Mabon/Fall Equinox Sept 21st-23rd Harvesting and taking stock.
Mabon, otherwise known as the Autumn Equinox or the celebration of harvest is celebrated between the 21st and 23rd of September, and is marked by the first days of colder weather and the harvesting of of the last of the summer’s offerings. Two days a year, the Northern and Southern hemispheres receive the same amount of sunlight. Not only that, each receives the same amount of light as they do dark -- this is because the earth is tilted at a right angle to the sun, and the sun is directly over the equator. In Latin, the word equinox translates to "equal night." The autumn equinox, or Mabon, takes place around September 21, and its spring counterpart falls around March 21. This is the season of warm days and cool nights, sometimes still perfect for camping with hot days leading to cool evenings with the need for warm cozy sweaters and a campfire, which is the best this time of year for this reason!
September marks the beginning of the inward time, so although we may be still bustling about bringing in the harvest and canning everything we can get our hands on, our minds and spirits are anticipating and readying for the move inward and the deep stillness winter brings.
In some pagan communities they take the time to celebrate Mabon as their Thanksgiving time, choosing to celebrate the harvest now which is more accurate then the US November date, as it is practically winter by that point, not to mention the fact that the celebration represents a terrible time of Colonizationin US and Canadian history where the native Americans and First nations people were mostly wiped out.
Many different cultures celebrate the turing of the season: The idea of a harvest festival is nothing new as people from all around the world have celebrated it for millennia. In ancient Greece,Oschophoria was a festival held in the fall to celebrate the harvesting of grapes for wine, as well as a time for the Eleusinian mysteries which was a sacred harvest festival re-enacting the story of Persephone, Demeter and Kore, with Persephone being taken the the underworld and eating six pomegranate seeds and being held there for six months of the year.
In the 1700's the Bavarians came up with Oktoberfest, which actually begins in the last week of September, and for which it was and still is to this day a time of great feasting and celebration with many tankards of beer being drunk!
Also China's Mid-Autumn festival is celebrated on the night of the Harvest Moon, and is a festival of honouring family unity which includes the making of Moon cakes which I personally adore! Traditionally the seasons were very important, as people lived much closer to the land and were tied to weather patterns which affected them a great deal more than we experience today.
The Harvest home and the last sheaf: The Harvest home is an name for a harvest festival that traditionally happened very close to the equinox and was celebrated all over Europe. It was a festival that combined both work and play as the harvest was brought in and entire villages were decorated with wreaths and villagers hung fruits from the harvest all around town. There were rituals in the form of games that were played particularly around who would bring in the last of the sheaves or harvest grains. The "last sheaf" spoke to the folk belief that whoever brought in the last sheaf either got good or bad luck depending on the region. This also ties into the belief in the grim reaper, as those collecting wheat were essentially "reapers" and used sickles thus the old images we have of the grim reaper with a sickle in his hand. There was also an even older belief that tied the sheaf to sacrifice and ancient pagans would often sacrifice a sheep to the land after harvest as a way of thanking the spirits/god's and goddess of abundance and fertility. In some places they called the last sheaf "the dead one" using instead of animal sacrifice a sacramental corn dolly made of wheat instead.
In many places the making of corn dollies was vital to the celebrations for this reason, and we will go into that a bit further down...
By marking the changing of the seasons, I believe will energetically help us to adjust, as even if we sit in high offices each day and do not even go outside, our bodies respond to the changes in weather and we feel it in our energetic bodies. If we can take a moment to intentionally let go of each season as it passes, and celebrate each new one as it arrives, we not only allow our bodies to catch up and adjust, but we also are getting in essential practise of letting go, for life will always throw things at us that require us to "let go". Mabon is also the perfect time to reflect on the previous season, looking back to our we our successes, which similar to bringing in the harvest is a time for celebration. It also allows us the time to assess which crops/projects and dreams didn't come to fruition and why? It is also a time of gratitude, reflecting on our accomplishments, hard work and creativity that went into the season that just passed. As we reflect we may see that it was for the better that some of our hopes did not bear fruit, for it created time and space for us to tend to the growth of something else, or perhaps we simply let it go s that we could recharge our batteries that were worn down from the long winter season before. Either way, the long hot days of summer are quickly receding behind us and the need for inward reflection has arrived along with the smells of cinnamon, and warm nourishing soups.
