By: Melanie Crump
The soft crunch of multi-colored leaves on the ground and cool breezes are signs that the Autumn Equinox is near. The word equinox is derived from the Latin word aequinoctium, where aequi means equal and nox means night. On the day of an equinox, the hours of sunlight and night are equal. This day of equal light and darkness brings about a sense of balance or time between times. We are teetering on the cusp of the dark half of the year or the waning cycle of the sun. There are only two equinoxes every year, the Vernal (spring) and Autumnal (autumn) Equinox. The Autumn Equinox occurs around September 21-23.
Fall marks the time for the harvest sabbats: Lughnasadh, Autumn Equinox, and Samhain. Harvest sabbats were a vastly important part of spiritual practice in ancient civilizations. Back when most people lived directly off their own land, the yield of your harvest would determine your ability to survive through the winter! Traditionally, this Sabbat was a time to take a brief break from the hard work of threshing, reaping, and storing the harvest in order to give thanks for all that they have received and achieved.
In today’s world, the majority of people buy their food in a grocery store, so we feel more removed from the process of growing and harvesting crops. However, this does not make harvest sabbats less important in today’s world! We are still affected by the harvest of the farmers that supply food to the grocery store. A poor harvest will result in little to no availability of particular foods as well as price increases in stores! If you do not grow your own food, you can still celebrate and be thankful for all that you posses and help out those that are in need.
Another name for this sabbat is Mabon. In Welsh traditional lore, Mabon was a “divine child” that was abducted as an infant from his mother, Earth Goddess Modron. While he was gone, the sunlight hours would wane every day. He is rescued at Yule with the help of Arthur and spirit animals (Raven, Stag, Owl, Eagle, and Salmon). Some believe that Mabon is derived from the Maponos, the Welsh God of Divine Youth, and he is often related to the Roman God Apollo. Similar lore can be found in the Greek Kore or the Egyptian Osiris. Journeys of abduction and return/rebirth are examples of the greater cycle of death and rebirth. Though the leaves are falling and fields are being harvested and dying, there is promise that the Earth’s flora will once again come back to life in the spring!
Common observances of Autumn Equinox are rituals focused on the harvest and giving thanks for all you possess, partaking in large feasts, and making wine and baked goods. Deities that are honored during rituals are your tradition’s Goddess and God that reside over Earth, nature, harvest, wine, and other related items. A few of these Deities are Demeter (Greek), Dionysus (Greek), Epona (Celtic), Cernunnos (Celtic), Fortuna (Roman), Flora (Roman), and Mabon (Welsh). Offerings from the feast, especially from the first fruits harvested are made to the Goddess and God. Feasts often included vegetables, fruits, and autumn nuts in the form of casseroles, breads, pies, and cakes. This is why it is so popular to eat pumpkin, pecan, and apple pies during this time of the year!