“Hey, what’s the Irish word for September?” I asked Richie this morning.
My husband stopped doing the dishes and ran through the months of the year under his breath. “Meán Fómhair,” he said. “It means, hmm, middle something. Middle autumn?”
I clicked over to Wikipedia. “Middle harvest,” I said. (I could have just looked it up in the first place, I know, but I like hearing my husband speak Irish. It’s the little things.) “But isn’t there, like, a festival name for today? It’s the fall equinox.”
Apparently not. Many of the month names in Irish come from old turn-of-the-year festivals, like Samhain (November) and Bealtaine (May). I’d written about Imbolc, the midpoint between winter and spring and the feast day of St. Bridget or the goddess Brigid, depending on whom you ask, back in February, and I figured there must be a similar feast day for the equinox. Not so much. Neo-pagan traditions celebrate the equinox for sure, but there’s not really any historical evidence that older cultures in Ireland did so.
But one time I took an online quiz that told me I am 100% neo-Pagan, which is basically a conversion, and I’m also an aspiring witch. So I’ll light incense this evening, go outside, and say my prayer to the triple goddess the way I do on solstice nights. As I drift vaguely from agnosticism into pagan and wiccan traditions, I find more and more private rituals to love.
I’ll say my prayer and light my incense and eat apples (in the form of a galette I made two days ago). I’ll take time to breathe the cold air and say goodbye to summer. I’ll look after the goats. I’ll think of the good things shorter days and long cold nights will bring: quiet evenings by the fire with Richie, extra cups of tea and coffee, hot chocolate and hot whiskey, knitting, long nights of sleep and late mornings.
I’ve spent good stretches of the last few days down at the bottom of the field across the road with Richie, finishing a fence goat-proof enough that we can let them off from our yard. Now that they’re tucked into their impeccably fenced field, I can apply for a cottage industry license. I’ve been struggling to find work, and to get by with writing and online teaching, ever since I came to Ireland, so this feels like an important step toward a real, tangible kind of harvest and abundance. On this equinox I am grateful for the goats and their milk (and their company out here in nowhere), and I am grateful for my husband, without whose farming know-how, strong fencing arms, and patience with me I would never have even dreamed of this dream.
I’m listening to Buffy Sainte-Marie, too, a goddess if ever there was one. Illuminations is perfect equinox music, especially as we turn toward darker days.
I used to hate the winter, and I still have a really hard time with cold. Living in the countryside in Ireland, though, has taught me that it is good for humans to have winters, that we need a few months’ quiet and rest. As a student, I always worked my hardest in the winter months, and all that effort was extra exhausting in the darkness and cold. But here I’ve learned to listen to the world when it tells us to slow down. I can take pride in the work I’ve done this summer, and settle into the months to come without guilt. I won’t stop working, but I won’t fight the winter either. I’ll go into these darker days with all the grace I can muster, and I will be grateful for the harvest we have and for the rest to come.