Wednesday, September 19, 2018

[Guest Article: Katy-Rose] The Autumn Equinox as a British Druid

A note from Witchy Words:  This article was offered to me by my good friend Katy in order to give my readers a broader perspective on the various practices of paganism during this time of the year.  Enjoy!

I began my journey in June 2004 as a solitary witch of no specific tradition. As I grew, my path changed. I have been solitary, partaken in Alexandrian Wiccan rituals, led esbat rites with friends, and found Druidry in 2009. For the scholar in me, having the Welsh mythos to underlie my practise (and living in the British Isles), this practise resonates for me like no other.

In 2012, I realised that I was a Druid, no matter what label I gave myself. Druids still use the four elements and directions but, in our day-to-day practise, we focus on three aspects: Land, sea and sky. For me, the fact we are on an island really shapes the experiences of the natural world.

So now you know who I am, let’s jump in. 

The Autumnal Equinox is, hands down, my favourite festival.

In fact, Autumn as a season, is my favourite time of the year. Here in England, we actually get less rainfall, more clear, blue skies and sunshine but without ridiculous heat-waves. I love the colours but, mostly, I love the way every breath feels fresh and new and cool.

Traditionally, in the Northern Hemisphere, this occurs around 20-23 September. This is the day when night and day are equal, hence the term “equinox” which literally means “equal night.”

For many pagans and witches, this is a time of balance, of harvest, and represents the coming of winter as summer fades. In Wicca, this is often known as Mabon, which means ‘Son’ or Modron, which means ‘Mother.’  From the colours of red and orange to apples and leaves adorning altars, these are fairly universal concepts.

Although not specific to Druidry, the main story of the Mabon is a Welsh tale. Long story short, a Mother’s son is kidnapped and she journeys to find him, speaking with the wise owl, the salmon and the stag (some versions have an eagle and blackbird too.) One theory for this particular story connecting to this time of year in particular is due to the parallels with a Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone, which explains the fading flora and fauna of autumn into winter.

In Druidry, the four cardinal sabbats have Welsh names. This equinox is named ‘Alban Elfed’, which means 'The Light of the Water', in stark contrast to the Spring Equinox, which translates to ‘Light of the Earth.’ The interplay between land, sea and sky moves throughout the year throughout the festival names, which I find is especially appropriate as the British Isles are... *drumroll* islands.

As is common in paganism, there are many overlaps with the festivals. Druids focus on gratitude in this festival: Thanking the earth as Mother or Giver for the harvest at summer’s end and, as the earth begins to sleep, withdrawal, sacrifice and death are big themes. In one open ritual, we carried scythes and sickles to represent the cutting of the corn, the sacrifice of plants to give us an abundance of food.

I think this aspect of thanksgiving is really specific for me because we don’t have any normal thanks-giving space or festival in British culture, except when studying our ancestors. We understand that our ancestors would see the sun’s power fading around this time, and thus it’s a time to bid farewell to the sun and rest, waiting for its return.  This is the time the land has given up harvest in reward of the hard work put into the agriculture over spring and summer, so harvesting, gratitude and hoarding for the winter were traditional.

Following the energy and life bursting forth in summer, the autumn is a space to pause. It represents the west as this is where the sun sets, and thus the energy tends to foster a sense of reflection and recollection as the year begins to close.

My Personal Practise

Preparing the Pantry. As a solitary pagan, I focus on almost a “spring cleaning” type of weekend, which allows me to preserve dying foods (cook/bake/freeze) and practically get rid of things I’ve not used ready to make room for new things next ‘cycle’ or year.

Focusing on Balance. As the year moves from light to dark, I consider how the summer went, what I enjoyed or didn’t, but also things I may have neglected (often more indoor activities) such as art, journaling and visualisation. I like to review the past few months, but also make plans that might need a bit of preparation over the next few months in order to be ready for Spring.

Meditation. I also tend to meditate more in the Autumn: awake from the freshness, but not too cold to get up makes this a LOT easier for me, personally. Again, it’s a form of reflection, harvesting my mental space and also harnessing my inner strength which might dwindle a little as the days get shorter.

Simple Cleansing. Baths, cleaning and de-cluttering, removing old to make space for the new. Anything which closes one aspect of life to let another door open. You get the gist.

Preparation. I also ‘prepare for winter.’ Usually this involves getting in the habit or putting my SAD lamp on, gathering some books to read, washing all my favourite blankets to snuggle up in and bring my hot water bottles down to the kitchen, ready for use.

Decide what to leave behind. It is a time of completion. And as the light half closes, step forward and leave behind those things that no longer serve you.

How do you celebrate the turning of the year?
Have more specific questions about British paganism or Druidry specifically? Ask them below!


Katy-Rose lives in South England, supporting young offenders in her community by day and coaching practical creatives to follow their inner fire by night.  She was loosely raised as Protestant Christian [Church of England] and began practising witchcraft in 2004. These days, she holds a somewhat-scientific view of the gods as being part of the field of energy yet refers to them by the elements. She most-closely connects to Druidry as her main path. 


  1. Thanks for sharing about your tradition, Katy-Rose. :) I've read a bit about Druidry and am interested to learn more. It's good to get a different perspective on the sabbats.

    I like to celebrate Madron/Mabon by baking (I call it Madron because that's how I first heard of it), usually some kind of ginger cake. I also like to go up to a local nature reserve on a hill (I also live in South England, Sussex) and take sunset pictures. I last went there on Lammas and it's interesting to seee the changes at different points of the year. And I will reflect on the past year and how it's been for me.

    1. Thanks for your comment! It's so interesting to learn about how similar festivals may have different traditions associated with them. :)

      Love that you're also in England. I used to attend Open Druid Rituals held at the Long Man of Wilmington, so that might be worth checking out if you were interested.

      So interesting to take the same picture at different times of year and day, isn't it? Like a different world, almost!

    2. Thanks for letting me know about the Open Druid Rituals at the Long Man of Wilmington, I'll look into that. :)

      Yes, it's good to have a regular place to go and see how it changes throughout the seasons.

    3. Yes, all of the pictures above are from the Long Man since it was my key space :)

  2. I appreciate your perspective! I naturally do these things without really knowing Why, I am a silent one, verbal expression is limited but my actions are loud & clear! Thank you for being my voice! ❤️🇨🇦

    1. I think a lot of us intuitively connect with the seasons and 'atmosphere' of the yearly shifts without it being a conscious choice sometimes. In England, September is "back to school" time and I find myself desperately cleaning out old drawers, seeking out fresh new stationary and journalling more :)