As the northern hemisphere shifts toward winter and the leaves begin to fall, the energy of living things moves inward, to the "roots" so to speak. This makes it not only a point of ending, but also a place of beginning. This is a time of year when we can so easily turn inward to focus on the cultivation of our innate talents and abilities and prepare ourselves for another cycle of life lessons to be learned. The holiday of Samhain (Halloween) is considered the ending of one year/the beginning of a new year and this is a perfect illustration of a key element of Autumn, that of transformation. It is a point of return and renewal. For those new to the Craft, it is an ideal time to go inward and face the challenges and reap the rewards of deep spiritual work. For those that are further along the path, it provides us a necessary period of time to return to fundamentals and reaffirm our strength.
If you liken the seasons of the year to the phases of the moon, Autumn would be the waning moon, Winter is the dark moon, Spring is the new moon and Summer would be the full moon. If you liken the seasons of the year to the Witch's spiritual journey, Autumn is the neophyte stage, Winter is the initiate level (or 1st degree, depending), Spring is the Priestess or Priest level (or second degree), and Summer is the level of the High Priestess or High Priest elder (or 3rd degree). Autumn is the time of releasing the things that hold us back from being who we need to be. It becomes our time to start over (or reaffirm and re-energize). This season is representative of the foundation of Witchcraft.
Very often unsympathetic outsiders will say that darkness always equates to evil and that since so many Witches have an affinity for the darker, spookier aspects of this time of year and for most of us Samhain is our favorite of the Sabbats, we must be evil or at best, un-spiritual. The truth of the matter is that all things begin in darkness and only by moving through the darkness and gaining some understanding of its nature, can one emerge into the light with any bit of knowledge and experience.
Autumn is the equal but opposite season of Spring and both are about transformation. Where Autumn is about the transformation of dissolution and a return to our essential self, Spring is about emergence from our inner darkness (Winter) with knowledge, power and a duty to encourage life and growth. This duty is however tempered by the understanding that we are all subject to the cycles of nature and that whatever waxes shall eventually wane on this level of existence, so our duty becomes one of fostering growth and becoming an ally to the forces of nature while still realizing that when Autumn comes around once again, it will be time to let go and return to our essential self (though with luck and training, our essential self has grown some throughout the cycle), secure in the knowledge that we are ever a part of the endless cycle of life.