The autumn equinox, like the spring equinox, is the day in the calendar when the days and nights are the same length – and the astronomical start of the autumn season.
As we know all too well, from here on in, daylight hours will continue to shorten for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere until the winter solstice in December. Meanwhile, for those in the south, it’s the beginning of spring.
To get all technical, the equinox happens when the sun is directly in line with the earth’s equator and passes through the celestial equator, an imaginary extension of the equator into space. In the UK, this will occur on Wednesday 22 September at 8.21pm.
Marking this event goes back centuries to pagan and Celtic times, when the festival was called Mabon, says tarot reader Kerry King, who has a weekly forecast.
“The Celts (think: Asterix and his druid-y pal) divided the year into eight parts, dictated by seasonal and natural changes,” she explains. “These included the two solstices (midwinter and midsummer, when the days are either the shortest or the longest), the two equinoxes (spring and autumn, or Mabon, when days and nights are equal in length), and the 4 ‘cross-quarters’ falling at seasonal peaks (Imbolc, Beltain, Lammas and Samhain)
“So, Mabon (or autumn equinox) was used as a festival to give thanksgiving to nature / Mother Earth for giving a good harvest, and to pray to their gods and goddesses that the crop would last throughout the winter. There’d be feasting, fires, offerings and sacrifices. The usual pagan shizzle. Wiccans still very much celebrate this festival, but anyone can appreciate this turn in the seasons.”
King says that in modern times, the equinox is a time to get cosy (say hello to pumpkin spice lattes, s’mores, giant cardigans and not going out out), focus on the home, give thanks for your security in life, and share your riches with those who are less fortunate.
Not that we need much convincing, but the equinox is here for the marking and King has five key suggestions for how to mark it in the spirit of Mabon.
Apples, apples, apples
Apples are a very common symbol of this festival, so bring them into your home as fresh fruit, juice, delicious warm pies and bakes, room fragrances, candles and toiletries.
Mabon is a great time (just like spring) to have a good old clear-out and clean up at home. After all, you’re probably going to be spending more time here over fall and winter.
Start a gratitude journal, and aim to fill it by the end of winter (March 20, 2022!). Write down everything that happens you feel pleased, surprised or grateful for.
Host a Mabon harvest dinner. Get your guests to bring their favourite dish and drink, and lay out an attractive buffet table for everyone to feast upon.
Pick a cause or campaign that you feel strongly about, and give them some of your attention, time, energy or money. Better yet, think of a way you can give ongoing support to a range of places, people or organisations that you believe provide something positive to those who most need it.