Wednesday, September 8, 2010

BUY a Qu'ran (Koran) Don't BURN One!

Each person’s deep, profound spiritual connection to their God is a sacred relationship that should never be belittled or disrespected.

A small town pastor, Terry Jones, has collected 200 copies of the Qu’ran (Koran), the holy book of Islam, that he has threatened to deliberately burn on Saturday – the 10th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9-11, which plunged our nation into two on-going wars.

Ironically, Jones’ church, Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Fla., has only 30 members, but because of news coverage and the Internet, his outrageous plan has been transmitted globally.

Thus far, the openly gun-toting Jones has rejected calls by a multi-religious coalition, by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.S. General David Petraeus, the Obama administration, and the world-wide community to abandon his offensive plan to burn the copies of the Muslim sacred text.

Let me add my small voice to the outrage to this proposed book-burning. The upcoming 10th Anniversary of the worst terror attacks on U.S. soil should be commemorated with healing, not hate; insight, not instigation; and with unification, not ugliness. Just imagine how Christians would feel if an Islamic Imam planned to burn 200 Holy Bibles outside a mosque on 9/11 to protest the U.S. war efforts?

The church has been denied a permit to set a bonfire but has vowed to proceed with the burning. Apparently, Jones has dug in his hateful heels.

I have a genuine proposal. Why don’t a few of us Americans who support religious freedom and the absolute right of Muslims to practice their faith, replace each and every Qu’ran (Koran) that is burned? I suggest we, as individuals, each buy one of the holy books and donate it directly to a mosque, or give it to a practicing Muslim along with a heart-felt apology for the grave insult! The Qu’ran (Koran) is inexpensive in most book stores, so we simply need 200 people of an open heart to do the right thing. This is not an idle suggestion. I have already ordered a Qu’ran (Koran) and will send it to the nearest Mosque.

I am not a Christian, but let me take a moment to quote the Holy Bible. As King Solomon so wisely noted in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

To everything there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
A time of war, and a time of peace.

If we have learned anything in the past decade it is that we need to better understand each other, to abandon the ways of war and adopt the ways of peace. Our country was founded on religious freedom and the respect for each other’s spiritual beliefs. That extends to all faiths, all religions, not just the ones we understand or agree with.

Gen. Petraeus, who is the U.S. and Nato commander in Afghanistan, warned of retaliatory action against U.S. troops after protests took place when the news of what Jones was planning was reported in the capital Kabul. Effigies of Jones were burned alongside the American flag.

Asked by a news agency what Jesus would do if he was alive, Jones said he believed Jesus would burn the Qu’rans (Korans.) I do not, cannot, will not believe that is true. While I do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God, I do believe that his was a teaching of love, tolerance and acceptance. Christ would not have burned any sacred text.

Jones says he is determined to go ahead in the face of fierce condemnations, as well as 100 death threats.

"If we don't do it, when do we stop backing down?" he told the media. "It's something we need to do, it's a message we need to send...Instead of us backing down, maybe it's time to stand up. Maybe it's time to send a message to radical Islam that we will not tolerate their behavior," he told news agencies. Jones confirmed he would be armed during the event. "We are prepared to give our lives for this," he said.

But just what is that message? If it’s that he’s a religious bigot, then he’s more than accomplished his goal.

Secretary of State Clinton led the condemnation of the planned burning, describing it as a "disrespectful, disgraceful act." Others in the Obama administration weighed in, including Eric Holder, the attorney general, who called it idiotic and dangerous. A state department spokesman called the planned protest "un-American."

The plans have been greeted with alarm in the Middle Eastern press. Lebanon's Daily Star said they were "likely to ignite a fire of rage that could consume swathes of the globe," while United Arab Emirates paper the Khaleej Times describe the planned burning as "rabid and insane."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs echoed the concerns raised by Petraeus. "Any type of activity like that puts our troops in harm's way would be a concern to this administration," Gibbs said.

At a meal last night ironically marking the breaking of the Ramadan fast, Clinton said, "We sit down together for this meal on a day when the news is carrying reports that a pastor down in Gainesville, Florida, plans to burn the holy Qur'an on September 11. I am heartened by the clear, unequivocal condemnation of this disrespectful, disgraceful act that has come from American religious leaders of all faiths, from evangelical Christians to Jewish rabbis as well as secular U.S. leaders and opinion-makers.

"Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. Many of you know that in 1790, George Washington wrote to a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, that this country will give 'to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.' The real story of Islam in America can be found in this room, and rooms across America. We write it tonight in the spirit of fellowship and the celebration of goodwill that is a hallmark of Ramadan. We will write it in the months and years to come as we continue to reach out to engage people around the world in a search for common ground, common understanding and common respect."

