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Mabon (pronounced MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon or MAH-bawn) or the Autumn Equinox is one of the Lesser Wiccan Sabbats and is usually celebrated around September 23rd, though it can occur as early as the 20th, depending on the timing of the actual Astrological event (check the calendar). The Autumn Equinox, like the Spring Equinox divides day and night equally. However during Autumn, (as opposed to Spring, when the opposite occurs) we begin to see the waning of the Sun more obviously now as the days continue to grow shorter until the Wheel of the Year spins around again to Yule. (Images to the left and below are by Anthony Meadows and from Llewellyn's 1998 and 1999 Witches' Calendars. Click on either image to go directly to Llewellyn's Web Site.)
The various other names for this Sabbat include the Autumn (or Autumnal) Equinox, the Fall Equinox, the Second Harvest Festival, Festival of Dionysus, Wine Harvest, Cornucopia, Feast of Avalon, Equinozio di Autunno (Strega), and Alban Elfed (Caledonii, or Druidic - which celebrates the Lord of the Mysteries). The Teutonic name for this period is Winter Finding, which spans from the Equinox itself until Winter Night, on October 15. Winter Night is the Norse New Year.
The symbolism of this Sabbat is that of the Second Harvest, the Mysteries, Equality and Balance - when day and night are equal. Symbols to represent the Mabon Sabbat are such things as grapes, wine, vines, garland, gourds, pine cones, acorns, wheat, dried leaves, burial cairns, rattles, Indian corn, Sun wheels, and horns of plenty. Altar decorations might include autumn leaves, acorns, pine cones, a pomegranate to symbolize Persephone's descent into the Underworld, and a small statue or figure to represent the Triple Goddess in Her Mother aspect.
Deities associated with Mabon include all Wine Deities - particularly Dionysus and Bacchus, and Aging Deities. Emphasis might also be placed on the Goddess in Her aspect of the Mother (Demeter is a good example), Persephone (Queen of the Underworld and daughter of Demeter), and Thor (Lord of Thunder in Norse mythology). Some other Autumn Equinox Goddesses include Modron, Morgan, Snake Woman, Epona, Pamona, and the Muses. Some appropriate Gods besides those already mentioned are Mabon, Thoth, Hermes, and Hotei.
At this point in the Wheel of the Year, two appropriate mythological legends are that of Mabon and Modron, and the story of Demeter, Persephone and Hades. The Sabbat is named for Mabon, the Welsh God who symbolized the male fertilizing principle in the Welsh myths. Some mythologists equate him as the male counterpart for Persephone.
The universal story of Mabon and his mother, Modron has been passed down to us from the ancient proto-Celtic oral tradition. Mabon ap Modron, meaning "Great Son of the Great Mother", is the Young Son, Divine Youth, or Son of Light. Just as the September equinox marks a significant time of change, so, too, does the birth of Mabon. Modron, his mother, is the Great Goddess, Guardian of the Otherworld, Protector, and Healer. She is Earth itself.
From the moment of the Autumn Equinox, the Sun's strength diminishes, until the moment of the Winter Solstice in December, when the Sun grows stronger and the days once again become longer than the nights. Mabon also disappears, taken at birth when only three nights old (some legends say he was stolen from Modron at the age of three years). Modron cries in sweet sorrow... and although his whereabouts are veiled in mystery, Mabon is eventually freed with the wisdom and memory of the most ancient of living animals - the Blackbird, the Stag, the Owl, the Eagle, and the Salmon (other legends state that King Arthur himself was Mabon's rescuer). All along, Mabon has been quite a happy captive, dwelling in Modron's magickal Otherworld - Modron's womb. It is a nurturing and enchanted place, but also one filled with challenges. Only in so powerful a place of renewable strength can Mabon be reborn as his mother's champion, as the Son of Light. Mabon's light has been drawn into the Earth, gathering strength and wisdom enough to become a new seed.
According to one Greek myth, Autumn begins when Persephone returns to the Underworld to live with her husband, Hades. This is the tale...
Demeter's daughter, known as Kore at this time, was out picking flowers in a meadow when the Earth opened, and the god Hades dragged the girl into the Underworld Kingdom to be his wife. Kore's name changed to Persephone when she became the wife of Hades. For nine days Demeter looked everywhere for Kore, to no avail. In despair, she finally consulted the Sun god Helios, who told her that her brother Zeus had given the girl to Hades. Furious to hear the news, Demeter left Olympus and wandered the Earth disguised as an old woman. She finally settled in her temple at Eleusis. She cursed the Earth so it yielded no crops. Zeus became frantic and sent her a message as to why she had done this. She responded by stating to Zeus that there would be no renewing vegetation on Earth until her daughter, Kore, was returned to her.
