Celebrating The Autumn Equinox or “Mabon” – The Witch’s Thanksgiving
The Autumn Equinox is coming up around September 21.
Technically, it is an astronomical phenomenon which takes place at a specific date and time that’s slightly different each year depending on where you live.
But most people in the modern witchcraft community find it easier to pick a locked-in date (or a looser range of dates) in mid to late September to celebrate and/or align with the themes of the season.
It tends to fall between the 20th and the 23rd of September in the northern hemisphere. I tend to think of the Witch’s Thanksgiving as the 21st. But again, it’s not super set in stone. I celebrate and honor the themes of the season for the eight weeks surrounding it. It’s really just about checking in at this time of the year when nature is inviting us to shift into harvest mode.
This is something I’m quite passionate about, because working with the Wheel of the Year (especially the Autumn Equinox) was kind of my “gateway drug,” into witchcraft and paganism.
Are you longing to harness the power of nature in your everyday life, but you’re not quite sure where to start?
I invite you to watch or read on to hear my story if you are curious about living seasonally.
It all started on the Autumn Equinox years ago…
I began my first year-and-a-day journey into the magick of the seasons.
If you’re brand new to the concept of the Wheel Of The Year, it’s where you follow along with solstices, equinoxes, and cross quarters (the midpoints between solstices and equinoxes) and align with the themes you’re observing in nature to gain wisdom about the direction of your own life.
So what is an equinox?
Equinox means equal night. “Equi-nox” = “equal-night.”
There are two equinoxes – The Autumn and Spring equinoxes. These two opposite times of year are when the hours of daylight and the hours of darkness are exactly the same. So 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness.
The following day after the Autumn Equinox, the nights start to overtake the days – The days start growing shorter than the nights.
Then, six months later at the Spring Equinox, the number of hours of daylight and darkness are the same again, only the following day after the Spring Equinox, the days start to overtake the nights.
The Autumn Equinox is a time to realize that we are descending into darkness. The nights are about to be longer than the days, meaning we’ll have less sunlight. Humans really respond in subtle and obvious ways to the amount of daylight we’re getting. This is most obvious in the example of seasonal depression. Many start to feel a little sad or out of sorts (or even just less energetic) during the darker half of the year. This is because the Sun has a direct effect on our livelihood.
Working with the Wheel Of The Year is really helpful in preventing yourself from getting sucked into an unnecessary depression. It’s an amazing time of year to make peace with the shortening days – And also to tap into your energy and understand where you could achieve more balance.
I happen to know that in the winter, I need to get as cozy and comfortable as possible. In the summertime, I’m more energetic and social, and I tend to be very productive. But when the days become shorter and the night start to close in, I feel the call to sit on the couch, read a book, burn some candles, watch documentaries, educate myself, and spend more time alone – Or just with my closest loved ones.
Years ago when I wasn’t as aware of these energetic cycles that the Sun and the Earth go through each year, I didn’t understand why I was feeling out of sorts during certain seasons. People would ask me to go out, or want me to commit to projects, but I’d be in introvert mode, feeling guilty for saying ‘no.’ I didn’t understand my natural cycles well enough to know that my energy fuctuates seasonally.
I invite you to start tracking your moods and patterns on a seasonal basis. If you haven’t tried journaling with the seasons, you can start by simply doing an entry each season to observe how you feel.
What feels in alignment for you and what doesn’t?
Begin to notice any patterns from one year to the next. It can be helpful to plan your life and your career from a place of knowing when your energy is high and when you’re more tired or want to be more relaxed.
The Autumn Equinox is my favorite sabbat, because I’ve been obsessed with autumn for as long as I can remember. I was always that kid who’d shout, “Oh look! I’ve spotted the first autumn leaf!” Obviously, it probably wasn’t really the very first fall colored leaf of the year… But it was my awareness that the season was starting to change – Knowing there was some kind of power in that, even if at the time I didn’t quite know what that could be.
If you’re new to the Writing Witch community, you may or may not have heard the story of how I discovered I was in fact a witch. It’s all centered around the seasons. It especially become apparent when I recalled my childhood fascination with the Autumn Equinox.
I was raised Muslim – In a group of African Americans who’d converted to Islam. My childhood upbringing was very unusual. I was raised in a cult where we were not allowed to celebrate mainstream holidays. So no Christmas, no Easter, no Halloween – Pretty much anything that the mainstream American culture was doing, we had to avoid.
Disclaimer: I am not saying all Muslims are like the people I knew, or has the same experiences I had. There are other branches of Islam, I know other people have had better experiences with the religion. I’m just sharing my personal story.
Despite the limiting environment, I was raised by a creative and magical mother who does appreciate the beauty of nature. So even though we weren’t allowed to call it “magic” or “witchcraft,” or to partake in any of the seasonal celebrations in the traditional sense, my family communed with nature in our own way.
