Friday, September 22, 2023

Friday Ramble - Mabon, the Autumn Equinox

The autumn equinox is often observed on September 21st, but the astronomical coordinate this time around is tomorrow, September 23rd, and the observance begins at sundown this evening.

Whatever day we choose to observe it (or not observe it), the fall equinox is a pivotal cosmic hinge, and it has worn many names down the centuries: Mabon, Harvest Home, Second Harvest, the Feast of Ingathering and Alban Elfed, to name just a few. Mabon is the most common name of the bunch on this side of the Atlantic, perhaps rooted in the god's status as the male fertilizing principle in Welsh mythology. Ceres, Demeter, John Barleycorn, Lugh or Persephone are other fine contenders for a tutelary deity presiding over autumn harvest rites, but I am fond of the "Great Son" of the Mabinogion, sometimes thought to be a companion of Arthur's Round Table.

In the old Teutonic calendar, the autumn equinox marked the beginning of the Winter Finding, a ceremonial interval lasting until Winter Night on October 15, also the date of the old Norse New Year. For moderns, the date marks the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. In Christian tradition, the day is associated with St. Michael the Archangel—his feast takes place a few days from now on September 25 and is known (for obvious reasons) as Michaelmas. The autumn blooming Michaelmas daisy with its purple petals and golden heart is one of my favorite wildflowers. South of the equator, seasonal cycles are reversed, and the vernal equinox is approaching (Ostara).

The autumn equinox is about abundance and harvest, but most of all, it is about balance and equilibrium—it is one of two astronomical coordinates in the whole year when day and night are perfectly balanced in length for a brief interval. Like all the old festivals dedicated to Mother Earth, it is a liminal or threshold time, for we are poised between two seasons, summer and autumn.

One holds out hopeful thoughts for the autumn equinox, that skies overhead will be brilliantly blue and full of singing geese by day, that trees and vines and creepers will be arrayed in crimson and cinnamon and burnished bronze, that a splendid golden moon will be visible against a blanket of stars by night.

An autumn wreath graces our door, and pots of chrysanthemums grace the threshold. Sometimes the pots are adorned by leaves falling from the old oak nearby. The tree is our guardian, the wreath and "mums" a nod to the season and a tribute of sorts. Oak, fallen leaves, wreath and blooms are cheerful things, conveying a benediction on anyone who knocks at the door or passes by in the street.

Autumn images tug at my heart, and I always sort through sheaves and reams of archived images looking for just the right one for today, am never sure I have found it. Leaves, puddles, clouds, sunlight, geese, herons??? Whatever I choose, it's always about the light, and autumn light is fabulous.

However, and whenever you choose to celebrate the occasion, a very happy Autumn Equinox, Harvest Home, or Mabon. May good things come to you.