This season is my personal favourite, I love the colours and the smell of autumn, I love apples and cinnamon and pumpkins, but my absolute favourite is warm sunny days followed by crisp nights. But as the evenings begin to get darker and darker and here on the west coast the rains arrive and last longer and longer each week, which, I have to admit makes it a bit of a struggle to let it go, and watch the lovely colours of autumn turn brown and settle into mulch for the winter.
Here at our house we have a seasonal altar that we change with the seasons. When the kids were little this provided me with loads of teaching moments and fun activities to do, but I find that as the years pass they more often than not they say ‘Mom you can do it, go ahead without me” and I have to laugh, because as much as I have to let go of each season as it passes, I am also letting go of so many other things in my life, like my children growing up, and I am thankful that some of these things are very gradual...
Inner Reflections and gratitude: What are you letting go of as the season changes? What are you celebrating as you move from the summer and into the fall? What dreams did not bear fruit? Why do you think they were barren? Are they still worth bringing into the next season? What things are you grateful for as you move into this next season? Write all your gratitude into a long and wonderful prayer/spell.
Mabon/Autumn Harvest Altars
I have to say that I adore making and creating altars, as I find the intentional process very inspiring and creative work. usually there are more then one seasonal altars around the house, and of course our large one outside.
Mabon gives us ample reason to create intentional altars as it is all about the harvest, the cooking and sharing of foods as we celebrate the beauty and abundance have find in our lives. I have shown 4 different altars in the above image, but really there are thousands of ideas for altar making and one need not be limited by the indoors, as offerings to the land spirits are always welcome!
When we create altars we are essentially creating and gathering divine essence, manifesting what our hearts are longing for, creating beauty where there once was none, for nothing else then the pleasure of inviting spirit to enjoy our creation.
Of course this also depends on what the altar is that we are creating, but in this case a seasonal altar is a thing of beauty, and serves as a powerful spiritual reminder that nothing is static, life is ever changing, just as the seasons spin around the ancient circle of life, death and re-birth....
What will your Mabon/Fall equinox altar look like?
Ahhh the foods of autumn! Crisp apples, creamy pumpkins and an abundance of different squashes, coloured chards and root veggies abound, not to mention all the ways of making sweet ciders, nourishing stews and warming teas, and roasted nut coffees as we curl in and begin the long hibernation of the winter months... This is also the season of sharing, the calling together of family and friends to our tables as we gather to celebrate the harvest, and to lean on each other as we say our goodbyes to the end of summer. Sweaters get brought out and the last few campfires of the season are lit during cold evenings, as we find ourselves reminiscing on past events that are actually only weeks old, but already feel so far away... It is in the spirit of this sharing that I include a few of my personal favourite recipes for the fall harvest, but I would love it if you felt like sharing yours... pop over to the facebook page and inspire us with your autumn fare! If you have a garden that you are harvesting from you may also like to say this sweet Mabon Harvest Chant: Our hands will work for peace and justice, Our hands will work to bless the land. Gather round the harvest table. Let us feast and bless the land.
Because Mabon is often associated with grapes and vineyards, and especially with the making and drinking of wine, I have included a recipe for a warm Mabon drink that can be consumed by both kids and adults alike.
Mabon Moon Cider: 4 cups apple cider 1/2 tsp. whole cloves 4 cups white grape juice Cinnamon sticks x 2 and if you wish additional cinnamon sticks for cups, approx 6 inches long 1 tsp allspice 1 tsp grated nutmeg In a 4-quart saucepan, heat cider and grape juice. Add cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Bring just to boiling. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve with ladle from a cauldron. Makes 8 cups.
Classic Pumpkin Scone Recipe
Pumpkin Scone recipe: 2 cups flour 8 tbsp sugar 1 tbsp baking powder 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp each of ground cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter 1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin 1 egg 3 tbsp yoghurt
The method is simple mix dry ingredients together and then add the butter and combine to make a crumby mixture, next mix the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and then mix the two together folding gently and not over-mixing.
You should have a slightly sticky ball of dough. Take it out of the bowl and place on a flours surface and then roll out into a 1″ thick rectangle and cut into triangles and place on a piece pr parchment paper on a baking tray.
Bake for 12-15 min’s at 425. and enjoy!
