Mabon History

Here is the history for my Mabon ritual!

Two days a year, the Northern and Southern hemispheres recieve the same amount of sunlight. Not only that, each recieves 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 takes place on or near September 21, and its spring counterpart falls around March 21. If you’re in the Northern hemisphere, the days will begin getting shorter after the autumn equinox and the nights will grow longer — in the Southern hemisphere, the reverse is true.

The Wheel of the Year holds several purposes, both theological and practical. Theologically, the story of the Wheel often varies depending on the Tradition. The Wheel gives the accounts of the mythological events that repeat throughout the year as well as a vague “history” of the Gods and Goddesses involved within the pantheon. On the more practical side, the Wheel trains us to be able to deal with death and the inevitability of re-birth that follows. Paganism teaches that death, a natural function of the universe, is a part of life; a dramatic change that is the beginning of a new experience, and something to be celebrated at the proper time not feared. Through the ideas of Heaven and Hell, Christianity teaches a deep fear of death, and this spurs our society’s horror of death. We are always trying to find new and improved ways to beat death, but we will never succeed. It is sad our society portrays death as such a terrifying experience; we would certainly have less emotional pain and suffering in the world if death could be seen as what it is: a transformation, nothing more.

Contrary to the “official” seasonal beginnings, most of us experience the equinoxes and solstices as times when the season that is “beginning” is well established-we feel its presence fully. The very first sense of impending change, of onset and transition, comes at the cross-quarters, the points midway between the equinoxes and solstices that are known in Wicca as the Greater Sabbats. At Lammas, the first harvest of the grain, we celebrated the onset of autumn. Now, at Fall Equinox, in the ways of the ancients, we bring in and celebrate the full-fledged autumn Harvest in thanksgiving for the abundance of the Earth Mother. We might enact and sing the legend of the sacrificed grain as John Barleycorn. Or, we may ritualize the hunt, depicted as a priest with a crown of antlers who is chased and falls. We honor his spirit and thank him even as we mourn him, symbolic of both the sacrificed and resurrected God and of all animals who fall to feed the people. At this Sabbat, the Mother Goddess who reigned as Queen of Summer takes on the dark mantle of Crone, the old and wise one who stands at the crossroads of life and death, all-seeing and all-knowing.

In the agricultural cycle, we are now at the 7th stage. Seeds that once germinated in the womb of Earth, unseen in the long dark night of Winter Solstice (Yule), sprouted at Candlemas, grew strong with roots, stems and leaves by Spring Equinox (Ostara), and formed buds at Beltane that bloomed to full flower by the longest day at Summer Solstice (Midsummer). At Lammas, the first harvest, fruits and grains have formed, some ready to eat. Now at Fall Equinox (Harvest), the plants, trees and vines are heavy with fruits that must be harvested or they will fall when the plants wither or die and drop their seeds to Earth once again at Samhain. Samhain is the 8th and final phase that is not as final as it may seem for it is only that dark time of chaos out of which the new beginning will emerge and be seen as the Bright Lord of waxing light, reborn at Yule, as the Wheel of the Year turns again.

This 7th phase of Harvest has mythical and symbolic correspondence to the Last Quarter phase of the 8-fold lunar cycle, called by the late astrological philosopher Dane Rudhyar, the “crisis of consciousness.” It represents the phase in any cycle of activity where even though continued success in what has been may be what we see on the surface (akin to the Harvest feast), within our deepest inner thoughts a period of soul-searching, the “crisis,” begins. There is the recognition that something is ending, and we begin to let go of the old in mind and heart, as we silently contemplate what we might do next. At some point during the phase, the changes that are occurring deep inside may begin to visibly manifest, just as the leaves change color in autumn, or the Moon shrinks from half light to the thin, waning crescent.

