Autumn Equinox is one of the eight festivals in the Wheel of the Year, which in its entirety represents the Cycle of Life. In this cycle of becoming and unbecoming, death and rebirth, Autumn Equinox is the second of three harvest festivals and marks a time of balance, keeping in mind the coming inward journey, towards our inner wisdom and the symbolic death in winter.
Its opposite is Spring Equinox which also marks a time of balance, but keeping in mind the coming outward journey, towards unfolding and blooming.
When do we celebrate Autumn Equinox (Mabon)?
As its name suggests, an equinox is a day where day (light) and night (darkness) last for about the same length of time, or at least appear to be of the same length. The word equinox comes from Latin „aequus“ meaning equal and “nox” meaning night.
Autumn Equinox happens between September 21st and 23rd in the Northern Hemisphere, and between March 20th and 22nd in the Southern Hemisphere. The exact time differs a little from year to year, because it depends on the moment when the sun is exactly above the equator at 12 noon local time.
Why do we celebrate Autumn Equinox (Mabon)?
Autumn Equinox marks the midpoint between Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice, symbolising a time of equilibrium – light (day) and shadow (night) balance each other.
So it’s no coincidence that astrologically this is the beginning of Libra season, with its symbol, the scales ;-)
Autumn Equinox invites us to take a closer look at what’s working well in our life, what we are grateful for, what feels harmonious to us – and what doesn’t. And to feel into what’s needed to bring some more balance to the areas of our life that have gotten out of balance.
It’s a time of drawing our energy back to ourselves and calming down, digesting the experiences of summer, so we can start the journey into the dark half of the year from a centred place.
Because change is in the air, and while change alone can already be hard for us humans, many do find the dark time of the year extremely depressing. All the more important that we now reap our (symbolical) harvest to gather enough sustenance for the coming winter phase.
What is the energetic quality of this time?
The energetic quality of Autumn Equinox is similar to the Last Quarter (Waning) Moon and the pre-menstrual phase (if you (still) have a natural menstrual cycle). Our attention turns back inward, we’re more connected to our inner truth and start making our outer and inner home nice and cosy.
We can observe this in Nature, too, where the trees start drawing the necessary nutrients and their lifeblood back inwards, so the leaves turn colourful and can be released. The nights are getting much colder, the first storms are coming and it gets dark earlier at night.
Meanwhile, harvest is continuing diligently, fruit and vegetables are being preserved and stored und we express our gratitude to the great, nurturing Mother Earth through Thanksgiving festivals and bonfires. And, of course, Federweisser (a German/European low-alcoholic beverage made from the first grapes), onion tart and pumpkin soups are part of that experience.
How can you honour the quality of this time?
We often believe it needs to be something big and significant to celebrate a certain time or period of life, but it is the little daily rituals that make the difference. Here are a few ideas to honour this time in your day-to-day life:
- Create your own Autumn Altar: Prepare a corner in a room, a little table or simply a bowl and decorate them with everything that reminds you of autumn: e.g., colourful leaves, chestnuts, pine cones, decorative pumpkins and, of course, candles. Take a few moments here and there, light a candle, enjoy the silence and connect to the autumn energy.
- Colourful Braids: Make small braids from colourful wool, yarn or fabric, decorate them with little bells or feathers and hang them on bushes and trees outside. They distract evil spirits, who will get caught in them instead of entering your home – or the fairies and nature spirits will play with and delight in them, depending on how you choose to see it ;-)
- Small Offerings: To thank Nature and the elementals for their support, you can leave small offerings outside in the garden, on the balcony or under trees, e.g., a beautifully decorated pumpkin, some grapes or apple slices.
- Winter Projects: Start thinking about which project you’d like to commit to this winter – not for work, but for yourself and your personal wellbeing! Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to knit or weave, or love painting and normally don’t allow space for that. Women of all times have used the long winter nights to occupy their hands with some handicrafts, so their minds were free to roam and open up to what wanted to come through for the next year.
The meaning and themes of Autumn Equinox (Mabon)
Autumn Equinox is the second of three harvest festivals, but while during Lughnasadh the focus lay on abundance and joy, it is now shifting more towards a deep gratitude – for our harvest as well as the lessons we’ve learned.
This gratitude is about a deep acknowledgment and appreciation of what’s revealing itself in our life right now. It’s like taking a deep breath and recognising that everything is somehow already right the way it is. Even though there are areas that don’t yet look like our brains would like. We look at our life and understand what’s truly important and meaningful to us, and how deeply we are provided for.
So why not say Thanks to the people and energies that have supported you throughout this year? Most of all to yourself and your body who has carried you around day in and day out. Our body is a part of Nature, a miniature version of the great Mother Earth, and when we show her some appreciation, we honour the Greater at the same time.
Harmony and Inner Balance
Day and night, light and darkness are in a state of equilibrium now and we humans, too, are invited to look at the harmony inside of us.
Which areas of your life feel balanced, which are out of balance?
How can you create more harmony in your life?
And does your home reflect the harmony you’re looking for?
Our outer world is a reflection of our inner world, but the opposite holds true as well. What kind of little adjustments might you want to make in your home, so it reflects the feelings and inner state you’d like to be in back to you?
Saying Goodbye to Summer
The heat and busyness of summer are slowly subsiding and we are beginning to retreat. Both on the outside, since the days and nights are becoming noticeably colder and aren’t inviting us to enjoy garden parties anymore, and also on the inside. Maybe we even deeply long for some peace and quiet, as lovely as the hustle and bustle of summer was.
