In preperation for Karneia I was thinking of the significance of the first harvest and what that may mean to us on a spiritual level. It is seen also in the celtic celebration of Lughnasadh ( I apologize for butchering the spelling there) as well as in Hellenismos with the festival of Karneia–the so-called shepherd’s festival during which Apollon was offered grapes even as Lugh’s festival has a deep association with the harvest of another fruit–the apple. That there are multi-cultural festivals that tie into an idea of a first, or initial harvest prior to the main harvest season of autumn it does make for some interesting contempulation.
We know that the second harvest..the wheat harvest of autumn is directly tied to the daughter of Zeus and Demeter, Persephone. A divine being who returns the world below (which really makes her closer to us as the mortal world has been noted by Plato as being below that of the isles of the blessed as we are living beneath the sea to make a general paraphrase) then to return again among the divine. This coincides then with the passage of the seasons. After the first harvest though it is not the end of a growing period during the year, really we get at least one more month afterward of steady growth. Even in Alaska where I grew up there was the plentitude of growing things in September until near the end of the month when the hard frosts finally arrived, though the winds between mid-August and in autumn were strong and cool. Therefore in comparison to the great autumnal harvest, the first harvest of summer seems rather small and of little worth. And it is the autumnal harvest that gets all the attention for the transition of the soul…but this idea often seems to be carried out incorrectly because it is drawn on the idea of the soul following Persephone from life to death, yet this ignores that Persephone is a goddess, the daughter of two great Olympians, so whereas her cyclic journey can be interpretted in some ways in connection with the journey of the soul…she is divine returning to the earth from the blessed abodes of the gods. She is the harvested wheat that is both replanted to return in the spring but also is made into bread to sustain the living. She is the comfort to all, both living and dead really, and she provides this comfort by her journey from the divine abodes, even as life perishes and people are sustained by the harvest that they have cut.
So then having established that the second harvest, the autumn harvest, is the harvest of the divine daughter, what can we say then about the first harvest. The fruit harvest. I think a significant clue can be inferred by the offering of grapes during the Karneia, the grape which is the symbol of Dionysos and likewise also a symbol of the unperishing soul of mortals that is transforming (for the grape is made into the wine is it not?). Therefore we can say that the first harvest is more about mortal death (and thus also linked with the sacrifice of the ram by shepherds) and the progression of the mortal soul. We are the lamb that has been nursed and reared into adulthood, we are the cultivated blossom that has been fertilized and born the fruit. So whereas the second harvest is based on the transition of the Kore, the first harvest is based on evolution of the human soul under the domain of Apollon and is thus overseen by Apollon in his festival Karneia, Apollon the shepherd who has cared for us, guided us along the mountainous paths and into the valleys, and the shepherd who slays us.
We are the tender fruit of the first harvest, and Persephone is the golden grain of autumn which too shall be reaped under the great eye of Apollon.