For me the Equinoxes and Solstices are definitely the most magical of the Wheel of the Year festivals, so I am always more keen to write and prepare things for them! Do you have a favourite?
While the Wheel of the Year is a modern set of festivals, created by Gerald Gardner and Ross Nichols (founders of Gardnerian Wicca and OBOD Druidry respectively) circa the 1950s, the idea of celebrating the changing seasons is of course ancient. These festivals were part of the necessary cycle of work and labour undertaken by almost everyone to ensure that food would be available throughout the year - it was an essential activity.
In the anthology Hekate: Her Sacred Fires the Priestess Amelia Ounsted shared information and insights on how she adapted, with the help of friends, the Wheel of the Year, to be centred on the Goddess Hekate. It is not traditional, but it is an interesting perspective (and one that works) for those who work with the Wheel of the Year and who want to celebrate Hekate throughout. This is the extract (with permission) for the Autumn Equinox is from Amelia's article "A Goddess for All Seasons".
The Autumn Equinox is the second point of balance, of equal day and night in the year. Whereas at the Spring Equinox we were looking forward to the returning light, and planting our seeds for the harvest we are now preparing to enter the dark half of the year. This is the second harvest we will reap, that of fruit and we are reminded of the pomegranate of Persephone the seeds of which bind her to the underworld. For this is the time when we celebrate Persephone’s return to the underworld and Hekate accompanies her on her dark journey back to the realm of Hades. We can once again invoke Hekate as Propolos the guide who will be with us as we prepare to enter the darkness. For this is the time of endings and the start of our journey into the dark realms where we turn from working on the material world around us and start to work on our own personal development.
At this time we can also work with Hekate Kleidouchos (‘Key holder’). The bearing of a key often symbolised the ability to open and close the gates between heaven, earth and other realms (such as that of Hades). As the keeper of the keys that unlock the doors of our subconscious She can help us understand what aspects of ourselves we need to improve or change in order to obtain the balance within ourselves that is the focus of this Sabbat. Her keys unlock other doors as well and if you practice Magick you can certainly ask Hekate to unlock other doors that are keeping you from achieving your goals on the material plane!
The time of the Autumn Equinox is also the time of the Harvest moon, when the moon is closest to the Earth (around 23rd September). It is therefore appropriate to work with Hekate as a lunar deity. Although she is often described as a Moon Goddess in modern pagan literature Hekate's role as a moon goddess comes from Roman times (5th century BCE onwards) and seems to stem from her relationship with Artemis. In the Greek Magickal Papyri Hekate is also identified with Selene and the moon. It is not just on the full moon that we can work with Hekate in her lunar aspects. The Greek calendar was a lunar one and they made offerings to Hekate on the first of the month, that is to say the new moon.
In considering Hekate as a goddess of the moon we can also think about her aspect of ruler of the seas (which is often over looked) for the Moon rules the tides of the sea. Hesiod says: "and to those whose business is in the grey discomfortable sea, and who pray to Hecate and the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker (Poseidon), easily the glorious goddess gives great catch, and easily she takes it away as soon as seen, if so she will." Thus we can at any time we find ourselves near the ocean acknowledge Hekate as Pelagia, of the sea and as such a ruler of the fate and tides of mankind.
A quick note here for those of you who know the festival celebrated at the Autumn Equinox by its 1970's name of "Mabon" - as you probably know this is not at all a traditional name for the festival. Instead, Mabon is the name of a Welsh God - maybe derived from Maponus. The meaning of Mabon is "Son" and very little is known about this deity other than he was the son of Modron and that the Romans equated him to the god Apollo. His name is pronounced "MA - Bon" (not "may bon". If you insist on using this name, please don't use it unless you are actually celebrating this God - and at the very least make an effort to find out what he means to contemporary Pagans in Wales so you can avoid misappropriation of what is a very beautiful culture. In the context of the Goddess Hekate it is more authentic to say Autumn Equinox - or if you worship Her in the Welsh language, to use the actual name of the festival in Welsh which is Alban Elfed.