Where most kids would be doing things like decorating for Halloween and celebrating Thanksgiving, I had to get extra creative in order to connect with the season – Finding ways celebrate without it bing perceived partaking in the mainstream seasonal holidays.
My mom and I would take nature walks and collect leaves and nuts and and make crafts with them – A fond and memorable part of my childhood. I always felt the most at home and inspired while doing such things. And autumn time was particularly special to me.
Where I live, in New York, we have all four seasons and deciduous trees with leaves that change color in autumn. It is most obvious this time of year that the seasons are changing.
The spring to summer transition, on the other hand, is more subtle. And the transition from winter into spring can be quite slow here as well. But autumn just creeps in on you suddenly – One day you notice that “first autumn leaf” and then over the course of the next few weeks, you look around to discover the whole environment has changed.
First, the colors… And the wind starts to blow differently and the air starts to feel and smell differently. And you have to pull out your autumn clothes, which for many of us growing up meant transitioning to school clothes and getting excited to learn.
For me, the Autumn Equinox always naturally comes as a time when I stop and check in with myself to see how I’ve grown since the last autumn. But I fell out of the habbit for a while in my early adulthood. After releasing my old relious beliefs, I wasn’t sure what my new spirituality was. And I was so busy “adulting” for the first time, I was distracted from tapping into the natural cycles.
After college, I kind of hit a wall. My regular college routine was no longer a thing, and I had to figure out who I really was in the real world. Everything had changed. Around that time, my parents had gotten divorced, my mom moved away, I moved out of my college town, and all my friends moved away. I felt super un-grounded and I had no normalcy to base my life around – Especially since I no longer had my previous religion to fall back on.
That was when I kind of started getting into the witchy and woo-woo type stuff – But it was more just finding spiritual ideas in passing. I would watch different YouTube videos and find out about things like meditation and yoga, and began learning about various spiritual paths.
But I wasn’t specifically on what you would call a “witchcraft” oriented path. I was kind of just willy-nilly, exploring a lot of different things. And that was a lot of fun! Actually, it was an amazing time which I consider to be my spiritual awakening.
But I still was feeling really scattered. I still had no sense of direction in my life or in my spiritual practice, and things still felt extremely unstable. So by the by, after a few years, something really shifted for me. I started to take my creative business seriously, as well as prioritized finding my spiritual path… And those two things actually ended up becoming intermingled.
One day I was working really hard trying to figure out what I was doing with my business… And I just happened to look at the calendar to see what was on my agenda for that week. I noticed that the calendar said “autumnal equinox.” And I thought, “Hmm, autumn equinox… That’s something I know has spiritual significance for me.”
Not only had I always felt spiritual this time of year, but now I’d also been studying random spiritual paths, and I knew I’d heard in passing somewhere that equinoxes and solstices were supposed to have some kind of spiritual meaning…
So I decided to Google it, and I discovered the Wheel of the Year! I found out that there was an entire group of people who based their whole lives and spirituality (and even their intentions, goals and everything about their lifestyle) around solstices and equinoxes! I was hooked instantly, and started studying anything and everything I could possibly find related to the Wheel of the Year. I consider that to have been my first “year and a day” journey.
“In the Wiccan faith, the “year and a day” journey is where someone curious about the path takes a year and a day to go through the Wheel of the Year and learn the basics of the craft. I am not Wiccan, which is something I learned during my own year and a day journey.
At the time (2014 – 2015) there really wasn’t much information available online or in books that offered a nonreligious way of approaching witchcraft and the Wheel of the Year. A lot of what you would find were very Wiccan oriented. Even though I was extremely inspired by Wicca, I was no longer interested in organized religion – It’s really important for me to be fluid and eclectic and to dance to the beat of my own drum.
So, while I was very thankful for all of the Wiccan resources (and the people who were sharing about that path) I was also feeling like there simply was not enough content out there for people who wanted to live seasonally without necessarily subscribing to all the religious beliefs of the Wiccan path.
When I arrived back at the Autumn Equinox a year later, I suddenly had this clear vision – I wanted to take the structure of the Wheel Of The Year and learn how to put it into a context that could really streamline my manifestations and spiritual growth – A way for it to help me with my real lifestyle goals, moreso than just to do seasonal rituals, try recipes and make crafts.
I started toying around with creating traditions that I could build upon every year to keep my life balanced, progressive and fulfilling. While working with a Wheel Of The Year in an experimental way, I very quickly noticed a pattern – The lifestyle and career decisions I was making were in direct alignment with this understanding of the way energy works in the Universe.
