it hardly seems you left us
we can feel the chill in the early morning
smoke hangs low in the air
here and there the tree’s strong autumn colors show
the odd hint of a summer missed
will you give us sunny days
ease us into winter
we pray for the bounty of this odd season
and for those most in need
mother earth we ask you care for all
wrap them in your protective cloak
for we know the chill of winter is on our heels
-Lady Cu, 2011
On the day of the Autumn Equinox, the Earth’s poles are the same distance from the Sun. The Sun rises due east, sets due west, and reaches 52 degrees above the horizon at noon. There are roughly 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. The Autumnal Equinox is almost exactly halfway between the winter and summer solstices, and in the sky the sun appears about midway between its highest and lowest points. It is one of the two times of the year when light and dark are very close to being equal with each other; the other time being the Spring Equinox.
Whereas at the Spring Equinox we acknowledge seeding, birthing, and childhood, at autumn we acknowledge the maturation of those seeds, births and beginnings. At the Spring Equinox our focus is on the sun rising in the air, or upper world if you like. At the Autumn Equinox our focus is on the sun setting into the watery regions of the lower world. Night and the dreamtime are at hand. Once the sun sets we are more inclined to rest and review the day.
In our night sky there is a constellation called Eridanus, the River, to the southwest at this time. This river of stars begins at the feet of Orion. Meandering toward the west, it loops back on itself and dips south becoming lost from view to most northern hemisphere observers. Those below 32 degrees north latitude are able to see the river Eridanus winding and tumbling down amongst the southern constellations to end with a magnificent splash at the bright star Achernar, almost level with the second brightest star in the night sky, Canopus, the Helmsman. Achernar is the brightest star in the constellation of Eridanus and the ninth brightest star in the night sky. The word Achernar is from Arabic ‘Al Ahir al Nahr’, meaning ‘the End of the River’. This bluish-white supergiant star never sets in Melbourne and is one of our circumpolar stars.
As well as rivers in the sky, Autumn and the West are associated with rivers on the land and the salmon that live in such rivers, and other bodies of water. For anglers here in Melbourne, the cooler weather signals the time to put away snapper and whiting gear and start chasing salmon and bream. With the colder weather, the salmon schools increase along our surf beaches such as Gunnamatta, giving us a direct link with the Salmon of Wisdom, per the old tales. Just so, it’s time to brush up on our stories and prepare for cooler days and winter fires.
Typically autumn signals the return of weather that favours slowing down, introspection, and conservation. How do you react to this ‘cooling down’ time? True, we can still experience some seriously hot weather at the end of March and early April, but mostly it is cooler than the summer months. Will you grant yourself the time to watch the sun set and reflect on your life? Or gaze at the stars and ponder the significance of it all?
In the OBOD Alban Elfed booklet it is written that within the cycle of our lives, Autumn could be called a Time of Fulfilment: “We look back on the achievements and experience of our lives, and like a vintner admiring their ripe grapes in the golden glow of autumn, we can let of of striving, and enjoy instead the fruit of our lives and our year – at whatever age.” We give thought to what we have learned.
And from the OBOD Solo Ceremony: “As the Earth yields its harvest, so too does my life. I give thanks…”