It’s the Equinox today — one of the two days in the year when the hours of day and night are equal. Up in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s the Autumnal Equinox, and we have to face the less than cheery fact that from now on, the nights will be drawing in as winter approaches.
Those fortunate enough to be in the Southern Hemisphere, on the other hand, are celebrating spring and the fact that from now on, their days will be growing longer and warmer. Lucky blighters.
But fate has made me an Earthling of the Northern Hemisphere, so the Autumnal Equinox is the focus of today’s post.
What makes the Autumnal Equinox special? Well, because of their equal length of day and night, both Equinoxes are a time of balance — and among many Pagans and folk of alternative spiritualities, they are regarded as good times to focus on achieving balance in our lives.
It is an interesting co-incidence (or possibly not) that Libra — the astrological sign of the balance scales — begins on September 23.
The Autumnal Equinox also sits at the heart of the harvest-season — many a church and school are celebrating their harvest festivals around this time. It is therefore a good time to focus on the bounty of Nature and the Earth.
Autumn — from the Latin autumnus “autumn,” “fall” and “autumnal” — is already seeing a lot of use as a girl’s name. In the US, it peaked (for the time being) in 2001 in 72nd place, but remains in the top 100. In the UK, where “autumn” is the usual name for the fall, it is still gradually climbing; it was ranked 238 in 2010.
Equinox itself — from the Latin aequus “equal” + nox “night” has seen only a very little use as a given name since the late twentieth century — not enough to register on the radar at all in the US or UK. But with the rise in Knox as a given name, however, perhaps it is time to consider Equinox?
Many Pagans, especially North American Wiccans, call the Autumnal Equinox Mabon, while to Druids across the Norther Hemisphere, it is Alban Elfed.
The festival of Mabon is named in honor of the Welsh deity Mabon ap Modron, and has been in use since the 1970s, its use promoted by Wiccan writer Aidan Kelly.
Mabon ap Modron is often dubbed “the Divine Son of the Divine Mother”; he features in (and gives his name to) the Mabinogion, an important source of early Welsh mythology. He is considered by many to be one and the same with another important figure of Welsh myth — Pryderi ap Pwyll, the son of Rhiannon.
Mabon is almost certainly a survival of the Celtic deity Maponus, whose name derives from the Common Celtic *makwos “son” + the suffix -on- commonly found in theonyms. From the same source derives the Old Irish macc (source of the Mac– which features in so many Scottish and Irish surnames), Old Welsh map and Modern Welsh mab — all meaning “son.”
Five little boys were called Mabon in the UK in 2010.
Meanwhile, the Druid Alban Elfed combines two Old Welsh words — alban meaning “solstice” and “equinox” and elfed “the fall” and “autumn.”
As the Welsh name for the Brythonic Kingdom of Elmet, which had a short-lived existence in the region roughly inhabited now by West Yorkshire following the departure of the Roman legions, until it was absorbed by the neighboring Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Northumbria and Mercia.
This derives from the same source as the Old Welsh elfydd “world,” “country” and “region.” This also happens to be related to both Albion and the Scottish Alba.
Elfed — pronounced “el-ved” — has been used as a boy’s name in Wales since the late nineteenth century. It is rare now, however, largely because it is used as the name of the patchwork elephant in the Welsh versions of David McKee’s Elmer the Patchwork Elephant series of children’s books.
While Equinox might be a bit bold for some tastes, Autumn, Mabon, Alban and Elfed certainly provide subtle but interesting options for an Autumnal Equinox baby.
Whatever your spiritual path in life, a bright, blessed and fruitful Equinox, one and all.