A Brief History of The Autumn Equinox
An Equinox is a twice-a-year astrological event when the equator hovers right in the center of the sun's "disk", giving us more or less equal daytime and nighttime. "Equi" meaning "equal", and "nox" meaning "dark". Interesting that it's named for the dark, not the light, right?
In Autumn especially the equinox represents a moment of stillness, a time to contemplate our own balance (or lack thereof!) In the Northern Hemisphere, we celebrate the Autumn Equinox in September, but for our Southern Hemisphere Sorcerers- happy Spring!
Obviously we know that Spring is when things are getting warmer and Fall is when things are getting colder. But another big difference between the two Equinoxes really has to do with our collective energy: in Spring we have "spring fever", we're excited to get outside and be active. In Autumn, we're aaaalmost getting to hibernation mode, ready to hunker down indoors for Winter. Even if modern, capitalist society has a strong preference for Spring Fever over Autumn Hibernation, we're WITCHES and we know that rest is equally important! But successful rest can take some preparation.
So let's think of the Autumn Equinox as a time to start wrapping up and winding down, at least energetically. Even if you'll be active all winter, a little intention-setting now can go a looooong way when those days get darker and your motivation is low. Start focusing on what you’ll need to get through the season, whatever that looks like. Traditionally that means harvesting food and preserving the picked crops. But it could also be stuff like, getting rid of clutter that will certainly drive you bananas when you're indoors more often. Try to remember how you usually feel in winter: do you experience seasonal effective disorder? What can you do now to manage those effects? Is winter a time when you want to be cozied up indoors with close friends and family, or does your rest prep require a gentle "I love you all but I'll see ya in the spring, no socializing for me for now"? Check in with how your body is responding to the change in weather: is your skin getting dry, lips getting chapped? Do your muscles take a little longer to warm up in the morning? Start noticing these things now, in this moment of stillness. Check in on your neighbors, especially unhoused neighbors, and make sure you know what you can reasonably contribute.
You may hear folks calling this holiday "Mabon", which is a Wiccan Sabbat named by Aidan Kelly in the 1970s. We aren’t a Wiccan coven so we don’t necessarily use that name or follow the rites, however an autumn harvest celebration has been present across cultures for eons! I mean think about it: crops have more or less always been on the same growing schedule, and celebrating a successful harvest isn't just polite, it's logical! It means a comfortable Winter, so wherever you're from and however you worship, there's someone or something to thank for that.
In parts of Europe, the holiday was known as "Harvest Home", the traditions of which have more or less been appropriated into American "Thanksgiving". So for everyone looking to divest from that particular holiday, good news! You can have an Equinox Harvest Feast instead with your friends and family, on a totally different day, with no mention of any pilgrims. That way on the last Thursday of November, we witches can commit to supporting the Indigenous National Day of Mourning.
In China, the holiday around this time is Moon Festival, Mid-Autumn Festival, or Mooncake Day. As one of our favorite people Alice Sparkly Kat offered in an Instagram post yesterday: "This mid-Autumn Festival I hope that you steal food. I hope that you fly to the moon and I hope that you do not find immortality through self-regulation there but the full light of nine suns." Meditate on that for a second, okay? I'll wait.
The symbols of Autumn Equinox or Fall Harvest or Harvest Home are probably ones you already associate with the start of fall: Apples, pumpkins, birds making their seasonal migrations. There are endless ways to incorporate those in ritual, so if your wheels are already turning with ideas of apple pie and cinnamon brooms, go with that! But remember that Autumn is a whoooole season, not just one day, so if you’re just realizing that today is the Equinox and haven’t planned a whole ritual, no need to fret!
And maybe you have your own Fall rites that you don't even realize! Maybe fall isn’t fall without back to school shopping: get yourself some colored pencils and a coloring book and re-discover Kindergarten you! Finally chilly enough for comfort food? Have a “first soup of the season” party with your housemates (or just you, if you really love soup).
Just after the Equinox in early October, Monarch butterflies will be flying south; you could craft your own butterfly holiday and learn about their protectors at the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve in Mexico where Monarch Conservation is threatened by political motivations. By offering your support to the butterflies and the humans doing the big work, you also set the intention to support your own seasonal needs.
So, what have we learned, witches?
-When the Earth offers you a moment of stillness, take it (and say thank you)
-Putting in a little planning now with the last of your summer motivation can help get you through the winter
-Cinnamon is always a good idea!
-The Equinox is an Astrological event that passes quickly, but fall is fall all fall. You can celebrate whenever you want, or not at all.
-Taking care of yourself is a spell
Happy Autumn Equinox, you powerful sorcerers! You incredible enchanters! Look at all you accomplished over the Summer. We're proud of you.
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