Apple Butter: Ingredients
4 lbs of good cooking apples (Granny Smith or Gravenstein)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
Sugar (about 4 cups, see cooking instructions)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
Grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1 wide 8-quart pan (Stainless steel or copper with stainless steel lining)
Method: Cut the apples into quarters, without peeling them (much of the pectin is in the cores and flavor in the peels). Put them into large pot, add the vinegar and water, cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cook until apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Measure out the purée and add the sugar and spices Ladle apple mixture-cooked apples and liquid into a food processor. Pour mixture into a chinois sieve and push through. Measure resulting puree. Add 1/2 cup of sugar for each cup of apple pulp. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add a dash of salt, and the cinnamon, ground cloves, allspice, lemon rind and juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Second Stage of Cooking. Cook uncovered in a large, wide, thick-bottomed pot on medium low heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Scrape the bottom of the pot while you stir to make sure a crust is not forming at the bottom. Cook until thick and smooth (about 1 to 2 hours). A small bit spooned onto a chilled (in the freezer) plate will be thick, not runny. You can also cook the purée on low heat, stirring only occasionally, but this will take much longer as stirring encourages evaporation. (Note the wider the pan the better, as there is more surface for evaporation.)
Canning There are several ways to sterilize your jars for canning. You can run them through a short cycle on your dishwasher. You can place them in a large pot (12 quart) of water on top of a steaming rack (so they don't touch the bottom of the pan), and bring the water to a boil for 10 minutes. Or you can rinse out the jars, dry them, and place them, without lids, in a 200°F oven for 10 minutes.
Pour into hot, sterilized jars and seal. If you plan to store the apple butter un-refrigerated, make sure to follow proper canning procedures. Before applying the lids, sterilize the lids by placing them in a bowl and pouring boiling water over them. Wipe the rims of the jars clean before applying the lids. I use a hot water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a good seal.
Once jars are fill place n a large canning pot and boil for 10 min's to seal.
Symbols for the Season:
Herbs: Acorns for fertility, luck and protection, Bayleaves for prosperity and courage, and Myrrh for healing and purification.
Trees: Maple strength, courage, Elder for healing and prosperity and Ginko for memory and healing.
Flowers: Sunflower for joy and gratitude, Orange Roses for Bliss, and Dahlia's for Generosity.
Altar Items: Autumn leaves, Honeycomb, Sunflowers, Acorn’s, Pumpkins and other kinds of hard Squash’s, Corn, Yellow and Orange Candles...
Crystals:Amber for love and protection, Hematite for grounding and Golden Topaz for wisdom and health.
Celebrating and sharing the season:
Storytelling at the campfire: There was once a time that storytelling was a vital part of society, when families and clan's gathered together by the ancient cookfire to share a meal and tell stories, often every person contributed to the story in some way, and each person at the telling would allow their imaginations to set alight with the flames as they imagined a wolrd so rich and fantastical that it carried with them into their dreams and possibly their craft as they went about their day the following day...
Storytelling is also vital to children, and actually to us as adults as well, but sadly our society has given it up for television. So I suggest this, to bring in that cosy warm feeling to this years equinox turn off the TV and look for some stories you can tell. One of the best stories to start with would be, of course, the story of Mabon, son of Modred—the Celtic hero for whom this Sabbat is named, but any other culture’s harvest myths and stories will do! One of my favourites is using a deck called Story World, and I was going to save this sweet Story telling set for The Winter solstice, but it is too good not to share now! Many years ago I decided to try to bring back the art of story telling into our family and we bought a pack of the most wonderful cards called Story World, and so began tradition of sitting by the fire and telling stories as we celebrated the solstice. How Story World works is that each person pulls a beautiful and mysterious card and then has to spin a story from it, once they are done, the next person pulls another card and takes off where the story left. This can go on for hours, the stories are fantastical, and is great fun! Since we bought ours there have been many new and different sets created, but this one is our favourite.
Of course if you want to kick your stories up a notch, you can do seasonal enactments pulling out all sorts of costumes and have great fun entertaining your family and friends!
Generosity and sharing our abundance: There are so many in need, even if only of a smile, but sharing the Earth’s bounty with those in need is probably the most meaningful and seasonally appropriate activity each of us can do. If we have fruit trees that have created an abundance why not pack it up in boxes and take it to your local food bank, or even drop a box off in a busy intersection where those who have less may frequent, with a free sign so that they know to take it, or even place a sign in front of your home letting neighbours know that they are free to enjoy the abundance you have. Some places also have groups who will come and pick the fruit for you called Urban Fruit Harvesting. Taking it a little further we could set aside some money (and coupons, if you’re into clipping), then go shopping for canned and boxed goods so you can go and donate it to a local food pantry, food bank or shelter.
