24th September 2017
Autumn Equinox happens on or around the 22nd of September, and it is always met with mixed emotions. It is one of two equinoxes that occur in the Year – Spring and Autumn. The Equinoxes mark the moment when day and night become equal - momentarily we stand on the balancing point between darkness and light. But because this is Autumn Equinox (and not Spring) we turn our attention to the dark days and long nights of winter, which are just around the corner. We are now moving into the God’s half of the year, and so the emphasis in circle becomes more about the God.
THE FRUIT HARVEST
Autumn Equinox represents the second of three harvests. Lammas in August brought the harvest of the grain, while now we are harvesting the fruit. Outside the fruit trees are heavy with ripened produce – in the orchards apples, pears, plums and other stone fruits have ripened, and are beginning to fall from the branches. It is also the time to harvest the last of the berries and nuts. In the woods the trees are heavy with sloes, with acorns and with conkers. In rural communities, this the time of fruit harvest, when the fruit is gathered in and carefully stored away to feed the people through the coming winter. It is a time of preserving fruits to make them last. It is the time to make jams and preserves, time to start brewing that cheeky bottle of sloe gin for the winter, time to start freezing stewed fruits.
In folklore, this is the time of the Wild Hunt. There are lots of legends around the country of the Wild Hunt swirling out from the mists – on Dartmoor we have Dewar leading his pack of Wisht Hounds to hunt men’s souls, in Shropshire he is Wild Edric, in the north he is Woden, or the Ghost Riders in North America. All of these figures herald the coming of disaster or death.
THEMES TO THINK ABOUT AT AUTUMN EQUINOX
The antlered God calls us into the woods for winter. He tells us,
‘Fear not to meet me in the Autumn Hunt, for I have never failed to return you to the springtime when our time together is over.’
He is the hunter, but the hunter is also the conservator of the forest, and the guardian of the animals. In literature he is the Gentle Huntsman who appears in Lolly Willowes, and he is also Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the gamekeeper. He is also The Hound of the Baskervilles. On film he is Robin of Sherwood’s Herne the Hunter.
We place his symbols on our alters– the black candle, the horns or antlers, seeds and berries from the trees outside.
As winter comes in to gather us into the long nights and short days, our attention will turn inward. This is a time for introspection.
What have you harvested this year?