An Autumn Equinox Ritual

An Autumn Equinox Ritual

Photo courtesy of author

Day Schildkret offers a Shake and Harvest Ritual. His newest book is Hello, Goodbye: 75 Rituals for Times of Loss, Celebration and Change.

There’s a shift.

You can feel it in the air. You can sense it in the light. You can see it in the leaves. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, all that was bright is quickly fading as the time teeters on the edge between dark and light. Everything must eventually change, and so the autumn equinox is a time to reassess—to come back, look around, and take stock of how things are, of what you have, of what you’ve lost, of all the success and the mistakes you’ve made along the way—and by doing so to renew yourself and your purpose at this turning of the year.

The Old English word for autumn was actually “harvest.” Not only is this a time of gathering, plucking, and reaping crops, but also a time of reckoning with all that life has given us and how we have shown up to receive it. Have our hands been grabby, clingy, or possessive? Have we hoarded our harvests and kept our gifts to ourselves? Have we taken more when we’ve already been full? Or maybe we find that our thoughts are only focusing on scarcity when life is trying to show us its abundance? This time of harvest is asking us to not only reap the gifts of this season but also wonder about how we are taking them.

One way to distinguish between taking more and receiving more is by stopping to remember what we already have. The fall equinox asks us to sit at the edge of enoughness. It marks a time to reflect on our home, our friendships, the food in our fridge, the money in our bank, the health in our bodies, the togetherness of our family or community, the courage it took just to wake up this morning—and to consider letting that be enough. Autumn marks the seasonal end of growth and has a way of shaking us free from the daydream of always needing more, bringing us back down to the humble ground of gratitude. The nature of autumn is that it is a time to hollow ourselves out, to remove so much of the excess that comes with the hunger of never being satisfied, of never having enough, of always needing more, so that we can really receive and be grateful for how much life is giving us.

Gratitude is a trending word these days, and as it gains in popularity it seems to diminish in value and meaning, like a child who quickly says thank you before eating. But gratitude isn’t just courtesy, it’s courtship. It’s a way of drawing closer by giving, not by taking. Gratitude refuses more because at the heart of it, it’s like a full cup that spills over, saying, “This is enough for now.” Offering genuine gratitude comes from a willingness to take account for all you have been given and to understand that none of it was guaranteed. Through that lens, gratitude becomes a kind of praise that remembers and includes impermanence as a way to renew your relationship to all of life.

This autumn equinox ritual is a way to inventory our lives. First and foremost, it asks us to have a hard look at our “never enough” mindset and all the ways we deny, doubt, hide, or refuse to see all we’ve been given. This ritual presents us with an opportunity to shake this up and let it loose. Then it invites us to listen more closely—receiving the moment with wonder. It’s a moment to sense the fragility and ephemerality of—like everything around us—being alive. This is a small way we can return to receiving what is here right now and let that be more than enough.



May I acknowledge the end of the season of growth and the transition into the season of gratitude. May I bring attention to the parts of myself that make me believe I don’t have enough and ritually release them. May I practice listening. May I be grateful for all the abundance that is here right now.

You Will Need:

  • A large branch filled with many leaves
  • Something comfortable with which to sit on the ground
  • Optional: a journal and pen
  • Optional: autumn fruits and vegetables like apples, pears, squash, corn, pumpkins

Solo or With Others?

If you are solo, consider journaling about each question before you do the ritual shaking. If you are with others, bear witness to their vulnerabilities in the same way you want them to bear witness to yours. The heart of this ritual is found in our capacity to listen to ourselves, to one another, and to our living world.

Where and When

There is magic percolating at sunset hour. Try to time this ritual just as the sun dips and the sky mirrors the colors of the leaves. You can do this in your backyard, in a park, at the beach, or on a hilltop. Most importantly, put your butt on the earth.



Before doing anything, just sit and take in the day ending. What is happening around you? Observe the light diminishing. Notice the shifting temperature. What are the birds doing? Bear witness to this everyday moment.

Go slower than you normally would. No matter how much you achieved today or didn’t, how many places you went, how many errands you ran, who and what you cared for, all the stresses and worries and hustling of the day, let this time settle you back down to your breath and to the earth. Syncing yourself with the end of the day is another way to return to the rhythm of the season.

Part 1: Shaking

It’s not comfortable to see the parts of ourselves that are greedy, disbelieving, doubtful, and dissatisfied. Actually, it’s countercultural to have a willingness to turn toward our vulnerabilities and not abandon ourselves to them as we typically do. Autumn being a time of reflection and impermanence asks us to take account of our lives, but to do so we need to first see where we turn away from all we have.

Part 1 asks us to confront these stories and, by doing so, shake ourselves free of them. There are four rounds to this first part of the ritual, organized around four questions. In each round, ask yourself the question and speak the answer aloud or journal it. Then shake the branch. You’ll need to give it a really good shake—your goal is to have the leaves fall off.

Round 1:

What parts of my life do I believe are lacking and scarce? Shake that branch.

Round 2:

When do I over-take and never feel satisfied? Shake that branch.

Round 3:

When have I turned away from my gifts this year? Shake that branch.

Round 4:

When have I turned away from receiving another’s gifts this year? Shake that branch.

If you have more questions to ask of yourself, add more rounds as needed.

Part 2: Sitting

When you have finished the four rounds, gently bring your body down to the earth. If you sit right on top of the leaves, even better. Shaking that branch was like a big storm coming through. In its aftermath, try to let things settle.

Bring your attention to your body. Listen to the way it sounds, to how it feels, to where the energy is now moving. Feel gravity grounding and rooting you back to stillness. Then bring your attention to your surroundings. Listen to the animal, plant, or human sounds. Sense the light changing. Feel your body sitting in this place. Let your mind settle on one simple thing happening right now and let this be enough. You can even say out loud:

“This is exactly as it should be.”


Gather for the Altar

Gather up the leaves that fell during the shaking ritual to use them for a home autumn altar. These leaves can become a symbol of transforming your “not enoughness” into a harvest. Whether you choose to place this altar outside or indoors, use the leaves as the base of the altar, and fill it with the fruits and vegetables of the season—pumpkins and apples, corn and squash, each symbolizing the bounty of your life and this world we live in. Come back to your altar throughout the season as a reminder to slow down, listen, and receive the fullness that is found in every day of your life.

Questions for Further Reflection

  • Why is the autumn equinox a time to reflect and take inventory?
  • What is the difference between taking and receiving?
  • What does the term “more than enough” mean to me? How do I practice that?
An Autumn Equinox Ritual

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