Small Rituals, for the Autumn Equinox

Some time between the setting of the sun last eve and when it rose this morning, it turned to Autumn here on the MidAtlantic coast of the States.

The Autumnal Equinox is a sabbat(h), quarter, or holy day on the medicine wheel.  It signifies our movement from Summer to Fall, from the South station to the West, from Fire to Water.  From a stage of Growth to one of Reflection.  From the light half of year into the dark.

It signifies movement, and holding both parts of the whole side by side.

And oh has Mama Nature been tugging and moving at my whim.  Catching my breath with a wink from the daytime last quarter moon…taunting my mystery edge with the miracles of her small, everyday going ons.

Like last night when I arrived at my honey’s house and a tree at the edge of his yard moved her wind towards me.  My eyes caught on what I thought was paper at her base.  I went over to inspect and pick up what I assumed was some litter, only to find the most delightful little corn alter to Harvest and the Fall, no doubt made by squirrels that make their home in her bows.

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And so, in these small, natural, precious moments of seeing, I am reminded that earth tides or holidays are time to pause and make sacred out of the mundane.  That during these sabbaths the earth will often move us in magic, timing, and surprise.

It has also been a time for the depth sacred. On Saturday night I was blessed to officiate the wedding of a dear soul sister.  We were outdoors on a tributary of a highland river on the eastern shore of Maryland.

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The slant of the sun at Equinox: exactly above the equator.  It showed in precise contrasts of  light and shadow all through the ceremony.  The golden hour before sunset is, according to folklore, an “in between” time–when the day moves to night.  Post-nuptials, I was enchanted by the golden hour fairy pink.

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The Equinox is a time of movement away from one way of being towards a new one.  It is when we hold the balance of both, from the center in-between. It was just this truth that the groom found himself contemplating hours before the ceremony.  It wasn’t merely the movement for him from single to married, though this identity passing is one to consider soulfully prior to wedding ceremonies to be sure.  For him, it was more the follies, pains, regrets and troubles of youth and certain relationships that put him into reflection. All of the obstacles that had grown him into the man he had become, the one preparing this new, absolute commitment of spirit, self and soul.

In his own words, as much as his marriage was to be a new beginning, he valued time in reflection and contemplation before the wedding to consider just what he was letting go off, too.

In-between is good soul medicine to learn.  It is the state of being near the end of one or more ways of being, and yet on the verge of the new way to come.  It is also the state of non-judgmental witnessing, beholding more than one reality or truth at one time.

And so, here, at the end of the summer, on the threshold of Autumn, we honor the eternal cycle of light giving way to dark, of how wholeness is comprised of more than one version of truth, and how truth gives way time and again to different form.

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Last sunset of Summer, last eve, over the St. Martins River

Rituals for Mabon, or Autumnal Equinox Tide

Candles

  • Autumnal Equinox or Mabon is the holiday that we celebrate equal amounts of daylight and night, and the upcoming descent into the season of dark.  When the sun has gone down, in a quiet space, light a tea light and take time to contemplate the light.  Consider the season of light, the light half of the year that has now come to an official end: Spring and Summer. As the flame burns, allow the clarity of light to help you clarify any parts you have grown and integrated this year, or perhaps parts of you that you’ve outgrown, and are ready to let go of.
  • A different version of this is to burn a tea light in the early morning sun, praising the cycle of Life and Light that has just past.  Taking time to contemplate, with the burning light, your gratitude for what you’ve grown.
  • A different version as well is to wait for darkness and burn a light, and consider the soul gifts and graces you wish to focus on to tend your own life light as the season of dark comes on more and more.

With all three, time to contemplate and perhaps journal or list these themes in ways personal to you is meaningful.

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  • Another candle ritual is to purchase an Ancestor Candle.  This is something I have done for many years, and at Equinox tide I will begin to light it in honor of souls departed from this realm.  This is a picture of mine this year.  I try to allow myself time for imagination and softness and no agenda when I am tending my Ancestor Candle, to be open to what comes up when I am reflecting.
  • Another version of this is to get a Harvest candle, to begin burning at the Fall Equinox and to continue burning through the medicine wheel until Samhain, The Days of the Dead, or Thanksgiving: whenever you are done with your own Harvest tending.  When I burn my Harvest candle, it is a time for me to sit in contemplation or acknowledgment of things I have grown, accomplished, lost, integrated, am letting go of, etc.  It is always a time that I give thanks.

Corn

  • Corn Dollies can be made at Mabon from husks of the harvest. Literally, you craft a doll from dried husks of corn. Making one is a whimsical process during which you can infuse this talisman with either your wishes for what you still hope; with gratitude for what your soul has harvested; with the energy of an old version of self or of beliefs you are letting go.  Dollies can be kept in a decorative way or burned intentionally in a harvest bonfire.
  • The traditional bundle of three ears of corn signifies the Ancient Feminine Mysteries:  of what was, what is, and what yet will be.  Craft a decorative bundle of three ears and bless it with acknowledgment of these themes in either your life, the life of your family, or of your collective.

Grapevines

  • It is traditional pagan folklore that a grapevine cut or crafted into a wreath on the Autumnal Equinox and hung on the front door will bless the harvest and keep everyone in the home well fed and protected through the dark winter months.  I have some grapevine cut under the harvest moon, and this year I will follow my whim to make a Blessings Wreath with it, infusing it with all my gratitude for what I have experienced this year.

Community Ritual

  • Though this isn’t for just the Equinox, my non-profit has hosted a series of public gatherings this year on our National beach, with a focus on reconnecting to Nature for mental health and wellness.  Our series will culminate at the end of Harvest Season, on All Souls Day, with a big litter clean up in one of our low lying local watersheds.  Any community undertaking that brings people together outside to advocate for the health of your local environment is the best sort of holy day celebration there is!

I hope these give you some good ideas.  Remember, when tending letting go (nature abhors a vacuum 😉 ) it is always good rule to equally tend what you wish to replace it with.  No matter what you choose to do though to make sacred of the mundane–trust yourself, and do what makes your soul come alive.

Be well friends.  Be good to you!  Happy Autumn!

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