What is the Fall Equinox?
Once upon a time, our ancestors organized their entire society as an extension of nature. They moved with the buffalo, foraged in valleys as food became harvestable, adapted to the conditions and changing shapes just like the plants, trees, and animals that inhabited the earth with us. Time was marked on a quantum clock, whose hands were the movements of stars and planets, cycles of light and darkness on the earth, and the changing of the seasons.
The civilization that inhabited Chaco Canyon in the desert southwest built complexes and buildings and a massive sundial with petroglyphs known as the “sun dagger” to track not only the movement of the sun but also the moon. It took an artist to crack the code where anthropologists could not.
To be fully human, you lived intimately tied to the cycles of the earth as if you were “of” the earth instead of “on” the earth.
The word equinox means “equal night,” when night and day are about the same length of time. This occurs two times each year: Vernal in late March and Autumnal in late September. The equinox will occur in just a few days from now on September 23, early in the morning at 4:21 a.m. EDT. The Sun will appear to cross the celestial equator from north to south. This marks the beginning of Fall.
From this point forward, the temperature drops, and the days get shorter than the nights. For the keen observer, the sun’s position on the horizon, where it rises and sets, undergoes the most rapid change.
Thousands of cultures celebrate some form of Harvest festival on or around the Fall Equinox. Major themes include feeding the holy as a way to give back to that which created the stuff we humans depend upon to live. It’s a time of gratitude, a time to feast, savor, and prepare to turn inward towards the coming winter.
The midpoint, or cross-quarter celestial event to follow, called Samhain occurs on November 7. Ancient cultures recognized this as an auspicious time, some performing rituals to pray for ancestors and other beings to support their ongoing spiritual journey with the ephemeral. Many cultural anthropologists muse that some of the more modern day rituals like the “day of the dead” from Mexico, the Catholic “all saints day,” and the western celebration of Halloween are reflections of this tradition.
The official Winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year, when the North Pole is the furthest away from the sun, and occurs on December 23, 2015. Themes of renewal of nature, rebirth of a new year and cycle of life, and a quiet time as the earth rests before the burst of growth in the spring. Christmas, Hanukkah, and other celebrations coming from the world’s 5 great religions also fall during this time period.
The Fall Equinox is upon us. Robert and I are taking a small group of individuals to Taos Pueblo to participate in the San Jeronimo Feast Day in honor of the Harvest.
How will you pause and step out of a modern world that is lost its connection to this celestial clock and reconnect? What act of beauty will you create to honor the Fall Equinox? How will you give gratitude for the things that have fed and sustained you this Harvest season? Is it a relationship that nourishes you? A career that feeds your life’s purpose? The community garden that fed your family?
Consider creating an act of beauty that gives back to whatever the holy is to you this year. Light a candle, say a prayer, plant some winter seeds and nourish them, make a gratitude list, or do an act of anonymous good for someone. Be creative, play, and step into the deep mystery with the earth, because you are the earth.
Yours in psyche and spirit,