The sun will pass over the equator for a moment at 4:44 PM EDT on September 22 as it moves to warm the Southern hemisphere and ushers in the first day of Autumn for the North.
For those who practice the earth religions, it is the second harvest, a time for gathering the Summer’s last fruits, giving thanks for the harvest and marking a celebration in gratitude as the soil and plants die away. This year’s Harvest Moon, traditionally the full moon closet to the equinox, fell on September 19. The moon gets its name from the amount of light it emits, allowing farmers to continue harvesting the summer’s crops through the evening. The Farmer’s Almanac explains why the Harvest Moon is special:
The usual behavior of the Moon is to rise distinctly later each night — an average of about 50 minutes later. [..]
But around the date of the Harvest Moon, the Moon rises at almost the same time for a number of nights in our intermediate northern latitudes. [..]
Because the Moon’s orbit on successive nights is more nearly parallel to the horizon at that time, its relationship to the eastern horizon does not change appreciably, and the Earth does not have to turn as far to bring up the Moon. Thus, for several nights near the full Harvest Moon, the Moon may rise as little as 23 minutes later on successive nights (at about 42 degrees north latitude), and there is an abundance of bright moonlight early in the evening, a traditional aid to harvest crews. By the time the Moon has reached last quarter, however, the typical 50-minute delay has returned.
One of the myths connected to this celebration/time of year is the myth of Demeter and Persephone. The Autumn Equinox signals the descent of Persephone back to the underworld to be with her husband, Hades and the Harvest Mother, Demeter’s mourning for her daughter…thus, the explanation of the dying back of plant life. This myth gave explanation to our ancient ancestors for the changing of the seasons. The symbolism that is present for us today is the letting go of our youth, child-bearing years and moving closer to the crone/elder part of our lives. But it is only a preparation, the opening to what needs to be prepared when the Winter inevitably comes.