Vernal Equinox (March) | Autumnal Equinox (September)
The Spring Equinox
The first great Gate stood open wide. A voice came through that portal: "Hercules, my son, go forth. Pass through the Gate and enter on the Way. Perform thy labor and return to me, reporting on the deed." With shouts of triumph Hercules rushed forth, running between the pillars of the Gate with over-weening confidence and surety of power.
The Vernal Equinox is the time when the Sun reaches the balancing point in its path through the zodiac. It marks the beginning of the new astrological year, as the Sun enters the first degree of Aries, the Ram. It happens this year on March 20 (eve of March 21)—while Mercury, the cosmic magician, is retrograde. This major calendrical event is the focus of religious and social festivities in all cultures, not just the Christian celebration of Easter.
The death of the old year and the rebirth of the new has been celebrated since time immemorial, on or around the spring equinox, which is why the death and resurrection of Jesus is celebrated at this time. Aries is the sign of the exaltation of the Sun, for it marks the time when the days of light begin to outstrip the nights of darkness (for this reason the Ram is also the fall of Saturn).
The word equinox means "equal night": the duration of the day being equal to that of the night, an event which occurs but twice a year, the one marking the astrological beginning of spring and the other the ending of summer. The Autumn, or Fall Equinox marks the harvest celebrations in September, as outlined later in this article.
Astrologically, the March Equinox marks the entry of the Sun into the Cardinal, Fire Sign of Aries, the Ram. Aries is traditionally ruled by Mars, so the ancient Roman festivals of the equinox centered around Mars (hence the name of the month "March"). The Lupercalia was a fertility festival at this time, said by Cicero to be so ancient as to have been instituted before civilisation and law existed. The name "Easter" derives from the ancient fertility festival of the goddess Eostre, the teutonic goddess of spring. All cultures have spring festivals of this type.
The Autumnal Equinox
And Hercules, who is a son of man and yet a son of God, passed through the seventh Gate. The power of the seventh sign passed through him. He knew not that he faced a dual test, the test of friendship rare and the test of courage unafraid.
The Autumn, or Fall Equinox is the time when the Sun reaches the opposite balancing point in its path through the tropical zodiac. The word equinox means "equal night": the duration of the day being equal to that of the night, an event which occurs but twice a year, the one marking the astrological beginning of spring and the other the ending of summer. It is the time of ripening and harvest, marked astrologically as the Sun enters the first degree of Libra, the Scales, on the eve of September 24, hence Saturn, the "grim reaper", is exalted in Libra. Libra is not just the season of "Fall", but as night begins to outstrip the day, is also the "Fall" of the Sun—being the opposite sign to Aries, the sign of the Sun's exaltation. This year, the Equinox occurs on September 23, just after the Solar Eclipse in Virgo on September 22.
Astrologically, the September Equinox marks the entry of the Sun into the Cardinal, Air Sign of Libra, the Scales. Libra is traditionally ruled by Venus, but is also the sign of the exaltation of Saturn, the "grim reaper". Ancient agricultural societies celebrated the harvest with festivals of one kind or another, usually marking them with sacrifices to ward off the evil spirits and spirits of the dying year. The burning of the Corn Dolly is associated with the death of the corn god, and the crossing of the the border between long days of light and long nights of darkness.
NOTE: in southern latitudes, of course, the equinoxes are reversed, so that the spring character of Easter in the Northern Hemisphere becomes an autumn celebration in Australia, South Africa, South America, New Zealand and other places south of the equator. This presents something of a problem for Christianity and for Astrology, or any other seasonal philosophy with claims to universality, a question which is partially addressed on this site in Ian Thurnwald's article on the Elemental Qualities, the building blocks of astrology. However, the tropical zodiac seems to delineate cultural forms (archetypes) within the Cosmic Mind. Our connection via the collective unconscious (see The Living Signs by Steven Birchfield on this site) enables us to interpret these forms using astrology, even though the physical seasons may not actually comply with the symbolism.
The Solstices mark the other points of the Cardinal Cross. Click here to read more on The Solstices
Click here to view a Table of Equinoxes and Solstices
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