The fall equinox signifies the transition from summer to fall. It's an ideal time to meet with your authentic self and create a personal ceremony recognizing the change in seasons. On this day, there are almost equal hours of daylight and darkness. On a personal level, we can think of it as the time when we begin to harvest the seeds we sowed in the spring and nurtured during the summer.
Unlike ceremonies that emphasize making a public statement to the world, internal development is the focus of the fall equinox ceremony.
A formal observance like a ceremony helps us adjust to change. It establishes a clear end of one stage of life and the beginning of another. We reflect on who we are now and who we will be after. Ceremonies such as weddings, bar mitzvahs, and christenings are appropriately open to the public by invitation, but a fall ceremony is best conducted privately (or shared with very close friends and family members). Unlike ceremonies that emphasize making a public statement to the world, internal development is the focus of the fall equinox ceremony. During this ceremony, practitioners reflect on their lives during the spring and summer. They see what they will harvest for the year, and evaluate what sustains them both physically and energetically throughout the winter.
This year, the fall equinox, which marks the day the sun crosses the celestial equator, will fall on September 23. In case you’re curious, the celestial equator is a projection of the earth’s equator into space. Because the sun rises and sets directly on the celestial equator, on September 23, day and night will become nearly equal in duration.
A guide to creating your personal fall equinox ceremony is below. In this guide you’ll find the instructions you need to pay homage to the seasons past and ground yourself into the fall season.
Fall Equinox Ceremony
Set aside 60 minutes for this practice.
-A candle, incense, or a smudge stick of sage (depending on your preference)
-Objects that represent the four elements: air, fire, water, and earth. (These items do not have to be particular. The point is that the item is a clear representation to you.)
-A meditation cushion, yoga mat, and blanket
-A journal and pen
What were the intentions (or seeds) that you planted in the spring? In hindsight, were they the best seeds for you to sow?
1. Begin by writing the following contemplation questions in your journal:
- What were the intentions (or seeds) that you planted in the spring? In hindsight, were they the best seeds for you to sow?
- How did you tend to them over the summer? Did you provide ample sun, air, water, and food?
- What circumstances made tending to your intentions a challenge? For example, did an unexpected hazard, such as an illness or difficulties at work, threaten your harvest? If so, how did you navigate this hardship?
- Was the harvest plentiful? Will it sustain you throughout the winter?
- What intentions will you sow next spring? Which intentions will you leave behind?
2. Mentally note the four directions: north, east, south, and west. Using the compass tool on your smartphone makes this task easy. Later on in the ceremony, you’ll couple each direction with its corresponding element, and you’ll use the four directions as grounding points. Fold your blanket and position it at the center of your mat. Place your meditation cushion on top (the blanket below will cushion your ankles). Place the objects that represent the four elements, your journal, and your pen in front of your meditation cushion.
3. Set the stage for your ceremony by creating a sacred space. Light your incense, sage, or candle. Beginning at the north end, walk in a circle around the perimeter of the ceremony area holding your mat, objects representing the elements, and the incense, sage, or candle. You may choose to walk either clockwise or counterclockwise. The direction varies across cultural traditions. Jewish and Muslim traditions follow the orbit of the earth by walking counterclockwise. Buddhists circumambulate clockwise, keeping their right hand toward the center, thereby following the "right path," walking toward the right. In many martial arts practices, walking clockwise is thought to spin energy into the circle, and walking counterclockwise spins energy out of it. Do what feels right to you.
4. As you walk, begin ujjayi breath by breathing deeply in and out of the nose and through the back of the throat. Keep your tongue off the roof of your mouth and your palate open. Move slowly and mindfully. Find a cadence to your steps that matches your breathing. For example, you could inhale, take one step, exhale, and step again. Continue these rotations around your ceremonial space until your mind settles. There is no right or wrong number of rotations. Remember, this ceremony is personal. Do what feels right to you.
Remember, this ceremony is personal. Do what feels right to you.
5. At the top of the circle, gather your representations of the four elements. Begin another rotation, placing the element items in their respective directions:
- East relates to air.
- South relates to fire.
- West relates to water.
- North relates to earth.
6. Move onto your meditation cushion and sit in a comfortable position facing north. In many Pagan traditions, north is the direction related to the fall. You may sit cross-legged or on your heels. Lengthen your spine. Feel the breath move across the collarbones. If you'd like to increase the sensation of ujjayi breath, you can lower your chin slightly. Sit so that your mula bandha is pointed directly toward the ground. In Sanskrit, mula bandha means root lock and is physically represented by the perineum, between the anus and genitals. To feel the sensation of mula bandha, contract this area. For women, contracting the root lock is similar to a kegel exercise. Pointing the mula bandha area down is an easy way to lengthen and straighten the spine, but do not contract mula bandha during this ceremony. Next, spread through the collarbones, close your eyes, and begin to imagine, and feel, that the breath is moving up and down the spine. Stay here for as long as you like.
7. Open your eyes, and grab your journal and pen. If you slump forward as you hold your journal, try putting your feet on the floor in front of you. This adjustment might make it easier to sit up straight and keep the area of mula bandha pointed toward the ground.
Answer the questions that you wrote in your journal earlier. If strong emotions arise in response to a particular question, write down the area of the body where the sensation is strongest. Offer this area compassion by saying, “I’m sorry you are hurt/angry/sad.”
8. Set your journal and pen aside. Return to a meditative composure. Check the alignment of your spine, head, chin, and area of mula bandha. To come back into the present moment, release any thoughts you have about your answers. Create a visual representation of fall in your mind. It could be a forest, a field, an orchard, or something else. Take a few minutes to solidify your vision. Watch as the sun sets over your vision, turning the land you imagine into a deep gold color with hints of rose and coral. To close your ceremony, sit with this image for 10 minutes.
Watch as the sun sets over your vision, turning the land you imagine into a deep gold color with hints of rose and coral.
After your ceremony is complete, slowly open your eyes and bring the palms of your hands together at your heart center. Tilt your chin toward your fingertips in a gesture of gratitude.
By altering the contemplation questions to fit the season, this ceremony can be transferred to other times of year. For example, at winter solstice you can contemplate on what you harvested during the fall. Did you complete your fall projects, aka harvest your crops, before winter set in? How has your harvest been sustaining you through the cold months? Are you respecting the long nights of winter by getting enough rest?
Practicing ceremonies on spring equinox, summer solstice, fall equinox, and winter solstice are excellent ways to ground your body and mind, nurture your spirit, and foster intentional living.