What is the Autumnal Equinox?

The Autumnal Equinox is an astronomical event that takes place when the Sun appears to cross the celestial equator and head southward. Other names for this event are September Equinox or Fall Equinox. For those who live in the Southern Hemisphere, it will be the Spring or Vernal Equinox.

According to the Famer’s Almanac, The Autumnal Equinox is considered to be the first day of Autumn, astronomically speaking. This has to do with the position of the Sun in the sky. There are many who consider the first day of September to be the first day of fall. This idea is taken from the perspective of meteorology which charts seasons based on the calendar (Gregorian) and temperature shifts. 

As we progress into the fall season, the days will become shorter and the nights will become longer.  We will stay in the Autumn season and energy until the Winter Solstice on December 21, 2022.

Balance of Day and Night

For many the Equinox (whether Vernal or Autumnal) is considered to be a day of “balance”. It is said that during this event we have the same amount of daylight and darkness. The word Equinox is a mixture of the latin words “aequss” (equal) and “nox”(night).

In truth, the event where there is 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness is referred to as the Equilux. It's a specific time and day depending on where you are in the world. Generally, Equilux occurs a few days before the Spring Equinox and a few days after the Fall Equinox.

When is the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere?

Date:  Thursday September 22, 2022

Time:  6:03pm Pacific (Los Angeles)

           8:03pm Central (Chicago)

          9:03pm Eastern  (New York)

Friday September 23, 2022

          2:03am United Kingdom Time (London)  

Symbolism & Correspondences

Here are a few symbols and items that correspond to the energy of the Autumnal Equinox and the Autumn Season. You can use these for decorating your sacred space or home, creating a seasonal altar, art, meditation or magickly attuning to the season. 

Symbols for the Fall Equinox and Autumn in general are: 

Apples Corn Harvest Moon Acorns
Bread Seeds Full Moon Cedar
 Vines Grains Ravens/Crows    Pinecones
Cornucopia Pomegranates Fox Scarecrow
Pumpkins Feast Owl Corn Doll
Wine Falling Leaves Bat 
Grapes Abundance  Wolf

 

Colors (and their shades/variations):

 Red Yellow Black
Orange Brown

 

Stones:

 Obsidian  Tiger’s Eye Quartz Amphibole
Moonstone Smoky Quartz Petrified Wood
Hematite  Serpentine

 

Folklore & Traditions

Many of us harken the time of fall with a heart of gladness and a breath of fresh air. The air seems to be more playful and mischievous than usual. The leaves begin to turn (in some places more brilliantly than others) and fall to earth, the nights become longer, the days are shorter. Depending on where you live, the temperatures may drop a bit. It is a time of gatherings, bonfires, food, stories, and magic. Each season has its own magical qualities to it. Fall brings a heightened awareness of mortality, cycles, other realms, ancestry, and traditions. 

For those who do not wish to celebrate the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving, many people choose to have a gathering/feast on the Autumnal Equinox. The ideas of abundance, gratitude, and family still ring true for this practice. 

In Japan, Ohigan is celebrated at both the Spring and Fall Equinox. It is a time to honor ancestors and loved ones who have passed away, as well as tending/caring for the resting places of said ancestors.

In Mexico, many gather at Chichén Itzá, at the sight of Kukulcán Pyramid (a Mayan temple) to witness the descent of the Serpent of Kukulcán at sunset. During this time, due to the angle and shape of the pyramid, a shadow descends the steps that looks like a serpent. 

In Pagan and Wiccan circles, there is the sabbat of Mabon, named for a Welsh folk hero Mabon ap Modron which translates to Son of Mother. This is the second harvest and the final holiday in the wheel of the year. It is a celebration of accomplishment (for the harvest), releasing, and gratitude for the gifts of the earth. 

As the first day of fall, the Equinox also marks the day of Persephone’s descent into the Underworld, where she takes her place as the Queen of the Underworld. While Persephone is in the Underworld, her mother Demeter is sad and lonely, and the earth descends into gradual darkness, plants wither and the land seems to become barren. Upon Persephone’s return, in the spring, Demeter’s heart begins to lighten and fill with joy, thus allowing life to return to the earth. In some version of this tale, Zeus put the constellation of Virgo in the sky as a gift to Demeter. The constellation is meant to be a symbol of hope in the knowledge of Persephone’s return.

In Celtic Mythology, at the Summer Solstice, the Oak King and the Holly King go to battle. The story goes that the Oak King is guardian of the waxing half of the year (meaning the time when the light returns to the earth and the amount of daylight gets longer) and the Holly King is guardian of the waning half of the year (when the light gives way to longer hours of night). In one version of the story, the kings will battle twice a year, on winter solstice and summer solstice. During the battle of the Summer Solstice, the Oak king is at his pinnacle and fullness, but he is bested by the Holly King and must lay down his crown. The Holly King took his place, but was in a weakened state. On the day of the Autumnal Equinox, the Holly King is restored to his full power to rule the dark half of the year. 

Holidays and Celebrations 2022 

This list comprises a few holidays that coincide with the Autumnal Equinox or are within a few days or a week around the equinox.

Ohigan (Japan): A celebration and veneration of Ancestors

Mabon (Pagan): Celebration of the second harvest and descent into the dark half of the year

Zhongqiu Jie (中秋节): Mooncake Festival (China): Celebration of Harvest and Family 

Michaelmas (Catholic): The Feast of Saint Michael

Rosh Hashanah (Jewish): Celebration of the Jewish New Year

Activities to celebrate the Fall Equinox/Connect with the Season

Fall is a great time for outdoor activities, especially since the weather is becoming a bit cooler, but not too cold.

