This article is an extract taken from the book The Path of the Spiritual Sun.
The autumn equinox is a mysterious time. It marks an essential passage in the process of enlightenment that is often overlooked, misunderstood, and mistaken as dark and heretical.
It is the time of balance between day and night, before night takes over and brings the coming winter, a time of darkness and death. This duality between light and dark exists within humanity, and in the work of spiritual transformation. All things must die before they can be born, all spiritual ascent requires descent first, and all those who long for light must firstly face their own inner darkness and overcome it. The autumn equinox symbolizes a stage of inner preparation in the process of enlightenment—to make way for the Son to be born within at the winter solstice.
Remnants of the esoteric meaning of the autumn equinox can barely be found in lasting traditions from the times of ancient peoples who celebrated it and knew of its real significance. To discover the esoteric meaning by looking at rituals and traditions is not easy. There are many traditions which have been passed down today, but these have strayed from their root meanings. Different civilizations and cultures have added their own veneer, altering and losing much of the meaning as they themselves lost the knowledge of it.
Its meaning has been obscured with time, much more than the other three events in the wheel of the year. As the understanding of spiritual knowledge was lost, its meaning became vague and must have seemed to represent sinister, evil forces. Thus the symbols were given other meanings and turned into other things in the way that Santa Claus symbolizes Christmas day.
Parts of autumn equinox celebrations moved to cross quarter days (cross quarter days are produced when the wheel of the year is divided into eight instead of four; these days are called Samhain, Beltane etc. in Paganism) and meanings changed into celebrations of the dead, of evil spirits, harvest festivals, bonfires, sacrifices, drunkenness, and debauchery.
So you have to start with a knowledge of the process of enlightenment, to have a basis upon which you can search and piece together the jigsaw. Fortunately the builders of ancient sites such as the Great Pyramids left the message of the real meaning in their architecture, which mirrored the meanings found in the cosmos and survived in sketchy details through myths, legends, and religions throughout history.
What is the Autumn / Fall Equinox?
Equinoxes occur twice a year—in spring and autumn, when night and day are approximately equal lengths, which is when the sun crosses the equator.
Interestingly, in the northern hemisphere, the sun enters the astrological sign of Libra at the autumn equinox, which is the sign of the scales and of balance. The glyph for Libra represents the sun setting/rising, expressing the balance between night and day.
The autumn equinox heralds a time of growing darkness, as after it the sun continues to descend and diminish (as it has since the summer solstice) so that the nights are longer than the days, and increasingly so, bringing the change of seasons and the cold and death of winter.
The Larger Spiritual Context of the Autumn Equinox
The meaning of the autumn equinox is intertwined with that of the four points of the year (the two solstices, and the spring equinox), which each mark stages in the esoteric work that begin anew each year, and form a symbolic cross in the wheel of the year, with the sun (Son/Christ) at the center.
The solstices and equinoxes are to do with the journey and transitions of the sun, and the sun represents the Son, a both universal and personal spiritual force whose birth or incarnation into a spiritually prepared person has been enacted or allegorized symbolically by enlightened figures throughout time, such as Jesus, Dionysus, Horus, Mithras, Odin, Hu, Tammuz, Attis etc. and by the sun and stars in their movements in relation to the earth every year. This is why the lives of these great figures follow similar events which correspond with astrological movements e.g. the birthday of all these deities is celebrated at the winter solstice, and their death and resurrection at the spring equinox. This is no coincidence, but part of the greater design of the universe, revealing the process of spiritual awakening to humanity.
In times now lost, different groups of people understood this profound teaching and message that literally comes from above, and knew that the outer drama enacted in the heavens, was actually an inner representation of a human becoming spiritual, with the sun representing the spiritual aspect that incarnates within a person.
The Spiritual Meaning of the Autumn / Fall Equinox
Traditionally, the autumn equinox is a celebration of the harvest, as it is when summer has finished giving its fruits, which are collected in preparation for winter. But there are other indicators given by the most ancient sacred sites that mark the autumn equinox: a descending passage into a subterranean pit lit by a star of the dragon constellation in the Great Pyramid of Egypt, a seven-scaled feathered serpent of light descending a giant pyramid in Mexico, a giant Pyramid of the Sun aligned to the equinoxes built on a cave symbolizing the underworld, and even giant statues facing the sunset that leads to growing darkness on Easter Island.
What was known to the ancients is the part darkness plays in the work of spiritual transformation. Those in the orthodox superstitiously fear it, and many in the new age completely ignore it. But at the autumn equinox it can be found in the cycles of nature, and the alignment of our planet—and traces of it can be found here and there in ancient legends and myths that have become distorted over time.
The Rival of the Sun
In the ancient myths of Europe the sun god has a rival. He is the god of darkness, whose dominion is the night and the dark half of the year, which begins at the autumn equinox. This opposition between light and darkness has been depicted in the rivalry between the gods Gawain and the Green Knight, Llew and Goronwy, Lugh and Balor, the Oak King and the Holly King, etc.
In ancient Egypt the god Seth was the dark antithesis of the divine Son Horus. In Norse mythology, Höder is the god of darkness and blind brother of Balder, the god of the summer sun. In Aztec mythology the divine Son Quetzalcoatl has a twin brother called Xolotl, who was the dark aspect of Venus as the evening star, whilst Quetzalcoatl was Venus as the morning star.
The god of light is born three days after the winter solstice as the divine Son in traditions around the world (including the birth of Jesus as Christmas), because the sun, having reached its lowest and weakest point in the year, then begins its ascent as it gains strength toward summer. The god of darkness, however, is born three days after the summer solstice, as this is when the sun begins to diminish, and the nights and darkness begin to increase toward winter.
Some have confused John the Baptist, whose birthday is celebrated on June 24th (three days after the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere) as the equivalent of the god of darkness found in pagan traditions. John however, has a different role. He can be seen as both symbolic of the Avatar, the prophet who announces the coming of the Son in darkness before the light comes, and also the initiate, the one who starts in the darkness of their own subconscious, which is where each person begins the journey toward enlightenment.
It is from the autumn equinox onwards that the nights are longer than the days, and therefore darkness is greater than light. In some pagan traditions, this indicated that the god of darkness reigned supreme at this time of year. This god of darkness can personify and symbolize many different things, as darkness itself has many aspects to understand.
Copyright © Belsebuub & Angela Pritchard 2011
This is about 1/9 of the chapter on the spiritual meaning of the autumn equinox. Keep reading in the book The Path of the Spiritual Sun.