This week, hundreds of Afghans protested outside a Kabul mosque and chanted "Death to America." Members of the crowd pelted a passing U.S. military convoy with stones before being ordered to stop by protest organizers.

Last Saturday thousands of Indonesian Muslims demonstrated outside the U.S. embassy in Jakarta and in five other cities to protest against the church's plan. Dove World made headlines last year after distributing T-shirts that read, "Islam is of the Devil."

In a joint statement U.S. religious leaders condemned what they described as an "anti-Muslim frenzy" in America. They said this had been whipped up in part by "misinformation and outright bigotry" in response to plans to build an Islamic community center and mosque close to the site of the 9/11 attacks in New York.

On the plans to burn the Qu'ran (Koran), the leaders, including Washington Roman Catholic archbishop emeritus Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Rabbi David Saperstein, head of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Dr. Michael Kinnamon of the National Council of Churches said they were "appalled by such disrespect for a sacred text."

I repeat: If these Qu’rans (Korans) are truly burned, then it is up to us to replace each and every one of them – isn’t that the responsible, ethical behavior that Jesus himself might urge people of all faiths to do?

— Danu's Daughter

Monday, September 6, 2010

God is Simply Irrelevant

God did not create the universe, famed British physicist Stephen Hawking proclaimed last week.

In the flurry of the publicity run up to his new book, The Grand Design, to be released Sept. 9, he does some serious dismissing of the Almighty, declaring him/her/it irrelevant. The point is, famed theoretical physicist Hawking says, that our universe followed inevitably from the laws of nature – not divinity.

But, prey tell, just where did those laws come from, Professor Hawking?

For me, the most amazing aspect of this book is the furor that his theory has – sorrycreated. As an Eclectic Wiccan, I welcome all science theory, as well as any and all other opinions of a metaphysical nature. I love the open discussion about our universe, planet, and all creatures on it. I have no interest in convincing someone else that my view is the view, or that the way I perceive the Goddess and God are the only way to do so. Thus, I happily accept those who reject everything! Long may knowledge, curiosity, reasoning, and creativity rein!

It is perhaps a bit ironic for Hawking to make God redundant after granting him/her/it a celebrity cameo at the end of his multi-million selling A Brief History of Time. In his famous conclusion to that book, Hawking wrote metaphorically that if scientists could find the most fundamental laws of nature, "then we should know the mind of God."

Hawking now suggests that the search for this particular Holy Grail is over, now that scientists have come up with a type of theory, known as M-theory, that may describe the behavior of all the fundamental particles and force, and even account for the very birth of the universe. If this theory is backed up by experiment, it might perhaps replace all religious accounts of creation – in Hawking's capacious mind, it already has.

"Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to...set the Universe going," Hawking writes.

Despite having previously argued that belief in a creator was not incompatible with science, he now concludes that the Big Bang was an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics , that there is no need to invoke God to set the Universe going.

"Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something," he concluded.

In his new book, Britain's most famous physicist sets out to contest Sir Isaac Newton's belief that the universe must have been designed by God as it could not have sprung out of chaos.

Citing the 1992 discovery of a planet orbiting a star other than our Sun, Hawking wrote, "That makes the coincidences of our planetary conditions – the single Sun, the lucky combination of Earth-Sun distance and solar mass – far less remarkable, and far less compelling as evidence that the Earth was carefully designed just to please us human beings."

"It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going," he adds.

The book was co-written by U.S. physicist Leonard Mlodinow.

Hawking’s book is already the number one bestseller at Amazon, and has triggered a firestorm of criticism from the usual and some unusual suspects in the U.K.

The head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams, asserts that "physics on its own will not settle the question of why there is something rather than nothing."

He added, "Belief in God is not about plugging a gap in explaining how one thing relates to another within the Universe. It is the belief that there is an intelligent, living agent on whose activity everything ultimately depends for its existence."

Williams' comments were supported by leaders from across the religious spectrum in Britain. Writing in the Times, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said, "Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation...The Bible simply isn't interested in how the Universe came into being."

The Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, also agreed, adding, "I would totally endorse what the Chief Rabbi said so eloquently about the relationship between religion and science."

Ibrahim Mogra, an imam and committee chairman at the Muslim Council of Britain, was also quoted by the Times as saying, "If we look at the Universe and all that has been created, it indicates that somebody has been here to bring it into existence. That somebody is the almighty conqueror."

Hawking was also accused of "missing the point" by colleagues at the University of Cambridge in England.

