What is the Autumn Equinox/Mabon?

All about the second harvest on The Wheel of the Year

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When is the Autumn Equinox in the UK this year?

The Autumn Equinox takes place on Saturday 23rd September 2023 in the UK.

A bit of context

The Autumn Equinox is the moment when day and night are in equal balance. The Earth sits on its axis and receives more/less sunlight depending on the angle facing the sun. At the two equinoxes, the sun sits directly above the equator – providing equal illumination to both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

English countryside in the autumn - orange, browns, russets

What is the Autumn Equinox on The Wheel of the Year?

 The Autumn Equinox would have been celebrated in ancient times as an important astrological event, however the modern pagan celebration was revived in the 1970s and is now called Mabon by many (from a medieval Welsh myth; Mabon – son of Earth Mother Goddess is taken away to the Otherworld – a tale with similarities to that of Persephone). To the Druids, this time was ‘Alban Efed’ which translates to ‘The Light of the Water’. A time of completion when seeds have sprung to life – as have projects and plans. 

This sabbat honours the fruit harvest (the second of three harvests on The Wheel of the Year – Lammas, Autumn Equinox and Samhain), and gives thanks for Mother Earth’s abundance. A time to harvest, express gratitude, pause and reflect, and turn inwards to our deep intuition and prepare for the darker half of the year.

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What are the themes of the Autumn Equinox?

The world is in balance right now between light and dark. This is an opportunity to reflect on ways our life feels balanced – or unbalanced – and what might be tipping the scales. What can I do to feel a greater sense of equilibrium? It is a time to stop and notice the delights in abundance around us – hedges jam-packed full of blackberries, trees laden with apples, fungi poking their heads through the ground (do your research on these to be safe!), perhaps the purple-blue of a sloe or damson out to play.

 

As the sap in the plants and trees is slowly moving downwards now, so too does our energy begin to ground into our roots. As the darker half of the year begins, we are invited to ground ourselves: to go within and reconnect with deep wisdom and intuition.

The Myths & Folklore of the Autumn Equinox

autumn foliage of brown, yellow, green
the sun shines through the trees in an autumnal wood

In Greek legend, Persephone – daughter of grain goddess Demeter – is taken into the underworld: re-emerging in Spring. Demeter’s sorrow at her daughter’s absence causes the crops to wither, for the earth to appear as if slowed down. This mirrors this time of year. The six months of the year Persephone is above the ground (determined by her eating of 6 pomegranate seeds) are the lighter seasons of Spring and Summer, the months she is in the Underworld are the wild and windy seasons of Autumn and Winter.

In his myth, Persephone is viewed as the seed, gone into the ground to renew for the spring. We too are the seeds, beginning to be enveloped in darkness and nourishment; this is how seeds grow. We cannot be out in the sun all year – we must take time to rest, renew, and discover what we want to bring to life. Now is the time to think about – what seeds do you want to plant in this next cycle of The Wheel of the Year – what dreams, hopes, desires, plans would you like to bring to life in the Spring? What can you do now, as we begin to hunker down into Autumn and Winter, to care for and nurture them? (These could be journal prompts).

green shoots growing through soil

The doorway to winter, or the underworld, is open. Try and not see this is a negative thing. Instead, view it from the perspective of deep transformation. These darker days can provide an opportunity to dream, to really learn how to take care of ourselves, be curious and to understand ourselves better.

As the Celts noticed, the Earth’s productivity is waning – as is our own. Colours are changing into russets, browns and reds; orchards are hanging heavy with fruit; winds are beginning to dance through the leaves. This, to me, is the most magickal season of all.

Enchantment and wonder await us.

red and white toadstools stand in the brown earth

Symbolic Plants at the Autumn Equinox

Heather

Uplifting and light, helping you to live through alignment with you inner peace.

Marigolds

Known by many as the ‘herb of the sun’; these gorgeous flowers burst into life in bright hues of orange, red, and yellow. They are a happy flower, keeping us positive but also strong – just like the sun. A perfect guide to help you through the darker half of the year; their leaves can be picked, dried and made into tea.

 

hops

Hops

Gorgeous to decorate your home with as they dry beautifully. Hops are also thought to help insomnia. You can use the hops to create a sleep tincture to drink before bed, or use dried hops to create a small herb pillow/bag. Pop it under your pillow, inside your pillowcase, or hanging from your bedpost.

(Don’t use hops if you struggle with depression, as they may make symptoms worse).

 

The Symbolism of Apples at the Autumn Equinox

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‘The Feast of Avalon’ is another name for the Autumn Equinox. Avalon (also known as the Isle of Apples) is the mystical island of Arthurian legend. It is where Excalibur was crafted, where King Arthur was healed after being injured in battle, and is the gateway to the ‘Otherworld’ – a land of afterlife. This ‘Otherworld’ is similar to the ‘Underworld’ where Persephone retreats to in Greek myth – and reflects the dark womb of winter we are stepping into now.

The Apple is a powerful symbol at the Autumn Equinox. It represents deep inner wisdom, wholeness, knowledge, sexuality, and the soul (among other powerful themes).

a rustic swing, hanging next to a tree, is covered in apples

In Celtic belief, we are healed when we fully embrace our human experience. When we engage our senses, connect with nature, and feel the links between our minds, bodies, hearts and spirits. Stepping into the present moment and experiencing the joy, wisdom and peace in the right now. The apple is the symbol of this: the wholeness experienced by the soul when we integrate all these aspects of ourselves.

