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Harvest Cornucopia


the Harvest Home altar at Mother Grove Goddess Temple's public ritual


For several years now, the public ritual for Mother Grove Goddess Temple's autumn equinox celebration has been focused on harvest. There are a couple of reasons for this excess of cornucopias and pumpkins. One is that we are a non-denominational Goddess Temple and celebrating the  Equinox as harvest makes more sense than "Mabon."  The second is that Samhain will be entirely taken up with Ancestors and the Beloved Dead and we won't have an opportunity to go mad for fallen leaves and luxurious gourds.

Last night, I did something very sneaky and I'm 'fessing to it now. I had loaded the ritual gear, Temple info and what-not into my car earlier in the day. And I planned my day so that I could arrive at the parish hall early.  It meant I had to unload the stuff but it also meant that I got to have the place to myself for nearly an hour before anyone else arrived.

It is my favorite time, setting up an altar.  It is hardly a random act of senseless beauty and I did feel a frisson of guilt as I pulled the wooden table into the center of the room and started unpacking the altar cloths. But that soon dissipated in the sheer joy of not answering any questions or having any earnest conversations.  I had a simple and uncomplicated task--unpack the boxes and set up the central altar.

I sang as I worked, wandering through all sorts of Appalachian ballads and Loreena McKennitt tunes, finishing at last with the Ode to Joy in English and then in German, sending the sound up into the wooden rafters, tickling the flags that hang from the ceiling of that beautiful place.

When the others arrived, I was preparing to light candles. Little pumpkins and apples arrived with the other priestesses, as did the inevitable stories of the day and discussions of which chalice should be used for the Ceremony of Cakes and Ale.

I smiled as the hall was filled with the voices of these priestess-birds, excited to be in community, excited to be together in the celebration of the day. The chalice decision was made, the donation jar set in place and the ritual reviewed.  We were ready, the community was ready. The doors were opened into the last warm light of the soon-to-be-setting Sun.

It was, for me, a celebration of the real balance of the work of a priestess. There was the intense and private (if slightly guilty) pleasure of setting up the altar just the way I like it. Balancing that was the sisterhood of our clergy team and the delicious hospitality of a community ritual.

Spiral in, spiral out. Thus is the circle set.

Blessed Equinox, dear friends. May your cornucopias be full in the North and your basket of eggs all chocolates in the hemispheres South!

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H. Byron Ballard is a ritualist, teacher, speaker and writer. She has taught at Sacred Space Conference, Pagan Unity Festival, Southeast Her essays are featured in several anthologies, including “Birthed from Scorched Hearts“ (Fulcrum Press), “Christmas Presence“ (Catawba Press), “Women’s Voices in Magic” (Megalithica Books), “Into the Great Below” and “Skalded Apples” (both from Asphodel Press.) Her book Staubs and Ditchwater: an Introduction to Hillfolks Hoodoo (Silver Rings Press) debuted in June 2012. Byron is currently at work on Earth Works: Eight Ceremonies for a Changing Planet. Contact her at,


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