"The 'god' that Stephen Hawking is trying to debunk is not the creator God of the Abrahamic faiths who really is the ultimate explanation for why there is something rather than nothing," said Denis Alexander, director of The Faraday Institute for Science and Religion.

"Hawking's god is a god-of-the-gaps used to plug present gaps in our scientific knowledge. Science provides us with a wonderful narrative as to how [existence] may happen, but theology addresses the meaning of the narrative," he added.

Fraser Watts, an Anglican priest and Cambridge expert in the history of science, said that it's not the existence of the universe that proves the existence of God.

"A creator God provides a reasonable and credible explanation of why there is a universe, is somewhat more likely that there is a God than that there is not. That view is not undermined by what Hawking has said."

Hawking's book – as the title suggests – is an attempt to answer "the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything," he wrote with a wink and a nod, quoting Douglas Adams' cult science fiction romp, "The Hitch-hiker's Guide to the Galaxy."

His answer is "M-theory," which, Hawking says, posits 11 space-time dimensions, "vibrating strings...point particles, two-dimensional membranes, three-dimensional blobs and other objects that are more difficult to picture and occupy even more dimensions of space."

He doesn't explain much of that in the excerpt, which is the introduction to the book.

But he says he understands the feeling of the great English scientist Isaac Newton that God did "create" and "conserve" order in the universe.

It was the discovery of other solar systems outside our own in 1992 that undercut a key idea of Newton's – that our world was so uniquely designed to be comfortable for human life that some divine creator must have been responsible.

But, Hawking argues, if there are untold numbers of planets in the galaxy, it's less remarkable that there's one with conditions for human life. And, indeed, he argues, any form of intelligent life that evolves anywhere will automatically find that it lives somewhere suitable for it.

But the Bishop of Swindon, Dr. Lee Rayfield, counters arguing science, "can never prove the non-existence of God, just as it can never prove the existence of God. Faith is a matter that's outside that.”

"But as I look at the universe, and as many people who are much more understanding of cosmology than I, and mathematics, as they look at it, through the eyes of faith, they see a universe which is still very coherent with what we believe about God and His nature," Rayfield said.


Here’s Professor Hawking’s description of his new book in his own words from the Amazon website:

How can we understand the world in which we find ourselves? Over twenty years ago I wrote A Brief History of Time, to try to explain where the universe came from, and where it is going. But that book left some important questions unanswered. Why is there a universe – why is there something rather than nothing? Why do we exist? Why are the laws of nature what they are? Did the universe need a designer and creator?

It was Einstein’s dream to discover the grand design of the universe, a single theory that explains everything. However, physicists in Einstein’s day hadn’t made enough progress in understanding the forces of nature for that to be a realistic goal. And by the time I had begun writing A Brief History of Time, there were still several key advances that had not yet been made that would prevent us from fulfilling Einstein’s dream. But in recent years the development of M-theory, the top-down approach to cosmology, and new observations such as those made by satellites like NASA’s COBE and WMAP, have brought us closer than ever to that single theory, and to being able to answer those deepest of questions. And so Leonard Mlodinow and I set out to write a sequel to A Brief History of Time to attempt to answer the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything. The result is The Grand Design, the product of our four-year effort.

In The Grand Design we explain why, according to quantum theory, the cosmos does not have just a single existence, or history, but rather that every possible history of the universe exists simultaneously. We question the conventional concept of reality, posing instead a "model-dependent" theory of reality. We discuss how the laws of our particular universe are extraordinarily finely tuned so as to allow for our existence, and show why quantum theory predicts the multiverse – the idea that ours is just one of many universes that appeared spontaneously out of nothing, each with different laws of nature. And we assess M-Theory, an explanation of the laws governing the multiverse, and the only viable candidate for a complete "theory of everything." As we promise in our opening chapter, unlike the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life given in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the answer we provide in The Grand Design is not, simply, "42."


The science-religion debate has been going on since science was born, centuries ago. Until relatively recently, it seemed to have quieted down, but now Hawking and others have brought it back into the limelight. It's striking that the scientists who contribute most vociferously to the arguments work in the field of evolutionary biology and fundamental physics. These, at least superficially, appear to be the territories where science and religion can make conflicting claims, leading us to ask which has the better case. But are they alternatives? Is there really any serious argument between the two?

Science and religion are about fundamentally different things. No religion has ever been rendered obsolete by facts or observations, but this happens to most scientific theories, at least in the long run. Science advances over the wreckage of its theories by continually putting theoretical ideas to experimental test; no matter how beautiful a theoretical idea might be, it must be discarded if it is at odds with experiment. Like any other human activity, science has flaws and does not always flow smoothly, but no one can seriously doubt the progress it has made in helping us understand the world and in helping to underpin technology.

