Mabon, and a bit about 'the Wheel of the Year'
Updated: Mar 4
What's this Mabon thing?
You've heard of the Equinoxes, right? (if not, there's a post on its way soon). Modern pagans, particularly in the Wiccan tradition and those influenced by it, call the Autumn Equinox ‘Mabon’ (and the Spring one 'Ostara').
The name Mabon is believed to have been coined by Aidan Kelly, an American writer, poet and influential figure in the development of American Wicca during the 60’s and 70’s. His inspiration was Mabon ap Modron a character from Welsh mythology with links to Arthurian legend. The name Mabon is probably derived from the Romano-British deity Maponos (‘Great Son’) while Modron is related to Matrona (‘Great Mother’), a Gaulish goddess. So Mabon is basically ‘the Great Son of the Great Mother’. Quite auspicious I think you'll agree!
The festival of Mabon is the second of the three Harvest Festivals of this modern pagan calendar, preceded by Lammas/Lughnasadh (at the beginning of August) and followed by Samhain (the end of October).
It's a time of thanksgiving for the bounty of the Earth, coinciding with the end of the grain harvest and the time of the fruit harvest It’s also recognition of the need to share the riches of these harvests to safeguard the whole community against the dearth of approaching winter.
We're poised in a moment between great abundance and great scarcity, and this finds a cosmic echo at the Equinox in the balance of day and night. From tomorrow the Sun rules less than half of the day and its share diminishes each day until Winter Solstice.
Mabon is one of the festivals of the ‘Wheel of the Year’. This is a modern pagan festival cycle based on archaeological and anthropological evidence of pagan Celtic and Anglo-Saxon practices. The former celebrated four seasonal rites with fire festivals while the latter observed the Solstices and Equinoxes.
From the early 20th century, pioneer Neopagans like James George Fraser and Margaret Murray were drawing on the (admittedly scant) evidence of late medieval witchcraft practices, testimonies from the 17th century witch trials and folklore to create a festival calendar for the Neopagan movement. The term ‘Wheel of the Year’ emerged in the mid-1960s. It acknowledges the belief, common to many spiritual traditions, that existence unfolds in ‘cycles’. It embodies both the Celtic fire (Solar) festivals and the Anglo-Saxon seasonal festivals in a syncretic ritual calendar.
How to celebrate Mabon?
Autumn in general is harvest time, so think of 'gathering-in', literally or symbolically.
Nature sheds layers, so choose something to shed or release.
Energy returns to the core or roots so make a commitment to an inward-looking project (study, meditation).
And as with all the festivals of the Wheel of the Year, make an effort to actively notice the natural world around you; its colours, textures, smells, sounds, shapes. What are the birds, animals and insects doing? How do these things make you feel? Light a red, orange or yellow candle, bake an apple pie and share it with friends.
At Mabon I like to reflect on what I’ve learned and experienced during the preceding summer months (harvesting my abundance, as it were). I invest this personal harvest in preparations for the next season of growth. I promise myself to dial down the 'busyness', wrap-up projects and clear out what I don't need any more. I'm about to hibernate: I'd rather my cave was roomy and comfortable wouldn't you?
In this pestilential year I'll probably mark the day in a simple way. I might buy a bottle of organic cider, go up to the woods, drink a toast to the season and offer what’s left to the Earth, the trees and the spirits. Then tonight I’ll get my thinking cap on and start gathering in my store of riches. Winter is coming! (to quote Ned Stark).