Zeus sent Hermes into the Underworld for the girl. Hades, not wanting to give up his wife permanently, enticed Persephone to eat pomegranate seeds before she returned to her mother. Upon learning of this trick, Demeter again despaired, until Zeus declared that Persephone-Kore would live with her husband during half of the year, and return to live with her mother during the other half. In gratitude, Demeter lifted her curse on the Earth, thus creating Spring at the time of her great joy of her daughter's return; and Fall at her time of great sorrow when her daughter returned to the Underworld to live with her husband, Hades.
Mabon is considered a time of the Mysteries and marks the end of the second of three Pagan Harvest Festivals, when the majority of crops have been gathered. It is considered a time of balance, a time of darkness overtaking light, a time of celebration of the Second Harvest. It is a time to honor the Aging Deities and the Spirit World. The principle key action of Mabon is giving thanks. Pagan activities may include the making of wine and the adorning of graves. A traditional practice is to walk wild places and forests, gathering seed pods and dried plants. Some of these can be used to decorate the home or altar, others saved for future herbal magick. It is considered taboo to pass burial sites and not honor the dead.
The Autumn Equinox is a wonderful time to stop and relax and be happy. While we may not have toiled the fields from sunrise to sunset every day since Lammas - as our ancestors did - most of us do work hard at what we do. At this time of year, we should stop and survey the harvest each of us has brought in over the season. For us, like our ancestors, this becomes a time of giving thanks for the success of what we have worked at.
Spellwork for protection, wealth and prosperity, security and spells to bring a feeling of self-confidence are appropriate for Mabon. Since this is a time for balance - you might include spells that will bring into balance and harmony the energies either in a room, home, or situation. Ritual actions might include the praising or honoring of fruit as proof of the love of the Goddess and God, and a ritual sprinkling of Autumn leaves.
Depending on when the leaves turn in your area, beautiful multi-colored leaves can be dipped in paraffin, to be used for decoration. Quickly dip the leaves in melted paraffin, and put them on wax paper. When the leaves are dry, you can put them in a huge decorative jar with a sigil of protection carved lightly on some or all of the leaves.
Appropriate colors for this Sabbat are red, orange, deep gold, brown, russet, maroon and violet. Candle colors might be orange, dark red, yellow, indigo, or brown. Altar cloths can also be made of material with Fall designs. Stones to use during Mabon are amethyst and yellow topaz, carnelian, lapis lazuli, sapphire, and yellow agate. River and stream stones gathered over the Summer can be empowered for various purposes. Animals associated with the Autumn Equinox are dogs, wolves and birds of prey. Mythical creatures include gnomes, minotaurs, sphinx, cyclopes, andamans and gulons. Plants associated with Mabon are vines, ivy, hazel, cedar, hops and tobacco. Traditional herbs of the Mabon sabbat include acorns, asters, benzoin, ferns, honeysuckle, marigold, milkweed, mums, myrrh, oak leaves, passionflower, pine, roses, sage, Solomon's seal, and thistles. Incense for the Mabon Sabbat Ritual might include any or all of the following: frankincense, aloes wood, jasmine, cinnamon, musk, cloves, benzoin, myrrh, and sage
The foods of Mabon consist of the gleanings of the Second Harvest, so grains, fruit and vegetables predominate, especially corn. Corn bread and cider are traditional fare, as are beans and baked squash. Others foods include wine, grapes, breads, pomegranates, roots (carrots, onions, potatoes, etc.), nuts and apples.
May the Lord and Lady bless you all with lots of prosperity, and a plentiful Second Harvest!
The Celtic festival of Mabon occurs around September 22nd; the hours of daylight and dark are equal for the second time in our year's Wheel. After the exuberance and heat of summer, we celebrate the Autumnal Equinox and journey to Samhain, turning our focus inward as the Crone's alchemy burnishes the landscape. Mother Earth is poised with the sun in time and space and we pause for a moment with her, to honor balance. This pivotal day stirs our regret for the things left unfinished, the trips not taken, the opportunities missed. The dwindling warm afternoons become small gifts of grace, as we witness the first touches of gold, the burnished beauty of the Crone's alchemy. What have we left unfinished? What words do we need to say someone? Time is changing us in its ever-winding spiral. We need to cherish each moment now - each warm afternoon, each lingering walk in honeyed sunlight. The harvest season is a bittersweet time of fruition; as we look back upon our labors, and evaluate our spiritual path, questions arise. Are we satisfied with our efforts? Have we nurtured and realised our year's intentions? Have we honored Spirit this year? Have we lived in accordance with our convictions?
