The morning of September 22, 2020 marks the first day of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, the moment when day and night will be approximately equal in length. Following the equinox, our days become shorter as winter approaches. Many cultures celebrate this day as a marker of equilibrium between light and dark and as a time of thanksgiving for an abundant harvest. During 2020, a year of exceptional struggle and hardship, we might turn to some of these traditions to reconnect with our hopes for the future—to restore balance to our country and our world and to make a place for love to live.
As darkness and light meet as equals on September 22nd, we are reminded to search for balance in our own lives. Many traditions celebrating the fall equinox invite us to turn inward and consider the importance of equilibrium. Mabon, based on an ancient Welsh tradition and celebrated by neo-pagans, encourages contemplation of duality—life and death, light and dark, and abundance and scarcity. We have seen a great deal of darkness this year. As the seasons shift and we reach a tipping point and begin to progress into the colder months, we can focus anew on how to bring balance to our world. Whether this means inviting others into our lives, safely, if we have been withdrawn, or starting to advocate for our deepest held beliefs after a time of turning away from politics, we are given the opportunity to take action to create goodness in a year plagued by too much and sadness.
From ancient times, people around the world have celebrated the harvest season giving thanks for the bounties of the earth. In formal and informal festivals, people gather together to honor life and abundance. With mugs of beer, loaves of bread, and baskets of rice, we usher in the colder months with gratitude for our place on this bountiful earth. While this has decidedly not been a year of abundance for many, we are still here. We should give thanks for what we do have and give to those who have less.
The Persian celebration of Mehrgān marks the beginning of autumn by honoring Mithra, the Zoroastrian God of light and love. The festival, traditionally associated with the harvest, offers thanksgiving for sustenance and nourishment that will sustain life during the coming winter. This day is also a celebration of love and kindness, of sharing abundance with others. Families and friends gather together and feast at tables draped in violet tablecloths covered with sweets, nuts, flowers, and fruit. Revelers throw marjoram and sugar plum seeds over each other’s heads and embrace to celebrate the joys of love and kindness. After such a gloomy year, we must recognize the importance of this type of celebration. While most of us have suffered this past season, we must recognize the place of love in our lives and honor the spirit of new beginnings as we continue to act in the interest of love and light. In the words of Zarathustra, we must ring in this season with: “good thoughts, good words and good deeds.”