ADF Dedicant Path: Second High Day Essay (Autumn Equinox)
Depending on the region, the autumnal equinox may or may not represent the final harvest of the season. Furthermore, not all sources I have consulted on Anglo Saxon heathenry include all three harvest festivals. Sometimes the dates associated with the preceding and following harvest festivals are associated with non-harvest related rites. Lammas, for example is often excluded for its modern Christian associations and may be replaced by Freyfaxi, which is less about harvest and more about Ing Fréa and his corresponding lore. Winter Nights is generally recognized as a harvest festival, but the significance of the harvest is muted by ancestral rites. According to Swain Wodening, in some Germanic areas there is no mention of Winter Nights at all (131).
Harvest Home (or just “Harvest”) stands out as exclusively related to harvest time. It makes sense that the festival in the middle of the harvest season should receive the bulk of the harvest-related celebrations. Not surprisingly, it shares customs, with both Hlaefmaest (Lammas) and Winterfylleth (Winter Nights). One such custom was to leave the last sheaf of the harvest for Woden’s horse.
Most Neopagans celebrate the autumnal equinox as a time of thanksgiving and, in fact, the date is sometimes referred to as the “Witch’s Thanksgiving.” Thanks are given not only to the earth and relevant fertility deities for the fruits of a bountiful harvest, but also for the fruits of less literal (non-agricultural) harvests.
Wodening, Swain. Hammer of the Gods: Anglo-Saxon Paganism in Modern Times. Huntsville, MO: Wednesbury Shire, 2008.