Next week is the Fall Equinox.
September 23, 09:04 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), to be exact.
The word “equinox” derives from the Latin words meaning “equal night” and refers to the time when the sun crosses the equator. Of course, everyone knows that the equinoxes are not fixed points on the celestial sphere but move westward along the ecliptic, passing through all the constellations of the zodiac in 26,000 years. Right?
Uh, Yeah. Right. Sure.
Many people, including myself, believe that on this day the earth experiences equal hours of day and night. However, I’ve been informed that I’m wrong about this equal 12-hour thing. The hours are only Nearly equal. The farther away you are from the equator, the longer it takes the sun to rise and set. Apparently, this has to do with equinoctial points and atmospheric refraction, and all that.
In ancient times, the Autumn Equinox was cause for a variety of pagan festivals, among them the celebration of the birth of Mabon, the son of Mordon, the Goddess of the earth. Today, it merely kicks off Harvest celebrations, Pumpkin festivals, Wiccan sprees, and an occasion for Anyone who likes to Howl at the moon.
What I do know about the Autumn Equinox is that it is a sure sign that Fall is here (not that anyone in the throes of Texas heat would agree, but you get my drift). It is a time of change and rest and quiet renewal or, as Archibald MacLeish said, “It is the human season.”
And, human, it is, indeed. For, what little I know about astronomical celestial events, I do know this about the Autumn Equinox…
It makes people act a little bit weird.
Take Crested Butte, Colorado, for example. At one time or another, some of you may have traveled to this tiny Colorado mountain town nestled at almost 9,000 feet high in the Rocky Mountains. This quaint turn-of-the-century mining town offers great skiing in winter and some of the most spectacular wildflowers in summer that you’ll ever be blessed to witness. With energetic and fun-loving citizens, C.B. is known as a place with lots of spunk and spirit. Case in point—
Who are these people?
Okay, so this may seem a bit off the wall, but stay with me here. It gets even weirder.
In September (around the Autumn Equinox, as a matter of fact), you can join in spirited Vinotok festivities—old European harvest celebrations that include days of wine-toasting and meat-roasting, local folklore and tall tales. Vinotok means fall festival in the Slovenian language. Apparently, people in harsh winter climates often got together to feast and celebrate in the fall. They shared food and the wealth of the land in hopes of staying connected throughout the winter.
In Crested Butte, there are assorted allegorical and metaphorical characters who represent this celebration—maidens, harvest lads, the Earth Dragon, and the Harvest Mother, to name a few. But, the most important character of Vinotok is the Green Man.
The week-long festivities culminate in the Burning of the Grump. And what, you may ask, is the Grump? Well, it’s a humongous metal structure stuffed with everyone’s written complaints from the past year. At a blazing bonfire accompanied by song and dance, the Grump is destroyed in hopes that the town will have a blessed year and lots of snow for the upcoming season.
The idea, as far as I can understand this scenario, is that there is a battle between the forces of nature–the Earth Dragon versus technology. (I assume this must have something to do with those Evil fossil fuel drillers versus the more Righteous tree-hugging enviromentalists, but I’m not really sure about this)
In the symbology of balance, someone or something must die in the Green Man’s place, so that his return in the spring is assured. The town chooses the Grump, filled with the woes and grievances of the community. Upon his burning, everyone is given a clean slate with which to begin the new season. This way, their gripes and moans don’t stand between their relationships with each other, with nature, with their community, or even within themselves. The Green Man is resurrected.
Wow! Those of us with a Christian mindset have something of the same promise—that spring and newness will return once again. But our’s doesn’t have to do with the Green Man or a burning of the Grump. Our gripes and moans with the world and with one another will not only be mitigated but will be totally erased by The One who we know is resurrected. Our hope lies, not in legend, but in fact. I, for one, know that I can sleep in peace this Fall, assured that Spring will come.
But maybe, just maybe we should take this time of year to shed the unnecessary in our lives, to eradicate that which is unproductive, to eliminate the stuff that weighs us down.
And what about all those little irritants that drive us crazy? Or people? Just think of the people who drive you nuts! What Grumps do you have to burn? I know that I have a few. So here I go. I’ll howl at the moon and toss a few onto the conflagration:
—Politicians and salesmen and televangelists;
—The person at the grocery store checkout who forgets to sack the most expensive item I bought there;
—Drivers who pass on the right shoulder;
—Pigs (wild ones) who are invading my sanctuary;
—Snakes and mice and creepy crawlies who seem to think mi casa es su casa;
—Anyone even remotely connected with the IRS;
—People who respond with “Happy Holidays” when you say, “Merry Christmas”;
—Waiters who, when you say, “Thank you” respond with “No problem.”
Okay, so I have a lot of grumps. I could probably go on for hours with my list. Sometimes it feels that Life is all about looking at the stuff that sours our days. But, isn’t that what we’re supposed to ask God to deal with? I don’t have to burn the Grump to get rid of them. When I consider the heavens, the moon and stars which He has set in place, I can rest assured that He can take care of my petty complaints.
So, yes, Fall is the human season, and I do have some grumps. But I know just who to take them to.
And, I also know that renewal will follow.