A useful characteristic of a scientific theory is that it must be possible, at least in principle, for experimenters to prove it wrong. Newton and Darwin, two of the greatest theoreticians, both set out ideas in this way, putting their heads on Nature's chopping block. In Newton's case, at least, his ideas have been superseded after proving inadequate in some circumstances. Unlike many religions, science has no final authority; the Royal Society, the U.K. academy of sciences, expresses this neatly in its motto, "Take nobody's word for it."

No religion has ever been set out in terms of scientific statements. This is why scientists are able to mock the claims of religions but have never been able to deal a knock-out blow: in the end, a religious believer can always fall back on a faith that does not depend on verification.

The most famous atheist scientist of our times is the fearless Richard Dawkins, whose God Delusion set out to discredit religion once and for all. For him, it was Darwin's theory of evolution that dealt the fatal blow to religious belief. Powerful and eloquent though it was, religion continues to flourish, and scientists (albeit a minority) continue to go to church, just as Galileo, Newton, Faraday and others have done in the past. Religions will survive so long as they steer clear of making statements that can be shown to be factually wrong.

Interestingly, the type of science done by Hawking (one of the leading theoretical physicists of modern times) has an almost religious ring to it. He and his colleagues are trying to find the patterns in the basic fabric of reality – the mathematical laws that govern the workings of nature at its finest level. There is plenty of evidence that these laws hold good all the way back to the beginning of time, which is how scientists have put together an extremely detailed and well-tested theory of the Big Bang, the first few minutes of the universe. The Large Hadron Collider will soon be reproducing, at will, the conditions in the universe within a billionth of a second of the beginning of time.

This has led writers to invest these experiments with a theological significance. The distinguished experimenter Leon Lederman labeled the Higgs particle, being sought at the Collider, as the God Particle, with no good reason except as a hook to promote his book, which he named after it. Yet these experiments will tell us nothing about God. They will simply steer us towards an improved theoretical understanding of our material universe, ultimately in terms of principles set out in mathematics.

Yet this is where religion can sneak back into the picture. Einstein, to the frustration of many of his colleagues, was fond of referring to God when he was talking about the laws expressing the fundamental harmonies of the universe. As Dawkins rightly stresses, it is quite clear that Einstein did not think of God as a white-bearded benefactor capable of interfering with the functioning of the universe. Rather, Einstein followed closely the views of the philosopher Spinoza, for whom the concept of God is an expression of the underlying unity of the universe, something so wondrous that it can command a spiritual awe.

Einstein's views were largely shared by his acquaintance Paul Dirac, the greatest English theoretician since Newton. Dirac, like Newton and Hawking, held the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics at Cambridge University. For Dirac, the greatest mystery of the universe was that its most fundamental laws can be expressed in terms of beautiful mathematical equations. Towards the end of his life, in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Dirac often said that mathematical beauty, "is almost a religion to me."

As a young man, he was an outspoken atheist, drawing his colleague Wolfgang Pauli to comment, "There is no God and Dirac is his prophet." Decades later, in 1963, Dirac was happy to use theological imagery: "God is a mathematician of a very high order." He was speaking metaphorically, but we know what he meant. Yet I think it is misleading, especially when talking about science to non-specialists, to play fast and loose with the idea of God.

Hawking's view appears to be that the belief in a God-created universe can be supplanted by a belief in M-theory, a good candidate for a fundamental theory of nature at its finest level. Experts assure us of the potential of this theory and I for one am quite prepared to believe them.

One problem with the theory is that it looks as though it will be extremely difficult to test, unless physicists can build a particle accelerator the size of a galaxy. Even if the experimenters find a way round this and M-theory passes all their tests, the reasons for the mathematical order at the heart of the universe's order would remain an unsolvable mystery.

Even religious scientists – and there are still a few – never use the God concept in their scientific work. Perhaps it is time for a moratorium on the use of the concept in popularizations, too? This would avoid mixing up scientific and non-scientific statements and put an end to the consequent confusions. I think it wise for scientists and religious believers to keep out of each other's territory – no good has come out of their engagement and I suspect it never will.

But this is naive. The science-religion relationship, in so far as there is one, continues to be a crowd-pleaser. It seems to be a fundamental law of PR that the God-science debate is a sure-fire source of publicity. Always welcome when one has a book to sell.


Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge for 30 years, and has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors including, most recently, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His books for the general reader include the classic A Brief History of Time, Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays, The Universe in a Nutshell, and A Briefer History of Time. He lives in Cambridge, England. His website is

Mlodinow is a physicist at Caltech and the bestselling author of The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules our Lives, Euclid’s Window: The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace, and Feynman’s Rainbow: A Search for Beauty in Physics and in Life. He also wrote for Star Trek: The Next Generation. He lives in South Pasadena, California. His website is

— Danu’s Daughter

Friday, September 3, 2010


With the holy day of Mabon falling late in the month, the early, eager energies of September are too often ignored.

Instead, the focus is often on filling the cellar – in actual fact, and metaphorically – in preparation for the coming cold. It is important to remember that the first three weeks of September’s light provide us with a unique opportunity for personal reflection. It is a time for most children to return to school, for birds to begin their migration, for leaves to begin a spectacular plumage change all of their own, and for sun lovers to squeeze the last sizzling, golden rays into their outdoor activities.

Why not take time to reflect and give thanks, before the hectic months of change overtake you?

Mabon, (pronounced MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon, or MAH-bawn) falls on September 21, at the time of the Autumnal Equinox. It is a sacred Sabbat celebrated by Wiccans and other Neo-Pagans who honor the turning of the Wheel of the Year.

It is the time when the harvest is winding down. The fields are nearly empty, because the crops have been plucked and stored for the coming winter. Mabon is the mid-harvest festival, and it is when we take a few moments to honor the changing seasons, and celebrate the second harvest. For many Neo-Pagan and Wiccan traditions it is a time to give thanks for the things we have, whether it is abundant crops, or all other life’s blessings.

Depending on your individual spiritual path, there are many different ways to celebrate Mabon, but typically the focus is on the Second Harvest aspect, or the balance between light and dark. This, after all, is the time when there is an equal amount of day and night. While we celebrate the gifts of the earth, we also accept that the soil is dying. We have food to eat, but the crops are brown and going dormant. Warmth is moving behind us, while the cold lies ahead.

The leaves begin to turn from green to brilliant reds and yellows, animals start to migrate, and the harvest is underway. The Autumn Equinox divides the day and night equally, and we all take a moment to pay our respects to the impending dark. We also give thanks to the waning sunlight, as we store our harvest of this year's crops.

The Druids call this celebration, Mea'n Fo'mhair, and honor the The Green Man, the God of the Forest, by offering libations to trees. Offerings of ciders, wines, herbs and fertilizer are also appropriate at this time. Wiccans celebrate the aging Goddess as she passes from Mother to Crone, and her consort, the God, as he prepares for death and re-birth.

Here is my personal prayer that I have written to honor the beloved Green Man, whom is a central figure and focus of my own spiritual path:

Robin of the Greenwood Glen,
Lord of the Forest thou hast always been.

My lips a song to praise,
My cup a toast to raise.

Hail and Hearty the Oak King is,
Now and forever I am truly his.

So mote it be!

Mabon is considered a time of the Mysteries. It is a time to honor Aging Deities and the Spirit World. Considered a time of mystical balance, it is when we stop and relax and enjoy the fruits of our personal harvests, whether they be from toiling in our gardens, working at our jobs, raising our families, or just coping with the hussle-bussle of everyday life.

Various other names for this Lesser Wiccan Sabbat are: The Second Harvest Festival, Wine Harvest, Feast of Avalon, Equinozio di Autunno (Strega), Alben Elfed (Caledonii), or Cornucopia. The Teutonic name, Winter Finding, spans a period of time from the Sabbat to October 15th, Winter's Night, which is the Norse New Year.

At this festival it is appropriate to wear all of your finery and dine and celebrate in a lavish setting. It is the drawing to and of family as we prepare for the winding down of the year at Samhain (Halloween). It is a time to finish old business as we ready for a period of rest, relaxation, and spiritual reflection.

The Science of the Equinox

Two days a year, the Northern and Southern hemispheres receive the same amount of sunlight. Not only that, each receives the same amount of light as they do dark – this is because the earth is tilted at a right angle to the sun, and the sun is directly over the equator. In Latin, the word equinox translates to "equal night." The autumn equinox takes place on or near September 21, while its spring counterpart falls around March 21. If you're in the Northern hemisphere, the days will begin getting shorter after the autumn equinox and the nights will grow longer – in the Southern hemisphere, the reverse is true.

