Thursday, September 20, 2012

September 23, 2014 - "All Things Being Equal - Autumn Equinox"

#14 Temperance from
Barbara Moore and Aly Fell's Steampunk Tarot©
balance, harmony, middle ground
Good card for an equinox
Crisp apples, colorful leaves, scarecrows.  It must be Fall.  On September 23rd the sun will shine directly on the equator and we will have close to twelve equal hours of both daylight and darkness.  Equator, equal hours - say, you don’t suppose that’s why they call it an equinox, do you?  Clever.  We have two equinoxes annually, one in September and one in March.  In the northern hemisphere the September equinox heralds Autumn, while in the southern hemisphere, it heralds Spring.  

The ancient Greeks blamed the change of seasons on a case of unrequited love gone very bad. Beautiful Persephone was kidnapped by Hades, God of the Underworld and taken to his kingdom to reign as his Queen.  Persephone’s mother, Demeter, Goddess of Plants and Crops, greatly mourned the loss of her only daughter.  Soon all the plants of Earth began to wither and die as the temperature dropped dramatically.  Zeus, king of all the Gods grew alarmed at the state of things on Earth and ordered Hades to return the girl to her mother.  
Hades making off with Persephone
He should have used on-line dating
Unfortunately, as with all stories like this, there was a catch.  Persephone could only return to the upper world if she hadn’t eaten anything while in Hades’ realm.  Who makes up rules like this?  As it happened, she’d eaten six pomegranate seeds.  Apparently, there was no Pizza Hut in the underworld and she must have gotten desperate.  Pomegranates look a lot cooler to eat than they actually are. Those tiny, juicy seeds pockets are cute and all, but after the first fifteen or so, forget it.  Anyway, in sympathy for Demeter, and probably because of the lack of descent cuisine in the underworld, Zeus decided that Persephone could return to her mother for six months out of each year - Spring and Summer - but must return to Hades for the other six - Autumn and Winter.  She should have gotten herself a better lawyer.  

7 of Pentacles shows us the
bounty of a harvest
RWCS US Games©
It's important for us to mark the changing of the seasons.  Time-honored traditions reconnect us to the Earth and to our ancient pagan ancestors.  The early Christian church adopted the less edgy aspects of pagan traditions as a way of drawing members to their faith.  For example Michaelmas (pronounced Micklemus),  the Feast of St. Michael, (also called the Feast of All Angels) is held on September 29th, a week after the September equinox.  Feast days always sported dancing and merrymaking in the old days, but Michaelmas also served as the time for settling up accounts.  Christian churches also adopted this idea as well and today many of them still ask their congregations for financial support during Autumn tithing.

Mabon, is a pagan festival, named for the son of the Welsh Goddess Modron, the Earth Mother.  His name means "Great Son" or "Great Hunter" and he is the God of Harvests.  The festival of Mabon is held on the equinox.  Giving thanks for a good harvest and therefore the means to survive another winter was the central theme.  However, during Mabon you were also encouraged to explore the spiritual meaning of balance.  Just as the hours of light and dark were balanced during this particular time, people reflected upon achieving balance and harmony between themselves and the natural world around them.  

The old English festival of Harvest Home gives us the
A Corn Dolly, symbol of Harvest Home,
was made by twisting sheaves of wheat
into this intricate shape

tradition of corn dollies and dried apple dolls, not to mention a very scary book by Tom Tryon of the same name.  I grew up in New England and I remember being fascinated by the dried apple dolls made by some of the older people in our village.  A series of shallow, tiny cuts made in a peeled apple reveals a face of depth and character once the fruit dries out.   

Other old traditions survive today as well.  "Burning Man" festival owes its origins to the corn dollies created long ago by twisting sheaves of grain into dolls that were said to hold the spirit of the harvest.  These dollies were burned along with other wicker images, giving thanks and releasing the spirit of the grain once more into the land.

Mark Ryan and John Matthews
deck, "The Wildwood Tarot"©,
illustrated by Will Worthington,
uses "The Seer" as the traditional
"High Priestess" 
Autumn festivals have always been part of the human experience.  While they denote the time of gathering and gleaning, they also ask us to look deeper into our own existence, to try to come to terms with the eternal cycle of life.  The green leaves and shoots of Spring bring joy and limitless potential after the bleakness of winter.  Autumn, with its bold reds and orange colors lends itself to gratitude and satisfaction for a job well done.  Though our time in this existence is finite, we are all part of an endless cycle beautifully represented by seasonal change.  Whatever your faith or belief system, take time to honor the seasons and therefore honor your own life.


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