Traditions for the Autumn Equinox
The Wheel of the Year turns. Again we are placed on the edge between light and dark, beginning and ending. The sun crosses over the celestial equator at this second of the harvest festivals. Now it is heading south and the days will grow shorter and shorter. Winter is fast approaching. The nights come in faster and the sun slumbers earlier. Our great Oak King, our Sun King starts his journey into the darkness to be reborn. Harvest is a time to celebrate that which we have reaped and offer thanks as we prepare for the colder, quieter time of the year.
In Greek myth, Persephone descends to spend time with her husband Hades and missing her daughter Demeter grieves and the world around her reflects this. Upon this seeming death of her daughter, leaving us for the Underworld, Demeter is reminded that all which dies is reborn. Leaves yellow and brown as they are shed from the tree. The world’s green coat falls away to reveal the colors of Autumn and Death, blazing reds, burnt oranges, and singed yellows. The death of these makes way for the new and provides nourishment for the young saplings as they grow in the spring. Gold grains are ready to be reaped with great sickle in hand. The life of the plant given to sustain the life of animal and man. Mabon was a time when fields and stores were emptied and our ancestors prepared for the long winter ahead. Preparations are made, tasks are completed, and successes is measured. Take this time to relish in your accomplishments and plan for the future.
In tropical astrology, the sun slides into Virgo on August 23 and stays until September 22. The energy of Virgo inspires us at the Autumnal Equinox to take in the bounty of our harvests and be grateful for the beauty and power of the goddess in our works. Once the Equinox passes, the sun enters Libra on September 23 and stays there until October 23. Consider the legend of a heart weighed against a sacred feather from Egyptian mythology as Libra is about balance. Consider light and dark, end and beginning, pain and pleasure, change and stagnation, planting seeds and reaping what has been sown.
Dark Mother and Father Rise
The Sun God, our Oak King, begins his annual descent at this time. The Holly King now rises to claim rule over the remaining year. Be not afraid of the dark times but hear the wisdom of the silent, sacred place. Reach deep inside yourself and the year turns to a time of remembering and introspection.
Demeter and Persephone are intimately connected to the Fall Equinox. When Hades wed Persephone, it created the cycle of life, death, rebirth we see in the summer, winter, and spring. Now is the time of the Dark Mother, the Crone steps forward in the Triple Goddess. A sickle and scythe are held in hand to reap what has been sown.
With the dark, we can look at each day as the earth dying more and more. The slow descent into dark allows for new life and renewed appreciation of the summer months.
To welcome the Dark Mother and celebrate the Crone, who can be harsh but always purposeful, take inspiration from the ritual below.
Dark Mother/Crone Ritual
When readying your altar chose symbols of Demeter and Persephone, flowers of red and yellow for Demeter and purple or black for Persephone. Stalks of wheat, Indian corn, sickles, baskets, apples, fall leaves, bare branches, these all are symbols of the time of the Second Harvest.
Choose a candle to represent Demeter and Persephone. Harvest colors are a good choice for Demeter and black for Persephone. Prepare a chalice of wine, or a non-alcoholic substitution, and a pomegranate.
Cast a circle now if part of your tradition as well as call the quarters. Turn to the altar, lighting Persephone candles say:
The earth seems to be dying, the soil growing cold.
A once fertile womb replaced with a barren landscape.
Persephone descends to the Underworld,
So now each day is filled more and more with night.
Demeter grieving for her daughter’s absence,
Us grieving for our dying days.
Winter is on its way.
Lighting Demeter’s candle, and say:
Demeter’s daughter has gone, so she wanders her earth.
Crops are gone, the stalks and other plants, wilting.
The long, dark time alone is beginning.
Darkness follows as Demeter collects up the life of nature.
The time has come to look inward, to embrace solitude.
We let a cool, quiet darkness enfold us,
Bringing ancient wisdom, we honor you.
Above a bowl, break open the pomegranate and remove six seeds. Placing them on your alter, say:
Six months light, six months dark.
A cycle of sleeping and waking, sleeping and waking.
On this equal night, we honor you.
We dance and dream in your shadows.
Darkness will be embraced, revered,
Celebrating the life of our Crone. Dark Goddess show us your truth.
Take a sip of the wine and place it back on the altar. Raising your arms above if you wish, take a moment to reflect on these darker, quieter aspects. They are teachers of great wisdom. Think on the Goddesses evoked this night. Call out:
Hekate, Nemesis, Morrighan, Demeter, Inanna, Kali, Tiamet, Persephone.
Wielders of cleansing destruction and darkness,
You are embraced.
Without pain, no joy,
Without rage, no love,
Without the night, no day,
Without death, no life.
I thank you, I listen to you, Great Dark Mother, She of the Night.
Think on the darkness in your own soul. Could you be ridding yourself of pain? Can you learn and move past frustration or anger? Take this time and energy, turn it to your own purpose. Count blessings, learn from pain, see the darkness in your own soul and learn to respect it, to you it. What is is trying to teach you?