What is Mabon?
The word Mabon comes from the God of Welsh mythology, Mabon. He is the Child of Light and the son of the Earth Mother Goddess, Modron. However, there is little evidence that Mabon was celebrated in Celtic countries and the term Mabon was given to the festival as recently as the 1970’s, a completely made-up holiday created by a Wiccan named Aidan Kelly. In a sense, ALL holidays are made up, because they celebrate a thing that humans remember and want to celebrate. In 2017, Kelly wrote a fascinating article detailing how and why he chose the dates for Ostara, Litha, and Mabon that he did, based on Saxon holidays, myths, and legends…worth a read.
All part of our reconstructed Paganism. This does not make it wrong, as all things evolve, and as we know, where we place our intention and energy we create new ways of being – but it is important to understand and acknowledge the root of things and it does irk me when I see it written that Mabon is an ancient Celtic festival!
Mabon – Harvest or Fall?
However, in the farming calendar, that our ancestors would have tracked, this is the second of the three harvest festivals, known as the fruit and vegetable harvest. If you remember, last month was the first harvest, Lammas, or Lughnasadh (Loo-nas-ah) on the 1st of August, the grain harvest, and we have Samhain (Sow-een) to look forward to on 31st October, the harvest of nuts, berries, and meat! So more realistically the festival was called Harvest, or Ingathering, and you can read more about that here in this Britannica article.
Did you know that actually the word Fall originated in England, and not America? Recorded use of the word fall in England as the name of the third season of the year comes from as early as the 1500s. The name is thought to originate in the phrase the fall of the leaf, in reference to the time of year when deciduous trees shed their leaves. The name of its counterpart season, Spring, is thought to come from the phrase spring of the leaf—the time when everything is blossoming.
The name fall was commonly used in England until about the end of the 1600s, when it was ousted by autumn. The word Autumn comes from the French autompne, from the Latin autumnus, whose deeper roots are obscure. It’s first recorded in English as early as the late 1300s—notably, both Chaucer and Shakespeare used it in their works. There is a belief that the word fall was continued as the colonists moved across the Americas, whereas here in Britain it was dropped in favour of the word Autumn as the aristocracy associated it with the common people!
Personally I love the word fall and have decided that I am dropping the word Mabon and adopting Fall from now on.
The Autumnal equinox, astronomically this is the moment in the year when the Sun is exactly above the equator and day and night are of equal length. Here in the Northern Hemisphere the autumnal equinox falls around September 22 or 23, as the Sun crosses the celestial equator going south. In the Southern Hemisphere the autumn equinox occurs on March 20 or 21, when the Sun moves north across the celestial equator. According to the astronomical definition of the seasons, the autumnal equinox also marks the beginning of Autumn, which lasts until the Winter Solstice (December 21 or 22 in the Northern Hemisphere, June 20 or 21 in the Southern Hemisphere).
This year, 2022 the Autumn Equinox occurs in the UK on Friday 23rd September at 02.03.
Artwork by Janie Olsen
I opened an email this morning from a lady called Katie Brindle. She is a qigong practitioner, she has a YouTube channel and Instagram page and does loads of free classes – I recommend her to lots of my clients, she has great energy!
Her email was entitled “Gratitude – the high frequency of Autumn” and in it she spoke about “grateful pain”. The ability to hone in on an area of pain, for example a tight muscle, and the feeling of satisfaction in being able to work it out – the pleasure /pain feeling – knowing we are helping the body to remove and shift what is causing the pain… grateful pain! This also applies to emotional blocks. When something is causing dis-ease in our psyches, we know on some level – whether that manifests as a physical sensation, or the uncomfortable knowing of squishing feelings down, suppressing them – we still know it, and they will manifest physically at some point. We are blocking the qi, the energy flow around our bodies (read about qi here).
As an elemental celebrant, the elements play an important part in my life – the element of water connects us to our emotions. When in balance and allowed to flow we allow the qi to move around our bodies freely. When we hold water it stagnates and this is what happens in our bodies, to our qi. By applying the action of grateful pain to our emotions, we can look at the things that cause us pain, our negative energetic clutter and really begin to let it go – and do it with gratitude! Yes it feels uncomfortable at first – and you may need support from friends, family or a therapist as you bring awareness to the pain, but it is a really healthy thing to be able to do for yourself and the very first steps towards that all important shadow work that I keep banging on about! (more about that in my blog here) As we move into the more reflective energies of Autumn, we can begin to bring attention to our own healings, how we can be grateful for the teachings and let things flow freely.
It is an earthy time, as Mother Nature prepares for the great show of the leaves turning and falling, the earth quality becomes more nurturing, more solid yet giving somehow. As everything begins to retreat downwards we can allow the earth to support us, getting us grounded and anchored. Starting a self-care practice such as journalling, meditation or movement based bodywork like yoga or qigong. I found a really nice little qigong energy protection exercise the other day – it only takes 5 minutes to do and is really powerful. You can see it here.
Protecting your energy can have so many benefits, not only on a physical level, but also emotionally. We are like sponges – just as we can pick up germs from being around others, we can also absorb other peoples negative energies. Bringing a protection ritual into your daily practice is a great habit to start. It will help to ground you as well as protecting your emotional body, it will strengthen it, so you will also be stronger on a physical level too – which is exactly what we need as the sun begins to wane.
Of course I can’t do an Autumn Equinox blog without talking about the abundance of fruit in the hedgerows and how we can make amazing healing medicines from it!
This year, despite the lack of rain, the hedgerows around here are filled with blackberries and elderberries, although they do seem to be a little earlier than usual.
