That whimsical day occurring twice each year, where dark and light are equal.
The dictionary definition of the word “equinox” is the time when the sun crosses the plane of the earth’s equator, making night and day of approximately equal length all over the earth and occurring about March 21 (vernal equinox or spring equinox) and September 22 (autumnal equinox). In essence, twelve hours of both sunlight and moonlight.
A turning point.
Like the solstices, two sides of the same coin.
I’ve always had a fascination with the solstices and equinoxes. There is just something fantastic about them. In mythology, the solstices were regarded as days when the worlds of gods and men were closest together. Similarly, fairytales and legends speak of solstices as times when the mystical creatures and forces of the world — elves, faeries, fay, gods — run rampant through our world, bringing beauty and terror wherever they step. The nights of those forgotten days were covered in sublimity.
All the old tales speak of the solstices with a dark reverence, carrying a whisper of the unknown possibilities and adventures. These days are meant to inspire something deep inside us, a wonder that seems as old as the world itself. What makes these days so special? Why can the mention bring a chill down one’s spine?
Integrated into our culture are the stories, myths, and fables that have spanned generations, crossed continents, outlived dynasties. In myths, solstices are most associated with ancient prophecies. The hero must complete his task by the solstice or a great evil will rise. In fairytales and legends, the solstice usually avoids seers and oracle. The Saving of Tam Lin, a Scottish folk legend I read as a kid (or at least, a version of it), tells the tale of girl who saves her true love from being sacrificed by faeries on the winter solstice by holding him for the length of twenty-one heartbeats.
Solstices are mentioned everywhere in our culture.
But what about equinoxes?
Hardly are they given any significance, anything special or cataclysmic. At least they are in myths more widely known. The longest day of the year and the darkest day of the year exude familiarity, but the equinox… The equinox remains a mystery.
Perhaps it was regarded as a day when the forces of good and evil were equally matched, when neither had advantage over the other. Or maybe they were days of such harmony and balance, it never crossed anyone’s mind to include the equinox in tales that would one day become legend.
Whether one considers the equinoxes as chimerical turning points of the year or just the changing of seasons, the whimsy and magic of those days never quite fades away.
Those days and nights when anything could happen.