It’s been a hot summer here, but its end is near. Has it only been three months since the Summer Solstice? Somehow it seems longer. The Earth has moved through some 585 million miles to arrive at the Autumnal Equinox. A quarter of its orbit round our star. We have moved along with it, swept along, bound to the surface of our home world by the strong and reassuringly familiar ties of the force of gravity.
The Earth, just like a giant spinning gyroscope, has kept its axis pointing in the same direction as we travel about its grand circle. Now we arrive on one of two special days when the dark of night and sunbeams of daylight are equals on all parts of the globe. The day where people everywhere share an odd sort of equality imposed by the celestial geometry and immutable physical laws of the Universe.
Here in the Northern Hemisphere this Equinox is the first day of autumn. The humidity has suddenly disappeared from the air. The hazy vistas of summer have been usurped by the clear and crisp autumnal skies. Paradoxically the increased atmospheric transparency makes Sun light seem brighter and the shadows darker, and the difference between them more strikingly delineated. The soft rustle of leaves in the wind is perceptibly amplified as the trees draw back their chlorophyll and moisture and the breeze gusts with more vigor.
Traditionally Autumnal Equinox celebrations were tied to the harvest and the end of the growing season. Fall is the natural time for a feast celebration. Fruits and vegetables have matured and ripened and are in plentiful supply. Autumnal Equinox rituals are often associated with Harvest Festivals. The date of celebration of the harvest is linked to date of the Fall Equinox in most traditions.
In many traditions people sang songs as they celebrated the turn of the season and arrival of fall. A contemporary rendition of a 16th century Harvest Festival song is:
“Merry, merry, merry,
Cheery, cheery, cheery,
Trowel the black bowl to me,
Hey derry, derry, with a poupe and a lerry,
I’ll trowel it again to thee:
Hooky, hooky, we have shorn,
And we have bound,
And we have brought Harvest
Home to town.”
The “hooky” being referred to here is the hook of the scythe of the reaper as they gather the last of crops from the fields.