Saturday, 31 August 2013

Autumn Equinox, Mabon Celebrations, Traditions and History

Mabon/Autumn Equinox
 On the 21st September it is the Autumn Equinox, or Mabon. The holiday of Autumn Equinox or Mabon, is also known as Harvest Home, Harvest’s Height, the Feast of the Ingathering, Mell Day, Kirn Feast, Vela Laiks in Latvia, Meán Fómhair or Alban Elfed (Druidic)
Nature is in perfect balance at this time of year, this is an ideal time for you, your family and friends to appreciate all that is around you.  At the Equinox, day and night are of exactly equal length. It is at this time the sun truly rises in the east and sets in the west.
At Mabon we celebrate the harvest. Festivals take place nowadays all around the world to give thanks for the marvelous bounty the earth has provided for us. We see harvest festivals and Thanksgiving celebrations taking place at this time of year and it is a wonderful time of joy, of being with family and of remembering to offer gratitude for all that we have.

The legend behind Mabon comes from Welsh history. Mabon ap Modron is the son of Modron who is called the Great Goddess, Duardian of the Otherworld, Protector and Healer. He  is the “Great Son of the Great Mother” andknown as the Son of Light.

At the moment of the Autumn Equinox Mabon is taken from his mother when only three days old. Modron cries in sweet sorrow and his whereabouts are veiled in mystery. Mabon is eventually freed at Yule (Winter Solstice), with the aid of the ancient and wise animals: Stag, Raven, Owl, Eagle and Salmon. Some legends state that King Arthur himself was Ma    Mabon’s rescuer.  Apparently Mabon has been a happy captive dwelling in Modron’s magickal Otherworld- Modron’s womb. The story shows how only from such a place of nuturing can Modron come forth and bring such light into the world. He is regenerated and re-born from his time in the warmth and comforting strength of the Earth Mother to bring new life forward.

Mabon’s story reminds us of the importance of periods of rest and recuperation. It is during these times that we gather the strength to spring forward with renewed vigor ready to face the world and all its challenges. The earth is our strength and we can draw from that strength.
Christian Britain replaced the Welsh Mabon with St Michael, to whom churches on many sacred Pagan sites were erected. The Autumnal Equinox became known as the Christian Feast of Michaelmas.  Michael is seen as the greatest of all archangels and is credited with defeating Lucifer, he is seen as the protector of darkness.
Mabon byB-a-s-t-e-t

Other cultures also identified this season with their own mythologies. In ancient Rome, it was a celebration to Mercury or Apollo. We also think of the legend Demeter and Persphone at this time as the Autumn equinox is the time that Persphone leaves her mother and goes to join Hades in the underworld.

The Druids call this festival of Mabon Mea'N Fo'mhair and honor the Green Man by making offerings of beverages like mead and cider to the trees.

Mabon marks the completion of the grainharvest begun during Lughnasadh or Lammas. Celebrations revolve around the gathering of crops and thanksgiving for the abundances of the harvest, and rituals to insure the success of next year's harveharvest are characteristic during this harvest time. As at Lammas the making of corn dollies from the last sheaf of corn that is harvested is a typical custom.

The corn dollies that were made from the last sheaves of the harvest were often carried from house to house in a game where people tried to run back without anybody taking the dolly from them. This could be an early form of the American football game. The corn dolly was then displayed in a position of honour in the home, perhaps above the hearth as she embodied the spirit of the harvest. The Mabon corn dolly is then kept until the spring - keeping the spirit of the corn, when she is ploughed back into the field to breath the life of the corn back into the soil.

