Emerald Isle

Autumn equinox

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales tales of Ireland

Autumn equinox

The Autumn equinox was considered to be a day of great importance by the ancient Irish, especially for the first farmers who arrived and built the great megalithic civilisation. Numerous ancient monuments are aligned to both the spring and Autumn equinoxes, such as those at Loughcrew, and we can easily imagine ancient druids or magicians enacting rituals of prayer and protection for the coming dark season as the world passed through the border of sunlight into shadow.

Survivals of older harvest festivals and customs are found in St Michaelmas day, which was around a week after the equinox, with geese being fattened and slaughtered, the beginning of legal contracts and terms of employment, the settling of debts and the paying of rent. In some places it marked the beginning of the hunting season and the end of the fishing season.

Apples were picked, along with different fruit and nuts - children were warned not to touch blackberries after the equinox, since a púca might have poisoned them! Customs varied hroughout the country, and in some places effigies were carried about and burned. Some say the Autumn equinox was the time of the Bodach, the old magician in the grey coat, spouse to the Cailleach, queen of winter, with whom the Spring equinox is most associated.

The Giant's Grave on the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry is one of the ancient monuments which have recently been found to be aligned to the equinox, a tomb four millennia old containing a great deal of rock art. When the sun goes down on the equinox dates, its copper light illuminates the cup and rung marks at the back of the tomb.

The Giant's Grave can be found on the map below!

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