Today, September 23, 2014 is the fall equinox (aka the autumnal equinox), a bittersweet transition from summer’s generative forces to hibernal barrenness. Metaphorically at least. For many of us the bounties of winter are as rich as summer, and yet we conveniently refer to the “fall equinox” as if meteorologist and mythologists and psychologists were in agreement about this annual ritual. They’re not. Nor perhaps are we… So what then are we referring to when we celebrate (or blame) the fall equinox?
Fall Equinox: The Science
Meteorologists consider September 1 the first day of autumn. But for those who prefer defining the seasons by astronomy, the autumnal equinox, which occurs Monday night, marks the end of summer and the beginning of fall in Earth’s northern hemisphere… During the fall equinox, the sun can be seen at zenith before its direct rays shift into the Southern Hemisphere for the next six months. Neither of Earth’s hemispheres is tilted toward the sun, which results in roughly [but not exactly] 12 hours of daylight and darkness at all latitudes… (washingtonpost.com)
Right. Of course a quick look at the solstices helps.
In modern times, the solstice points became the astronomical definitions of when the summer and winter seasons begin. In the Northern Hemisphere, June features the summer solstice, while in the Southern Hemisphere, June marks the first day of winter… Since the equinoxes fall roughly halfway between the solstices, they got pegged as the starts of the other two seasons, fall and spring… (nationalgeographic.com)
Anecdotal Fall Equinox
If the science isn’t enough to clear things up, let’s look at the familiar anecdotal fall equinox that we’re all familiar with (but don’t want to admit!) Here’s a more bitter-than-sweet rumination from a Vermont neighbor.
Beginning this week, the nights will be longer than the days. There will be a decided chill in the air. And my vegetable garden will look like it belongs in the backyard of a haunted house. The tomato plants, long dead, will be drooping from their metal cages like dying, tentacled aliens… Most of us have very mixed feelings about the autumnal equinox. We all understand the way it can (quite literally) darken one’s spirits… For the next three months, the days will continue to shrink and the nights will grow very, very long…
Have I depressed you enough? (burlingtonfreepress.com)
Yes, indeed, depression is settling in like the crispy drifts of autumn leaves. How about something a little more optimistic?
For a more uplifting look at the fall equinox, I’ll pass the proverbial baton to the more spiritually (druidically?) oriented folks over at HuffPo.
The autumnal equinox… [marks] the pagan holiday, Mabon, in the northern hemisphere. Mabon is a harvest festival, the second of three, that encourages pagans to “reap what they sow,” both literally and figuratively. It is the time when night and day stand equal in duration; thus is it a time to express gratitude, complete projects and honor a moment of balance. (huffingtonpost.com)
And nothing better than the source:
Mabon marks the middle of harvest… It is a time to reap what you have sown, of giving thanks for the harvest and the bounty the Earth provides… This is the time to look back not just on the past year, but also your life, and to plan for the future… We too, must remember that all things must come to an end…, but endings are a good time to celebrate our successes, thank our selves and those who helped us, and take part in the balance of life! (The White Goddess)
So, the fall equinox offers up a rag bag of transitional meaning. Take what serves you. Leave the rest. Or pass it out in a few weeks on Halloween?
- Autumn equinox: Google Doodle celebrates first day of autumn 2014 (independent.co.uk)
- Happy Autumnal Equinox (patheos.com)
- Celebrating Harvest Home 2014 (naturalpantheist.wordpress.com)
- Autumnal Equinox / Mabon (lastnightspartiesandlastnightshorrorshow.wordpress.com)
- Mabon Blessings (ramblingsoftheclaury.wordpress.com)
- Mabon History: The Second Harvest (witchesofthecraft.com)