By Jana Moonflower
HISTORY & MEANING
Mabon September 21-23 The Wheel turns once more to Mabon, the Autumnal Equinox & the first day of Fall. After a night of balance, night will become longer than day.
Mabon is a time to honor the elders, a time of the Mysteries, of equilibrium, change, reaping & most of all, a time of giving thanks for what we’ve harvested this year & this life. The Goddess is in Her Mother aspect, pregnant with the God, yet She grows older, more mature, ready to enter her Crone aspect. Mabon has been called the ‘assumption of the Crone,’ for now it is the dark face of the Goddess which begins to dominate.” The birds migrate south while, in splendid full color, the leaves fall. Mabon, the end of the grain harvest, marks the second harvest festival of the Celtic/Pagan year and is one of the Quarter Days on the Wheel, a lesser Sabbat & a Low Holiday in modern Witchcraft. In olden times, pagans couldn’t determine the exact equinox date as, with today’s technology, we can now.
Historically, the Mabon celebration was held on the fixed calendar date of September 25th, and, since the Sabbats were held from sundown to sundown, the festivities began on the sundown of September 24th.
The true Fall or Autumnal Equinox lies somewhere between September 20th and 23rd. This is the time when the sun crosses directly over the equator and heads south. The exact day varies each year, because the earth wobbles slightly on its axis.
The actual equinox point is the day when the sun enters Libra, the sign of the Balance or Scale, a very germane symbol for this single day when day and night are equal & balanced. Today, many Pagans hold their celebrations at the true equinox point instead of the historical September 25th.
Mabon is regarded as an official turning point of the Wheel, as we enter into the time when dark is dominant. The waning of the Sun is now more obvious as days grow shorter & shorter. After this night of balance, nights will once more be longer than days.
Of the many harvest customs the most common was the corn dolly. Nowadays, Pagans often equate the harvested grain with the sacrificed God, however, the last sheaf was more often personified as female. It was referred to as the kern baby, the cailleach (coy-luck, Irish Gaelic), old woman, wheat mother, shorn maiden(english), wheat bride, ivy bride, wheat girl etc. This was made from the last sheaf of grain that was cut and was thought to contain the spirit of vegetation whose energy remained within the grain. The dolly was hung up to preside over the harvest feast then was put in a position of honor in the home and preserved through the winter. When the following spring arrived, it was plowed back into the fields to insure a plentiful crop in the coming year. In other places it was ritually burned and then the ashes scattered over the fields.
There were various customs for making the corn dolly from the last sheaf. Sometimes a tuft of wheat was left uncut, braided it, then the men threw scythes at it until it was cut. . other times, the dolly was made from the already cut stalks. The reaper of the last sheaf was picked by chance. Some customs required that the last sheaf must be cut by a man, others, by a woman and sometimes by a group who threw their scythes at the sheaf, the watchers turning their eyes away so that the Grain Goddess didn’t know who made the final stroke.
In Germany the last sheaf was formed and dressed as a female, then solemnly carried to preside over the threshing. In North Africa, a straw figure was set in the fields while the women reaped, then mounted warriors abducted it for a pretend marriage (reminiscent of the Greek Persephone).
The Norse celebrated by making bread dough images of Freyr and Freyja, and sacrificing them to the Elves. This is also the time when grapes are harvested, pressed & made into wine. Wine & grapevines were considered sacred by early Pagans. The followers of the God Dionysus honored wine & the grape as symbols of transformation and rebirth. Customarily, wine is associated with the God & bread with the Goddess.
In British folklore this time is connected with Herne the Hunter, who leads a wild chase through the forest, bringing chaos and change and in Ireland, this is the time of the goose har-vest where giving gifts of goose meat to the poor is an ancient practice.
AKA (MAY-bon, MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon or MAH-bawn) Fall/Autumn Equinox, Michaelmas (September 25th, Christian), Second Harvest Festival, Witches’ Thanksgiving, Harvest Home (Anglo-Celtic), Feast of Avalon, Wine Harvest, Festival of Dionysus, Cornucopia, Equinozio di Autunno (Strega), Night of the Hunter, Alban Elfed “The Light of the Water” (Caledonii/ Druidic-celebrates Lord of the Mysteries), Winter Finding (Teutonic, from Equinox ‘til Winter Night or Nordic New Year, October 15th.)
Dogs, wolves, stag, blackbird, owl, eagle, salmon & goat
Gnomes, Sphinx, Minotaurs, Cyclops, Andamans and Gulons.
Yellow agate, carnelian, yellow topaz, sapphire, lapis lazuli & amethyst
Pine, sweetgrass, ben-zoin, myrrh, frankincense, jasmine, sage wood aloes, cinnamon, clove, oak moss
Mabon wreath, vine, gourd, cornucopia/horn of plenty, burial cairns, acorn, pine cone, leaves, corn, apple, marigold, harvested crops, garl-ands, rattles
Equality, balance & sun wheels
Appreciation & harvest, protection, wealth, prosperity, security, self-confidence.