Many ancient and medieval cultures celebrated the festival of seasonal transition through myth and legend, depicting similar themes of death and of passing into the underworld for the time of winter, followed by a birth and the return of light and spring. Among best loved and often enacted tales of winter’s death and spring’s rebirth is that of Demeter and her beloved daughter Persephone, who was abducted by Hades to reign as his queen. Demeter, in despair and mourning for her lost daughter, cast winter over the Earth and refused to allow spring to come again until an agreement was finally reached for Persephone to return to Earth. And so it has been ever since that when Persephone makes her yearly descent to her Underworld realm, winter comes, and when she rejoins her mother, then Mother Earth blooms with the flowers of spring.

Because ancient people had no means to exactly measure the time of equinox or solstice, the corresponding festivals tended to be on set days of the calendar. The ancient Celtic celebrations of Harvest were traditionally held on September 25. With the dominance of Christianity, this holiday like so many others was Christianized and became Michaelmas, in honor of the archangel Michael. One Celtic legend gave root to Mabon as an alternate name for modern Wiccan/Pagan Harvest festivals. Mabon was born of Modron and taken after three days (some versions say three years) to dwell in the womb of Earth Mother where he gained the wisdom of the animals, notably Stag, Blackbird, Owl, Eagle and Salmon. Once freed from Earth’s womb, he returned to his mother’s womb and was reborn as her champion, the Son of Light.

There’s another myth of a Celtic God of Light that is markedly astrological and clearly derived from the zodiacal sign of Fall Equinox and those signs adjacent to it. Lugh or Llew (Light), who reigned at the early harvest of Lammas, is said to be at his most vulnerable at Fall Equinox-the only time, in fact, that he can be defeated. He stands over the Libran Scales of Balance with one foot on Cancer (Summer Solstice) and the other on Capricorn (Winter Solstice.) Bloderweld the Virgin (Virgo, zodiacal sign just before Libra) betrays Llew, causing him to be defeated by Goronwy (God of Darkness) and turned into an Eagle (Scorpio, zodiacal sign following Libra, and the sign of Samhain). Goronwy then mates with the Virgin and waits to be crowned Dark King at Samhain, the onset of winter. His dark child will be born nine months later at Summer Solstice, marking the point of transition in the solar year from waxing to waning light.

Today we realize that this is not only a time of the physical balance of day and night, but a time of magickal balance. Forces of dark and light are trading places once again in their cycle. Since this is one of the two days of balance in the year, along with Ostara, is it traditional to clean house. It is at this time that you begin to rid yourself of all of the clutter around your home and in your daily life. The thresholds of the house are blessed to protect those living inside. Foods are harvested, canned and stored, wood is chopped, animals begin to hibernate in preparation for the winter, and new clothes are bought and made for the colder times that await. Balance the outdoor activities with the mental activity of reading and storytelling. The harvest theme of Mabon cannot be denied. With all of the blessings we have received it is natural to use this time of year to show our gratitude.

Mabon has become a celebration of three main themes. These are reflection, grace, and balance. Although these themes are present every day, now is the day that we should give them our full attention.

In the physical realm this is the time for looking back upon the efforts of the past–not just this year, or the last, but also of your lifetime. Look back at this time and be sure to congratulate yourself on all those things you have done well, while, at the same time, being sure to think of things you wish to improve. As with any effort you may put forth there is always work on someone else’s part that allowed you to build upon it. Mabon is an excellent time to give thanks to all the time and energy put forth by others to help you. The work done by others not only helps you by making your work easier, it gives you a base to build higher than you could without it.

Magically speaking, this is an excellent time to perform spells around the idea of balancing out your life. Remove any guilt, and replace it with love and acceptance. The light half of the year from the spring equinox, until Mabon, is the best time of the year for outward turning magick. This magick is that which draws from and effects forces which lie outside of yourself. Spells which turn upon inner forces and mostly effect your own self will become more and more important as the dark half of the year grows in power.

Mabon is considered a time of the Mysteries. It is a time to honor Aging Deities and the Spirit World. Considered a time of balance, it is when we stop and relax and enjoy the fruits of our personal harvests, whether they be from toiling in our gardens, working at our jobs, raising our families, or just coping with the hussle-bussle of everyday life. May your Mabon be memorable, and your hearts and spirits be filled to overflowing!


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