The Wheel of the Year — Pagan Mabon Celebration
by Val Tobin
Originally published July 26, 2011 on Suite101
Republished on SNGS December 23, 2013
Mabon celebrates the second harvest, with the first harvest being celebrated at Lammas. This is the autumn equinox, where day and night are once again equal and we continue our gradual slide towards winter. Mabon reminds us to take stock of where we have been, where we are now, and where we intend to go from here, as we prepare ourselves for the long, cold dark of winter.
Celebrating the Autumnal Equinox
The equinox at Mabon puts us on the precipice of the darkness to come. The next day to dawn will already have a little less day and a little more night. Jeff McQueen, First Degree Priest with the Wiccan Church of Canada, expresses it as "the calm before the storm." He heaves a huge sigh as he says this and explains that Mabon is akin to the big sigh of relief that comes with knowing that the harvest was a good one and we're ready for the winter to come.
In their book The Witches' Bible: The Complete Witches' Handbook, Janet and Stewart Farrar refer to the time of the autumnal equinox as "rest after labor" in comparison to the vernal equinox, which they refer to as "an athlete poised for action" (116, Farrar). At this time, what happens in nature (the outer world) as it slowly begins to still and fade, becomes a catalyst for introspection, self-reflection, and going within to the inner world. This drawing in becomes even more pronounced at Samhain, which ultimately manifests the dormancy of winter.
Symbols Associated with Mabon
A solar festival, Mabon is also referred to as "Modron," a word meaning "Mother." The mother here is the Mother Goddess, who provides a bountiful fruit harvest around this time. According to Anne-Marie Gallagher's The Wicca Bible: The Definitive Guide to Wicca and the Craft, apples, which are plentiful and ripen around Mabon, delineate the boundary between this world and the next, and if you slice open an apple, you reveal a five-pointed star, the symbol of the elements of life.
This is also a time when the Sun God heads westward to meet with the crone aspect of the Goddess in the land of the dead at Samhain (72, Gallagher). The west has symbolized crossing over to death, as can be seen in the Arthur legends, where King Arthur's body is taken west to the Summerlands, or in The Lord of the Rings, when ships of elves leave the Grey Havens to head into the west on their final journey.
Food and Drinks for Celebrating Mabon
The harvest at this time consists mostly of fruits, such as apples, peaches, grapes, and nuts. The theme is thanksgiving, as we thank the Goddess for providing enough to get us through the winter. When holding ritual, bring foods that feature the fruits of the Goddess to the potluck. Pies, breads, cakes, or salads made with fruits or nuts are excellent contributions.
Wine and beer are made at this time of year, and can be used in the ritual for libation and for drinking at the potluck following. Apple cider makes a great non-alcoholic Mabon drink. Juices made from the fruits harvested at this time can be used to make punches.
Ideas for Celebrating Mabon
The weather during Mabon tends to be mild and pleasant here in Ontario and that makes being outside in circle a pleasure. Consider outdoor activities to celebrate the equinox. McQueen's ritual incorporates throwing a handful of seeds out of the circle, after infusing the seeds with wishes for the next year's bounty. This is a great way to align energetically with your goals and desires.
To do this, hold the seeds in your dominant (sending) hand and focus on what you desire to manifest in the coming year. Then raise a cone of power in the circle, and at the height of the energy, throw the seeds out of the circle, so they can lie dormant through the coming winter and sprout the following spring.
Louise Bunn's Book of Shadows recommends making wine, building a stone circle, doing an apple meditation, or making a wand from a tree that symbolizes something that you wish to incorporate into your life. Apples symbolize love, for example, and almonds represent money, prosperity, and wisdom (62, Bunn).
While Mabon draws our energy inward, it is more of a time to pause rather than withdraw. McQueen sums it up best when he says, "I look at Mabon as a more global view, as opposed to the other harvests, where you're wondering how much sun do we have, and are we going to get rain, and is the harvest going to be good?"
"You're looking very short term as to what's going on ... I think that Mabon is about taking stock on a wider frame of reference, as opposed to Sabbat by Sabbat, as to where we're going. You've got these little goals at each one of the Sabbats, and the wheel is turning, and moving ... At Mabon, you can look at what's happened and reassess where you're going when you head into that time of introspection and get into the nitty gritty."
Image: Circle for Ritual — Courtesy of Bob Tobin, taken at The Hedge Witch
Bunn, Louise, Book of Shadows: Participant's Handbook for Paganism 101, Vancouver: Louise Bunn, 1998.
Farrar, Janet and Stewart, A Witches' Bible: The Complete Witches' Handbook, Custer: Phoenix Publishing Inc., 1996 edition.
Grist, Tony and Aileen, The Illustrated Guide to Wicca, New York: Sterling Publishing Company, 2000.
McQueen, Jeff, Priest, 1st degree, the Wiccan Church of Canada.
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