Pectoral,_Horus_and_Seth_(Myers_Museum)_copyright Paul James Cowie

An Egyptian adornment worn over the chest which shows the duality between the rival gods Horus on one side, and Seth on the other, amidst other symbols

 

The autumn equinox is a mysterious time. It marks an essential passage in the spiritual work that is often overlooked, misunderstood, and mistaken as dark and heretical.

The autumn equinox is the time of balance between day and night, before night takes over and brings the coming winter, a time of darkness and death. This duality between light and dark exists within humanity, and in the work of spiritual transformation. All things must die before they can be born, all spiritual ascent requires descent first, and all those who long for light must firstly face their own inner darkness and overcome it.

We will look at the esoteric meaning of the autumn equinox, remnants of which can barely be found in lasting traditions from the times of ancient people’s who celebrated it and knew of its real significance, and how it is still relevant to those wishing to do a spiritual work and celebrate it in tune with the rhythms of the cosmos today. Generally, the more ancient the site or tradition, the closer it is to the spiritual message.

For reading on the ancient sites which align to the autumn equinox,...

What is the Autumn / Fall Equinox?

Equinoxes occur twice a year—in spring and autumn, when night and day are approximately equal lengths, which is when the sun’s path crosses the equator.

symbol of the starsign of Libra

the symbol of the star sign of Libra

 

The summer solstice is when the sun is at its most Northerly pinnacle in the sky, and is strongest at the time of the summer solstice, which is the longest day of the year and shortest night. After three days, it begins visibly descending South in its position in the sky, and as it does, the days begin to grow shorter and the sun’s power diminishes. Until the autumn equinox however, the days are still longer than the nights, but it is at the autumn equinox that the center of the sun is in the same plane as the equator, bringing equilibrium between night and day. Interestingly, this is also when the sun enters the astrological sign of Libra, which is the sign of the scales and of balance. The glyph for Libra represents the setting sun expressing the balance between night and day.

After the autumn equinox, the sun continues to descend and diminish, whilst the nights now become increasingly longer than the days, bringing the change of seasons and the cold and death of winter. Then at the winter solstice it is the shortest day of the year and the sun is at its most Southerly point in the sky. Three days later, it begins to visibly ascend again and gain strength.

In the northern hemisphere the autumn equinox occurs anywhere from September 21 to 24. In the southern hemisphere, the autumn equinox occurs anywhere from March 20 to 23.  This year it will occur on the 23rd of September at 9:04am UTC as the autumn equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, and spring equinox in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Larger Spiritual Context of the Autumn Equinox

Isis nursing her son Horus

A ancient depiction of the Madonna and child in Egypt, with Isis the divine mother, nursing her son Horus

 

The meaning of the autumn equinox is intertwined with that of the four points of the year (the two solstices at winter and summer, and the spring equinox), which each mark stages in the esoteric work that begin anew each year, and form a symbolic cross in the wheel of the year and in the sky, with the sun (Christ) at the center.

The solstices and equinoxes are to do with the journey and transitions of the sun, and the sun represents the Christ, a both universal and personal spiritual force whose birth or incarnation into a spiritually prepared person, has been enacted symbolically by enlightened figures throughout time, such as Jesus, Dionysus, Horus, Osiris, Mithras, Odin, Krishna etc. and by the sun and stars in their movements in relation to the earth every year. This is why the lives of these great figures follow similar events which correspond with astrological movements e.g. the birthday of all these deities is celebrated at the winter solstice, and their death and resurrection at the spring equinox. This is no coincidence, but part of the greater design of the universe, revealing the process of spiritual awakening to humanity.

In times now lost, different groups of people understood this profound teaching and message that literally comes from above, and knew that the outer drama enacted in the heavens, was actually an inner representation of a human becoming spiritual, with the sun representing the spiritual aspect that incarnates within a person.

Here today, a group of people still exists who understand the eternal esoteric teaching, and will celebrate the autumn equinox in tune with its real meaning, as it has been done since ancient times.

The Spiritual Meaning of the Autumn / Fall Equinox

Ahu Akivi copyright 2006 by Ian Sewell

The Maoi of Easter Island facing the equinox sunset at Ahu Akivi (photo copyright Ian Sewell)

 

Traditionally, the autumn equinox is a celebration of the harvest, as it is when summer has finished giving its fruits, which are collected in preparation for the winter. But there are other indicators given by the most ancient sacred sites that mark the autumn equinox. Descending passages into subterranean pits, lit by the star of “Satan” at midnight. Seven-scaled feathered serpents of light descending giant pyramids. A giant pyramid aligned to the equinoxes built on a cave symbolizing the underworld. Seven giant statues facing the sunset that leads to growing darkness.