 

Avalloc – a sort of Autumnal Green Man figure – personifies this. His name also refers to the apple, and the healing and sensuality of wholeness. Go to an orchard if you can, or spend time with an apple-tree. Feel the presence of gentle, wise Avalloc with you.

How Can I Celebrate the Autumn Equinox?

At Home

an old stove decorated with bulbs of garlic, plants and ceramic storage pots

Autumn Clean

‘Spring Cleaning’ is a popular concept, but ‘Autumn Cleaning’ can be just as powerful. It can help you release old, stale energy – ready to welcome in the energy of a new season. Also, we tend to spend much more time in our homes over the darker months – so preparing the space can feel comforting.

A dinner table covered in lots of green foliage and plates ready for a large dinner. The walls surrounding the table are red.

Decorate

Decorate your home with colours of red, brown, yellow, green, orange, gold.

a forest floor is covered with pinecones

Make a Nature Table

Set aside a small place in your home to display foraged autumnal finds – pine-cones, conkers, acorns, fallen leaves or branches. Remember to always leave plenty of whatever you are foraging behind.

Self-Care

the rider-waite-smith tarot deck on a white table-top

Intuition

As the darker months of the year encourage us to go deeper into our intuition and wisdom, you could spend some time with a deck of tarot cards. These are a great way to get in touch with our intuition, and understand our lives through enchanting storytelling.

Letting go

Let go of any worries, fears or beliefs that you feel are holding you back or negatively impacting your wellbeing. One way to do this is by writing down something you want to let go of onto a piece of paper, and carefully burning in the flame of a candle (Please prepare for this well & practice it safely!)

a woman drinks a glass of water by a window overlooking a green garden

Refreshing

Drink lots of water and or/herbal teas to help cleanse your body and prepare for lovely, fresh energy to flood in.

Connect with Nature

a person holds soil carefully in their hands

Help nature

Nature gives us so much. Do something to help Mother Nature – plant wildflowers, help at a local community garden, organise a litter-pick or donate to an environmental charity.

acorns on an oak tree

Carry an acorn

(Don’t take too many – leave for our woodland animal friends to feast on!) and keep with you as lucky talismans. Acorns have long been associated with good luck!

Kitchen Witchery

a homemade apple pie surrounded by apples

Bake with apples

Pies, crumbles, strudels! A recipe for a lovely apple crumble here.

Craft alcoholic infusions

With foraged finds such as damson gin, sloe gin and blackerry wine. Here’s a recipe for sloe gin.

two people 'cheers' handmade glasses over a dinner table - covered in lit natural candles and foliage

Feast with loved ones

Gather with loved ones for a shared meal. You could all bring a dish, and go around the table and say one thing you are grateful for.

a beautiful stream with water flowing around rocks and autumn trees all around

Leaves on a Stream

This is a technique used to slow your mind and observe your thoughts. Visualise sitting by a stream, and writing each thought that comes into your head onto a leaf. Place each leaf into the running stream, and quietly watch as the leaf is slowly washed away. This places distance between you and your thoughts. It reminds us that we are not our thoughts, we are the observer of those thoughts – and thus they do not define or control us; we can simply watch them come and go, without attaching any meaning to them. A quick search on Youtube will provide lots of guided visualisations to help you. Alternatively, you could actually do this in ‘real life’. Go to a stream, collect some fallen leaves and write on each one a worry or thought. Drop them into the stream and watch them float away.

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Moon Magick

Engage in a September Full Moon Ritual. The September Full Moon falls on the 29th September in 2023. The Celts would have referred to this Moon as the ‘Singing Moon’ – perhaps because in their time, people would have sung whilst they harvested fruit – or sung in celebration once the harvest was gathered in. Light a candle to mark the Autumn Equinox, or the Full Moon, and make a wish or set an intention.

Browse our sustainable, soulful candle collection here

Final Thoughts

Now is the time to celebrate the fruit harvest: to gather with loved ones and express gratitude; to begin the dreaming and rooting of Autumn and Winter. The diminishing daylight before us can feel dreary and difficult – and our modern lifestyles, 9-5 jobs, range of challenges and responsibilities can make the beauty of this time feel very far away. Nature is encouraging us to slow down with her, to rest and restore – but are our lifestyles? Are the systems we live within supportive of this – or do they want us to be summer: to be harvesting, all year long? Endlessly productive to the point of burn-out?

In any small way, try and draw within over this next turn of the Wheel. Take a moment to yourself every day– however short – to do something that really makes you feel content. Take extra extra care of yourself – whether that’s trying to do a breathing exercise or meditation each day, lighting a candle in the morning as you wake, talking to a loved one about what is troubling you, stepping outside on your lunchbreak to spend 5 minutes in quiet or re-watching the television shows that make you feel safe and warm.

a woman sits on a sofa reading a book, surrounded by natural candles and greenery

As we celebrate The Autumn Equinox: we express gratitude for nature’s fruitfulness; draw wisdom from the trees and leaves now drawing in their energy; prepare for the darker days ahead and begin to slowly wonder what seeds we will nurture over these next few months.

“it is a noble thing

to retreat into darkness

and face the solitary gloom,

for seeds that grow and harvest

first lay in shuttered empty rooms.”

 

Nina Copleston

MOVE WITH THE SEASONS

For a simple way to honour the cadence of nature, we have a candle for each of the four seasons, reflecting the natural aromas at each turn of the year. These help us to tune into the changing rhythms of nature and bring the outside in.

fresh & citral

notes of bergamot & mint

sweet & exotic

notes of citrus & patchouli

spicy & herbal

notes of cedarwood & thyme

sweet & woody

notes of orange & fir needle

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