Monday, July 22, 2013

Autumn Equinox

          Second of the harvest festivals, Autumn Equinox is also one of the four astrological events marked by many cultures past and present. There are different names assigned to the Autumn Equinox depending on the culture that is celebrating. To get a broader understanding of the High Day, one should look at various aspects of the season: the actual astrological phenomenon, the agrarian activities, and the religious aspect.

          Twice a year, due to the wobble in the earth’s axis on which it rotates, the planet is placed in a position so that night and day are of equal length for a single 24 hour period. For the Fall Equinox the northern hemisphere will begin to tilt back away from the sun causing this region to cool more and more until the apex of winter. Interestingly enough it is also the Spring Equinox for the southern hemisphere. If you could draw a plane through the equator it would line up perpendicular to the sun during this time. Autumn Equinox falls between September 22nd and 23rd in the northern hemisphere. With the tilting away from the sun beginning to occur, the weather begins to change with the air becoming cooler. This causes the air and water currents to change which affects the temperatures by bringing in colder air from near the North Pole area.

          With the cool air comes the second harvesting of crops, in this case those that were planted on or near mid-summer. A lot of the foods that are harvested this time of year are wheat and grains, different types of beans and peas, beets, leafy greens, onions, kale, turnips and radishes, also some type of potatoes and corn. This is also the starting time for harvesting cranberries, apples and pears, though apple harvesting can go into October. The herbs that are harvested this time of year are herbs where the roots are used, such as ginger.

           This is the season where the vegetation God from most cultures dies, beginning His journey to the Under World where He will remain throughout the winter until He is reborn in the spring. This also marks the time that the mother Goddess begins Her rule that runs through to Spring Equinox where the child She gives birth to at Yule or Winter Solstice who will take rule again. In some countries it was common practice to make a figure of a man out of corn husks that would be thrown into the flames of bonfires. This could actually be the source for legends of how ancient Druids created a giant wooden man that was burned as part of the season’s ritual. Through there is no archaeological proof of humans being sacrificed in this manner, it is easy to see how observers from outside the culture could change the meaning of the mock sacrifice to one of actual ritual of sacrifice of humans.

          I found in the study of my hearth culture, Greek/Hellenic, that there is a religious holiday that corresponds to the time of year surrounding Fall Equinox. In ancient Greece one of the most universally celebrated festivals was that of the Eleusinian Mysteries. The festival lasted around a week and started somewhere around the 19th of the month. Even during the time of the Roman Empire, people would flock to Greece to join the Eleusinian practice. The Mysteries themselves were created by the goddess Demeter. There were two parts to the Eleusinian Mysteries. The first was called the Lesser Mysteries, which was celebrated on or near the Spring Equinox. The second, which was the most important of the Mysteries, was a celebration for the ending of the growing and harvesting season. From what is known it was a celebration of the promise of renewal and rebirth in Spring. Also this was also the last phase of initiation for those seeking to enter the deeper portions of the Eleusinian Mysteries.

          Autumn Equinox is a time of change. It is a time when the world begins to turn back in on itself preparing for the rebirth of all life. It is a changing of the seasons from warm weather to cooler, more brisk temperatures. Autumn marks the movement of our planet as it transits through the solar system on the repeating cycle of all life.
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