In this blog, I’ll be exploring what the Autumn Equinox is, its spiritual significance, how we may experience its energy at this time, and how to celebrate the Autumn Equinox. I’ll also be looking at how we can connect with ourselves, our communities, the divine and the nature in the world around us at this time, in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
As we all live in different climates, some ideas shared here will resonate more than others, depending on your location. Adapt these suggestions to your own environment and use them as a starting point for connecting more deeply to the energy of the natural world around you.
WHAT IS THE AUTUMN EQUINOX?
Equinoxes occur twice a year; one in the Spring and one in the Autumn. You can check out my blog about the Spring Equinox here.
The word ‘Equinox’ is derived from Latin, meaning ‘equal night’. The equinoxes are solar festivals in the Wheel of the Year, and happen at the times of the year when day and night have become approximately equal length all over the world, with roughly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.
THE WHEEL OF THE YEAR
The Wheel of the Year is celebrated by many spiritual seekers all over the world, including pagans, Wiccans, witches of all kinds, and also nature-lovers who do not follow a specific spiritual tradition. It celebrates the turning of the seasons, and those who follow its rhythms mark its seasonal festival days or ‘Sabbats’.
The Autumn/ Fall Equinox (also known as Mabon) and the Spring Equinox (also known as Ostara) are two of these days. The Autumn Equinox occurs between the 20-23 September in the Northern Hemisphere and the 20-23 March in the Southern Hemisphere. The Spring Equinox falls between the 20-23 March in the Northern Hemisphere and between the 20-23 September in the Southern Hemisphere.
For more information about and rituals to honour the Wheel of the Year, you can join my membership here.
WHAT DOES THE AUTUMN EQUINOX MEAN SPIRITUALLY?
The Autumn Equinox is the second of three harvest festivals. It comes six weeks after Lughnasadh and six weeks before Samhain. Harvest festivals are common to many different cultures around the world, and are traditionally held to celebrate the bounty of the earth at this time of the year and to give thanks for the generosity of nature.
These special celebration days are the perfect time to take stock of our own ‘harvest’. We may wish to consider the things that we have been working towards during the last six months since the Spring Equinox. What in our lives feels like it has come to fruition, what have we achieved, and what perhaps hasn’t worked out as we intended?
We can then choose to learn from the things that have not worked out, celebrate our achievements, and give thanks for the abundance in our lives and the things that are now bringing us contentment and making us feel fulfilled.
Another theme of the Autumn Equinox is balance. We become aware of the need for balance in our lives as we notice the balance between the light and the dark at this time of the year, and begin to prepare for the darker days of winter ahead.
This preparation could be practical; getting our home ready to be a cosy refuge during those darker winter months, and storing food and resources for the winter, or metaphorical; making sure we have spent enough time in the energies of summer, enjoying the lightness and warmth of this season.
Solar festivals involve a holding of opposites. At the Autumn Equinox we are celebrating the abundance of the harvest and the bounty it has given us, but we are also aware that the nature around us will soon start to decay, and that we are moving from the light of summer into darker nights and days.
THE FEAST OF AVALON
The Autumn Equinox is also known as ‘the Feast of Avalon’ or ‘the Festival of the Apple Harvest.’ Some believe Avalon was a physical place, others believe it to be a mystical place of healing, and others believe that it still exists in another realm today.
I was fascinated to learn about this alternative name for the Autumn Equinox as I live in Glastonbury in Somerset, England, and many believe that this town is one of the locations where Avalon existed, with other communities also existing in Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Avalon was mentioned in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain (1100–1154), which, while it is a work of fiction, is believed to be based on Celtic folktales and Authurian legends, and the Celts are said to have seen Avalon as the “otherworld”.
Avalon was popularized more recently by Marion Zimmer Bradley’s 1983 book The Mists of Avalon, a retelling of the Arthurian legends from the perspective of the female characters who influenced him. The word Avalon means “the isle of apple trees”, and if you visit Glastonbury today, you will read a sign that says “Welcome to Glastonbury, Ancient Isle of Avalon”.
