by Rebecca Farrar of Wild Witch of the West
Image, Sanctuary, by Anne Brigman, c. 1921
Mabon, or Autumn Equinox, officially marks the beginning of fall in the Northern Hemisphere. This year it occurs on Saturday, September 22 at 6:54 p.m. PT/9:54 p.m. PT as the Sun moves into the tropical zodiac Libra, a sign associated with harmony and balance. Mabon suggests a moment of balance with equal hours of daylight and darkness as we move between seasons.
“Mabon” comes from the Welsh word meaning “Great Son,” and refers to the son of Modron, the Great Goddess of the Earth. In the myth, Mabon disappears shortly after his birth, a metaphor for the light going into darkness. Though his whereabouts are a mystery, he is reborn at Winter Solstice and reminds us of the natural death and rebirth associated with this season.
Perhaps the most famous myth about the reason for the shift in seasons is the Greek story of Persephone. Her yearly descent into the Underworld to be with Hades signals her mother Demeter’s, Goddess of Grain, sadness by stopping growth on Earth. When Persephone returns in Spring, the curse of Demeter is lifted, and things come back to life.
However, the first myth about the underworld and entering darkness from 5000 years ago is about the Sumerian goddess Inanna. In the story she descends for many reasons, though most often to meet the Underworld Queen or darker parts of herself. In Sumeria, the autumn equinox was also a time of sacred marriage rites between Inanna and her husband Dumuzi after she returns from the underworld.
For thousands of years fall has been a time to connect with the mysteries of life as well as a time of gratitude for Earth’s offerings. Often called the Witches Thanksgiving, Mabon, was the second harvest festival of three each year, the first being Lammas. Traditionally during this time, Pagans and other nature-based faiths would celebrate crops and prepare for the colder months ahead. In fact, Thanksgiving in the United States, used to be celebrated near the first week of October, which made much more sense agriculturally. Then later the date was changed by Abraham Lincoln, and then Roosevelt. Obviously neither of them understood there wasn’t much left to harvest by late November.
While many of us don’t have a literal harvest to honor, we can still take time to be grateful about things in our lives that have yielded metaphorical crops. Perhaps a day to slow down and enjoy the fruits of our labor. Mabon is a palpable time to consider the mysteries and cycles of nature itself. Historically Mabon included making wine, gathering seeds and plants, and communing with nature. Pagans and Wiccans would often pay homage to Earth by walking in the woods or offering libations to trees.
Some basic ritual recommendations to welcome Mabon and the Equinox:
- Create an equinox altar with earthy elements such as leaves, pine cones, or acorns and yellow, orange, or red candles.
- Make an apple pie, or drink apple cider. It seems a bit too early for pumpkins!
- Make time to focus on what you are grateful whether it be making a list or dedicating a whole day to things you love.
- Read, or reread, the myth of Persephone or Inanna as well as other goddesses who journey into the underworld.
- Carry or clean your crystals especially those related to Mabon such as Amber, Gold, Pyrite, clear Quartz, or Citrine.