Happy Autumnal Equinox

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“There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!” – Percy Bysshe Shelley

This year, the Autumnal Equinox falls on Sept. 23 at 08:20 UTC in the Northern Hemisphere. It is the moment that officially signals the start of Fall. At this time, there will be an equal amount of light and dark, after which the nights slowly grow longer as we head toward winter. Outside of religious life, this season is very well-celebrated. It is punctuated by harvest, craft and art festivals, outdoors sports, pumpkin picking, scarecrow contests, and the welcome aroma of spice and apple cider.

[Photo Credit: Mark Leary / Flickr]

[Photo Credit: Mark Leary / Flickr]

In many modern Pagan traditions, this is the second of three harvest festivals, with the first being Lughnasadh and the third being Samhain. Autumn Equinox holidays have many names. For Wiccans and Witches, it is sometimes called “Harvest Home” or “Mabon.” In Druidic and Celtic-oriented Pagan groups, it can be called “Mid-Harvest,” “Foghar,” or “Alban Elfed.” In modern Asatru, it is sometimes called “Winter Finding.”  And, of course, there are those who just simply prefer to use Autumn Equinox or Fall.

At the same time, our friends and family living in the Southern Hemisphere begin the journey to summer. Sept. 23 will mark their Vernal Equinox and the beginning of Spring. The days will begin to lengthen and become warmer as light triumphs over dark and the Earth reawakens from its winter slumber.

Here are some thoughts on this seasonal holiday:

There is a silence here, a sense of infinite time that suits the feel of the season as summer draws to a close. Above, the pleiades begin to be seen once more glimmering in the predawn sky. They will grow in brightness until at Samhain they are clearly visible in the deep dark of the night sky. In the Celtic tradition these are associated with mourning and grief, and to me these ‘seven sisters’ act like priestesses, attending to the earth goddess as she descends into the sleeping earth for the winter. ” – Danu Forest, “The Magic of Autumn Equinox, Part 2

The common phrase I hear about this holiday is ‘second harvest” and that’s particularly apt for where we live. Around here, apples and tomatoes and all sorts of other delectables were harvested in July and August, but now we’re looking at pumpkins, squash and grapes to come in. Our public and private rituals tend to focus on abundance and balance (you know, that equinox thing). We note what we’ve harvested and what we are taking with us as we prepare for Samhain and a more introspective time of year.” – Gwion Raven, “It’s Mabon – or something like that.”

Say a prayer to Freyr. “God of Sunshine and Rain” is my favorite epithet for Him. While the Vanir are not all about agriculture, fertility, and harvest-times, you can hardly go wrong honoring Freyr when the fields are ripe and bounty is coming in. Try this one for a simple start: “Hail Freyr, God of the World, Lord of the sunshine and the rain. As your golden fields ripple and glow, bring your bounty to my life.” – Molly Khan, “Five Simple Ways to Celebrate the Autumn Equinox.”

In modern times, it is a time when summer vacations are ending and school is beginning. Communities that were parted in the spring are reforming again. Stories are being shared. Old friendships are renewed, new friendships begun. It is a time for community. This will be our 17th annual party – and it’s changed quite a bit over the years as we and our friends have had kids. But through it all, the harvest theme has always shone – the harvest of plants, of stories, of so much of our lives.” – Heather and John Cleland Host, “Gathering Together: Harvest and Community

Happy Harvest to all of those celebrating!  And, a very merry Spring to our friends to the South.