A Pagan First Harvest: Autumn Equinox, Mabon, September 21
The Time of the First Harvest
The autumn equinox is the second time of year when day and night are of equal length, the first being the spring equinox. It occurs approximately every September 21st in the northern hemisphere (in the southern hemisphere this is the spring equinox. It can also be on the 22nd or 23rd.
The leaves are beginning to turn and the birds will migrate soon. For many of us a slower pace is setting in. While at Lughnasadh, or Lammas, we celebrate the first harvest while there is yet still work to do, now is the time of the completion of the harvest and gathering our food and sundry for what we will need through the winter.
Even though we may not live in an agrarian society, this urge to hoard for the cold season ahead is still with us. How many of us stock up a little extra at this time even with mega-stores in nearly every town of at least moderate size?
"Autumn, the year's last, loveliest smile." - William Cullen Bryant
The Importance of Balance
This time of year was traditionally the time of rest after labor. Parents hurriedly getting their children ready for the new school year do so knowing that after the rush is when the routine sets in.
Rituals at both equinoxes honor balance between light and dark. While spring was the time of going forth into the fullness of the summer, we know the sun is now fading in the sky. Balance is still honored but with more of a nod towards the coming darkness.
Legends of Autumn
Mabon, another name for this holiday, was a Welsh god whose name means Divine Youth and is the son of Modron, the Divine Mother. Legend has it he was stolen from his mother when he was just three nights old.
Still other legends tell of him being a champion of King Arthur after being rescued from his captivity possibly on an island or even in the underworld. It appears that his attribution to Pagan festivals is a modern one as his name doesn't appear to have been linked to ancient festivals. But he does have a fascinating mythology as a symbol of a Celtic Divine son.
His abduction story seems to parallel that of Persephone stolen from her mother Demeter. Persephone too was swept away to the underworld.
In the spring, she comes home to her mother for half the year when Demeter in her happiness allows the growing season to happen. In the fall is when Persephone returns to the underworld when Demeter in her sorrow makes the earth barren again. Learn more about Persephone's story at the Greek mythology site Theoi.
These stories encourage another main theme of this holiday—that of thanksgiving for all the bounty of the year. We understand it is time to enter the darkness but patiently await the return of the sun personified by the rebirth of the divine child at Yule which will eventually lead to the return of spring.
Do you celebrate the autumn equinox?
Learn More About the Holiday
Ritual and Magic Themes
Celebrations and Traditional Offerings of the Season
Personal and group rituals include showing gratitude for the bounty of the year especially to those deities you feel guide you in your daily work and home life. Like many of the sabbats, magic isn't necessarily the purpose. Instead, our main focus is to connect with the wheel of the year cycle and our experience of the divine.
This isn't a hard and fast rule however. The veil between the physical world and the otherworld is believed to be thin at the equinoxes when balance is so strongly demonstrated between light and dark. Magic to bring more balance into your own life would be powerful at this time.
If this year has not been as bountiful as you would like, a ritual of gratitude would still be a powerful way for you to show your receptivity to the gifts of spirit. Employment and career spells would be a positive way to bring the energy of this holiday in your life.
Not all Pagans will celebrate Mabon in this way, but for many this holiday carries on the thanksgiving theme begun at Lammas. Mabon is especially a time for honoring the gods and goddesses of our group or personal Pagan practice that have provided for us throughout the year. Traditional offerings are:
- The foods most prevalent in your area.
- Fall flowers.
- Items made from our own hands representing our labor.
Foods for the Autumm Equinox Sabbat
Your favorite fall foods are perfect for Mabon cooking.
Apples and related dishes such as pies, cake, candy and caramel apples.
Pumpkin soup, bread, and pie.
Squash dishes including baked and sauteed squash and zucchini bread.
Pork is commonly served at this holiday.
"There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!" ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
Mabon Coloring Pages
The Many Ways to Give Thanks - See how different people celebrate the autumn equinox.
Sample Autumn Equinox Rituals
- Solitary Fall Equinox Ritual - ADF Neopagan Druidism
Neopagan Druids - ADF is an international organization devoted to creating a public tradition of Neopagan Druidry.
- A Mabon Ritual
A fun ritual, especially suited to cold climates.
- Mabon - Autumn Equinox - The Wheel Of The Year - The White Goddess
The Witches Wheel - Mabon. September 21-23. Technically, an equinox is an astronomical point and, due to the fact that the earth wobbles on its axis slightly , the date may vary by a few days depending on the year.
- Bright Idea: Fall Equinox Ritual | Living NewStories
Ritual inspired by Machaelle Small Wright of the Perelandra Institute.
Sources and Credits
Ellis, Peter Berresford. Dictionary of Celtic Mythology. Oxford University Press, 1992.
Ellison, Robert Lee. The Solitary Druid: Walking the Path of Wisdom and Spirit. Citadel Press, 2005.
Farrar, Janet and Stewart Farrar. A Witches' Bible: The Complete Witches' Handbook. Phoenix Publishing Inc., 1981.
© 2009 PatriciaJoy