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Autumnal Equinox Is Coming

Image courtesy: NASA

It”s just about official. Summer 2016 is almost over. The Autumnal equinox is coming. Feel that brisk autumn air? Autumn officially begins in the northern hemisphere of this little blue planet on Thursday September 22 at 10:21 a.m. EDT. You (true) southerners will be starting Spring!

Oh, it's a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn't got time for the waiting game

– (from September Song by K. Weill, M. Anderson)

The Fall Equinox is also known as “Mabon” to those who follow “the Olde Way.” Here the land is full of the gifts of nature and the effort of humankind. In the ancient cycle of the year, this was actually the second harvest; the first harvest festival occurs on August 1st. As methods of agriculture became more uniform and sophisticated, the autumn harvest was moved back until the last possible growing time was completed to maximize its size. As such, the Autumnal Equinox became synonymous with not only the completion of the harvest, but also the end of summer.

The full moon associated with the fall equinox is known as the Harvest Moon (September 18-19 this year), and sometimes as the “Wine Moon” because this is also the time of year when grapes are harvested and the process of making wine begins. In past times, many farmers would harvest their crops by the full moon, using the light from the moon to extend their gathering time. This final gathering of the crops and the beginning of preparations for the long winter that lay ahead marked a time of thanksgiving for all that Nature had given her children and for the completion of another turn of the Great Wheel. Although the Autumnal Equinox falls in September and not November, the connection to the harvest and the fall highlight similarities to our modern Thanksgiving.

Corn and maize are often harvested by Mabon, so corn bread and apple cider are popular choices for food during the autumn equinox. Also features of the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving. Ginger is another popular ingredient in Autumnal Equinox food. Gingerbread and ginger beer are popular additions to the table. These are classic fall foods that sometimes appear in Thanksgiving meals. The Autumnal Equinox marks the beginning of shorter days and longer nights. We gather with friends to strengthen our spirits in preparation for the passage into Winter. But it is a time of thanksgiving, for on the other side of that dark Winter is Spring.

In Astrology, the Fall Equinox is when the sun enters the constellation Libra. The Libra glyph is balanced scales, so the Equinox is the time of year to bring balance into your life. Clean up clutter and remove the things that don’t bring you joy. “Clean with mindful intention of transformation.”

The Moon Illusion
Around the equinox moonrise is very close to sunset. When this occurs, the moon appears to be very large and very orange-red due to the refraction of the reflected sunlight as it passes through the dusty atmosphere of the earth. Don’t worry. The moon really is not getting closer! Click here for more information on the moon illusion.

Equatorial Areas
Autumn in equatorial areas has a slightly different connotation. At the autumn equinox the sun will be directly overhead and it starts the transition from the cool Kusi monsoon winds from the south east to the warm and gentle Kaskazi winds from the northeast. Where these two winds meet they cause a flow of warm moist air into the East African interior which bring the welcome, life bringing, rains. This is known as the ITCZ (inter tropical convergence zone) and this band of rain bringing weather oscillates between the Tropic of Cancer in the north to the Tropic of Capricorn in the south, in effect following the sun's track between the tropics. Being on the equator means rain twice a year and therefore two harvests a year. The English word “monsoon” derives from the Portuguese moncao and ultimately from Arabic mawsim (“season”), and perhaps partly via the early modern Dutch, monsun. This derivation captures the diverse influences that have shaped the empires of the Indian Ocean for over one thousand years.

The time when night and day are of equal length in all parts of the Earth. The word equinox comes from a Latin words meaning “equal night.” At the equinoxes, the sun is directly on the celestial equator, consequently, the sun rises at the precise point of “East” and sets at the precise point of “West.” If you have a clear view of the western horizon from your house, and you have a clear sky on the night of the 22nd, a fun thing to do is mark a reference point for due west at sunset: Choose a spot on your patio, house wall, or other permanent object. Take a broomstick, mop handle, or other long straight stick and move several yards away from your reference spot so the shadow cast by the stick will fall on your reference spot. Hold the stick as vertical as you can and align its shadow at sunset with your reference spot. The line of the shadow will point due west from your reference spot. A good British “adult beverage” custom is to enjoy a “sundowner” at – of course – sunset. Also makes a good Equinox celebration! Autumnal equinox: the beginning of autumn. It occurs on September 22nd or 23rd.
In Japan, Autumnal Equinox Day is a national holiday. It’s a day not just to mark the changing of seasons but also to pay respect to deceased parents, grandparents, and other family members.
If you are interested in exploring, here are some sites with more detailed explanations of the equinox:

For “Alternative” thougths, visit here:

Happy Fall!

Article by: W. Jerrold Samford, Environmental Complicance Specialist, Troutman Sanders