The Fall Equinox initiates the fruitful season of autumn. Fields and gardens are bountiful, inspiring us to reflect upon and feel gratitude for the abundance in our lives. It’s a beautiful time to share nature’s plenty in canned, cooked, and fermented forms with friends and loved ones, with dishes built around seasonal ingredients like apples, pumpkins, squash, grapes, and grains, just to name a few. In Northern European Pagan traditions, this turning point is honored with a mid-harvest festival known as Mabon, an event celebrated with communal feasting, dancing, and rituals to channel the new energy of the changing seasons.
The Equinox also marks a moment of perfect balance between darkness and light, when the daytime and nighttime meet equally before days begin to shorten with winter’s approach. This shift offers us a wonderful opportunity to pursue balance for ourselves as well, to take stock of the different areas of our lives and work towards bringing them into alignment. To do so, look to the practices of those who came before us, the plants that surround us, and the cosmic influences that move us for guidance and aid.
Astrological Insights for the Fall Equinox
Autumn signals the start of Libra season: September 23 through October 22. Appropriate to the Equinox, Libra is the sign of balance, but also justice, tact, honesty, and equality—its ultimate goal is equilibrium. It is the marriage of the planet Venus (bringer of love, balance, harmony, artistry, self care, beauty) with Air (element of the intellect, mental clarity, communication, new beginnings).
Herbs for the Autumn Equinox
By working with planetary, elemental, and natural energies of autumn, we can intentionally invite more balance, harmony, and productive communication into our lives. There are a number of plants that can help us in this endeavor:
Cinnamon: Correlated with the elements of Air and Fire and associated with the planet Mercury, cinnamon has been said to attract money, peace, and spiritual attunement. This quintessential autumn ingredient is often baked into apple pies, used to garnish pumpkin spice lattes, or added to other harvest feast favorites—and with good reason! Carminative cinnamon is warming and moistening, and it is often used to support healthy digestion, blood sugar regulation, and normal cholesterol levels, making it a useful balm against holiday overindulgence.
Apple: Linked to the elements Water and Earth and to the planet Venus, this fruit is sacred to goddesses Aphrodite and Freya and is a symbol of love and immortality. Crushed apple leaves can be placed on a fresh wound to discourage corruption, and their powdered peel makes for a divine-smelling addition to a cleansing fall incense blend. Apples were often featured in Pagan Mabon altars to thank the gods for a bountiful harvest. Apples bring their own regulating influences to a harvest-laden table. They are high in fiber and can be used to support regularity, especially when stewed. They also contain malic and tartaric acids which may help with gout, and the pectin in fresh apples may contribute to healthy cholesterol levels.
Lavender: This beautifully scented herb is paired with the element Air and the planet Mercury. Lavender lore touts its ability to encourage healthy and open communication when smelled, attract love when worn, and bring peace when sprinkled throughout a household. Medicinally, it is a wonderful first aid plant to help cleanse minor wounds and soothe burns and bites. Lavender’s calming volatile oils are supportive to sleep and stress relief. To enjoy its serene energy, release lavender essential oil in a diffuser, steep its flowers in a sleepy time tea, or powder it for incorporation into an incense blend for reflection and purification (see recipe below).
Rose: This legendary flower is connected to the element of Water and the planet Venus. Rose is the ultimate love herb and has been harnessed for centuries to bring romance and sensuality into people's lives. It is even recorded that Cleopatra doused herself in rose oil to make herself more desirable, sparking a trend for rose as an aphrodisiac perfume. Therapeutically, rose has astringent and cooling properties that are helpful for skincare, and like many Autumn Equinox herbs, they can also aid digestion. Roses are mood lifting and help tend to the heart space, so add rose to your incense blend to bring artistry and warm the heart.
Incense Cleansing for the Fall Equinox
Autumn Equinox rituals often focus on revitalizing the energy in our lives. Trees do not hold onto their dead leaves for the next year, but rather, they let them fall away with grace. This is a useful metaphor on which to meditate as we work to shed what is no longer serving us and to bring more calibration to our daily rhythms. By identifying and releasing what has passed out of usefulness, we make room for new growth to come. Burning incense is a traditional way to purify the spirit and start fresh.
Incense is as old as humankind. In many religious traditions, herbs and resins are burned as offerings to the divine, or to cleanse the spirit and the space, inviting protection and peace. For the Autumn Equinox, incense is specifically used to clear old, stagnant energy and to make room for new insight and inner balance. As we turn inward for fall and winter, we can look to incense to support us in letting go of patterns and stories that no longer serve us and to rejuvenate our energy field.
Autumn Incense Recipe
- 1 tsp. apple peel or dried apple
- 1/2 tsp. lavender flowers
- 1/2 tsp. rose petals
- 1 tsp. powdered cinnamon
- 2 tsp. powdered myrrh resin
- Grind up herbs with mortar and pestle or in clean coffee grinder until finely powdered.
- Combine all ingredients in bowl, and stir to combine.
- Transfer blend to an airtight container to store.
- To use, place a pinch of incense blend on a lit charcoal disk set atop a heat-safe surface to release cleansing smoke.
How to Make a Mabon Altar
We can combine the symbolic and ritual elements of the Fall Equinox into a reflective and celebratory space to practice gratitude, reflection, and energy renewal. Clear a space in a calm indoor or outdoor setting, then gather some elements that represent the season. These might include fallen leaves, candles, and other decorations in autumnal orange, brown, gold, and scarlett, as well as the fall foods discussed above and other traditional Mabon plants like ginger, elderberry, white oak bark, chamomile, or star anise. Arrange your bounty around (and a safe distance from!) a spot to burn your fall incense (see recipe above), let the smoke fill the space, and take some time to meditate on your intentions for the season ahead.
Fall Equinox Meditation
Recall your struggles from the months before, acknowledge your fatigue and hurt...and then release this tension, wafting the fragrant incense smoke over your body to carry away the energy. When you feel clean and emptied, call to mind the abundance and beauty you are blessed with right now, and open yourself to gratitude. Let the sight and scent of your altar fill your senses and spirit, preparing you to greet the months ahead with renewed energy and purpose.
Happy Autumn, everyone!
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Written by Jules Benefico. Jules is a Clinical Western Herbalist and the Retail Manager at Five Flavors Herbs. She studies medical astrology, western alchemy, and clinical nutrition and infuses this into her herbal practice.