Autumnal Equinox


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autumnal equinox

[ȯ′təm·nəl ′ē·kwə‚näks]
(astronomy)
The point on the celestial sphere at which the sun's rays at noon are 90° above the horizon at the Equator, or at an angle of 90° with the earth's axis, and neither North nor South Pole is inclined to the sun; occurs in the Northern Hemisphere on approximately September 23 and marks the beginning of autumn. Also known as first point of Libra.

Autumnal Equinox

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Also known as Mabon and Alban Elfed, the Autumnal Equinox is one of the eight Greater Sabbats of Witchcraft. It occurs on or about the Twenty-first day of September (depending upon when the Sun enters Libra). This is the time of the final harvest, when earth settles down for the approaching winter months.

Many Witches incorporate aspects of the Eleusinian Mysteries into their celebrations. These mysteries center around the myth of Demeter going in search of her daughter Persephone (or Kore, meaning "the maiden"). Persephone is abducted by Hades and taken down into the Underworld. In great sorrow, Demeter travels the world in search of her daughter. Learning that it was Zeus who allowed his brother Hades to take Persephone, Demeter withdraws from Olympus and refuses to allow the earth to grow its grain. Zeus eventually has to capitulate and, with Persephone's return (for all but three months of the year), Demeter allows the soil to become fertile again.

In Gardnerian Wicca there is also a myth of the Goddess going into the Underworld in this instance to "solve all mysteries, even the mystery of death." In Saxon Witchcraft (Seax-Wica) there is the myth of Freya descending in search of her necklace, Brosingamene, stolen by Loki the Mischief Maker. All of these variations relate to the coming dormancy of the earth for the winter months, awaiting the return of life in the spring. This is the central theme of the Wiccan Autumnal Equinox. As Janet and Stewart Farrar say: "Lughnasadh marked the actual gathering of the grain harvest, but in its sacrificial aspect; the Autumn Equinox marks the completion of the harvest, and thanksgiving for the abundance."

Symbols of this festival include wheat and corn stalks, gourds, squash, pine cones, and a besom. A corn dolly was often made from the last of the stalks cut, and this was kept carefully through the winter. It was known variously as Wheat Bride, Kern baby, Corn Dolly, Rye Mother, Great Mother, or Old Woman. In many areas of Europe, it was believed that the Corn goddess herself resided in those stalks, having been driven out of the rest of the crop as it was cut.

Farrar, Janet and Stewart: Eight Sabbats for Witches. Robert Hale, 1981. Kaster, Dr. Joseph: Putnam's Concise Mythological Dictionary. G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1963.

Autumnal Equinox (Fall Equinox)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Equinox, Latin for “equal night,” refers to one of the two days of the year on which daytime and nighttime are equal in duration. The autumnal equinox takes place on or around September 23, and marks the beginning of both the sign Libra and the fall season.

Autumnal Equinox

 

one of the two times of the year when the sun crosses the celestial equator; occurs on Sept. 23. The autumnal equinox (astronomical symbol ≏) is that point of intersection of the ecliptic and the celestial equator at which the sun crosses the equator from north to south in its apparent annual motion on the celestial sphere.

autumnal equinox

autumnal equinoxclick for a larger image
autumnal equinox
i. The point of intersection of the ecliptic and celestial equator (equinoctial) when the sun is moving from north to south. Also called the first point of Libra.
ii. The time of the crossing of the sun across the celestial equator from north to south, when day and night are of equal length.

Autumnal Equinox

September 22-23
The sun crosses the plane of the earth's equator twice a year: on or about March 21 ( see Vernal Equinox) and again six months later, on or about September 22 or 23. On these two occasions, night and day are of equal length all over the world. In the Northern Hemisphere, September 22 or 23 is the first day of autumn.
Autumnal Equinox Day is a national holiday in Japan, observed on either September 23 or 24 to celebrate the arrival of autumn and to honor family ancestors.
See also Higan; Shunbun-no-Hi
CONTACTS:
Lab for Particles and Fields
Code 672, Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, MD 20771
301-286-0447
www-istp.gsfc.nasa.gov
The Royal Observatory Greenwich
The National Maritime Museum Greenwich
London, SE10 9NF United Kingdom
44-20-8312-6565; fax: 44-20-8312-6632
www.rog.nmm.ac.uk
SOURCES:
AmerBkDays-2000, p. 665
BkDays-1864, vol. II, p. 364
DictDays-1988, p. 37
FolkWrldHol-1999, p. 565
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