The Dark Half of the Year – Mabon
The wheel is turning…we are past Lammas, the harvest has been gathered in from the fields that I walk though. You can smell a change in the air…not quite the smell of Autumn yet, but there is a subtle change.
This is what I love about following the seasons, marking the festivals and noticing how the landscape and weather changes.
Having just celebrated the Lammas / Lughnasadh festival, my thoughts now turn to preparing for Mabon, the Autumn Equinox. This is one of my favourite times of the year, when we really see the change in daylight, and the changes in the hedgerows. This is the time of gathering in, the full harvest.
Art by Wendy Andrew, Painting Dreams.
Many people feel dread at the onset of Autumn, they fear the darkness, but this time of year is when nature is telling us to begin hunkering down…to begin the journey inward. Instead of fearing the darkness, I encourage you to explore it. Darkness is a natural aspect of life, and yet, humanity has made it something to be afraid of – we associate evil, crime, the things we want to forget or repress – bad things happen in the dark. It is the unknown, the uncontrollable, it is raw, primal and elemental, and this is why we fear it. But if we just shift our awareness, we can see that there is safety in the darkness…nurturing. Like the animals that build their dens in the earth and hibernate, there is protection, stillness and healing. If we begin to make friends with the dark we can find the lost parts of our inner selves, and begin to initiate that healing.
It is a time to honour the dark Goddesses, and if there is not one that resonates for you, then honour the dark goddess that is yourself! You may find one comes to call, the dark goddesses can’t be summoned, she will choose you. In my womens magical development circle, we will be exploring the goddesses within each of us, and reconnecting with her!
The Season of the Witch
Autumn is sometimes referred to as The Season of the Witch, and for many of us it is our favourite season, I love it!! This half of the year is associated with The Crone, The Wise Woman. She, like the darkness is feared, shunned. In our non- stop 21st century world we push that aspect of ourselves away, but within the space of this group we can explore her and her aspect within ourselves. It is time to reclaim our connection with the wild untamed element of darkness that is within us. There can be no light without darkness, and that is the message of the autumn equinox, all things must balance.
Art by Wendy Andrew, Painting Dreams.
The wheel turns, and late summer moves through the Autumn Equinox, or Mabon as Pagans call it, which falls around the 21st – 23rd of September.
You can tangibly feel the evenings drawing in, the mornings have the smell of damp autumn leaves, and nature prepares for her greatest show before settling down for winter.
One of my favourite sayings at this time of year is “As the leaves turn from green to red and gold, nature shows us how beautiful it can be to let go”.
What Is The Festival of Mabon?
Mabon is the festival of the second harvest, after the first harvest of Lammas / Lughnasadh. Much like the Spring Equinox, the Autumn Equinox is a time of balance – night and day are of equal length, but we know that this is the turning point where the dark begins to overtake the light.
This is a time where we gather the last of the years harvest, to count our blessings and take stock of the year so far, have all those plans and seeds that we sowed at Imbolc come to fruition? It’s a time to share our abundance with those we love, a time to reflect on the lessons and blessings that this year has given, and release and surrender what hasn’t worked out the way we wanted it to.
Mabon is a time of deep gratitude, we give thanks to Mother Earth for all the richness she has provided us with over the year, and we prepare to go within – we give thanks to the earth and the light and prepare to give space to the darkness, a time where we can rest and restore ourselves.
Celebrating The Festival of Mabon
This is one of the busiest times of the year for me, making soups, jams, preserves, healing syrups and tinctures with all the abundance of hedgerow berries, apples, pumpkins and squashes that are still available. Mother Elder has gifted us her berries, that I have made into healing elderberry syrup. The beautiful wild rose that I made rose petal tincture, flower essence and tea from back in the summer has now offered up her wonderful rosehips, so I have made healing rosehip syrup, and rosehip and crab apple jelly. The dark blackthorn offers up plenty of sloes this year which I shall be using to make sloe gin, and my damson tree was filled with fruits so I have them marinating in brandy, which won’t be ready until next year!!
Making Blessing Sticks
I’m also making the most of an abundant Mugwort harvest this year and making our Native Saining Sticks, as is the Celtic name, or Recaning in Old English. You may better know them as the Native American Smudge Stick. (see my video on how easy it is to make these beautiful cleansing and balancing bundles on YouTube).
