Astrology and Tarot, Holidays

Modern magic in the Autumn Equinox: how to celebrate Mabon

Mabon & the Autumn Equinox

Mabon is a Sabbat that celebrates the autumn equinox, which falls around September 21st each year. The name Mabon is a modern terminology set in the 1970s by Aiden Kelly, and influential figure in the Neopagan religion of Wicca. Before that, festivals during this time of year were usually referred to as the Autumnal Equinox. Although there is no proven connection between Mabon and the Autumnal Equinox, Kelly believed that the Celts celebrated at this time. 

In Stonehenge, astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle determined a series of holes called Aubrey Holes that lined up with specific eclipses, allowing light to show through at exactly the moment of the equinox. 

Kelly chose the name Mabon from the celtic tale of Mabon, an infant child stolen away from his mother and imprisoned. The mythic hero Culwch must seek out Mabon to help him hunt down a wild boar that was previously a king in order to win the hand of Olwen in marriage. The myth is indicative of the separation of the youthful gof from his mother, the great goddess, and the resulting deloation of the land, which can only be restored once he is restored. 

The festival of the Eleusinian Mysteries was a sacred harvest held in Greece, once every four years in Eleusis and lasted nine or ten dats. It started at the full moon and included a procession hailing Demeter, the mother of Persephone. Like Mabon, Persephone was also stolen from her mother and imprisoned.

Connecting with the Season

Imagine the way ancestors would have lived during this time of year. Mostly farmers, they are likely working on the second harvest of the year, squash, pumpkin, root vegetables. They are well fed, they are enjoying the fruits of their labor, and preparing for the winter ahead. They are giving thanks and showing gratitude for food, for animals, and for surviving another year. It’s a time to make decisions about what to consume, what to store, and what to leave to decay in the fields.

No two Mabon feasts would look the same, but they usually included a shared meal, acknowledgement of sacrifices made during the year for survival, and offerings for protection through the Winter.

Even as modern people, we breathe the same air that our ancestors held in their lungs. We touch the same earth and water that they touched. 

The Autumn Equinox falls when the sun rises in Libra, the sign that represents level-headed balance and careful judgement. An appropriate frame of mind when preparing for a harsher season. Mabon is both celebratory and somber. It is a busy time of year, and people are tired. With themes of gratitude, death, grief, and looming winter, it is time to acknowledge mixed feelings and seek inner balance. 

How can you celebrate the Autumn Equinox?

Harvest what you have grown in the last year and take an honest look at what you need to let go. You don’t have to cut any chords right away, make it a gentle separation from now until Samhain or Yule.

Here are some light hearted ways to celebrate Mabon in the modern world.

  • Plant bulbs for the Spring
  • Organize your planner for the rest of the year, buy one for next year
  • Improve your negotiation skills with a class or a ted talk {find one, link it}
  • Can, jam, freeze, pickle, or dry goodies from your garden or a local farm
  • Go for a long walk or hike
  • Watch the sunset or the sunrise
  • Have a full harvest moon ritual
  • Go apple picking
  • Have a bonfire
  • Go out dancing or take a dance class
  • Make corn dollies or wreaths
  • Go horseback riding
  • Have a “goodbye garden” parade – great for kids
  • Have a tarot reading

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Mabon Tarot Spread

  1. As the nights get colder, what will the frost wilt and wither?
  2. What energetic cords need to be pruned during the Fall so that I can blossom in Spring?
  3. With darker nights approaching, how can I rake in my energy to hold light for myself and others during Winter?
  4. What dreams have ripened and need to be celebrated with a grateful heart?

Autumn Blessing

At Autumn Equinox, I name this place

A sacred time and sacred space.

Within it I now give my thanks,

With protection granted by Goddess grace!

The north grants ground to walk upon.

The east grants winds that gyrate.

The south grants fire so we live on.

The west grants fluids to sate us.

~Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials for Mabon

Holidays, India

Goddesses, Mothers, Gods, and Kings of Winter Solstice

The winter solstice translates to, “the sun stands still;” it is the longest night of the year. From this point forward, the light returns as days grow longer into Spring. Learning about ancient beliefs and archetypes makes me feel more connected to the season, and it can help us understand where some of our long-standing traditions come from. Did you ever wonder why we kiss under the mistletoe or why there are twelve days of Christmas? The answers are in our ties to ancient Roman, Greek, Celtic, and Norse mythology.

Setting the stage – Yule and the Winter Solstice

Yule descends from the Old English word geól and may refer to Christmas Day or Christmas tide. It is also connected to the Norse word jól, a heathen fast lasting twelve days, while Odin and his ghostly hunters swept through the dark forest. Since the mid-1800s, the word is widely used as an informal term for all Christmas festivities meaning joy or jolly.

