The autumn equinox in the Northern Hemisphere comes around on September 22 or 23 (and on March 20 in the Southern Hemisphere). From an astronomical point of view, equinoxes are times when day and night are about equal. Symbolically, we can see this as a balance between light and dark. Light is life and darkness is death, so the autumn equinox is a time to appreciate both sides of our experience but to recognize that we’re headed into the darkness with the coming of winter. We can feel this on a physical, personal, and spiritual level.


The light or life side of the autumn equinox is the harvest. The fall equinox marks the completion of the second harvest (the first having been at Lughnasadh/Lammas at the beginning of August and the third coming at Samhain/Halloween at the end of October). The harvest marks the fruits of our labor, whether they’re physical, psychological, or spiritual.

I had the good fortune to help a friend out a few summers ago with her plot at our community gardens. I had never gardened before, but there I was picking weeds and being kind to earthworms under the hot sun. It really gets you thinking about nature’s growth process and how ridiculous it is to expect to be able to master something or accomplish some goal between today and tomorrow.

The autumn equinox is a good time for gratitude at what we’ve got and what we’re capable of. If we’ve done the work of previous festivals, such as clearing the soil, planting the seeds, and tending them, then we can appreciate all the hard work that went into whatever rewards we’re enjoying now. We also need to accept that the abundant growth we’ve been witnessing for the past couple of months can’t go on forever. Growth has to wind down in order to start up again when spring comes.

Winding Down

The autumn equinox is the beginning of winter preparations. Winter is the time for hibernation, cultivating ideas, reflecting on the passing year, and preparing for planting new projects in the spring. It’s not time yet to do these things, but as the leaves fall and growth begins to slow down, we can shift into death mode. The foundation, though, is always alive, ready to bear fruit when the time is right. This is true emotionally and psychologically as well as physically.

In The Courage to Feel, Andrew Seubert speaks of emotional deserts. These typically happen when you’ve let go of old ways but haven’t yet figured out new ways. Desert experiences happen, according to Seubert,

when we are faced with moments of not knowing what to do or where to go in our lives, moments of massive confusion and indecision, moments in which we feel profoundly empty, without purpose or passion.

And yet, having let go of destructive things, we’re left with a kind of unlimited potential for future growth. Anything can happen, so we’re not so empty after all. It’s a matter of perspective.

This too is part of honoring the darkness alongside the light. During this time, I like to contemplate what’s on its way out in my life (or should be): limiting beliefs, destructive behaviors, negative relationships, and anything that’s useless. Even if I haven’t yet managed to get rid of some of these things, it’s good to identify them because that gets the subconscious mind working on it.

Woman's face among autumn leaves and flying owl

“Autumn Equinox 2013”

Creative Commons License Autumn Equinox 2013 by Rainbow Gryphon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Background in the public domain
Woman from Sean Hickin
Owl from C. Robiller
Brushes from Obsidian Dawn


Descent into Darkness

Belzebuub is a teacher of esoteric knowledge. The blog with his teachings featured an article called The Spiritual Meaning of the Autumn Equinox. This is an interesting look into traditions and myths associated with this time of year. The article tells us that the path to enlightenment begins in darkness. In other words, we need to see everything dark within us, clear it out, undergo the transformation from impure to pure, and then we can finally begin the ascent into the light and union with the Divine.

The autumn equinox is the time to descend into the darkness. We can see the fall equinox, then, as the beginning of the journey to enlightenment. In other words, we can gain courage and strength from the knowledge that although we suffer when we’re in the darkness, it’s a means to an end.

We’re also not alone in our fight. The article tells us that the Mother Goddess is there beside us in her warrior aspect, and even evil trembles at the sight of her. The power to recognize how limiting beliefs or behaviors have a hold of us and to release ourselves from their hold is within us, so there’s nothing to fear (although things look scary on the surface).

We can also see the warrior goddess as the part of all that destroys out of love. We have within us the desire to constantly destroy what we know is destructive in ourselves and our lives, despite the fear of letting it go or the false security it gives us to hang onto it. The autumn equinox is a time to celebrate the warrior goddess within us.

The autumn equinox is a good time to appreciate the balancing act between growth and death and the necessity of descending into the darkness in order to know the light (whatever that might mean to you). It’s also a good time for grounding because the changes on earth are so visible. As nice as it would be if everything could go uphill all the time and there was only light, life just isn’t like that. But then, if it was, accomplishment wouldn’t mean very much.