Lay the altar in shades of gold. copper, russet and indigo blue cast the circle and light dark candle incense spicy and sweet. Come Dark Mother, we seek your comfort in time of dying soil, of grasses withered brown, fruit plucked, and all grain gathered. Decay, destruction, death yours as you reap with sickle of silver moon, for you are the pause between night and day that clears the field for new growth. As you gather the witching hour around you in tattered rags, regal and rank, your breath the sickly sweet of humus, rich decaying earth, you sweep the dross of season past with your scavenger broom. Your hands, wizened claws, hold us in soul's long dark night, a grip so fierce you force us to stare into the bloody eye of our terror. You whisper to us to free all fear on emancipating sigh like wind through a clean bone. Come Dark Goddess teach us the healing art of bitter medicine, a homeopathic sip of whatever poisons us to vomit up the toxins of the past, regret, shame, fear, guilt, freeing us from the weight of undigested pain, for now. Beloved Crone, wrap us in your frayed garments of shadow and spiderweb that stink of the grave, and hold us to your cold withered breast, where we must die ourselves to be reborn in the light. For you know how to cradle us in that dormant moment when we let go of the past and surrender to that pregnant pause where possibilities swarm and coalesce in ephemeral patterns, tremble together, then dissolve back into the waiting womb, of Hecate's cabalistic cauldron. Lay the altar in gold and scatter leaves of auburn, rust, amber and crimson, purify with pungent myrrh and clove, give thanks for the heat of season past, and now mourn the sun's long descent into the underworld where Demeter seeks stolen Persephone doomed to a darkness that heralds the seasonal sleep of the earth. Come Grandmother, balance us on your bony knee, croon your ancient lullaby, your song of solitude, directing our gaze inwards in contemplation, to taste the sweet harvest of sun splashed memories, breaking bread with loved ones at table filled with garden bounty, the first calf of spring, a riot of wildflowers, fresh lake water soothing sun fevered skin. Our bright bouquet of evergreen images cherished within hothouse heart, to be visited over and over in the chill of darkest night. Bitter fruits we must savour also, perhaps the discovery that love isn't always loving after all, that grief doesn't always get easier with time, that we will always hurt each other, that we may forever be alone. And when we have sucked all marrow from old bones Hecate will let us go to wait and wait in cocooned state, sensed turned down, life hushed colours muted, watching for the first sparrow.