Global Traditions

The idea of a harvest festival is nothing new. In fact, people have celebrated it for millennia, all around the world. In ancient Greece, Oschophoria was a festival held in the fall to celebrate the harvesting of grapes for wine. In the 1700's, the Bavarians came up with Oktoberfest, which actually begins in the last week of September, and it was a time of great feasting and merriment, still in existence today. China's Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated on the night of the Harvest or Barley Moon, and is a festival of honoring family unity.

Giving Thanks

Although the traditional American holiday of Thanksgiving falls in November, many cultures see the second harvest time of the fall equinox as a time of giving thanks. After all, it's when you figure out how well your crops did, how fat your animals have gotten, and whether or not your family will be able to eat during the coming winter. However, by the end of November, there's not a whole lot left to harvest. Originally, the American Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated on October 3, which makes a lot more sense agriculturally.

Thanksgiving was originally celebrated on October 3. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued his "Thanksgiving Proclamation", which changed the date to the last Thursday in November. In 1939, Franklin Delano Roosevelent adjusted it yet again, making it the second-to-last Thursday, in the hopes of boosting post-Depression holiday sales. Unfortunately, all this did was confuse people. Two years later, Congress finalized it, saying that the fourth Thursday of November would be Thanksgiving, each year.

Symbols of the Season

The harvest is a time of thanks, and as has been said, also a time of balance – after all, there are equal hours of daylight and darkness. While we celebrate the gifts of the earth, we also accept that the soil is dying. We have food to eat, but the crops are brown and going dormant. Warmth is behind us, cold lies ahead.

Some symbols of Mabon include:

— Mid-autumn vegetables, like squashes and gourds
— Apples and anything made from them, such as cider or pies
— Seeds and seed pods
— Baskets, symbolizing the gathering of crops
— Sickles and scythes
— Grapes, vines, wine

Any of these items can be used to decorate home or an altar at Mabon.

Feasting and Friends

Early agricultural societies understood the importance of hospitality, as it was crucial to develop a relationship with neighbors, because they might be the ones to help if your family ran out of food. Many people, particularly in rural villages, celebrated the harvest with great deals of feasting, drinking, and eating. After all, the grain had been made into bread, beer and wine had been made, and the cattle had been brought down from the summer pastures for the coming winter. Celebrate Mabon with a feast – the bigger, the better.

Magick and Mythology

Nearly all of the myths and legends popular at this time of the year focus on the themes of life, death, and rebirth. Not much of a surprise, when you consider that this is the time when the earth begins to “die” before winter sets in.

Demeter and Her Daughter

Perhaps the best known of all the harvest mythologies is the story of Demeter and Persephone. Demeter was a goddess of grain and of the harvest in ancient Greece. Her daughter, Persephone, caught the eye of Hades, god of the underworld. When Hades abducted Persephone and took her back to the underworld, Demeter's grief caused the crops on earth to die and go dormant. By the time she finally recovered her daughter, Persephone had eaten six pomegranate seeds, and so was doomed to spend six months of the year in the underworld. These six months are the time when the earth dies, beginning at the time of the autumnal equinox.

Inanna Takes on the Underworld

The Sumerian goddess Inanna is the incarnation of fertility and abundance. Inanna descended into the underworld where her sister, Ereshkigal, ruled. Erishkigal decreed that Inanna could only enter her world in the traditional ways, by stripping herself of her clothing and earthly possessions. By the time Inanna arrived, Erishkigal had unleashed a series of plagues upon her sister, killing Inanna. While Inanna was visiting the underworld, the earth ceased to grow and produce. A “vizier” or sorcerer, restored Inanna to life, and sent her back to earth. As she journeyed home, the earth was restored to its former glory.

Modern Celebrations

For contemporary Druids, this is the celebration of Alban Elfed, which is a time of balance between the light and the dark. Many Asatru groups honor the fall equinox as Winter Nights, a festival sacred to the Goddess Freyr.

For most Wiccans and NeoPagans, this is a time of community and kinship. It's not uncommon to find a Pagan Pride Day celebration tied in with Mabon. Often, PPD organizers include a food drive as part of the festivities, to celebrate the bounty of the harvest and to share with the less fortunate.

Those who celebrate Mabon give thanks for their many blessing, and they take time to reflect on the balance within their lives, honoring both the darkness and the light.

