The Autumnal Equinox occurs near to September 21st each year and marks the day in which the time shared between the light of day and the dark of night stand in equal balance. Known in some Neopagan groups as Mabon, it is a time to recognize efforts made throughout the year and to give thanks on what one has harvested through those efforts. It is also a time to reflect on missteps taken and consider how to do your planting, literally and figuratively, when winter passes once again.
In my Gaulish Hearth Culture there does not seem to be a particularly notable feast or celebration associated with this season apart from Diocomrextio or Tiocobrextio depending on your interpretation. This event, suggested to additionally take place at other times of the year, is focused on the righting of wrongdoings and renewing old or breached contracts. Evidence on the Roman calendar suggests working with several different gods throughout this time of year with Jupiter (Taranis in the Gaulish pantheon) coming up regularly. As he is commonly associated with the wheel and the sun I find this particularly fitting, as one might give thanks to him for the warmth given throughout the growing season.
I have been with my Grove at this time for a little over a year and as such have had the pleasure of celebrating this high day with them twice. Raven’s Cry often honors different pantheons throughout the wheel of the year but since I have known them we have celebrated it in a Welsh fashion, as Alban Elfed “The Light of the Water”. In this rite we would give thanks to both Beli Mawr and Llyr, of the houses of Light and Dark respectively, and give thanks for what we have harvested in addition to asking Llyr for support in His time of darkness and cold.
It is for both my Grove and for myself personally a time that is much looked forward to. In the part of the country in which we live the summer season (and a good portion of the fall season) is quite hot. While we do love the bright sun of the Southwest, the turning of the season promises cooler breezes and beloved most of all – rain. It is also a time of strong reflection after the busy summer season. It is a time to slow down and look back and see what worked and didn’t work. For me I find it a time of rest where I can reap the effort and time spent through an incredibly taxing summer work season and begin planning things for the coming year. With Samhain and the end of the Pagan calendar coming fast and the American Christmas season coming shortly thereafter it is a good reminder to take a breath and contemplate as the bookends of the year fast approach.
While my involvement in agriculture is nonexistent I still observe the harvest themes fiscally as the summer is one of my busiest times work-wise, so it fits nicely into my personal life rhythm. I also very much enjoy the increase in cool breezes and the rain, rare as it is, is one of my favorite elements of the dark half of the year. While storage for winter is not a specific need for our climate there is some preparation to be made for winter. Financial planning for potential family visits or end of year gift giving is smart, as is preparing the home for potential invasion by pests as the weather cools. It is also, of course, the time of year to dig out hats and scarves!
Should I have the pleasure of passing down any traditions from this time of year I would emphasize strongly the elements of harvesting, reflection, planning, and honoring the forces of balance as that balance shifts. With modern lives as busy and complex as they are having a definite season to put on the brakes, reap what has been sown, acknowledge successes and failures, and plan for next year is a valuable thing to have. Seeing and communicating with the spirits of light and darkness and acknowledging their role and relationship to one another, to the Earth Mother, and those who are nourished by Her, is just as important. I feel these are the key things to take note of for the Autumnal Equinox and a strong foundation for growing further practice around this high day.
All in all this is my favorite time of the year. Even in a completely non-spiritual context I feel that there is a calm and a comfort in the air to this season unlike any other. While in the past I rarely looked forward to this time particularly it always hit me once it was upon me how much I loved autumn. Now that I have an active pagan practice at home it comes with a handy holiday attached, allowing me to better acknowledge and embrace the magic that comes with the turning of the leaves.