What was known to the ancients, and is known by mystics who study Belzebuub’s teachings today, is the part darkness plays in the work of spiritual transformation. Those in the orthodox superstitiously fear it, and many in the new age completely ignore it. But at the autumn equinox it can be found in the cycles of nature, and the alignment of our planet – and traces of it can be found here and there in ancient legends and myths that have become distorted over time.

The God of Light and Darkness

In most Pagan cultures, the sun god has two aspects. One is the god of light—the day, and the other is his twin rival, the god of darkness—the night. They are Gawain and the Green Knight, Gwyn and Gwythyr, Llew and Goronwy, Lugh and Balor, Balan and Balin, the Holly King and the Oak King, etc.

The god of light is born three days after the winter solstice, as the sun, having reached its lowest and weakest point, begins to ascend and gain strength. The god of darkness is born three days after the summer solstice, as this is when the sun begins to descend and weaken as the nights and darkness increases.

Christ and Lucifer

Christ the Saviour, St Catherine's Monastery Mt Sinai

This anonymous painting from the 6th century, in one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world located in the Egyptian desert of Sinai, and the oldest depiction of Christ as "the Ruler of All", shows his face with a dual nature. Some speculate this is to show both his divine and human nature, but could the more "luciferic" left half actually reflect Lucifer, who on his side holds the book of wisdom, and Christ's side peace?

 

In Christian esotericism Christ has a shadow, which is Lucifer, as in ancient Egypt Typhon was to Osiris. Through his life Jesus enacted the symbolic events one must pass through to reach awakening. Although also enacted by many others, their accounts have become either lost or distorted over time, and so it is the account of Jesus’ life which is the most modern and clearest reference.

Lucifer holds a set of scales, representing balance and justice. The scales also represent the equinox, which occurs as we pass into the constellation of Libra, symbolized by scales.

When drawing parallels to the pagan myths, Christ is the god of light, and Lucifer the god of darkness. Some have confused John the Baptist, whose birthday is celebrated three days after the summer solstice, as the god of darkness. John however, has a different role. He is both the Avatar, the prophet who always announces the coming of the Christ in darkness before the light comes, and also the initiate, the mystic who does the work of spiritual transformation.

Light, Darkness, and Transformation

The mystic starts from where they are, which is in darkness and why John is born when darkness begins to increase and light decrease. They are subject to Lucifer, the tempter, and must defeat him to reach the light. Christ is the spiritual which is born within once the mystic is spiritually prepared enough, symbolically shown at the winter solstice when the light begins to increase and darkness decrease. As Christ, the spiritual within, grows and increases, John symbolizing the initiate, must decrease. The darkness of the person (all that is evil and inferior) must decrease as the light increases, transforming the person spiritually. This reference is found in the Gospels.

Although the subject of superstition for millions of people, the Devil and Satan are only creations of the orthodoxy – they do not exist, although darkness and evil forces do. These figures at one or other times were possibly meant to represent Lucifer, or were confused with him, but it is only Lucifer who really exists. Again, misunderstood and demonized by the orthodoxy, Lucifer in most people’s minds is a figure of evil, but his true role is a spiritual one which is necessary for someone’s awakening. Without darkness, there can be no light, as in the work of spiritual transformation light must be extracted from darkness. This is how true knowledge, wisdom, and love are attained, and why Lucifer esoterically is known as the light-bearer. Each one of us must start in darkness, understand it to be able to overcome it, destroy it within ourselves, and become the light.

Both Christ and Lucifer are something personal. Lucifer, the dark side of the human, must be faced and overcome to reach the Christ within. Lucifer is the tempter, the trainer of the mystic who walks the path to enlightenment, and is eventually assimilated into total light once darkness is finally destroyed symbolically at the time of ascension celebrated at the height of the summer solstice.

The Seed and the Wicker Man: A Time of Death and Sacrifice

The_Wicker_Man_burns_-_geograph.org.uk_-_50168_copyright Simon Brooke

The wicker man, said to have been burnt by the ancient Celts at the autumn equinox (photo copyright Simon Brooke)

 

In Celtic traditions, which still survive today, the autumn equinox is a time of sacrifice; they made a figure from the stems of grain, which they sacrificed by fire. The cut stems represent the values and principles within a person. The figure, the person, must reach an esoteric grade on the path where they become a true man before becoming a Christ. In England a wicker figure made of barley stems representing John Barleycorn, the spirit of the fields, is burnt, as it is said that he must die in order to become a man.

