“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.”
― Lauren DeStefano, Wither
Blessings! I hope this find you and yours well.
I am so very, very happy today. The winds of change are blowing. The Autumn Equinox is finally here!
It. Is. Now. Fall.
Here on the west coast we are enjoying a crisp, cool breeze coming off the ocean, with sunny skies hovering around seventy degrees. Although there are no colorful changing leaves denoting Fall is here, I am in heaven. Autumn is my season. Fall makes my heart sing and lights a spark inside of me. No matter where we are living I look forward to Autumn all year long.
If you have been following this blog since it began in 2012 then you know my focus usually surrounds nature and animal companions, but every so often I allow the energy of the season inspire me. The current energy is Autumn, so this is is where we will let the winds blow us today.
Although most of us associate Autumn with cooler weather, dancing fires, cozy snuggles, seasonal drinks, squash, scarecrows, pumpkins, and spice in all slices of life, there is another side to Autumn. -One that permeates the world we live in. It affects us all; plants, animals, and people.
The Energy of The Equinox Around the World
The Autumnal Equinox arrives precisely at 10:21 a.m. (EST) today (Thursday, September 22). Unlike an event such as New Year’s midnight, a time that follows the clock around the time zones, equinoxes happen at the same moment everywhere all around the world!
“Equinox” comes from the Latin words “equi” meaning “equal” and “nox” meaning “night.” On the Equinox the hours of light and dark are equal. But because of atmospheric refraction the light is bent which makes it appear as if the sun is rising or setting earlier. Technically September 25 marks “equal day and night” -sunrise will be at 6:47 a.m. EDT and sunset at 6:47 p.m. This day is known as the Equilux “Lux” is Latin for “light”. During this time of year the light and dark are now in balance. This time represents a shift in the seasons, and a time where the energy of the Sun and Moon are in complete balance.
The autumnal equinox happens the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator, which is an imaginary line in the sky that corresponds to Earth’s equator. The Old Farmer’s Almanac describes it as a plane of Earth’s equator projected out onto the sphere. Every year this occurs on September 22, 23, or 24 in the northern hemisphere.
There are two equinoxes annually; vernal and autumnal, each marking the beginning of spring and fall. Those in the Northern Hemisphere are now in the season of Autumn. Those in the Southern Hemisphere are in the season of Spring. In the Northern Hemisphere, many tree species are getting ready to shed their leaves; letting go of the old and unnecessary parts of themselves in order to prepare for winter. In the Southern Hemisphere flower buds are beginning to bloom. Greenery is returning after the long winter. Here in the northern hemisphere, from today onward, the days get shorter until the winter solstice arrives in December.
A Bit of Background About Autumn
Long before White Contact spread like wildfire across the “New World” my ancestors had a huge celebration for Autumn. Cherokee and other first nations referred to it as Harvest Time. During the height of harvesting and gathering there were great celebrations of thanks. This included music, song, dance, gifting, and feasting. The celebrations lasted around a week. Sometimes longer. The community had drumming sessions where they honored all walks of life: water, birds, Mother Earth, snakes, wind (willow trees), and rabbits. All of these represent the Equinox. It was a celebration of the “West” -The “direction” of Autumn. They tribe would perform a smudging ceremony to cleanse and purify, and then use sweetgrass to bring in the “sweetness” of community and of the new season.
September also held the corn harvest, which was referred to as “Ripe Corn Festival”. It was customarily held in the early part of the Nut Moon (Duliidsdi) to acknowledge Selu, the spirit of the corn. Selu is thought of as First Woman. This festival respected Mother Earth and gave thanks for providing all foods during the growing season. The “Brush Feast Festival” also customarily takes place in this season. All the fruits and nuts of the bushes and trees of the forest were gathered as this time. Hunting traditionally began in earnest at this time. October was a time of traditional “Harvest Festival” (the Nowatequa) when Cherokee people give thanks to all the living things of the fields and earth that helped them live, and to the “Apportioner”, Unethlana. The Cheno i-equa or “Great Moon” Festival is customarily held at this time.
