Today is one of my favorite days of the year — the official start to the autumn season. Today is the day of the autumnal equinox. The word “equinox” means “equal night” and refers to equality between day and night. It is said to be the time when the hours of light and dark are equal, although scientifically that is not entirely accurate.
According to Greek mythology, the autumnal equinox marked the start of the period when the goddess Persephone returns to live with her husband Hades in the underworld. Persephone is also referred to as the vegetation goddess who is associated with the growing season. Her return to Hades in the underworld marks the end of the growing season and the time of harvest. Myth states that her mother Demeter was so saddened that she could not find her daughter that the crops died and would not reappear until the spring when Persephone comes back from the underworld.
The first day of autumn is also referred to as the Mabon in the Pagan and Wiccan traditions and is considered the second harvest festival. It signifies the end of the grain harvest. It is a time for reflection and thanksgiving to Mother Earth for the bounties that she has bestowed. It is a time to take stock of the fruits of the harvest and prepare the crops and the livestock for the long winter ahead. Druids, who call the holiday Alban Elfed would take the last corn stalk and turn it into a figure in order to trap the corn spirit inside. The stalk was burned and the ashes spread over the fields to ensure future bounties. It is also a time to reflect inward and prepare for the time ahead. Interestingly, it is in the autumn as opposed to the New Year, that traditionally one took stock of one’s life and place in it.
The full moon closest to the Autumnal Equinox is referred to as the Harvest Moon. It was the full moon closest to the harvest of crops. This year’s Harvest moon occurred about 10 days ago.
Here in Vermont, it has felt like autumn for a few weeks now. The foliage has taken on fall colors and the mountains are gradually turning into a virtual explosion of different shades of yellow, orange and red. The air is crisp and we have already had a good frost here where I live. Apples are being harvested and smoke permeates the air from wood stoves and fireplaces already working to keep the chill out of the air. The fields are returning to their winter nakedness waiting to blanketed by snowfall. It is a peaceful time, given the harrowing days and weeks the preceded this Equinox from Tropical Storm Irene. Vermont is settling into her own, it is one of the best times of year here in the mountains.
Wherever you are, enjoy the balance of the day and take time to reflect upon the past year and the remainder to come.