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Gypsy Scholar

Autumnal Equinox (Mabon), the Gateway to the Autumn Season


The Autumnal Equinox (also called the Fall Equinox or September Equinox) arrives in the Northern Hemisphere on Friday, September 22, 2023, 11:50  PM PDT;  Saturday, 1:50 AM CDT; 2:50 AM EDT; 6:50 UTC. The equinox occurs at the same moment worldwide and marks the start of fall in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern Hemisphere.


In the Northern Hemisphere, the Autumnal Equinox marks the first day of fall (autumn) in what is called "astronomical seasons." During an equinox, the Sun, moving from north to south, crosses what is called the "celestial equator"—an imaginary extension of Earth’s equator line into space. The equinox occurs precisely when the Sun’s center passes through this line. The word "equinox" comes from Latin aequus, meaning "equal," and nox, "night." Thus, on the two equinoxes, day and night are  approximately  equal in length (approximately, depending on where one lives, but the total lengths may differ by only a few minutes). On the equinox, the center of the Sun is above the horizon for 12 hours. After the Autumnal Equinox, days become shorter than nights as the Sun continues to rise later and nightfall arrives earlier. These longer nights end with the Winter Solstice, after which days start to grow longer once again.  

The Autumnal Equinox has been a day celebrated with harvest festivals in many cultures since ancient times, when astronomers tracked the transitions of the Earth’s journeys around the Sun and built megalithic structures  with the equinoxes and solstices in mind (one of the most famous being Stonehenge in England).

 The Autumnal Equinox for the ancient Celtic peoples and for modern Wiccans ("Mabon") was and is traditionally an important turning time of the cycle of the year, which usually lasts from three days before to three days after the equinox. Traditionally, the Autumnal Equinox celebration is observed with a harvest feast to celebrate and share the abundance of the past season.  It is a time when the plants are setting their seeds; making themselves ready for their new cycle. According to neopagan traditions, such as Wicca, the equinoxes are times to balance yourself and your life, setting yourself and your life to be ready for your new cycle of being. Thus, rituals are enacted to assist in creating and maintaining that balance. The Autumnal Equinox , according to Wicca, is a time to plant the seeds making yourself ready for your new cycle.

To access the special page for MABON, the Wiccan "Autumnal Equinox" and "Second Harvest" festival, click link button below.

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Smoke hangs like haze over harvested fields, 
The gold of stubble, the brown of turned earth 
And you walk under the red light of fall 
The scent of fallen apples, the dust of threshed grain 
The sharp, gentle chill of Fall. 
Here as we move into the shadows of autumn 
The night that brings the morning of spring 
Come to us, Lord of Harvest 
Teach us to be thankful for the gifts you bring.

~ "Autumnal Equinox," Lovers of the Green Way

Astronomy of the Equinoxes

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Equinox, which means "equal night" refers to a time when the length of day and night are equal. As the Sun crosses the celestial equator, the axis of the Earth points neither toward nor away from the Sun resulting in roughly 12 hours of darkness and light over the planet. The Sun enters Libra at the Fall Equinox in the northern hemisphere, Spring Equinox in the southern hemisphere.

On the Autumnal (September), Equinox the Sun crosses the celestial equator and moves southward in the northern hemisphere. The location on the earth where the sun is directly overhead at solar noon is known as the subsolar point. The subsolar point occurs on the equator during the September equinox and March equinox. At that time, the earth’s axis of rotation is perpendicular to the line connecting the centers of the earth and the sun.

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The Masque of Four Seasons (Crane 1903)

Allegory of the Four Seasons (Platzer 1750)

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Autumnal Tree of Life

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Thematic Images for Autumnal Equinox Night & Day

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Virgo-Libra scholar at work on the Equinox

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The Cadence of Autumn (Morgan 1905)