Fruiting Vine Moon
This is the Ripening Time, the time of coming to fruition. In the Northern Hemisphere, many are vacationing, one of the harvests of a long work year, providing space for enjoyment of beautiful landscapes and experiences. Perhaps we are working at a gentler pace and enjoying the homespace that normally contains our life, in a more relaxed way. Even though it can be a time of relaxation, it is still an energetic and creative time of year, and thus a time and space to think bigger thoughts, particularly about what is fruiting in our lives.
For gardeners, it is a particularly rewarding time. After all the work — garden planning, soil augmentation, careful seeding, caring for vulnerable seedlings, consistent watering, weeding, vigilance for diseases and insects, and wariness of amount and delivery style of rain, sun, cloud and wind — the shape of the main harvest is now appearing. We have passed the height and highest heat of the Sun and while all species bask and soak in the sun this time of year, it is now, bit by bit, losing its power. It is still however the period of the Sun’s maturity, its fire, that is ripening the fruits of the Earth and pumps energy through us.
Tomatoes ripening on the vine and salmon swimming up rivers and streams to spawn are all coming into their fullness and purpose. While we will have been grazing on food plants for months now, as well as drying and storing things like herbs and medicines as they reach the appropriate maturity, the next two moons are considered the moons of harvest time, the early and then the main harvest.
There are many First Fruit Festivals – some dedicated to the first roots or to the first berries found in the Wild. For agriculturally based peoples, the cycle of food plants governs the year. Various stages of growth are accompanied with ceremonies, dependent on the primary grain/grass crop – whether corn, wheat or rice for example. Among many traditional Indigenous people, there are not one but two times of communal thanksgiving. At this time of year, for the Hopi and many other corn growing societies throughout Turtle Island, for instance, this is the time of the Green Corn Ceremony. Corn has been grown extensively throughout what became the “Americas,” from 50 degrees north in Canada to 40 degrees south in South America, adapted to deserts, mountains, plains and jungles.
The Hopi have a particularly complex cosmology, with a mirror image unseen world and a detailed and demanding round of spiritual tasks and ceremonies, many of which remain secret. A basic understanding of the Green Corn ceremony is related to the leaving of the Kachinas. These ancestral spirits exist with the people for only half a year, the growing part of the year. This first thanksgiving celebration is for the first fruits of the harvest that they ushered in and is considered a new year.
In corn societies, the Medicine people determine the time for the ceremony based on the development of the corn, as the first ears mature, as well as other signs. No one eats from the new fields until after this ceremony. The first of the new crop is sacrificed as proper thanks to the Kachinas and to the plants themselves, who go on to mature, hopefully in abundance. Prayers are offered for one last big rain. This way of being is called an offering or gift culture, contrary to our taking culture. Nothing is taken without permission of the spirit world.
For the Muscogee and Creek People, households are cleaned and repaired, and old clothing and unrepairable furniture is cleaned out and burned ceremonially. All the ashes on the cooking hearths are swept clean and fires put out. A feast using the remainder of last year’s food, in our case this would be all the frozen, canned and dried food from last year’s gardens, is enjoyed.
Then, these communities enter a time of fasting and dancing. A ceremonial fire place is arranged in a main square, with the old ashes from all the hearths communally combined, laid out in a way that honours the sun and the four directions. The dances, such as the Ribbon Dance and Feather Dance, the fasting and ceremonial drinks all focus on purification and cleansing. All members are encouraged to forgive minor offenses from the year and to be purified of what they have done that fostered ill-will, except for murder and rape, which are considered banishable offenses. While only some members do the ceremonial fasting and dancing, all participate in the cleansing including a restricted diet and acts of forgiveness, to move into a fresh beginning.