Similarly the one who walks the path must decrease and die to make way for the Christ. The autumn equinox is a time of death, as just as in nature at this time of year, the seed must die before it can grow, so must the subconscious and the egos die, to make way for the birth of the Christ within, celebrated at the winter solstice.

Here can be seen the symbol of the mercurial seed, the spiritual potential within a human, which forms the basis of the divine alchemical fire in which the egos, the darkness within, is destroyed. Through this process the light is extracted from darkness and the initiate is “born again”, but this time as a true man—someone with the spiritual force of the Christ within. Mercury transformed converts the elements of nature into divine fire, which is the Kundalini. The Divine Mother works within mercury to destroy the egos. In China there are terracotta figures buried beneath a pyramid, they are encased in mercury, symbolizing the alchemical mercury and the descent to the underworld.

The third century Roman theologian Hippolytus of Rome (similar to present-day anti cult figures) writes in his Refutation of All Heresies (5.8.39): “The Athenians, when they initiate in the Eleusinia, exhibit in silence to the epoptai the mighty and marvelous and most complete epoptic mystery, an ear of cut-wheat. But this ear of wheat is also considered among the Athenians to constitute the perfect enormous illumination that has descended from the ineffable one, just as the hierophant himself declares.”

The Descent into the Underworld, and the Law of the Fall

At the time of the autumn equinox, ancient Welsh myth tells how Llew, the god of light, is killed and descends to the underworld where he becomes king of that realm whilst his shadow, the god of darkness, dominates in the earthly world, which symbolically is the human. The god of darkness, Lucifer, dominates as the teacher and trainer in this time of learning.

The mystic walking the path must descend into the Abyss to face their own inner darkness—the evil of the egos and subconscious—to prepare for the birth of the god of light within, celebrated at the winter solstice. However, Christ, the god of light, is still born into darkness at the winter solstice, as the sun has only just begun to gain strength.

Christ is born into the stables with the animals, which represents his birth into the darkness and the egos of the initiate. He starts as just a small spiritual child within that grows as the sun gains strength. As he grows within a person, he works to destroy their inner darkness, resurrecting at the spring equinox and lifting the initiate up even higher than before until there is only light at the ascension of the summer solstice, which is complete enlightenment.

Firmament

One of the earliest known representations of the autumn equinox, a symbol of balance, found in an ancient megalithic site in Ireland

 

This is another law in esotericism—the law of the fall, where someone must first descend before they can ascend, and why ancient myths and monuments symbolize the descent into the underworld (down steps, into caves, etc.), and spiritual ascents (up stairs, at the apexes of pyramids, etc.). At the autumn equinox, the time of balance between night and day, before the growth of darkness, the mystic must arrive at balance and from there descend.

The Numbers 7, 8, 9, and the Feathered Serpent

Here the significance of the number seven is revealed. On Easter Island there are seven statues that face the sunset on the autumn equinox. They represent the pre-Atlantean race, the seven representing the seven bodies, the seven initiatic grades of fire that have to be attained before descending into the chaos, to the underworld. At the pyramid of Kukulcán in Mexico, at the autumn equinox, the feathered serpent that descends the pyramid is made of seven triangles of light again symbolizing the bodies and initiations. John, the man in the wilderness, must make straight the way of the Lord to prepare for the coming of the Christ within. The initiate becomes a feathered serpent with the esoteric work. The Christ is within the Feathered Serpent. The serpent represents the divine Mother, the feathers of the eagle represent the Father. A feathered serpent occurs when the Father absorbs the Mother, then the three – the Father Son and Mother are one. When the feathered serpent flies the Initiate Ascends.

In the Great Pyramid of Egypt, there is a descending passage to a subterranean pit beneath the ascending passage that leads to the King’s Chamber. At midnight on the autumn equinox, the star that represents Lucifer shines down the descending passage into the pit. At the same time the star of Alcyone, a star from the Pleiades constellation and symbol of God, the creator, aligns with the meridian of the Pyramid. Here perhaps is the greatest ancient clue to the meaning of the autumn equinox. It is before the birth of the god of light at winter solstice, that the initiate must descend under the guidance of Lucifer, which itself is all done under the guidance of the supreme God, the creator.

Dante by Michelino

Dante revealing the structure of heaven and hell in his work The Divine Comedy

 

The feathered serpent at the pyramid of Kukulcán in Mexico, descends the nine levels of the pyramid at the autumn equinox. Mystics know that Dante Alighieri’s work The Divine Comedy, accurately assigned nine layers to hell and nine regions to heaven. Here the Mayans also reveal their knowledge of the descent of the feathered serpent through the nine layers of hell, so that the sun could rise to the summit of the temple at the winter solstice.

