Dates for assembly

16th September 2005 at 01:00
September 21: autumn equinox Once the occasion for a harvest festival, the equinox is known to some modern pagans by its Welsh name, Mabon

Outline script for assembly leader

Summer may be over, but cheer up, there are only about 90 days to Christmas. In fact, we are now three-quarters of the way through the year and at the point when the sun appears to cross the equator on its journey south. For Australians and for penguins in Antarctica, summer is on its way: there, the days are getting longer and warmer.

In the northern hemisphere, daylight hours are shortening so that day and night are now of roughly equal length, which is why this is called the autumn equinox. Those who believe in astrology will know that the sun now enters the sign of Libra, the Scales of Balance.

In olden times, people celebrated the start of harvesting with a festival called Lammas in August. The equinox was a time for a second celebration, when the harvest was gathered in and there was a chance to rest after the hard work of summer.

In pagan times, people believed that the sun's power and life was trapped in the corn - especially in the last sheaf to be harvested. This was dressed in fine clothes, or woven into a wicker-like human shape. This "corn dolly" then had the place of honour at Harvest Home, the village feast that marked the end of work with much cider drinking.

In medieval times, the Church tried to turn it into a Christian festival (September 25) in honour of St Michael and All Angels. Older customs survived, however, until the 19th century, when a Cornish clergyman, the Rev RS Hawker, invented the modern Christian harvest festival. Even so, some country people still make corn dollies.

Follow-up

Paganism now features in some RE and RS syllabuses, to which Mabon may be a useful introduction. In some situations, it may be appro-priate to adapt or re-enact an historic autumn ritual: lStand in a circle around a tree. Discuss the blessings it gives.

lList the good things that have happened during the summer. Each person places a piece of fruit into a central bowl, saying what it represents.

Each person then takes a different piece of fruit from the bowl as a way of sharing blessings.

Further information: www.bbc.co.ukwiltshireweatherautumnal_equinox.shtml

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