The nights are drawing in and there’s a brisk chill nipping the evening air. Sensing the loss of light, trees begin to shut down their chlorophyll making factories, indulging us in a dazzling seasonal finale of fiery reds, yellows, oranges and russets as they prepare for the coming colder months.
Falling on Sunday September 23rd 2018 at precisely 02:54 GMT, the Autumn Equinox is the “second harvest” (after Lammas), where the last of the fruits are fully ripened and the Earth is thanked for her abundance as Mother and Giver of the harvest. The Autumnal Equinox happens the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator, which is an imaginary line in the sky that corresponds to Earth’s equator. Equinox comes from the Latin words “equi” meaning “equal” and “nox” meaning “night".
When we were still reliant on nature and her seasons, the Autumn Equinox was a time to rest from the hard work of the harvest and to celebrate its bountiful fruits. Traditionally, people would don their finest garb to dine and celebrate in a lavish setting. In England it was also a time of uncertainty for many, as they were paid for their work after the harvest and new employment to keep them over the winter was sought. Employment fairs were commonplace, providing further opportunity for community celebration.
Balance – As Within, So Without
Equal day and night signifies that the Earth is in perfect balance at this time. As we bask in gratitude for the harvest it is also a time to look within – to find our light to illuminate the coming darkness. What seeds did we plant at Imbolc? Did our own personal harvests bring us abundance? Did we reap the fruits we’d hoped for?
Now is the time to wrap up any loose ends and reflect upon the past year. What seeds do you intend to nourish over the coming dark months, ready to burst forth at Imbolc?
Interestingly, the sun enters Libra at Autumn Equinox – the sign of balance signified by the scales – with its glyph representing the sun rising and setting, expressing the balance between night and day. Issues of justice, balance, harmony and how we see our own light and dark aspects come to the fore with the onset of Autumn.
The energy of this season assists us in the release of old destructive patterns, paving the way for integration, inspiration, gratitude and compassion.
Gods, Goddesses and Green Men!
The Green Man’s guise of the season, John Barleycorn, has sacrificed his remaining power to ensure a bountiful harvest – he has returned to seed in the womb of the Goddess, ready to be reborn on the Winter Solstice. He is represented by the Holly King until Beltane when the light defeats the dark and he becomes the Oak King once more, Lord of the summer and all its frivolity.
The Druids name this time of the year “Alban Elfed” meaning “The Light of the Water”, honouring the Green Man, the God of the Forest by offering ciders, wines and herbs to the trees. Seasonal Sacred Herbs include; Honeysuckle, Marigold, Milkweed, Myrrh, Sage, Solomon's Seal and Blessed Thistle, and are used in ceremonies offering thanks and gratitude to the Earth.
It is the season where the Triple Goddess moves from her role as Mother to that of the Wise Old Crone - bearing a sickle and scythe, she is preparing to reap what has been sown. She begins her descent into the underworld, with her departure signifying the decline in nature and heralding the onset of winter.
In fairly recent times, the Autumn Equinox was named “Mabon”, a term coined by Aiden Kelly around 1970 in an effort to impart a more pagan feel to the event. Mabon is a Welsh God, son of Modron, symbolising the male fertilising principle which has been seasonally withdrawn, lying dormant in the earth gathering strength and wisdom to become a new seed.
Autumnal Incense and Equinox Altar
If you would like to welcome the energy of the season into your home you can make an altar or allocate a special place and fill it with Autumn colours such as yellow, red, orange and russet. Decorate with apples, damsons, rosehips and blackberries to show gratitude for the harvest. Acorns, ferns and late blooming flowers make a lovely addition, as will anything you feel personally connects you to this season.
Add a traditional blend of Autumn Equinox Incense to evoke the scents of this season:-
3 Parts Frankincense
2 Parts Sandalwood
1 Part Benzoin
1 Part Cinnamon
If you would like to add a little ritual to your preparations, blend the incense whilst focussing on what seeds you would like to hold and nurture through the dark winter months, ready to be planted at Imbolc.
Food For Thought….
Apples in all their glory are traditionally celebrated at this Equinox – especially here in Somerset – Mabon is also known as the “Feast of Avalon”, Avalon meaning “Isle of Apples”. Other Autumnal fruits include blackberries, rosehips, sloes, elderberries and rowanberries. It is also mushroom season here in the UK with their distinctly earthy taste and smell making them perfect food for the season.
Some lovely, super-healthy dishes for this Autumn Equinox could include:
Hail the Harvest Moon
The full moon falling closest to the Autumn Equinox is the Harvest Moon. Acquiring its name from the days before artificial light, this moon was massively important to farmers as a source of light to illuminate the reaping of the last bit of the harvest.
Unlike any other moon, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac the Harvest Moon rises only 30 minutes later around the equinox – it normally rises 50 minutes later each day. This is what gives this particular moon its almost magical quality of hanging so low in the sky, giving off an array of colours not normally seen. Another phenomenon of the Harvest Moon is that certain birds wait for this moon to begin their migration, this spectacle provides the perfect backdrop to watch birds migrating at night, an event very rarely seen.
Journeying with the Sun Through the Wheel of the Year
To our ancestors and elders, the sun represented both a universal and a personal spiritual force. They understood that the universe and the cosmos were instrumental in revealing the process of spiritual awakening in humanity – that the outer drama enacted in the heavens was an inner representation of the human spiritual journey. The sun is seen as the spiritual aspect/soul spark which incarnates into a person.
We must face our inner darkness to enable us to overcome it, to “see the light” – this is part of the process of enlightenment. Our spiritual sun descends into the underworld to battle our demons before it can emerge into the light. In terms of the Autumn Equinox, it symbolises a time of inner preparation to make way for our sun to be born on the Winter Solstice.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate”
Carl Gustav Jung
Enjoy this time of rest, relaxation and reflection – be present at the Equinox sunrise, watch the sun go down and experience the magnificent Harvest Moon rise. At this time of gentle introspection, be kind to yourself and have a wonderful, magical Autumn Equinox.
"The Wheel turns on - 'tis Mabon-tide.
Dawn and dusk abreast now ride
darkness, brightness, calm and storms.
The hand that holds the scythe transforms.
I vow this wisdom shall be my own:
poise will let my power be known.
From balance the Wheel now turns toward the deep.
Through Winter, by vow and faith, I'll keep."
Special thanks to Matt Clarke for his beautiful photo of the Harvest Moon: http://www.mattclarkphoto.co.uk/
Photo Credit: Sergei Grits - Birds flying past the harvest moon