Members of the Mayan priest council pray in celebration of Autumn equinox
Members of the Mayan priest council pray in celebration of Autumn equinoxReuters

The sky was both the calendar and the clock for humans in early times, and they planned their entire lifetimes tracking the sun's path across the sky, the length of daylight and the location of the sunrise and sunset. Derived from Latin, meaning "equal night", Equinox is that time of the year, when night and day are nearly exactly the same length -- 12 hours -- all over the world.

There are two equinoxes every year, one in September and another in March. The September equinox occurs the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth's equator – from north to south, usually on 22, 23, or 24 September every year. Seasons are opposite on either side of the equator, so the equinox in September is also known as the "autumnal equinox" (fall) in the northern hemisphere. However, in the southern hemisphere, it's known as the "spring equinox" (vernal).

Unlike other solstices, which are more of tourist attractions, the autumn equinox is more of a spiritual experience, with many cultures and religions including the ancient Mayans and Druids reverently celebrating it.

This year, Druid leader and self-declared reincarnation of King Arthur, Uther Pendragon, while elaborating on his plans to celebrate the autumn equinox to IBTimes UK, explained that although he enjoys all four solstices, he prefers the equinoxes far more from a spiritual point of view.

For the equinox, the Druid group usually attends celebrations before Stonehenge and is much more of a spiritual affair than the summer solstice, which offers more of a party atmosphere.

Arthur Uther Pendragon attending 2010 Summer Solstice ceremony at Stonehenge
Arthur Uther Pendragon attending 2010 Summer Solstice ceremony at StonehengeCreative Commons/FlickreviewR

King Arthur said that the Druids would be leading the festivities and ceremonies at Stonehenge. "English Heritage will allow us in just before dawn and we'll get into the centre circle, then myself and one of the arch druids will be leading the ceremony in the centre circle."

After the centre circle he would be doing his own ceremony over by the heel stone where there would be drummers and pipers and poetry, dance, and so on. "One of the things about the Druid tradition is it's a celebration. What we tend to do at Stonehenge is to celebrate whatever we've set up for, which is the turning of the wheel."

Pendragon explained that a being a Pagan is worshipping the divine through nature. "We see the divine in all things, we see it in the ground beneath our feet, we see it in stones, in the rock, in the planet itself."

Druids celebrating the equinox have a similar prayer for all major events. They will call to the four quarters to ask for peace: "We'll say 'is there peace in the east?' and the response would be 'there is peace in the east'. Then we'll go around to the south, west and north, then we'll turn inwards and say is there peace or let there be peace throughout the whole world."

The Druids then celebrate through poetry, dance and music. In ancient times the equinox would signify the beginning of winter.