Southern Hemisphere March 20th
Northern Hemisphere September 23rd
The Autumnal Equinox, also known as the Witches Thanksgiving, is when the sun is truly waning in our skies. It marks the second harvest and the time when the majority of crops are gathered, a time of sharing, honouring and giving thanks. Be it in food, ritual, harvesting or offerings, this is a magickal time. Ripening fruits that are laden upon the trees, vegetables that need to be dug from the earth and any plants or herbs that are to be dried so we may still enjoy them throughout winter should all be gathered, stored and made into preserves, jams and chutneys. The harvesting of nuts, the symbols of fertility should now begin and finish no later than Samhain, the third harvest.
In some parts of the world it is only now that the last sheaf of grain has been cut, so for them the Autumn harvest is the time that the Corn Mother will be made and worshipped for continuing abundance and fertility. If you have not made yours yet, you may like to do so now. In other countries, the grain has already been harvested during Lammas, the Corn Mother made and placed in the home to eagerly await the Autumn Equinox and the celebrations that will take place.
Harvest festivals are celebrated in many parts of the world. There has been much hard work that has gone on throughout the earlier months of sowing, growing and tending crops. Now is the time to reap all the benefits of this hard work and of the bounty that nature has helped us receive. Customs and rituals include harvest fairs, Thanksgiving, hay rides, the crowning of the harvest King and Queen, wine and cider making, large gatherings, barn dancing and eating-a-plenty.
Thanksgiving in the United States of America and Canada is a traditional harvest festival where families and friends get together to celebrate and give thanks for the harvest, their family, friends and the good fortunes that they have received throughout the year. The dates for the actual event have since changed over the years, Canada celebrates on the second Monday in October, while Americans have their Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday in November. The very first Thanksgiving was said to be celebrated at the Plymouth Colony, America in 1621. Named after the port in England where a large group of pilgrims sailed from in 1605 aboard the ‘Mayflower.’ They were bound for the Hudson River, but blew off course and ended up on a different harbour site. After much hardship and deaths, the people were helped by a tribe of natives. They were so thankful for this help at the time and the first harvest that they received, the pilgrims invited the native tribe to share in a three day celebration with them.
Originally only interested in worshipping God, Thanksgiving was a day of prayer and holiday meals in between religious services. A feast was made from whatever was available and usually consisted of meats from the hunt, pumpkins, corn, fruits and more pumpkins. A versatile veg, pumpkins became a staple food. By the 1700´s the holiday had caught on and farmers throughout the new prospering lands crowded their tables with dishes from the harvest, including domesticated turkeys, pigs and chickens. Thanksgiving is not practiced that much in New Zealand as yet, however there are still harvest celebrations going strong in many parts of the country that have continued from times past and with time, the tradition of Thanksgiving will soon become a part of New Zealand´s added customs and hopefully the essence is remembered and celebrated and not the commercial side of it as too often happens in our societies of this so called modern world..
THE WITCHES THANKSGIVING
The Autumn Equinox is also known as the Witches or Pagan Thanksgiving, which like the other harvest festivals celebrates the abundance, thanks and sharing foods with like-minded people, friends and family. Autumn is a wonderful time filled with vibrant colour, energy and the bounty of the Earth. There is so much to be thankful for. We celebrate this season by incorporating the produce and natural goodies that are available to us into our crafts, spells and feasts. This includes leaves, buds, herbs, fruits, nuts and even pumpkins. Pumpkins you say, are they not a symbol of Samhain? Yes they are, but they are also available to us now, ripe for picking, straight from the vines. We would be absolutely nuts not to enjoy them now in this season of plenty, and if left too long they will begin to rot on their vines. On the other side of the world, they too harvest their pumpkins in the season of Autumn and enjoy this versatile food, however as with all carefully designed money making skills, farmers leave many pumpkins in their fields for the folk who like to go out choosing that perfect pumpkin for Halloween in October, Northern hemisphere. If the farmers harvested all the pumpkins earlier there would be none for picking and that would be a big money loss for the pumpkin growers.
FORCES OF NATURE
The Autumn Equinox also represents a time of equal forces where for a moment there is complete balance of the light and the dark. A balance between the God and Goddess, and for one brief moment in time, all powers are equal. Nowadays we are able to pinpoint this time precisely and add it to our calendars and diaries, however, our ancestors did not have the modern technologies of watches and clocks, so their calculations by the moon, sun and stars would have been pretty darn close. The Spring Equinox is the other time when nature again comes into balance momentarily. Spring being overcome to the lighter half, while Autumn gives way to the darker half of the year.