The Romans recognized Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, the Solar God Mithras. In the 4th century, the Church, in an attempt to promote Christianity, substituted the birth of the sun with the birth of the son. Some believe this to be the reason that we celebrate the birth of Jesus in December, even though he was more likely born in the Spring.

Goddesses, Mothers, Kings, and Gods of Winter Solstice

The solstice is a very maternal time of year, referred to as “The Mother Night” in some cultures. Women are often credited with the birth and death of the sun, the changing of the seasons, and the balance of life itself. Men are shown as heroes, battling adversity or ensuring that proper cycles continue, so life can be sustained. They sometimes represent the sun itself.

Celtic Goddess Cailleach

Cailleach translates to “the veiled one.” She is the crone, the old one, the Queen of Winter. She is part of the triple goddess symbol of the child, the maiden and the crone. The maiden, Brighid, rules from Beltane in the Spring, until Samhain in the Fall, but Cailleach rules the Winter months.

There was a tradition in Ireland and Scotland, where farmers competed to bring in their crops. The first farmer to harvest his fields would create a corn dolly to represent Cailleach, and he would toss it into the unharvested field of another farmer. As each farmer finished, the dolly would be found and passed along, until the last farmer to finish the harvest would have to look after Cailleach for the Winter. The dolly would be burned on Beltane to release the Crone and welcome the Maiden. It was a heated competition, no one wanted to get stuck with the Crone in their home for the Winter.

Greek Goddess Demeter

Demeter is the goddess of agriculture, fertility, and sacred law. She presides over the cycle of life and death. She is a mother goddess. Her daughter, Persephone, is abducted by Hades and tricked into staying in the underworld with him for six months out of the year. Demeter’s grief causes the earth to die for those months until Persephone returns in the Spring. She controls the balance of the harvest, which was the source of life for people at the time.

Norse Goddess Frigg and God Beltur

Frigg is the Norse Goddess of Winter. It is believed that on the longest night of the year, she labored the birth of the sun into the world. This was called “The Mother Night.” Frigg is Odin’s wife, also associated with marriage and fertility. Friday is named after Frigg. She gave birth to two sons, Beltur, and his blind twin Holdr.

Frigg asked all of nature not to harm her sons, but in her haste, she forgot about mistletoe. Loki, a trickster God, fooled Holdr into shooting Baldur with a spear made from mistletoe. He was later brought back to life, and Frigg was so delighted that she declared mistletoe as a symbol of love and vowed to kiss anyone beneath it. It is poisonous though, so don’t let anyone eat it!

The Oak King and the Holly King

In Celtic tradition, the day of the Winter solstice is the day when the Oak King wins the battle against the Holly King. It is the battle of light and dark, of life and death, of Winter and Summer. And cycle that must continue for life to endure. The Oak King will win and the nights will grow shorter until the Summer Solstice when the Holly Kings wins his battle and brings us back to Winter. People would burn fires through the night and sing at dawn to midwife the birth of the sun and celebrate the victory of the Oak King.

Greek God Apollo

In the 10th century BCE, the Roman Emperor Augustus installed Apollo as the reigning version of the solar god. Games and festivities were held in his honor around the winter solstice. He was later superseded by the Persian deity Mithras. Mithras’ birthday just so happened to be December 25th, but scholars seem to agree that there is no connection to Christianity and the cult of Mithras.

Saturnalia and a personal reflection

Another connection to winter gods is the Roman festival Saturnalia, in honor of the agricultural god Saturn, from December 17-23. It was a time of feasting, gift-giving, offering sacrifices, and a special dinner where masters served their slaves.

In late December and early January of this year, I was at the Temple of Shani Shingnapur in Maharashtra, India. The entire village is dedicated to the Hindu God of Saturn. They go to temple and make offerings every day. No one in the village locks the doors on their homes because they trust that they are protected and no one will do each other harm.

The village was humble, and the people were so friendly. I had the best cup of chai of the entire trip and I picked up an ornament there, which I was excited to place on my Yule altar this season. The extra excitement is over the rare conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn today (12/21/20201) as I write this on the Winter solstice. Check out my astrologer friend, Carter’s blog about this! Learn more about the Christmas Star.

My year started and ended with Saturn, the sun, incredible magic, new experiences, and new friends. I am filled with gratitude.

I hope this brief introduction to some archetypes associated with this time of year inspires you to learn more! If you feel drawn to any of these characters, I encourage you to research them and honor them with your yule decorations. This is a good time to clean and organize, to reflect and learn lessons from the past year, and to envision your new future. As the sun is reborn, you can start fresh too. Blessed be!

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Sources

Books

Moura, Ann. Grimoire for the Green Witch: a Complete Book of Shadows. Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd, 2018.

Pesznecker, Susan. Yule: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for the Winter Solstice. Llewellyn Publications, 2015. 

Websites

https://www.britannica.com

https://www.learnreligions.com