There are many legends surrounding Autumn. I will share just a few with you. As I mentioned above, Selu, the spirit of corn was honored at this time. She represents the harvest, weather, and growth. The legend states that this Native American corn Goddess planted her very heart so people wouldn’t go hungry. The legend tells that her spirit teaches us how to re-fertilize the earth to bring sustenance to all.
Another legend tells the story of how leaves turned red. A battle was fought by the Deer and the Bear in the land of the sky. The colors in the leaves are a result of the blood of the Bear thrown down from the sky upon the trees in the autumn. You can read the fascinating Wyandot (Huron) Legend: “Why the Leaves Have Many Colors in Autumn” here. Another legend of why the leaves turn red in Autumn can be found in the story, “Chasing the Great Bear.”
According to Greek legend, autumn beings when Persephone returns to Hades in the underworld. Heartbroken, her mother, the goddess of grain and harvest, allows the crops on Earth to die until her daughter returns in the spring. The word “harvest” comes from the Old Norse word haust, which means “to gather or pluck.” As people moved to the cities, “harvest” fell out of use and city dwellers began to use “fall of the leaf,” which was shortened to “fall.”
Etymologists are unsure of the origin of the word “autumn,” though they believe it comes from the ancient Etruscan root autu, which implies a change of season. In this scenario, the Romans then appropriated the term and formed the Latin word autumnus. Americans typically use the word “fall”. The British use the word “autumn”. Both terms date around the 16th century. Before these terms this period was called “harvest.”
The Autumnal Equinox is also called the Fall Equinox, the Second Harvest Festival, Festival of Dionysus, Wine Harvest, Cornucopia, and Winter Finding. Ancient people celebrated each change of the seasons, knowing that nature’s changes outside correspond to inner changes as well. Autumn is now associated with Halloween – a day greatly influenced by Samhain, a sacred Celtic autumn festival.
Autumn’s Effects on Plants and Animals
Humans are not the only ones affected as we shift from Summer to Autumn. Animals and plants respond to the changes in light surrounding the season of autumn. At this time, in response to cooler temperatures and less available light, leaves stop producing chlorophyll. This green pigment assists with capturing sunlight to power photosynthesis. As the green fades the other pigments of the leaves shine through. This why we see orange and yellow carotenoids and vibrant red anthocyanin.
Plant cells produce compounds called phytochromes in response to different portions of the light spectrum. During late fall and early winter, when the sun remains low in the southern sky, the indirect light produces an increase in far-red phytochromes. The ratio of these two compounds mediates the hormones involved in flowering, leaf drop, and bud development. Even seeds below the soil are affected. Even the amount of red and far-red light that penetrate the soil is sufficient to govern germination.
To the untrained eye Autumn appears to solely represent a season of leaves changing, but there is much more happening now. In addition to the energy shift of the season, there are massive ecological changes occurring. Thankfully, attention and enthusiasm for examining the ecological effects of climate change on autumn is rapidly increasing.
Each autumn, many animals experience gonadal recrudescence, or behavior in response to environmental cues (e.g., daylight). Specifically, in early fall, the amount of available daylight, or photoperiod, matches the photoperiod in spring, which triggers mating instincts in animals.
Each autumn, monarch butterflies migrate from the U.S. to Mexico and some parts of Southern California. Monarch butterflies are the only insect that migrates to a warmer climate that is 2,500 miles away. Thanks to the milkweed I brought into our yard we have dozens of Monarchs hatching out of their chrysalises! You can view them in action here.
In autumn the male Siberian hamster’s testes swell up to 17 times bigger than normal to prepare for mating. And every Fall the black-capped chickadee’s tiny hippocampus enlarges by 30%, which enables it to remember where it collected seeds in different spots in trees and on the ground. How cool is that?!?
