Create Your Best Self with the Autumnal 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. They saw that the changes taking place in nature, also happened within themselves. The time of the equinox was not just a change of season, but a change of consciousness, too.
Why Is the Autumnal Equinox important?
In the very dawn of civilisation, our ancestors were highly attuned to the change in seasons. This didn't just happen during the Neolithic era, but also before, in the Mesolithic era. I am certain that for all eternity, that all creatures were observant of the changes in Mother Nature. Change is a mystical time for everyone because it signals the end and beginning.
Autumn is a time when 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.
Before autumn is summer, when we expend a lot of energy being outdoors and enjoying the time in the sun. In ancient times, this is when the food would've been harvested for the year. We needed this food to sustain us for months until summer would come around again. This makes autumn a time of reflection - we look back at the blessings from the past three months and give gratitude for what we have.
These main lessons of releasing what is not needed and being grateful for what nourishes us, is the basis of autumn. Once we understand these lessons in autumn, we can know deeper truths that allow this time of the equinox and autumn itself, to sustain us through winter.
The History of the Autumnal Equinox
During medieval times, the season 'autumn' was called 'hærfest' in Old English, which literally means 'harvest fest'. This name indicates a rich history of harvest festivals that is found in every ancient culture throughout the world. The focus for these communities was preparation for winter, which means it was hugely important for these people. Overtime, the harvest became ritualised and embedded in our culture.
In all ancient cultures, there are goddesses associated with autumn and the harvest. These goddesses were all mother goddesses and they symbolised nourishment. These characteristics of the mother goddess mirror 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 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. Its one of the reasons why porridge was a common meal during the middle ages.
How We Can Harness the Power of the Equinox
The autumnal equinox gives us a unique opportunity to grow into our full potential. If we take these lessons on board, we can become unstoppable during winter. If not, winter makes us feel worn down, exhausted, depleted, and unable to accomplish what we wish.
1. Shed Light on the Darkness - A medieval festival called Michaelmas was celebrated to shed light into the areas of darkness, which mirrors what happens during the equinox. The light of day and night are equal, which sheds light into areas of darkness in our lives. In medieval times, this was explained by Saint Michael, the angel of light, defeating demons, the energy of darkness. This was a festival that undoubtedly came from an ancient tradition and was adopted into the medieval tradition. To me, this holiday gives us the best guidance to harnessing the power of the autumnal equinox. Its an opportunity to step into the light, and allow the dark areas of our subconscious to come forward, so we may understand ourselves more, and heal on all levels. We can do this buy meditating more, releasing limiting mindsets or beliefs when they arise, and working through problems with our loved ones by seeing the light in the situation.
2. See Gratitude - Gratitude is a central theme of the autumnal equinox. Like anyone, I find myself being ungrateful, so this time of year is perfect to remind you of all the blessings in life. 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. They knew wealth wasn't created by hoarding, it was created by an attitude of gratitude. Find your own way to give back to those that allow you to have abundance - it may be your boss, your parents, your friends, and even nature itself. For the next few months I'm going to focus on seeing the blessings, and expressing my gratitude to others.
3. Face the Challenges Within - equinoxes are a time to shed light on the darkness, so when challenges arise during the next few months, be alert and face them head on. I used to avoid confrontation because I didn't want anyone to get hurt. I've learnt that most of the time, facing challenges gives a better end result, rather than trying to hide from confrontation. If you're currently in a tough situation, see what you can do about it, rather than hiding from it. You can read books to be better informed about a situation, talk it out with your friends or a mentor, and meditate to see the truth in the situation. The key is to think 'there is a blessing in this situation. I am strong enough to make it through'. The harvest goddess is associated with endurance - the energy of this time of the year gives you the power to endure the worst, and make it out the other end.
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. Doing a warm sesame oil abhyanga is great for grounding the body each day, and nourishing the skin. You'll also prevent dry skin and be able to concentrate better, have a clearer mind, and be able to make informed decisions. Self care is so important during seasonal changes too, because our body needs to adjust into a new rhythm following the change of a season. The energy of the mother goddess is unconditional love - extend that to yourself during autumn, so you can be a source of love for others, and give yourself the strength to face each day.
Autumn is such a nice time of year! I love the colder weather, and the new opportunities autumn brings. Through the rhythms of the seasons we can delve deeper into ourselves, and find true meaning in our everyday lives.