The Equinox is an astronomical event that occurs when the plane of Earth’s Equator passes the center of the Sun. This phenomenon results in a period when daytime and night are approximately equal in length.
The name ‘equinox’ comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night). This event occurs twice each year and marks the beginning of the Spring and Autumn seasons.
In the Northern Hemisphere the Autumnal Equinox this year will fall on September 22nd, 2016. For those who live in the Southern Hemisphere, this date will mark their Vernal or Spring Equinox.
The seasons of the year are caused by the tilt of the Earth’s axis. In other words, our seasons are not caused by our proximity to the Sun, but because our planet is leaning slightly on its axis like a spinning top that is frozen in an off-kilter position.
As a result, one of the earth’s two hemispheres is more exposed to the sun than the other during each half of the year. In other words, the Northern and Southern Hemispheres trade places in receiving the most direct sunlight and warmth.
This planetary tilt is the cause of variations in our climate as well as the drama and poetry of our seasons. It determines how many hours and minutes each hemisphere receives of precious sunlight each day.
We experience an equinox twice each year at the moment when the tilt of Earth’s axis is inclined neither away from nor towards the Sun. This marks the period during which the two hemispheres receive an approximately equal amount of the sun’s rays.
While the duration of daylight is theoretically the same at all points on the Earth’s surface, the equinox does not necessarily fall on the exact day when the period of daytime and night are of equal length. There are two reasons for this discrepancy. First, variations in the time of sunrise and sunset depend on the location of the observer. Secondly, due to atmospheric refraction of sunlight, an observer might potentially see daylight before the first glimpse of the Sun’s disk is visible above the horizon.
The autumn equinox heralds a time of growing darkness. In the following months, the sun will continue to descend increasingly lower along the horizon line so that the nights grow longer. The equinox signals the change of seasons leading into the cold and death of winter.
In the Northern Hemisphere, it becomes evident that summer is gone and winter is coming as the days shorten and the shadows grow longer. We feel the temperature drop and the weather cool down as we notice the gradually later dawns and earlier sunsets. Creatures of the wild begin to grow their winter coats while trees and plants conclude their annual cycle of growth. In some regions the trees respond with a burst of glorious autumn leaves or a last bloom before winter.
At the time of the Equinox, the sun rises due east and sets due west on the horizon. No matter where we live on Earth, these due east and west points mark the intersection of our horizon with the celestial equator, the imaginary line above the true equator of the Earth.
As we transition into the fall season, we will observe that the arc of the sun across the sky each day is shifting towards the south. Birds and butterflies will begin to migrate southward with the path of the sun. The Autumn Star, Fomalhaut, can be seen in the night sky making its way across the heavens.
Our solstices and equinoxes occur at points of transition of the sun in relation to the Earth each year. In times past, our ancestors understood the profound teachings and messages that were symbolized by the movements of the Sun and the planets. They knew that the drama enacted in the heavens was an outer representation of our spiritual journey as humans. The Sun represents both a personal and universal life force whose birth, life, and death illustrate the path of spiritual awakening.
The Autumnal Equinox is a mysterious time. It is the period of balance between day and night, right before the night takes over and ushers in the winter, considered a time of darkness and death. As such, it marks an essential passage in the process of enlightenment that is often overlooked and misunderstood.
Our ancient ancestors were aware of the important role of darkness in the work of spiritual transformation. The duality between light and dark exists within humanity and is thematic of life itself. All things must die before they can be reborn, spiritual ascension only occurs after descent into darkness, and those who long for light must first face and embrace their own inner darkness. The Autumnal Equinox symbolizes an essential stage of inner preparation in the process of enlightenment.
Teachings of the Season and the Equinox
The Autumn Season offers several messages that support our path of personal growth. We are reminded to:
At the time of equinox when day and night are of equal length, we are reminded to balance the light and darkness that exists within us. Many of us place a negative connotation on darkness. We have a tendency to value and embrace our inner light while rejecting that which we perceive to be negative. By overemphasizing some aspects and rejecting other parts of ourselves, we become fragmented and imbalanced.
Light serves as a contrast to darkness. The brighter we shine, the more pronounced and defined our shadows become. There is tremendous depth and wisdom contained within the the darker, more mysterious aspects of our nature. When we accept and balance light and darkness in equal measure, we live as a rich, cohesive whole.
2. Let Go
As we observe the branches and leaves falling to the ground during Autumn, we are reminded that the cycles of nature are mirrored within our lives. This is a time for letting go and releasing things that have become heavy and burdensome in our lives.
When we release old patterns, habits, or ways of being that no longer serve us, we make way for fresh energies to enter our lives and fuel our dreams. Autumn inspires us to let go in order to allow the full potential of our Spirit to fully express in new and empowered ways.
3. Acknowledge Impermanence
During the Autumn season we are prompted to recognize the impermanence of all things. We have observed the natural cycle of the seasons, from the budding of new life in the spring to the flowering profusion of abundance of the summer.
Now, as leaves fall and we notice bare branches,we are reminded of the fleeting nature of all life. Understanding the impermanence of everything around us inspires us to appreciate the beauty contained within each precious moment in life.
In the Northern Hemisphere we experience the Autumnal Equinox as the sun enters the astrological sign of Libra. The symbol or glyph for this sign represents the rising and setting sun, which illustrates the balance between night and day.
Libra is a Cardinal sign which corresponds with the first month of the season. His energy initiates change and he operates in sudden bursts of activity. As an Air sign, Libra is light and elusive. He represents the mental and intellectual aspects of our nature and is considered the social director of the zodiac. He enjoys conversation, communication, and mingling among friends.
Libra is associated with the qualities of balance and harmony, which are expressed when we give and take in equal measure in all possible ways. He is able to see both sides of any situation and can weigh the options while maintaining an inner sense of balance and integrity.
Libra is ruled by Venus, the Goddess of Beauty, Pleasure, and Comfort. She teaches us how to attract what we love in all realms of our lives. This may include attracting material possessions, magical experiences, plentiful abundance, and extraordinary people.
Venus governs the expression of behavior that is pleasing to others and she encourages us to develop ourselves in socially acceptable ways. She inspires us to shine our light as brightly as possible while complimenting the gifts and talents of those around us.
Venus helps to heighten our sensory perceptions of sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound. These senses comprise our physical ‘barometer’, acting as indicators of what feels good and what is often the best choice for us. We are encouraged to develop awareness and follow the guidance of the wisdom contained within our physical body.
The Equinox signals a time for gradually turning inward as the days grow increasingly shorter and colder. We welcome this natural part of our personal rhythm as we enter a period of introspection and integration.
We are complex, multifaceted beings whose light is balanced by a rich resource of complimentary darkness contained within us. Autumn offers us the opportunity to embrace, integrate, and celebrate all aspects of ourselves.
Blessings to you all during this Fall Season!