8 Restorative Autumn Equinox Rituals

September 17, 2023

Can you feel it? That gust of cool air that softly carries a golden leaf down to its final resting place? Have you noticed the mornings are a bit darker everyday? Or the sun setting a little bit earlier each evening? The autumn equinox is upon us, and it is often a welcome reprieve from the long hot days of summer. This is one of my favorite shifts on the Wheel of the Year, as I have many autumn equinox rituals I practice to celebrate the beginning of the darker half of the year.

Autumn Equinox Rituals

What is Autumn Equinox?

The autumn equinox, typically falls on September 22 or 23 in the Northern Hemisphere, or March 20 or 21 in the Southern Hemisphere. We have two equinoxes per year – one marking the beginning of spring, and the other marking the beginning of autumn. ​​An equinox signifies when the sun is positioned above the equator, which results in an equal length of day and night. Which means darker days are ahead.

Wheel of the Year

The autumn equinox, also referred to as Mabon, is one of three harvest festivals on the Wheel of the Year, in between Lughnasa and Samhain. Traditionally, this was a time when farmers would gather the last of their crops from the fields and take inventory of what they had to get through the long winter ahead.

This was a time when they were quite literally reaping what they sowed around the time of the spring equinox. It is the end of a growth cycle as the earth prepares to enter a stage of death and decay – a necessary stage before new growth can occur.

Oftentimes, we find ourselves in a similar stage in our lives. The dreams, intentions and goals we set for ourselves earlier in the year are coming to close. During this dark time, we turn inward and take note of what we have accomplished and what we may want to change. Connecting with this seasonal shift gives us a great opportunity to help us grow – just like our gardens. These autumn equinox rituals will help you settle deeper into that connection.

Autumn Equinox Rituals

1) Gather seeds from your garden

Gathering seeds

Around this time, you will start to notice much of your summer garden is going to seed. Gathering seeds may be one of my favorite autumn equinox rituals. As I gather the seed heads of marigolds and calendula, I reflect on the fact that I hold in my hands both life and death. The end of life for this flower literally contains new life for many more flowers. It is quite beautiful and provides comfort and perspective on the necessity of death. It also allows me to gather seed for my garden next year – and to have seed to share with others.

2) Sow seeds for fall/winter garden

Speaking of new life, there is still time in the year to sow more seeds for a fall garden! There are many fast-growing vegetables that can be ready to harvest in 30-60 days before the first frost. And many of these vegetables can even survive (and sometimes thrive) in mild winters. I provided a list of vegetables that will do well in a fall garden here. Make sure to include this in your autumn equinox rituals so you don’t miss out on your fall garden!

3) Harvest the last fruits from your garden

As we head into colder days, our summer gardens will be coming to an end. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and summer squash will start to slow down production. So make sure to harvest the last fruits before they take their final rest. Take time to process and/or freeze the over abundance so you can have little tastes of summer to brighten the dark days of winter.

Autumn Equinox Rituals Harvesting fruits

4) Spend time in nature

This is something I would encourage you to do, no matter what day it is! But especially on the autumn equinox. Simply sitting out in your garden for 15-20 minutes can allow your senses to connection with the seasonal shift. What can you see, smell, hear, feel and taste that signifies we are heading into autumn. The change in color of leaves, the smell of wood fire, the sound of squirrels scattering about as they forage for seeds and nuts, the feeling of leaves crunching underfoot, and the taste of root vegetables, pumpkins and apples from our gardens. Take the time to be present with those sensations to connect deeper with autumn.

5) Go apple picking

Autumn Equinox Rituals - Apple picking

Speaking of apples – apple picking is one of the most quintessential autumn equinox rituals. Perhaps you already have an apple tree in your garden – I’m lucky enough to have two! If not, check out local apple orchards and make a day of it. The experience of picking your own apples fresh off of a tree is such a magical way of connecting with the season! Make sure to plan something special for those apples, such as making applesauce, apple cider, or apple bread!

6) Forage for medicinal herbs

This autumn equinox, I will be spending in community with other herbalist as we forage for medicinal herbs and wildcraft our medicine out in nature. And I am so incredibly excited for it. Depending on where you live, there may be many different herbs that are ready to forage around the autumn equinox, including:

  • Elderberry
  • Nettle seed
  • Oregon grape root
  • Hawthorn berry
  • Dandelion root
  • Chicory root
  • Rosehips
  • Burdock root
  • Doug fir
  • Juniper berry
Hawthorn berry

7) Declutter your house

It is often said that autumn is the second spring. This can be in both our gardens and our homes. There is something about the equinox shift that sparks a need to purge. We clean up our garden to lay them to rest. And we clean up our houses to prepare to spend more our our days indoors. Take this time to inventory your house and release whatever no longer serves you. I personally love to donate to my community via Buy Nothing, as the gift economy is a truly magical thing.

8) Journal

Of all the autumn equinox rituals, I never skip writing in my journal. The autumn equinox is a potent time for reflection. Take some time and write down what is coming up for you during this equinox. If you are feeling stuck, here is a journal prompt:

As we begin to shift into the darker half of the year, what in my life is in need of balance? What do I need this in order to restore that balance?

Garden journal garden blog

Autumn Equinox Poem

I leave you with a poem from one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. She was a true master at being present for the shifts in seasons and gift us with her words to help us wake up to our own connection. Please enjoy her poem, Song for Autumn.

Song for Autumn – Mary Oliver

In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come – six, a dozen – to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.

If you are interested to learn more about other celebrations on the Wheel of the Year, check out my posts on the spring equinox and the summer solstice.

I hope you enjoy these autumn equinox rituals, dear gardeners. Happy autumn equinox!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *