Autumn Gods & Goddesses: 14 Deities of the Harvest and Afterlife
Autumn is a transitional period bridging the seasonal gap between Summer and Winter. Because it’s an in-between time, this means it’s also a time for gods and goddesses of a liminal nature. I don’t know about you but Autumn is a sacred time for me for many reasons, but mainly because the veil is thin and I’m able to commune with my ancestors and gods easily. If you’re wondering which gods are most active during this witchy season, here’s our list of our favorite Autumn gods and goddesses from various pantheons.
What Makes a Deity An “Autumn God or Goddess”?
When I think of Autumn gods and goddesses, my mind automatically goes to the “dark” deities. The gods at the crossroads. The goddesses who straddle the line between life and death. Because Autumn is that line – Summer’s blood trickles life into Autumn just enough to keep it alive with colorful trees and late blooming sunflowers. And all the colorful gourds. But we notice, Summer is dying and soon the season of death follows – Winter.
So to me, any god or goddess who has a myth, festival or sacred day in the Autumn months (September – November) is an Autumn deity. Also any god or goddess who is liminal, haunts the crossroads, has domain over spirits, and travels to the Underworld is an Autumn god or goddess. Don’t forget it’s not just the gods who are active in Autumn, but also the ancestors, ghosts, and faery folk.
8 Autumn Gods of the Harvest, Death and the Underworld
1. Mabon: Celtic God of Light, Death and Resurrection
Mabon’s name pops up in Arthurian legend and is featured in Welsh Celtic mythology and lends itself to the name for the Autumn Equinox sabbat. Mabon is pronounced May-bahn and his name translates to “the Great Son”. Mabon is a Welsh Celtic god of light, death and resurrection, the harvest and more. He is the eternal embodiment of youth and immortality. Interestingly, when he was only 3 days old, he was stolen from his mother. Turns out, after much searching and mourning, Modron hears that Mabon is actually just fine – he’s been safe in an otherworldly realm that’s located inside his mother, Modron’s womb.
2. Hades: Greek God of the Underworld
Hades, whose name translates to “unseen”, is the god of the Greek Underworld. It’s said he has another name, one that’s more sacred and dangerous, and it’s rarely ever used lest his presence be immediately invoked. Upon invocation, the individual would be brought to Hades’ house of death. Hades is the son of the Greek Titans Cronus and Rhea, and he is brother to Zeus, Demeter, Hera, Hestia and Poseidon. Hades’ father tried to swallow him whole and destroy him forever. But he escaped and became god of the Underworld. Not only is he a god of the dead, but he is particularly known for his role in the story of Persephone’s journey to the Underworld. And therefore inextricably linked to the Autumn season.
3. Dionysus: Autumnal God of Wine and Ecstatic Trance
Dionysus is an Autumnal god because one of his main domains is wine and intoxication. Wine is no doubt a traditional beverage as grapes ripened and wine was ready in the Fall in ancient times. Not to mention, Dionysus’ festival began at the end of November known as Dionysia. It’s interesting to note, Dionysus is also a liminal deity – he manifests in those trance-like states of ecstatic dance, intoxication, and shamanic journeys.
4. Lugh: Celtic God of the Harvest
Lugh is the Celtic God of the Sun and harvest. But we often forget he is also a god of many skills. His name literally means “Bright, Shining One”, and his energy is inextricably linked to the sun. (In fact, if you work with Lugh in your practice, meditating and invoking his presence while sunbathing is particularly powerful.) Lugh is a god of many skills, including talents in both war and craftsmanship. Part of the Tuatha de Danann, Lugh is considered an ancestor to some of the old Irish families, according to the Irish mythos. Some view him as a personification of the grain, which must die in the harvest in order for us to live.
5. The Dagda: Father of the Tuatha and Samhain Deity
Most of us don’t think about the Dagda being an Autumn god, but he is featured as a big part of the Samhain mythos. In fact, he sees The Morrigan bathing in a sacred river and takes her as his lover. This is the symbolic union that produces life that will be reborn in the Spring and flourish. Dagda is the father of the Tuatha de Danann, also known as the “All-Father”. Legend says the Dagda plays a magical harp to “put the seasons back in order”. Dagda represents the fruitfulness of the land, protection of his people, and justice. He is the Father of humanity, and one of the most revered of Celtic Autumn Gods.
6. Osiris: Egyptian Autumn God of Death and the Harvest
Osiris is the ancient Egyptian god of agriculture and death. He is often depicted with green skin because of his connection with the earth. Once again, we see the symbolism of the changing of seasons and the “dying” of the earth represented in Osiris’ story of death and rebirth. This Autumn god is also believed to be the first “mummy” in Egyptian antiquity, when his wife Isis collected the pieces of his body and wrapped them to bring him back to life. The Haker Feast of Osiris is observed on or near November 1st, which is also the same time as Samhain, Halloween, the Day of the Dead, etc.