If you and your family loves animals, think about buying food or treats and taking it to the local animal shelter. Call ahead to see what they specifically use or need. Another option is making bird or squirrel feeders for the local wildlife to enjoy.
If you want to get a little closer to home, try a website like Freecycle.org and look for your local area chapter; then post an offering of people and/or pet food and choose someone who responds. Last year my daughter and I started putting together backpacks for those in need inspired by a little You Tube video we saw on how to make one for under $20, it was slow work, but we managed to make about 10 of them with donation gathered by putting a call out on facebook for old back packs and other food stuffs. These back packs can be a life saver during long cold months for the homeless. How to Make a homeless Backpack Care Kit
Making Corn Dollies: Making corn dollies was a vital part of the Mabon festivities although the use of wheat, rye and millet was more often then not used--the term corn was just catch all meaning harvest. Interestingly enough there is a small amount of evidence that the tradition of making these dollies did not originate in Europe but rather came from Egypt where they have actually found a corn dolly recovered there that dates older then the European traditions. The dolls were central to the harvest and were often male or female depending on the region, as was the doll's age and aspects of it, which was a direct reflection of how the region saw the spirits of the land and the crop spirits. As you can see ancient pagan traditions were very animist in nature and as such everything revolved around this belief. Sometimes the dollies were made with the first sheaf or the last sheaf again depending on the region. When the first sheaf was used it was cut in ceremony, usually by a young girl dubbed the Harvest Queen or if it was the last sheaf it was by the reaper, or Harvest Lord.
The locals would create the dolly and then symbolically feed it and place it is a seat of honour, or it was paraded around town with a young girl leading the procession. The dolly was kept usually in one of the farmers barns in a place of honour over the winter ands then burned in an early spring ceremony-usually Imbolc which is another time of year that these corn dollies are made..
Sometimes locals would make their own dollies and do magick on them, asking for fertility or prosperity for the upcoming year. The dollies would be made and placed in a seat of honour and ritually fed beer, apples and sweets and other things. Sometimes the dolly was weighted with rocks and decorated with ribbons representing hard work and a solid grounded year ahead. These dollies were usually quite visually pleasing to look at, and decorated with care. Once the winter was over, they were burned in spring festivities letting the spirits know that the work was done and to please send them a good fertile growing year, or love or whatever it was they were asking for.
Making a corn dolly is pretty easy, but I have included a lovely video here that shows it best. Enjoy~
So much to do, so little time....
Rake up a spiral of leaves and enjoy walking through it, Glue maple leaves to mason jars for beautiful altar candle holders, Make Apple candleholders for a grand dinner party, Place leaves between waxed paper and iron them together to make stained glass, Make small pine cone people, Make Prayer beads out of acorns, Bake cookies with pressed leaves on them, Create maple leaf wreaths for your door, Use felt to make sweet autumn fairies, Glue acorn caps together to make a sweet altar dish, Make corn dollies, Make a leaf crown, String leaves together and hang them in your window, Make a leaf Mandala, Paint acorns, Carve pumpkins and turn them into flower vases for your harvest table, Look up more ideas on Pinterest!!
Symbols for the Season
Herbs: Acorns for fertility, luck and protection, Bayleaves for prosperity and courage, and Myrrh for healing and purification.
Flowers: Sunflower for joy and gratitude, Orange Roses for Bliss, and Dahlia's for Generosity.
Trees: Maple strength, courage, Elder for healing and prosperity and Ginko for memory and healing
Altar Items: Autumn leaves, Honeycomb, Sunflowers, Acorn’s, Pumpkins and other kinds of hard Squashes, Corn, Yellow and Orange Candles...
Crystals: Amber for love and protection, Hematite for grounding and Golden Topaz for wisdom and health.
Come Sisters, Autumn calls. By: Jessica Booth
The siren song of the shapeshifter invites us home. Listen to the stories of ancient crows, Whispered into the rising wind. Bask, full and sensual in ripe languor. The Mabon glow of contentment and The sweet heartsong of gratitude imbues the air. Now is the velvet dusky softness of the twilight, We dance slow with the mystery of the beckoning Long Dark. Come to the edge with me sisters. Berry-stained fingers tracing beloved lips, The smell of wood smoke in our hair, The crack of leaves under bare feet The mist of warm breath coiling around us. Do you feel it sisters? The Dark Season is near...
May your Autumn Equinox be joyful and abundant this season!
Living and working on theunceded Indigenous land belonging to the Coast Salish peoples, including the territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.