Category Archives: Mabon (Autumn Equinox)

Celebrating Mabon

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The cornucopia is an excellent place to start when it comes to your own Mabon celebration. You can make your own completely from scratch or buy a horn-shaped basket and fill it with fresh autumn produce, nuts, herbs, flowers and even crystals to place on your altar.

Use it in ritual to express gratitude for the abundance in your life, and/or in spellwork for abundance and prosperity. You can also leave it outdoors at night as an offering to the animals and faeries, and bury whatever isn’t eaten by the end of the following day. The cornucopia also makes an excellent gift and a way for you to share the bounty in your life with others.

Coven rituals at Mabon often focus on balance and on giving thanks for life’s blessings, particularly those that have come to pass over the past several months. New or continuing goals may be identified for the next and final harvest at Samhain. The Mabon feast is particularly lavish as we are at the height of the harvest season. Food is often shared with shelters and other organizations on behalf of the less fortunate.

There is also an acknowledgment of the coming dark, with thanks given to the retreating Sun. In some traditions, it is time to actively welcome the dark, and to honor spirits and aging deities—especially Crone goddesses—in preparation for Samhain.

For Witches who tend gardens, now is the time to harvest what is ready, tend what is still growing, and collect and save seeds for next year’s crops. You might make an offering to nature spirits with some of your bounty, or offer seeds, grains and acorns or cider.

Be sure to spend quality time outdoors, drinking in the last of the sunshine. Gather brightly colored leaves to place on your altar, and give thanks to the Goddess and God for the graceful beauty with which they bring the light half of the year to a close. For spellwork, consider goals related to harmony and balance, as well as protection, prosperity, and self-confidence.

Mabon (Autumn Equinox)

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Northern Hemisphere: September 21-24
Southern Hemisphere: March 20-22
Pronounced: MAY-bun, MAH-bun, MAY-vhon, or MAH-bawn
Themes: harvest, gratitude, abundance, balance, preparation, welcoming the dark
Also known as: Autumnal Equinox, Fall Equinox, September Equinox, Harvest Tide, Harvest Home, Harvest Festival, Wine Harvest, Feast of Avalon, Alben Elfed, Meán Fómhair, Gwyl canol Hydref

Mabon is the name used by Wiccans and many other modern Pagans for the Sabbat falling at the Autumn Equinox. Compared to the solstices, which actually occur during the middle of their respective seasons, the equinoxes mark more significant shifts from one season to the next.

By this point on the Wheel, the end of summer has become undeniable—a crisp chill in the air descends each evening at sunset, and the leaves on deciduous trees have begun to turn deep, bright shades of red, yellow and orange. The blue of the afternoon sky deepens as the summer’s white-hot sunlight turns golden. Plant life dies back in gardens, fields and forests, and squirrels get busy gathering acorns and walnuts to stash away for the coming cold months.

For many people, this is a bittersweet moment, as the beauty of the transforming Earth reminds us that we’re heading into bleak and barren times. But this is the true essence of the seasons and the Wheel—all of creation is always in motion, and the only constant in life is change.

The cyclical nature of time is especially apparent at Mabon as we work with themes that echo both Lammas and Ostara. Mabon is the second of the three harvest festivals, representing the pinnacle of abundance when it comes to the crops of the fields and the bounty of our gardens. Once again, we take time to appreciate all we have manifested—material and otherwise—through our efforts over the past several months.

There is more to do between now and Samhain to prepare for the winter, and this is a good time to take stock and evaluate what plans and projects need to be brought to completion before we enter the dark half of the year. But it’s also a moment to pause and celebrate what has taken place thus far.

In doing so, we give thanks to those who have assisted us, whether they be friends, family, or spirit guides and ancestors on the other side. And we recognize the importance of sharing our good fortune with others, by hosting feasts as well as giving to those in need.

The other central focus at this time is balance. Like Ostara, which falls on the Spring Equinox, Mabon marks the point at which day and night are of equal length. This time, the Sun crosses the “celestial equator” and appears to head south. From now until Yule, the light will wane significantly, with the nights becoming noticeably longer than the days. However, at this moment, the light and the dark are balanced. Interestingly, the Autumn Equinox coincides with the Sun’s entrance into the Zodiac sign of Libra. Libra’s symbol is the scales, and it is the sign known for seeking balance, harmony and equality. However much some of us may prefer warmth to cold or light to dark (or vice versa), we also know that without their opposites, we couldn’t truly appreciate our favorite times of year. Participating in the turning of the Wheel through ritual and celebration helps us live in harmony with these shifting tides.

This recognition of the necessity of change—more specifically, the necessity of death in the life/death/rebirth cycle—is seen in the shifting relationship between the Goddess and the God. At Mabon, neither is young anymore.

