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Celtic Order Of Enlightenment (Coven)
June 17, 1974
THE RITUALS OF THE AUTUMN EQUINOX
The equinox is a time when the length of night and day are equal. Our ancestors were so attuned to the seasons and the changes that took place that they developed rituals to honour this change.
The pagan rituals during this time focus on shedding what we don’t need, and expressing gratitude, as we head into winter. The time of the equinox marks a turning point. It’s not just a change of season, but a change of consciousness too.
WHEN IS THE AUTUMN EQUINOX?
The autumn equinox occurs in September in the northern hemisphere and marks the first day of fall. Although it is still warm, it’s a signal that from here on, the days will become shorter and shorter until the frost of winter is upon us. It is a stark reminder that the winter solstice will soon be here, so there is a call to reflect on the past summer.
WHAT IS THE AUTUMN EQUINOX?
The autumn equinox is the first equinox to take place after the summer solstice. Winter is on the horizon and summer is not yet a distant memory. In autumn, the leaves crinkle up and change colour, they fall to the ground and decay. We can see autumn as a time to see what is needing to be released in our own lives, in order to move forward and rest in winter.
The equinox is thoroughly a pagan tradition. In our ancient past, our pagan ancestors noticed the subtle changes of the season. Even before the agricultural tradition of the Neolithic era, our hunter-gatherer ancestors needed to know when the decay of autumn was upon them.
Around this time, the food would slowly dwindle until the coming of the first frost, and this was important for survival. Change is a mystical time for everyone because it signals the end and beginning.
The pagan festivities of the fall equinox were centered around giving thanks for the abundance they were receiving. Our ancestors would have had their last harvests of the year around the September equinox and this would need to sustain them over winter. This makes autumn a time of reflection -- where we look back at the blessings from the summer months and give gratitude for what we have.
This day of the year reminds us to release what is not needed and to be grateful for what nourishes us. Once we understand these lessons in autumn, we can be sustained through winter.
THE AUTUMN EQUINOX IS A HARVEST FESTIVAL
The autumn equinox has a rich history both in the Neolithic and pre-agricultural ages. We get most of our information on the traditions and rituals of the fall equinox from medieval sources. In Britain, no ancient written records survive so we have to rely on later material.
In the medieval era, autumn was celebrated by a festival called 'hærfest' in Old English, which literally means 'harvest fest'. Harvest festivals were actually a pagan holiday steeped in ancient rituals of honouring a fertility goddess for the bounty of the harvest.
Goddesses associated with autumn and the harvest were honoured. These goddesses were all mother goddesses and they symbolised nourishment. The mother goddess mirrors the agricultural cycle -- the seeds are planted then reaped to give nourishment to the people, then the land becomes barren again until it becomes summer.
The goddess Autumnus, where the name for autumn comes from, was the Roman goddess of the harvest. She symbolised the abundance of summer, commonly associated with fruit and nuts.
The Celtic goddess Braciaca, was symbolic of the harvest throughout the European continent. Her name refers to a fermented drink called “mead” made from a cereal crop that was drunk during the harvest festival.
All of the harvest goddess mainly revolve around a cereal crop because this would've been the crop most likely to sustain people throughout the winter. It’s one of the reasons why porridge was a common meal during the middle ages.
THE RITUALS OF THE AUTUMN EQUINOX
Celebrate the autumn equinox by illuminating your world within. The pagan rituals at this time focused on introversion in order to grow into our full potential. Using the energy of the season and the shifts in nature, we can discover the how our pagan ancestors would have thought during this time, and thus the true rituals of the autumn season.
1. Shed Light on the Darkness. The equinox is a time when the light and dark are in perfect balance. There is an opportunity to shine light where the darkness within us resides. In medieval times, a festival called Michaelmas was celebrated to shed light into the areas of darkness, which mirrors what happens during the equinox.
During the festival, Saint Michael as the angel of light is thought to defeat demons of darkness. This festival undoubtedly came from a pagan tradition. It could come from a shamanic tradition where the elder travelled to the world of the spirits and defeat the darkness within.
This holiday gives us guidance on how to harness the power of the equinox. It’s an opportunity for us to shed light on the dark areas of our own subconscious. It’s a time where we can understand our shadow side more.
We can do this by being introspective. What dark areas have we been avoiding? According to Carl Jung, the shadow self hides in the parts of ourselves we don’t like, or have rejected.
Jung states it is very important that we learn to accept and integrate these parts in order to be whole. Like the equinox, the light and dark reside in us too.
2. Express Gratitude. Gratitude is a central theme of the autumnal equinox. Our ancestors harvested the grain and gave thanks for all they had for when the times grew cold. Now is the perfect time to remind yourself of all the blessings you have.
In ancient Briton after the harvest the people would pour a few bags of grain into the air to give gratitude for the abundance of crops they received. The grain was thought to be carried back to the gods in the Otherworld. They knew wealth wasn't created by hoarding, but by an attitude of gratitude.
Find your own way to give back to those that allow you to have abundance. Maybe it’s writing a nice note to your boss, or your parents, friends, perhaps even nature itself. Feel that appreciation in your heart. You are already doing so well.
3. Face the Challenges Within. Challenges often arise in life when we confront the darkness within us. The period of growth through the darkness can be tough.
Ajeet Kaur says that when we face a challenge in life, it draws strength from us to face the challenge. The equinox likewise is bringing light from the darkness. Even though the darkness of winter will come, the light still remains for a while. The equinox reminds us that we can call on this strength and lightness within us to face the darkness.
When you feel an inner challenge or struggle come up, know that the light of the equinox is with you. Using the energy of this time, you can overcome whatever obstacles are in your way. Remember, the light always pierces through the darkness. You can find a balance even when you’re struggling.
4. Ground Yourself. Autumn in Ayurveda is the season of vata the air element. Too much air in your composition can cause headaches, insomnia, weariness, dizziness, vagueness, and feeling 'swept away' with life.
In Ayurveda, abhyanga (warm oil massage) is recommended for grounding. You'll also prevent dry skin and be able to concentrate better, have a clearer mind, and be able to make informed decisions. Selfcare is so important during seasonal changes too, because our body needs to adjust to a new rhythm following the change of a season.
Grounding connects us to the primordial earth goddess. The aspect of Braciaca or Autumnus as the mother goddess is her decaying element calls to us as we ground. Feel her presence with you as you face each cold winter day. She will give you strength.
Many Blessings to you..
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