Celebrating Autumn Equinox: A Simple Ritual of Thanksgiving

My Autumn Equinox altar.

I feel like I could say that every holiday is my favorite one when it arrives, but this year I am especially excited about Autumn Equinox, which will be on Friday, September 22nd. It has been a long, hot, smokey summer, and the return of the autumn rains here in the northwest has me ready to cozy up on the couch with my knitting, my journal, and a good book to thoroughly enjoy the cool, showery weather. I’m already feeling the pull to turn inside myself as we enter this introspective season.

Autumn Equinox is also a time of giving thanks for what we have harvested in our lives so far this year, and I like to include a ritual of gratitude during my celebrations.

For this simple ritual, you’ll need a little bowl of some small item like dried beans, dried rose hips, rice, nuts, sunflower seeds, or a grain of some kind. You want whatever you use to be large enough to pick up piece by piece, so millet or quinoa might not be the best choice! You’ll also want a small jar or another bowl to transfer the items into.

You can do this as part of a larger ritual, or this can be your whole Autumn Equinox celebration.

Light a candle and cast a circle if you would like to. Or you could sit outside to do this ritual enjoying the sights and smells of autumn.

Take a few deep breaths and center yourself. Now, pick up one bean (or whatever you are using) and say something that you are grateful for, and transfer it to the other bowl or jar. Keep going until all your items have been transferred from one bowl to the other. You may have to get creative as you go on, depending on how many items you started out with, but it will help you remember all the things you are grateful for, even things you may not think of very often like having clean water flowing from your faucets, or the fan that kept you cool through the summer heat.

I keep this “gratitude bowl” on my Autumn Equinox altar, to help remind me of all the blessings in my life, and of all that I have harvested this year, big and small.

This year, I will also be adding a small jar of rainwater to my altar in thanksgiving for the return of the rains that have helped dampen the fires that have been burning here in the west, and have cleared the air of smoke. Blessed be the rain! Blessed be fresh air!

If you’d like, you can also do the Autumn Equinox tarot spread that I shared last year.

What seasonal changes are you seeing where you live? How do you like to honor the change in seasons from summer to fall?

May you have a blessed Autumn Equinox and a blessed fall!

A Blessed Autumn Equinox!

I hope everyone enjoyed the Autumn Equinox yesterday! I usually try to take the day off for each holiday and spend time outdoors enjoying the seasonal changes.

Yesterday, however, I woke up in a bit of a funk and it took me a while to get going. But I finally got dressed and headed out to one of the county parks along the Rogue River. I found a place to perch on a rocky outcropping next to the river and just sat there soaking in the beauty. I was mesmerized watching minnows swimming in the shallows near me. I find watching fish incredibly soothing, and it seemed like a nice reminder to flow with the changes as we enter this watery Autumn season.


The view from my rocks

A couple of guys asked me if I would keep an eye on their boat while they went to pick up their second car. I must look trustworthy! I didn’t mind doing it, although I amused myself by trying to figure out exactly what I would do if someone did try messing with their boat. Throw river rocks at them?

A man came down with his son and went for a swim in the river while the little boy splashed along the edge. Whew—that water is COLD, and it was only in the 60s (our first cool day, really). Oregonians are a hearty group!

Another couple wandered down to the rocks I was sitting on and we talked about fish and they told me about their koi pond at home. It always amazes me how friendly people are around here! I thought people in Portland were friendly, but people down here are much more likely to strike up a conversation (or ask you to watch their boat!).

As always, time outside and time by the river worked their magic and I was in a much better mood when I left the park.

I spent the rest of the afternoon making an Apple Molasses Snack Cake, then held my personal Autumn Equinox ritual during which I did my tarot reading. All in all, it was a really nice day and a great way to welcome Autumn. I’m looking forward to cooler weather, wearing scarves, drinking hot chocolate, buying pumpkins, and most of all—rain! The valley is dry and dusty and desperately in need of a good soaking.


My Autumn Equinox altar

May your autumn season be blessed!

A Tarot Spread for Autumn Equinox

For several years I did a tarot reading on each of the eight holidays of the Wheel of the Year asking what I needed to know during the next turn of the wheel. I got out of the habit of doing that this past year, but decided it was time get back into the habit again, and pulled out this Autumn Equinox spread that I created a couple of years ago. Much of the inspiration for the spread comes from Joanna Powell Colbert, creator of the Gaian Tarot, which I used below for my own reading. She often uses the “overall theme,” “key opportunity,” and “key challenge” elements in her spreads, and I find they work really well in my seasonal spreads. In addition to those, I add three cards regarding topics or issues related to the current seasonal theme.


Question: What do I need to know during the next turn of the wheel?

  1. Overall Theme
  2. Key Opportunity
  3. Key Challenge
  4. What I most need to let go of
  5. My most important harvest so far, something to be grateful for/proud of
  6. The internal work that most needs to be done as the light wanes

My reading was a bit intense!


My reading, using the Gaian Tarot

  1. Overall Theme: Bindweed — The Gaian Tarot book calls this card “life out of balance.” During this turn of the wheel I may be challenged to maintain balance in the midst of many demands for my time and attention. It will be important not to give into despair or slip into escapism through my favorite addictions (like eating too much junk food or bingeing on too much Netflix!). It will be important to consciously seek to respond in healthy ways to the challenges I may face during this time.
  2. Key Opportunity: Five of Fire — The opportunity of this time is to practice courage and face my fears and challenges head on.
  3. Key Challenge: Four of Air — It will be a challenge for me to create boundaries, to take the time I need for meditation, reflection,  and journaling to help me stay calm when things get difficult. This card has also been showing up a lot for me as reminder not to hide away, safe in my nest, and refuse to face things. So I will be challenged to put into practice the courage of facing problems (as indicated by the Five of Fire), instead of hiding, which is the more comfortable response for me.
  4. What I most need to let go of: Seven of Earth — I most need to let go of impatience and trying to force things to happen. Growth is a slow and steady process, and it is time to trust that the work I am doing now, the seeds I am planting, will sprout and grow in their own best time. I can let go of trying to control everything.
  5. My most important harvest so far: Five of Air — I have taken steps to move past the conflicting inner voices that have kept me stuck and confused for far too long, and have moved forward to claim my own space and speak my truth in the world. (But it is still really scary!)
  6. The internal work that most needs to be done as the light wanes: Ten of Earth — I wasn’t quite sure how to interpret this card at first, but my eyes kept being drawn to the nurse stumps in the foreground. I think this means that the internal work I need to do is to cultivate trust that, as Julian of Norwich wrote, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” I need to learn to trust that new growth can spring forth even from places that seem dead and barren. To trust that even as things pass away in my life, there are always fresh, new experiences to take their place and bring life and hope to me again.

I hope your own reading with this spread is just as juicy. I’d love to hear about it! I’m kind of bracing for impact after my reading!

Bright harvest blessings to you all!