Mabon Correspondences at a Glance

Symbolism: Second Harvest, the Mysteries, Equality and Balance.
Symbols: Wine, gourds, pine cones, acorns, grains, corn, apples, pomegranates, vines like ivy, dried seeds, and horns of plenty.
Herbs: Acorn, benzoin, ferns, grains, honeysuckle, marigold, milkweed, myrrh, passionflower, rose, sage, solomon's seal, tobacco, thistle, and vegetables.
Foods: Breads, nuts, apples, pomegranates, and vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and onions.
Incense: Autumn Blend-benzoin, myrrh, and sage.
Colors: Red, orange, russet, maroon, brown, and gold.
Stones: Sapphire, lapis lazuli, and yellow agates.
Activities: Making wine, gathering dried herbs, plants, seeds and seed pods, walking in the woods, scattering offerings in harvested fields, offering libations to trees, adorning burial sites with leaves, acorns, and pine cones to honor those who have passed over.
Spellworkings: Protection, prosperity, security, and self-confidence. Also those of harmony and balance.
Goddesses: Modron, Morgan, Epona, Persephone, Hekate, Pamona and the Muses.
Gods: Thoth, Thor, Hermes, and The Green Man.

A Mabon Ritual

As previously detailed, Demeter and Persephone are strongly connected to the time of the Autumn Equinox. When Hades abducted Persephone, it set in motion a chain of events that eventually led to the earth falling into darkness each winter. This is the time of the Dark Mother, the Crone aspect of the Triple Goddess. The goddess is bearing this time not a basket of flowers, but a sickle and scythe. She is prepared to reap what has been sown.

The earth dies a little each day, and we must embrace this slow descent into dark before we can truly appreciate the light that will return in a few months.

Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Varied

Here's How:

01. This ritual welcomes the Dark Mother, and celebrates that aspect of the Goddess which we may not always find comforting or appealing, but which we must always be willing to acknowledge. Decorate your altar with symbols of Demeter and her daughter – flowers in red and yellow for Demeter, purple or black for Persephone, stalks of wheat, Indian corn, sickles, baskets. Have a candle on hand to represent each of them – harvest colors for Demeter, black for Persephone. You'll also need a chalice of wine, or grape juice if you prefer, and a pomegranate.

02. If you normally cast a Sacred Circle, or call the Quarters, do so now. Turn to the altar, and light the Persephone candle.


The land is beginning to die, and the soil grows cold.
The fertile womb of the earth has gone barren.
As Persephone descended into the Underworld,
So the earth continues its descent into night.

As Demeter mourns the loss of her daughter,
So we mourn the days drawing shorter.
The winter will soon be here.

Light the Demeter (Goddess) candle, and say:

In her anger and sorrow, Demeter roamed the earth,
And the crops died, and life withered and the soil went dormant.
In grief, she traveled looking for her lost child,
Leaving darkness behind in her wake.

We feel the mother's pain, and our hearts break for her,
As she searches for the child she gave birth to.
We welcome the darkness, in her honor.

03. Break open the pomegranate (it's a good idea to have a bowl to catch the drippings), and take out six seeds. Place them on the altar.


Six months of light, and six months of dark.
The earth goes to sleep, and later wakes again.
O dark mother, we honor you this night,
And dance in your shadows.
We embrace that which is the darkness,
And celebrate the life of the Crone.

04. Take a sip of the wine (grape juice), and savor the taste upon your lips. If you are doing this rite with a group, pass it to each person in the circle.

As each person drinks, they should say:

Blessings to the Dark Goddess on this night, and every other.

05. As the wine (grape juice) is replaced upon the altar, hold your arms out in the Goddess position, and take a moment to reflect on the darker aspects of the human experience.

Think of all the goddesses who evoke the night, and call out their names:

Demeter, Inanna, Kali, Tiamet, Hekate, Nemesis, Morrighan.
Bringers of destruction and darkness,
I embrace you tonight.

Without rage, we cannot feel love,
Without pain, we cannot feel happiness,
Without the night, there is no day,
Without death, there is no life.

Great goddesses of the night, I thank you.

06. Take a few moments to meditate on the darker aspects of your own soul. Is there a pain you've been longing to get rid of? Is there anger and frustration that you've been unable to move past? Is there someone who's hurt you, but you haven't told them how you feel? Now is the time to take this energy and turn it to your own purposes. Take any pain inside you, and reverse it so that it becomes a positive experience. If you're not suffering from anything hurtful, count your blessings, and reflect on a time in your life when you weren't so fortunate.

07. When you are ready, end the ritual in your established fashion.

[You may wish to tie this rite into a celebration of the Harvest or Barley Moon.]

Harvest or Barley Moon

September brings us the Harvest or Barley Moon, which falls on Sept. 23, sometimes also referred to as the Wine Moon or the Singing Moon. This is the time of year when the last of the crops are being gathered from the fields and stored for the winter. There's a chill in the air, and the earth is slowly beginning its move towards dormancy as the sun pulls away from us.

