Gone are the birds that were our summer guests, With the last sheaves return the laboring wains! All things are symbols: the external shows Of Nature have their image in the mind As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves The song-birds leave us at summer’s close, Only the empty nests are left behind, And the pipings of the quail amid the sheaves (Excerpt from The Harvest Moon by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s (1807-1882) poem “The Harvest Moon” provides us with the perfect introduction for the mini-season of Autumn Equinox.
The Autumn Equinox
The mini-season of Autumn Equinox runs from September 22 until October 7. The mini-seasons were originally created by the ancient Chinese and then adapted by the Japanese in 1685. (1)
Each mini-season is made up of three micro-seasons. The micro-seasons for the Autumn Equinox are:
- Thunder Lowers Its Voice (Sep. 22- Sep 27)
- Hibernating Creatures Close Their Doors (Sep. 28- Oct 2)
- The Paddy Water Is First Drained (Oct 3-Oct 7)
The mini-season prior to Autumn Equinox was called White Dew (Sept 7 – Sep 21) and the following season will be Cold Dew (Oct 8 – Oct 22). As you can tell by the names of these seasons, we are shifting into the colder months.
An equinox marks the time when the length of the day equals the length of the night. It is the moment that ‘the Sun crosses what we call the ‘“celestial equator’—an imaginary extension of Earth’s equator line into space.”(2) This year the equinox occurred on Wednesday, September 22, 2021.
September’s equinox, also called the autumnal equinox, marks the beginning of autumn. Autumn will last until the winter solstice on December 21.
The Harvest Moon and Haiku
The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox. This means that the Harvest Moon has the potential to happen in either September or October. In 2021, the Harvest Moon and the autumn equinox were only two days apart. In 2022, the Harvest Moon was on September 10th.
The autumn equinox and the harvest moon are kigos, or seasonal words, used in writing haiku. (You can read more about kigos in the post about the mini-season of White Dew.) There are also many other words that you can use in your haiku that will associate it with this time of year. The list below comes from the producers of Season by Season. There are some unique ones here!
Harvest, the Green Corn Ceremony, giving thanks, apple cider and apple “bees”, Corn Spirit, and other folklore about the harvest including The stranger, The Maiden, The Witch, The Old Woman. Corn spirit animals, and John Barleycorn.Autumn Equinox Kigo; Season by Season Podcast
For me, the Harvest Moon is deeply connected to autumn. As a result, I thought it would be fitting to focus our attention on the haiku that highlighted the Harvest Moon.
The following haikus are written by some of the early masters of the haiku tradition.
Yosa Buson 1716–1784
A bright harvest moon — rainwater has collected on the surface of the pond
Since it turns out I’m all by myself I make friends with the harvest moon
Kobayashi Issa (1763–1828)
mountain village-- even in my soup the harvest moon
harvest moon-- sitting cross-legged like Buddha
harvest moon: around the pond I wander and the night is gone.
Hattori Ransetsu (1654-1707)
under the harvest moon smoke drifts across the lake
(Hattori Ransetsu was an Edo Samurai who became a haiku poet and studied under Basho.)
If you happen to have any other favorite haiku that might fit this season, feel free to share.
The Harvest and Song
Are interested in the role music plays in the traditional harvest?
The producers of the Season By Season podcast have released another great episode, and this time Alexis and Kit talk with Annie Patterson and Peter Blood of “Rise Up & Sing” to discuss the songs and music of the harvest season. If you have a moment check out their podcast.
- Noticing the 72 Seasons
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac: Autumnal Equinox 2021
- Poetry Foundation: Yosa Buson
- Poetry Foundation: Kobayashi Issa
- Poetry Foundation: Basho
- Season by Season
- 72 Seasons App
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