Saturday, 3 September 2011

embracing autumn equinox

My path is pretty eclectic. I know that's a hugely overused word in Paganism but, seriously, it's not hard to understand why. Being a totally non-dogmatic bunch with no central cell through which we're defined or organised, getting into the discussion about exact beliefs can end up spanning an entire weekend. Plus, spirituality is always changing. (Hence the Pagan preference to call it a 'path' rather than a 'faith' or religion.) I'm not even entirely sure that 'Pagan' is the correct box for me to tick. All I know is that so far it's been the one that seemed to make the most sense (although strictly, whether I'm Pagan by others' standards or not, I'm certainly a pantheist.)

Sabbats are, therefore, both strange and familiar territory for me. Marking the eight festivals on the wheel of the year helps me to feel more connected to others who hold a similar world view whilst also helping me to keep in touch with my own spiritual standpoint. I'm somewhat of a Celtic Reconstructionist. I come from a long line of pure Celtic stock so for years I was only interested in the four 'old' festivals: Imbolc, Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain. I didn't feel the others ought to have special reverence, although I do enjoy any chance to introduce ritual and contemplation into the year.

But after thirteen years of defining myself as Pagan I couldn't fail to notice that Autumn Equinox is obviously an organically significant time for me. It's the time of year when I find myself at my most energised and contemplative. The reason for this connection is obvious to me. I'm not a summer girl. I've always been in love with winter and my spiritual self tends to 'peak' in colder climes. So, when the leaves start to fall and the year begins to grow old my Paganism goes through its annual shake up and it's always right around the end of September. (Just looking at my Pagan journal makes this clear: it's so slow in the summer months and only starts to get regularly written in again at summer's close.) Since the Equinox is slowly gaining on us, I've decided to write a few posts about it and try to assess its importance and its message.

The Autumn Equinox marks the time when days and nights are of equal length. So, it's not difficult to see why many see it as the festival of balance and restoration. All the influences are equal and it's time to assess the results of summer as well as to make preparations for the winter. The Summer Equinox has the same balance but with the sun in the ascendency, whereas Autumn Equinox allows us to reflect on the dying of the light. At school the harvest festival was a good reminder of this within my community and seeing the Equinox as a time of optimum ripening is something I've carried with me since then.

The Celts were not afraid of the dark. That fear would have been a totally foreign concept to them. I'm definitely scared of the dark and it's something I've tried to change over the years (but my overactive imagination just won't allow me to crack that particular nut). The Autumn Equinox is a time for me to try to embrace the dark, literally as well as spiritually. It's a great reminder of the nature of the life cycle and it also speaks to me of life experience too - life goes from champagne to shit and back to champagne again, people - roll with the punches.

It always feels like a spiritual seed is planted at Autumn Equinox to incubate through the winter months and emerge in the spring.