Monday, September 21, 2015

Equinox Rocks!

For artsies like me, autumn is a state of mind—a point in time when I suddenly have the urge to take a drive in the country and stop at a roadside stand for apple cider.

Autumn leaves, photo by Takeshi Kuboki

For geeks like my husband, autumn begins precisely when the sun crosses the celestial equator—which this year occurs at 4:21 am on September 23rd. There are pie charts and graphs and equations to warm the heart of any geek. But I prefer to celebrate autumn with pumpkin pie, and plenty of whipped cream, thank you.

In terms of mythology, we are leaving the season of the sun and entering the season of the moon—since in the winter season, the nights are longer and the moon spends more time in the sky.

Ancient Britons built Stonehenge to mark the occurrence of equinoxes and solstices.

Attrib: Wigulf~commonswiki

Ancient Mayans built a pyramid at Chichén Itzá to mark these astronomical events. At the autumn equinox, seven triangles became visible on the pyramid's staircase.

Photo: Manuel de Corselas

Examples of early American "equinox markers" include Mystery Hill in Vermont and Serpent Mound in Ohio.

Serpent Mound

The ancient Greeks said that Persephone was returning to the underworld to be with her husband Hades during the winter months. Curse that stupid pomegranate!

Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyan

The Chinese celebrate with a Mid-Autumn Festival. They eat Moon Cakes,  filled with lotus, sesame seeds, a duck egg or dried fruit. Looks delicious, doesn't it!

Photo by Lybil Ber

In Japan, the equinoxes are a time to visit the graves of your ancestors, and clean and decorate the graves.

Photo: Akitoshi Iio
It's amazing that people all over the earth have attached such great significance to celestial events, including the equinoxes. And it's amazing that after all these gazillions of circles around the sun, the heavens still run like clockwork, sending each season in its turn.

The Creation of the Sun and Moon, Michelangelo

We plough the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land;
But it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand:
He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.

All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all His love.

The Harvesters, Brueghel


  1. I look forward to your posts, Patty! I always learn something new, and your sense of humor always makes me laugh. This is a great post. I've been at Chichen Itza and climbed that pyramid. Going up was easy - coming down, terrifying! There are no railings, and it's very steep. The man ahead of us bumped all the way down on his bottom (: