Transient Balance and Duality of the Equinoxes – Mabon and Ostara

Transient Balance and Duality of the Equinoxes – Mabon and Ostara September 15, 2020

I love the idea of the wheel of the year and celebrating each individual sabbat on its Special Day, but I am frankly terrible at actually doing it.  Instead, my observations on the turning of the sun tend to be more casual, and based in the flow of the seasons over emphasizing particular days (other than Samhain – I love Samhain).  When I have observed sabbats on their holiday, even the equinoxes and solstices, it has usually been in a community setting rather than a personal one.

I will be referring to the Fall Equinox as Mabon, and the Spring Equinox as Ostara because those are the two names which are most broadly used and widely recognized terms in witchcraft, pagan, occult, and pagan-tangential circles.  Using “Mabon” means this article has a prayer of being found when people search for articles about the equinox holy days.  I am not personally attached to any name for the equinoxes, and there are a great many alternative names which are in use, though most would not be recognized outside of specific groups.  Use the name that has meaning for you.

I usually observe the sabbats as seasons and cycles, rather than specific days. Image by Witchgarden from Pixabay

Observation of Seasons and Cycles

For me, the wheel of the year is about shifts, cycles, and seasons.  It is about observing the phase of the year, and how it affects the world around me.  For most of the year, especially the cross-sabbats (yes, even Samhain), the shifts are amorphous.  When the energies peak changes year to year, and is affected by local weather and other events, regardless of the calendar day when we choose to make ritual observations.

As someone who has lived in temperate parts of Northern California most of my life, the seasonal shifts are not as dramatic as those found in Northern Europe or elsewhere in North America, although they have changed as global warming has altered local climate.  Winter has historically been wet and green, and some flowers start appearing as early as Imbolc.  By Ostara, many flowers have finished their cycles, and will not be returning until next year, while others are in their peak or waiting for warmer weather before they begin.  Summer historically starts rather late, and fall tends to be short and alternates between very hot and very cold until winter weather settles in around Samhain.  Many trees are evergreen, and there is no snow to demarcate that Winter Has Come or delay spring growth.

The physical transitions between the seasons where I live tend to be subtle and sneak up on you, so much so that it is hard to differentiate between winter and early spring, spring and early summer, and late summer and fall.  The result is an experience of seasonal shifts which bears little resemblance to the classic tropes laid out on most pagan wheels of the year, and yet it is still of value to observe those changes and how they affect the energies of the world in an ongoing cycle.

The nature of the seasons and the transitions between them change from area to area. Image by kmicican from Pixabay

Equinoxes and Solstices

There are only four points in the wheel of the year which can easily be precisely defined, and are universal across the entire planet, regardless of local climate or hemisphere.  Those are the equinoxes and solstices.  They can be calculated as moments in time, far more precisely than just a date on a calendar.  Although, just like the full and new moon, their energies extend beyond the moment of each astronomical event.

Much of the correspondences and energies of these four annual events are independent of the local weather and associated seasonal traits.  They speak to the transitions of the sun itself in relation to the body of the Earth: peak, waxing, minimal, and waning.  They still have meaning and impact, even in equatorial regions which have even less seasonal shift than where I live.

The equinoxes and solstices are the solar counterpart to the full, new, and quarter moons.  Summer solstice is like the full moon, in that it is at its most intense and active strength, perfect for taking action and getting things done.  Winter solstice is like the new moon, in that it is at its most dormant and calm state, perfect for renewal, reflection, and planning.  The equinoxes are like the quarter moons, in that they are at their most liminal, half in darkness and half in light, neither here nor there, and yet both at the same time.

The equinoxes and solstices are far easier to quantitatively define than the cross-sabbats. Image by Tomasz Mikołajczyk from Pixabay

Equinox Balance

The equinox happens when night and day are the same length of time.  It is a physical balance between the abundance of summer sunlight, and the abundance of winter nights.  It is a brief moment, which we perceive as a day or a week, while time marches on and the balance moves on towards winter or summer.

It is a moment, but it is not set in stone.  The sun never stops moving, even if we can astronomically determine the moment when the equinox happens.  It is transient and transitional in its inevitable shift.  Even if for that brief time the whole world experiences the same length of day and night, we experience it in opposite directions, one hemisphere moving in, and the other moving out.

Equinox Duality

The equinoxes are a balance of spring and fall, as every time there is an Ostara, there is also a Mabon happening at exactly the same time.  The Earth experiences both simultaneously, and it always will as long as the Earth exists.  This creates a duality aspect to the equinoxes which is especially prominent in equatorial regions with indistinct fall and spring.  If I ever find myself living near the equator, I promise you that I will observe both Mabon and Ostara every six months, even if I don’t break out the ritual tools and get formal about it.

The Earth itself always experience the whole of it when the equinoxes happen, and if you are conscientious of that duality, you can tap into it when making observations or conducting magic at the equinoxes.  This is because we can connect to the Earth, and through tapping into the Earth’s dualistic experience of the equinoxes, we can tap into those energies ourselves.

There is a profound balance and harmony to be found in the equinoxes. Image by 18121281 from Pixabay

Meditations on Equinox Balance and Duality

These meditation prompts can be used with most forms of meditation.  They can be done alone or as part of a ritual, rite, or spell.  You can do them any time of year, but it is likely you will have more luck if you do them on an equinox (Mabon or Ostara).  They are designed to help you connect with and better understand different aspects of equinox energy, and how those energies are reflected in your own life throughout the year.

Exploring the Transient Nature of Balance

Balance, especially balance in life, is almost never static.  When balance is static, there is always a finite amount of time before the balance shifts.  If no adjustment or adaptation happens, things are going to fall or get dropped and broken.  Instead, balance is an ongoing dance, where, like riding a motorcycle or bike, it is usually momentum and continual adjustments that allow us to remain upright as we move down our life paths.

Take a few deep breaths and focus in on the equinox you are experiencing (Mabon or Ostara).  The energies of the equinox are all around you, encompassing and permeating the entire Earth.  Breath into it, and feel or see how those energies permeate you and everything else.

Stay with your breath until you can feel or see the energies of the equinox, and are fully connected to them, part of them, with each breath.

Focus in on the cycle of your breath in and out.  Feel the pause at the end of an inhale, and the pause at the end of an exhale.  Whether it lasts for a moment, or is barely perceptible, feel that moment happen, when the breath shifts from entering to exiting, and from exiting to entering.

Now shift your focus to the breath as your lungs fill and your lungs empty.  Feel how the lungs expand and contract, as air moves in, or moves out.  With each exhale and inhale, there is a point where your lungs are half-full of air.

As you inhale, try to stop your breath at roughly half-full.  Wait a moment before continuing to inhale.

As you exhale, try to stop your breath at roughly half-full.  Wait a moment before continuing to exhale.

Continue to breathe naturally as you contemplate how that felt.  Was it easy to continue the inhale or did you want to exhale when you started again?  Was it the same when you stopped on an exhale?  Even though you did not complete the breath, did your body take the pause as a sign to shift between inhale and exhale?  Did you have trouble deciding where the half-full point was?  How did pausing your breath feel on an emotional level?  Did it make you anxious or tense?  Are those feelings dissipating now that you are breathing naturally?

Re-center and reground yourself if you need to.

Observing the equinoxes is as much about the experiences of the Earth as our experiences inhabiting it. Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Shift your focus back to the equinox.  It is the half-way point of both fall and spring.  Unlike your breath, the solstices cannot come early or late, and the march between them is inexorable.  The sun cannot pause in the shift of length of days.  The constant, steady changes are a natural part of the process, just as your most comfortable breath is one that flows with constant movement, whether that movement is slow or fast, deep or shallow.

Contemplate how everything in life is constantly in flux, whether it is the back and forth of a daily commute, the cycle of waking and sleeping, the constant need to restock food and other perishables, the shifting needs and desires of relationships, or the aging of our own bodies.

Contemplate how the equinox is but a moment in time, and yet how powerful it is as the sun moves through perfect balance, changing state between dominant days to dominant nights.  In six months it will swing back around and move through perfect balance again, in a cycle that has lasted for billions of years, and will last for billions more.  Feel the power of that shift, and how the returning transient balance creates an overall balance to the wheel of the year.  For as long as the sun and earth still move in harmony, there will always be another year.

Reflect on the transient balances in your own life.  Are there areas of your life where you move out of balance, only to return, rebalance, and move in another direction before coming back around again?  Are there areas of your life where you could find more overall balance if you allowed yourself to move in and out of balance in cycles, rather than constantly putting all your energy into one thing?

If you feel drawn to do so, make a dedication to allow yourself fluid, transient balance, which can adapt to your changing needs and situation as the days, weeks, and months go by.

Seasonal duality exists, even if we do not physically experience it without traveling around the world. Image by Sookyung An from Pixabay

Exploration of Seasonal Duality

Duality is when something carries two very distinct and different traits at the same time.  For the equinoxes, this is present in the fact that every Mabon is also an Ostara, and every Ostara is also a Mabon.  Mabon is the waning aspect, and Ostara is the waxing aspect.  We tend to think of them as opposites, but they have a great deal in common and complement each other beautifully.

Take a few deep breaths and focus in on the equinox you are experiencing (Mabon or Ostara).  The energies of the equinox are all around you, encompassing and permeating the entire Earth.  Breath into it, and feel or see how those energies permeate you and everything else.

Stay with your breath until you can feel or see the energies of the equinox, and are fully connected to them, part of them, with each breath.

Setup for Mabon:

Focus in on the waning aspects of the solar cycle.  Explore how the fall equinox is full of waning energy, part of the transition from summer to winter as the harvests come in, trees lose their leaves, and colder weather has arrived or sits promisingly on the horizon.  These changes and more are inevitable, ongoing, and cyclical.

Stay with those feelings and meanings until you can feel them in the marrow of your bones, the tips of your fingers and toes, and the strands of your hair.

Shift your focus to the waxing aspects of the solar cycle.  Breathe and expand your awareness out and down through the Earth.  Follow it all the way until you can feel a connection to the side of the Earth opposite where you are, which is experiencing Ostara.  Draw upon your memories of Ostaras you have experienced to help connect with the energies so far from your physical location.

Explore how the spring equinox is full of waxing energy, part of the transition from winter to summer as crops are planted, new flowers and growth are everywhere, and warmer days have arrived or sit promisingly on the horizon.  These changes and more are inevitable, ongoing, and cyclical.

Stay with those feelings and meanings until you can feel them in the marrow of your bones, the tips of your fingers and toes, and the strands of your hair.

Without letting go of your awareness of distant Ostara, restore your awareness of the Mabon energies which surround you.  Let the two mingle and mix as you bring your awareness to the experience of the Earth, and the duality of both existing at the same time.

Equinox duality can be most easily explored during either equinox. Image by Crepessuzette from Pixabay

Setup for Ostara:

Focus in on the waxing aspects of the solar cycle.  Explore how the spring equinox is full of waxing energy, part of the transition from winter to summer as crops are planted, new flowers and growth is everywhere, and warmer days have arrived or sit promisingly on the horizon.  These changes and more are inevitable, ongoing, and cyclical.

Stay with those feelings and meanings until you can feel them in the marrow of your bones, the tips of your fingers and toes, and the strands of your hair.

Focus on the waxing aspects of the solar cycle.  Breathe and expand your awareness out and down through the Earth.  Follow it all the way until you can feel a connection to the side of the Earth opposite where you are, which is experiencing Mabon.  Draw upon your memories of Mabons you have experienced to help connect with the energies so far from your physical location.

Explore how the fall equinox is full of waning energy, part of the transition from summer to winter as the harvests come in, trees lose their leaves, and colder weather has arrived or sits promisingly on the horizon.  These changes and more are inevitable, ongoing, and cyclical.

Stay with those feelings and meanings until you can feel them in the marrow of your bones, the tips of your fingers and toes, and the strands of your hair.

Without letting go of your awareness of distant Mabon, restore your awareness of the Ostara energies which surround you.  Let the two mingle and mix as you bring your awareness to the experience of the Earth, and the duality of both existing at the same time.

Explore the similarities and differences between the energies of Ostara and Mabon. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Both Ostara and Mabon:

Breath into the dual energies while you continue to observe them.  What similarities do you see between them, though one is close at hand, and the other far more distant?  Investigate the extra layer of balance inherent in the two existing simultaneously and harmoniously.

Appreciate that similarities do not negate the differences, but instead highlight them.  Contemplate how the similarities strengthen them, and the differences enrich them.

Contemplate the dualities in your own life, from the roles you play in society, to your principles, ethics, and attitudes towards different subjects.  For you this may be the duality of professional and personal life, being simultaneously compassionate and stern, taking care of yourself and others, celebrating inclusion while refusing to tolerate hate, being both creative and logical, or something else entirely.  Contemplate how, like the equinoxes, multiple diverse aspects exist simultaneously, providing stronger and more flexible framework and balance for your life than one aspect can by itself.

Contemplate places in your practice where you work with dualities, trinities, and other simultaneous diverse aspects of single things.  Honor those places and entities, whether they are deities, life-death practices, elemental work, or something else entirely.

Appreciate how the ongoing duality of the equinoxes is a physical representation of how dualities can be found throughout life, on physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels.

If you feel drawn to do so, make a dedication to recognize the dualities in your life, to never look down on them as contradictory of hypocritical, and instead work with them to create a stronger and more flexible framework of balance in your life.

Use your intuition to incorporate the transient balance and duality of the equinoxes into your spellwork and meditations. Image by ds_30 from Pixabay

Other Meditations and Spellwork

Once you are familiar with the energies and aspects you would like to draw upon, you can use them when crafting your own meditations or spellwork.  Exactly what form that takes depends upon you, your practice, and what you would like to accomplish.  If you feel that these sorts of equinox energies would be of benefit to your Work, then most likely they are.

Waxing and waning solar energy can function similarly to using waxing and waning lunar energy, but it does have a very different quality to it.  Those waxing and waning energies can be tapped into throughout the year, but at the equinox there is the additional aspect of balance which can also be tapped into.  This can be particularly beneficial when you are interested in encouraging long-term balanced and stable growth or cleansing.  Including the duality aspect is also helpful if you are expecting an ebb and flow or cyclical changes in your goal (like growing a business in a seasonal tourist area).

I am sure there are other goals to spellwork which could make use of these aspects.  If you are unsure, do some meditations into the nature of the energies you want to tap into, and how they relate to the goals you have in mind.  Follow your intuition, investigate the meanings and symbology of the equinox sabbats beyond the current season, and incorporate them as components of your Work wherever it feels right.

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