Pomona. Tapestry designed by Edward Burne-Jones and John Henry Dearle, 1890. Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
The Autumn Equinox begins on September 23 at 3:09 A.M. UTC (or Coordinated Universal Time, which is like GMT, but isn't). That means it arrives10:09 PM EST on September 22.
Timeless Myths explains the origin of the Roman goddess of orchards (depicted above in tapestry), Pomona. It's the usual cheerful harvest story: "Vertumnus was the Roman god of garden and orchard. Vertumnus was probably a god of Etruscan origin, named Voltumna. His consort, named Pomona had similar functions. Pomona was the goddess of garden and orchard. The two deities had their festival on the same day, August 13. Ovid tells of how many woodland spirits and gods, including Pan and the satyrs, wooed Pomona, because of her great beauty. Pomona would have nothing to with males, mortals or immortals. All she cared about was orchard and her apples. ... Vertumnus tried various disguises to be near her and to win her love, such as ... farmer, vineyard worker, soldier ... . Finally he ... changed back to his normal form, and was going to force himself upon her. It wasn't necessary, since she had fallen in love with him in his true form."
Autumn, from the series The Seasons (c.1896). By Alphonse Mucha.
For those interested in Pre-Christian nomenclatures, the Celtic tradition places the Autumn Equinox in the season of Mahon.
Wheel of the Year. By Mickie Mueller.
One of the most powerful fantasies that rests on autumnal symbols in European culture is the Romantic Ballet, Giselle, or, The Wilis, with a libretto by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier, music by Adolphe Adam, and choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot. The story is based on a poem by Heinrich Heine. Set in the French-German countryside at the time of the grape harvest, it involves a poor village girl, Giselle, who falls in love with the prince of the kingdom, Albrecht, as he rides through the land to see the peasants making wine. It doesn't help that he decides to disguise himself as a local lad in order to see what it's like to hang around with regular folks, and of course he falls in love with her. They're crowned king and queen of the harvest at the grape festival. When she finds out the truth (doesn't take long), she dances herself to death. In the middle of night, he comes to her grave mourning her. The grave happens to stand on the edge of marshlands, and he's surrounded by the eerie lights of marsh gases, which threaten to lead him to his death in the swamps.
Giselle arises from her grave in the marsh mists. Famous Italian ballerina Carlotta Grisi dancing in Giselle, Paris, 1841.
The gases are in fact undead spirits, or Wilis, of other girls who've met similar ends. The Queen of the Wilis orders Albrecht to dance all night with Giselle, and if he can do so until the arrival of dawn without falling from exhaustion or sinking into the swamps, the Wilis will spare his life. He just makes it, and collapses in Giselle's arms as the cock crows. She dissolves into dew, and he never sees her again but can never forget her and will be forever haunted.
According to Wiki, the legend of Wilis in Heine's poem, De l'Allemagne (On Germany, 1833), is based on Slavonic supernatural beings who lured young men to death by dancing. The notion may have been based on St. Vitus's dance, the dancing mania of the Middle Ages. Wiki on the Wilis: "The Vila, Wila, Wili, or Veela are the Slavic versions of nymphs, who have power over storms, which they delight in sending down on lonely travelers. They live in meadows, ponds, oceans, trees, and clouds ... . They can appear as swans, horses, wolves, or beautiful women. In Polish mythology, the Wiła ... and in South-Slavic mythology the Vila ... are believed to be the spirits of women who had been frivolous in their lifetimes and now floated between here and the afterlife."
It's ironic that Heine inspired a Romantic Ballet about these creatures, since his 1833 account was actually a reaction against Romanticism. His book, On Germany, was split in two parts. Wiki: "In its later German version, the book is divided into two: Zur Geschichte der Religion und Philosophie in Deutschland (Religion and Philosophy in Germany) and Die romantische Schule (The Romantic School). Heine was deliberately attacking Madame de Staël's book De l’Allemagne (1813) which he viewed as reactionary, Romantic and obscurantist. He felt de Staël had portrayed a Germany of 'poets and thinkers,' dreamy, religious, introverted and cut off from the revolutionary currents of the modern world. Heine thought that such an image suited the oppressive German authorities. He also had an Enlightenment view of the past, seeing it as mired in superstition and atrocities. Religion and Philosophy in Germany describes the replacement of traditional 'spiritualist' religion by a pantheism which pays attention to human material needs. According to Heine, pantheism had been repressed by Christianity and had survived in German folklore. He predicted that German thought would prove a more explosive force than the French Revolution." His speculations are worth noting, not only for their historical prescience, but because these ideas resonate now. The Tech Revolution is a period during which neo-Romanticism is intimately merged with opposing Enlightenment values.