Happy Autumn Equinox

Thursday, September 23rd is the first day of fall that coincides with the full Harvest Moon in Aries, the ram, the first sign of the zodiac, corresponding to the Materia Prima, the first work of alchemy.

I sometimes feel impatient in the time between, when the great wheel turns from one season to another, seeming to take its own sweet time to dial in to fall. It's been a lingering summer here in North Carolina and dry of late, but it looks like this Sunday may be the turning point when the weather cools and we get some rain on Monday at long last. On a recent trip to the mountains -- Boone and Grandfather Mountain -- the leaves were just starting to shift into their golden hues, but it was still mostly green and the air not yet crisp and cool, which I long for. We're heading up to Black Mountain in mid-October where I expect the eruption of colors to be in full swing.

The full moon closest to the fall equinox is called the Harvest Moon because it was usually the last chance for farmers to pull in their second harvest and work late by the light of the big orange moon. Take a look at how big and bright it looks tonight and tomorrow.  It seems like its closer and bigger than usual because of the seasonal tilt of the earth and because the light from the moon is passing through a greater amount of atmospheric particles than when the moon is overhead. Also, since the time between moonrises on successive nights is shorter in autumn than at any other time of year, there is less darkness between sunset and moonrise.

In ancient Greek mythology, autumn was the time the goddess, Persephone, the maiden, returned to the underworld to live with her husband, the god, Hades, and welcome those crossing over into the land of the dead. Persephone spent half the year presiding over the underworld and the other half--arising in the spring--with her mother, Demeter.

In Celtic tradition this time is known as Mabon, when the feast of Avalon -- the mystical place also known as the land of apples -- was celebrated. Avalon was also a place where the dead resided, and a place where people could be reunited with their loved ones, like the underworld ruled by Hades and Persephone in the Greek tradition. Mabon was the "son of mother," and is often seen as a male counterpart to Persephone. While Persephone is associated with the moon, Mabon is associated with the sun.

In ancient Egypt, the god, Osiris, ruler of the underworld, was dismembered and buried by his jealous brother, Set, the personification of darkness. The goddess, Isis, found his remains and put him back together inside of a tree. Osiris is associated with the fall equinox and the death and rebirth cycle. He was symbolized by the rising sun.

In the Christian tradition, the story of Lazarus rising from the dead with the help of Jesus, the "son of God," is also associated with this time of year. The raising of the "Sun" from the dead was celebrated on the winter solstice, near the date now associated with Christ's birthday.

Notice any similarities? Throughout time, our religions, myths and traditions have associated the beginning of fall with the time when the last crops are brought in and the ground lies fallow for winter, a time of darkness, when the days are shorter, and we move inward. This time, leading to winter, was associated with death, the end of growth and new life for a while. But like the gods and goddesses of old, rebirth occurred when the green sprouts that have lain dormant under the earth burst forth in the spring. This resurrection story has been told over and over again throughout time. It is the story of our own transformation as we journey through life, from season to season, year to year. Is it no wonder that we feel the stirrings of change when the seasons turn?

Fall reminds us to harvest our own creative ideas, thoughts and yearnings. To consider what we have accomplished and have brought to fruition in the months preceding. To prepare for the winter of hibernation, for going down into our own underworld -- to explore and sift through the dark matter of our own soul -- where old habits and the things that no longer serve us can be left behind and new beginnings, the rumblings of our future Self, can be nurtured and brought forth.

Speaking of the wheel turning, as we are move closer to the end of this year and the beginning of 2011, it's a good time to think about new plans and dreams for the coming year. I have contributed a page to a 2011 calendar/diary with pages created from artists around the world. It will have a plain brown cardboard cover you can collage or decorate and make your own, lots of imaginative images inside, and places to write notes and doodles. If you're interested in ordering it, you can get it here:  http://www.fantazya.ca/diary2011.html