As the Earth continues its dance around the sun, we witness the changing seasons - the vibrant blossoms of spring, the scorching heat of summer, the crisp beauty of autumn, and the serene chill of winter. These transitions are marked by celestial events, and one of the most fascinating is the equinox. The equinox symbolizes balance, a moment when day and night are of equal length.
If you are in the Northern hemisphere you will meet equinox as the starting point of Fall season - a time to slow down and let the beauty and thrill of summer come to rest, in slow preparation of winter, a time to huddle up and get cozy as we move towards the end of the year.
If you are in the South you will awaken into Spring, after a calmer time of reflection, introspection, and the anticipation of brighter days. You have made it to the side of the sun now.
Today, we want to delve into the meaning of the equinox and explore the diverse ways it is celebrated across the world.
The significance of the equinox
The term "equinox" derives from the Latin words "aequus," meaning equal, and "nox," meaning night. It occurs twice a year, around March 20th and September 22nd, when the Earth's axial tilt is neither inclined away from nor towards the sun. This results in nearly equal hours of daylight and darkness, a phenomenon that has captivated human cultures for millennia.
Spring Equinox: The vernal equinox, often called Ostara (the word Ostara comes from the Anglo-Saxon goddess name, Eostre, representing spring and new beginnings), heralds the arrival of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. It symbolizes rebirth, renewal, and growth. In many cultures, it's a time of sowing seeds and celebrating the return of life to the earth after the dormancy of winter.
Autumn Equinox: The autumnal equinox, known as Mabon in some modern Pagan traditions, marks the beginning of fall. It signifies gratitude for the harvest and preparing for the colder months ahead. Many celebrations focus on giving thanks for the Earth's bounty.
How equinox is being celebrated in the world
The equinox transcends cultural and geographical boundaries, giving rise to diverse celebrations and rituals around the world. Here are some beautiful examples:
1. Nowruz (Iran and Central Asia): Nowruz, which means "new day," is a Persian New Year celebration that occurs on the spring equinox. It includes traditions like the Haft-Seen table, where seven symbolic items starting with the letter 'S' are displayed, symbolizing rebirth and renewal.
2. Higan (Japan): In Japan, the equinoxes are known as Higan. People visit their ancestors' graves and offer prayers for the deceased. It's a time for reflection, meditation, and balance in life.
3. Day of the Dead (Mexico): Mexico's Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, coincides with the autumnal equinox. Families honor and remember deceased loved ones by creating elaborate altars with offerings of food, marigolds, and candles.
4. Alban Elfed (Wales): In Welsh tradition, the autumn equinox is celebrated as Alban Elfed, a time to honor the harvest and give thanks for the fruits of the land. Rituals may include feasting and making corn dollies.
5. Stonehenge (United Kingdom): Perhaps one of the most famous equinox celebrations occurs at Stonehenge. Thousands gather to witness the sunrise align perfectly with the stones. This ancient monument is believed to have been used for solstice and equinox observations.
6. Egg Balancing (Spain): In Catalonia, Spain, it's believed that during the equinox, eggs can be balanced on their ends due to the gravitational pull. This tradition has led to a fun and quirky celebration of the equinox.
7. Autumnal Equinox Fires (Germany): In parts of Germany, people light bonfires on the autumnal equinox to celebrate the harvest season and ward off evil spirits. These fires are a symbol of the warmth and protection of community.
Dia de los Muertos Altar. Photo source: Instagram @cosa.buena
The equinox, a celestial event of balance and transition, connects people across the globe. Whether celebrating the arrival of spring, giving thanks for the harvest, or honoring ancestors, equinox rituals offer a unique glimpse into the diverse ways humanity finds meaning in the natural world. As we continue to observe and embrace these age-old traditions, we are reminded of our deep connection to the Earth and the beauty of its cyclical rhythms.