I have made blackberry vinegar this year, (last year I made elderberry vinegar – recipe here) which is delicious and very balsamic like – as well as filled with antioxidants, blackberries are high in vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. You can find the recipe I used here. I used 500g of blackberries and 350ml of raw organic apple cider vinegar – this gave me 600ml of juice, to which I added 450g of dark brown sugar. This gave me three small bottles of vinegar, one for us and 2 to give as gifts at Yule.
Of course all of the berries in the hedgerow are good for us – I make hedgerow berry syrup as well as the classic elderberry syrup (recipe here) which will be my go to for keeping us all well over the Winter months.
This year hopefully I will make enough to sell, keep an eye out on social media as my home crafted herbal medicines go fast! I had a small selection of balms that I made and I am humbled and grateful that from a small post on instagram they all sold! (working that Autumn Equinox gratitude!!)
Decorating Your Mabon Altar – The Symbols of Mabon
This time of year is filled with abundance and beauty, so there is no shortage of things to bring into the home to show appreciation and to decorate with! Beautiful leaves, pinecones, apples, nuts and fruit. The cornucopia, or horn of plenty, is a symbol of fertility and abundance, and represents the perfect balance of male and female together. This is a time to really bring nature into your home!
Apples have long been associated with witches and magic, and are one of the many fruits that are coming into abundance this time of year. If you cut an apple around the middle you will see the 5 pointed star that we pagans and witches honour as the pentagram, or pentacle if within a circle, (the circle of the apple!) that represent the Elements of Nature that make up the world around us, Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Spirit.
You can also create an outside altar, by way of honouring the spirits and elementals that live on your land and have helped in bringing the harvest and bounty to fruition. A small area where you can place a small candle lantern, a crystal maybe, a stone where you can lay an offering, a token of your appreciation, as that is the focus of this time, gratitude and appreciation.
Image courtesy of The Goddess & The Green Man
Things To Do At Mabon
Get out in Nature!!!
There is no substitute for this!! The fresh air, connecting with the elements, feeling the wind in your hair all contribute to feelings of wellbeing. Go for a walk with friends, wrap up and take a picnic! Collect leaves and pinecones, forage the abundant hedgerows for apples, blackberries, elderberries, sloes, rosehips and hawthorn berries, and if you’re really lucky you might get some nuts that the squirrels have left!
As always, forage mindfully – never over harvest. Never forage from near busy roads, or the edges of fields unless you know that they haven’t been sprayed with pesticides.
The gifts of the goddess, abundance, taking stock, gratitude and letting go – Libra season.
The Goddess Harvest Mother has gifted us with her bounty, and The God has sacrificed himself to the Earth with the cutting of the last of the grain, but we can rejoice, as we know he will return! For now, it is time to enjoy the fruits of our labour! – to rest, to come together in community and share the gifts of the earth, our harvests, with our friends and families, to show gratitude and appreciation for all we have in our lives, all we have achieved.
The Autumn Equinox is a time of balance – another time to pause, and to look back on how far we have come this year, on what we have achieved, before the Suns power wanes, the nights draw in, the days get colder, and we begin to focus our attention inwards once more. The darker days of Autumn signal a time to start on our inner work, to weigh up the things we need to let go of, and to start the process again of re-evaluating ourselves, our lives, our needs. This is the gift of the Wheel of the Year, understanding that time is not linear, that we are continuing on our spiral, of growth, of knowing that nothing stays the same, that we continually have new opportunities to sow seeds, start plans, reap and harvest and release the things we no longer need – the organic repeated softening of self-awareness and spiritual growth. We can become comfortable in the cycle of Life, Death and Rebirth.
This time of year can be melancholic – it can often feel like we are losing something. The very act of reflection can bring up different feelings, not all of them comfortable. A very different energy from the fiery Leo energy of early August, Lammas, and the productive energy of Virgo, we move on the 22nd September into the balanced energy of Libra.
For Virgo season, it was back to school vibes, bringing the energy for fresh starts getting things in order and into a routine. This energy aligns perfectly with the upcoming energies of the fall, The Autumn Equinox – harvesting, gathering in, making and preparing. Of course in order to make room for what we are preserving we need to have a clear out.
I have found myself in the flow of this before I even registered we were in it. I’ve got my accounts up to date and sent off, I am having a good clear out in the cupboards and freezer and this weekend I even started decorating!… all kind of unplanned but totally in the flow. Work with that energy to clear out the cupboards, get rid of things you no longer need, gift to charity or friends the excess or abundance of things you may have. Prepare for the coming of winter, clear and empty the freezer in readiness for the things you will be making and preserving over the coming weeks.
As we now step over the threshold of the autumn equinox, we leave Virgo season and Libra takes over. The time begins for inner journey work, take time to reflect on the year, on what you have achieved, what has been good, and what has been not so good. Libra energy is much more thoughtful, giving us a respite from the busy productive energy of Virgo! Libra really brings in that quality of balance (the scales), of taking stock of the year, of looking at what has been working for us, and what we are ready to let go of. Using the metaphor of the falling leaves really helps us to to that and get into that flow.
There are so many crafty things to make and bake at this time of year! We witches LOVE the Autumn! It’s not called the season of the witch for nothing.
Witchcrafted Life is a brilliant site with all things witchy and crafty on it – she has loads of cute ideas there. But one thing I haven’t found is the acorn charms we made with my mum – it’s a very meditative practice.
You need an acorn, 4 pins and some thread or yarn. Just pop the pins in and get winding! These can be used as good luck charms, popped into a little charm or poppet bag – you could weave some magic energy into them as you go! (be careful of the pins!)
This was my effort – the first time since I was 6 or 7 I think. It’s a bit rough around the edges so I need to have a few more goes to perfect it, but cute and makes me think of my mum and my nan, remembering childhood times with gratitude, which is what it’s all about.
The Autumn Equinox… a time for reflection and gratitude – I hope you have found some inspiration here.
Much love and Autumn Equinox Blessings