With the Sacred Sabbat of Mabon (the Pagan Thanksgiving) falling late in the month, the early, eager energies of September are too often ignored.
The focus is often on filling the cellar – in 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? It is my favorite time of year, and always strikes a very spiritual chord in me.
As a Solitary Practitioner of Wicca, my Pagan beliefs are religious, nor secular, and can be summed up as:
"Bide the Wiccan laws ye must, in perfect love and perfect trust...Mind the Threefold Law ye should – three times bad and three times good...Eight words the Wiccan Rede fulfill – an it harm none, do what ye will."
Mabon, (pronounced MAY-bun, MAY-bone, MAH-boon, or MAH-bawn) falls on September 23 this year, at the time of the Autumnal or Fall Equinox. It is a sacred Sabbat celebrated by Wiccans and other Pagans who honor the turning of the Wheel of the Year. It is the time to seek balance, as the Wheel is at its half-way point around the Eternal Circle.
This Sabbat can also be known as: the Second Harvest Festival, Feast of Avalon, Cornucopia, Wine Harvest, the Fall Equinox, Harvest Home, the Autumnal (or Autumn) Equinox, Festival of Dionysus, Alban Elfed (Caledonii, Druidic), Winter Finding (Teutonic), or Equinozio di Autunno (Strega).
The full moon closest to the Autumn Equinox is called the Harvest Moon, and farmers would harvest their corps by this moonlight as part of the Second Harvest celebration.
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 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 many 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 more than ever 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 holiday, considered a 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.
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.
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 Mabon symbols:
— 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.
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 Pagans, 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.
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.
Animals/Mythical Creatures: Dogs, wolves, stag, blackbird, owl, eagle, birds of prey, salmon, goat, Gnomes, Sphinx, Minotaur, Cyclops, Andamans and Gulons.
Gemstones: Yellow agate, carnelian, yellow topaz, sapphire, lapis lazuli, and amethyst.
Incense/Oil: Pine, sweetgrass, apple blossom, benzoin, myrrh, frankincense, jasmine, sage wood aloes, black pepper, patchouli, cinnamon, clove, and oak moss.
Colors/Candles: Brown, green, orange, red, deep gold, scarlet, yellow, russet, maroon, all autumn colors, purple, blue violet and indigo.
Tools/Symbols/Decorations: Indian corn, red fruits, autumn flowers, red poppies, hazelnuts, garlands, grains especially wheat stalks, and colorful, fallen leaves, acorns, pine and cypress cones, oak sprigs, pomegranate, statue/or figure to represent the Mother Goddess, Mabon wreath, vine, grapes, gourd, cornucopia/horns of plenty, burial cairns, apples, marigolds, harvested crops, burial cairns, rattles, the Mysteries, sun wheel, all harvest symbols.
Goddesses: Modron (Welsh), Bona Dea, Land Mother, Aging and Harvest Deities (the Triple Goddess aspect), Persephone, Demeter/Ceres, Morgan (Welsh- Cornish), Snake Woman (aboriginal), Epona (Celtic-Gaulish), Pamona (Roman), and the Muses (Greek).
Gods: Mabon ap Modron (Welsh), Sky Father, Wine Gods, Aging Gods, John Barleycorn , the Wicker-Man, the Corn Man, the Green Man, Thoth (Egyptian), Hermes, Hotei (Japanese), Thor, Dionysus (Roman), Bacchus (Greek) and all wine deities.
Essence: Beauty, joy; fullness of life, harvest of the year's desires, strength, laughter, power, prosperity, equality, balance, appreciation, harvest, protection, wealth, security, self-confidence, and reincarnation.
Dynamics/Meaning: Death of the God, assumption of the Crone, balance of light and dark; increase of darkness, grape harvest, and completion of the harvest.
Purpose: The Second Harvest Festival, new wine pressing/making preparation for winter and Samhain (Halloween), rest after labor, Pagan day of Thanksgiving, honoring the spirit world, and celebration of wine.
Rituals/Magick: Celtic Festival of the Vine, prosperity rituals, introspection, rituals which enact the elderly aspects of both the Goddess and the God, and past life recall.
Customs: Offerings to land, preparing for cold weather, bringing in harvest, cutting willow wands (Druidic), eating seasonal fruit, leaving apples upon burial cairns and graves as a token of honor, walking in wild places and forests, gathering seed pods and dried plants, fermenting grapes to make wine, picking ripe produce, stalk bundling, fishing, and on the nearest full moon (Harvest Moon) harvesting corps by moonlight.