Nature Walks: The air on a brisk fall day is incredibly refreshing. Spending time out in the elements, talking to plants, animals, the wind etc is a good way to connect with the energy of the season. As you walk, take a bit of time for silence. Open your senses to experience the music and voices of the earth. Be sure to give thanks for their song. When you return home, take some time to reflect on what you experienced. Writing the experience in a journal with a cup of tea is a great way to connect with the energy. If you see any litter, helping to clean the area is another way you can give thanks and honor to the experience.

Window/Floor “Washing”: In the Spring, we usually hear the term “Spring Cleaning”. Fall is usually a good time to do a bit of cleaning and organizing, especially since it is often a time of gatherings. It’s a good time to also do a “wash”, in a spiritual sense. You can make a special water with oils, herbs, or stones  that you can wash your windows and floors with to clean the energy of summer out and welcome new energy in. Choose your ingredients based on your intentions for the wash. They can have protective qualities, balance, uplifting, cooperation, communication, attracting luck and prosperity. There are many recipes online that can be rendered by a quick search. Feel free to get creative with it. Be sure to wear protective gloves or at least check that your ingredients will not irritate your skin.   

Resetting the “Wards”: In addition to giving a wash to your floors and window. If you practice warding or protecting your home energetically, the equinox is an ideal time for renewing those protective intentions. Just like with the wash, there are many different methods of accomplishing this. Each person will have their own that works best for them. Be sure that your home has at least been swept, vacuumed, and tidied a bit beforehand. Some traditional ideas, pouring a line of salt along the thresholds of your doors that lead to the outside, as well as in the windowsills (if you have curious pets or little ones that can reach the sills, you may not want to do the windows with salt, you can use another method for the windows). You can hang specific protective herbs, stones, or talismans in the right hand corner of each doorway. You can sprinkle holy water (blessed by a priest or shaman) or blessing water (created and blessed by you) in the corners of your home. While you set these methods into place, you can chant incantations, pray, or just send energy out. You can also call in guardians to help bless and protect your space. These can be ancestors, deities, angels, spirit animals, saints, spiritual guides.

Pro tip: If you choose to do the cleaning, washing, and organizing, start the process a week or two in advance of the equinox. It will save time and won’t leave you feeling overwhelmed about everything there is to do. Also, it's okay if you do these things after the equinox takes place, it doesn’t all have to be complete in one day. You won’t lose the magic of the day. 

Altars, Offerings, & Decoration: When the seasons change, many people like to decorate and change their surroundings inside their home. You can use any of the items listed in the above sections. If you keep an altar in your home, the equinox is a good time to wipe down the altar, change any fabrics, and move items to bring in balance, protection, and love. This is also a good time to honor your ancestors by setting up an altar for them, be sure to include any friends or loved ones who have passed recently. This is also a good time to leave offerings for the faeries and elementals. Milk, honey, bread, fruit, are some of the things they like. You can also leave offerings for your ancestors or for those in the animal realm that live near you.

HerbCrafting: If you keep a garden of herbs, you’ll already know that this is an appropriate time to harvest many of them. The equinox and the fall season is a good time to put your dried herbs to use. Making salves, oils, vinegars, sugar scrubs and teas for your medicine cabinet. They also make cost effective, thoughtful gifts for friends and family. You can also use your herbs for cooking and baking. Even if you don’t have an herb garden, there are many dried herbs that you can get from local growers, as well as respected distributors. If you’re interested in herbs, but don’t have a working knowledge or experience with them, start with your local herb society. Many states and cities are connected to the Herb Society of America. Be on the look out for Herb Fairs in your area. You can also check out books and social media for expert herbalists. Books by Rosemary Gladstar are a great place to begin. 

Gratitude Gatherings: Gathering around those we love and enjoy spending time with can be great fun and can raise energy and lift spirits, especially when food, drinks, and laughter are involved. At some point in the gathering, have everyone take a turn to say what they are grateful for. It’s a good way to bring in the warm fuzzies. 

Around the Fire: Fall is an exquisite time for gathering around a fire pit to roast marshmallows or making smores. Fire has a magic to it that can be enhanced by singing songs, telling stories, or dancing around it. (Always practice fire safety and know your community rules regarding fire use). For stories, if you want to make it interesting, you can create a story all together. Pick someone to begin the story with only one or two sentences. The person next to them adds their two sentences. Each person around the fire takes turns adding to the story. You can make it funny, scary, romantic etc. You could also do this with songs. Decide which melody will be used and everyone sings new lyrics for their turn. Be on the look out for fae and nature spirits, they like this kind of activity and may wish to join.  

Keep it Simple: One thing to keep in mind, all of these ideas are just that. ideas. If you want to keep things simple, on the day of the equinox, you can simply light a candle and express gratitude for the present moment. You could also just take a breath and be still. There’s nothing wrong with stepping outside at some point during the day, pausing, and just saying “Thank You” and if that is the only thing you do, that is absolutely fine. Let's break the cycle of creating stress around holidays or special occasions. Keep it as simple or elaborate as you feel comfortable with, but on this day of balance, it’s okay to just be. 

September 16, 2022