7. Vertumnus: The Personification of Fall
Vertumnus is an Ancient Roman god of the seasons. His name literally means to change. His cult was widespread after 300 BCE and a large statue of him was in the center of the city. As the seasons changed, the people would decorate Vertumnus’ statue according to nature. In Autumn, he’d be draped with vines, colorful foliage, and other fruits of the season. His relationship with Pomona, goddess of fruit, has been painted by Renaissance artists.
8. Green Man
The Green Man is the primal, masculine energy that surges through the wild forests and wilderness. He is the physical manifestation of the spirit of the trees, wildlife, and land. He’s known to emerge from this period of rest at Beltane, and is close to the end of his cycle at Mabon. According to WiccanSpellsInfo.com, “Druids honor the Green Man at Mabon because he is a symbol of seasonal renewal.”
6 Autumn Goddesses of Sovereignty, the Crossroads, and Witchcraft
1. The Morrigan: A Samhain Sovereignty Goddess
The Morrigan is the Celtic Goddess of war, shapeshifting, death, crows, motherhood, sex, birth, shadows, destruction and love. Sacred polarity plays into this Goddess’ unique characteristics. I recently had someone say the Morrigan is not a goddess of sex. If you read your Irish Celtic mythology, you’d know The Morrigan couples with the Dagda on Samhain, ensuring that new life will be born come Spring. She is inherently a goddess of sovereignty and of the earth, as much as she is a goddess of war and death. Many ancient deities associated with death are (shockingly to some) also intrinsically linked to fertility and life. You can’t have death without life. And there is no life without death.
2. Cailleach: She Who Presides Over Death and Winter
The Cailleach is the ancestral goddess of many ancient Irish families. Her name means Old Woman, Witch, Hag. And she rules over death and Winter. She takes over as the main goddess of the land at Samhain, until Brigid takes the domain back in the Spring. Funny enough, or perhaps not really, Cailleach isn’t just a haggard old woman who presides over death. She’s also depicted as a beautiful young maiden in the mythos and as an earth mother. There’s that life-death-rebirth cycle again!
3. Pomona: Apple Goddess of Autumn
The apple is an ever-present symbol of the Autumn season. Most apples are ready to be harvested beginning in late summer through late Fall, and therefore have become a large part of the Fall festivities over the years. It’s also interesting to note, if you cut an apple in half horizontally you’ll see the symbol of the goddess in a 5-pointed star shape created by its 5 seeds. In addition, the apple represents the Otherworld or Underworld, and is linked to Autumn through its liminality. Pomona, ancient Roman goddess of apples and fruits, is therefore another prominent Autumn goddess.
4. Hecate: Autumn Goddess of the Crossroads
Hecate is the ancient Greek goddess of the crossroads, death, and witchcraft. We say she’s “Greek” but scholars believe her worship dates back before the ancient Greeks were even around. She’s much older and she’s seen a season or two. She is a goddess of the life, death, and rebirth cycle and also teaches her initiates the ways of witchcraft. Her sacred day is November 16th. If you’d like to honor her on her sacred day this Fall, hold a Hecate Supper.
5. Persephone: Queen of Earth and the Underworld
Probably one of the most well-known stories of Autumn gods and goddesses is the story of Persephone, Hades, and Demeter. A beautiful divine maiden was on a mission: to rule the earth AND the realm of the dead. She’d been given domain over the land, over the seasons, and over the harvest. But she longed for something more. Her name was Persephone. The Divine Maiden knew her mother, Demeter wouldn’t allow her to leave the earth. To go to the Underworld. So she devised a plan. She would seduce and lure the god of the Underworld – Hades.
What Persephone didn’t know is that Hades was already madly in love with her. Persephone left earth and went to the Underworld willingly with Hades. But she didn’t expect to fall so madly in love with the god of the Underworld, but that’s exactly what happened. But, unfortunately, after only being in the other realm for a few days, Persephone’s mother sent Hermes to fetch her. She knew she couldn’t outrun her protective mother for too long. So before she was whisked back to earth, Hades placed a piece of Underworldly fruit in her mouth – a pomegranate. This fruit ensured that, even though Persephone would live on earth for two-thirds of the year, the other third she would spend with him. And rule as Queen of the Underworld. Every Spring when she returns to Earth, the flowers bloom and everything comes alive once more.
6. Modron / Rhiannon: Earth Goddesses and Mabon
Interestingly, when the god of light Mabon was only 3 days old, he was taken from his mother. After much searching and mourning over her lost son, Modron realizes Mabon is safe and happy – he’s been in an otherworldly realm that’s located inside Modron’s womb. As Modron is an earth goddess, and likely a personification of the earth itself, the idea that her son is forever within her womb makes sense. We are all safe within Mother Earth’s loving embrace. And we are forever young in her eyes. You might also hear of Mabon being the son of the Welsh horse goddess Rhiannon. This is because Modron is sometimes thought of as Rhiannon in another guise.