjoys a widespread general popularity today, although traditionally, this thanksgiving feast of the Full Harvest Moon in honor of Chang O, the Moon Lady, was a women’s occasion officiated by the esteemed eldest matriarch of each household, befitting the yin (female) quality of the moon. This especially lovely evening is spent outside in the luminous light of the huge lunar disk. Lanterns are lit in loving, imitative tribute, and people gather in groups to moon-gaze.
Altars are made and laid by the women in the family with plump round fruits: apples, oranges, peaches, and pomegranates which are especially propitious for their many seeds, implying as they do, an earthy as well as human fecundity. Wine and tea are also offered, and chrysanthemums. The centerpiece is a platter of thirteen moon cakes, once-a-year-only sweet treat balls of rice dough filled with sweet bean paste, lotus seeds, and duck eggs, piled in a towering triangular pyramid symbolic of the fertile pubic triangle of woman. According to custom, one exchanges moon cakes with friends and colleagues as an act of goodwill.
The full harvest moon brings to a close the cycle of the Jewish New Year observances — which begins on the new moon with Rosh Hashanah — with Succoth, the ancient and pagan-influenced Feast of the Ingathering, also known as Feast of the Tabernacles. Each family builds a simple square shelter with the roof left open to the sky in order that Shekinah, the personification of heaven’s feminine blessings, may shine down and enter the Succat Shalom, House of Peace. The interior is hung with arrangements of harvest fruits, the centerpiece of which is a special ceremonial bouquet of the branches of palm, willow, myrtle and citron, which has been shaken to the four directions.
The Cherokee, too, celebrate a new-to-full Fall Harvest Moon cycle of New Year’s ceremonies at the Green Corn Festival. In imitation of the moon, which spans the range of emptiness and fullness, the Cherokee sequence of ritual, like the Jewish High Holy Days, alternates the serious and the joyous, the meditative and the exuberant, the personal and the participatory.
Atohuna, Friends Made Ceremony, is a preparation period during which the dwelling places of the physical and spiritual realms are cleansed. People fast and bathe in the rivers at sunset. Evil spirits are banished from the tribe, driven away with poles made of sycamore. Fires are smothered and new sacred flames are kindled. On the Full Harvest Moon, the ceremonial cycle culminates with the Great Moon Ceremony, Nuwatiega, which celebrates anew the eternal creation of the beautiful and bountiful world each year.
The Full Harvest Moon calls us to celebrate the blessings of life. All of life, the easy as well as the hard. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The moon illuminates our personal harvest, which is measured in lessons learned. For this growth, and for life, itself, we are most grateful.
Join me tonight SEPTEMBER 23 6:00 PM
FULL HARVEST MOON
DAY OF REMEMBRANCE LANTERN FESTIVAL
I will be leading a ceremonial procession through lovely Victorian Maple Grove Cemetery. The event culminates in participatory flotilla of lit memorial lanterns in the lake at sunset. This annual event is inspired by Asian Ancestor Worship rituals.
Maple Grove Cemetery
127-15 Kew Gardens Road
P.O. Box 150086
Kew Gardens, New York 11415-0086
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to email@example.com.