If you visit around the time of the Autumn Equinox, make sure to visit Glastonbury Abbey and take a walk around the beautiful apple orchards in its grounds. Their abundance gives us a perfect visual reminder of what we are celebrating at the Autumn Equinox.
WAYS TO CELEBRATE THE AUTUMN EQUINOX
1. AUTUMN EQUINOX SOUL INQUIRY
Your soul is always calling, every moment of every day. One way to hear its whispers is to do a practice called Soul Inquiry. Soul Inquiry is a form of intuitive writing or voicing out loud that involves asking your soul a question and writing down the answer that comes. Below are my Soul Inquiry prompts for the Autumn Equinox:
2. CREATE AN AUTUMN EQUINOX FEAST
The Autumn Equinox is a wonderful time to celebrate with food. Great picnics or feasts can be held where everyone brings a dish, using the best ingredients of the season. Baking is also a great activity for us to do now, helping us to slow down, almost like a mindfulness meditation.
If you enjoy alcohol, this is the perfect time of year to drink some of your favourite wine, as grapes are everywhere now.
3. CREATE YOUR AUTUMN EQUINOX ALTAR
The Autumn Equinox is a wonderful time to create an altar to honour the season. All you need is somewhere to create your altar and some meaningful symbolic items to place on it.
When I’m creating seasonal altars, I like to gather items from nature and build them into beautiful arrangements that celebrate the shifts that are happening in the natural world at this time.
When creating your Autumn Equinox altar, you may like to use harvest colours like orange, red, brown, rust and gold. Fallen leaves can be used to make beautiful decorations.
Or you could even create a Mabon food altar, gathering items such as apples, berries and nuts.
Work with the nature around you; take note of what is growing in abundance on the land where you live right now.
Here are some ideas for what you can use – but allow yourself to be led:
- Fruit, vegetables, and other plants that are abundant at this time of year where you live
- Candles, pictures or colours that reflect the energy of autumn
- Statues of gods or goddesses that are connected to the autumn
- Items that have personal significance for you and represent the themes of the Autumn Equinox
- Symbols of the harvest season
- Items that represent the things in your life that you are grateful for
Feeding Your Altar:
I like to keep my altar in place for about a week and believe in the power of tending to and feeding your altar.
You can do this by lighting the candles, freshening up the water in the flowers if you have flowers on it and spending a moment of prayer and reflection there each day.
When we create an altar, we are really creating an ‘altered’ space, so the more we feed the altar, the more powerful and alive this altered space becomes.
4. DO AN AUTUMN EQUINOX GRATITUDE RITUAL
Like Lughnasadh, the Autumn Equinox is a time to give thanks for the abundance of the earth, and so too for the abundance and good things in our lives, so doing a gratitude ritual is a wonderful way to celebrate the Autumn Equinox.
You can do a gratitude ritual alone or with others, and it can be as simple or as complex as you like. The main thing that you need to do is spend some time thinking about what you are grateful for, and write down everything that comes to mind.
If you like, you could put on some inspiring music while you write your list, or even create your own gratitude playlist. If you are doing the ritual as a group, you can take turns sharing, or if you are on your own, you may like to read your list out loud and then place it on your altar.
5. AUTUMN EQUINOX OFFERING
As the Autumn Equinox is a harvest festival, this is a great time of the year to make an offering to the spirits of the land where you live, to celebrate the living earth and its fertility and abundance at this time of year.
You can get as creative as you like with this and make your offering really beautiful. You could try creating a special Autumn Equinox Mandala using items from nature, or doing a simple ritual using items to honour each of the four elements – for example, lighting a candle, making an offering of water and earth, and using a wind chime.
6. AUTUMN EQUINOX PLANT YOUR PRAYERS RITUAL
This is the perfect time of year to sow spring-flowering bulbs, and you can make this into a simple but powerful nature ritual by imbuing them with your intentions for the six months ahead. This can be done by writing down your heart’s deepest prayers on a piece of paper and planting them along with your bulbs. Just make sure that you use biodegradable materials that will not harm the natural environment.
This simple ritual harnesses the power of prayer and the incredible power of nature to take your prayers out into the world. By grounding your prayers in the physical you are giving them life and energy so that they too can grow roots, bud, bloom and manifest in the here and now.