I discovered that everything in the Universe actually follows a similar pattern to the Wheel of the Year. It goes: Plant, tend, harvest, release. Plant, tend, harvest release. If you follow moon cycles, for example, you know it’s the exact same thing. First there’s emptiness and potential… Then something begins to appear… Then it grows… Then it’s fully developed… Then it’s shrinking… And then finally it’s dark again, and the cycle repeats over and over.
Every heavenly body does this in some way. Human bodies do it – The most obvious of which is the woman’s menstrual cycle. But every body’s cells also have a way of regenerating and breaking down in this exact same pattern.
I was just so fascinated with the fact that everything in the Universe works with the same structure. I was wondering why we’re not taught this in more of a mainstream capacity? How come everybody doesn’t know that things (both energetic and physical) always follow this pattern? Learning how to understand and harness this pattern can help us to really go with the flow of life, rather than constantly fighting an uphill battle.
I realized my entire business, spiritual path, and lifestyle had become based around the Wheel of the Year structure, and I wanted people to know how this could help them too. I began creating a YouTube series where I offered journal prompts for each of the eight checkpoints on the Wheel of the Year, and shared and how people could use them to incorporate more balance and harmony into their lives.
Viewers shared with me how grateful they were for this knowledge, and told me about the incredible transformations they’d experienced from my journal prompts. I realized it was my passion and purpose to help people achieve their goals in this way. And the rest is history!
Now it’s my career to show people that we can take the inherent values and gifts we’re born with (as well as our biggest perceived weaknesses) and transform them into superpowers that create a legacy of love, wealth, health and fulfillment in our lives.
I know in the pagan community, a lot of people already follow the Wheel of the Year. But I know it can also be very difficult to actually merge your spiritual practice with your everyday life and your real life goals. I’ve noticed a lot of people saying “I don’t know if I have time to do anything for the Autumn Equinox,” or “I’m a terrible witch because I never get around to doing real rituals.”
If that’s you, I invite you to ask yourself… If you don’t have time for something that you claim is the essence of who you are (your spirituality), then are you living in alignment with your true self? Either it’s really not that important to you for you to make time for it, or something else in your schedule is out of whack and needs to be switched around so that you can really be practicing your spirituality – This is what seasonal alchemy empowers us to do!
And remember, you don’t actually need to “make time” to celebrate the Wheel Of The Year – You can instead incorporate it into your lifestyle. In my opinion, the ultimate goal with a spiritual path is to actually integrate your spirituality into your every day schedule and routine.
Even if I couldn’t make the time to do an official Autumn Equinox ritual, I would still feel that I’d benefited from the power of the autumn season – Because all of my personal and career goals (as well as simply the way I spend my leisure time and my self reflection time) is all naturally in alignment with the seasonal themes.
You don’t even necessarily have to carve out hours of your time to do something particularly, “woo-woo” or “witchy.” It’s really just about integrating seasonal living into your otherwise mundane tasks, so that you are always in harmony with the energy of the Universe.
I work with the Autumn Equinox by journaling on the following themes in the eight weeks surrounding the sabbat:
Gratitude and The Witch’s Thanksgiving
Research shows that, historically, pagan ancestors from all cultures always saw autumn as a time of thanksgiving, feasting, sharing and gratitude.
There’s a very natural reason for that – It’s because, in ancient societies, people were either farming all summer, or they were gathering the fruits of nature and getting prepared for winter. Autumn is the time when all of those rations, preparations and harvests are actually ready to eat, share and store.
I’ve read that the “original American Thanksgiving” (You know, that story about how pilgrims and Native Americans supposedly had this dinner together) originally took place closer to the Autumn Equinox. But President Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday of November in order to boost commerce for Christmas.
But it makes sense that it was originally closer to the Autumn Equinox, because naturally, in the northern hemisphere, the harvest really starts earlier in the fall. By late November, most of the harvesting has already been done. The Autumn Equinox is an amazing time to draw on the deeper aspects of the concept of “thanksgiving.”
Gratitude is a huge part of being a wealthy, wise witch. Not only is it just good to be thankful, as it makes you happier, healthier and more compassionate… But also, if you work with the Law Of Attraction, you know that what you focus on grows. If you focus on what you’re thankful for, you are creating space to manifest more to be grateful for. It’s very important to be thankful on a daily basis, otherwise you can get sucked into complacent or anxious patterns.
Knowing that the Autumn Equinox is coming, prioritize checking in with yourself and starting to reintegrate gratitude into your practice if it has fallen by the wayside. Or if you’re doing great with your regular gratitude practice, the Autumn Equinox is a great time to go even deeper or evolve your practice for the next chapter of your life.