Modron, Bona Dea, Land Mother, Aging & Harvest Dieties: the Triple Goddess-Mother aspect, Perse-phone, Demeter/Ceres, Morgan, Snake Woman, Epona, Pamona, the Muses
Mabon ap Modron, Sky Father, Wine Gods, Aging Gods, John Barley-corn , the WickerMan, the Corn Man, Thoth, Hermes, Hotei, Thor, Dionysus, Bacchus & all wine Deities
Myrrh, thistles, tobacco, oak leaves, hazel, mums, hops, acorns, marigold, rose, sage, milkweed, solomon’s seal, aster, fern, honeysuckle, benzoin, myrrh, passion flow-er, pine & cedar, ivy, hazel, hops, cedar
Thanksgiving, harvest, introspection, rituals which enact the elderly aspects of both Goddess & God
Offerings to the land, prepare for cold weather, harvesting, cutting willow wands (Druidic)eating seasonal fruit, leave apples on graves as a token of honor, walk wild places & forests, gather seed pods & dried plants, make wine. On the full moon closest to the Equinox, the Harvest Moon, farmers would harvest corps by moonlight as part of the celebration.
Brown, green, orange, red, deep gold, scarlet, yellow, russet, maroon, all autumn colors, purple, blue violet & indigo
Cornbread, wheat products, bread, grains, berries, nuts, grapes, acorns, seeds, dried fruits, corn, beans, squash, roots (i.e. onions, carrots, potatoes, etc) apples, pomegranates, carrots, onions, potatoes, roast goose, mutton, wine, ale & cider
Indian corn, horn of plenty, autumn flowers, red poppies, hazel-nuts, vines, garlands, grains, wheat stalks, colorful, fallen leaves, acorns, pine & cypress cones, oak sprigs, gourds, pomegranates & red fruits for altar decorations.
Harvest moon, Wine moon
Ways to Celebrate Mabon
Tend your garden, thank the plants for their bounty, lovingly harvest what’s ready; then store seeds to replant in spring. Walk in local wild places & forests with friends or family, gather leaves, acorns, berries, dry plants, seeds & pods for home & altar decorations, sprinkle some seeds & grains on the ground in a symbolic figure as an offering of the Mother’s gifts to the birds & other animals.
Celebrate the harvest of vine, wine & apples with a feast, collect a basket of goodies from the garden, bake a loaf of bread for the feast shaped like a sun or with a sun cut in the dough before baking, invite friends & loved ones to celebrate abundance with you at a pot-luck meal of thanksgiving; At the feast, give special‘ honor & thanks to the elders in your life who have given so much of their time & energy to you
Those less fortunate should not be left out, share your abundance with a neighbor who has no garden, or who had a rough year; gather donations of food &/or clothing to food pantries or organizations which serve the homeless. Small packages of food & drink given to a homeless person will make their day! Decorate with acorns, gourds, oak sprigs, pine & cypress cones, ears of Indian corn, wheat, fruit, nuts, a horn of plenty & a small rustic basket full of various colors & kinds of dry leaves.
Make a Mabon wreath or Sun Wheel in the remembrance of the wheel of the year, of life & the promise of rebirth, both in the spring & in our next lives. Wear garlands of leaves & use pieces of harvested grain for hair ornaments or to put in buttonholes. Mock sacrifice of the wicker-man: honor the corn spirit residing in the last sheaf of grain or stalk of corn by dressing it in fine cloth, or weave it into a wicker-man form.
Give this effigy a name, like John Barleycorn. Then, with rejoicing, burn this in celebration of the harvest and rebirth.
20 drops rose geranium oil
15 drops pine oil
10 drops rosemary oil
1 cup oak moss
1.5 cups dry red & yellow fall leaves
2 cups dried marigold blossoms
1 cup dried rosemary
1 cup dry rose petals & buds
1/2 cup dried pine needles
1 or 2 small pine cones.
Mix the oil in the oak moss, add the other ingredients. Stir well, store in a glass or ceramic container (not plastic). cover tightly.
Prepare a green candle, by rubbing it with oil & carving prosperity signs on it (your initials, birth sign, $$$, runes like FEOH/FEH/FEHU, JARA/JERA and/or ODAL/OTHEL/OTHILA)while visualizing prosperity & abundance. Encircle the candle with pieces of cinnamon stick & nuts (not peanuts, best are acorns nutmegs and brazil nuts).
Surround this with any combination of chamomile, mint (best is bergamot), oregon grape and/or cinquefoil sprigs.
Burn benzoin, musk, cinnamon and /or wood aloe incense (any combination).
Relax and visualize abundance flowing into your life.
Meditate on just what abundance and prosperity mean to you.
Remove any emotional or mental blocks to prosperity and abundance you may have by visualizing a river that has been dammed up, causing all the land below to become a desert.
Slowly open the dam and allow the waters of abundance to flow into your life.
Allow the candle to burn down, then bury what’s left of the wax, nuts, sprigs, etc. in the ground as a gift to Mother Earth.
Jana Moonflower was proprietress of MoonFlower Magicks in Everett, WA. Sharing her wisdom and background with our readers since 2002 – we appreciate the heartfelt contribution she has made to the community.