Fall is a time of changes: warmth changing to cold, light changing to darkness, green changing to red and yellow and brown. And one day is the most fall-ish of all fall days: the fall equinox, also known as the autumnal equinox, also known (in magical circles) as Mabon. It’s the precise moment when days and nights are of equal duration, just before the nights begin to overshadow the days.
And if you’re looking to spice up your fall equinox festivities this year, here are some ideas for rituals and traditions you don’t hear every year, inspired by cultures near and far.
In China, both equinoxes (spring and fall) are honored as times when yin and yang (universal feminine and masculine energies) are precisely equal. In contrast to the spring equinox, however, when tradition recommends making offerings to the sun, the fall equinox is a time to make offerings to the moon, as the feminine principle (also associated with the polarities of cold, dark, and receptive) ascends. Lunar-charged offerings might include lemons, white or silver candles, moonstone, labradorite, coconut milk, ornamental cabbage, jasmine, and tuberose. Place your chosen offering(s) on an altar along with an image of the moon. The next morning, place crystals/biodegradable items on the earth. Burn any remaining candles down at intervals throughout the remainder of the season.
In Ancient Greece, the fall equinox marked the time when the goddess Persephone returned to her underworld home. Although her marriage is popularly characterized as being initiated by an abduction and/or rape, this may not be precisely as it seems. In fact, some scholars and devotees make a good case that Persephone is quite happy with her husband Hades and her sacred role as queen of the underworld. With this in mind, consider incorporating foods and/or beverages containing pomegranate into your equinox celebration. (This is the fruit Persephone famously consumed in the underworld, ensuring her yearly return.) Do this as a way of honoring your own willing descent into the symbolic underworld (i.e. the dark half of the year).
In the Christian tradition, the equinox was co-opted as a celebration of the fiercely positive and protective St. Michael the Archangel. (The church decided to call it Michaelmas and observe it on September 29th.) But Archangel Michael isn’t picky about whom he helps: he is happy to come to the aid of whomever requests it, regardless of faith or lack thereof. So for your unconventional equinox celebration, you might place a prayer candle to Archangel Michael on your altar, light it, and invoke his fiery wall of protection. Feel free to request that he protect you, your loved ones, your home, your car, and any other person, place, or thing you so desire.
As this is a doorway from the bright half of the year to the dark half, it is appropriate to honor our loved ones on the other side. Indeed, in some parts of Japan, autumnal equinox observances include cleaning and adorning the graves of loved ones. So bring a broom, some potted chrysanthemums, and anything else you may like to offer. Perhaps light some candles and smudge with some incense while you’re there: not only to honor those to whom the graves belong, but also to celebrate your own eternal nature and eventual journey to the other side.