Seasons newsletter: the invisible month

by | Apr 10, 2023 | Seasons Newsletter | 0 comments

 

Did you know that in te ao Māori there was a month in which so little happened that it was often dropped from the calendar altogether?

 

We are approaching that month now.

At present we are in Paengawhāwhā, the eleventh month of the Māori calendar. Paengawhāwhā is a month of completion.

Here is a whakataukī (proverb) that speaks to that completion:

Kua uru ngā kai ki te rua, kua mutu ngā mahi a te tangata.

‘The leftover stems and tops of the kumara crops have been piled around the edges of the gardens’.

Yes, we have come to the completion of an agricultural cycle, marked traditionally in Aotearoa by the harvest of the kumara crop.

 

 

What comes next?

 

Harvesting is hard work. But after harvest, what follows?

In the food cycle, productivity has slowed down. In less than two weeks, the season will pass into the twelfth month. Once again, a whakataukī sums up this month:

Kua uru ngā kai ki te rua, kua mutu ngā mahi a te tangata.

‘Crops are stored in pits; people‘s labours are over.’

What more is there to say? No wonder Haratua was so often dropped from the Māori calendar. Matariki has dropped out of sight. This is not a time for activity.

It is like the pause before a waiata, silence before speech, a rest before activity. It is an ending before the significant beginning of a new year when Matariki returns.

I think of the twelfth month as the invisible month, a space between significant events.

When will this transition happen? If we follow the lunar calendar of Māori and the Celts, the changeover occurs at new moon: Whiro. That will be on April 21st.

 

Celtic society recognised this too

 

The quiet after harvest is recognised in many cultures. It makes sense to rest after hard work, but in our modern times, we tend to ignore these natural cycles and push ourselves onwards and upwards.

Autumn spreads a glow of richness in its last days and invites mellowness. In Celtic society, autumn equinox was followed by a month when herds of cattle would be driven inside the gated settlements for winter shelter, people stopped travelling far, and attention was given to the transition into winter.

How was your harvest this year? whether sparse or abundant, are you able to slow down and quietly prepare for winter?

 

The pleasures of preparation

 

Over the years I have savoured this time and enjoyed preserving the last of the summer fruits, gathering pinecones for the fire, stacking firewood, and tidying up the garden.

It’s also a time to sift and sort. I find myself going through folders and boxes of papers, throwing away what has run its course.

I’m sorting clothing and books to donate to the op shop while mending garments I’ve decided to keep. Mending goes well with listening to my favourite music or audiobooks as the evening light mellows and fades.

 

 

And there is another level

 

Clearing clutter involves choice and invites contemplation. You may find yourself asking:

Who am I now, in this transition?

What is calling my attention as winter approaches and the season of inwardness deepens?

Turning within allows you to harvest what lies hidden, whether it is your sadness, unfinished business, unmet needs, or your own inner treasure.

Cherish this time before Matariki and winter solstice, both of which mark a new seasonal year. Allow weariness; take care of yourself. Be thankful for your harvest. You deserve to slow down.

Blessings as we enter the invisible month,

Juliet

 

 

Find out more about this season, including stories of the kumara harvest, in my book Dancing with the Seasons

Or you may enjoy the Autumn Attunement, a home ritual to resource you for this time of transition.

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