There is evidence that song birds living near sources of artificial light begin singing to attract mates, as well as laying eggs, earlier in the spring than their counterparts in places that remain dark at night. Migratory birds are a great example. Dark-eyed Junco nesting in northern Canada respond to the shortened days of summer with a series of physical changes: their reproductive organs become inactive. They shrink in size, and hormones stimulate the rapid growth of a new set of feathers (non-breeding plumage), and fat deposits develop to provide fuel for the long migratory flight ahead. So amazing!
Some even say that levels of testosterone in both men and women are at their highest in the fall. Scientists speculate the surge may be a result of ancient mating instincts -the fall “rutting season” or that decreasing daylight somehow triggers it. Who knows. I am not sure we need any more testosterone in the world right now. ;)
Regardless of whether you are a lover of nature, science, energy, or animals, we all have the opportunity to learn so much from Mother Nature as she is beautifully in sync with the natural rhythm of the energetic shifts of the changing seasons.
Ancient Chinese medicine teaches the importance of elements within each season. The season of autumn is associated with the element of Metal, which governs organization, order, communication, the mind, setting limits, and protecting boundaries. This time is a great time to finish projects you began in spring and summer – harvesting the bounty of your hard work! Fall is a time of organizing your life for the winter season ahead and coming more inside your body and mind to reflect on your life.
The lung and large intestine are the internal organs related to Fall and the element of Metal (or air) in both pets and people. Lung is associated with the emotion of “letting go.” Sleep is another important aspect of staying healthy in the Fall. The ancients advised that people should retire early at night and rise with the crowing of the rooster during the autumn. I might have a full-on freak out if I had to rise to the sound of a crowing cock, but you get the idea. They are suggesting we do as many plants and animals do; rise and rest with the sun.
Now matter where we are, or what species we are, the equinox is symbolic of change. We are all connected to each other and to Mother Earth. So when seasonal changes occur in nature, many can feel these changes resonating within. These changes will be reflected in our own vibration and we may find that our energies begin syncing up with that of Mother Earth.
Energy of Autumn
This Autumn equinox will bring about a number of changes around the world in both people and nature. This time of year marks the annual beginning of a series of transformations that take place not only in nature, time, and space, but also within each of us, and our animal companions! We will all experience the autumnal shift in both our conscious and subconscious. For some it will be monumental; for others it will be barely noticeable.
Regardless of how you experience them, the changes are here.
The Equinox comes at a time when the Sun will shift into the energy of Libra. Libra represents a highly creative time where beauty, joy, and aesthetics are highlighted. Libra is also all about partnerships and being able to balance energies. Libra is the sign of balanced scales. As we experience equal day and night there are “balanced scales in the sky” Heaven and Earth. Equality and Balance on many levels.
This Equinox is a reminder that we all change and that transformation is natural and a normal part of life. If the trees resisted the shedding process, they would not be prepared for what is to come. If the flower resisted to bloom, she would never know the fullness of heir own beauty. She would hide from the sun; the light that allows her to grow and bloom.
The Symbolism of Seasons Changing
We have so much to learn from nature, and from the changing of seasons. Animals and nature know how to flow with these winds of change. It’s instinctual. But we humans tend to resist change. But we can learn how to learn from nature.
Release. Clarity. Creativity. Balance. These are the major themes of Autumn this year. This is a time when we can learn to trust that whatever we release is meant to go. We will gain clarity. Whatever we feel called to create will bloom. We are guided to balance all aspects within ourselves and in our lives. As the light and darkness of autumn days become in balance we can become attuned to the dark and the light within ourselves. We can create balance in every aspect of our life.
The winds of change are preparing us for what is ahead. Allow the Autumn winds to lift and carry you forward. Harvest what you want to reap. Release what no longer serves. -There is much to embrace and much to let go. As the ancient poet Rumi said, “Life is a balance between holding on and letting go.”
This is Autumn.
May this season bring you and yours all that your heart desires. May the changing of the season inspire you. May you find time to play in nature. Dance with the wind. Embrace the energy of autumn. She has so much to offer us all.🍁🍂
“Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonize. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that one’s very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.”
[Letter to Miss Eliot, Oct. 1, 1841]”
― George Eliot