|“||It's a ritual our coven does every three centuries, so that the bond to our ancestral magic is restored. We appease our ancestors, they keep our ancestral power flowing.||”|
— Sophie about the Harvest
The Harvest Ritual is a ceremony that is performed by those in the New Orleans witch community who practice ancestral magic. This sacrificial ritual is performed once every 300 years as a means to strengthen the connection between the living witches of New Orleans and their deceased ancestors, from whom they draw their magical power.
The Harvest ritual involves appeasing the witches' ancestors by giving them an offering of power in exchange for the ancestors strengthening the coven's connection to their magic, which weakens over time. The offering is meant to prove the coven's faith, not only in the Harvest ritual, but in the ancestors themselves and the ancestral magic that the New Orleans witches, both living and dead, practice. To prove this faith, the coven sacrifices four young witch girls who are put in a kind of limbo for the duration of the Harvest ritual. Then, the coven is rewarded by their ancestors for their faith and their offering of power by resurrecting the four girls and making the coven's connection to their ancestors' magic even more powerful for the following three centuries, until the ritual is to be performed again, a stage that is known as the Reaping.
The Elder who performed the first attempt at the Harvest ritual, Bastianna Natale, explained that the Harvest works much like the adage, "You reap what you sow." This means that their coven is rewarded for "sowing their seeds" (or, in their case, sacrificing their four young witches) by allowing them to "reap" the additional magical power given to them by the ancestors in return for their sacrifice.
- "We are simply taking what we need. Our connection to our ancestors weakens over time. You sow, and you reap; that's the way the Harvest works"
- —Bastianna Natale
The first mention of the Harvest ritual was in Sinners and Saints, where the ritual was explained through a series of flashbacks from the perspectives of Davina Claire, Sophie Deveraux and Marcel Gerard. The four girls who were chosen for the Harvest-- Davina, Monique Deveraux, Cassie, and Abigail - were assured by their parents and the Elders that they would be put to a peaceful sleep-like state for nearly a year until the Reaping, which was when they would then be "reborn" upon the completion of the ritual. However, it was revealed at the ceremony that the Elders of the coven had lied to the girls, and instead of being given a small cut on their palms for the blood sacrifice that would lead to their peaceful sleep, the girls were actually killed by having their throats slit while the rest of the coven watched.
Each girl's death caused their magical power to be channeled into the girl who followed her, and when Monique was killed, all three of the sacrificed Harvest girl's magic was absorbed by Davina, giving her the full power of all four of them. Marcel was able to save Davina just before she could be sacrificed, and he hid her away in the attic of St. Anne's Church afterward in order to protect her from the witches who were desperate to find her and finally complete the ritual. When Davina told Elijah her story about the Harvest in the present day, she admitted that while she knew she needed to die in order to complete the ritual, she was still afraid that the Elders were lying about the girls being resurrected after they had made their sacrifice, just as they had lied about the girls being killed in the first place. It was also revealed in this episode that Sophie's intention in teaming up with the Originals was to take Marcel out of power so the French Quarter Coven could get Davina back and finally sacrifice her and thereby finish the Harvest, which would result in the resurrection of her niece, Monique (as well as the other Harvest girls).
