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The Manitou Project in Williamsville is hosting an equinox celebration today from 3 p.m. to dusk. This photograph of the Harvest Moon was taken last week.

WILLIAMSVILLE >> As the days shorten and the nights lengthen, light and dark slowly come into balance. It is at that moment of balance that the equinox is observed.

The autumnal and spring equinox occur when the day and night are equal lengths over the equator. It is the only time that the solar terminator, the "edge" between day and night, is perpendicular to the equator. After that moment the sun either heads north, for spring here in the northern hemisphere or south, as it did this week, for the fall season.

This occurrence marks a new season across the globe. Here in North America it has typically marked the harvest season, a time of bounty and celebration. Around the world and across time the equinox has inspired many celebrations and rituals.

Locally, there is a unique opportunity to celebrate this balance of light and dark while reconnecting with the natural world and oneself. Today, from 3 p.m. to dusk, the public is invited to the 235 acre land preserve in Williamsville that is the Manitou Project. The Manitou Project seeks to foster community with nature.

This family friendly event will begin in the parking area at 3 p.m. After a brief stroll to a welcoming place in the woods, a simple circle dance will commence. This circle dance will include movements from the ancient tradition of paneurhythmy. Rupa Cousins will lead the group with simple steps honoring the conclusion of paneurhythmy seasonal honoring of the sun in the summer.


At 4 p.m., sound healing will happen in the forest glen, or outdoor concert hall. Vibrant Ensemble, with Stephan Brandstatter and Dennis Waring, will provide evocative soundscapes with gongs, chimes, bells, percussion and wind instruments. Vibrant Ensemble performs improvised soundscapes that reflect the serenity and ambience of nature.

The celebration will conclude with a fireside feast. Participants are encouraged to bring a picnic dinner of something they love. This will be a time of festivity and fellowship.

Tax deductible donations are encouraged to help support the artists. Participants should wear comfortable shoes and clothing for enjoying time spent outside, in the forest, hiking and dancing.

In Pagan mythology, the equinox is referred to as Mabon, or Second Harvest. Not only is it time to give thanks for the summer and give tribute to the coming darkness but it is also a time to prepare for Samhain, a bigger Pagan festival which ushers in winter. Building an altar with harvest fruits and vegetables and gathering apples and feasting on them is a common ritual during this time as is offering apples to the goddess and counting blessings.

In Japan the equinoxes (both of them) are celebrated with a period called Ohigan. The Buddhist based belief is that the land of the afterlife is located directly west and the sun sets due west during the equinox. The equinoxes being symbolic of transitions of life, the rituals include visiting ancestral graves, sprucing them up, and leaving flowers. It is also a time of meditation and visiting with living family.

In Ireland, Neo-Druids gather at Stonehenge to observe the equinox sunrise. The Druids, like the Pagans, offer their thanks for a bountiful harvest and prepare for the coming darkness. They gather twice a year at Stonehenge to celebrate both equinox.

In the west the equinox is celebrated in a variety of ways. The harvest is celebrated with apple picking and pumpkin gathering. Preparation starts for the upcoming Halloween and Thanksgiving season. The autumnal equinox is a time of gathering firewood and children have gone back to school. Pies are made and the days get markedly shorter.

For more information on the Manitou Project, call Mike Mayer at 802-258-8598. The Manitou Project is located at 300 Sunset Lake Road in Williamsville, Vt.