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How to Celebrate the Autumn Equinox in Appalachia

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

September 20-23

Sunset in the Black Mountains.
Sunset in the Great Craggy Mountains.

A Beautiful Dying

Green leaves, changing to yellow and red and orange in the clear and crisp air. Plants ornamented with fruits and fields ready to harvest, the Autumnal Equinox defines the annual change from summer to fall. Known by many names in many cultures, this date marks a balancing between the light half of the year and the dark half of the year—opposite the Vernal Equinox at the start of spring.

Rowan (mountain-ash) berries on Craggy Pinnacle.
Rowan (mountain-ash) berries on Craggy Pinnacle.

Pagan Thanksgiving

As the end of summer, this date is the second of three main harvest festivals falling halfway between Lughnasadh (Lammas, 1 August) and Samhain (Halloween, 31 October) on the Gaelic calendar. According to the ancient Orphic tradition, the goddess Persephone descends to the Underworld in late September to pass the winter months among the seeds, roots, and souls of the dead. Symbolized by the cornucopia like the goddess Demeter, mother of Persephone, celebrations around the Autumnal Equinox can resemble the harvest holiday known as Thanksgiving. More recently, some Pagans (especially Wiccans) refer to it as Mabon after the Welsh figure Mabon ap Modron from the Mabinogion.

View from Craggy Pinnacle.
View from Craggy Pinnacle.


Autumn is for apple pickin, cider drinkin, leaf peepin, home decoratin, food makin, and thanks giving. Clean the house and bake delicious sweets before the spirits of the dead come by for their annual visit in the spooky season ahead. In addition to the many fruits and grains to harvest, you could also take a stroll to collect pine cones or begin gathering the colorful fallen leaves before they turn brown.

At the edge of autumn.
At the edge of autumn.

Appalachian Autumn

In the Appalachian Mountains, the rowan trees present their scarlet bundles while the last of the aster petals cling to their buds. Monarch butterflies flicker across the continent, returning to warmer winters farther south. Acorns, beechnuts, walnuts, and more drop to the ground for the critters to gorge on or stash away. Every corner of the planet shows the passing of the seasons in different ways, so pay attention to the changes happening in your neighborhood. Observe the weather, the plants, the birds and other animals, or any other shifts in your environment to signify this recurring point in the wheel of the year. As the global climate continues to change, these markers will also keep shifting everywhere on Earth.


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