Essential Celt: Eight Practical Ideas To Celebrate Alban Elfed, The Autumn Equinox


Soon it will be Alban Elfed, which is the Welsh, Celtic and Druidic name (for many) of the Autumn equinox (Thursday, 22 September 2016) – that great event when the length of the day and the night are the same, that great time of balance. The compass direction for this Equinox is ‘west’, and so the element is ‘water’.

All praise be Yours, my God, through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious, and pure.
St Francis of Assisi

A few people have emailed me recently, seeking ideas of how to celebrate the Autumn Equinox in practical ways in a faith-group setting, as a family or by themselves, and a few suggestions follow. The list is not exhaustive and you are most welcome to respond with ideas that you have, or with what you have done in the past.

‘May the stream of your life flow unimpeded.
Deep peace of the running wave to you.’
Celtic Prayer

Here, then, are a few practical suggestions of celebrating the event:

8p-fruit-untitled(1) Give thanks for the harvest. This could be a full-scale family meal, and/or friends meal on that evening, or part of a simple meal for one or two (such as the breaking of bread at the beginning or at some point throughout the meal. It can be done symbolically and/or accompanied by a prayer or a piece of poetry).

‘Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who brings forth bread  from the earth.’ (A Jewish prayer. Bread, here, could be seen to represent all  kinds of food for this meal).

(2) As time of gratitude you might like to recount all the good things that have happened in the past year, maybe write them on a piece of paper (or in your journal). You could even invite a few family and/or friends over to do this. You might like to start a gratitude jar Some like to celebrate this time by giving thanks by inviting friends and family over, and forming a circle so that each person in turn can verbalise something that they’re grateful for. Some incorporate the use of a ‘talking stick’, so that the ‘talking stick’ is passed, in sequence, to the next person who will speak, and therefore he or she then has ‘the floor’ and all others must listen. The making of a ‘talking stick’ and gratitude jar will be the theme of tomorrow’s post.

acorns-untitled(3) Plant a native seed, such as an acorn at this time, or make a contribution to a forest trust who will plant a tree on your behalf or in memory of a loved one, and so, ecologically restore balance in the world. In the UK, I can heartily recommend the Woodland Trust, see here.

‘Don’t say, don’t say there is no water.
The fountain is there among its scalloped
green and grey stones.

It is still there and always there
with its quiet song and strange power
to spring in us,
up and out through the rock.

(Denise Levertov)

8p-candle-untitled(4) Dedicate part of your house, a corner-table in a room, a shelf or window sill to celebrate this event of celebrating the Earth’s abundance: and so decorate it with cloth the colour of autumnal browns and those awesome autumnal orange and red colours, with nuts, berries; with autumnal flowers (real or artificial) such as fennel, hops, marigold or hawthorne berries, all of which are associated with the Autumn equinox (or anything you like); and a candle (but if you light the candle, do ensure theres a safe distance between any cloth, fabric or curtains etc).

(5) Think about ‘balance’ in the wider context. As ‘balance’ is the thrust of the Autumnal equinox (the balance between day and night), see how this affects you eg do you have your work – rest balance in harmony, and if not, what adjustments would you like, could you make?

(6) Make time to (re-)connect with your ‘inner’ self, however you do it: consider a silent meditation; consider a walking (silent) meditation or ‘amble’ in the country or city park; or listen to a soft piece of music and sip wine or coffee (and why not include chocolate) at home, just relaxing and getting ‘dreamy’ as the music plays etc.

8p-water-bowl-untitled(7) As the Autumn equinox element is water, why not place  a bowl of water on the meal table, or maybe, place a bowl of water for the day near the door, and then you can ‘bless’ yourself (and remind yourself to be grateful for water) as you leave or enter the house. Holy water? And because the season’s element is water, you might want to embellish it with sea shells or the like.

‘…You give them to drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life, and in your light we see light.’
(Psalm 36:8-9 part, The Book)

(8) Some might like to consider drumming, or using drum-based music to dance to. I do this reguarly, but I confess it is, for me, a private event. My dance moves are not the best in the world and I’m not sure if the public at large are ready for them, but they are ‘offered up’ as a ‘dance sacrifice’ for the season, and it’s enjoyable, and I would recommend you trying a ‘dance of gratitude’.

If you have any suggestions, please let me know.



8 thoughts on “Essential Celt: Eight Practical Ideas To Celebrate Alban Elfed, The Autumn Equinox

  1. Great post. Thanks for these suggestions. One question: you mentioned using a talking stick in the a circle. Are there any specific Celtic practices that use a talking stick/stone? I’m from Alberta, Canada & I live in an area with a high indigenous peoples population. The talking stick is a part of the Cree & Dene culture from thousands of years back. It usually considered cultural & spiritual appropriation for another group that doesn’t have its own tradition of a talking stick/stone to use such an item in such a way. Canada is taking major steps towards reconciliation with our indigenous people, & so I’m doing my best to as open as I can to how my privilege has actually served to demean the practices of others.


    • I’m careful about appropriation too, although throughout what I’ve read so far about early Celtic practices their methods and traditions were very similar to NW native culture. A couple of years ago I attended a Druid workshop on reservation land where the main speaker was welcomed and embraced by the local NW tribe. They acknowledged these similarities. Archeological digs have turned up evidence of sweat lodges, ceremonial drumming, etc on the British isles. I haven’t read specifically about talking sticks yet, but I do know they have been used by indigenous people in Australia and in Africa as well. I’m not saying it should be brandished as “our way” as well, but as long as it is used respectfully and with sensitivity toward those who may take offense in a group setting, I think talking sticks can be used appropriately.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the response, Katie! I appreciate your words & your insights. Many of the elders here are quite open to dialoguing about what they feel is appropriate and what’s not. I think it’s become an even more front & centre issue with indigenous regalia (headdresses, for example) being used as fashion affectations instead of being understood in their rightful place. I’ll bear your words in mind. Thanks again!


  2. That’s a good question, and I don’t think I could better Katie’s brilliant answer. In one sense appropriation will occur, as it has done in the past, historically – it may surprise many Christians, for instance, to know that they have quite a bit in common with elements of ancient Zoroastrianism.

    But, respect is needed in all cases, I believe. And, where offence may be caused by appropriation, it may be best to find alternative means – if not a talking stick, then a rock or shell instead.

    It’s interesting you mentioned headdresses, which are very distinctive for North American indigenous peoples, and similarly so for ancient Celts and Druids in the UK and Europe, albeit the latter usually consist(ed) of a band of oak leaves, or laurel etc. At handfastings, for instance, when officiating, I, and the couple have worn dorchau pen (Welsh for head wreaths). Similarly, smudging is used by many tribes, and the ancient Scottish practice of saining sometimes uses smoke from vegetable ’embers’ to cleanse, bless and protect.


  3. Pingback: Essential Celt: Autumn Equinox & Incarnational Balance | Tadhg Talks…

  4. Pingback: Alban Elfed: Autumn Equinox 2017 | Tadhg Talks…

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