Autumnal Equinox: Why? Who? How?
Winter is almost here! We’ve blown away the longest day of the year with the summer solstice in June and we had the autumnal equinox on Wednesday; the day when the sun directly passes on the equator.
The equinox marks the end to the long days of summer in the northern hemisphere and also commences the longer nights of winter. For the southern part of the earth, however, this equinox signals the beginning of the spring season.
The Sun, the Orbit, and the Seasons
The University of Arizona’s lunar and planetary lab senior research scientist, Jay Holberg, explains that, “The earth’s orbit is [only] about three percent of round. So in the northern winter — in December — the sun is actually closes to the earth by a small amount, and in the summer it’s actually farther away.”
Thus, if it’s not the proximal distance of the sun to the Earth, why do we have seasons?
It’s all about the “slant”; that is, the axis of the earth is not straight up and down in relation to the position of the sun, it is rather tilted in a 23.5-degree angle. As the Earth revolves around the sun, it maintains this angle; therefore, the sunlight doesn’t hit the Earth’s surface directly; bringing longer days and shorter nights, and vice versa.
However, the Earth can be directly hit by the sunlight evenly twice a year, during equinoxes.
“What it has to do [with] is the amount of light per square centimeter that’s falling on you. If the light is angled, it’s not going to be as hot,” says Dan Milisavljevic from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Hence, if you don’t want summer to end, you might want to consider moving to a place that’s closer to the equator.
The Autumnal Equinox and Pagans
The Pagan Pride Project, which was founded in the 90s, aims to “foster pride in Pagan identity”, says the website of the organization. They celebrate the Pagan Pride Day, an event wherein the neo-pagans living in the cities throughout the world would celebrate every autumn, during the time the equinox happens. Practitioners of various pagan backgrounds gather for workshops, public rituals, entertainment, and even charity programs.
It is difficult to estimate the vastness of the American neo-pagan community. They include adherents to Asatru, Druidism, and Wicca, among others. Most of them usually fear of being reprised for their beliefs which is why they do not identify themselves as pagans publicly.
How to Celebrate Autumnal Equinox
The rituals for the Autumnal Equinox may not be celebrated in a grand way; it can be celebrated anything you want. For most of us, we want to keep our celebration simple. To honor this, here are some ideas for celebrating rituals.
- Celebrate local spirits. One of the major reasons why autumnal equinox is celebrated is to be able to connect to the land and place. Thus, if you haven’t taken any time to know what makes your location unique, today might be a good time to do so. In Nebraska, for example, they have an annual apple harvest festival where people come and pick apples and leave a few things behind for the trees. Among the best ways to get ideas is through visiting the Farmer’s Market as there will be many people who have a lot of ideas about local and native plants and animals.
- Express gratitude for the blessings. The gifting cycle is one of the important things in this ritual. Some people say that when good things are given to you, you are obligated to give back.
- Recognize the balance of dark and light. During autumnal equinox, we experience a balance between night and day; therefore, we experience balance. As we go through times of joy and hardships, it is vital to recognize their power. As the Earth heads towards the time of rest, celebrate happiness and mourn losses; both of which are important things in life.
- Whisper a prayer to Freyr. For those of you who don’t know who Freyr is, Freyr is the God of sunshine and rain. Although the Vanir is not all about harvesting, fertility, and agriculture, you won’t go wrong honoring the Freyr when the fields are ripe and blessings come in. Try offering this prayer: “Hail Freyr, God of the World, Lord of the sunshine and the rain. As your golden fields ripple and glow, bring your bounty to my life.”
- Prepare for the winter season. There are a lot of things we need to do during the autumn season; take care of your garden, clear out the gutters from leaves, and cover the windows with thicker insulation in preparation for winter. These may be simple household chores, but they can also be considered as spiritual activities. Taking care of your home is always appreciated by house gods; and preservation and canning is one of the great ways to connect to the agrarian ancestors.