There is much talk of cultural appropriation these days, and while using “smudge sticks” may not quite be appropriating another culture, the term smudge is not native to our culture, and nor is using white sage. Using smoke in a sacred or healing way to cleanse and balance energies, or fumigate and clean the air in our homes is common to all cultures, and in ours the Ancient Celts would have used the term Saining, to mean blessing, protecting or consecrating, and in Old English we have the word recan, pronounced similarly to the word “reek”, to fumigate, emit smoke, burn incense. Neither of those terms really call out to me to be honest, and “smudging” seems so ingrained, but I do like the phrase blessing or clearing sticks, or bundles! Whatever resonates for you to call them, by lighting them and allowing the smoke to fill a room you can change the energy, kill bacteria and viruses, and bring harmony and balance to your space. All herbs have different healing properties, and as a hedgerow herbalist I use them in many different ways – burning them, either in bundles, or making incense out of them is just one of the ways we can work with them. (if you suffer with asthma make sure you allow the room to air and the smoke to dissipate fully before going in.)
Hopefully next year I will be able to run small workshops in my cabin in how to make and use Blessing Sticks.
My Blessing Sticks this year consist of Mugwort (see below for more about mugwort) as the base, as not only does it give the stick a good steady burn, and is great for repelling biting insects, it is a magical herb associated with Artemis, the moon and beloved of witches. It can connect us with other realms and the Ancestors, and enhance psychic abilities. I also use thyme for its amazing antibacterial properties, sage for promoting wisdom and bringing good luck, rosemary for clarity of thought, lemon balm and lavender bring calming and healing energies and chocolate mint for prosperity, and because it smells gorgeous! Actually, all together, these sticks smell amazing.
Also known as Cronewort, Mugwort is known as the “mother of all herbs”. Associated with the moon and the goddess of the moon, Artemis, patron of women, especially at critical phases of their lives …onset of puberty, childbirth, and the menopause, hence the name Artemesia vulgaris, vulgaris meaning “of the people”/ common/abundant. All over the world it is recognised in treating female reproductive disorders. Mugwort has a deep ancestral connection to crone wisdom and feminine divine intelligence!
It eases stress and anxiety, aids lucid dreaming, promoting deep sleep. It calms the digestive system, can help rid the system of worms, and is even used for flavouring beer! Not only have I made blessing sticks with it, but I have also made a sacred ceremonial smoking blend, made from mugwort, marshmallow flowers and leaves and mint. Using herbs this way in ritual helps to journey and to connect with the Ancestors and guides for deeper meaning to the ceremony. I shall be connecting in by smoking this blend and drinking a cup of mugwort, oatstraw and linden blossom tea before my personal mabon ritual.
Enjoy the Season
To make the most of this season, get out in nature as much as you can! There is nothing nicer than an autumn walk, scuffing up the leaves and breathing in the crisp air. We can still have a burst of heat in the day too! Begin to spend the days taking some time out to yourself, reflecting on what this year has brought you so far. Spend time with loved ones, appreciate them, and nature. It is so important right now that we deepen our connection with Mother Earth, hug a tree, get your bare feet on the earth. Maybe set aside some space in your home to create a little altar, just a small area where you can place items associated with the season, acorns, beautiful leaves etc, and which will give you a focal point to help you to pause, reflect and feel grateful.
As part of the reflection process, making time to start a self care routine is important, not only for our emotional well-being, but our physical well-being too! As the weather changes and the suns rays lose their warmth, the winter colds and bugs start to rear their heads – This year has been filled with anxiety about health, and it is very empowering to make your own healing medicines from the bounty Mother Nature provides for us…one of the simplest home remedies to make is my easy elderberry syrup, filled with immune system boosting vitamins and antioxidants. Taking care of ourselves with getting a regular massage, or reflexology, or starting a meditation practice can provide huge health benefits!
Or maybe you feel inspired to learn a new skill, a holistic therapy that will enable you to take care of your clients, or loved ones. At AuroraStar, I offer training to non therapists as well as established and experienced practitioners, have a look at my training page!
I continue to expand myself and my offerings and have created a Womens Magical Development Circle. This is a private facebook group with the aim of providing a safe and supportive space where women can explore their inner wise woman, begin to reattune to their innate intuition and reconnect with one another. As well as online events and rituals that follow the seasons and cycles of the Pagan calander I hope to be able to host small groups in my cabin where we can chant, and drum, and journey into the inner realms of magic that is within us all. If you are interested in joining or finding out more please contact me.
As part of my continuing self development, at the beginning of September I am going to spend a week in magical Glastonbury, at the Goddess Temple, learning how to be a Pagan Celebrant with the Sacred Celebrants Academy.
By the end of the seven days intensive training I will be able to conduct handfastings, naming ceremonies, funeral and end of life ceremonies, and I can’t wait to embark on this next exciting phase of my journey! I look forward to sharing it with you.
Wheel of the Year by Wendy Andrew, Painting Dreams.
As the wheel turns and we move through this most unusual of years, I hope you find time to reconnect with your inner self, take a little time to turn within and see what your own intuitive voice is telling you. Reach out to others, connect in small groups, and bring meaningful ceremony into your life.
Much love and Green Blessings