After this fire, a new fire for the new year is lit for the ceremonial sacrifice of the new ears of corn. Then the new fire is used to rekindle all the household cooking fires as well as to cook a feast of dishes with the new corn. Lasting from 3 to 8 days, a final thanksgiving feast is cooked using all the newly ripening crops accompanied by chants and dancing. These outward acts of renewal are connected to inner renewal, and thus this is a highly regarded peace festival. The community, as a whole, is cleansed physically, emotionally and spiritually. Relationships are re-established not only among humans but between humans and the natural/spirit worlds.
For the Hopi, the Corn-Mother is the teacher of wisdom. Corn (the seen world) and spirit (the unseen world) are indivisible and the laws of relationship, primarily respect, are foremost. As the words to one corn grinding song says,
From the corn we learn to live,
We learn the life that is ours,
By grinding the corn we learn the footsteps of life…..
The corn is sacred.
We are sacred.
We hold the seeds of the gods to the future.
(Awiakta, 1993, p. 232)
As Marilou Awiakta (1993) explains, this is one example of unified thinking, or thinking that synthesizes mind/heart/spirit. We need to put ourselves into tune with what we are doing. Today, we might call this ‘mindfulness’, but in this context the meaning is much deeper. Corn tells us how to grow, “As the plant grows, its long leaf cradles the ear, as a mother’s arm cradles her child” (p. 242). Corn tells us how to go through life, how we must walk, how the male tassels and pollen are balanced with the female silks and swelling kernels, and how the mature corn leaves the stalk in its fullness and maturity to feed and nourish the next generations. “The Hopi aspire to walk the same way, in balance and harmony with nature and with each other” (p. 234). Sometimes, ceremonially, a path of ground cornmeal is laid out around or leading away from the village, evoking the Road of Life.
Yet, being a peaceable people, which the Hopi are known for, does not condone disrespect. Respect is the central teaching and thus disrespect then requires laws and discipline to enforce respect, as many stories of Corn-Mother exemplify.
Further, corn and humans are partners. Corn, human story and cultural context are inextricable. Over the time of cultivation, corn lost its wildness in that it can no longer drop to the ground and germinate on its own. It must be planted. So just as we rely on the corn, the corn relies on us. It gives itself for our sustenance and so must be handled with sacredness. One small lesson from this large one, is that gardening and householding ought not to be a chore but a joy of engagement that is part of putting ourselves back into cyclical harmony. It is this reciprocity with life that brings back aliveness to the Earth.
The People also believe it was the Corn that taught them a way of governing their society, learning to cooperate, ensuring redress of grievances, acknowledging wrongs done, unity in diversity, and balancing individual rights with the common good. In this way, Corn teaches democracy; democracy is in the land and in the seed not just in human culture. Yet, society forgets this wisdom, these Original Instructions, and thus we have been ripping the web of life apart.
Cleansing and Fruiting Footsteps on the Road of Life
We are in a more relaxed time of year with perhaps more openness of mind, so it is a good time to practice unified mind. We can attune ourselves to the phenomenon of corn or other food growth, gardening with a good mind and a grateful heart. We can learn to listen to the singing energy of the field or garden, until we become part of the life of this living community and the music of growth.
It is also a good time to cleanse so that we can come into our own fullness. Take some time to revisit the clutter that drags you down, even sitting in your lawnchair. Review the baggage of hurt from the year so that it is conscious in your mind, not stored deep in your body. Then, carry out a cleansing in honour of the first fruits. Take symbols of all that is broken and wounded, mentally cleansing this energy out of your body. Put it into the ceremonial fire, even your campfire. In your heart, extend forgiveness and receive what forgiveness might be offered to you. As it burns down, sweep away these ashes onto your compost pile. This is good to do on the new moon coming up.
Build a new fire, offering the first fruits from your garden and the Wild that is fruiting around you. Celebrate the desire to walk the path of wisdom and understanding that comes to us from the Old Ways, particularly a gifting way of life.
Consider yourself as the green corn, still growing and developing your life's fruit. If you wish, draw a spiral labyrinth on your lawn in cornmeal. Walk it to ask for guidance on how you can continue to come into robustness, fullness, and maturity on the Road of Life.