We measure time in natural cycles; days and nights, the waxing and waning moon and seasons. Equinoxes and solstices are calculated according to the positions of the earth and the sun. The fall equinox is today, September 22nd - when day and night are the same length.
Ancient peoples created monuments marking the precise moment of the seasonal shift. Why? In earlier times people lived more “in tune” with nature. We may think it’s less relevant for us today, but our bodies tell a different story!
The equinox is much more significant than the coming of fall, harvesting and preparing for the winter months (or starting school.) The rituals of fall make us feel more connected to the natural world, but the planetary dynamics during the equinox directly affect our physiology in big ways.
We are intimately responsive to the sun and its light. As morning dawns, our body literally wakes up as sunlight activates at least 10% of our DNA and 20,000 proteins! Cortisol, as well as other hormones and chemicals, flood our body. These variations are orchestrated by the master glands of the endocrine system - the hypothalamus, pituitary and especially the pineal gland. Our daily circadian rhythms are minor compared to the seasonal changes we experience.
The pineal gland sits in the middle of the brain, at the root of the 6th and 7th chakras. It responds to light and darkness, and regulates our physiology accordingly. I believe it is ground zero for consciousness in the body. At the equinox, the sun generates extra radiation and activity called solar storms, and the charged particles affect us more because the earth’s magnetosphere is at its weakest. The northern lights are more vibrant at this time because of this interplay of energy.
The ancients must have sensed that this burst of energy from the sun literally “resets” our physiology and rhythms for the next six months - a time of gathering, consolidating, and drawing inward. The electromagnetic information influences our bodies to metabolize food differently, need more sleep and feel like “hibernating.” Our biological responses to time and light have inspired a whole field of science called chronobiology.
Spiritually we are called to slow down, reflect and re-vision the future as we enter into a period of increasing darkness. The veil thins in the fall. We go back to the womb of great stillness and depth to experience a different kind of harvest. I always honor the Hindu goddess of death, Kali, at this time (the one with the necklace of skulls.) Eventually we will be re-birthed at the spring equinox, so make use of this part of the cycle and engage appropriately!
How to celebrate? If you’re lucky enough to be at one of the sacred sites to experience the equinox, you may sense how they not only mark the moment but ground the celestial energy coming in at this time. Closer to home, we have many wonderful community celebrations and rituals in the fall. These festivities aside, I would like to suggest a more personal, individual way to acknowledge and enhance the energy available to us. Spend time outdoors for 15 minutes during dawn and/or dusk, when the influence of the sun’s light is always strongest. The best time for this “equinox bath” is over a 3 day period - the day before, after and during. It’s primordial magic, recognized by our ancestors throughout time!
Peace, love and healing -
*Special thanks to Azra Betrand for this practice, and his equinox insights.