Tap into your inner Pagan on the first day of autumn.

Happy Autumn! According to the National Weather Service, this year’s autumnal equinox will occur at 4:18 PM CST.
vintage autumn leaves
Ignore the oddball Victorian Christmas wish on this lovely fall postcard!

While we tend to think of the equinox as a day-long event, it is actually a moment in time when the sun is directly over the equator (sort of), creating an equal amount of day and night (more or less). Wikipedia offers an excellent, if somewhat complex, explanation of the equinoxes. If you're into astronomy, charts, very cool celestial diagrams, and words like "equinoctial" and "heliocentric," this Wikipedia page is for you.

This equinox is “the first day of fall” for most of us -- bringing the promise of leaf peeping, football games, pumpkin pies, and Halloween. But to my pre-Christian Celtic ancestors, and to those who follow their ancient traditions by way of Paganism, Wicca and other nature-based spiritual paths, the autumnal equinox -- also known as "Mabon" and "Harvest Home" -- focuses on the second harvest (the first occurring in early August) and signals the coming of winter. It is a time to gather indoors around home and hearth, and a time to turn inward spiritually to reflect on the passing year. The equinox brings us closer to Samhaim, or Halloween, which is the traditional end of the pre-Christian seasonal cycle -- the Pagan new year!

Autumn is a natural opportunity to enjoy crisp cold air and the foods that are harvested at this time of year (in our neck of the woods, anyway):  apples, corn, and squashes -- and that means pumpkin.  I LOVE just about anything with pumpkin in it!  My best friend recently discovered the recipe site Everything Pumpkin -- all pumpkin recipes, all the time.  Dreamily autumnal, in my book. Besides cooking (which I'll be doing even more of as the weather turns chily), there are many ways to celebrate the equinox like the pagans do.
Kinnin's pumpkin pie
Pumpkin pie! My teenage son made this beauty.

Akasha Ap Emrys offers a nice description of some symbols, colors, foods and stones that embody the autumnal equinox, and suggests Mabon activities such as "Making wine, gathering dried herbs, plants, seeds and seed pods, walking in the woods, scattering offerings in harvested fields, offering libations to trees, adorning burial sites with leaves, acorns, and pine cones to honor those who have passed over" to help you celebrate this season. Earth Witchery suggests making grapevine wreaths, scented pinecones, and apple dolls to usher in fall. Even if you just light some pretty autumn colored candles, take a walk and collect some fallen dried leaves, or tie some dried harvest corn onto your door knocker, you'll help your inner pagan feel the spirit of the equinox. Or, if it's easier, rustle up a slice of apple or pumpkin pie (and maybe a scoop of ice cream to go with!).
Piper in leaves
Piper knows what to do when fall arrives.

Karen Charboneau-Harrison of Isisbooks.com reminds us that Mabon falls during the astrological sign of Libra (mine! one of many reasons I love autunn), whose emphasis on balance parallels the equinox’s “time of equilibrium, when light and dark, day and night are equal.” So step (or look, or just think about going) outside at 4:18 p.m. (or the equivalent time in your neighborhood) to enjoy this time of equal day and night, say goodbye to summer, and rejoice in the arrival of beautiful, colorful, crisp, cool, delicious autumn.