“My sorrow, when she’s here with me, thinks these dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be; she loves the bare, the withered tree; she walks the sodden pasture lane.” ~Robert Frost
Fall is in the slightly burnt, cool air and in the crinkling of leaves underfoot in the Northeastern Corridor of the United States. School is back in session and vacation dreams have turned to the promise of costumes and pumpkin-carving. We celebrate the official beginning of the season in the Northern Hemisphere today with the Autumnal Equinox, also known as Alban Elfed to Druids and Mabon to other nature-based faiths.
In the wheel of the year, this is a time of balance as day equals night (well, almost equal for those science geeks out there) and the Libran scales enter our skies. The position of the Earth’s axis is once again neither tilted toward or away from the sun. In March, at the Spring Equinox, also known as Alban Eilir or Ostara, we plant seeds in our lives as well as in Mother Earth as she awakens from her slumber. The promise of abundance is fulfilled by fall, when we give thanks for the cornucopia of nature’s bounty and we reap the rewards of our hard work in the world.
September heralds the final harvest before darkness overtakes the light. We follow nature’s cues as the Earth begins her descent into hibernation by spending more time indoors and innately turning inward for more intense internal reflection.
It’s no coincidence to me that the world has just observed both Ramadan and Rosh Hashanah, religious occasions that usher in a time of humility, self-reflection and atonement. On the Hindu calendar, today marks the beginning of Pitri Paksha Shraddh, a two-week period performing rituals in homage of ancestors, who bestow health, wealth and happiness in return.
Mythological tales of the autumn abound in every culture with death as a central element. In one Celtic tale, Lugh, the God of Light, is killed by his twin and alter-ego, Tanist, the God of Darkness. We all have alter egos, shadow selves that embody traits we shun though they validate our common humanity and imperfection. What is hidden is now revealed. So at this time of year, signs of mental distress rise because we fight the darkness instead of embracing the thinning veil of our psyche.
We can harness the creative power of the dark half of the year by marking where we are in our lives, letting go of previous goals and allowing a chapter to close to seed another’s beginning. If we go even deeper and acknowledge all aspects of ourselves, especially the qualities we usually pretend don’t exist, we can then call forth our most vibrant selves.
Lending even more celestial power to this particular time is the Harvest Moon, which hasn’t been on the actual date of the Autumnal Equinox since 1991, plus Mercury’s latest retrograde period is about to end and Jupiter has just come closest to the Earth in the past 47 years.
So even as we enjoy the season with its caramel apples, steamed corn and mulled cider, let’s take these longer evenings and accept Lord Siva’s call for transformation, dying to our more authentic selves like nature dies back to rejuvenate for rebirth in spring.