In Après Moi, Le Déluge, knowing that that the Harvest couldn't be completed without an Elder, and knowing that all of the coven's Elders had been killed, Sophie sought to become an Elder herself so she could finally finish the ritual and prevent the coven from losing their powers. In order to do this, Sophie did research and learned that, in times of crisis-- such as, for example, when tensions between the supernatural factions resulted in the massacre of all the witch Elders-- a witch could consecrate the remains of a powerful witch and absorb their power to become an Elder themselves. So, Sophie ultimately made a deal with the Mikaelson siblings so that she could be allowed to consecrate the remains of their mother, Esther, who was the most powerful witch of her time, adding her power to that of the witch ancestors and officially making Esther and her living descendants New Orleans witches. The process still required the presence of the Original Vampires at the Harvest ritual in order to channel Esther's power to Sophie via Esther's sole living descendant, Klaus and Hayley's yet-unborn daughter. As the Reaping grew closer, Davina's immense magical power began to bleed out of her uncontrollably, which resulted in powerful and dangerous natural disasters as a warning to the coven that the Reaping was soon approaching. This caused intense earthquakes, severe windstorms, torrential rain, and finally, a spreading wildfire, which forced Davina into agreeing to sacrifice herself to save the town, regardless of whether or not she would actually come back. Unfortunately, once the ritual was finally completed by Sophie, the magical power was somehow siphoned away by Céleste Dubois, who, unbeknownst to anyone, was possessing Sabine Laurent's body. Céleste used this power so she could resurrect three other powerful witches-- Papa Tunde, Bastianna, and Genevieve - and give herself an additional boost in power as well, which ultimately resulted in the four witches taking the places of the four Harvest girls who were meant to be resurrected after the Reaping was completed.
In Crescent City, Papa Tunde allowed himself to be sacrificed so his magical power could be used by Céleste, along with the rest of the Harvest power, in her plan against the Mikaelsons. His death resulted in Monique being resurrected, which revealed that the deaths of Céleste, Bastianna, and Genevieve would also cause the last three Harvest girls to be resurrected as well. It was also revealed that while the Monique was in The Ancestral Plane, she was visited by the spirits of the Ancestors, who not only taught her more magic, but also radicalized her into becoming a devout ancestral witch and a soldier for the Ancestors' cause. She was so indoctrinated by this training while in limbo that Monique even killed her aunt Sophie on the Ancestors' orders because, in their words, she "lacked faith."
In Le Grand Guignol, Marcel and Rebekah killed Bastianna, which resulted in Abigail's resurrection. Later in the episode, Elijah killed Céleste, which resulted in Davina's resurrection, leaving only the final Harvest girl, Cassie, in limbo while the witch Genevieve continued to live on in her place.
In Farewell to Storyville, Davina revealed to Marcel and Cami that while she was in limbo, the Ancestors not only emotionally and physically tortured her as a result of siding with the Vampires and preventing the Harvest from being completed due to her fear of death, but they also threatened to do horrible things to her if she ever misused her magic again.
In The Big Uneasy, Monique, Davina, and Abigail did a spell in Lafayette Cemetery to communicate with the Ancestors, which led to one of them speaking through Monique to give the rest of the French Quarter witches a message. Monique then gathered a coven meeting so she could announce the Ancestors' orders: because of the growing tension between the witches, the werewolves, the vampires, and the Originals, the ancestors believed that the coven needed to harness the full power of the Harvest ritual by sacrificing Genevieve, which would resurrect Cassie and finally complete the Reaping. However, Genevieve attempted to buy herself some time to come up with a better plan by promising to steal Esther's grimoire from Elijah and Klaus. When this plan failed, Genevieve was brought in front of the coven and was about to be killed by Monique when she received another message from the Ancestors: they would allow Genevieve to keep her life, but in return, they wanted another offering, and this time one of their own choosing -- Klaus and Hayley's yet-unborn baby daughter.
In From a Cradle to a Grave, Monique, Abigail, and Genevieve prepared to give their offering to the Ancestors in lieu of sacrificing Genevieve to complete the Harvest. First, they captured the nearly full-term Hayley and delivered her baby; after her daughter was born, Monique slit Hayley's throat and killed her so they could take the baby without interference. Genevieve, Monique, and Abigail then brought the baby to the cemetery to prepare for the sacrifice. They had set up their altar outside of the Lycée and had begun the ritual when Elijah, Klaus, and Hayley (who had awoken in transition to become a hybrid as a result of dying with Hope's blood in her system) arrived and ultimately thwarted them with help from Marcel, who killed Monique with the Devil's Star before she could kill the baby. Afterward, Elijah and Hayley chained Genevieve up in a crypt and questioned her on why they would kill Hayley and an innocent baby for more power, forcing Genevieve to confess that the Ancestors had decreed that baby Hope would die-- specifically, the new leader of the Ancestors, who was Klaus, Elijah and Rebekah's mother, Esther. Hayley killed Genevieve before the Ancestors could, and her death resulted in Cassie being resurrected, which finally completed the Harvest ritual. It was then revealed that Cassie was being possessed by the spirit of Esther.