Many people feel that Thanksgiving time is stressful due to societal expectatins or familial obligations. If you want to have a simplistic, genuine kind of thanksgiving with those who make you feel good, try having an Autumn Equinox “Friends-giving.” I’ve done this before – I just invite loved ones who might not be available later in the season to have a low-pressure, fun feast where everybody brings something and shares of their abundance together.
The Second Harvest: Preparation
There’s this interesting duality happening during this time of year: On the one hand the harvest is here, everything’s really abundant and we’re focusing on gratitude, abundance, sharing, feasting, and celebrating.
But on the other end of that spectrum, there’s also the awareness that winter is coming.
At the Autumn Equinox, the nights are actually getting longer than the days, meaning winter is pretty much starting. Where I live, it means it’s going to get super cold! But even if you don’t live in an environment where the weather changes dramatically, it’s still a time of remembrance that the sunlight is waning, the nights are closing in, and darkness is taking over.
It’s a time for turning your gaze inward, doing your inner reflection, rather than pushing yourself to be too extroverted. It’s a time for reflecting on where you’ve been and where you’re going in the year ahead. A time for spiritual practice and shadow work.
For me, preparedness for winter looks like setting my home up to be warm, comfortable and happy during the cold months. But it can also look like tracking your moods and knowing that you tend to go through a seasonal depression when the days are darker – And setting up your home and your lifestyle to be more happy, healthy and balanced.
It might mean signing up for yoga classes to make sure that you get up off your couch every day and get those endorphins flowing during the winter. It’s really just about making sure you’re prepared for nature being a less hospitable place for the next few months due to the lack of sunlight.
Equinox: A Time Of Balance
Since this is the time when the day and the night are equal and it’s getting ready to shift to the darkest part of the year, it’s a time to take a look at your sense of balance in life.
Where were you exuding a lot of energy over the summer? Are you burned out? Where is there an energy leak? Or have you been really successful, but it’s time to shift into a different way of being for the next season of your life?
It’s also really important to balance your light work and your shadow work. In the New Age community, some people call themselves “light workers” – It’s similar to what some people call a “white witch.” Essentially, it’s somebody who does a lot of blessings and healings and they put out energy in a way that is intended to help make the world a better place. That’s extremely important – To be a light in the world…
But it’s also extremely important to have balance, because it is literally impossible for the pendulum to not swing in both directions. If you’re swinging really far in the direction of “love and light,” the only way to sustain and maintain that is to also make sure you are digging deep and doing your shadow work as well.
Shadow Work is where you look at your own fears and perceived shortcomings, and recognize where your ego is running the show, or where you’re out of alignment. Instead of judging yourself or trying to pretend it’s not there, it’s about making peace with the shadow and learning new ways to integrate it into your lifestyle in a healthy way that can be transmuted into light work. So this time of year is a great time to start the process of shifting into that meditative mode in time for for the next sabbat on the witch’s calendar.
Samhain / November’s Eve / Halloween is really where we’re getting into the deeper shadow work. The Autumn Equinox is a little bit more lighthearted, but it is still about that balance of darkness and light – Realizing where in the cycle you are, feeling into what’s ahead and knowng what you’re leaving behind.
So, how will you be celebrating the Autumn Equinox?
Again, you don’t necessarily have to carve out an entire day to do some big, crazy ritual.
If you can, and it feels good, go for it! But it’s just as valid to simply have these concepts going on in the back of your mind as you’re living through your fall season.
It will be extremely helpful to keep yourself in alignment with the direction in which energy is moving so that you’re not swimming upstream. It’s much easier to manifest things when you’re in alignment with the direction that energy is already flowing.
Are you interested in learning more about the Autumn Equinox and this plant, tend, harvest, release cycle that everything in the Universe aligns with?
If so, I would love to invite you to do a guided journaling adventure I’ve created on exactly how to work with the energies of the Wheel Of The Year to plant, tend, and harvest your actual real life goals!
You can learn how to move toward your desires over the course of a year using this method. We also talk about how important it is to be gentle with yourself and make sure that you’re not trying to force yourself to manifest things that aren’t truly right for you, or to overwork yourself in any way that is not in alignment with the season of your life that you’re in. That’s where the “release aspect” comes into play!
Manifesting is a delicate dance between being emotionaly aligned with what you want, while also not being obsessively controlling about how exactly it has to happen. Aligning with the Wheel of the Year prompts you to know exactly what kind of energy you should be putting out there and what you should be doing to take care of yourself so you’re always living out your true purpose and most authentic expression.
Get instant access to the 45 minute training video, accompanied by a printable grimoire where you will map out your goals for the year ahead and align with your desires using the seasonal energies of the Wheel of the Year as a guide.
Or, do you want to dive right into the Autumn Equinox grimoire prompts?
I invite you to check out my seasonal living guide for the Autumn Equinox and join in the discussion with myself and other magickal mavens in our private member space.
See you there!
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