The word equinox comes from the Latin words “aequi” (equal) and “nox” (night) and means “equal night.” On the equinox, which happens twice a year, day and night are nearly equal in length. After the autumnal equinox, days become shorter as the sun continues to rise later each morning and darkness falls earlier each night. This ends with the winter solstice, after which days start to grow longer once again.
In the Northern Hemisphere the autumnal equinox falls between September 22 and 23, when the sun crosses the celestial equator going south. In the Southern Hemisphere the equinox occurs between March 20 and 21, when the sun moves north across the celestial equator.
The History of the Fall Equinox
In Ancient Greek mythology, the beginning of fall is closely linked to the story of the abduction of the goddess Persephone by Hades, God of the underworld. Each year, the September equinox marks the return of Persephone to the darkness of the underworld, where she must remain with Hades for three months. During these months, Persephone’s mother, Demeter the Harvest Goddess, refused to use her divine skills to make plants grow, resulting in winter.
Mythology aside, most traditional celebrations of the autumnal equinox are associated with harvest time. The full moon that occurs nearest to the autumnal equinox is actually known as the Harvest Moon and this moon rises around sunset for several nights in a row, providing farmers with additional light by which to harvest their crops.
As such, the equinox historically has been a time to literally and figuratively “reap what you sow.” While farmers harvest the last of the summer’s crops, we have the opportunity to reflect on the past year and consider what we need to prune in our mental and emotional garden so we can continue to grow.
Why the Equinox is Important
The autumn equinox is a time for quiet contemplation and preparation for the cold winter months ahead. We often seek balance by purging dead weight, including old clothing, household items we no longer use, physical clutter, or negative energy. It indicates a moment of stillness before the Earth shifts directions.
The fall equinox is a sacred day of equal parts light and dark, a time to face outward as well as turn inward, and allow our past and future to merge in the present. Typically, we do some of our best thinking and changing around the equinoxes as it’s a natural time to reflect, grow, and set new intentions.
Fall Equinox Rituals
There are numerous ways you can celebrate the fall equinox and invite balance back into your life but here are a few suggestions:
1. Clean your house. There’s no better way to restore balance in your home than with a good purge and deep clean. Focus on reducing clutter and removing items that no longer serve you or bring you joy. Channel your inner Marie Kondo and donate or recycle anything that does not spark joy for you!
2. Get crafty. Make a fall craft, or try a fall art project, to celebrate the beautiful warm colors this magical season brings. If crafting isn’t your thing, consider adding fall inspired decor to your home by adding candles and pillows in autumn hues.
3. Walk in nature. The calming effects of being in nature can’t be denied so take a hike, literally! Bonus if you can find a space conducive to walking barefoot so you can physically ground to the Earth which helps calm your central nervous system.
4. Go apple picking or visit a local farm. Nothing screams “fall” quite like apple picking or visiting a local farm or pumpkin patch. These traditional fall activities are a great way to usher in the new season and enjoy time with family and friends.
5. Practice Gratitude. Make a list of things you are grateful for as a way to invite more abundance into your life. You can incorporate this into your journaling or meditation practice or can be something else entirely. Using malas and crystals are a great way to deepen your meditation and gratitude practice.
6. Take a grounding yoga class. Our teachers have been so inspired by this change of season that we have a handful of classes in the Ohana library to help you get grounded in a variety of styles.
However you choose to celebrate the shift in seasons, slow down and be intentional with your practices. This is a time for slowing down, turning inward, and learning to trust the light within. Seasonal changes also serve as a reminder that the only constant in life is change. The fall equinox is an invitation to let go of things, habits, and patterns of behavior that no longer serve us so we can embrace the change that is inevitably right around the corner.
Erin Entlich is a certified yoga instructor, personal trainer, holistic health coach, and writer. She believes doing good starts with feeling good, which is why she loves helping people weave movement, mindfulness, and healthy eating into their daily lives. Find out more at www.erinentlich.com.