How Do You Celebrate the Autumn Equinox
This year, the Autumn Equinox (Spring Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere) begins today on Saturday 21 September and ends tomorrow Sunday 22 September. In Pagan and Wiccan traditions, this is known as “Mabon“.
What is Mabon?
Essentially, Mabon is a celebration of gratitude after the hardwork and toil of the last few months especially, for those following the agricultural calendar. In the Christian church, it is celebrated as the Harvest Festival whilst in the US, although held later in the year, it is akin to Thanksgiving. Throughout history and across religions and cultures, there have been similar celebrations where the central theme is one of thanks, regardless of different beliefs and when the particular celebration falls.
Also, much like the Spring Equinox, the Autumn Equinox is a time of balance as the days and nights now are equally long. It is a time to recognise that the warmth of Summer is behind us and the long, cold nights of Winter lie ahead. A time then to look back and reflect on the spoils of the Summer but to plan and prepare for the Winter.
The Wheel of the Year
“The Wheel of the Year” is effectively a calendar used by Wiccans and Pagans alike, amongst others, with 8 annual celebrations/festivals called Sabbats. Four of these relate to the Sun’s position (the solstices/equinoxes) with the remaining festivals and ceremonies relating to farming/the seasons.
Mabon itself is a relatively new name for the celebration, first surfacing, it is believed, as recently as the 1970s. So who or what was Mabon? Mabon is said to be a Welsh God about whom not that much appears to be known. Often referred to as the “Great Son” of the Earth Mother, there’s an interesting and knowledgeable article on who Mabon was said to be here: https://heartofthewitchspath.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/abcs-of-celtic-mythology-mabon-and-modron/
In Greek mythology, this time of the year was linked to the tales of Demeter, Goddess of the Grain and Harvest, and her beautiful daughter, Persephone whom Hades, God of the Underworld, took a serious liking to and abducted. As the tale goes, Persephone would spend half the year in the Underworld with Hades (Autumn and Winter) and the rest of the year with her mother, Demeter (Spring, Summer).
These are just two of the numerous myths and legends out there used all over the world to explain the key themes of this time of the year, of harvest and gratitude, a time of balancing both the light and the dark. I find it fascinating to see how similar yet different these stories all are.
Traditional Importance of Mabon
In today’s western world, it can be difficult to imagine just what an important time of year this would have been to our ancestors. We live in a world where every conceivable convenience is at hand just by the touch of a button. Not so for our ancestors of course, when one’s very survival through the cold Winter months depended on the harvest of the previous Summer. If it had been a bountiful harvest then all was as well as could be. Had the crops been damaged or failed to grow as anticipated then this would mean a long and difficult time ahead until the following Spring. Not to put to fine a point on it, the toil and hard work of the Summer, as well as the weather and elements, could be the very difference between life and death of a family over the following six months.
Whether Mabon was celebrated by our ancestors is unclear – I guess it depended on how well the harvest did! It would also no doubt depend on how ready they were for the coming Winter. If they were still out in the fields collecting what they could, whilst they would most likely have observed it as being the Autumn Equinox, whether they would have always had time to celebrate the time of year formally doesn’t seem to be well evidenced. More likely it seems they waited for the Sabbat of Samhain, or, as we tend to know it nowadays, Halloween at the end of the harvesting season.
Current Importance of Mabon
My introduction to celebrating this time of year was at primary school when, every year, a Harvest Festival celebration was held in the hall for students, teachers, parents and the residents of a local nursing home. Whilst I never attended a church school, we did celebrate it as a Christian celebration, all pupils sat cross-legged on the hall floor, belting out “We plough the fields and scatter the good seed of the land…” at the top of our lungs, awaiting our turn to go the front and put down our harvest gift, a tin of rice pudding maybe or a tin of beans. The harvest gifts would then be distributed amongst our visitors from the local nursing home before they returned home.
Looking back, I have really fond memories of these times. I doubt I appreciated the real purpose of the event at the time but this definitely felt a genuine time of giving to others who might find Winter more difficult than me and of being grateful, much more so than Christmas even, with no expectation of receiving anything in return.
Ways to Celebrate
Schools don’t really seem to make much of the Harvest Festival or similar celebrations these days, which seems a real shame as these nature-based celebrations help to keep us aligned and tuned into the natural world all around us.
So, if you’re interested in moving in harmony through the Wheel of the Year, whether you wish to label yourself as Pagan, Wiccan or indeed anything else, here’s a couple of ideas as to how you can celebrate the Autumn Equinox this weekend:
- Create a Mabon Altar: take an autumnal walk or have a forage in the back garden for leaves, twigs, berries, using colours and symbols of the autumnal season. You can then add these to any existing altar or display you have in your home as a way of honouring the season.
- Do an Autumn Clear Out: Like a Spring Clean only six months later! Go through wardrobes and cupboards and take what you don’t want or need to your local charity shop/church/food bank. You may wish to burn incense or try a ritual smudging.
- Chakra Balancing Meditation: As the duration of the days and the nights are equally long this weekend, this is a perfect time to try a chakra balancing meditation (tons of these on YouTube) to adjust your energetic body to better work with the changing seasonal energies.
- Have a Wine Tasting Evening: Grab a few friends, a few new bottles of wine and spend the evening enjoying each other’s company and exploring new flavours. Make a theme of it, researching the particular beverage you choose to bring to the gathering to share with your friends.
- Make a Scarecrow: We visited a local farm a few years ago and had a go at making our own scarecrow, dressing it in one of the old Halloween costumes before bringing it home and popping in our own garden – great fun for all ages as well as a wonderful way to reconnect with the land.
- Hold a Ritual Ceremony: This could be as simple as lighting two candles, one short and white, one longer and black both lit at the same time and allowed to burn out to honour the light of Summer now giving way to the darkness of Winter. Equally it could include autumnal offerings and/or offerings, prayers or meditations to the Dark Mother/the Crone, the shadow side of the Goddess.
- Have a Special Dinner: How better to celebrate the time of year than with a home-made meal, celebrated with family, made with all the seasonal foods?
- Write a Gratitude Journal: I’d recommend doing this frequently throughout the year but if you’re new to the idea, this would be a great time to start your own gratitude journal.
I’d be really interested to hear how you celebrate the changing of the seasons at this time of year – Merry Mabon!