Home » wheel of the year » 22nd of September: Autumn Equinox
autumn equinox: a drwaing of a stylised beam balance. on the one side there as a number of spheres, on the other a peacock feather

22nd of September: Autumn Equinox

Weighing out your harvest and letting go

Yesterday for the first time in months I noticed the beautiful morning mist outside my house. There is no denying the facts: The 1st of September marked the meteorological beginning of autumn and today we enter it a second time in astronomical terms. Temperatures have dropped and the foliage around me has taken on some brilliant red and golden accents. This is the time when later in the day I often regret putting on long trousers in the morning. The autumn equinox is directly opposite Earth‘s spring position in its orbit. The light and dark hours are equal for a very short while, however the rate of change is highest. So the northern hemisphere starts its journey into the darker half of the year, even though the dark minutes added each day become shorter.

While the 1st of August was more about the grain harvest, to me the main focus is now on fruit like apples, pears, plums and elderberries. Some plants in my garden have not yet given up hope, there are some valiant green tomatoes still hanging on the vine and some of my sunflowers are just about to bloom at last. I myself wonder which projects I still want to start or carry on, what leaves I would prefer to let go of in a blaze of red colours, which fruits I can allow myself to not push to ripening. Also which harvest I can and want to preserve for the coming dark months, literally and metaphorically.

Traditions all over the world and throughout human history

In any case this is a time for gratitude, for looking back at what we have been given this year. The Jewish tradition celebrates Sukkot around the beginning of autumn. As well as commemorating the exodus from Egypt, Sukkot is a harvest festival called the „Festival of Ingathering“. Around the world humans in earlier days were existentially dependent on this season‘s abundance: A wealth of myths tells about a vegetation deity who walks the Earth‘s surface from spring until autumn and then has to return to some dark underworld. Similarly, during the lighter half of the year plants sprout, bloom, bear fruit and at the end in some cases actually withdraw underground for hibernation. Humans also tend to spend more time outside during spring and summer: gardening, bathing in a lake or just enjoying the warmth of the sun. In autumn and winter we stay snug inside our homes, fixing our supplies and taking stock. Traditionally, church harvest festivals are based on the 29th of September, the feast day of Michaelmas. This date was also often the official start of the winter night curfew.

Time to take stock

One of Michael‘s attributes are the scales he uses to weigh human souls, another connection with my blog post image. After all, this symbol for balance also always involves the aspect of weighing things against each other. In Physics and Chemistry we find the laws of conservation of energy, momentum and mass. Metaphorically (but also in our gardening reality) we sometimes experience things differently. In some projects an enormous effort yields only little gain, in others the ratio seems to be the other way around and in some cases input and output feel equally balanced. Of course, in those instances neither energy nor matter disappear as if by magic, we just do not have the means to observe where exactly they go.

What about you?

How does Nature currently present itself where you live? How do animals prepare themselves for the coming dark period? Which fields, trees and bushes have not yet been emptied of their bounty? How has this year been for you so far? Which harvest did you reap, what had you hoped for, where did you have to invest less than you thought you would have to, where did you receive more than expected? What are you grateful for? What do you want to preserve? What can you let go of with a light heart? How easy is it for you to send off Summer at the autumn equinox and look forward to the season of candlelight?

Meditation and looking forward to the wheel spinning onwards

I have uploaded a short meditation about weighing decisionsfor you to try another approach to this holiday. You can find it here.

This post refers back to this main article and is part of a series on each of the eight holidays of the year. During 2020 I will write another post for every one of those dates so stay tuned for the 1st of November!

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