In my time on this earth, it has become abundantly clear to me that re-engaging with the ancestral and natural rhythms of our bodies is the way of rewilding—the healing path through all of the harmful systems we have been brought up in. And it is a potent journey to reconnecting with the self. Many of us aren’t even aware that the sense of failure, falling behind, and burnout we experience have nothing to do with our capabilities and capacities as human beings, but rather are a function of a system created to treat us like assembly-line workers (literally, this is the origin of the nine-to-five work lifestyle—having your value determined by how many widgets you could put together on a factory line born of the industrial revolution).
We were never meant to operate like robots, producing the same level of output all year round without care or mind to the temperature outside, where the sun is in the sky, or the way our bodies are responding to the season. We were meant to slow down and sometimes speed up and other times bleed and howl and then get silent and internal, and all of this happens as our bodies and energy levels are shifting and changing. Though we live in the modern era, our bodies’ processes are ancient and deserve our respect. If this feels inspiring but is also a tough concept to implement in your life, know that I really get it. I’ve been there. Integrating these ideas into your life starts by simply listening and noticing what makes you feel the most grounded, at peace, and joyful in your body. Even in this modern technological era when we have real deadlines and busy schedules, intentionally slowing down and opting out of a culture of urgency is the key to feeling at home within ourselves.
As I align my life to each turn of the wheel of the year, I find my experience of each season (and little micro-seasons between the seasons) to feel more intense in my body and emotional realm.
One past winter, when I had just found out I was pregnant, I felt myself plunged under the soil. It was as if I were a seed, weighed down by the cold, wet earth with decaying leaves above. I had just enough nourishment to keep me alive, but the alchemy happening within me—ever so subtle—required I stay very still. It was when I accepted this moment as both necessary for creating life and temporary in the long term that I could lean into it more. The seasons have become such internal experiences, perhaps giving me a glimpse of what my ancestors once felt long ago.
In the depths of winter, I find myself yearning for the sun on my face. I want to fill my garden with seeds and tend to them with exquisite care, and before I know it, spring is upon me. I get to witness the sheer miracle of watching a seedling stretch and grow to flower, then the fruit of summer. I savor the days of bare shoulders, warm with the smell of honeyed flowers surrounding me. I fill my belly with tender greens and brightly colored fruits and vegetables and joyful medicine of the earth, and I suddenly find myself desiring cooler temperatures and prolonged stillness. I do not make my desires wrong. I do not tell myself it is bad to feel this bone-deep yearning. But I also must make peace with the season we are in right now, the season I am in at the current moment.
Nature does not rush, and I am learning not to rush either. So much anxiety can come from resisting whatever is occurring in the now, however challenging it may be. I breathe with it. I rest my body. I trust that we are never stuck and that the wheel is always turning. The next season always comes, and if I slow down and allow myself to access it, I can feel it all around me.
In the time of autumn, as the air begins to chill and move toward winter’s frost, the plants shift their energy down into their roots to stay strong and survive the winter. It is the time when we traditionally harvest many of the roots, harnessing their powerful energy of resilience and warmth. We roast them to eat or make teas with them—physically taking them into our bodies to nourish our organs, warm our bellies, and sustain our strength for the coming winter months. We, as human beings on this planet, have long and ancient roots too. The long line of ancestors—those who came before us and survived those winters, so we could stand here today—are what make up our roots.
So many of us look forward to the autumnal time of year. Whether it’s our passion for gourd-flavored warm drinks, getting to dress up and honor the dead (our human roots), or simply give ourselves permission to put on a cozy sweater and read a book in the hazy afternoon sunlight, autumn is the beautiful sigh that we crave space for.
In the old Celtic tradition, the body is defined by three cauldrons (similar to the chakra system). Your head is the cauldron of wisdom (spiritual or creative inspiration) called an coire sois. Your heart is the cauldron of motion or vocation (vision, work, and skill) called an coire ernmae. And your belly is the cauldron of warming (physical health and strength) called an coire goriath. Autumn is a time to nurture your cauldron of warming. Shifting your focus to roots (both plant and human) is a beautiful way to do so.
Plant roots are a physical reminder of the pathway to the underworld. They dig deep and gnarled down into the dark earth to root in so that—above ground—the plant can extend high and bright toward the sun. In an alternative version of the story of the Greek goddess Persephone, she isn’t abducted by Hades to become queen of the underworld. Instead, she drinks the tea of roots and willingly chooses to travel to the underworld. I prefer this version because it shows a woman’s willingness to uncover shadow for humanity, and how roots got her there.
One of the plant roots I enjoy working with and being nourished by is the dandelion. Dandelion was brought to Turtle Island (North America) on the Mayflower from Europe as a source of food, medicine, and dye. Of course, these days, golf courses and lawn curators around the country are spraying loads of toxic pesticides to get rid of the dandelions that don’t seem to go away.
Dandelion often pops up in areas where the soil is depleted, as it provides nitrogen to help bring the soil back into balance. That’s why I value it so much: it represents resistance and resilience.
A practice I enjoy in the autumn months is to leave a cup of dandelion tea at my bedside at night, inviting the spirits of my ancestors to drink in the nourishment and share any wisdom about how they lived in my dreams.
Through my time spent leaning into the wildness of the seasons, I’ve learned that unhooking from systems of productivity, urgency, and denial of your body’s wisdom takes time. Be patient with yourself and let the ebb and flow of the seasons and cycles of nature take you on a healing journey back to your most rooted self.
This is an excerpt from Becca Piastrelli’s book, Root & Ritual: Timeless Ways to Connect with Land, Lineage, Community, and the Self.
The winter dreamtime is upon us, babes. Come sit by the glowing embers of the virtual hearth fire on December 14th as we give care to our bodies and journey into a space of reflection, celebration and deep intention! Becca is leading Ancestral Rituals From the Hearth Fire in just a few weeks, and you can sign up to join us at the link found here.
About Becca Piastrelli
Becca Piastrelli (she/her) writes about her life experiences, facilitates gatherings both virtually and in person, and is the host of the Belonging podcast. She teaches and speaks on the nature of belonging and runs retreats to help women and non-binary folks reconnect with their rooted sense of self. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner, child, two cats, and five chickens, where she gardens, cooks, mothers, and gathers with the ebb and flow of the seasons.Show more