The aging God is even further weakened than at Lammas, and will soon give way completely to the dominance of the dark at Samhain. The Goddess is still in her Mother aspect as the Earth continues to bear fruit, and she still holds the new God in her womb. Yet she is moving toward her Crone aspect as well, where she will reign alone over the dark, mysterious nights until the God is reborn at Yule. The bittersweet quality of this time of year is embodied by the Goddess herself, who mourns the passing of the God yet knows he will return anew. In some traditions, the Goddess actually follows the God to the Underworld, which is why the Earth becomes cold and barren. In others, it is her sadness at his absence that causes the leaves to fall, the plants to die, and the animals to slumber away in hidden shelters. Still others view the coming weeks simply as a time of needed rest for all of the Earth, the equal and balanced opposite of the active energy of spring.

The Horn of Plenty

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While the Autumn Equinox was celebrated in several places throughout Asia, there’s little evidence to suggest that the ancient pagans of Europe marked this specific day with any major fanfare. However, harvest festivals were widely observed at some point during the fall season in many cultures.

In the areas comprising what is now the United Kingdom, the traditional harvest festival was tied to both the solar and lunar calendars, being held around the Full Moon closest to the Autumn Equinox. And the remains of ancient neolithic sites throughout Britain and Ireland which were designed to align with the Sun on this day show that it was considered an important moment to observe and honor. This lack of historical information made the Autumn Equinox somewhat difficult to give a unique name to, at least compared to the other solar Sabbats. In the early 1970s, the name “Mabon” was suggested by Aidan Kelly, a prominent member of the growing Pagan community in the U.S.

Mabon is the name of a Welsh mythological figure who is mentioned in Arthurian legends. He is considered a deity by some, but not enough is known about him to confirm this status, as many figures in ancient pagan myths are the children of unions between deities and humans. Nonetheless, Mabon is the son of the goddess Modron, who is often described as the primordial triple goddess of the ancient Celts. The story we have of Mabon is that he was abducted from his mother when he was
three days old, and held imprisoned in a secret location into adulthood, until he is rescued by King Arthur’s men.

In actuality, “Mabon” means “son,” and “Modron” means “mother,” so we don’t really know whether these two mythical figures had specific names. Yet these archetypes are somewhat fitting for a Wiccan Sabbat in that they echo the mother-child relationship of the God and Goddess.

As the mythology and symbolism of the Wheel of the Year has evolved, the tale of Mabon has grown into something new, with various writers borrowing elements of ancient myths from other cultures, especially the Greeks and the Norse. In one version, Modron’s grief over her missing son is given as the reason for the turning of the season—her sadness causes darkness and cold to envelop the Earth. In another, it is Mabon’s imprisonment deep within the ground that leads to the turning inward of animals and plant life.

As with Ostara, we can see that the lore around Mabon is rather more modern than that of most other Sabbats. Nonetheless, the sorrow inherent to the original tale can be seen as appropriate for this time of year, as the absence of light looms closer and closer.

If Ostara’s symbols are the hare and the egg, then the chief symbol of Mabon is the cornucopia, also known as “the horn of plenty.” This image—a large, hollowed-out horn filled to overflowing with fruits and vegetables—is widely recognized in North America as part of the modern “harvest festival” of Thanksgiving. However, it was part of the harvest festivals of Europe for many centuries before making its way to the new world.

The word “cornucopia” comes from the Latin words for “horn” and “plenty,” but the symbol itself goes back even further to the ancient Greeks. It features prominently in Greek mythology, particularly in a story about Zeus as an infant. His supernatural strength caused him to accidentally break off one of the horns of Amalthea, the goat who watched over him and fed him with her milk. The severed horn then gained the power to provide infinite nourishment.

Other deities associated with the cornucopia include the Greek goddesses Gaia (the Earth) and Demeter (a grain goddess) and the Roman goddess Abundantia (the personification of abundance). As we can see, the cornucopia is a very fitting symbol for this Wiccan Sabbat—not just because of its pagan origins, but also because of its association with the Horned God.

Mabon Correspondences

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Colors: deep reds, maroon, orange, yellow, gold, bronze, brown
Stones: amber, topaz, citrine, tiger’s eye, lapis lazuli, sapphire, yellow agate
Herbs: chamomile, milkweed, thistle, yarrow, saffron, hops, Solomon’s seal, sage, rue, hazel, ivy, oakmoss, mace Flowers: marigold, sunflower, rose, aster, chrysanthemum
Incense: benzoin, cedar, pine, myrrh, frankincense, sandalwood, cinnamon, clove, sage
Altar decorations/symbols: cornucopia, gourds, acorns, pine cones, pinwheels, yellow discs, other solar symbols and imagery
Foods: nuts, wheat and other grains, bread, grapes, apples, pumpkin, pomegranate, all autumn fruits and vegetables, wine