The Autumn Equinox (also known as Mabon or Harvest Home) is celebrated when day and night are of equal duration before the descent into increasing darkness and is the final festival of the season of harvest. After this date, the North Pole begins to tilt away from the sun and evenings in the northern hemisphere becoming increasingly dark in the run up to the Winter Solstice.
The days then start to lengthen ahead of the Spring Equinox when, again, day and night have approximately equal length. Evenings then become increasingly light in the run up to the Summer Solstice.
In nature, the activity of the summer months slows down to the hibernation for the winter. For many now is time to reflect on the past season. It is also a time to recognise that the balance of the year has changed, the wheel has turned and summer is now over.
Astrologers will recognise this as the date the sun enters the sign of Libra – the Scales of Balance.
“We give ourselves time to stop and breathe deeply, to feel the satisfaction of what has been achieved, to start to relax.” Emma Restall Orr
The name for the festival of the Autumn Equinox in Druidry is Alban Elfed, which means ‘The Light of the Water’. The Light of the Sun in the Wheel of the Year stands in the West, in the Place of balance between the Light and the Darkness. This is a time of the Great Tides. This is the Gateway of the Year.
The Wheel turns and the time of balance returns. Alban Elfed marks the balance of day and night before the darkness overtakes the light. It is also the time of the second harvest, usually of the fruit which has stayed on the trees and plants that have ripened under the summer sun. It is this final harvest which can take the central theme of the Alban Elfed ceremony – thanking the Earth, in her full abundance as Mother and Giver, for the great harvest, giving enough food to last the winter, as Autumn begins.
The Light turns into Darkness as we step forward into the darkening days holding before us the divine promise of new Light at the end of the Dark Days, from year to year and life to life.