As we move again closer to Samhain, even the weather has seemed to of balanced out it´s days. There seems to be an equal amount of rainy days, furious winds and grey clouds, balanced by an equal amount of clear skies and warm inviting sunshine. It is like a struggle of the light and dark, of who shall overcome who, both using their forces, but inevitably the dark will once again overcome the light, but only until the Winter Solstice to when the Sun God will again be reborn. For us here in New Zealand daylight savings has once again finished for another year, plunging us into noticeably more darkness. For those who rely on the lands and forces of nature for their crops and livelihood, it is a very busy time. Livestock need to be tendered to and prepared for the coming winter, shelters need to be organized, and hay that is still in the fields needs to be cut and stored away before winter is here. For those without sufficient grazing for animals over winter, hay will be a much needed supplement for their stock. From the larger beef and dairy farmers to the humble hobby farmers who may only run a few sheep and steers on their acreage, crops are not only a valued asset to feed their family and earn an income, they are a much needed staple for their livestock.
As the weather is certainly getting colder, the balefire is a much needed symbol. A symbol of protection, strength and purification. A time to let all negativity dissolve within the flames and a time to create warmth within. In ancient times certain woods were gathered and burnt at the various Sabbats. Different cultures around the world would use their own woods that were sacred to them. The Celtic chose Oak, a symbol of the God, Birch for purification, Hawthorn for fertility, and Hazel for wisdom. Nowadays vines, wattle, pine and maple woods are also added along with sachets to help create an Autumn Balefire.
Associated Names - Alban Elfed, Corn Festival, Fall Equinox, Festival of Dionysus, Foghar, Fruit Harvest, Harvest Home, Harvest of Bounty, Mabon, Pagan Thanksgiving, Mabon, Second Harvest, Winter Nights, Witches Thanksgiving.
Activities - Balefires, celebrating the second harvest, collecting fruits and vegetables, corn mother, corn wheels and garlands, feasting, giving thanks to the bounty of foods received, harvest fayres, hay rides and barn dances, honouring the aging Deities, making preserves, wines and drying foods for winter, preparing inside work for the colder months, quilting bees, rattle making from dried gourds, tending to herb gardens and weeding, visiting burial cairns and cemetery´s, wine ceremonies.
Animals - All water animals, antelope, bear, bison, blackbird, bull, cats, chickens, crow, coyote, deer, dogs, eagle, elk, fox, geese, goat, hawks, horse, mice, moose, owls, peacock, pigeon, porcupine, possums, quails, raccoon, rams, rats, salmon, squirrels, stags, turkeys, wolf.
Colours - Blue, brown, deep gold, earthy colours, orange, purple, rust, violet.
Deities - All wine, agricultural, harvest and fruit Goddesses, All Wine, harvest, grain and Fruit Gods.
Foods - All harvest foods and nuts, apples, baked squashes, barbeques, barley, beans, berries, blackberries, chowder, chutneys, jams, sauces and pickles made from the harvest, cider, corn, cornbread, cranberries, fruit, grapes, hangi’s, harvest stews, hops, oats, outdoor cooking, parsnips, pears, pecans, pies, pomegranates, popcorn, pot luck suppers, pumpkin, roasted autumn vegetables, sausages, smoked foods, spinach, tamarillos, turkey, wheat, wild rice, wine, yams.
Herbs and Plants - Acorns, all autumn foliage, apple, ash, bark, birch, cedar, grains, hazel, tobacco, corn, corn stalks, hay, heather, hops, Indian corn, liquidambar, maples, millet, pomegranate, pussy willow, rosemary, saffron, straw, sweet chestnuts, sycamore, valerian, vervain, vines, wheat, wild flowers.
Moon - Harvest or Wine moon.
Symbols - Apples, autumn leaves, burial cairns, corn and hay dolls, cornucopia, gourds, grapes, harvest fruits and vegetables, horn of plenty, Indian corn, nuts, pomegranates, pumpkins, rattles, scarecrows, seeds, sickle, sun and wagon wheels, vines and wines.
This sachet should be hung in the house over the main threshold to welcome positive energies of the season. Dried herbs have been used. Mix the herbs together and place into a round of muslin or calico and tie with natural thread, knot three times to secure it.1 Tbsp hops
1 Tbsp lavender
1 tsp valerian root
‘Harvest season upon us now, Autumn blessings to keep us well. By powers of the herbs of three, this is our will, so mote it be.’