Mabonís lesson is the lesson of letting go: the earth is still for a single breath; day and night are equal only for a heartbeat. As we pause and examine our seasons past, we know in our own heart of hearts that it is time to let go of old beliefs, limitations and outdated agendas, time to reexamine our ethics, and search our soul's true intention. Mabon is the time to let go of outward movement and expansion, and begin moving inward, taking stock. As we gather in joy to share the harvest of grains, fruits and vegetables, we remain aware that the icy fingers of winter are not far off. The sun is now dying, retreating, and daylight shortens rapidly. In earth-based mythology, the mother goddess has lost her son, her lover, her consort. As he begins to fade from her arms, our own goddess selves lament with her.
Personal Ritual - The Bitter and the Sweet
My personal rituals are simple and enmeshed with daily life. Around this poignant time of the year, we awaken the energy of Crone within. We gather the last of our garden's herbs, tie them in bundles and hang them inside for drying. We look through our gardens with a wisewoman's keen eye, and clear out the old growth, cutting back the dying foliage. We trim the perennials that need to put their energy back into their roots for the cold months ahead. We rake and mulch, and scatter dead blossoms and wizened seed pods for our feathered sisters.
Hearth & Home Ideas
Fill your kitchen with the fruits of the season: pumpkins in all sizes, colorful gourds, juicy grapes, baskets of cranberries and Indian corn. Decorate your door with corn husks. Gather acorns and apples in every color for your altar.
Light candles at dusk . . . yellow for health, orange for sharing the harvest, and purple for deepening spiritual awareness.
Burn sprigs of rosemary for the preservation of love and longevity. Add freshly chopped rosemary to biscuits and breads, pizza crusts, stews and roasted vegetables in olive oil and lemony chicken dinners. Hang a braid of garlic in your kitchen for winter long protection.
Gather the spices of the season and toss out last year's stale spices during the waning moon, and visualize old habits, obstacles, and outworn desires being cleared from your life. Restock your pantry with fresh cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, whole nutmegs (with a tiny grater), allspice, Pumpkin Pie Spice, curry powder, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, peppercorns, sea salt. Warming herbs such as dried basil, marjoram, and dill are wonderful for the chill of the coming winter. Rosemary, thyme and culinary sage are traditional must-haves for the holidays.
Make a simple grapevine wreath for your door (or purchase one from your local crafts store) and entwine it with freshly cut bittersweet stems. As you wind the stems into the circle wreath, weave your intentions for the coming months. Meditate upon the cycle of growth, decline and death. Buddha taught that death is our best advisor; contemplating our short time here on earth enriches our consciousness and supports us to make better choices.
On a clear breezy day, make use of your broom. Start with a clean sweep of every room in the house and make it a offering for peace and clarity. Clear out stagnant energy left over from the heat of summer. Open all your windows and hang out the rugs and blankets. Let your pillows air out in the sun. Sunlight is Mother Nature's disinfectant.
Now gather fresh air and new energy into your space. Play energizing music and move through the rooms holding a stick of burning incense. Burn smoldering smudge sticks of sage and lavender in corners, stairwells, closets and hallways. The freshening smoke cleanses the space and clears out stagnant forces. Rededicate your home to peace.
Plan now for a time of study in the coming Fall, and begin looking through some new books to ignite your interest in the dark evenings ahead. Start a 'New Book Pile'!
Find a new Dream Journal for capturing your dreams as you enter the underworld time of year. The archetypal goddess Persephone is an appropriate guide as you sharpen your divination skills through Dream Work, meditation and fire scrying.
Donate, sell or give away any used books you no longer need. Go through closets of winter clothing and donate any warm clothes you know you will not use this winter. Giving away that which we no longer need or use creates a space for possibility to enter.
Take some time to be outdoors during the last golden rays of the sun. Walk through falling leaves and observe the animals in your neighborhood, readying their nests for winter. Refresh your instinctual self and listen with your whole body, heart and spirit. Open yourself to the wise teachings of Autumn. Breathe in the sparkling fall air and notice your breath in every step. Breathe in clarity and breathe out peace. Ground yourself with a hot cup of spice tea or a chai latte when you return.
Stir up a little nurturing magic in the kitchen...and celebrate with loved ones.
These recipes can be found in my cookbook, Cooking By the Seasons (formerly "Recipes from a Vegetarian Goddess", published by Llewellyn Worldwide.) All recipes are used by permission, copyrighted, Llewellyn © 2000-2003 and are offered for personal use only.
Menu Ideas for Mabon
Feasts at Mabon echo the themes of abundance and harvest celebration. Wines and ciders, ripened fruits, cornbreads and bountiful vegetables, spices such as curry, cinnamon and garlic are all appropriate.