Monthly Archives: September 2017

The First Day of Autumn

Today is the day of the Autumn Equinox. The exact time of the astronomical event is 22:02 UTC (That’s 2:02pm Mountain Time for me). According to Google (and to my brother for whom Google is never wrong) this is the first day of Autumn. Although Google certainly has creepy mass mind-control powers, I don’t get the impression it has convinced most of the U.S. that this is the first day of Autumn. Popular culture seems to be in agreement that Autumn begins either on September 1st or after Labor Day at the very latest. Starbucks, another mass-mind control powerhouse (lol), delivers Autumn with the arrival of the Pumpkin Spice Latte on the first of the month. The overlords of fashion dictate that we wear no white (read: Summer) clothing after Labor Day. Validating pop-culture Autumn are the dependable scientific minds of the Meteorological community, who, for ease of comparing seasons year-to-year, define Autumn as a static three month period neatly consuming the months of September, October, and November.

And then there’s me. A rebel among rebels, welcoming Autumn in August. My fellow Indo-European-based pagans should be with me on this, but it seems even among my own kind, I am not well supported. Undeterred, I continue to follow my own path. My logic blends phenology with ancient custom. The seasons are not as static as the ideological meteorologists would have them, but phenological seasons are a bummer to keep track of.

I, like the meteorologists, quite like a cut-and-dry static model for the seasons. As a pagan, however, I can’t help but notice that the seasons themselves don’t adhere to unequivocal models. They vary each year, but unlike the calendar dates of the solstices and equinoxes, phenological seasons cannot be calculated in advanced, nor can phenologists agree on an exact start date even after the season has begun. Way to be elusive Mother Nature! XD Even if we could pinpoint the exact first day of a season in a particular area, the date would be different in every region. Social species that we are, standard dates for celebration bring us together across long distances.

My first method of approach to seasonal reckoning was to stick with the ancient Celtic calendar (according to which seasons begin on the cross-quarter days) and back it up with the logic that, despite the weather, the longest days of the year should encompass Summer, the shortest, Winter. And yet, I couldn’t help but be distracted by both conflicting weather and conflicting opinions. What to do?

I decided to continue as I had been, welcoming in the seasons at the cross –quarters. At Hlæfmæst (Lammas), I call for Autumn. I bid it to hurry along because I have missed it so. Similarly, I may ask a particular season not to leave yet, because I am not ready. Not that I expect Mother Nature to adhere to my every whim, but the idea of it is in line with the way ancient pagans prayed for longer or shorter seasons per their agricultural needs.

As I welcome the onset of the phenological season, which may or may not begin right away, I consider the “official” start of a season to factor in the length of days as well as the cultural atmosphere. In August, Autumn themes begin to appear in the media, harvest decor creeps into shops around town, and people begin preparing for the onset of the full season. Autumn weather or not, the signs of Autumn appear in August, whether in the balancing length of days (which straddle the equinox) or in the cultural environment.

I may have been wrong to call August unequivocally Autumn in the past, but so too are others for calling it Summer. I witnessed Autumn begin while Summer continued. The cross-quarter months are liminal months. The secular world, too, acknowledges this liminality with Groundhog Day in February. If everyone is so confident that February fits squarely in Winter, then why the superstition concerning groundhogs and early Spring?

The cross-quarter months contain the endings ~and~ beginning of seasons. By all means, wish me a happy Autumn anytime in September, but don’t tell me that it didn’t begin in August or even that Summer is finally over now, as late as the equinox. My liminal-months model, while closer to Nature, still doesn’t box Her in.

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