During this month of time in nature, I've started thinking about how we humans used to live, with the seasons and nature playing a more starring role in the every day facts of our lives. My two year stint working in a Manhattan high rise taught me how much I missed experiencing the weather and seasons, but spending a scrap of time in nature every day has reminded me how far removed from it I remain in most ways.
The equinox is tomorrow. It's easy for the approach of autumn to mean nothing more than back-to-school and #PSL. But I'm challenging myself to go deeper, and learn what this time of year means and has meant to different people around the world.
Kind of had to start with Mabon, a tradition for Pagans and Wicca, that centers around the equinox as a time of balance, harvest, and reflection. This is also known as Harvest Home, the Feast of the Ingathering, Meán Fómhair or Alban Elfed. Mabon as it is now is surprisingly new - it dates back to the 1970's.
Autumn Moon Festival is celebrated in China, and is connected to several fascinating and beautiful myths. My favorite is that of the Jade Rabbit, who lives on the moon. On Autumn Moon, mooncakes made of bean paste are eaten.
Until the 20th century, Michaelmas, or the Feast of St. Michael, was as big a deal as Christmas for the English. You’re meant to eat a fattened goose for dinner, and the night before, you go to church and crack nuts (and eat them?) during the service.
In Japan, a holiday called Ohigan is celebrated on both equinoxes. Ohioan translates literally to “the other shore.” Devout Buddhists can dedicate this time towards reflection, and self-improvement.
And others believe that that the meaning of closeness to “the other shore” is that a gate has opened between out world at the next. Ohioan is also a time to visit and tend the graves of ancestors.
There are many ancient structures that we conceived of to take full advantage of the autumnal equinox, like Chichen Itza, Stonehenge, and Ahu Akivi on Easter Island, and people still gather today to view the displays of math and sunlight.
For my part, I'm going to try to increase my connection with this time of year in my own way. Invariably the association shifts, with culture and with the individual; creating my own way of being mindful of this time feels like the right way to go.