The dying of the light: An autumn equinox tarot reading

Last night, I tried to do an autumn equinox reading.

But I was ill, and grumpy, and having a bad day, and it was one of those reading you give up on halfway through. It felt forced and wrong.

This morning was different. I arrived at the studio early, almost in a hurry to get to my cards and speak with them. I chose the Wildwood Tarot – it always feels like a good choice for a seasonal kind of reading – and made up a little spread to address the energies of the autumn equinox, the shift from summer to winter, the harvest, the dying of the earth and light. I had so much to ask about, so much that has swirled around inside me for the past six months, so much that I want to pin down, crystalise, make sense of. But I didn’t want a long reading. This five card spread felt just right.

Photo 24-09-2015 10 13 30

Here are the card positions:

1. Harvest – what are you gathering in now, what is the result of the work you did this year, what are the fruits of your labour? Perhaps there is an abundance, perhaps not. Take an honest appraisal.

2. Dying back – now that the light is dying, and the earth is growing colder, and the crops are dying back, what are you releasing? What has reached its natural end? (This may return anew next year, but for now, it’s time to let go.)

I named the next three positions intention, resources and protection, but as I laid them, decided instead to read more freely. So the following three cards address that feeling of looking forwards and setting intentions, but can be read as more of a conversation. Or, if you prefer, you can use the following positions:

3. Intention – what goals are emerging for you now? What would you like to achieve or work towards in the coming months?

4. Resources – what do you have that will help you with this intention? What can you do through the winter months to move yourself in the direction you want to go?

5. Protection – as the nights draw in and coldness grows, where is your place of safety?

My reading…

Photo 24-09-2015 12 07 15

1. Harvest – Four of Stones

Strange as the past year has been, I have been consciously attempting to carve out a solid, safe space in which I can exist. From getting my studio to moving on board Emma’s boat, letting go of bigger dreams to focus on more tangible, realistic goals, and working out the specific offerings I want Little Red Tarot to provide – and how to generate a living at the same time – this has all been about sustainability.

The Four of Stones tells me that I am achieving this, in part, at least. There is a long way to go, and right now I should be carefully aware of my available resources. But yes – this is a place of safety, what’s emerging is sustainable, and a tangible, real structure is beginning to take shape at last.

2. Dying back – The Mirror

Interestingly, this is the card the Wildwood Tarot creators place at Autumn Equinox on their wheel of the year. Corresponding to the Hanged Man in standard decks, the Mirror is concerned with ideas of mindfulness, surrender, allowing intuition to take over from analysis.

I feel as though I’ve been in this process for many months, and it’s a relief to see this card here. Since the spring, I’ve felt everything shift inside me. I’ve felt at the mercy of my emotions, which have been quite the rollercoaster. I’ve sat back, tried not to judge or interfere, and let things swirl as they wished, settle where they would.

I’m ready, now, to take charge again. To know myself again (at least in the ways that it’s possible to know ourselves). To regain my will, to focus, to actively choose a direction.

3, 4, 5. Ace of Vessels, Ace of Stones, the Journey

Those two aces mark a turning point, new beginnings and perspectives – and the Journey, corresponding to Death, is the ultimate card of change. There is a freshness here that feels so welcome to me, although there is weight, too. The weight of that standing stone, the weight of mortality, of my own bones.

Photo 24-09-2015 12 08 04

The Ace of Vessels releases me from the Mirror’s strange, passive energy, signalling an awakening in my heart and a new emotional chapter. Emotional consciousness returns, and with it comes will, the ability to choose my direction. I choose to build on the lessons I learned through observing myself over the past months, and am excited about starting over.

The Ace of Stones reminds me of the tangible power of that will. The ability to create something real from what is imagined. I am a person who always has about ten different ideas, plans, sparks of inspiration flying around in her mind. But I am also a person who is able to manifest those ideas, to build something real from them. I am incredibly grateful for these personal qualities! The Ace of Stones encourages me to continue the work of grounding my ideas, inspired by the element of earth. Beyond manifestation, this card also highlights the difference between a digital, online life, and one that is tangible, with texture, taste and smell.

One thing I have thought about a lot this year is how much time I really want to spend at my computer. Grateful as I am for the platform it provides me, and happy as I am creating this online business, there are other areas of my life – real-world, touchable, grounded things – which need attention to. Over the coming months, I want to invest much more in my physical life, and find ways to reduce my time online, whilst continuing to build my business. It’s a challenge, but this card assures me I can do it.

Photo 24-09-2015 12 08 16

Finally, the Journey. Death. Transformation. All of that wonderful, terrifying, inevitable energy of change. This card is a reminder to confront my mortality, to accept change, and especially, to let go of what is no longer needed. A perfect card for the time of year and the season ahead. A perfect card for where I am right now.

As a metaphor for cyclic change, the Journey is a required experience on the passage around the Wheel [of the year]. It may mean the death of old ideas or concepts that have outlived their usefulness. It may be that it is time to strip to the bare bone the essentials of your nature so that fears and neuroses can be faced and cleansed. There may be some ‘laying to rest’ with love and joy of a long-dead relationship or an old and bitter grievance. But the Journey is not to be feared.

I will do my own work with this card over the coming month, as I take the lessons of this spread and use them, along with the ideas that are gradually emerging onto paper, to set my intentions for the coming year. The Ace of Vessels has already spoken to me about that. It’s up to me, now, to decide how to make it all real.

Photo 24-09-2015 10 14 34

Like this post? Please share it!


  1. Shonna says:

    Another wonderful spread. Thank you!

    At first I was like, “I’m going to use my Haindl deck because it’s so autumn-y!”… laid out my cards, and remembered that the Haindl is really hard to read and the cards were simply not speaking my language (I really need the companion book!).

    So then I did it with The Wild Unknown Tarot and did some great journaling and even got some tingly insights!

    • Beth says:

      Glad you liked it Shonna! I do that quite often – pull out one deck, begin the reading…and then think ‘nope, wrong cards’ and change it up. I find the Wild Unknown works really well with shorter spreads like this. I love the sound of your tingly insights 🙂

  2. Geila says:

    I love how your spread ended with the journey card. It seems to be a journey the moment of birth! The wheel has always reminded me of a day when I sat with my first daughter at the top of a rollercoaster and she was screaming, “I want to get off!” I get that. There are times when we all do. But she rode it through and was stronger for it. I have shed many layers of myself on the wheel. Mormon. Jewish. Now a witch. It can take a lifetime to meet up with your own soul again. Then claiming it. Tarot is a part of me as much as breathing. To feel joy touching a deck is something not understood unless its a part of your journey. Maybe I was a tarot card in my last life:) And thank you for the idea of doing a reading on myself at certain times of the wheel, along with every morning. Makes sense. But then, I’m not always powered by sense, being the Fool.

    • Beth says:

      What a beautiful comment. Thank you for sharing this Gelia. “It can take a lifetime to meet up with your soul again.” Gosh, yes. The wheel keeps turning but we can’t always keep up the same pace. For me, this is the time of year when I feel like I am the most in sync…but who knows.

  3. Ellen says:

    Thanks for sharing this one Beth! I think am going to use the the Wildwood or the Wild Unknown but it is definitely going to be “wild”

Comments are closed.