Friday 22nd September marks the 2017 Autumn Equinox, or Mabon, which marks the first day of Autumn in the Northern hemisphere, and the official end of summer. Here we look at the history of the Autumn Equinox, and how it is traditionally celebrated around the world.
What is the Autumn Equinox?
The Autumn Equinox is the moment when the sun crosses the equator, from north to south. This year, this will happen at 20:02 UTC. On this day, day and night will be exactly equal lengths, the word ‘equinox’ deriving from the Latin for ‘equal night’. After this, the days will grow rapidly shorter and the nights longer and darker.
The beginning of a new season is always exciting, and is celebrated across the world in a number of different ways. The changing seasons hold a significant role in human culture, and there are many traditions surrounding these times. Here are just some of the myths and traditions surrounding the day, and a few ways that you can join in the celebrations.
The legend of Persephone
One ancient myth surrounding the September Equinox comes from Greece. The story is that of Persephone, who was abducted from her mother, harvest Goddess Demeter, and forced to become the wife of Hades, the ruler of the underworld.
According to the legend, Demeter managed to rescue her daughter from Hades, but for only nine months of the year. For three months every fall, Persephone was forced to return to the underworld and her husband. During this time, Demeter refused to use her powers, causing plants to stop growing, which is believed to explain why we have three months of winter each year.
A Festival of Thanksgiving
The September Equinox is better known by Pagans as Mabon, and is one of eight seasonal festivals observed during the wheel of the year. It is a festival of thanksgiving, and the second of the three Pagan harvest festivals. It is a time to express gratitude for the fruits of the earth, and recognise the need to share them, to ensure the blessings of the God and Goddess during the barren winter months.
In China, the Equinox is celebrated at the same time as the Mid-Autumn, or Moon Festival. This festival celebrates the summer’s harvest, and people enjoy sharing the traditional moon cakes, round pastries full of bean paste.
In Korea, the three-day Chuseok holiday is celebrated around the time of the September Equinox. Chuseok, originally known as hangawi (meaning great middle of Autumn in archaic Korean) is a major harvest festival, celebrated on the full moon on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. The holiday is a chance for people to travel to their hometown and spend time with their family, taking advantage of the harvest by cooking and eating a huge feast.
How to Celebrate the Autumn Equinox
Here are some ways that you can get involved and celebrate the beginning of the new season.
Have a clean out
You’ve heard of a Spring clean, but why not try an Autumn clean? Take advantage of the new season and use it as a fresh start. Spend some time cleaning and organising your home, throwing away or donating anything you no longer need or is just taking up space, and organising the things you keep. They say a tidy home is a tidy mind, and cleaning up your space will help you feel much more organised and ready to accomplish your goals.
Focus on what you want to achieve
The start of Autumn means that the year is beginning to draw to a close. With just three months left until the new year, it is time to consider what it is you want to achieve before the clock strikes midnight. Think about the resolutions that you made in January; did you achieve them, or did they fall by the wayside soon after?
Now is the time to take control, and set out to achieve your goals. Make a list of everything you want to achieve over the next three months, and set a plan of action to help you tick these things off your list.
Create a Mabon Altar
The Equinox is a time of reflection and thanksgiving, so what better way to honour this than by setting up a Mabon altar to honour the Gods and Goddesses? All you need is a small table, or even a shelf, and add candles and other Autumn/harvest related things; it could be anything from a pinecone or autumn leaves, to a mini pumpkin or other seasonal fruits. Light the candle and say a prayer of thanks to the Gods, and ask for their blessings during the cold winter months.
Embrace the indoors
As the nights grow longer, darker and colder, being outside is less appealing than it was in Autumn. So why not take advantage of the opportunity for a bit of time spent indoors, and make yourself comfortable?
Spruce up your living room and bedroom, so that it feels comfortable and appealing, as you’ll be spending a lot of time here. Add warm, fluffy throws and comfy pillows, and a few scented candles to help set the mood.
This is a great time to unwind and get some much needed rest and relaxation. Start a new book, or get stuck into a creative project that you’ve been neglecting. Take some time to truly enjoy being still, and enjoy the peace before the hustle, bustle and stress of the holidays picks up.