Foods: Cornbread, wheat products, bread, grains, berries, nuts, grapes, acorns, seeds, dried fruits, corn, beans, squash, roots (i.e. onions, carrots, potatoes, etc), hops, sassafras, apples, pomegranates, carrots, onions, potatoes, roast goose or mutton, wine, ale, and cider.
Herbs: Myrrh, thistle, tobacco, oak leaf, hazel, mums, hops, acorns, marigold, rose, sage, milkweed, Solomon's seal, aster, fern, honeysuckle, benzoin, myrrh, passionflower, pine and cedar, ivy, hazel, and hops.
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.
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.
Time Required: Varied
Here's What to Do:
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 (Note: she is my personal Dark Mother, and I talk to her daily,) Nemesis, and 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 Moon.]
Harvest or Barley Moon
September brings us the Harvest or Barley Moon, which occurs on Sept. 12 this year, sometimes 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.
Colors: Browns and greens, all earth tones.
Gemstones: Citrine, chrysolite, peridot, and bloodstone.
Trees: Bay, larch, and hawthorn.
Goddesses: Demeter, Brighid, Freyja, and Vesta.
Herbs: Wheat, valerian, witch hazel, and skullcap.
This is a month of hearth and home, which is the domain of the Goddess Vesta. 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.
The following are 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.
The following are 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 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, 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 Persephone, 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.
Here are some other dates of importance in September
05: Labor Day. Spend some time today thinking about your work. If you are dissatisfied with your current job, make a list of what you could do differently so that work would be meaningful for you. Light a green candle that you have dressed with oil of pine. Fold your work list into a tiny square and pass it through the candle smoke. Now wrap the square in a dollar bill and place it in a green bag with an agate and the Three of Pentacles tarot card. Sleep with this bag under your pillow for thirteen nights.
12: Full Moon – Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is sometimes 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.
It is also referred to as Moon of Siduri, the Heavenly Barmaid. The Full Moon in Pisces illuminates the cosmic river of souls, the collective unconscious, and the powers of prophecy. Siduri is the bartender who offers food and drink (and sympathy, generosity, and kindness) to weary souls on the path to the cosmic river. Her mythic role is critical. After visiting Siduri, souls are refreshed and ready to journey to the afterlife.
We are all travelers of the road of life, and sometimes need a place to sit, have a drink and find a compassionate shoulder to lean on. Sympathy requires listening without judging, supporting without telling someone what to do and easing the long and weary road by sharing food and drink.
The Solitary Practitioner can embody Siduri's role during this Full Moon by feeding a widow, listening sympathetically or giving to a charity. A Coven ritual may include filling a special chalice with drink and passing it around the circle. Members can take turns serving food or pouring drinks. Offer prayers for the weary to find comfort, for the hungry to be fed, and for departing souls to journey in safety. Have sympathy for one another and listen without judging. Pass a tip glass for Siduri and donate the proceeds.
12: Chinese Moon Festival. The Festival of Chang O, on the full moon nearest the autumnal equinox, the Chinese people pay homage to the moon goddess Chang O. Some Chinese celebrate this day as the moon's birthday.
19: The Fast of Thoth, this day-long fast honors the Egyptian god of wisdom and magick.
21: International Day of Peace. Carve a peace symbol into a white candle. Fill a small dish with a little dirt from outside and place the candle on top. Relax and focus on the energy of peace. Hold your cupped hands near the candle and visualize very bright light coming down from above, entering the crown of your head, going down to your heart, through your arms, out your hands, and into the candle.
Light the candle, close your eyes, and see this white light of peace spread to the hearts of all people. See all humans everywhere filled with love and existing harmoniously with one another. Believe that this is our future. See if you can get your friends to do it too. The more people who do this spell, the better.
21: The Feast of the Divine Life, this ancient Egyptian feast honored the great goddess in her three-fold aspect as Mother (Creator), Daughter/Maiden (Renewer), and Dark Mother/Crone (the Absolute).
21: Sun enters Libra.
23: Mabon, the time of the Autumnal/Fall Equinox.
23: Michaelmas is a medieval, pagan holiday, which the was turned into a Christian celebration as “Michaelmas,” a feast in honor of the Archangel Michael.
It is thought that the Roman Catholic Church at some point considered assigning the quarter dates to the four Archangels, since they had assigned the cross quarters to the four gospel-writers. Making the Vernel Equinox a holiday called “Gabrielmas” was taken into consideration in honor of the angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary on Lady Day.
23: Ostara (Southern Hemisphere).
27: New Moon.
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