The Spiritual Meaning of the Harvest Moon

The Spiritual Meaning of the Harvest Moon


The Harvest Moon, the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, brings potent magic and wisdom. Learn what this year’s Harvest Moon has to teach you.

Each full moon of the year has a special name that comes from cultures all over the world. Usually, these names refer to the season, and the moon’s appearance shifts depending on whether we’re in a year with twelve or thirteen moons. The Harvest Moon is a special name, as it refers to the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox (in the Northern Hemisphere). It’s called that because, at this time of the year, the full moon tends to rise around sunset for several nights in a row, giving farmers that little bit of extra light to work by during the vital harvest season. It usually rises sometime in September, but it can land in October as well.

Balance at the Autumnal Equinox

The autumnal equinox (often known today as Mabon) was widely celebrated in ancient Celtic society. It was the middle harvest festival between Lughnasadh (on August 1) and Samhain (on October 31). Here, we are right in the middle of harvest season, which is a time of abundance and celebration, but it’s also a time for preparation for the winter, the dark half of the year, when we head inside and hope the harvest lasts us until the spring.

The equinox is a time of balance; of equality between the dark half and the bright half of the year. The daylight and nighttime hours are balanced evenly, which can feel like a very sweet and easeful time. It’s a good time to think about equality and relationships. It has a little bit of romance to it, especially if you think of Neil Young’s famous ode to long-time love, called “Harvest Moon”: "Because I'm still in love with you / I want to see you dance again / Because I'm still in love with you / On this Harvest Moon..."

The Coming of Darkness

Each of the sabbats of the Wheel of the Year mark the passing of time. While the autumnal equinox tends to be a sweet time of equality between the light and the dark, it is also a moment when the dark is about to start taking over from the light. From here until the winter solstice, the nights will continue to get longer than the days. Darkness wins out.

While this may feel slightly melancholy, it can also be sweet in its own way. The dark half of the year is a movement away from the extroversion of the spring and summer and into the more contemplative and spiritually minded fall and winter. Many people think of September as a kind of energetic new year: As we move out of the celebratory summertime, many of us are ready to take on new projects, attempt new things at work, and head inwards to work on our intellectual selves. Classically, of course, this is also back-to-school season. It’s a shift in our energy from the extroverted bright half of the year towards the introverted dark half.

Reaping Your Spiritual Harvest

The Harvest Moon, then, is a time to consider your spiritual harvest. What have you been cultivating over the summer? What resources are you bringing with you into the more intellectual part of the year? Harvest is both a drawing in and a letting go: We collect the good fruits and vegetables, and we weed out the plants we don’t want or need in our gardens. This is a time to drop habits, plans, or behaviors that aren’t working for you in order to clear the way for this new shift in energy.

On this Harvest Moon, take some time out to see where you are in your life. Think about the state of your work or projects, as well as the state of your relationships. From this place of contemplation, consider where you’d like to put your attention and energy as we move into the next turning of the Wheel of the Year.

Enjoy a healing harvest moon ritual.

The Spiritual Meaning of the Harvest Moon

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