What The Autumnal Equinox Actually Means

by Megan Grant
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Fall is an exciting time of the year for many reasons: Pumpkin Spice Lattes, crunchy leaves to step on, everything Halloween, and the autumnal equinox. This last one, you might not be as familiar with; so what does the autumnal equinox mean? Here's the lowdown on this special event that marks the official start of fall.

Every year, we experience two equinoxes: One in September and one in March. During an equinox, the sun shines directly onto the Earth's equator, and the length of day and night are nearly identical. In fact, the word equinox comes from the Latin words "equi" ("equal") and "nox" ("night"). You can expect the upcoming equinox on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. Since the seasons are opposite on opposing sides of the equator, the Northern Hemisphere will experience the autumnal equinox, during the season when the sun rises later and nightfall comes sooner; in the Southern Hemisphere, though, they'll be experiencing the vernal equinox.

After the autumnal equinox occurs, the days get shorter until we have a winter solstice (the shortest day of the year) in December. At this point, we'll slowly head back to the longer days of summer.

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In addition to the science, there's also plenty of astrological meaning to the autumnal equinox. When the day of the equinox begins, for example, the sun enters Libra, which makes perfect sense: Libra is the sign of the balanced scales... equal times of day and night... ah, yes. It all adds up. This is also the time of the year heavily associated with harvesting — or, in other words, reaping the fruits of our labor. With the nights slowly but surely becoming longer, the autumnal equinox also signals a time in which we should be conserving our energy and resources — taking what summer has given us and storing it away for winter.

Spiritually speaking, the equinox symbolizes an inner preparation that we all go through. The impending darkness of winter stands for the "death" (or described in a less morbid way, the end of a chapter) we will experience before being reborn — which happens once the days start to get longer again.

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So, it would appear that the autumnal Equinox would be a good time to take inventory of your life, and figure out what needs to stay and what should go during the winter hibernation. And once warmer weather emerges, you're on a better path of life!

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