~ KnockMa & The Autumnal Equinox ~The time of the Autumnal Equinox is now, and coincidentally it was traditionally celebrated in Ireland on a small mound in North Galway, better known as KnockMa. Just as Newgrange is the place of ritual significance for the Winter Solstice, KnockMa (known locally as Castlehackett Hill) was a place of spiritual significance and ritual also, particularly at this time of year. Bygone days saw major celebrations and fair days up the hill at this time, but when Christianity came to Ireland, these celebrations were known as “Pagan” and in an attempt to stamp out these traditions, the dates of such events were pulled slightly away over time. Similarly to how we celebrate Christmas (Dec 25th) just a few days after the Winter Solstice (Dec 21st) and eventually forgot the way of our ancestors and why they had picked certain dates. We moved away from honouring nature’s cycles and instead towards a Christian God. This post is not a debate on religion, but a mere recounting of stories passed down and how traditions were lost over time.Of course, a lot of the ways of tradition did survive the test of time, and in some recent years have seen a resurgence in their acknowledgment. All of this, allows us a good opportunity to see how our history with nature and traditions unfolded and evolved. In the case of KnockMa, the celebrations moved a little more towards the end of September and away from the Equinox date and over time people forgot why they were gathering on the hill. Inevitably, the fair dwindled and along with it the Celtic tradition and ritual and celebrations of the Sun in the area.If you ever needed an excuse to visit KnockMa, the thoughts of your ancestors visiting at this time of year, might just be the push you needed.* Why did our ancestors worship the Sun and create ritual around it? Well because our planet needs the sun to survive and the sun has a gravitational “pull” on the earth preventing us from spinning off into space. (That’s a pretty good reason right there
). Secondly it keeps us nice and cozy and roasty, toasty (despite our blaming the Connemara mountains in the west of Ireland for blocking its rays!). The sun allows our plants and crops to flourish and grow. It undoubtedly helps us feel better and elevates our moods on the days when it shines.Ancient tradition thought that if our entire planet literally revolves around the SUN, then this big ball of fire was pretty important and warranted honouring and giving thanks and essentially appeasing.Fact remains that life on Earth would cease pretty quickly if the Sun were to suddenly disappear – our modern day science has proved that and there is plenty of evidence to suggest that our ancestors knew it too. The celts were not alone in worshipping the Sun, many cultures around the world have created ritual around giving thanks to the Sun. Some even believed the SUN to be a sacred deity and there are ruins, monuments and festivals dedicated to the sun, the great shining light, in every corner of the globe. Many have survived and been tender to, proving time and time again that civilizations as far back as we can go, had designed rituals to honour and give thanks to the sun. KnockMa was one such place. There is an innate reason why so many people are drawn to it everyday, and it’s not just for the exercise. It’s a path that has drawn generation after generation, no small feat.In Ireland and in the Celtic calendar we have evidence of worshiping this magnificent ball of fire in every Season. In Spring (March) and in Autumn (September) we celebrated Equinox. And in Summer (June) and in Winter (December) we celebrated Solstice.Equinox and Solstice generally fall around the 21st or 22nd of the month.* EquinoxDictionary Definition: The time or date at which the sun crosses the celestial equator, when day and night are of equal length. [The celestial equator is an imaginary line in the sky above the Earth’s equator. When the sun crosses this line in the sky it shines its rays directly on the Earth’s equator. This can only occur twice a year (Spring (March) & Autumn (September)) and we call it an Equinox]Equ descents from Latin word Aequus meaning Equal. Nox is Latin for Night.Equinox is said to represent a time when we have exactly equal day light hours to night time hours.* SolsticeDictionary Definition: Either of the two times in the year, when the sun reaches its highest or lowest point in the sky at noon, marked by the longest and shortest days of the year.Sol in Latin simply means “the sun”.Sistere in Latin means “to make stand” Or “standstill”. We have a solstice only twice per year.The summer solstice in June marks the longest day of the year (more daylight hours than night hours) and the winter solstice in December marks the shortest day of the year (more night hours than daylight hours). This for the Northern Hemisphere (where Ireland is), the Southern Hemisphere is the opposite.* The Autumn Equinox and FarmingThe Autumn Equinox is one of four major events in our solar calendar for the year, but what did this mean for us mere mortals? Well the autumn equinox lands in the middle (peak) of autumn. Autumn is all about harvesting the crops that grew and matured all summer long. Autumn starts on the 1st of August on the Celtic calendar, which was known as Lughnasa.Lughnasa was a major pagan celebration and thanksgiving festival that it signified the time to reap the rewards of all the hard work of minding and growing crops. Lughnasa was a signal to farmers to start bringing in the harvest to store and sustain the family and animals for the cold winter months ahead.The autumnal equinox marked a significant date for many farmers. It meant that Autumn was at its peak and we were half way through Harvest time… it was a red flag warning that winter was on the way. Farmers aimed to have their crops indoors by the Equinox.* Danger!If you had all your harvest gathered then the Autumnal Equinox was the day that you got to breathe easy and pat yourself on the back for the hard work done. It was a time to rest both physically and mentally, safe in the knowledge that you had enough food to last all winter. By stark contrast if your harvest was not fully gathered, this date was your
WARNING that you’d better get moving and get the crops indoors as fast as possible, because the cold dark months will not abide for you… Winter is coming (can anyone else hear the Captain America theme tune? No? OK… moving on
). * Appealing to the SunIf the weather was bad until now, then this sacred holiday was used to appeal to the sun, in an invocation of prayer and song, to send along the fine days needed to get the harvest safely gathered.* The Autumn Equinox and Everyone ElseOf course not everyone had a harvest of grain or herds of cattle to gather in for the winter, but the harvest festival was still a time to reap the rewards of all the seeds you had planted in your life that year.What seeds/goals did you see for yourself last Spring? If you were not where you wanted to be, then this was a great time of year to seriously think about where it is you want to be and start taking actions towards that. It was a perfect time for spiritual reflection.*New StartThere is a lot of newness about September with the hustle and bustle of the new school year. It is a time that, regardless of Covid or anything else, the trees will shed their leaves and nature will continue her cycles. We can use it as a metaphor to shed away all the old energy and habits that no longer serve us. God knows we got to learn a lot about our needs and wants in this year like never before. We had the opportunity (& still do in many cases) to try new things, and bring out our creative side and learn patience & tolerance!!Personally this Equinox, I’m taking a minute to just give thanks for all I have and in particular the health of my nearest and dearest. I’m also going to take a leaf from the Celts and let Equinox be a signal that I’m only half way through harvest season so there’s still time to finish those projects and make any changes that I’ve been threatening to make. I’m also going to give thanks for sobriety. I decided last Christmas to take a year out from Alcohol and with all that happened this year I’m glad I didn’t have it as a crutch. It wasn’t always easy, but it has gotten easier, and I’m nine months alcohol-free, which I’m proud of.So there ya go – Happy Equinox! A great day to tip your hat to THE SUN… and pat yourself on the back for how far you’ve come and what you’ve put up with and learnt about yourself this year!