autumn equinox

autumn equinox (alban elfed)

The Wheel of the Year which I celebrate cycles through the quarter dates of:

  • the winter solstice in the north, where the fire of spirit and intuition glimmers like a distant belt of stars, not yet brought into being but poised on the cusp of bringing new light at this solar standstill before its return towards the sun;
  • the spring equinox, dawn, and its element of air, new ideas, the thinking faculty, and birth, in the east;
  • the summer solstice with its earthy warmth and sunniness, the waystation in the south for the physical body, earthly harvests, things coming to full ripening;
  • and the autumn equinox, the mysterious west, the twilight station of water, the feeling nature, the ancestors and the harvesting and dissolution of what we know and are, before the move back to north for the cycle to begin again.

It has to be said that there’s not consistent agreement with the directions and human characteristics in their placing on the Wheel of the Year. Some Medicine Wheels, especially the First Nation ones in America, place earth and body in the north. This doesn’t feel right to me, but it might to you.

In between are the cross-quarter dates at exactly halfway between solstice and equinox: imbolc, beltane, lughnasadh, samhain. These too I celebrate.

These solar turning-points, waymarkers, or stations, are useful times to pause and reflect on the meeting-places and relationships between light and dark, day and night, birth and death, masculine and feminine, sowing intentions and harvesting manifestations. 

I like to look back from the autumn equinox* to the quarter just gone via the cross-quarter date of lughnasadh or lammas, sitting as it does between the zenith of fecund summer and the harvests, inner and outer, that have resulted. I also find it useful to look back over the whole cycle of the four seasons at each of these turning points.

* ‘Equilux’, I’m told it should be called; though whether you emphasise equal night (‘nox’) or equal light you’re still buying in to one or the other, when at this time of equipoise maybe neither should be the ‘default’ title.

Unlike the solstices, which are fixed points in space/time, the equinoxes ‘wander’. (This is due to the earth’s wobble on its axis.) They can take place any time between 20th of the month and 23rd.

Technically this year, 2017, the autumn equinox, alban elfed, was on 22nd, late in the evening here in the northern hemisphere. Still, I always mark the autumn equinox on my birthday, the 23rd September (my mum’s was 23rd March, on the spring equinox or alban eilir).

The Dreamtime’s approaching now with its inwardness and reflection; its gathering-in of all the harvests of this summer and the turning solar twelvemonths, or thirteen moon-months.

For many years my Ground of Being quarter-day workshops took place outdoors on Dartmoor on the Sundays closest to the equinoxes and solstices throughout the year. Up at the megalithic site of Merrivale on Dartmoor we would each ask the questions of ourselves, and in relationship to the land, that would provoke reflection, creativity, depth, connection. This is a way of creating sacred space, time out from our driven lives in a materialistic culture.

So four times a year I walked out on the moor with others who wanted to share these turning points with me with words and silence in an ancient place. At the autumn equinox, the time of balance, of the creative tension of complementary poles where sun and moon hold steady, as it were, symbolically, as day and night are of equal length, we would focus on harvests, on what we might need to bring something of balance to each area of our lives, and what we might need to let go of from summer, before the tumble on with dark now in the ascendant towards the winter solstice and its longest night.

Here at the equinox balance and harmony are the keys: the bringing-together of all the pairs of opposites. At this time, day and night are of equal length; such a powerful symbol, to be poised here at the gateway between inner and outer, dark and light, night and day, summer and winter, masculine and feminine.

The sign of Libra the Balance begins here, and all whose natal sun occurs in Libra will know how this is the essential struggle: to hold the opposites in balance whilst sustaining the tension that incurs, making of it something creative rather than letting it break us. For instance, how do we each contain and express a need for fixity and a need for fluidity; a need for solitude and a need for intimacy; a need for travel and a need for home? We all, of course, have to resolve these questions; but Librans seem to feel these apparent paradoxes keenly; it’s said that their (our) esoteric task is to find harmony through conflict (and this is as much inner as anything else). 

And to resolve the opposites, we first have to experience and recognise them.

For me, it manifests as a kind of restlessness: as we approach the autumn equinox part of me remains turned outwards, wanting to walk towards the horizon, part thinks of moving inwards, towards lighting fires – whether the one in my study or the ones of new creative projects, the inner fires of the imagination.

Autumn is a poet’s season. I can’t pretend I don’t love the melancholy, the wistfulness, the dreaminess, the inwardness trailing in autumn’s slipstream. The quality of nostalgia and yearning are also friends to the Celtic soul. And I love times of transition, borderlands, thresholds, cusps. Times of ambiguity and paradox; of misty blurring of edges.

So here are some of my autumn equinox poems.


At dawn the air is dense with contrails almost not-there,
yet meadow, hedge and sky are all a-glitter: the time of year
when small migrating spiders launch their bodies into space
on less than a breath, and mesh the light. They can’t know
where they’re landing or even if they’ll arrive; but autumn’s
glow is richer and the day brighter for their risk. Microscopic,
their trust in life is one that we can’t have, with our
knowingness, the way we lumber through our years;
and oh what I’d give to rest this body on space and sky
like that, not caring where I’m going, if my fragile tensile arc
will lasso the future, if I’ll ever get there, or who comes with me.

© Roselle Angwin, 2014 



Leaves, falling
Later, in the mist, rowanberries glimmer like fireflies;
up here at Four Winds I am unstrung,
the beads of me scattered to all directions.

The equinox, my birthday and a full moon
bringing, at last, a closure to the turbulence
of this solar cycle. In this high rush of air

the ancient beech shivers off her leaves,
and, heedless of motorbikes, trucks on the road,
the yellow house, the currency of thought,

the moon lifts her owl-bone-white rim
over the moor’s horizon where we sip
at the autumn dusk, let it all remake us.


The full moon hangs in the pale sky like a revelation
awaiting its time. There are times when I know that
love might mean beginning over and over
and again. And how I’ll do that.


Near Merrivale
Once, in the future, I knew my way back.


The light beyond the forest
On the hill, dusk is the colour of violets.

© Roselle Angwin 2010

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