Alban Elfed: Autumn Equinox

“Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
 Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
 And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue”
– John Keats “To Autumn”

The Autumn Equinox, the second time in the year that day and night are (roughly) equal, usually occurs around the 21st September, but this year it is slightly late, occurring today, the 23rd September, at around 3:00am to be precise.

The Autumn Equinox is the time at which the sun in appears to cross the celestial equator, heading southward. Of course, this is what happens in the Northern hemisphere. For our friends in the Southern hemisphere, today is the Vernal (Spring) Equinox instead.

The Equinox (from the Latin “equal night”) is a time of balance, when light and dark, day and night, are held in a moment of equality and stillness. After tonight, the nights become longer than the days and the year turns towards the long nights of Winter.

While “meteorological Autumn” began on 1st September, the Autumnal Equinox marks the true astronomical beginning of the Autumn season. It is marked by festivals in many cultures around the world. For the Zoroastrian tradition, the Equinox begins Jashne Mihragan, or the festival of sharing or love. In Korea, it is a harvest festival. In Japan, the Autumn Equinox is observed as a day to remember ancestors and is a public holiday.

Here in the UK, harvest festivals are still commonplace in village churches and are often held around this time, although harvest season where I live began in August. The Autumn Equinox is sometimes reckoned as the “second harvest” where fruit, especially apples, are ripe enough to pick.

In Paganism, the Autumn Equinox is one of the eight festivals of the Wheel of the Year. In many forms of Wicca and eclectic Paganism, it is known as Mabon, but it is worth noting that name was first applied to the Autumn Equinox in the 1970s and is not historically connected to the Welsh stories of Mabon ap Modron. In my own Druid tradition, the Autumn Equinox is called Alban Elfed. This can be translated as “the high point of Autumn”, or poetically as “the Light of the Water”.

For this Equinox, my partner and I performed an Eco Ritual for healing the land, devised by Tadhg at Tadhg Talks. In the rite, we buried a small green Jasper stone in a place nearby that needs land healing, as we have had a lot of upheaval and building works in the neighbourhood recently. It’s a beautiful ritual, and one which I highly recommend.

An alternative ritual you could try is the Elemental Ritual to welcome Autumn by Cyndi Brannen at Keeping her Keys on Patheos.

As well as ritual, it’s important to remember that these Pagan festivals are celebrations, so it’s a good time to feast on seasonal food (I’m making a vegetarian Shepherd’s pie!), and spend time with friends and loved ones.

The Equinoxes are points of balance, so it’s a good time to think about balance in your life. Nimue Brown wrote an excellent post called “Druidry With a Body” which got me thinking. Balance and health are not just spiritual concerns. We are physical, emotional, mental and spiritual beings. How do you balance the needs of your physical health, emotional wellbeing, mental stimulation, and spiritual connection? I don’t necessarily have an answer to this, I’m still working on it!

May the Autumn Equinox, Alban Elfed, the Light of the Water, bring you a moment of peace and balance as the Wheel of the Year turns.

[Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed I hadn’t posted for a week. I’ve been on holiday, and decided to give myself a well-earned break! I spent a lot of time this past week out in nature, walking in the woods and fields, boating along the fenland waterways, and wandering old Iron Age rings and Roman roads. While I spend a lot of time reading and writing about Paganism, it’s important to realise that books and blogs about Paganism are not themselves Paganism. Real Paganism for me is “of the land”, getting out there and making real connections with your body and spirit to the Land, Sea and Sky where we live, and with the beings with whom we share these places. I will resume my normal Sunday, Wednesday and Friday posting schedule this week.]

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