Mabon — The Witch’s Thanksgiving

Mabon Harvest. The last sheaves of corn stand crooked in the rust colored setting sun.
The end of Summer is here.

Mabon ushers in the culmination of the Harvest, and a reminder that The Wheel is always turning.

What is Mabon? For Pagans in the Northern Hemisphere, this holiday and season mark the autumnal or fall equinox. It is the point when the sun crosses the celestial equator. We experience equal night and day, and from that point forward, nights are longer. This year it occurs on Monday, September 23rd, at approximately midnight, Summer is officially over, and Fall has begun.

Pagans around the world have many names for this equinox—Witch’s Thanksgiving, Mabon, Michaelmas, and Haleg Monath are just a few.

We have evidence that many ancient civilizations celebrated holidays and feasts around this time. We also know not all classical groups we tend to lump under the term “Pagan” observed a special holiday here. Many include this work in their Lughnasadh celebrations, or saved this symbolism for 6 weeks later, at Samhain (Hallowe’en.) Aidan Kelly, in the 1970s, officially added Mabon (And Ostara, Spring Equinox) to the modern Pagan observance of The Wheel. He named it Mabon, after the youthful Welsh God Mabon Ap Modron.

At Mabon, the gods or archetypes who have reigned since Litha and through Lughnasadh are now sacrificed. Symbolically or otherwise, those gods and kings are dismembered or burnt. The pieces or ashes are then scattered over or buried in the fields—a way of “planting” the solar-deity energy directly into the ground where it would be needed most in the coming months.

But the sentiment is nearly the same in most traditions, whether modern or ancient: a celebration of the glorious bounty the Earth and Sun provide as the summer crop season comes to a high point, and a shift from reveling in the heat and abundance of summer to witnessing the shutting-down of Earth as the Northern Hemisphere begins its journey through Winter.

Mabon Harvest Cornucopia spilling over with fruits, veggies, and nuts
The cornucopia spilling over with the bounty of the harvest is a ubiquitous image in Fall celebrations.

For these ancient people, the Mother Goddess was the reality. This is not hyperbole. People genuinely believed they came from Her and went back to Her. Their bodies were made of Her. The food they ate was made of Her. The homes they built, the clothing the wove, the pottery they molded, all from Her body. The harvest festival was for many civilizations a tremendously powerful union with this deity. People lived in the fields as they worked the Harvest, reflected in the Jewish holiday Sukkot. For Pagans, the last stalk of each crop was treasured.

Called “crying the neck,” it was a blessing and a curse to be the one to cut the last standing sheaf of the harvest.

That stalk would be brought back and sometimes made into a “corn dolly” of The Goddess. She was kept in a place of honor in the home, only to be placed in the first furrow cut into the ground the following spring. Placing the corn dolly in the groove carried through all the protection, success, and fecundity from previous harvests.

The gods or archetypes who have reigned since Litha and through Lughnasadh are now sacrificed. Symbolically or otherwise, those gods and or kings are dismembered or burnt. The pieces or ashes are then scattered over or buried in the fields—a way of “planting” the solar-deity energy directly into the ground where it would be needed most in the coming months.

This death and transition symbolism of Mabon is important.

It reflected the apparent death of the Earth as growth cycles shut down, and plant material began to rot. It reflected the apparent death of the Sun. The days are now shorter than the nights, and the Sun rises lower and lower in the sky. For Irish Pagans, this spirit of death and transition is captured in Crom Dubh “The Old Bent One”, and hollow-eyed scarecrows hanging over empty fields in the rust colored sunset.

Mabon black-crows-over-a-cornfield-with-scarecrow-and-gray-sky-randall-nyhof
Photo by Randal Nyhof

Much of the symbolism of summer is thrust, push, intensity. In my lectures, I often say summer is the push before the baby comes, and the fall equinox is the baby. Of course, participation in this robust set of archetypes is not determined by gender or the ability to create a physical baby. We can all ask ourselves at this time of year; What am I pushing out into the world? What am I about to deliver? 

In the Northern Hemisphere, the world’s rivers crest at this time of year, typhoons and hurricanes abound. Perhaps these are Mother Earth’s waters breaking as She gives us another year’s Harvest? This is also our moment in the energetic cycle to witness the power of the oceans, seas and rivers around the world. Massive celebrations dedicated to Yemoja happen in September (and also in late Jan or early Feb).

On the note of Mothers, we talked about Mother Mountain in Spring of this year. The cornucopia we see ubiquitously during harvest celebrations is, in fact, related to Zeus’ myth and visit to Mt. Ida while hiding from Cronus. The Corybantes carry him away, using their noise and cacophony to cover up the cries of a baby and head off to Mt Ida, aka Mother Mountain. While there, a nurse-maid-she-goat named Amaltheia helped tend the baby. At some point, one of her horns broke off and would supply food to whoever held it. It became a symbol of abundance for Greeks and Romans as well.

For modern Pagans wanting to observe Mabon, I always recommend walking outside. Just go be with Nature, and witness Her ever-changing cycles, more apparent now than at almost any other time of year. 

Eating seasonal fruits and veggies always bring you into alignment with Mabon, the season of Harvest. One of my favorite fall traditions is to collect the last blossoms from squash plants, stuff them, and eat them. It is a genuine Native American delicacy. My mother taught me this, and she learned it from my grandfather’s sister. 

The modern Pagan and Witch must take a moment to give something back to the energy of Water, however it or She presents itself in your life. Clean up up a nearby beach, river, stream, lake, pond. Say a prayer for the waterways of Earth. Attend events like Welcome the Water. I know you’re already politically active and socially aware, so take a moment and call your representative, send some emails, and make some donations, if you have the capacity.

I also love to collect seeds, here in the heart of the Harvest. It is a reminder that all I harvest this season, whether riches or suffering, is intended to help me create a better tomorrow for my community and me. Those seeds are a reminder of what all this work, this sweating, this labor, is for: tomorrow.


MABON RITUAL HELPERS

Mabon Libra Fire Opal
Black fire opal. All opals are great to work with during Mabon

MINERAL WORLD HELPERS

Rose Quartz, Kunzite, Opals, Apophyllite, Granite, Jade, Sapphire, Bloodstone

PLANT WORLD HELPERS

Acorns, Ivy, Grapes, Cypress, Grains, Apples, Myrrh, Pomegranates, Eucalyptus

Themes for Meditation

  • You are heading inward after Summer’s High Life. In the name of The Elder, see a vision of result and outcome. What is that vision?
  • The passions of love and fear can run deep in us. How do you find a balance between The Light and The Dark?
  • You are Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit. See yourself as a balanced being. Write a letter to yourself from that place.

WITCH’S WORK

Harvest, Rest and Healing After Labor, Purification, Protection, Ancestor Work, Shadow Work


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