In ancient Babylon, in the autumn, Dumuzi (whose name means “rightful son”) became the god who was sacrificed with the cutting of the corn. As the grain was cut and stored, the god was said to go into the underworld to return next year when the sap rose in the trees and vegetation returned to the earth.

His myth was paralleled in Akkadian lore by Tammuz, who died every year at the beginning of autumn, and was reborn in the spring.

Adonis (“Lord”) was worshiped by the Semitic peoples of Babylonia and Syria. Every year, when winter came, he had to descend to the underworld and live with its queen, the goddess Persephone.

Esoterically, at the center of the earth the symbol of infinity is found as the holy 8, which is also a symbol of equalization or equinox. The forces upon a person revolve from this point. There are nine regions of the abyss to ascend from this point (or nine to descend to it) – each is pain, the ninth is the center of the earth. We have to go through pain to reach happiness. This is the ninth sphere, the womb in which the Christ gestates. Human pregnancy lasts for nine months. To descend requires Alchemy – the work in the ninth sphere, which is sexual. In descending the initiate climbs down Lucifer’s ladder, after the descent, represented at the winter solstice, the initiate has to climb Lucifer’s ladder, or Jacobs ladder to ascend. There are nine regions of the inferno and nine heavens, the initiate must descend to the nine infernos to reach the nine heavens, to descend requires sex, which is why alchemy is sometimes referred to as the work in the ninth sphere. Scaling the heavens is how we get to the city of nine gates.

The Role of the Mother Goddess

The goddess Kali with Shiva

The Goddess Kali destroying the egos in the divine fire, with her foot upon Shiva

 

In ancient Summeria, the goddess Inanna descends into the underworld at the time of the autumn equinox. And in Greek mythology the goddess Persephone descends at the same time, before returning to the earth again at spring. In Egypt, the mother goddess Hathor was associated with the Milk Way during the third millennium B.C. when, during the fall and spring equinoxes, it aligned over and touched the earth where the sun rose and fell. Soon after the autumn equinox is the Hindu celebration of Durga Puja, which is the celebration of the Mother of the Universe, the warrior goddess Durga of which it is said Kali is an aspect (both are the consort of Shiva and have strong associations which Shakti).

In ancient spiritual teachings there are often multiple deities. This can be because there are multiple aspects of spiritual forces, principles, and figures, and each deity represents a certain aspect to illustrate their role. Marriage and birth between gods in mythology can represent their connection and relation with one another, alluding to them being part of the one. While the mother goddess has loving qualities, she also has fierce, powerful, punishing, and destructive ones.

The divine mother goddess, symbolized as a female of great power, is a feminine aspect of each person’s own spiritual being. She has different roles, but in the autumn equinox her role as the one who fights alongside the mystic and destroys their egos, with her connections to death and the underworld, is most prominent. This is most clearly portrayed in an aspect of the Divine Mother found in the depictions of the Hindu goddess Kali (not to be confused with the demon Kali) meaning “she who destroys,” who brandishes a weapon in her hands which beheads numerous demons. Her hands are bloodied and the heads of her enemies hang around her neck. Her enemies are the egos of the mystic, and she fights them within the person working to change. Kali is said to inhabit a cremation ground, which is the place where the egos are killed and destroyed in alchemical fire.

20041229-Coatlicue_(Museo_Nacional_de_Antropología)

The Aztec goddess Coatlicue with an astonishingly similar necklace, skirt, and appearance as Kali

 

This is also why ancient texts state that one should offer animal sacrifices to the Gods, and specifically to Kali. Although unfortunately, many have interpreted this literally, the animals symbolize the egos (or seven deadly sins) which are animalistic in nature, such as anger, pride, greed, envy, lust, etc. The egos are depicted as evil people, because they are as evil people within.

The Warrior Aspect of the Goddess Found Around the World

The mother goddess is a feminine spiritual part of us, which has been represented by different cultures around the world, but with amazing similarities – showing the universal nature of her existence.

Like Kali, the Aztec goddess Coatlicue is a mother goddess with her deadly and destructive side emphasized. It is said that in her both the grave and womb exist. She bears an astonishing resemblance to Kali, with her teeth, breasts, and tongue bared, wearing a necklace made of human hearts, hands, and skulls.

