The three kings of the harvest are different aspects of the God that we see during the sabbats of Lammas, Mabon, and Samhain. Just as the essence of the Goddess is to bring forth life from her womb and rule over springtime, it is the nature of the God to offer himself in the autumn as the Harvest. This is one of the male mysteries. The Lord is not just a warrior with the strength to shed blood; he is a sacrifice with the courage to offer his own blood.
The Trickster is who we see at Lammas. He is the young king, full of life and laughter and harmless boasting, who excels in contests of physical strength. Vigorous and competitive, he loves games, sports, singing, and dancing. Many see him as Lugh Longspear, the golden-haired god of the sun. He will try to outfight, outdo, outdrink, and out-prank anyone else around. He is especially associated with the harvest of barley, wheat, and hops from which beer and ale and other alcohol drinks are fermented. John Barleycorn is another name for him, and in this aspect he allows himself to be killed as grain and resurrected as alcohol. As Scottish poet Robert Burns said, "if you do but taste his blood, 'twill make your courage rise."
The Steward of the Earth arrives at Mabon. He is the mature king in the prime of his life, who moves with dignity and strength. Some see him as a burly man with a few threads of silver in his beard. He is reserved but well-spoken, a wise counselor. His knowledge of animal husbandry and especially agriculture is unparalleled. He is the Father and the Lord who puts his own well-being last while he tends to the needs of his children and his subjects. His great spiritual and physical strength is expressed in his unbounded kindness to all living things. And he represents the bounty of the second harvest, the roots and vegetables that are taken from the fields. His is the strength and stability of the earth, and he gives his life to impart that power to us.
The Huntsman ascends at Samhain. He is the elder shaman whose unfathomable eyes contain the deep stillness of one who exists on the knife edge of death. Deep lines crease his face. He is the solitary guide through the abyss of the human soul. The creatures of the earth know him as their reaper who keeps their numbers in balance, but he also runs with them, and can change his shape to be each of them. He is willing to show you the underworld and the upperworld along the axis of the great world tree; he is the traveler who takes these paths often. He is lord of divination and keeper of secrets. Only he with the wisdom of his advanced years is fit to offer himself as the ultimate sacrifice at Samhain as the old year dies, the new one begins, and we step over the threshold into winter, protected by the gift of his vitality.
Meditate on the Three Kings of the Harvest. They are aspects of the God and they are eternal. Though we honor them in autumn, they are always available at any time of the year for you to petition when you need them.
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