Wiccan Wheel of the Year: What Is Mabon?
Bright blessings and merry meet this Sabbat season! Does it get any better than this? Just look around—the heat of the summer is receding and there is a bit of a nip in the air that perks a body up. The leaves are changing colors, the aster and chrysanthemums are in bloom, and the boughs of the trees in the orchard weigh heavy with ripe apples. The fields are ripe with grain and squash, and the harvest is upon us. Truly, this is a season worth marking. If you’re in the mood to celebrate, pour yourself a cup of my finest honey mead and grab some pumpkin bread from the harvest table. Let’s talk a little about this Wiccan holiday.
Mabon is a minor Sabbat in Wicca, the second of the three harvest festivals (the first is Lughnasadh, the third is Samhain). At Mabon, day and night are of equal length—but this is the point on the Wheel of the Year at which the darkness overtakes the light, and night becomes longer than day. It is what we call the dark half of the year.
It is a feast of thanks-giving, a celebration of the Earth’s bounty. And as with all Wiccan Sabbats, the cycles of the seasons mirror the cycles of our lives. At Mabon, it’s a time to reflect and wrap things up.
Ellen Dugan is a great Pagan author who gives us a wonderful perspective. Often overshadowed by the bigger, more popular Samhain/Halloween season, Mabon often gets overlooked—but should not be anymore.
When Is Mabon?
It traditionally takes place on the Autumn Equinox, which in the Northern Hemisphere falls somewhere between September 19th and the 23rd. Like all Wiccan holidays, however, there is no law about celebrating on a certain day. It marks a season, not a particular event…so if you prefer to move it to your actual harvest season, or to the nearest vacation, it’s up to you.
Wiccans in the southern hemisphere have opposite equinoxes and solstices; so their celebration of Mabon would be in March, and at this time in September they’re celebrating the spring equinox.
Autumn: Day and Night
History of Mabon
Mabon was not an ancient holiday, contrary to popular belief. Most ancient Pagans did not mark the equinoxes at all. It was not even one of the original Wiccan Sabbats—when British Traditional Witchcraft was started by Gerald Gardner, they originally only celebrated what are now known as the 'major Sabbats'. As they called them: February Eve (which became Imbolc), May Eve (which became Beltane), August Eve (which became Lughnasadh) and November Eve (which became Samhain).
It was later that Gardner's coven suggested they begin including the equinoxes and solstices into their holiday celebrations, and they deemed them ‘the minor Sabbats’. The holiday’s most common name—Mabon—was not even coined until the 1970s. Mabon is named after the son of Modred of Welsh mythology. Wiccans most commonly refer to the holiday as Mabon or Autumn Equinox, Feast of the Ingathering and Harvest Home.
But the spirit of the season—the harvest festival—is indeed an ancient and world-wide concept. Of course, the harvest season differs in timing from region to region, but celebrating the earth’s bounty and the fruits of one’s labor has long been a part of just about every culture. It is essentially the Wiccan Thanksgiving celebration. Another comparable holiday besides Thanksgiving is Alban Elfed, a modern Druidic celebration of the equinox.
Fall Splendor, Autumn Glory
If you have a garden, even if it’s just a small container herb and flower garden, it’s a time to enjoy the fruits of your labors. Harvest some of your crops and prepare a lovely dinner to enjoy them. If not, take a morning to visit a local farmers market to partake of some choice gems of the season, then come home and cook with them. Perhaps pick up some cases of tomatoes or apples, go home and can them or make jelly. Go out for walks in the beautiful autumn air, collect leaves and flowers in those rich autumn colors.
It’s a good time to reflect, so look back on your journals or your Book of Shadows to consider the seeds you’ve “sown” in the past. What has come to fruition, and what has failed to blossom? Re-think your needs, your goals and approaches to things, and re-assess your efforts.
This is a time to recognize aging as part of the life cycle, so keep in mind those who are growing old and honor them this season. Visit grandparents, or perhaps you have aging neighbors and friends who wouldn’t mind some company. You might even plan a visit to an assisted living facility for the elderly and find people who are desperately in need of visitors.
Another fun activity is telling stories—some great choices are the stories of Mabon, of Demeter and Persephone, or of Inanna.
Harvest Season is Just So Heart Warming
Being a harvest festival, Mabon celebrations should reflect a spirit of joy and an attitude of gratitude. If you have friends who are Wiccan or who identify as Pagan, or who are at least open to Pagan celebrations, invite them—for this more than any other time of year is meant to be a communal celebration. Hold a ritual and make offerings to your Gods, household spirits, the Earth, etc. to show your thankfulness—give back a part of the harvest (or some things you’ve picked up at the harvest markets) as a sacrifice to show your gratitude. Then make a feast part of your ritual.
If you are celebrating alone, you may wish to go somewhere like the forest or the fertile fields to hold your celebration. Meditate on the abundance and beauty of the earth, how it provides all of our needs, and be thankful.