Moon Correspondences

Colors: Browns and greens, earth tones.
Gemstones: Citrine, chrysolite, peridot, bloodstone.
Trees: Bay, larch, hawthorn.
Goddesses: Demeter, Brighid, Freyja, Vesta.
Herbs: Wheat, valerian, witch hazel, skullcap.
Element: Earth.

This is a month of hearth and home. Spend some time preparing your environment for the upcoming chilly months. If you don't already have one, why not set up a hearth or kitchen altar for those times when you're cooking, baking and canning. Use this time to clear out clutter – both physical and emotional – before you have to spend the long winter days inside.

Examples of Mabon Prayers

Hail! Hail! Hail!
The grapes have been gathered!
The wine has been pressed!
The casks have been opened!

Dionysus and Bacchus,
watch over our celebration,
and bless us with merrymaking!

Hail! Hail! Hail!


Equal hours of light and darkness
we celebrate the balance of Mabon,
and ask the gods to bless us.

For all that is bad, there is good.
For that which is despair, there is hope.
For the moments of pain, there are moments of love.

For all that falls, there is the chance to rise again.
May we find balance in our lives,
as we find it in our hearts.


The harvest is ending, the earth is dying.
The cattle have come in from their fields.
The earth's bounty has been laid before us.
We give thanks to the gods for this abundance.


Examples of Prayers to the Dark Goddess

Day turns to night,
and life turns to death,
and the Dark Mother teaches us to dance.

Hekate, Demeter, Kali, Nemesis, Morrighan, Tiamet –
Bringers of destruction,
You who embody the Crone.

I honor you as the earth goes dark,
and as the world slowly dies.


This incantation calls upon the Dark Goddess Morrighan, who is a Celtic deity of battle and sovereignty. As a goddess who determined kingship and land holdings, she can be called upon for assistance in protecting you, your pets, your property and the boundaries of your land. If you’ve been burglarzied lately, or are having trouble with trespassers or vandals, this prayer comes in particularly handy.

You may wish to make this as martial, loud and vigorous as possible, with lots of banging drums, clapping, and even a sword or two thrown in as you march around the boundaries of your property. (Perhaps this also works because your neighbors will be convinced that you are dangerous, and a little crazy, no?)

Hail Morrighan! Hail Morrighan!
Protect this land from those who would trespass upon it!
Hail Morrighan! Hail Morrighan!
Guard this land and all those who dwell within it!
Hail Morrighan! Hail Morrighan!
Watch over this land and all contained upon it!

Hail Morrighan! Hail Morrighan!
Goddess of battle, great goddess of the land,
She who is the Washer at the Ford, Mistress of Ravens,
And Keeper of the Shield,
We call upon you for protection.

Trespassers beware! The great Morrighan stands guard,
And she shall unleash her displeasure upon you.
Let it be known that this land falls under her protection,
And to do harm to any within it
Is to invite her wrath.

Hail Morrighan! Hail Morrighan!
We honor and thank you this day!
Hail Morrighan! Hail Morrighan!


Note: The following ritual was written by the fabulous Marie Bruce, How To Create A Magical Home, who has been called the Official Witch of the U.K.
As this is the time of Persephone, the following ritual calls upon her for assistance in our protection magic. Persephone is Queen of the Underworld, and she rules over the Dark Season. Her fruit, as already mentioned, is the pomegranate.

Purpose of the Ritual: To call on Persephone for protection.
What you need: Two pomegranates, a knife, your pentacle.

01. Take the pomegranates to your altar and light the candles, calling on the powers of Persephone.
02. Cut each fruit in half, putting the four pieces on your pentacle to charge with power.
03. The Number Nine is sacred to the Goddess, so repeat the following chant nine times.


Sweet Peresphone, enchantress, queen,
Protect me from harm, seen and unseen.
Protect me from theft, fire and flood;
Protect me from those who mean no good,
Keep me safe in your season of dusk;
Grant me the wisdom to know who to trust,
Protect me at work, protect me at home;
Keep safe my abode of earth, wood and stone.
I bury your fruit in the depths of earth’s womb;
Weave now my safety at the magical loom.
So mote it be!
04. Extinguish the candles, and bury the four pomegranate halves at the four corners of your property.


May your Mabon be blessed and merry, and your hearts and spirits be filled with the abundance of this Second Harvest. Let us look ahead to the darkening of the year with excitement, honoring the God for the warmth of his passing life, and the Goddess for her cold beauty and dark strength that will empower the Wheel to Turn until the Earth is once again reborn.

— Danu’s Daughter