- To be reborn, we must sacrifice.
Do you have faith in the Harvest?
- Our magic fades as our ties to our ancestors weaken over time. We beseech them, accept this offering as a sign of our faith.
To be born, you must sacrifice. Do you have faith?
- Do you believe in the harvest?
After the harvest comes the reaping. Their sacrifices made and accepted. We call upon our elders to resurrect their chosen ones.
- During the events of The Originals, all of the witches involved with the Harvest ritual were killed by Marcel and his vampires, with the exception of Agnes (killed by Elijah),Sophie (killed by Monique), and Davina (killed by Sophie).
- The girls required for the Harvest ritual's sacrifice seems to be specific, as four girls were chosen out of a group of nearly a dozen. It is possible that there were requirements as to who could be chosen, or perhaps there was a magical means of choosing involved in the process, but exactly how they were chosen is unknown. It is unlikely that the Harvest girls were specifically chosen by the Ancestors, as their insistence on choosing Hope as an offering indicated that they had not had a choice in the original Harvest offerings.
- The ritual can only be completed if all four girls die in the sacrifice. If less than four witches are sacrificed, the ritual will not be complete, and if the ritual isn't completed within a year, the witches of the coven will eventually lose access to their ancestors' magic, eventually resulting in them ceasing to be witches altogether.
- Elders of the coven are the only witches with the power to complete the Harvest ritual, although there are steps that can be taken to if the coven loses all of their Elders before the powers can be bestowed upon another witch to ensure that spells like the Harvest can still be completed.
- After each sacrifice, the power of the recently-deceased witch would pass on to the next living girl. During the 2011 performance of the Harvest, Monique was the second-to-last girl to be sacrificed; when she died, her powers, plus the powers of the two girls sacrificed before her, were all passed on to Davina. Since she was saved before she could be sacrificed, she continued to possess all four girls' magical powers until she was finally sacrificed in Après Moi, Le Déluge.
- The interrupted Harvest resulted in Davina becoming the most powerful witch seen to date. She lost the other Harvest girls' magic after she was sacrificed and they were all resurrected, but she continues to be a very powerful witch in her own right.
- The Harvest ritual uses the power of the four elements (earth, air, water, and fire) to bind the power of the Harvest. As such, each girl also symbolizes one of the elements.
- Monique represented earth.
- Abigail represented air.
- Cassie represented water.
- Davina represented fire.
- The three girls who were first sacrificed in the ritual spent time being taught magic and indoctrinated to have faith in the ancestral witch cause while they were in The Ancestral Plane. However, Davina, being the last to be sacrificed, and having sided with vampires against her own people, was instead secluded from the rest of them and tormented by the Ancestors as a punishment for her perceived transgressions.
- Bastianna, Agnes, and Sophie were the Elders who performed the ritual. Bastianna sacrificed Abigail and Cassie, while Agnes sacrificed Monique, and Sophie sacrificed Davina.
- Elijah, Rebekah, Niklaus and Hayley's presence were required to complete the Harvest, as they, as Esther's descendants (or, in Hayley's case, as the woman carrying Esther's sole living descendant) they were needed to channel Esther's magic to Sophie.
- It is possible that each witch was chosen based on how powerful they were individually, which would explain Davina's incredible strength even after the Harvest was performed. This would also explain why Esther would choose Cassie as a vessel when she resurrected her spirit and those of her sons Finn and Kol.
- Due to The Ancestors being cut off from their descendants, there may not be another Harvest ritual performed. Davina, who was adamantly against there being another future ritual as first witnessing the damage directly made from the Harvest made sure of that in Give 'Em Hell Kid.