Many celebrations revolved around the crowning of the harvest King and Queen.  The English folk song “Lavender Blue, Lavender Green” was a song that grew out of Mabon traditions. Blue is the color of the Harvest Lord and green of the Harvest Lady. Hay rides were a popular custom as families rode the hay wagon back from the harvest, singing songs about the bountiful harvest in readiness for the harvest that they were about to partake of. Then would follow a wonderful Mabon harvest festival, a feast that brought the whole community together, young and old alike. All joined in celebration for this wonderful bounty that Mother Nature had provided.
Contained within the harvesting of the crops is the mystery of life and death in the image of Lohn Barylecorn, the Wicker Man or corn Man. Images of the Wicker Man were burnt in order to ensure a bountiful harvest for the coming year.
Image Magickal Graphics

In Scotland and Wales, Mabon wines were poured onto the ground to honour the aging Goddess as she moved into her  Crone aspect. In Celtic lands blackberry wine was a Celtic specialty, especially in Ireland, where blackberries are sacred to the goddess Brigit.
In Ireland, Scotland and Cornwall burial mounds or Cairns were often visited during Mabon to honour the spirits of dead ancestors. This was to appease the dead so that when they visited at Samhain they would be kindly and would be wishing goodwill upon the living. It was believed that the balance of light and dark at this time of the equinox would act like an equilateral cross and offer protection from any negative spirits that may be inhabiting and burial grounds. An apple was often left to honour dead ancestors at their burial site. Apples have been viewed as sacred in many cultures and have been associated with knowledge and immortality. They are said to be a symbol of the Goddess because the centre reminds us of the womb when we look at the seeds representing the growing life that hides inside. 
In China, Taiwan and Vietnam the equinox is celebrated with the Moon festival also known as Mooncake festival or Zhongqui Festival. This festival honours Chang’e the lunar Goddess and it commemorates the only day in the year that she can visit her husband Houyi who lives on the sun. Because of this it is seen as a celebration of the balance of yin and yang. Traditions associated with the Mooncake festival include eating mooncakes(not surprisingly!) lighting lanterns, matchmaking, and Fire Dragon Dances.
In Japan, Higan is a Buddhist holiday celebrated at both the time of the autumn and spring equinoxes. Higan is seen in Buddhist terms as crossing from the shore of ignorance and suffering to the other shore of Enlightenment and peace. Celebrations typically involve honouring ancestors, cleaning and decorating their graves.
So we see a tradition of harvest and thanksgiving festivals still taking place around our globe today. It is perhaps not quite as acute as it was to our ancestors and we are not as close to the earth as they used to be. After all generally most of us do have enough food to eat and are not so dependent on a good harvest. We are lucky enough to be able to shop at our local supermarket for a wide variety of food from around the globe. However just because we are no longer so dependent on the success of the harvest this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give thanks to our mother earth at this time for the food that she provides for us.
Ashleen O’Gaea explains in Celebrating the Seasons of Life:  Beltane to Mabon:
…When we celebrate the harvest at Mabon, we are right to enjoy our successes, our accomplishments, and the work we’ve done to enhance our lives.  We are right to enjoy pooling and sharing our resources with our friends and our loved ones.  But it’s also appropriate to celebrate the harvest in a much wider sense, and to be especially aware of our day-to-day, breath-to-breath interactions that are a continuous cycle of harvest
We should not therefore be only thankful for the harvest at this time of year but for everything that is good in our lives.
Maybe you would like to conduct your own Mabon celebrations based on those festivities carried out by our ancestors. There is more information on this on my post on Mabon activities
Mabon is also a time of year to slow down a little and reflect. Don’t rush forward hastily but let the autumn be a fallow period if necessary. Use this time as nauture does, to lie fallow if you need to be whilst you look within at your life. Be understanding with yourself, treat yourself as Mabon within his Mother’s womb before you emerge forth with love and light. Think about what you like in your life and what you would like to change. It is a good time to give thanks for the good, to release that which isn’t good and is not serving a purpose any more in your life.  Mabon is a good time to get in touch with your ability to change, to bring warmth to cold situations, to bring light into dark situations and areas of your life. Use this time of balance, to look closely at the balance in our life. How do you balance your personal needs with your commitments to the outside world? How do you receive and how do you give?
Enjoy the sense of balance to your life that the Autumnal Equinox will bring. Don’t push anything, let your days take their own pace just as nature does and you may be surprisingly pleased by the results that you see. Enjoy this wonderful season as the leaves start to turn from green to golden blackberries appear in our hedgerows. And once again marvel at the wonders of the turning of the Wheel.
Mabon blessings of bountiful light to you, Alison