Very early in the morning (1:21 a.m. PDT) this Wednesday, September 23rd, autumn arrives in the Northern Hemisphere. While you may have learned of this online, earlier humans, who spent a lot more time outside than we do, used the sky as their calendar. They built observatories, like the one at Machu Picchu in Peru, which precisely indicates the equinoxes, which is when the sun crosses the celestial equator. Our ancestors knew what they were doing. The observatory at Machu Picchu is called the Intihuatana stone, which literally means “for tying the sun.”
The autumn equinox marks the transition from summer to fall. You can feel it in the air, and see it in the sky. Dawn comes later, sunset is earlier. Day by day, there is more darkness, less sunlight. Shorter days mean the weather is turning cooler. The sun’s arc is shifting towards the south, just like the birds and butterflies that are heading in that direction. The equinox is a good time to go outside, at sunrise or sunset, and note where the sun is on the horizon to establish due east and due west. As such, it’s a really good time to note your internal cardinal points. Are you charging full tilt into the east, pulled toward the light? Or are you moving due west, into the darkness?
An equinox is a time of balance, when day and night are of equal length (the sun sets 12 hours after it rises). At the Autumnal equinox, the sun enters the sign of Libra. If you look at the symbol for Libra, you’ll see that it represents the sun rising/setting in balance.
There’s a reason why ancient cultures created monuments and rituals based on the cycle of the sun. They wanted to align with the principles of the path to spiritual enlightenment, the real purpose of life. The four points of the year—the two equinoxes and the two solstices—create a symbolic cross, with the sun at the center. So the journey of the sun through the year is also the personal journey of your spiritual awakening, with each turning point being a time for reflection and inner alignment.
All ancient peoples recognized the autumn equinox as the start of the yearly descent to the underworld. In the Great Pyramid of Egypt, in certain years, the equinox is marked by the light of a star moving down the central axis of the descending passageway. In Mexico, at the El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza, when the sun sets on the equinox, it creates the visual effect of a serpent undulating as it descends the nine terraces (which depict the nine layers of the Mayan underworld) and lighting up the serpent head at its base. The Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico, faces the exact spot where the sun sets at autumn equinox. It is built over a cave, which is taken to be a passageway to the underworld. The giant statues on Easter Island also face the equinox sunset, marking the time of growing darkness.
In North America, there is a stone monument estimated to be over 4,000 years old, in Salem, New Hampshire, on a place called Mystery Hill. The standing stones point to sunrise and sunset during the equinoxes.
As a spiritual teacher taught by seers in these ancient cultures, I know that this week is a good time to ask yourself: are you ready to point in the direction of your own darkness? The colder months are generally a good time for inner “work”—going deep within your own psyche and taking inventory. Where are you on your journey? Are you fearful of what you might uncover in your personal underground? What are the beliefs you hold about yourself that are keeping you in darkness? What negative karma have you created that needs to be acknowledged and transmuted?
Consider doing some sort of private ritual to celebrate this sacred marker, when your focus can change from the sunny outer world to the riches and wisdom found within the darker time of year. You can sit in a totally darkened room or outside at night, if you live remotely where no lights can be seen, and meditate, eyes open, on your own relationship with the underworld. Observe your reactions to the darkness. Go past your fears and face whatever is within you. Can you reach a point of balance between your inner darkness and the inner light of consciousness, the east and west of your being? You might use energy healing techniques to help your chakras back into balance on this special occasion. Since this is the beginning of the darker months, you can do this type of meditation repeatedly as the nights get longer. When you have come to a point of acceptance and understanding, light a candle to banish the darkness.