In Egypt, Sekhmet is the mother goddess Hathor in her destructive aspect, and as an icon appears to be thousands of years old. Sekhmet has the head of a lion, and dresses in red, the color of blood, and is said to be the fiercest of all goddesses. Her name means “powerful one,” but she also had titles such as “Mistress of Dread,” “Lady of Slaughter,” “Lady of Flame,” and the “one before whom evil trembles.” She is the female warrior goddess, and it was said that death and destruction were balm for her warrior’s heart. Like Persephone who married the god of the underworld Hades, she was also said to be married to Ptah, an Egyptian god associated with the underworld, creation, and darkness. Both Kali and Sekhmet were said to wreak such fierce destruction that they had to be placated to stop them from destroying humankind.

Amazingly, in Buddhism, the warrior aspect of the goddess bears a resemblance to the Egyptian Sekhmet, Aztec Coatlicue, and Hindu Kali. She is Senge Dongma (Simhamukha in Sanskrit), who was created to destroy demons, and like Sekhmet, she has the head of a lion, and can be the color red. But also, like Kali, has been described as the color of dark clouds like those that bring rain or storm, and can appear as dark blue or black. Again, like Kali, she too is associated with cremation grounds, she holds a ritual knife in one hand, and a scull cap of blood in another, and has a headdress of five skulls and three eyes as Kali is sometimes depicted with. Like Kali and Coatlicue, her eyes are wide open, her tongue, teeth and breasts are bared, she wears a skirt made of tiger skin, and a long necklace made of human bones and severed heads. In Hinduism, the goddess Durga who is closely connected to Kali and also a fierce warrior wielding numerous weapons to slay demons, is mounted on a lion or tiger, paralleling the lion part of Sekhmet and Senge Dongma. The lion and tiger are both ferocious and powerful, and all are their prey.

the Greek goddess Hecate

The Greek goddess Hecate with a sword and snake in her hands, her arms like those of a strong warrior

 

Senge Dongma is known as the “Guardian of the Secret Tantric Teachings,” and is depicted as circled by flame, with mythological links to a cremation ground. Kali is primarily a tantric goddess who inhabits the cremation ground. Durga is “Keeper of the Flame.” Sekhmet is known as “Lady of Flame.” The fire is the sacred fire of kundalini, which is tantric. The warrior aspect of the goddess is so a part of tantrism, because it is in the fire of sexual alchemy that she destroys the demons, the egos, and also why she is linked to cremation grounds.

The same deathly aspect of the mother goddess can be found in Greece as Hecate and Persephone. In the Pistis Sophia (an ancient esoteric Christian text), Jesus explains how the soul of a murderer is taken down into the chaos before Persephone, and the receivers punish it with her chastisements for a time. Hecate has been depicted as a giant woman, holding a torch and sword. It is interesting to note that at least Hecate (a pagan goddess) was demonized and degraded by the Church, who associated her with witches and sorcery.

At the autumn equinox she descends with the mystic into the underworld with the initiate to destroy the egos. In the spiritual work, it is this feminine power that has this role. Thus, Kali is also known as the mother and redeemer of the universe.

Please note: Hinduism is a very ancient religion, which means that although at its root it is a white esoteric teaching, it has also been distorted and infiltrated over time to create branches of black magic. There are traditions, some of them at least hundreds of years old, which worship the goddess Kali, but practice black tantrism, and should obviously be avoided.

Preparing the Way for the Spiritual to Be Born Within

The autumn equinox is when the initiate, the person working towards enlightenment, must descend with the aid of their divine mother (the female warrior goddess) into the underworld, chaos, or abyss, to fight the egos and evil within, to emerge with the light and knowledge gained in darkness and later ascend. Here it is Lucifer, the light-bearer, who is the tempter and helper in the work to incarnate the Christ. It is a time of sacrifice and death where the seed within a person must die (symbolized by the wheat, rice, barley, or corn), forming the basis for the divine alchemical sexual fire that the divine mother uses to destroy egos, before the Christ can be born within a person. The autumn equinox is a time of preparing the way for the spiritual to be born within.

The symbols of this preparation can be found throughout the ancient world, in the cosmos, and indicate what to go through to spiritually awaken.

The spiritual meaning of the autumn equinox has been obscured with time, much more than the other three events in the year. This is because as the spiritual work was lost, the esoteric meaning became vague and must have seemed to represent sinister, evil forces. Thus the symbols were given other meanings and turned into other things in the way that Santa Claus symbolizes Christmas day. Parts moved to cross quarter days and meanings changed into celebrations of the dead, of evil spirits, harvest festivals, bonfires, sacrifices, drunkenness and debauchery. Fortunately the pre-neolithic atlanteans left the messages in their architecture, which were echoed in the cosmos and survived in sketchy details through myths, legends, and religions throughout history.

Tags: ancient, autumn, equinox, esoteric, mabon, sacred, sites, spiritual

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