September in the Wheel of the Year: Autumn Equinox - By Lucya Starza
The equinoxes are when the hours of day and night are of equal length. In the northern hemisphere the autumn equinox is on September 22nd this year. That’s the spring equinox in the southern hemisphere, but for me living in London it is feeling autumnal now.
The equinoxes, like the solstices, are astronomical events as well as being celebrated by many pagans as part of the Wheel of the Year of seasonal festivals. There’s an equinox every September, but the date varies by a day or two from year to year. The science is that the Earth is tilted on its axis. As it orbits the Sun over the course of a year, the northern and southern hemispheres get more or less light, but at two points it illuminates both equally. These are the equinoxes and at those time the world is in balance, and balance is a theme of many pagan rituals for this festival, as well as it being a harvest celebration.
Some pagans call this festival ‘Mabon’, but that name is somewhat problematic. That association started in the 1970s when American author Aidan Kelly suggested that the Welsh mythological figure Mabon could be honoured at this time of year. It isn’t an ancient name for it, and Mabon isn’t an autumn deity. Druids sometimes call the autumnal equinox ‘Alban Elfed’, which means ‘Light of the Water’, and recognise it as a time to give thanks to the Earth for the harvest. Many pagans – including me - just call the festival ‘Autumn Equinox’.
However, it’s fine to honour whatever deities you normally work with in your personal practice, including Mabon. As the light is going and colder weather lies ahead, some pagans celebrate dark goddesses such as the Cailleach, who is a Scottish mythological figure associated with winter. You could also honour Demeter, Greek goddess of the grain harvest. People of all religions and none have harvest festivals at this time of year, celebrating the last of the grain being brought in, as I mentioned in my earlier blog posts in September. It can also be a time for us to celebrate our own personal achievements, as well as to honour balance in nature and in life. Here are some words you could use to represent those concepts in autumnal rituals:
We stand at the equinox,
In the midst of autumn.
Dark and light are in balance,
Day and night are of equal length.
Summer lies behind us and winter before us.
It is time to take stock of our year's harvest,
To celebrate and give thanks for what we have reaped;
And to weigh up what we need for harsh times to come.
A time of joy and sadness in equal measure
Of golden memories, sweet as ripe fruit plucked from the orchard
And silver tears, bitter as the tang of fallen leaves on frost-rimed earth.
A moment to cherish,
Like the last dance at the end of the party;
Like the last kiss before saying farewell.
Magic and spells for this time of year can also be about those themes. In my book Pagan Portals – Candle Magic I offered a seasonal candle ritual to bring balance in life. I like to do this at both equinoxes. Here’s a version of that spell:
Candle Ritual for Balance
All you need is paper, a pen and two candles. You can use one dark and one light candle to represent the balance of day and night and balance we want in our lives. Alternatively, use white tealights and put one in a dark holder – perhaps a cauldron – and one in a light-coloured or clear holder. Put them on either side of your altar or table, light them, then sit there with your paper, journal or personal book of shadows, and make two lists.
In the spring, I like to make one list of things I want to spring clean from my life, and the second of things I want to grow or increase in the months to come. In the autumn, I make another two lists – both harvest time lists. The first is of things I am grateful for or have achieved in the year so far or plans that have come to fruition. These can also be happy memories from the summer that I want to record and remember in the dark times. The second list is things that can be laid to rest or that I want to put behind me or say goodbye to. The latter can involve some soul-searching and facing up to those things I don’t like so much about myself. Accepting them for what they are, and not letting them get me down, but working towards lessening their impact on my life going forwards.
I’ll admit spending a bit too much time on social media is one of them. Social media is wonderful, but I could spend less time getting into pointless discussions online and more time reading the wonderful books that are being produced by my fellow authors at Moon Books. Learning when to turn off the phone and the computer, and instead curl up in a comfy chair with a good book by the fireside is a perfect way to spend an autumn evening.
This is the eighth in a series of posts I’m writing for the Moon Books Blog on the theme of the Wheel of the Year. My posts will be compiled and edited into a book: Pagan Portals – Wheel of the Year. Other books by Lucya Starza in the Pagan Portals series include Candle Magic, Guided Visualisations, Poppets and Magical Dolls, and Scrying. Lucya edited the community book Every Day Magic – A Pagan Book of Days.
0 comments on this articleThis thread has been closed from taking new comments.