Transitions are often hard for us humans (definitely in the change-averse societies we live in) and some people feel like being hit by a truck when the autumn slowness kicks in. Others are taking a deep breath, happy that the summer’s intensity is slowly ebbing away.
How do you experience this time of year?
Small rites of passage (transitional rituals) can help digest and integrate the events and experiences of summer, so you can find a sense of closure for this season. Light a candle, maybe burn an incense stick or diffuse some essential oils and play relaxing music. Then take a moment to enjoy this atmosphere and reflect on this past summer. Accept the insights you’ve gained and consciously release everything one step at a time.
The time of Autumn Equinox has a similar energy to the premenstrual phase in a menstrual cycle or waning moon in a moon cycle. It’s a time of reflection, of looking at the results, the harvest we’ve received, so we can distil the lessons and plant new seeds for the future on their basis (but only AFTER a thorough resting phase in winter!)
It’s about an inner decluttering and regrouping. Which results or “fruits” did you harvest in the different areas of your life (Friends & Family, Body & Health, Vocation & Finances, Spirituality & Personal Evolution)? Which results would you like to keep nurturing and growing in the next cycle, or where would you like to course correct?
If you have set an intention for this year at Winter Solstice on December 21st of last year (for example in the Ritual of 13 Wishes), now is a great opportunity to evaluate what has grown from that seed of intention. Which kind of fruits did it bear? What can you do to nurture it further in the remaining months of the year? Does the intention have to be modified, adjusted or released altogether, because it no longer suits you and your current situation?
Autumn Equinox (Mabon) in the Cycle of Life
The wisdom of the individual festivals of the Wheel of the Year can always be applied to our bigger cycles of life, which we move through as humans – no wonder, since they represent the Cycle of Life.
Autumn Equinox heralds the last quarter of a life and roughly corresponds to the age of 60. Very often, this is a time of deep reorganisation. Many people retire around that age and need to create a new structure in their days and consider what they want to do with the rest of their life.
While for some people this means a big freedom opening up in front of them, others feel scared and see themselves staring into a gaping void.
“What is the meaning of my life? Am I now old and useless? What is my purpose, now the children are out of the house and the work is done?”
So it’s also a time of inner regrouping, which isn’t’ always easy and may take some time.
Yet, this is the start of the wisdom phase when it’s important to pass on one’s knowledge to the next generation – whether that’s on a small scale in the family or on a bigger scale in the community or even in the world.
“What is important to me? What are my strengths and talents, what do I really love doing and which insights would I like to pass on? And what’s a good place to do so, where my wisdom and life experience are welcomed with open arms?”
I believe we humans need to have a sense of purpose for our existence in order to feel truly fulfilled. This purpose can change over time, that’s completely normal. But it’s important to remember: YOU decide what the purpose of your life is, what your intention is. So start asking yourself: What purpose do I want to follow in this next phase of my life?
(And if this inner regrouping sounds scary to you, please reach out to me! I hold a safe space for you to explore exactly this question, without pressure or judgment!)
How can you celebrate Autumn Equinox (Mabon)?
Since the focus (of Nature, but also our own) shifts back inwards around Autumn Equinox, the rituals of this time of year are all about looking within and reflecting on the past months.
- Gratitude Journal: Even though the topic of gratitude is becoming almost a cliché nowadays – it is and will always be a practice that brings our awareness back to what’s working well in our life HERE AND NOW. Gratitude comes with feelings of abundance and inner peace and doesn’t leave room for fears or worries. Maybe this is the ideal time for you to start a gratitude ritual or even a journal, recording one (!) thing daily that you are grateful for and why. The “why” part makes all the difference, because it shows us the significance and impact it has on our life.
- Reflection: Take a few moments with pen and paper in a quiet space, maybe even light a candle or play some relaxing music. Start reflecting on the following questions:
-> What are the gifts (harvest) I received during the year?
-> Which of them were desired / did I plant deliberately, which were surprising?
-> Were there any gifts I didn’t like as much? What did I learn through them – about myself, about other people or about life?
-> What would I like to continue nurturing and growing next year? What new seeds would I like to plant in which areas of my life?
To close this ritual, thank yourself and the Universe for everything it has shown you this year.
- Thanksgiving: Get together with friends to cook an opulent meal together, maybe even with your freshly harvested produce. Celebrate the abundance and colours with good food and drinks, share your harvest with each other and give thanks to Nature.
- Thanksgiving Fire: Gather in circle around a Thanksgiving fire, perhaps even collecting the wood together. Let the fire be a light that gives you strength for the upcoming darker months.
Find a way to express your gratitude for each other. What do you appreciate about the other person? Which characteristics, gifts and talents do you see in them, that feel meaningful to you?
It’s often really hard to identify our own gifts, because they come naturally to us and we take them for granted. Acknowledging and expressing this appreciation in circle is like a healing mirror showing us that we’re all unique and at the same time part of something greater.
Do you have any questions or know other Autumn Equinox (Mabon) rituals that you love celebrating? Send me a message, I‘d love to learn more!
Do you want to reconnect with the cycle of life and with the rhythm that’s running through your veins month after month? I send out weekly personal (electronic) letters, so you can remember the ancestral wisdom stored in your cells.
It’s time to take your life back into your own two hands and trust the wisdom your body holds!
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